Best of 2009 in Music – The Top Ten December 30, 2009Posted by Matt in Best of 2009.
Tags: Best of 2009, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Green Day, Grizzly Bear, K'Naan, Mos Def, music, Pearl Jam, The Avett Brothers, The Flaming Lips, The Swell Season, top ten
2009 was quite a year in the music world, one that was filled with superb high profile releases and great recordings by artists toiling under the radar. I purchased somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 new albums over the past year, most from either emusic or Amazon, and I have whittled that list down to 25 that I will present now as the best of the year. Monday we looked at five honorable mentions and yesterday at those ranked 11-20, so today will be dedicated to the top ten.
10. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
With their latest release, Grizzly Bear has established itself as one of the premier indie rock bands working today. They seamlessly bend and meld genres, from acoustic folk to jazz to intimate pop with vocal harmonies and large deal of psychedelic sounds to create a unique sound in a crowded music marketplace. This is a definite must-have for indie music fans.
Download: Southern Point, Two Weeks
9. Mos Def – Ecstatic
Employing intelligent lyrics and a strong social consciousness, rapper/actor Mos Def has long been an oddity in a genre that tends toward nihilistic materialism. I do not own a lot of his prior works, so I lack a real basis of comparison when it comes to his career, but this album is very good. If you are a fan of hip-hop and rap, this is a necessity for 2009.
Download: Auditorium, Quiet Dog
8. Bob Dylan – Together Through Life
2009 was a year when legendary singer/songwriter Bob Dylan looked the music industry square in the face and laughed. It was a time for him to say that he was going to do whatever he pleased, regardless of what others might thing. So, the great Dylan released 2 works in 2009, a strange but great Christmas album and Together Through Life, which came as a complete surprise with no press release concerning it until a short time before its release. At age 68 Dylan is still confounding expectations, this time employing accordions and a sound with a strange Southwestern/Zydeco/Blues fusion that somehow works.
Download: Beyond Here Lies Nothin’, My Wife’s Hometown
7. K’naan – Troubadour
K’naan has a message for American rappers – you don’t know what a hard life is. Born in Mogadishu, Somalia and having lived through the Somali Civil War that began in 1991, K’naan has a perspective that is unmatched by his peers. Adding to his uniqueness is the fact that he is a devout Muslim, something else that sets him apart in the American music scene. His lyrics are socially conscious and tell of things that few of us in America have any idea about and that need to be heard.
Download: Somalia, Wavin’ Flag
6. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic
I was a bit disappointed with the Lips’ previous politically-driven release, At War With the Mystics, especially when compared to the preceding classics, The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, so I was apprehensive when I heard the news of their latest work. Soon, though, my fears would be allayed, for this is definitely a Lips record, filled with all of the sonic noises and the loads of just plain weirdness that we have come to expect from this unpredictable outfit. Be sure to check this one out.
Download: Convinced of the Hex, See the Leaves
5. The Swell Season – Strict Joy
The 2007 film Once is without a doubt one of my favorite cinematic pieces of the past decade and much of my adoration for the film is due to its incredible soundtrack, written and performed by the film’s stars, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. The duo then took the name The Swell Season, which also happens to be the title of their 2006 debut album, and released this incredible collection. Where Once and “The Swell Season” albums were tales of falling love, “Strict Joy” has been described as the breakup album, all of which mirror the real life relationship of the two artists. This is a great, heartfelt album that needs to be heard.
Download: Low Rising, Feeling the Pull
4. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
I first heard of the Avett Brothers following their last release, Emotionalism, with its unusual fusion of bluegrass and alt rock and quickly became a fan. For their latest work, the band has taken a different approach, though, doing away with rocking a banjo and instead embracing the piano-driven ballad. In doing so, they crafted the most beautifully constructed musical work of 2009. Though their country/bluegrass roots remain, they have been tempered a bit as the Avetts take a stab at near-pop perfection.
Download: I and Love and You, January Wedding, Kick Drum Heart
3. Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown
Who ever would have thought that a brash 90’s punk band best known for songs about self-induced euphoria would become one of the most important bands in the world? This is Green Day’s second consecutive rock opera, the first, American Idiot, was a Grammy-winning success. 21st Century Breakdown continues in the same vein, this time telling the story of people dealing with the aftermath of the Bush years. It is a modern classic, a burst of punk-driven energy through a classic rock Who-like lens that will completely blow away your senses. I’m a big, big fan.
Download: Viva La Gloria, East Jesus Nowhere, American Eulogy
2. Bruce Springsteen – Working on a Dream
It has been so wonderful to see the Boss get a second wind of creativity this decade after a somewhat sub-par 1990’s and show that he still has a lot to offer the music world. As much as I loved 2007’s Magic, this one may be the best Springsteen offering in a decade full of great ones. “Outlaw Pete” kicks things off as a risky and magnificent opener, clocking in at 8 minutes that sets the tone for this outstanding set. I had the opportunity to see him earlier this year in concert and am now more of a fan than ever before. If you haven’t bought this album yet, do it. Now.
Download: Outlaw Pete, Queen of the Supermarket, Kingdom of Days
1. Pearl Jam – Backspacer
Those of you who read this blog know that I am always singing the praises of Pearl Jam. They have been a part of my life since their debut album, Ten, some 18 years ago and I have closely followed them ever since. Of all of their great recordings over those years, and there have been a lot of them, this one may very well be the best. I absolutely love it. It is an emotionally affecting, beautiful view of the world from a band in middle age, singing to fans who are most likely in their 30’s or older with families of their own. Eddie Vedder’s voice and lyrics haven’t been this moving in years and every song on the album is great, even approaching perfection.
Download: You really need the whole album, but if I have to pick a few songs:
The Fixer, Just Breathe, Amongst the Waves
Best of the Decade – Music Edition (81-90) November 23, 2009Posted by Matt in Top 100 of the Decade.
Tags: 2000s, Belle and Sebastian, decade, Gizzly Bear, Gnarls Barkley, Matisyahu, Modest Mouse, Okkervil River, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, the new pornographers, top 100, U2
Last week we began an ambitious expedition through the best music of the past decade and I posted the albums ranked 91-100. Today we will tackle the next ten, numbers 81-90. Let me know what you think.
90. U2 – No Line on the Horizon (2009)
I’ve long been a fan of U2, but have rarely found their complete albums to be great. Even their magnum opus, The Joshua Tree, is terribly front-loaded. No Line continues their tradition of good recordings, proving to be one of their better collections overall and definitely their best since 1991’s The Joshua Tree. Some of the songs, like “Magnificent” and “Moment of Surrender,” can stand up to anything in their legendary catalog.
89. Matisyahu – Youth (2006)
An orthodox Hasidic Jew doing reggae music? Why not, this is the 2000’s. Matisyahu mixes socially conscious lyrics with danceable rhythms to produce one of the more unusual and surprising releases of the decade. The title track, “Youth,” and “King Without a Crown” are two tunes that particularly show that he could be in for a long and fruitful career.
88. Pearl Jam – Riot Act (2002)
As I’ve mentioned on many occasions in the past, I’ve long been a rabid fan of Pearl Jam and this is probably my favorite of theirs from the intervening years between No Code and Backspacer. It has a varied sound that is more akin to Vitalogy than to any of their other works, while showing the maturity of a group of men closing in on 40. The album contains jabs at corporate America and President Bush, but I think my favorite tunes are probably “I am Mine,” “Thumbing my Way,” and “Love Boat Captain.” It’s definitely a must-have for PJ fans.
87. The New Pornographers – Challengers (2007)
TNG is an indie rock supergroup of sorts made up of AC Newman, Dan Bejar (aka Destoryer), and one of my personal favorites, Neko Case. The band makes interesting music together, but I personally wish they would utilize Case more often than they do. Regardless, this album has some great songs, including “Myriad Harbor” and the title track, “Challengers.”
86. Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit (2006)
Scottish band Belle & Sebastian have been carrying the indie pop banner for several years now and The Life Pursuit continues their streak of interesting and catchy music. Their sound is similar to the alternative bands of the 1980’s, such as The Smiths, just with a bit more sunshine from earlier mainstream pop. Check out songs like “The Blues Are Still Blue” and “Funny Little Frog” to get a better idea of what they are about.
85. Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere (2006)
The combination of producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse and rapper Cee-Lo Green quickly proved itself to be a formidable one with their debut release, St. Elsewhere. Funky and soulful, with inescapably catchy songs like “Crazy,” the duo blew up in 2006 with this multi-platinum released and have continued to prove themselves with an innovative style that appeals to both critics and regular listeners.
84. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (2009)
Interesting and intelligent, the band Grizzly Bear is a critical darling of the decade for a reason. The have a real knack for bending genres, mixing electronic sounds with vocal harmonies a la Fleet Foxes and some very nice alterna-pop melodies. Catchy songs like “Two Weeks” and “While You Wait for the Others” will be stuck in your head for days. Though I had heard some of their last release, Yellow House, this was the first album of the band’s that I’ve listened to very often, so I’m looking forward to seeing what Grizzly Bear has in store for us in the future.
83. Radiohead – Hail to the Thief (2003)
Would it be considered a heresy for me to call Radiohead the Beatles of generation X? There is probably no other group who have changed music, who have camped out at the cutting edge and set themselves up as the standard-bearers of a generation, to the same extent as Thom Yorke’s band. While this politically charged album may not be among their best, it is still quite good and proves that even when not on top of their game, Radiohead is on another level than everyone else. Songs like “2+2=5” and “There There” are nearly on par with anything in their career.
82. Modest Mouse – Good News for People Who Love Bad News (2004)
I had listened to some Modest Mouse prior to the release of this album, but for whatever reason, they never truly grabbed hold of me. It was not until the catchy and anthemic song “Float On” hit the airwaves that I went back, listened, and became a fan. This breakout album for the longtime indie stalwarts is definitely a must-own for someone interested in the music of the early 2000’s.
81. Okkervil River – The Stand Ins (2008)
This hyper-literate Austin band hit paydirt with this 2008 release and its ultra-catchy “Lost Coastlines.” Though this set of recordings is supposed to be a companion piece to their 2007 release, The Stage Names, I think I actually enjoy it more. Frontman Will Sheff likes to make strange and sometimes obscure references to everything from French playwright Antonin Artaud to a 1920’s German silent film to the Gospel of Thomas, and that’s only in one song (“Singer Songwriter”). How cool is that? Seriously, check this album out if you haven’t already.
No More Sell Outs? November 13, 2009Posted by Matt in music.
Tags: Generation X, music artists, Pearl Jam, selling out, Target
I came across an interesting article today and wanted to share it with you. Generation Xers like me, who came of age with the music of the early-mid 90′s, have always been a little wary of corporations and of our beloved artists “selling out” to make a profit. According to the article, today’s younger generation tends to shrug their shoulders at the idea. To them it is no big deal that the music artists they enjoy partake of corporate profits. The article specifically talks about one of my favorite bands of all time, Pearl Jam, and their progression from a mid-90′s boycott of Ticketmaster’s corporate policies to today, when their latest album was released exclusively through Target (at least it wasn’t Wal-Mart).
So, what do you think? Though I still have a gen-x anti-authority, anti-corporation streak running through me (believe me, don’t get me started on Wal-Mart), it doesn’t really bother me as much anymore regarding the artists I enjoy.
It also doesn’t hurt that the new PJ is incredible, regardless of who they released it through…
God, Eddie Vedder, and a Dark and Lonely Road October 25, 2009Posted by Matt in Christian Beliefs.
Tags: Backspacer, death, Divine Inspiration, Eddie Vedder, god, life, love, meaning, Pearl Jam, prophetic voice, youth
Headlights cut a swath through the dark canvass of night, lighting the two lane path through the rural Arkansas night as my car sped along the lonesome, unlit road. On either side of the vehicle lay fields of cotton and other assorted crops, flat, seemingly endless planes stretching unseen into the black horizon. The sky was dotted with what seemed to be an infinite number of stars to this boy from the city, where light pollution erased any semblance of star gazing, and I fought the urge to stare into the depths of space normally unseen. The road and the darkness were my only companions.
This had been a quick trip to my hometown of Beebe, some 130 miles from our current home on the outskirts of Memphis, on a Saturday evening in order to give our chocolate lab, Hershey, a new and better home with my in-laws. The drive usually takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes, give or take for traffic and construction, of which about half is on a two lane highway between Beebe and Brinkley, Arkansas, passing through small towns in various states of decay like Des Arc and Cotton Plant, before hitting I-40 in Brinkley for the second and faster moving leg of the trip through the eastern side of the state and across the river into Memphis. It is a rather boring drive, so I made sure to load myself up with an amount of caffeine that would no doubt qualify as liquid speed, beginning with a 5 hour energy shot before I left Memphis and finishing with a couple of cups of after dinner coffee at my parents’ house. As would be expected, I was flying high with energy.
Those of you who know me well know that there are few things more important to me than the soundtrack I choose to listen to each day. Music carries a special significance in my life for it is the fuel that powers my very being, it challenges and inspires in a way that few other things can. So I thought for a few minutes about what album or playlist I wanted to treat my ears and mind to for the drive ahead but it did not take very much time before the answer became clear.
This has been a stellar year for new music, but there is one title in particular that has truly grabbed me from the first time I listened to it. This powerful collection of songs bored directly into my very soul and I knew that it was something special, something transcendent that I would not soon forget. Of course, as most of you probably know, the album of which I speak is Pearl Jam’s newest release, Backspacer. As I’ve spoken of before, Pearl Jam have held a special place to me ever since their 1991 debut, Ten, and I have followed them diligently ever since that time, lapping up every melody and lyric that Eddie Vedder and the boys saw fit to release – and some that they did not. They were there during the confusion and challenges of my teen years, they accompanied me as I left school and began wading my way through the world, they shouted angrily alongside me at the perversions of justice during the first 8 years of the new millennium, and today, perhaps more than ever before, they stand beside me like a good friend, a companion into a new world, one where I am now in my 30’s with a wife and kids and a job, in which their accompaniment is as important as ever. It is hard for me to put into words how I feel about this new album, but this past Saturday night I experienced something that I have not in many years, if ever and that is the story that I want to tell.
Soon the loud Johnny B Goode-style riff of the album opener, “Gonna See My Friend,” filled the car and settled back, head bobbing to the driving guitar, but as I listened my mind began to wander, picking through the lyrics and the sounds and mulling over their meaning, and at some point it was a sudden realization struck my brain with an unknown force, an epiphany of Biblical proportions under whose weight I would have staggered if I had not been seated in a minivan. This was their story and, in turn, this was my story. The first four songs on the album are among the loudest and most upbeat as they tell stories of living fast and for the moment, dealing with their flaws (in their songs this includes what sounds like drug addiction, which is certainly not my personal problem, but I know we all have shortcomings with which we have to cope) and personal failings. I see within these songs the story of youth, a time filled with exuberance and mistakes as we hammer out our small place in the universe.
This section is followed by perhaps the most powerful piece on the entire album, a song entitled, “Just Breathe,” in which the narrative takes a sudden turn, for our heroes have discovered two things that change everything: love and mortality. This is really the point where my spirit perked up as I listened to Eddie Vedder’s emotion filled voice crack over a beautifully finger-picked guitar as he seemed to struggle through many of the words.
Yes I understand that every life must end, uh huh,..
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go, uh huh,..
I’m a lucky man to count on both hands
The ones I love,..
And this was it. The point where my eyes teared up a bit, my mind raced and I realized that something had just struck me like a spiritual lightning bolt – the Divine was suddenly here, sitting alongside myself and Eddie. I thought of my wife and kids and how I don’t always show them how much I appreciate them in our busy lives. I thought of my own life and the short time that we have to walk this earth with the ones we love.
I’ve long had a feeling that I’m going to die young, but can’t quite put my finger on why. Perhaps it is due to the fact that I have already cheated death once, barely escaping its icy grip, and that the chances are low that I will once again evade it. Perhaps it is just general paranoia, though the idea doesn’t really fill me with fear, just some degree of sadness at the thought of missing my family.
And the rest of the album is filled with incredible songs having similar themes – ones of loss, regret, love, time and mortality. It is here that my melancholic soul found inspiration.
And so I press forward, inspired as a new man. If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that love is the most powerful thing. All else will fail you in the end, whether it be your money or fame or religious dogma. It is all for naught. Love is what will carry you. Grasp it and don’t let it go and hold onto it until your dying day and all will be right.
The aptly titled final song on the album, “The End”, puts this in perspective when Eddie sings in the first person of someone nearing death begging their loved one to stay with them.
Don’t leave me so cold
Or buried beneath the stones
I just want to hold on
And know I’m worth your love
But the end comes suddenly as he sings the last words of the album,
But not much longer
And the music abruptly stops.
It was as though the finger of God suddenly reached through the clouds and touched me for all seemed clear, like a new plane of existence had been reached, one in which this realization was made plain. Eddie Vedder is a prophetic voice in the wilderness, a man preaching the Divine in a way that I had never heard nor felt from a preacher or church before. This is true. This is right. I smiled knowingly through watery eyes and I knew what had to be done. I had to tell my family how much I love them for nobody knows how much time is left.
It is love and only love that matters.
Torture by Music? October 22, 2009Posted by Matt in politics.
Tags: Gitmo, music torture, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Rage Against the Machine
CNN reports that several American rock artists, including REM, Pearl Jam, and Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, have filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out if their music was a part of interrogation techniques at the Guantanamo Bay prison. The request stems from the testimony of former Gitmo prisoners who said that heavy metal, rock, and rap music were part of interrogations.
Really? If I was interrogated by being forced to listen to Rage Against the Machine, that would be awesome…and probably a little counter-productive, as those of you familiar with their music would probably guess. “Killing in the Name” would totally make you want to start a prison riot. And Pearl Jam is one of the greatest bands in the entire world – who wouldn’t want to listen to them? Granted, if they were forced someone to listen to “Bugs” from the Vitalogy album over and over again, I can see where it might cause some temporary insanity, but torture? Come on.
If you really want to torture them, make them listen to the closest new country station. Lord knows I’d tell them anything to turn that garbage off.
What do you think would make good torture music?
There are 35 musicians/songs listed explicitly in the response to the FOIA request:
Barney Theme Song
The Bee Gees
Meow Mix Jingle
Nine Inch Nails
Rage Against the Machine
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Sesame Street Theme Music
The Star Spangled Banner
Free Music Friday – Just Breathe September 25, 2009Posted by Matt in free music friday.
Tags: Just Breathe, Pearl Jam, video
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As I mentioned earlier this week (and probably several other times in the past), Pearl Jam is one of my favorite bands of all time and for nearly 20 years they have provided a veritable soundtrack to life for me. Below a live clip of the song “Just Breathe” from their incredible new album Backspacer. Enjoy.
Looking Back from Backspacer September 22, 2009Posted by Matt in music.
Tags: album ranking, Backspacer, Binaural, Generation X, No Code, Pearl Jam, Riot Act, Ten, Vitalogy, Vs, Yield
Over the decades, music has always been an integral part of American culture, from sock hops to hippies to big hair to the multiplicity of styles available today, and each generation has their artists with whom they self-identify. For me, and I reckon many others on the younger end of generation X, there is one band that has long stood above the others – Pearl Jam.
I was 14 in 1991, the year their debut album Ten broke into the mainstream, and I have been a dedicated follower ever since, for some 18 years, over half of my life. It’s as if we’ve grown up together, and they are like friends or family that have always been there. I remember driving up to Searcy to the only music store within 40 miles of my house to buy the Vs. album on the day it came out back in 1993 and then later that year waiting in line outside a car audio store to buy tickets to their Little Rock show. Their songs of disillusionment and disnefranchisement seemed to speak to me, despite being a teenager in small town rural Arkansas and far removed from Seattle.
A few years later when I was in college I discovered a little used CD store in Little Rock where I was able to purchase two imports full of cover songs and other performances culled from the archives that I still have today. I had the chance to catch them live again in 2000 and then saw Eddie Vedder solo earlier this year, so I feel quite confident in recommending that you see them live any chance you get.
With the upcoming release of Backspacer, the latest album from Vedder & Co, coming this week, I wanted to give you my rankings of their 8 other albums spanning the past 18 years. Let me know what you think.
8. Pearl Jam (2006) – Though certainly not a bad album by any means, this one ranks last on my list due to the fact that it just is not as a memorable as their other releases. It is their political, anti-war rant that was timely when released, but that may not stand the test of time against their stronger releases. There are still some real gems on here, though, and it is definitely worth owning.
Favorite Tracks: World Wide Suicide, Unemployable
7. Binaural (2000) – For some reason, Binaural did not resonate with me from the beginning and it was not until after I saw them live later that year and went back and truly listened to it that I discovered how much I enjoyed it. The material is heavier and darker than previous releases, and lacks the anthemic tunes of the early 90’s, but it still serves a nice bridge during a commercially quieter time in their recording career.
Favorite Tracks: God’s Dice, Insignificance, Thin Air
6. No Code (1996) – I’ve long held that the oft-maligned No Code is PJ’s most misunderstood album. Their previous release, Vitalogy, had some moments of experimentation, but this is where the band stopped flirting and delved into the world of experimentalism full throttle ahead. While I will admit that it can feel a bit disjointed at times, the overall product is truly a work to be marveled at.
Favorite Tracks: Hail, Hail, Off He Goes, Red Mosquito
5. Riot Act (2002) – As much as PJ disliked the Bush Administration, he did provide quite a wealth of material to the band, as this and the aforementioned Pearl Jam are evidence of. Politically charged tunes like Bu$leaguer are products of the time and will no doubt prove to be dated over the years, but plenty of other great songs will stand the test of time.
Favorite Tracks: Love Boat Captain, I Am Mine, Thumbing My Way
4. Yield (1998) – PJ followed up their venture into experimentalism with this more conventional rock record which captures them at their ferocious best. It also doesn’t hurt that “Do the Evolution” is one of the coolest songs ever and the very best one ever recorded about evolutionary biology.
Favorite Tracks: Given to Fly, Wishlist, Do the Evolution, Low Light
3. Ten (1991) – Yes, I know it is a borderline heresy to place their most popular album all the way back in third place, but as time goes on I find myself listening to it far less than the others. This is the album that launched the band into the stratosphere with early 1990’s anthems like Alive and Jeremy that I’ve heard enough to last a lifetime, so it is quite nostalgic for this longtime fan.
Favorite Tracks: Evenflow, Porch, Black, Release
2. Vitalogy (1994) – This first foray into experimental music may have its missteps (Bugs and Foxymophandlemama, to name two), but the overall product is a veritable feast for the ears. The diverse sounds, from the quiet beauty of Nothingman to the heaviness of Not For You somehow work together to form a cohesive whole that, along with Nirvana’s Unplugged, puts the nail in the coffin for early 90’s grunge.
Favorite Tracks: Last Exit, Not For You, Corduroy, Immortality
1. Vs. (1993) – Vs. occupation of the top spot may have more to do with my nostalgia toward the album as the one for which I first saw them live, than it has to do with being their best, but it remains a real testament to the band’s greatness, even 16 years after its release. The album has a diversity of styles that their debut lacks, while not yet embracing the noisiness of their later works. This is the band in all of their flannel-clad, crowd-surfing, mosh-pitting glory, and I love it. Also, as I mentioned earlier, I bought this album on cassette the day it came out and actually even had one of the early-run tapes with the Five Against One title imprinted on it. So, that’s pretty cool too.
Favorite Tracks: Animal, Rearviewmirror, Elderly Woman, Indifference
All of that being said, Pearl Jam remain an important part of the American music landscape, even after almost 2 decades as one of the, if not the, preeminent bands of an entire generation. Here’s to 20 more years!
Free Music Friday – Can’t Get Enough PJ August 21, 2009Posted by Matt in free music friday.
Tags: live, Not For You, Pearl Jam
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Yesterday I was listening to the Vitalogy album for the first time in quite a while and was again struck at just how great it is and just how amazing Pearl Jam has been for almost 20 years. Below is a live performance of Not For You from the previously mentioned album. Enjoy.
Free Music Friday – PJ does Elvis August 14, 2009Posted by Matt in free music friday.
Tags: Can't Help Falling in Love With You, Elvis Presley, Pearl Jam
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Those of you in the rest of the world may not realize that this is one of the biggest weeks of the year in Memphis – Elvis week. Thousands have and will make a pilgrimage to the Mecca of rock excess, Graceland, to pay their respects to the artist who died some 32 years ago. In tribute to the week, here is a clip of one of my favorite bands in the world, Pearl Jam, covering Elvis’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” Enjoy.
Ten for Tuesday: Upcoming 2009 Releases June 23, 2009Posted by Matt in Best of 2009.
Tags: 2009, alice in chains, Beastie Boys, Best Of, Coldplay, Dinosaur Jr., Matisyahu, music, Pearl Jam, The Avett Brothers, The Dead Weather, The Flaming Lips, upcoming releases, Wilco
Last week I gave my top music releases for the first half of 2009 – you can see parts 1, 2 and 3 here – so today I wanted to continue that trend a bit longer and tell you what albums I am most looking forward to for the rest of the year. Let me know what you think.
10. Matisyahu – Light (Release Date: August)
What is not to like about an Orthodox Hasidic Jew as a reggae artist? His last album, 2006’s Youth was an interesting piece of work that even someone like me who is fairly ignorant about both the music style and the branch of Judaism’s tree from which this came can appreciate and really enjoy it.
9. Dinosaur Jr. – Farm (Rlease Date: June)
For more than two decades J. Mascis’ band has been trucking along beneath the surface, creating some of the most incredible noises to be found in the music industry. After finding some success in two minor hits (remember Keep Choppin’ and Feel the Pain?) in the early 90’s, the band again slipped into obscurity. But the band with the prehistoric moniker never quit and their last release, 2007’s Beyond, was a much-needed blast from the past, with the fuzzy distortion of J. Mascis’ guitar and his Neil Young-like vocals helping the band again find their groove. If this one is anywhere near that level of greatness, it could be among the year’s best.
8. Alice in Chains – Black Give Way to Blue (Release Date: September)
With their first album in 14 years, Jerry Cantrell & Co. are finally looking to bounce back from the 2002 death of singer and founding member Layne Staley, this time fronted by William DuVall. I had the chance to see them live last year and, let me tell you, they still rocked. Hard. There are few bands that survive and thrive after the departure of such an important member, so it will remain to be seen how they will fare in today’s music environment. But, as a fan from the early days, I’m hoping their comeback will be one for the ages.
7. Coldplay – untitled (Release Date: November)
Sure, the band plays safe, radio-friendly tunes devoid of anything too challenging that are custom-built to appeal to the masses, but, despite my outright music snobbery, I can’t help but like them. Their songs are catchy and stadium-ready, with sound that many compare to an early U2 without those pesky social causes or, frankly, too much thoughtfulness. Nevertheless, they almost always make for a good listen and I’m sure this will be gracing my Ipod soon after its release.
6. Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee (Release Date: September)
After nearly a quarter century, the Beasties just keep trucking on, despite the fact that they likely used up most of their inventiveness on their classic albums from the 1980’s and early 90’s (Seriously, Paul’s Boutique is one of the greatest collections ever recorded). 2004’s To the 5 Boroughs was a fine return to form, but it was apparent that their well of creativity may be running dry. This album doesn’t need to be a music landmark, though, it will no doubt continue their legacy of enjoyable white boy hip-hop.
5. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You (Release Date: August)
The Avett Brothers’ 2007 release, Emotionalism, was one of my finest discoveries of that year (thanks to some combination of Scott, Greg, and emusic) and for some time I listened to it on an incessant basis. The band morphs genres as diverse as bluegrass and punk rock into a fantastic whole, immediately broadening the musical horizons of the listener. If you’ve never heard someone rock out on a banjo before, then you obviously need the Avett Brothers in your life.
4. The Dead Weather – Horehound (Release Date: July)
I’ve been a disciple of Jack White for several years now, but his status was forever concreted among the pantheon of rock deity after I saw the White Stripes live in 2007. As a dedicated follower, I am resolved to immediately gobble up any release bearing his name, whether it be through the White Stripes, Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose, the Raconteurs, or, his latest outfit, The Dead Weather, an indie rock supergroup consisting of vocalist Alison Mosshart (The Kills), guitarist Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age), bassist Jack Lawrence (The Raconteurs) and the aforementioned Jack White on drums/vocals. Make no bones about it, this will be awesome.
3. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic (Release Date: September)
Over the past 15 years the Lips have evolved from their mainstream gimmick-song beginnings to releasing two of the best albums of the past 10 years (1999’s The Soft Bulletin and 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots). 2006’s At War with the Mystics was a good piece of sonic guitar psychedelia, though perhaps not to the standards of their earlier work. So, I eagerly await the latest work with hopes for something as strange and inspired as they have recorded in the past.
2. Wilco – Wilco (The Album) (Release Date: June)
There are few musical groups working today as wildly inventive as Jeff Tweedy’s Wilco. Every album seems to take a step in a slightly different direction, as though Tweedy is feeling out every aspect of the rock universe just because he finds it so darn interesting. 2001’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is one of the greatest albums of the new millennium and the two following recordings, A Ghost is Born and Sky Blue Sky, have been excellent pieces as well. You can always expect great things from Tweedy, so I eagerly await him to continue his musical exploration in ways that will continually challenge us to think outside the box.
1. Pearl Jam – Backspacer (Release Date: September)
What more can I say of my love and devotion for Pearl Jam? They are a band that helped define my generation back in our formative years in the early 90’s and that continues to astound us today, nearly two decades later. Eddie Vedder is, hands down, the preeminent rock vocalist of the past 20 years and I expect the band to continue to blaze a trail for all bands under the umbrella of rock music to continue to follow. If their recent performance on Conan O’Brien is any indication, this album is going to blow every one of us away…and I couldn’t be more excited.
What about you? Is there anything in the music world that you are looking forward to?