Thursday, January 15, 2009

Drew's Top Ten of 2008

Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark - New West

Barack Obama recently referred to communications strategist Robert Gibbs as his “one man Southern focus group.” This is putatively true, but musically speaking, nobody captures the essence of the region and its people like the Truckers. The divergent Americana medley of Brighter Than Creation’s Dark’s unfolds by alternating acerbic country gold, strident rockers and wry honky-tonk. This time, the key to success for this normally irascible and outspoken band is to do a story justice without being overly polemic. With their recent mention on Politico, perhaps this forebodes a lucrative consultancy for Patterson Hood and company?

Chris Knight - Heart of Stone - Drifter's Church

I was listening to The Trailer Tapes while driving down the Pacific Coast Highway a few years ago. It seemed to me that modern country artists spend far too much time in California and far too little in places like Knight’s Slaughters, Kentucky. Simply put, with Steve Earle lost to the city, ain’t nobody else does this right anymore without sounding hokey.


Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes – Sub Pop
Grand Archives - Grand Archives - Sub Pop
Blitzen Trapper - Furr - Sub Pop

While idiosyncratic and remarkable in their own regard, it’s getting increasingly tough to distinguish the Sub Pop beardos from each other. How about: Fleet Foxes is plaid, Grand Archives is flannel and Blitzen Trapper is Western with pearl snaps.

Blitzen Trapper Forced Synopsis: Portland bros pull off an impossible, inexplicable amalgam: West Coast-style synth, pedal steel, hokey country balladry and Beatles jank without being overly obnoxious or gratuitous. This is the indie equivalent of bobbing your head along with a No Limit album you bought in ninth grade. When you’re 25.

Grand Archives Forced Synopsis: Let’s go ahead and say it: Mat Brooke’s Grand Archives is Band of Horses, just more subdued and less Southern.

Fleet Foxes Forced Synopsis: It’s true. These dudes are wood nymphs. Yep, all gilded harps, timpani, hand-carved piccolos and ethereal, orgiastic harmonies of venerable aural ecstasy. Just add weed and beard.

Graveyard - Graveyard - Tee Pee

Caught these guys recently at an in-store at Earshot in Greenville. Came for the free Thomas Creek beer and found four smiling Swedes, stoned out of their gourds, hashing out sludge heavy, math-psych riffs for an astounded crowd. Since they rarely tour stateside, I’m not sure how many people are sleeping on this record, but Graveyard’s Black Sabbath channeling sure beats the shit out of the Sounds.

Sun Kil Moon - April - Caldo Verde

Not much of a thematic departure, April continues the SKM/Red House Painters formula of ambient, fingerpicked folk alternating with dangerously cohesive grunge histrionics. As always, it’s breathtakingly beautiful and seemingly effortless. For all I know, Kozelek could be writing exclusively about his housecat, Leroy, and it would still sound exquisitely, painstakingly melancholy and poignant.

Rosebuds - Life Like – Merge

These Raleigh popsters get my nod out of longstanding respect, much like Spurrier annually casts a vote for Duke in the preseason coaches’ poll. Which is not to say the album didn’t hook me. Replete with abstruse references to killer catfish and Carolina in the pines, the inherent anxiety and touches of angular shoegaze add an intriguing twist to their trademark twee.

Annuals - Such Fun - Ace Fu

I can’t really put a finger on what these Chapel Hill youngsters are going for. Emo pop? Arena folk? Psychedelic country? Lush and eclectic, the album meanders through eleven existentially challenged numbers, drenched in orchestral flourishes and dramatic climaxes. While Such Fun might still betray their youth, having been mined from all corners of the modern indie rock canon, it’s…yep… damn good fun.

The Whigs - Mission Control – ATO

This is easy. Mission Control is the best indie garage rock album that you and your buddies never put out. Their imprint’s initials might not stand for Alpha Tau Omega, but with their raucous thrash and pop sensibilities, I suspect that sorority girls in Athens might have a new secret crush.

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