Lenten Listen #9: The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang March 1, 2012Posted by Matt in Lent.
Tags: American Slang, Lent, Orphans, The Gaslight Anthem
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I first heard The Gaslight Anthem with their epic 2008 release, The ’59 Sound, and instantly became enamored with Brian Fallon’s Springsteen-on-speed vocals atop a charging, punk-like guitar. Their latest release, 2010’s American Slang continued their run of hard-hitting, excellent releases.
I work an office job, having one of those frustrating professions in which one sits in a cubicle for hours on end starting at a lifeless computer screen wondering what the point of everything is. It’s not a bad job, mind you, but the monotony takes a toll and oftentimes I wish to break free of the drab cubicle world and burst forth into the world.
So, with an eye on other things, I listen to songs like “Orphans” from this album and its first stanza:
Goodbye circus wheel
May you rest along the seas
Well I’ve given you the fire of my youth
And the triumph over my enemies
And goodbye to fairweather home
And your faithless factories
I have given you the blood and the truth
From the wounds that they laid on me
Best of 2010 – Music Edition (Top Ten) December 21, 2010Posted by Matt in Best of 2010.
Tags: Arcade Fire, Big Boi, drive-by truckers, Kanye West, Neil Young, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, The Black Keys, The Gaslight Anthem, The Hold Steady, The National, Top 10 albums of 2010
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Over the past two weeks we’ve been looking at my choices for the best music of 2010, beginning with ten honorable mentions, followed by those that I ranked 11-20. Today we continue our list with my top ten albums of 2010. Before we get started, though, here is a quick recap of the albums mentioned in the past entries.
Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues
The Whigs – In the Dark
Dr. Dog – Shame, Shame
Carolina Chocolate Drops – Genuine Negro Jig
Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul
Magic Kids – Memphis
Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
Robert Plant – Band of Joy
Ra Ra Riot – The Orchard
Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart
20. MGMT – Congratulations
19. Weezer – Hurley
18. Broken Bells – Broken Bells
17. Cee Lo Green – The Ladykiller
16. Jamey Johnson – The Guitar Song
15. Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz
14. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
13. Josh Ritter – So Runs the World Away
12. The Roots – How I Got Over
11. The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards
The Top Ten Albums of 2010
10. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – I Learned the Hard Way
Listening to Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings is like stepping into a time machine and emerging in the R&B world of the 1960’s-70’s. The band has been around for nearly 15 years, but I was just introduced to them in 2010 – and let me tell you, it was a wonderful introduction. Combining funky horn-led arrangements with Jones’s outstanding soulful vocals, this is a welcome retro blast for those who enjoy sounds you might hear from Stax or Motown. From broken hearts to hard times on the poor side of town, Jones and her band tear through song after song with a mix of emotion and joy that is impossible not to like. Download: The Game Gets Old, Better Things, Money
9. The National – High Violet
Downbeat and moody, The National make dreary, rainy day music for those who choose to accept or even revel in the dark crevices of life, carrying on the gloomy tradition of late 70’s/80’s post-punk bands like Joy Division and The Cure. Matt Berninger’s rich baritone is the glue that holds these stories together and when he sings, “I live in the city sorrow built,” you believe him and your heart aches for him. The band is in great form on this work, which may be their best yet in a critically lauded career. Though it was released back in May, amid the sunshine and flowers, this is time of year for which it was meant, when the sun goes down early, the temperature drops, and the feelings of isolation and loneliness are magnified. Download: Sorrow, Anyone’s Ghost, Bloodbuzz Ohio
8. The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever
I first got into The Hold Steady with their 2008 album Stay Positive, my top pick for that year, so my hopes were high for their latest release and they did not disappoint. While I wasn’t that impressed the first time I listened to it, Heaven is Whenever grew on me quickly and by the time I saw them live over the summer it was among my favorites for the year. The album starts with the uncharacteristically slow, almost country music-like The Sweet Part of the City, before kicking into their normal, high-energy, bar band sound, tearing through track after track about the scene, a place characterized by street fights, parties, bars, and townies, but also where the beautiful happens. It’s a place where two music lovers can discover that, “Heaven is whenever we can get together, / Sit down on your floor / And listen to your records.” Download: Barely Breathing, We Can Get Together, Hurricane J
7. Big Boi – Sir Luscious Left Foot
Despite being one of the most talented and influential hip-hop collaborations in history, Outkast has been relatively quiet since their 2006 film project Idlewild, and have not released a proper album since 2004’s Grammy-winning Album of the Year, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, so the first solo release from Big Boi, one half of Outkast, was greatly anticipated by purveyors of intelligent hip-hop. Luscious kicks of with a short, funky intro before kicking into high gear and it quickly becomes apparent that Big Boi is in excellent form. He turns in a performance that reeks of dirty, George Clinton funk, with heaps of soul and old-school, Southern fried hip-hop added in for good measure. The songs are adventurous, inventive, and totally captivating. Now we just need a new Outkast album… Download: Daddy Fat Sax, Shutterbugg, Tangerine
6. Drive-By Truckers – The Big To-Do
I’ve been following just about every move of the Drive-By Truckers for nearly a decade, and though there have been some ups and downs, they are still, without a doubt, my favorite band of that time period. This latest release continues in the tradition of telling dark tales of life in Dixie through a three guitar, Southern rock avenue. Where their last release, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, displayed more of a country influence, To-Do is more of a straight-ahead rock album, blasting through tales of death, drugs, and depression with razor sharp lyrics and amps turned to ten. Co-leaders Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley sound great, as usual, with Hood’s storytelling abilities at full strength and Cooley’s guitar and one-liners ringing out strong and true. The band touches on real events like the Church of Christ minister murder in Selmer (“That Wig He Made Her Wear”), classic tales of women done wrong (“Drag the Lake Charlie”), and even one that took place in Memphis (“Birthday Boy”). I’ve had the opportunity to see them twice on this tour and I can assure you that the band sounds as great as ever. Download: Drag the Lake Charlie, Birthday Boy, Santa Fe
5. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
I was first introduced to The Gaslight Anthem with their 2008 work, That ’59 Sound, and I quickly became a fan of their style, one that I described as being “like Springsteen fronting The Clash.” Their latest release continues in the same vein, with the band’s Jersey-influenced songs and hard charging guitars taking center stage, yet it may even best that album that I loved so much from two years ago. The Gaslight Anthem should be a huge, household name, but still they toil away in relative obscurity, playing anthems that could fill stadiums in smaller venues to a growing base of fans. If there is any justice in the world, these guys will be huge someday. When vocalist Brian Fallon sings, “While you told me fortunes in American slang,” you hope that those fortunes turn out well for the band. Download: American Slang, Boxer, Bring It On
4. The Black Keys – Brothers
I’ve been a big fan of blues-rock duo The Black Keys for several years and it has been fascinating to watch the evolution of the band beyond their initial blues focus to something that borrows from a number of genres, combining them into a fun, rocking whole. This latest release borrows some style from their last album, the Danger Mouse-produced Attack and Release, and their older, bluesier recordings, while adding in a few new wrinkles, swinging from vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach doing his best Prince impression on “Everlasting Light” to their trademark riffage on “She’s Long Gone,” to the keyboard-dominated “Too Afraid to Love You,” and they have never sounded better. I saw the band in concert a few years ago and the show was incredible, so it is my hope that they will make another stop in Memphis sometime in the near future. If you like good music, you need this album. Download: Next Girl, Tighten Up, She’s Long Gone
3. Kanye West – My Dark Twisted Fantasy
Over the past ten years there is perhaps no artist in rap music, or for that matter music in general, who is more important and timely than Kanye West. Sure, he has a tendency to go off the deep end publically, but all can be forgiven and forgotten by those who allow themselves be lost in his ingenious vision. My Dark Twisted Fantasy is more than just your average hip-hop album, it’s a landmark on par with nearly anything ever produced in the genre. After the underrated minimalism of his last work 808s and Heartbreak, the dense orchestrations present on Fantasy represent a completely new and welcome direction, one that displays rap music as the art form that it can be. The songs are long and powerful, pulling in the listener and not letting go. In the anthemic “Power,” with its tribal chants and King Crimson sampling, ‘Ye makes the prophetic statement “I guess every superhero needs his theme music,” and this is the sound of him finding his. The real gem on this work, though, is the uncomfortably confessional 10 minute opus “Runaway,” where he reveals this really tortured soul, telling the listeners how he’s “so gifted at findin’ what I don’t like the most,” before delving into some of the roughest verbal self-flagellation in recent memory. This is a must-own. Download: Runaway, Power, Monster
2. Neil Young – Le Noise
Though the initial news that Neil Young was collaborating with mega-producer Daniel Lanois was intriguing, it had been years since I heard anything from Young that interested me and I wasn’t putting much stock into this latest work. Then I heard it on NPR and immediately was hooked by both the music and the story behind it. According to reports, Lanois approached the 65 year old legend with a custom built guitar and an idea, a simple project consisting solely of Young, the guitar, and some great production, and this incredible work is the fruit of that partnership. Young sounds great, his voice still in excellent condition and his grungy guitar work reminding us of his widespread influence across the gamut of rock music. The old man still has his finger on the pulse of society, particularly in songs like “Angry World” where he sings, “Some see life as hope eternal / Some see life as a business plan / Some wish some would go to hell’s inferno / For screwing with their life in freedom land,” and in the fantastic, perhaps even career-defining track, “Love and War,” where his acoustic guitar and soft, almost whispery vocals become an ethereal vessel through which a great prophet can speak his message, saying, “When I sing about love and war / I don’t really know what I’m saying. / I’ve been in love and I’ve seen a lot of war / Seen a lot of people praying. / They pray to Allah and they pray to the Lord / But mostly the pray about love and war.” This beautiful and timely piece of societal commentary is indispensable. Download: Love and War, Angry World, Sign of Love
1. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
The Arcade Fire dealt with some big issues on their first two albums, so on their third, the band turns to another slice of America, the lifeless and endless suburban sprawl. As one of the millions and millions of people living in this area of concrete, strip malls, and cookie cutter houses stretching past the horizon (“Oh this city’s changed so much / Since I was a little child / Pray to God I won’t live to see / The death of everything that’s wild”), this work strikes a chord with me. It’s the land of quiet desperation, of fear and of endless attempts to escape, moving farther and farther away from supposed danger, never settling and always vigilant (“The town’s so strange they built it to change”). In the album opener, “The Suburbs,” vocalist Win Butler laments, “So can you understand / Why I want a daughter while I’m still young? / I want to hold her hand / And show her some beauty / Before all this damage is done.” The band’s targets range from that hopelessly run rat race to the suburban megachurch-dominated religious scene with lyrics like, “You never trust a millionaire / Quoting the sermon on the mount / I used to think I was not like them / But I’m beginning to have my doubts / My doubts about it.” And, of course, there’s always the neverending sprawl (“Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small / Then we can never get away from the sprawl / Living in the sprawl / The dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains / And there’s no end in sight / I need the darkness. Someone please cut the lights!”). This is, without a doubt, my album of the year. It touches deep down in my psyche, for I’ve struggled some time with our decision to live in the suburbs instead of the city, feeling like I don’t belong here, that there is no place here for me. The endless traffic and big box stores and chain restaurants, the fear and hatred and exclusionary tactics go beyond merely bothering me, they hurt me, they scar me, they leave me wanting to escape the clutches of the sprawl.
Yet all is not so terrible, no, everyone does not buy into the stories, not everyone finds themselves destroyed by the “businessmen that drink my blood.” As is true anywhere in any city or suburb or country town that you may find yourself in, there is a reason to go on and it is one that does not involve mcmansions or illusions of safety or churches that look like football stadiums. Friends. Love. Relationships. That is what matters. In the end, you may say as Arcade Fire does, “If I could have it back / All the time we wasted / I’d only waste it again / If I could have it back / You know I would love to waste it again.” Time with the ones you love, even time in which you do nothing at all, is never wasted. The new chapter of my story is a happy one so far, one in which relationships are being built and even if it happens in the endless sprawl, that is okay. The time will not be wasted.
Like I said before, this album really struck a chord with me. It has stuck with me and haunted me ever since I first listened to it. If there is one album you buy this year, make it this one.
The Best of 2010…So Far – Part 2 June 30, 2010Posted by Matt in Best of 2010.
Tags: Best of 2010, Broken Bells, Carolina Chocolate Drops, drive-by truckers, josh ritter, MGMT, music, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, The Black Keys, The Dead Weather, The Gaslight Anthem, The Hold Steady
10. Carolina Chocolate Drops – Genuine Negro Jig
As you are probably aware by now, I like a lot of music that resides somewhere outside the mainstream, whether that be the return of an old style or the creation of a new one, so when I heard about the Carolina Chocolate Drops, an all-black, old time string band that plays a wide variety of music – from traditional tunes to hip-hop favorites – I was intrigued to say the least. When my dad gave me a copy of this, their latest album, I quickly became a fan. Needless to say, you won’t hear anything else like this anywhere else.
Download: Hit ‘Em Up Style, Cornbread and Butterbeans, Your Baby Ain’t Sweet Like Mine
9. Broken Bells – Broken Bells
There aren’t very many producers that can induce me to buy an album, but Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) is one of them. I’ve been intrigued with his work ever since his strange and very cool mash-up of Jay-Z’s Black Album with The Beatles’ White Album, and since that time he has worked on fantastic albums by Gorillaz, The Black Keys, Beck, and others, not to mention his own great project, Gnarls Barkley. So, with everything he touches seeming to turn to gold, this collaboration with The Shins’ James Mercer was a must-get, and let me tell you, it was worth it. Mixing Mercer’s voice, which fits so well in the melodic context of The Shins, with experimental hip-hop beats was a stroke of genius. I’ll be returning to this one far more than I will The Shins’ albums that I own.
Download: The High Road, The Ghost Inside, Vaporize
8. MGMT – Congratulations
MGMT’s debut album, Oracular Spectacular, was a gargantuan success, spawning several hit songs (“Time to Pretend,” “Electric Feel,” etc.) and breaking the band into the mainstream in a big way. While their sophomore release does not have the recognizable singles of its predecessor, it may be an even better overall album. Their sound is a trippy, psychedelic ride that flows with ease from one song to the next for the entire duration of the album. It is truly an experience not to be missed.
Download: It’s Working, Flash Delirium, and really just download the whole thing. It’s worth it.
7. Josh Ritter – So Runs the World Away
Josh Ritter’s prior two releases, Animal Songs and The Historic Conquests of Josh Ritter, have been among my favorites in the respective years of their release. His songwriting ability is superb, placing him near or at the top of my generation, and earning him comparisons to other greats like Bruce Springsteen. Though I cannot say I like his latest release as much as the past two or three, but it is still very, very good. His easy voice and fingerpicked guitar make for the perfect accompaniment in a stressful work environment.
Download: The Curse, Southern Pacifica, Folk Bloodbath
6. Drive-By Truckers – The Big To-Do
Every album release from DBT is an event for fans like me, who collect all of the works of this greatest among Southern rock bands and make a point to see them each and every time they play a nearby show (next one: September). Though the band has undergone a few personnel changes over the years, core members Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley remain and continue to produce some of the best music coming out of Dixie. Their songs tell tales from the dark side of life in the South, with tales of people suffering in a floundering economy, death, and a certain Tennessee preacher’s wife who shot her husband dead. It’s another triumph for the band and I’m really looking forward to seeing this fall for the 6th time.
Download: Birthday boy, Drag the Lake Charlie, The Wig He Made Her Wear
5. The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever
I became a huge fan of The Hold Steady following their incredible 2008 release, Stay Positive, and have been ever since, picking up the majority of the back catalog and listening to it incessantly. Though this one sounds a bit cleaner and less bar band-like, than their past releases, it still makes for one heck of a listen. From their slower-than-normal, almost country sounding opener, through the rest of the album, the band utilizes frontman Craig Finn’s gift for storytelling to weave tale after tale of real life, creating a Springsteen-esque (the 2nd of 3 Bruce references in this blog entry) tapestry of regular people struggling to get by. Oh, and I’m planning on going to see them at the Hi-Tone next month. I have no doubt it will be awesome.
Download: Hurricane J, The Weekenders, We Can Get Together
4. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
It is quite interesting that we can point to so many artists today as having been greatly influenced by Bruce Springsteen, but that is probably no more apparent than with The Gaslight Anthem, whose sound I described in 2008, following the release of the fantastic That ’59 Sound, as a “young Springsteen fronting The Clash.” Their latest release is another incredible work, melding the blue collar ethic of The Boss with their punk sensibilities into something that you just can’t put away. It’s a catchy blast of New Jersey garage rock that you can’t help but love.
Download: American Slang, Stay Lucky, The Queen of Lower Chelsea
3. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – I Learned the Hard Way
All hail Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, for they come to us bearing a wonderful gift, one that we may not have even realized we were missing. Jones & company have resurrected an Aretha-like soul and R&B sound, and they’ve done it in a suberb way. The Brooklyn-based band reportedly shun modern digital recording equipment in favor of analog, to ensure their retro sound. I absolutely love this album and when I start playing it I just can’t stop. Believe me, you need to check this out.
Download: The Game Gets Old, I Learned the Hard Way, Money
2. The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards
Let me be up front about this: I will be a lifelong fan of Jack White and everything he touches. This album is the best non-White Stripes recording he has been a part of. The entire work rocks from beginning to end, with heavy blues-based guitar riffs, pounding drums, and some killer songs combining into an excellent whole. White and Alison Mosshart (of The Kills) share vocal duties in a howling, shrieking morass of awesomeness. My favorite line by White: “All the white girls trip when I sing at Sunday service.” Awesome. Now I only wish I had been able to see them when they played Memphis a few months ago…
Download: Die By the Drop, Blue Blood Blues, The Difference Between Us
1. The Black Keys – Brothers
Psychedelic blues-rock duo The Black Keys have done it – they’ve created a masterpiece. I love everything the Keys have done, from the heavy blues of Thickfreakness and Rubber Factory to the Danger Mouse-produced Attack & Release and everything in between, but this album is just flat-out incredible. They retain some of their blues sensibilities while continuing to expand their sound far beyond anything that seems humanly possible for just two people, one with a drum set and one with a guitar. To add to the coolness, my 7 year old daughter thinks vocalist Dan Auerbach sounds like Prince on some songs. Just turn this one up loud, and I mean loud, and enjoy it.
Download: Everlasting Light, Next Girl, Tighten Up, She’s Long Gone
Free Music Friday: The Gaslight Anthem June 18, 2010Posted by Matt in free music friday.
Tags: acoustic, American Slang, solo, The Gaslight Anthem, video
Two years ago I raved about The Gaslight Anthem’s “The ’59 Sound” album and I have to say that I love their latest release, “American Slang,” nearly as much as that great one. They continue in their young-Springsteen-fronting-The Clash style of their last album, with songs about the lives of regular people as told with a hard-charging, punk guitar. If you’ve never heard them before, you really need to check them out. This is a solo acoustic version of the title song from their latest release. Enjoy.
Upcoming Summer Music Releases May 13, 2010Posted by Matt in music, top ten.
Tags: Arcade Fire, Band of Horses, Big Boi, Danger Mouse, How to Destroy Angels, Kanye West, Sparklehorse, Stone Temple Pilots, Summer 2010, The Black Keys, The Gaslight Anthem, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, top ten, upcoming album releases
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This month we’ve been inundated by excellent new music, including new albums from Josh Ritter, The Dead Weather, Broken Social Scene, The New Pornographers, The National, The Hold Steady, and many more, and though this has been great, it is only the beginning of the summer music season. So, today I want to look at ten of my most highly anticipated albums set to come out over the next few months. Let me know if I left something off.
10. Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul (July 13)
Danger Mouse has emerged as one of the most creative and best known DJs around, whether in his famous mash-ups (The Grey Album), his work with Gnarls Barkley, or his other 2010 project, Broken Bells. This album finds him teaming with Alt-rockers, Sparklehorse, a group that I am somewhat familiar with, but I have never owned any of their music. Given the greatness of much of Danger Mouse’s past work, this is one I’ll have to check out.
9. How to Destroy Angels – How to Destroy Angels (TBD)
Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame returns this summer with a new project, this one featuring his wife Mariqueen Maandig on vocals. According to what I’ve read, this retains Reznor’s electronic beat-based style, but sounds more like Depeche Mode than the industrial insanity of NIN. Sounds interesting…
8. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Leftfoot (July 6)
As half of the great hip hop duo Outkast, Big Boi has been a veritable force over the years, but this album finds him stepping away from his musical partner, Andre 3000, to release something wholly his own. If this is anywhere near the genius of Stankonia or Big Boi’s Speakerboxxx work, it is a must have.
7. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Mojo (June 15)
Over the course of the past 3+ decades, Petty and his band have become one of the de facto voices of Americana music. I’ve long been a fan of their work, so this will definitely be one that I’ll have to check out.
6. Stone Temple Pilots – Stone Temple Pilots (May 25)
Alice in Chains and the Smashing Pumpkins reformed and released albums, Pearl Jam is still chugging away, and Soundgarden is back together, so why not expand the umbrella of grunge nostalgia again? I’ve heard one of the new tunes from the album on radio and it is very cool, Purple-era STP. This will be a must-have.
5. Band of Horses – Infinite Arms (May 18)
BoH showed themselves to be one of the better breakthrough indie rock acts on their last album, and my introduction to them, Cease to Begin. If this one promises to continue their past excellence, count me in.
4. Arcade Fire TBD (TBD)
They don’t have an album title or a release date yet, but according to reports, Arcade Fire is set to release their third album this summer. I, for one, am really looking forward to more of the huge, orchestral indie rock style that made their last two releases so incredible.
3. Kanye West – Good Ass Job (June)
Look, I don’t care who Kanye wants to interrupt on an awards show, the guy makes some truly unforgettable music. This album is supposedly the one to conclude his “college series” – The College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation – and if it’s on par with those, it will definitely be great.
2. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang (June 15)
My introduction to The Gaslight Anthem came through their last release, That ’59 Sound, and it’s incredible blue collar-punk rock-Springsteen combo. I once described it as a young Springsteen fronting the Clash. Needless to say, it was awesome and I expect nothing less from this one.
1. The Black Keys – Brothers (May 18)
I might be cheating a bit to have this album as my top choice, especially since I have already listened to it from beginning to end more than one time through NPR, but it completely blew me away. While the Keys retain some of the blues-rock ethos from their earlier albums, this one takes another step forward in the progression through their last album, Attack & Release, Dan Auerbach’s solo debut, and their work as Blakroc. I’ll tell you now: this is the current frontrunner for 2010 album of the year. Get it as soon as you can. You won’t be disappointed.
Best of the Decade – Music Edition (51-60) December 17, 2009Posted by Matt in Top 100 of the Decade.
Tags: albums, Band of Horses, Beck, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, decade, Kings of Leon, MGMT, Spoon, Sufjan Stevens, The Gaslight Anthem, The Jayhawks, The Killers, top 100
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Don’t worry, I have not forgotten about my top 100 of the decade list even though it has been more than a week since I updated it. Today we continue our look back at the greatest albums of the past ten years. In case you missed them, you can read the other entries below:
60. Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans (2004)
Undoubtedly the most spiritual of the young singer-songwriter’s album catalog, Seven Swans is bursting with life, despite being one of Stevens’ sparser efforts. Most of the songs from this release consist of Stevens’ earnest, wavering voice and his trusty banjo, without much of the orchestration and electronic sounds of his other works. Stevens openly displays faith as a motivator behind his music career on songs like “Abraham” and “The Transfiguration,” and it works far better than any CCM artist.
59. Beck – The Information (2006)
From the opening line, “One, two, you know what to do,” to the last, Beck weaves together an altogether fun album reminiscent of his work in the 90’s. The danceable rhythms, stoned-sounding vocals, and the occasional Spanish phrase thrown in for good measure are vintage Beck and that’s a great thing. I’ve been a big fan for going on 15 years and his fun sense of creativity hardly ever disappoints. Check out songs like “Elevator Music” and “Cellphone’s Dead” to get a good taste of his mid-2000’s greatness.
58. Spoon – Gimme Fiction (2005)
Speaking of danceable tunes, Spoon has put out a ton of them in this decade and every collection has proved to be excellent. This was the first album of theirs that I bought and it quickly turned me into a fan. This is the way good pop music is supposed to sound. Listen to “I Turn My Camera On,” and “The Delicate Place,” and I promise that you’ll agree.
57. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular (2008)
This breakthrough album took the country by storm in 2008 and with good reason. “Time to Pretend,” with its resonating tale of youthful hopes and dreams being dashed to pieces against the disappointments of life, is one of the best songs of the decade. These relative newcomers have a great future ahead of them and I look forward to hearing their future releases. In addition to aforementioned tune, be sure to check out “Weekend Wars,” and “Electric Feel.”
56. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (2006)
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s debut album broke new ground soon after it was released by becoming one of the first word-of-mouth hits of the internet era. Though it had little radio support in the beginning, positive attention from music blogs soon pushed the band out of the shadows and into the spotlight, cementing their place in the 2000’s indie rock canon. Among the best songs that you should hear from this release are “The Skin of my Yellow Country Teeth,” and “Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away.”
55. The Gaslight Anthem – That ’59 Sound (2008)
In case you ever wondered what would happen if a young Bruce Springsteen had fronted the Clash, here is your answer. The Gaslight Anthem blaze through songs that seem like snapshots of real life in small town America with a punk rock ferocity. Like the aforementioned Springsteen, they name-drop characters (like Mary, unsurprisingly) all around, lending an air of realism to each of these slices of Americana. Check out the songs “That ’59 Sound” and “Great Expectations.”
54. The Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music (2003)
The Jayhawks were among folk rock’s elite few when this excellent album, thus far their final one, dropped in 2003. With harmonies that echo The Byrds and a plethora jangling melodies, this release is there to make one smile, even when the subject matter wouldn’t normally lend itself to that kind of reaction. Among my favorite tunes on the album are “Stumbling Through the Dark,” and “All the Right Reasons,” but the entire thing is great.
53. The Killers – Hot Fuss (2004)
This debut album from The Killers, with its retro-1980’s sound reminiscent of bands like Duran Duran, was a huge hit in the mid-2000’s and with good reason. It’s catchy and fun dance rock that sticks in your head for days after you hear it. Listen to “Somebody Told Me” and “Mr. Brightside,” and then see if you can get them out of your mind.
52. Band of Horses – Cease to Begin (2007)
At times their sound echoes contemporaries My Morning Jacket and classic rocker Neil Young, but this album really set BoH as their own band and as a force with which to be reckoned. Their reverb drenched vocals and decidedly Southern sound need to be heard. Check out songs like “Is There a Ghost” and “Detlef Schrempf for a nice primer on the band and then pick up the whole album.
51. Kings of Leon – Only By Night (2008)
These sons of a traveling Pentecostal preacher slowly built up their status in the U.S. over the decade before breaking through in 2008 with this magnum opus, turning them from bluesy, southern rock purveyors to arena rock headliners. Though not my favorite of their works, the huge sound of Only By Night is made for the big stage. Listen to “Crawl,” “Sex on Fire,” and “Use Somebody.”
To be continued…
The Best of 2008 in Music – The Top Ten January 12, 2009Posted by Matt in Best of 2008.
Tags: 2008, albums, Best Of, Bon Iver, Coldplay, drive-by truckers, guns n roses, music, My Morning Jacket, Okkervil River, The Black Keys, The Gaslight Anthem, The Hold Steady, Vampire Weekend
Black Mountain – In the Future
Blue Mountain – Midnight in Mississippi
Justin Townes Earle – The Good Life
Ra Ra Riot – the Rhumb Line
North Mississippi All-Stars – Hernando
Motley Crue – Saints of Las Angeles
Thao – We Brave Bee Stings and All
The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely
She & Him – Volume I
Portishead – III
The First Ten:
20. The Raveonettes – Lust Lust Lust
19. Mudcrutch – Mudcrutch
18. R.E.M. – Accelerate
17. Jason Isbell – Sirens of the Ditch
16. Beck – Modern Guilt
15. Lucinda Williams – Little Honey
14. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
13. Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst
12. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
11. Metallica – Death Magnetic
I am an admitted music snob that mourns the slow, tragic death of the album in favor of single songs purchased from Itunes, but, thankfully, there are still some truly great collections of music being released today. Let me know what you think. What did I get wrong? What should I have included?
10. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
I fell in love with the poppy, Police-influenced sounds of Vampire Weekend the first time I heard them. These Ivy Leaguers make the kind of catchy music that is just impossible to dislike. Kick back and enjoy.
Download: Mansard Roof, A-Punk
9. The Black Keys – Attack & Release
I first came into contact with the great blues-rock of The Black Keys in Memphian Craig Brewer’s offbeat but incredible film Black Snake Moan. I soon caught on to the duo and downloaded all of their albums, which quickly became staples on my Ipod. As would be expected, their latest release if also filled with great blues guitar riffs cranked to the max and, really, that’s all you need. I had the chance to catch the Keys here in Memphis over the past year and let me tell you, these guys are just plain awesome. So, turn it up loud and groove like there’s no tomorrow.
Download: I Got Mine, Strange Times
8. Coldplay – Viva La Vida
Coldplay is the kind of band that I’m not supposed to like. Their safe, sanitized sound carefully packaged to appeal to the masses should be the antithesis of what I enjoy. But, I can’t help it, I am a fan. They have made a name for themselves by constructing huge, sweeping stadium-ready anthemic rock while still finding a way to connect personally with the individual, making music for both Ipods and coliseums. It is a characteristic to which all bands aspire but few achieve. The latest release is a great improvement over the undwhelming X&Y and may even be to the level of what is generally considered their masterpiece, A Rush of Blood to the Head. Oh, and I also want to say that Mike the Eyeguy made a perfect observation when he said some time ago that this band was perfect for running to….now if only I could myself on that elliptical gathering dust in the corner…
Download: Viva La Vida, Lost
7. Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark
I have been a huge fan of the Truckers for several years now and have had the chance to catch them live twice (and they are coming to Memphis again February 27 if anyone wants to go with me!), so I anxiously await each of their releases. Their songs tell distinctly Southern stories, from the myths of old to dark tales of racism, violence, and drug addiction. The lyrics and style of Patterson Hood evoke images of old men in front porch rocking chairs spinning tales about times past, but never flinching from the harsh realities of life. Their latest release, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, continues with these themes, tackling topics like alcoholism, war, murder, and crystal meth…yeah, this isn’t lighthearted stuff.
Download: The Righteous Path, Lisa’s Birthday
6. Bon Iver – For Emma, Long Ago
Justin Vernon , a.k.a Bon Iver, was having a really rough time at the end of 2006, his longtime girlfriend broke up with him, his band disintegrated, and he was suffering through a bout of illness, leaving him lonely and depressed. As a way to, in a sense, recharge his batteries, Vernon moved into a remote Cabin in northern Wisconsin for the winter. Armed with his guitar and some old recording equipment, this album was the product of those three months of solitude, as he dealt with the demons that plagued him. It’s an incredibly intimate album and one that will haunt you long after the last strains of his acoustic guitar have faded away.
Download: Skinny Love, Flume
5. The Gaslight Anthem – That ’59 Sound
In case you ever wondered what would happen if a young Bruce Springsteen had fronted the Clash, here is your answer. The Gaslight Anthem blaze through songs that seem like snapshots of real life in small town America with a punk rock ferocity. Like the aforementioned Springsteen, they name-drop characters (like Mary, unsurprisingly) all around, lending an air of realism to each of these slices of Americana.
Download: Great Expectations, That ’59 Sound
4. Okkervil River – The Stand Ins
I first became a fan of this Austin band following their 2007 release, The Stage Names, but I think this year’s sequel may be even better. Their hyper-literate lyrics stand out in a time in which intelligence is seldom rewarded in the music world. “Lost Coastlines” is another song that is among my favorite for the year and I just can’t seem to get that “La la lalalala,” refrain out of my head for anything. Check them out, you’ll be glad you did.
Download: Lost Coastines, Singer-Songwriter
3. Guns N’ Roses –Chinese Democracy
Say what you want, but one thing Axl Rose has is vision. Some 17 years and all of the original band members sans Axl Rose later, G N’ R have finally returned to the music world with the long awaited Chinese Democracy, a much-maligned album that has undergone a gestation period more than eight times that of an African elephant. Its hugeness and messiness is perhaps only matched by it’s brilliance. Mind you, this collection is far from perfect. It definitely has its misses, such as the James Bond theme song sound of “if the World, but these are more than made up for by rockers like the theme song or “Shackler’s Revenge. It also has its surprises, such as Axl’s nice piano ballad, “This I Love,” and the genre-hopping “There Was a Time.” Whatever you do, don’t base your opinion on just one or two songs, CD is an album that is meant to be heard in its entirety. In this age of Ipods and single song purchases, this release may be the marker for the end of the album era…and it’s a heck of a farewell.
Download: Chinese Democracy, I.R.S.
2. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges
I’ve wavered a bit on MMJ’s latest release throughout the year, but its consistent presence on my playlist is evidence enough that I love this album. This collection certainly has its fair share of weirdness, most notably in the Prince-like freak out of “Highly Suspicious,” a song whose presence I would imagine turned off a lot of listeners, but regardless of one’s thoughts on that track, though, the remainder of the album is stellar in its reverb-shrouded psychedelia, repeatedly channeling the greats ones of the past like Neil Young, Pink Floyd, and any other number of 70’s classic rock acts. I just wish I had it on vinyl…that’s how an album like this is supposed to be listened to.
Download: Evil Urges, I’m Amazed, Aluminum Park
1. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
There was no other album in the year of 2008 that enthralled me the way The Hold Steady did. The band once called the greatest bar band in America may now just be one of the best bands, period. I’ve always been a big fan of good storytelling songs and there are few acts around today that do it better than Craig Finn’s group. On Stay Positive, the band blazes through tale after tale of life on the dark side, stopping only for the few seconds between songs to take a quick breath before delving in again. The opening cut, “Constructive Summers,” has a line in it that goes, “Let’s raise a glass to St. Joe Strummer / I think he might have been our only decent teacher,” that I think probably best describes where these guys, with smart songs and classic punk riffs, are coming from. Another of the songs included tells the story of a night gone wrong in our neighboring city (“Sequestered in Memphis”) that has gotten a good bit of play here on an independent radio station and it was really what turned me on to this band in the beginning. I think, though, that one of the greatest songs on the album is perhaps the darkest, most harrowing one as well. “Lord I’m Discouraged,” concerns love in the throes of drug addiction and ends with one of the most heartbreaking couplets in recent memory, “I know it’s unlikely she’ll ever be mine / So I mostly just pray she won’t die.” Yeah, it’s not always easy to listen to, but, take my word for it, this is the best of 2008.
Free Music Friday 10/10/08 October 10, 2008Posted by Matt in free music friday.
Tags: music video, The '59 Sound, The Gaslight Anthem
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I recently discovered The Gaslight Anthem on emusic and have become quite enamored with their latest album, The ’59 Sound. They’ve got a real penchant for Springsteen-esque anthems in the same sort of vein as their contemporaries, The Hold Steady and The Arcade Fire. Here is the video for the title track from the aforementioned album. Enjoy.