This wouldn’t be a proper “here’s what I’ve been listening to” without a GeofCast episode, right? 🙂 Listen while you read.
Let’s follow last year’s mojo:
- Date is in the range: 01 Jan 2009 – 25 Dec 2009. Any cutoff point is arbitrary, but this makes sense to me. I’ve been willfully listening to Christmas music lately, so this helps hold the list growth down.
- Kind does not contain AIFF [to filter out unprocessed bootlegs and demos].
- Album Rating is greater than three stars.
- Genre does not contain Concert Bootleg.
This list is unoptimized; it’s actually done in alphabetical order by artist. At the end, I’ll give a best-of list, countdown style. Because I like embracing constraints, I’ll give a one-sentence statement about each album as to why it’s just so darn good. If you’ve ever talked to me for longer than 90 seconds, you know that one sentence is an unreal constraint.
- The Silent Stars, Alli Rogers. A worthy follow-up to her 2008 Christmas EP, but with new tracks and more Alli goodness. The Silent Stars, Nov. 29.
- I and Love and You, The Avett Brothers. Glorious harmonies, well-crafted lyrics, and fine instrumentation: worth your purchase. I and Love and You, Sep 29.
- Noble Beast, Andrew Bird. Lush, dense, expertly-crafted pop/folk, with whistling. Noble Beast, Jan 20.
- Blood Bank, Bon Iver. A fun follow-up EP to his groundbreaking solo debut. Blood Bank Jan 20.
- Posthumous Success, Tom Brosseau. Less reedy pop/folk than he’s crafted in the past, but this modernization of his sound is still quite good. Posthumous Success, Jun 23.
- Oh, My Darling, Basia Bulat. Lovely pop songstress; bought this when I was after a girl who liked her music, too. Oh, My Darling, Feb 16.
- E.C. Was Here, Eric Clapton. Classic blues/rock from the master. E.C. Was Here, 15 Apr.
- Eric Clapton, Eric Clapton. More classic rock from a guitar god. Eric Clapton, Jun 4.
- Across a Wire: Live in New York, Counting Crows. Across a Wire: Live in New York City (disc 1: VH1 Storytellers) and Across a Wire: Live in New York City (disc 2: MTV Live From the 10 Spot), 31 Mar.
- The Hazards of Love, The Decemberists. Surprising for a major-label release, THoL returns our musical heroes to their literary roots to craft what lesser reviewers would call a concept album. The Hazards of Love, Mar 24.
- Hotel California, Eagles. Unlike The Dude, I do not hate the fuckin’ Eagles.Hotel California, Sep 6.
- Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes. Ridiculous harmonies, lush instrumentation.Fleet Foxes, Feb 7.
- Dirty Birds, Kat Flint. Red-haired songstresses always get me.Dirty Birds, Jan 30.
- Great Escape, Nick Flora and Film at Eleven. Nick isn’t just a friend—he’s a very good songwriter. Great Escape, Apr 2.
- A Kiss in Time, Patty Griffin. I love live music, and while Patty is anti-bootleg [booooo], this is good [yaaaaay]. A Kiss in Time, Mar 19.
- The Law of Gravity, Andy Gullahorn. I’m pre-disposed to love AG’s records, but this one really is good. The Law of Gravity, Dec 5.
- Around the Well, Iron & Wine. So, you’re looking at me, saying, “Really? A B-sides and rarities compilation?”, but it’s the second disc that just kills it—and Paul is right when he says Sam Beam compares to Elliott Smith and Nick Drake. Around the Well (disc 1) and Around the Well (disc 2), May 19.
- The Black Album, Jay-Z. I’m not hugely into hip-hop, but I like Jay. The Black Album, May 5.
- The Ultimate Blue Train, John Coltrane. Just a classic jazz album. The Ultimate Blue Train, Apr 18.
- Lie to Me, Jonny Lang. Bought this because I saw him live; feel like he’s better live, but good in the studio. Lie to Me, Apr 21.
- Three Flights from Alto Nido, Greg Laswell. Just plain good song-writing. Three Flights From Alto Nido, Jul 18.
- Blue Lines, Massive Attack. Portishead begat a love of trip-hop that I expect will extend into 2010 as I enforce my completionist ways. Blue Lines, Sep 22.
- The Luxury of Time, David Mead. Just plain solid songwriting, with a great pop voice to boot. The Luxury of Time, Nov 16.
- Jaydiohead, Minty Fresh Beats. Jay-Z and Radiohead, mixed together: yes, please! Jaydiohead, Apr 21.
- Monsters of Folk, Monsters of Folk. I think I have to make an obligatory Traveling Wilburys reference here; anyway, it’s got M. Ward, which means I was gonna buy it—and the album isn’t ill-titled. Monsters of Folk, Sep 30.
- The Sunset Tree, The Mountain Goats. Honest, heartfelt songwriting, honestly sung. The Sunset Tree, Feb 22.
- Z, My Morning Jacket. I love putting this record on when I need to rock out to something smooth. Z, Jan 4.
- Bleach, Nirvana. Yeah, I’m behind the times on this one. Bleach, Apr 19.
- Choosing Sides, Andrew Osenga. Get your copy fast!—Andy only printed 500 of them. Choosing Sides, Dec 14.
- Letters to the Editor, Vol. I and II, Andrew Osenga. Who cares that he put these songs out for free—they’re worth buying. Letters to the Editor, Vols. I & II, didn’t get blogged about this year.
- Live from Nowhere, Volume Four, Over the Rhine. It’s a great live record, and keeps you going between increasingly-distant OtR albums. Live From Nowhere, Volume Four (disc 1) and Live From Nowhere, Volume Four (disc 2), Aug 17.
- Chrome, Eric Peters. Eric Peters’s music rips right through my guts and makes me think. Chrome, .
- Behold the Lamb of God (10th Anniversary Edition), Andrew Peterson. A new turn on a classic record. Behold the Lamb of God (10th Anniversary Edition) (disc 1) and Behold the Lamb of God (10th Anniversary Edition) (disc 2), Dec 15.
- That Kind of Love, Pierce Pettis. Northeast Alabama’s best musical act [move over, Alabama] does it again. That Kind of Love, Apr 2.
- The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd. Yeah, I’m as surprised as you are that I didn’t own this before 2009. The Dark Side of the Moon, Jan 1.
- Dummy, Portishead. My addiction to trip hop would be annoying if I didn’t live alone; instead, it’s kinda awesome. Dummy, Jan 10.
- Kid A, Radiohead. I’m a completionist, but it’s a great record. 🙂 Kid A, Jan 16.
- Rook, Shearwater. Makes me think of a warm blanket on a cold evening. Rook, Feb 21.
- Dial M, Starflyer 59. Buying J.R.’s top ten CDs turned out to be a great endeavor. Dial M, Mar 29.
- April, Sun Kil Moon. Wonderful late-night music. April, Feb 23.
- Strict Joy, The Swell Season. It’s as good as people have told you. Strict Joy, Nov 2.
- Illinoize, Tor. Sufjan Stevens’s music, mixed with rap—kinda awesome. Illinoize, not blogged.
- Dear Science, TV on the Radio. I don’t know how to begin to describe them, but I like them. Dear Science, Mar 27.
- Hold Time, M. Ward. Not as good as his earlier stuff, but still a great record. Hold Time, Feb 17.
- Stockholm Syndrome, Derek Webb. Worthy of the controversy. Stockholm Syndrome, which I had before it ever came out, natch.
- Wilco (The Album), Wilco. I’d buy a record of Jeff Tweedy reading the Chicago phone book. Wilco (The Album), Jun 28.
- Wilco (The Album), Wilco. There are so many good songs on this album, but I thought I’d start with the opening track—it’s a treatise for the record and, frankly, for Wilco as a band at this point.
Are you under the impression
This isn’t your life?
Do you dabble in depression?
Is someone twisting a knife in your back?
Are you being attacked?
Oh, this is a fact that you need to know
Wilco will love you baby
As someone who “dabbles in depression”, yeah, I love this track … and this album … and this band.
- Letters to the Editor, Vol. I and II, Andrew Osenga. Yes, this is a compilation of tracks that he gave away for free; if you’re cheap, you can get Volume I and Volume II online still. But if you like it, buy the disc and support independent music. I chose “Staring Out a Window (My Confession)” because it just hits home for me.
- Stockholm Syndrome, Derek Webb. Okay, you can argue that, as a friend of Derek’s and one of the three guys behind derekwebb.net, I’m predisposed to loving his music. You’re right. But this is a worthy buy for the following reasons: a) it tackles prickly issues of sexuality that most Christians are uncomfortable dealing with b) Fred Phelps gets made fun of c) it’s Derek and Josh Moore doing their best Gnarls Barkley impersonation, without sounding like a cheap knockoff and d) he says “shit” on the record and gets away with it. Sorta. I picked “The Spirit Vs. The Kick Drum” because it’s just a kickin’ little track.
- The Hazards of Love, The Decemberists. Many long-time Decemberists fans [of which I cannot claim to be; I’m late to the game] would argue that they feared what being on a major record label would do to their music. But give Capitol all the credit in the world for letting Portland’s finest put out what lesser reviewers would call a concept album, and what I think of as “literature set to music”. The arc of this album is one unbroken story, and it’s just so well-done, with themes repeated and twisted as the album builds on itself. That makes it difficult to pick out one song, but I chose “The Rake’s Song” because that will tell you whether or not you’ll want to listen to the whole thing.
- Noble Beast, Andrew Bird. I really thought that Armchair Apocrypha was going to be the apex of AB’s music for me. I didn’t think that he’d make a better record, but to my ears, he did with Noble Beast. Musically, it’s just so strong: songs with movement are just such a rarity in popular music these days that hearing tracks like “Masterswarm” is simply astonishing. It’s impossible for me to pick out a track I love the most, because I love them all, but I picked “Tenuousness” for this GeofCast episode.
If you made it this far, thanks!
This week has two new studio releases: one that everyone has, and the other one that BMG sent me when I missed the chance to reply no. Hey, I’ll take the chance.
- Radiohead’s In Rainbows. No, I didn’t buy/download this.
- Angels & Airwaves’ I-Empire. Fully prepared to hate it. 🙂
- 18 Jul 1990 [New York, NY, USA] concert bootleg of Uncle Tupelo. 1990-07-18: Live on Heat, National Public Radio, New York, NY, USA.
- 4 Aug 1997 [Atlanta, GA, USA] concert bootleg of Counting Crows. 1997-08-04: Chastain Park Amphitheater, Atlanta, GA, USA (disc 1) and 1997-08-04: Chastain Park Amphitheater, Atlanta, GA, USA (disc 2).
- 6 Jul 2002 [Bushnell, IL, USA] concert bootleg of Over the Rhine. Jeff thinks he’s who recorded this, but I can confirm that he took the photo that I used for the cover art. 😉 2002-07-06: Cornerstone Festival, Bushnell, IL, USA.
- 16 Oct 2007 [Montréal, QC, Canada] concert bootleg of Spoon. 2007-10-16: Le National, Montréal, QC, Canada.
- 2 Mar 2008 [Nashville, TN, USA] concert bootleg of Wilco. A show I wish I’d seen live. 2008-03-02: Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN, USA.
- My Brightest Diamond’s A Thousand Shark’s Teeth. Nothing on A Thousand Shark’s Teeth ever grabbed me like “Golden Star” off of Bring Me the Workhorse did, but “Ice & The Storm” comes close. There’s no doubt that Shara Worden is quite ridiculously talented, but it feels on this one that she’s so there and I’m so … here, with little connection. All in all, it’s a solid effort, though. Three stars.
- Sigur Rós’s Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. Brad asked me what I thought of the new Sigur Rós pretty quickly after GNM went up last week, so I sat down and listened to it on Sunday night [which watching baseball, which was quite the dissonant experience, I assure you]. It’s … definitely quite different from what I have of their catalogue to date. I understand the criticisms of it in terms of why people don’t like the more straightforward pop direction this album took, but I’m a firm believer that bands have to experiment lest they [and/or their fans] become totally bored with the thing. Style changes notwithstanding, it’s still very much Sigur Rós—I’d recognize Jónsi’s vocals anywhere—and that’s a good thing. Bands that don’t experiment don’t grow, and bands that don’t grow die. [Unless, of course, you’re the Rolling Stones, but then Keith Richards has to be pickled from all the crap he’s ingested over the years.] Three-and-a-half stars, and it could grow on me even more.
- 21 Apr 2002 [Toronto, ON, Canada] concert bootleg of Wilco. The set starts off with “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”, which is weird given their current sound. It’s also pre-Glenn and pre-Mikael, so it’s just an overall different feel—more straightforward than present-day Wilco [my favorite incarnation of the band]. This is a fine-sounding audience recording, which is great given its age [and how blessed we Wilco fans are with the fine rigs folks bring to shows these days]. I give it three stars.
- 14 Nov 2003 [Los Angeles, CA, USA] concert bootleg of Death Cab for Cutie. Thin, reedy, and distant. Two-and-a-half stars.
- 22 Apr 2005 [St. Paul, MN, USA] concert bootleg of M. Ward. The show starts out slow, and the recording is about a B-, but it’s enjoyable. Three-and-a-half stars.
- 5 Nov 2005 [Dayton, OH, USA] concert bootleg of Over the Rhine. The Canal Street Tavern is where I first saw OtR live, in a city I used to call home, so all those shows hold a special place in my heart. [I want to see a CST OtR show in 2008 or 2009 with Lara if she’s still in Ohio then.] This is a fine, fine recording. Four stars.
- 4 May 2008 [Birmingham, AL, USA] concert bootleg of Derek Webb & Sandra McCracken. I wish that I’d gotten a board feed of this show, because the AT2021s don’t really get lows. Of course, this works fine for acoustic singer/songwriter-y stuff, but the end result still sounds a little thin. But it sounds pretty great. Three-and-a-half stars.