Oscar Round-up

Had you going there for a second, huh? No, this blog will not be mentioning the Oscars in any way. Nope, I won’t mention the horrible mash-up during the best song nominees presentation, nor the bizarre attempt to revive the corpse of the musical. That would just be insulting to your intelligence. I mean we can all think for ourselves, we don’t need any corporate oversight committee telling us where we should get our entertainment. So here are some alternative viewpoints on what’s good in music. Now, I have to get to the movie theatre…to…see…Slumdog Millionaire…yes, master…must obey…

Mark Olson & Gary Louris – Ready For The Flood – *** – Continue reading

What what?

Hey everybody! Here’s where I normally write a bunch of useless garbage and random non-sequitors, ending with a plea to read my blog. That will not happen this time, I promise. Remember, promises are the key to your eternal happiness. It only takes one to make an elephant walk. Now read my blog!!

Modern Skirts – All Of Us In Our Night – *** – Continue reading

Tops in 2008

I  actually put this together in early January fot Audities. But it never posted. And I just arrived here ,so I thought I would share it . People who have seen it have praised the Hello Saferide song . It’s pretty special , so check it out. All in all, another cool year for music.

The fun part is finding all of these musical treasures. The difficult part is assembling them
into a list and attaching a number to them. Another great year for music. So here I go.

1) Rebecca Martin- “The Growing Season”- Big discovery this year. In 1995, while still in music retail, I received a promo copy of a new group “once Blue”.Rebecca was the vocalist/ lyricist for this group. I enjoyed it, but forgot about it . But lo and behold, I find out she is still recording under her own name. Then I got this quiet ,understated gem that has slowly won me over. Jazzy, almost “Sondheim” like the way the melodies fall into place. The real standout song
is ” Make the Days go Fast”, which has been in my head for a while. If you enjoy Sylvie Lewis, you may enjoy this.

2) Hello Saferide- “More Modern Short Stories”- Annika Norlin is the Swedish Jill Sobule. Each song has a tale to tell.
Funny and touching, she is a talent to get lost in. “People are like songs, it’s true” she sings in the opening song.”Anna” is my song of the year, and it contains the most emotional musical moment of the year. Singing of her unborn child, she states “And she’d never have to know what it’s like when your heart breaks”. This is followed by a guitar that sounds like a hear breaking. I defy you to not be moved by this song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojE7J6O1D6A

3) Julie Ocean- “Long gone and Nearly there”- Under 30 minutes of superb pop. Guitars crash, drums snap, and the vocals leave you breathless. Winning tunes like ” Ten lonely words” and ” #1 song”    just gleam from the speakers. Great pop should leave you wanting more, and this certainly qualifies.  Absolutely love the Mersey sound of “There’s a place {in the back of my mind”} . Please tell me they did not break up, as I recently read.

4) Fleet Foxes- “Fleet Foxes”- Vocal harmonies of the year! Mysterious and oh so effective, it was a pleasure to fall into haunting tunes like “White winter Hymnal”. I got this in June, and I am still  finding  new moments that take me to another place. A real treasure.

5) Okkervil River- “The Stand ins”- I have been with this group for the entire ride, and they have always captivated me. This one is no exception.Will Sheff’s high and soaring vocals, and his literary songs keep them in the top 10 just like last year’s companian album, “The Stage Names”. With outstanding tunes like “Lost Coastlines” and “Blue Tulip”, Will proves to be a first rate pop stylist. And they are one of the hardest working bands around. Do check their site, which has each of the songs performed by a “stand in” band .One is a duet between Will and A. C. Newman.

http://www.okkervilriver.com/

6) Junipers- “Cut your Key”- An Audities tip lead me to this lovely, wistful band from Leicester. Majestic Beatles sounding vocals and production pushed this right to the top list. Key tracks: “Geordie can’t swim” and “Out of my pocket”. As I stated at the beginning the fun is finding endearing music like this.

7) She and him- “Volume one”- I fell in love with Zooey Deschanel watching “All the Real Girls”.. She broke my heart with her acting. Now she has won it with her singing. , Teaming with the talented M. Ward the two show their love for cool songs. Zooey wrote almost all the songs, and sings like an angel. M. Ward showcases that lovely voice with sweet tunes like “Sentimental Heart” and “Why do you let me stay here.” Let’s hope for a volume two.

8) Bon Iver- “For Emma, Forever Ago”- The story on this album is as fascinating as the music. Written and mostly recorded in a Wisconsin cabin during a cold winter. Justin Vernon casts a spell over you with his aching songs, and the longing in his falsetto. Key songs: “Skinny Love” and “Creature Fear”. My family has a cabin in Wisconsin , which I visited this summer. I listened to these meditations very early one morning with the sun just breaking on the water. The album took on another meaning for me.

9) Martha Wainwright- “I know you’re married but I’ve got feelings too”- Like her brother, this lady has talent to burn. In the first 5 songs she jumps from rock to folk to art song with ease. And like Rufus, it’s all a bit too much. But if you stick with it the rewards are there. Key tracks: “You cheated me”, “Tower song”, and a .cover of “See Emily Play”. Album title as well as cover of the year.

http://www.amazon.com/Know-Youre-Married-But-Feelings/dp/B0016KJRQG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1231261690&sr=1-1

10) Kelly Jones- “SheBang”-This girl group showcase put a smile on my face. Shades of the Bangles, songs like “Same songs” and “Fire Escape” claim a rotation in your “juke box” brain. More evidence that Mike Viola is a pop genius. Cute!

Another Audities tip.

11) Hold Steady- “Stay Positive”- Continuing on their journey with guitar flash and Craig Finn”s half spoken/ half sung tales of obsessions. More than ever, they have become a real band. Key tracks: “Sequestered in Memphis” and “Slapped Actress”. Even the bonus tracks are excellent.

12) Shearwater- “Rook”- With dramatic, moving songs like “I was a cloud” and “The Snow Leopard”, I can see why Jonathon Meiburg felt it necessary to leave the more pop oriented Okkervil River. More experimental, his vocals soar like Will’s, but with a different type of passion.

13) Jackson Browne- “Time the Conqueror”- One of my singer songwriter heroes returns with a stunning set. Yes, it is overtly political, but the songs are there. Very well written, and Jackson’s as strong a singer as ever. Key tracks: “The drums of War” and the title tune.

14) General Store- “Mountain Rescue”- Tom Johnston’s second album. The group is well named. It is a like a general store where Buffalo Springfield and Beach Boy tributes can be found. Key tracks: “Mountain Side” and “Girls from the Mall”.

15) Super Furry Animals- “Hey Venus”- Best album since “Rings around the World”: ,which was my album of the year in 2002. A welcome return to the pop sound they excel at. Key tracks: “Run Away:” and “Gift that keeps giving”.

16) Elvis Costello- “Momofuku”- Along with pal Jenny Lewis, Elvis puts out a fine effort here. “No hiding Place” explodes out of the speakers, and continues with terrific tunes like “Harry Worth” and “Flutter and Wow”. This is the Elvis Costello I love.

17) Dr. Dog- “Fate”- I enjoyed their last one, “We all belong”, and this one continues that creative pop. Like the Beatles, they enhance these tunes , like an old time piano to “The Old Days” .The more you listen, the more these songs stick with you. Key tracks: “The Ark” and my fave “From”.

18) Ray Davies- “Working Man’s Café”- My very favorite British rock star come out with an album about living in America. He is in top form and singing great. Love the little smile on his face on the cover. He is aging gracefully. Key tracks: “Peace in our time” and the title song. Not only did Ray release this wonderful album, but there is talk of a Kinks reunion. Now wouldn’t that be loverly.

God Save the Kinks!

19) Mercury Rev- “Snowflake Midnight”- What a surprise this was. An electronic album filled with beautiful indie pop songs. Tunes like “Dream of a young girl as a flowe” and “Butterfly’s Wing” are as pretty as their titles suggest ..The album came with a dreamy full length instrumental download, “Strange Attraction”.

20) Shannon McArdle- “Summer of the whore”- Shannon draws first blood after the break up of her marriage and band, the Mendoza Line. I loved that band and always looked forward to her contributions. Now an entire album of her songs, and a break up album too. The mournful violin on “That night in June” and the torch of “I was warned” are proof she is ready for a solo career. Nice blend of Americana and bittersweet. Love her photos of her in the booklet. Most of all I love her voice.

20) A Tie! – Cryptacize- “Dig that Treasure”- Another treasured discovery. This trio came highly endorsed by Sufjan Stevens. Angular guitars and the clear beauty of Nedelle Torrisi’s voice make up a sophisticated sound. These songs delight as they twist and turn and catch you off guard. “Heaven is Human” and “Cosmic Sing-a-long” are two of the catchiest tunes of the year. Spend some time with this one.

www.myspace.com/cryptacize

Also:

Brian Wilson –“That lucky old sun” “Midnight’s another day” is classic.

Supergrass- “Diamond Hoo Ha”

Pillbugs- “Everybody wants a way out”

Frida Hyvonen- “Silence is Wild”- Swedish chanteuse

Motel Motel- “New Denver”-Americana-Mexico” is a heck of a tune.

Inara George- “An Invitation” Arranged and conducted by Van Dyke Parks

Death cab for Cutie- “Narrow Stairs”

Coldplay-“Viva la Vida”

Major Labels-“Aquavia”- more proof that Mike Viols is a pop genius

EP’s

Boo Hewerdine- “Toybox 1 and 2” Two ep’s of Boo and guitar and incredible songs like “Bible Pages” and “White Lilies”

Spring Standards “No one will know” –up beat pop. Give me more!

Song of the year:

“Anna” by Hello Saferide – See #2 under albums of the year and catch the heart breaking video.

Little Jackie- “The world should revolve around me” Classic summer pop

Live show:

Todd Rundgren live at the Park West , Chicago in October. After hearing “Arena” live ,the album pales in comparison. Todd played inspired guitar.

Find of the year:

Prefab Sprout live at Cardiff University 1985- A revelation!

I still must hear:

Vivian Girls, High Places, Lykke Li, Attic Lights, Pas/Cal, Frightened Rabbit, Week that was, Pepi Ginsburg, M83, Stars in Coma, Love is all, Mae Shi., Randy Newman

In 2009 I look forward to:

A new Swan Dive- Bill Demain songs and Molly’s voice ( sigh}

A Kinks Reunion?

Perhaps a Boo Hewerdine pop album [with a Bill Demain tune or two]

Maybe a new Prefab Sprout [there is talk- could it be?]

Special Mention: to the Flaming Lips ,for realizing their dream and releasing “Christmas on Mars” , a movie with an actual plot, a Christmas message, and a wonderful score.

Happy listening in the New Year!

Gene

The first of 2009

Ok, here we are, 2009, it’s gonna be great! Let’s get started!

Andrew Bird – Noble Beast – ***1/2 – More goodness from Andrew Bird. I think it finds the happy medium between the Mysterious Production of Eggs album and the Armchair Apocrypha album, having some of the lightness of Eggs with more of the electronic instrumentation found on Armchair.

Antony & The Johnsons – The Crying Light – *** – Continue reading

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