Top Bootlegs in My Collection, As of January 2010

So Michael and Josh have asked for a list of my top 5-10 bootlegs in my collection via Twitter. Phew.

Click cover art where extant for the download links. If I don’t have a download link, well, I’ll go and see if I can find the CD and dig that up.

Albums I Have Loved in 2008

Let me be clear: I’m cheating and using iTunes here. Specifically …

  • Date is in the range: 01 Jan 2008 – 31 Dec 2008
  • Kind does not contain AIFF [to filter out unprocessed bootlegs and demos].
  • Grouping does not contain Extant [to filter out where I migrated my library off of my old Mac to my new one]; I then did a manual check of the Extants with a similar list and my Musiclogging archives.
  • Album Rating is greater than three stars.
  • Genre does not contain Concert Bootleg. If desired, I’ll cover the best of the best concert bootlegs in a separate post, probably no earlier than Friday because I’m still adding bootlegs. [I am not adding any more studio releases at this point.]

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.

That’s 47 albums. Yowza! About one a week … that’s a very, very good year.

Now, I’m gonna take it to 11 … and be a bit more verbose.

  1. Radiohead, In Rainbows. There is nothing that I can add to all that has been said about this album, from the distribution to the music itself. I didn’t buy this until it came out on a physical disc [I’m a curmudgeon and have this problem, which I’m hoping to lick in 2009], but this is the album that made me a Radiohead fan, much as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot made me a Wilco fan. Favorite Tracks: “Nude”, “Reckoner”, “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”.
  2. The Weepies, Say I Am You. 2008 was a weird year for me; I spent a lot of it pursuing a relationship that didn’t ultimately work out, and a lot of this album was my soundtrack. This is right in my wheelhouse, to be sure—singer/songwriter-y, acoustic guitar-driven, solid melody and harmony. In a world where In Rainbows doesn’t exist, it’s my best album of the year. Favorite Tracks: “Painting By Chagall”, “Riga Girls”.
  3. Andrew Bird, Armchair Apocrypha. I bought this album on a lark, because it was well-regarded. Some of my best musical purchases are done that way, and this is definitely one of them. I think what gets me about Andrew Bird is that he’s a self-comfortable artist who is willing to experiment and do big things with his sound. The analog to an artist I’m friends with is the amazingness of Jeremy Casella’s Recovery [and if Jerry ever sees this, he’s gonna hit me for putting him and Bird in the same sentence]. This is one of those albums I find myself singing often, and there is no greater tribute to me than that. Favorite Tracks: “Darkmatter”, “Plasticities”, and “Scythian Empires”. I never will forget whistling the last as I was walking through the Nashville airport on my way back from Philly after a whirlwind, 20-hour trip to see Caedmon’s Call play.
  4. Five O'Clock People - Temper Temper Five O’Clock People, Temper Temper. I was a big fan of 5OCP when they were making music in the 1990s, and so I grabbed this as soon as I heard it came out. It was … nothing like their old sound, in a lot of ways, but man, it frickin’ rocks. Favorite Tracks: “Gold Rush”, “Aftermath”, and “February”.
  5. Gnarls Barkley, The Odd Couple. I had heard all this buzz about Gnarls Barkley, but just … dismissed it for whatever reason. I do that; I’m dumb. But then one day “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” was highlighted on NPR, and I almost had to pull over to the side of the road, I was so blown away. Favorite Tracks: “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul”, “Run (I’m a Natural Disaster)”.
  6. Death Cab for Cutie, Narrow Stairs. Like with Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, a lot has been made about this record coming out of Ben Gibbard taking residence where Jack Kerouac did at Big Sur. I’m of the mind that creative pursuits are often terribly lonely affairs, so I think this was a good idea. This record brought the lyrical brilliance and nose for melody that Death Cab’s always had, but they also exhibited their musical chops on it, too. For whatever weird reason, I want to draw parallels to this and Elliott Smith’s Figure 8. Favorite Tracks: “I Will Possess Your Heart”, “Cath…”, and “Long Division”.
  7. Iron & Wine, The Shepherd’s Dog. I simply did not think that Sam Beam had this much awesome within him. I am very glad to be wrong. Very, very glad. Favorite Tracks: “House of the Sea”, “Wolves (Song of the Shepherd’s Dog”, “Peace Beneath the City”.
  8. Tom Brosseau - Live at Largo Tom Brosseau, Late Night at Largo. At this point, you have to mail a check to Tom Brosseau’s management to get a copy. It is worth your time in doing so. I’ve written about Brosseau before, but here he is in a nutshell: North Dakota boy moved to LA that writes about home because he both misses it and hates it, in a way. If you grew up in a cold climate and have moved to warmer latitudes, you know where he’s coming from. His music has a sense of ironic detachment, but it’s also just plain good. Also, he sings so high that he makes Thom Yorke in falsetto sound like Barry White. Favorite Tracks: “Rose”, “Broken Ukulele”, and “Young and Free”.
  9. Matt Costa, Unfamiliar Faces. Okay, I’ve got a thing for young guys who write songs about not getting the girl, or getting the girl and losing the girl, but … dude, this guy can rock it up. Favorite Tracks: “Emergency Call”, “Heart of Stone”, and “Miss Magnolia”.
  10. Matthew Perryman Jones, Swallow the Sea. Unlike most years, this is the only time when an artist I personally know appears on the list. I think that most of that is because I’m becoming harder on my friends’ more recent albums, honestly. 😉 But MPJ made a killer, killer record here, a worthy followup to Throwing Punches in the Dark, which I was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to top. He topped it, though. Favorite Tracks: “Save You”, “Motherless Child”, and “Feels Like Letting Go”.
  11. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IV. There is nothing I can add to this that hasn’t been said, eh? This is my favorite Zep album, even if it doesn’t have all of my favorite songs. Favorite Tracks: “Black Dog”, “Rock and Roll”, “Stairway to Heaven”. I mean, duh.

What about you? Do you have some of these records and violently disagree? Did I overlook something to the point that you’re ready to shake me for not listening to it? I wanna know.

Geof’s New Music: 7-13 Sep 2008

The studio recordings are a smorgasboard, but the bootlegs are a salute to the Bay State. [Bleu is from Boston.]

Last week was uneven, but the good stuff was very good:

  • Sandra McCracken’s Red Balloon. Predictably, I love it. There are a couple moments on the record that I don’t get, but all in all, I think this lives up to the hype that Derek has been giving it. Four stars.
  • Nirvana’s In Utero. Sadly, it doesn’t have the punch that Nevermind did, probably understandable as a sophomore major-label release. That, plus a dalliance into noise rock that I didn’t enjoy, got it two-and-a-half stars from me. The goods are great! The bads are … meh.
  • Jackopierce’s Promise of Summer. Quite, quite enjoyable. A four-star record for me, and I’ll be getting more JP records from the back catalog. [See? Giving stuff away for free works.]
  • 3 Feb 2006 [Las Vegas, NV, USA] concert bootleg of Coldplay. So meh. A distant recording from the audience, and … eh. Two-and-a-half stars.
  • 26 Oct 2007 [New York, NY, USA] concert bootleg of Over the Rhine. Fan-fucking-tastic. Four-and-a-half stars. If you love OtR, get it. Go. Now. You. NOW.
  • 17 Jul 2008 [London, England] concert bootleg of Death Cab for Cutie. Also kinda distant, but with a better base to start with. Three stars.
  • 26 Jul 2008 [Anchorage, AK, USA] concert bootleg of Wilco. No, I didn’t pick this in honor of Sarah Palin. 😉 This is the band whose debut release was titled A.M.; sadly, it sounds like it was recorded from an AM broadcast: over-compressed, tinny, and muddled. An example: when the band does their Wall of Noise trick in the opening cut, “Via Chicago”, everything is … the same sound level. Jeff is clearly heard. This … just isn’t the way it ought to be at all. Having looked at the mic used in the recording, I’m guessing that this is the sound guy’s fault, or perhaps just crappy mains. But, you know, if I lived in Anchorage, I really wouldn’t give a shit, because Wilco rocks. The good thing is that we get two new songs out of it, and new songs? Always good. The rating is two stars.

Geof’s New Music: 10-16 Aug 2008

This week is a mix of old and new: old studio releases [all at least a decade old], and new bootlegs [all from 2008].

Last week:

Geof’s New Music: 27 Jul – 2 Aug 2008

Hallelujah and praise the Lord! I’m on vacation!

Last week was pretty disappointing.:

  • Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy. Okay, so the Led Zeppelin that I love is the rockin’, bluesy stuff. And to quote Wikipedia on Houses of the Holy, “This album was a stylistic turning point in the lifespan of Led Zeppelin.” And, well, on “The Song Remains the Same”, I was confused for a minute, thinking that maybe Geddy Lee had replaced Robert Plant or something. [I’m sure that several people broke things after reading that sentence.] Admittedly, it gets back to sounding a little more like Led Zeppelin as the album progresses, and I am the person that did say, just two weeks ago, “I’m a firm believer that bands have to experiment lest they [and/or their fans] become totally bored with the thing.” But that doesn’t mean that I have to like it. So, yes, I should rate this now, right? Three stars, mainly on the strength of “Dancing Days” and “D’yer Mak’er”.
  • The Cardigans’ Super Extra Gravity. The phrase that I was going to use for this album was “solid, but boring” until I got to “I Need Some Fine Wine and You, You Need to Be Nicer”. I have a lot of friends who are excellent singer/songwriters, so I say this with a bit of trepidation, but … man, The Cardigans rock way too damn much to try to do the singer/songwriter+backing band thing. Sadly, that and a fusion of quasi-country stuff [although it felt like Nina Persson was channeling Sixpence’s Leigh Nash for the first few tracks] made for a boring start. But it picks up in the second half of the record, which is good. Three-and-a-half stars.
  • Coldplay’s Viva La Vida. Egad. Jacob said this about Coldplay on a forum I run: “The best way I can put it is that I like simpler Coldplay. It just feels like they’re trying to be something that they’re not right now. The indie-rock/prog-rock (good call Adriene) feel just doesn’t fit what Coldplay was. Sure that sounds like the old fan wishing their band hadn’t grown up and changed their sound…I’ll cop to that. But some of their earlier songs made me want to cry. Now their new stuff does that but for different reasons.” I can’t say it any frickin’ better. One-and-a-half stars, and if any of my friends wants it, I’ll give it to them. I don’t want it back. One-and-a-half stars. I haven’t bought an album that I’ve actively hated in quite some time, but … this is it. Gah.
  • 25 Oct 1997 [Utica, NY, USA] concert bootleg of Blues Traveler. I’m surprised that a SBD sounds this poorly-mixed, but then I probably shouldn’t be. Sound board operators don’t have time to give tapers jacking into their boards the time to give perfectly-mixed feeds. The mix is very definitely pushed towards the treble and towards John’s voice standing out above all others. For people that crap on me wanting to do SBD/AUD matrices, well, suck on this. Two stars. [Sad, because Bob Sheehan was really on this night. And before Chris Smith says crap to me … suck on it, LC.]
  • 1 Sep 2007 [Denver, CO, USA] concert bootleg of Wilco. Gah. Another week of getting burnt by a stealth rig. Venues that don’t allow tapers suck. This sounds pretty good despite being stealthily done. Two-and-a-half stars.
  • 26 Apr 2008 [Dayton, OH, USA] concert bootleg of Over the Rhine. It’s a rare case when I’m disappointed by a matrix [well, other than my own, heh], but I am by this one. Karin’s vocals are too hot in the mix, but I fear that’s probably a fault of the sound board op [which shocks me, because this typically isn’t the case with CST shows] than the taper. [After all, if she’s too hot in the SBD feed, she’s probably too hot in the mains, and you can’t compensate with the AUD part of the feed to get more of the band.] I mean, it’s still a decent recording, but I only give it three stars. I expected four-plus.
  • 27 May 2008 [Milan, Italy] concert bootleg of Feist. Feist bootlegs are hard to come by, so I was willing to chance it on a recording made by a Zoom H2‘s internal mics. [Hey, I own and use a Tascam DR-1, so I’m understanding. It’s just that internal mics aren’t going to get a big band’s sound, especially not in a room like that.] So it’s not terribly surprising that the recording is muddy and distant, but hey, it’s free, right? Two-and-a-half stars.