The best CDs of 2008, pt. 1 – the Gold LPs

Most years are pretty good for music if you know where to look, and 2008 was no exception. It’s a shame that you have to search so hard, of course – once upon a time all you needed to keep track of what was good in the world of music was a radio. These days it requires a little effort, though, and while I lost count a long time ago, I probably sampled a few hundred CDs in the last 365. Thank the gods for the Internet and a growing network of friends who make sure to let me know whenever they hear something worthy, huh?

This is part one of three. The Platinum LP Awards will be along soon, and that will be followed by the CD of the Year post. So here we go with last year’s Gold Awards for Very Good CDs. These are in alphabetical order, more or less. Band Web sites link to the band name, and if the CD is available via eMusic, that links to the CD title. If you want to purchase from eMusic, click on the link in the right column for a really good deal (as in lots of free downloads).

The 2008 Gold LPs Continue reading

Are The Killers the greatest band in the world? We find out today…

A lot of bands have released pretty good debut records, only to follow them up with less-than-spectacular careers. The rule used to be (before the FCC, the recording industry and the radio industry conspired to destroy all music) that you learned what you needed to know about a band with its third album. Given how things worked, you often saw a pattern that looked something like this:

  • Debut: Band (or solo artist) has been on the road for awhile, writing and building an audience and developing as a creative and performing force. Continue reading

For your drinking and listening pleasure

I am sitting here trying to feel it. Got some Chris Whitley on the iPod, “Dust Radio”:

Baby got vision child
Like a loaded gun
She use my body
Like carrion crow
Doing our transmission thing
On dust radio
Baby call the number
Nobody left in town …

I’ve got the cold, cold Bombay Sapphire and tonic, splash of sweetened lime juice, in easy reach.

“So what’s it going to be then, eh?”

Now we’ve got some Jeff Beck going: “Led Boots.” He is razoring the atmosphere.

Another sip of gin. And another.

Continue reading

Obscurity and influence

Who are the most influential bands and artists in the history of rock? Well, start with The Beatles and Elvis, I guess, and for good reason. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, The Stones, of course, The Who and David Bowie. The big names. All of them signed their names on our culture with a fat permanent marker, and in doing so insured that just about all future artists would have to navigate their legacies in one way or another.

The funny thing, though, is just how influential some far, far lesser known artists became. Many people have heard of Velvet Underground, although comparatively few have actually listened to them, but if you factor VU’s overwhelming influence out of our collective cultural history would we have had Bauhaus, Echo & the Bunnymen, Lenny Kravitz, Sonic Youth, Jesus & Mary Chain (and subsequently Black Rebel Motorcycle Club), Galaxie 500 (and the army of bands that followed their lead) and REM?

How about Big Star? Continue reading

What is, what was and what almost was: an interview with Don Dixon

I’ve been a very big Don Dixon fan since the late ’70s, so when his new CD, The Nu-Look, dropped I was bouncing around the living room like Snoopy doing a happy dance. Sadly, a lot of people don’t know Don’s music – although many know his work as the producer of Murmur and Reckoning by REM and multiple records from The Smithereens and Guadalcanal Diary (as well as stuff from Chris Stamey, Beat Rodeo, Kim Carnes, The Connells, Marshall Crenshaw, Hootie & the Blowfish, Tommy Keene, Let’s Active, James McMurtry, The Pinetops, The Reivers, Matthew Sweet and X-Teens). Continue reading

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