It isn't quite half-way through the year, but work today is slower than watching Red House Paint dry and I'll be out of town for the last week of June, so why not dive right in?
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
5. Vampire Weekend - s/t - Everyone's favorite trust fund kids release a fun little album which has proven to be a good deal more enjoyable in the summer than it did in the colder months. From the looks of them, they're not trying to be anything they aren't and I can respect them for that. Interested to see where they go from here.
Highlights: Mansard Roof, Walcott
4. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges - The jury seems to be more or less hung on this one. I've read sputtering vitriol from disgruntled fans who miss the silo reverb and sweaty jam inclinations of It Still Moves era MMJ. Others, like myself, are embracing the ballsy progression-or at least reassignment- of the band's sound. To be sure, there are still southern tinged festival rockers like "Aluminum Park" and "Remnants," but Jim James and co. unabashedly conger a sexy, Prince-like vibe on a number of tracks including the title track and the quirky, theatrical "Highly Suspicious"--a track sure to delight some and confuse many. You'll just have to hear it.
Highlights: Evil Urges, I'm Amazed, Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Part 2
3. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago - Technically released in 07 but officially released in 08, this is the finest singer-songwriter album I've heard since Fionn Regan's End of History, and perhaps surpasses it in my mind. Delicate, intimate, but bursts of power and anguish texture this short but pleasing effort. I can almost see Just Vernon, through frosted windows, hunched over an aged acoustic and crooning by candlelight. Looking very much forward to seeing him open for Wilco in August.
Highlights: Flume, Skinny Love, The Wolves (Act I And II), Blindsided, etc...
2. Sun Kil Moon - April - Everything I could have asked for in a follow-up to the unimpeachable Ghosts of the Great Highway. Longer, a bit more sparse, and boasting enough nods to Neil Young to induce whiplash, the subject matter is ostensibly personal enough to make the listener feel voyeuristic. Mark Kozelek's vocals are warm and rich, and are nicely complement by the likes of Will Oldham and Ben Gibbard throughout the album. Kozelek is a masterful songwriter, and perhaps one of the most underrated of our generation.
Highlights: Lost Verses, Harper Road, Like the River, Tonight in Bilbao
1. Fleet Foxes - s/t - It's hard not to compare the Foxes to early My Morning Jacket; it is immediately evident that Robin Pecknald's throaty, soaring leads owe a lot to the likes of Jim James (or that guy from Molly Hatchet.) But after a few spins of Fleet Foxes, you'll recognize that the band is very much its own creature. Heavy on harmonies, light on fluff, and absolutely drenched in that Seattle airiness, Fleet Foxes have created the sort of debut record that is refined beyond the band's two years of existence. The band's papable West Coast sensibility is laced with a sort of medieval elegance that puts an original twist on the young band, whose early 2008 EP is just as worthwhile. And how fucking catchy is White Winter Hymnal?
Highlights: Sun it Rises, White Winter Hymnal, Ragged Wood, He Doesn't Know Why, Oliver James
Honorable Mention: Drive-By Truckers, "Brighter Than Creation's Dark"; Colin Meloy, "Sings Live"
Disappointment of the Year:
She and Him - Volume 1 - As I've previously posted, this album had a lot of promise. Zooey is the hip indie princess of the era, and M. Ward is the guy who wrote Post-War. I wouldn't say it was a cant-miss, but I was certainly feeling pretty good about the whole thing. Alas, it was a big stinky dud. Zooey's voice is lovely, but lacks any passion. I'd much rather hear Tom Waits barking like Satan than Zooey cooing like a talented eight-year-old forced to sing at a family reunion. A forgettable disc, but hey, she's still alright in my book. She was in Almost Famous!
Dishonorable Mention: Willie Nelson's new album. Can't even think of the name...sorry Willie. I'm sure he's crushed...
Best Live Experience:
I took the top photo. I wish I took the bottom photo as well.
TIE: Band of Horses, Charleston; Radiohead, Charlotte
How could Band of Horses live up to Radiohead, you ask? Well, as a band, they can't. I don't really think anyone can at this point. But BOH really impressed me, considering I'd seen then twice before, neither of which had particularly done much to impress me. But they've really honed their sound, expanded to six members (although probably only five were necessary), and lead singer Ben Bridwell has certainly embraced his role as lead singer of a preeminent indie band.
Now on to Radiohead. The word that always comes to mind when I think of the live experience: Elite. They are an elite band in every sense of the word. They've released at least a half a dozen brilliant records, and in doing so have become arguably the world's biggest band without compromising a damn thing. They've long been on the must-see list, and on May 9th I was able to scratch a satisfying check-mark by their name. Thom Yorke is certainly a presence, lifting his vocals high above the massive audience that number in the ten thousands, no doubt. Every member of the band is a master of his craft, especially Phil Selway, whose drumming was particularly impressive. The stage-show was the most incredible I've seen, with lights being cast over a number of large slats, creating all sorts of crazy reflective effects. Of course, the traffic was maddening but well worth it.
Honorable Mention: It has been a light year as far as concerts go, but I'll be seeing Tom Waits and The Hold Steady in the upcoming months!
The New To George Award:
The Reminder was a huge album last year, with more than a little help provided by the iPod commercial that featured the single 1-2-3-4. I finally picked it up this year after some prodding from a friend, and I must say I enjoyed it immensely. She's got an incredible voice and a real knack for crafting distinctly feminine songs that don't scare away the male demographic, a la Lillith Fair. Also recently picked up Let It Die, and though I enjoy the Reminder a bit more, it's a nice Sunday morning album.
The "Most Likely To Crack The Top 3 Before 2008 is Over" Award:
The Hold Steady and Bonnie Prince Billy. The latter is already released, the former I've already heard. I need a little more time with the Hold Steady's new one, Stay Positive, but I get the feeling that I'll be obsessed before too long. The BPB disc, Lie Down in the Light, is already out but I've yet to hear it. In fact, I'm naive to anything the Will Oldham has done, aside from his guestwork on April. But I'm eager to dive in, and I think by the end of the year he could unseat Feist in the above category.
Well, that does it. Lemme know what you think and certainly post your lists as you see fit!