But no rational blogger starts out with the intention of being a news source. At least it wasn't mine. The whole purpose of HSW was to serve as an open journal of my thoughts and analysis pertaining to my favorite music. This year, I decided to really concentrate on that sort of thing. I had the goal of taking on a few larger tasks (which manifested itself in the form of the Deeper In series.) Specifically, I wanted to write a comprehensive analysis of Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and a study guide for appreciating Tom Waits. Astoundingly, I managed to knock out both of these. And a few others, in fact. Let's have a look at some of the features we saw this year:
1. On the Albums of Uncle Tupelo
Back in January, I found myself in the warm embrace of an Uncle Tupelo kick. I danced between the all four albums for a few weeks, and it left me thinking: Which one is best? Shoot, all four are essential listening. And each is, in some minor or major way, distinct from the other three. My mind was reeling, so I spent a week or so breaking down each album and offering reasons why each might and might not be the best. A conclusion was never officially reached--which wasn't really the point--but hopefully it provided some food for thought for any Tupelo fans who might have stumbled across it.
2. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
A surefire desert island album, Wilco's legendary fourth album went along way in establishing my tastes and helping me turn the corner as a music fan. Some folks argue that critics and fans overstate its brilliance due the theatrics that surrounded its release. But I maintain that its self-contained brilliance is enough to solidify its status as a classic.
In February, I went about analyzing the everloving snot out of that album and its eleven tracks. A few months ago, I covertly went back and cleaned it up a bit since there were arguments that weren't as clear as they could have been. So if you've read it already, you may be interested in taking a look. If you haven't read it, well egads man, get on it!
3. Indie Music MAYhem
Back in May, there was an unparalleled outflux of music that might have overwhelmed a less able blogger. But this is one less-able blogger who staved it off via making it a competition. And thus Indie Music MAYhem was born. Each competitor (re: album) was previewed then reviewed, and then ranked based on my evaluation of each. Spoiler alert: The results are not perfectly reflected in the Best Albums of the Year list. I'm allowed to change my mind just like anyone, OK? Anyway, here are links to all of IMM:
- The Hold Steady - Heaven Is Whenever: Preview/Review
- Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record: Preview/Review
- The New Pornographers - Together: Preview/Review
- The National - High Violet: Preview/Review
- Josh Ritter - So Runs the World Away: Preview/Review
- Band of Horses - Infinite Arms: Preview/Review
- The True Winner
- Poll Results
4. Musical Surgery
Ever hear an album and think, "This is too damned long for its own good!" I sure have. But complaining without taking action is obnoxious, so I thought it'd be an interesting exercise to roll up my sleeves and pare down six overlong albums:
- Four Thieves Gone by the Avett Brothers
- Mule Variations by Tom Waits
- Cold Roses by Ryan Adams & The Cardinals
- Sky Blue Sky and Wilco (The Album) by Wilco
- Brighter Than Creation's Dark by the Drive-By Truckers
Again, this was one of those long-standing goals of mine. Call it a study guide, a primer, Cliff's Notes. Whatever it is, I hope it serves as an aide to those who might have an interest in Tom's music, but are too daunted or confused by what they hear. I took six of Tom's more essential albums and did a sort of comprehensive review/analysis of each. Here they are:
- Closing Time
- Heartattack and Vine
- Franks Wild Years
- Bone Machine
- Mule Variations
There were a few other features that thrived this year, including The Things You Can't Forget -- memorable moments that were made indelible by a particular song or album. The standbys like Whathaveyou and Musical Lookalikes made their requisite appearances. Pour one out for The Tube Amp which, as I've mentioned, was retired after July's edition due to being a nuisance to write.
So busy yourself with reviewing all these painstakingly compiled pieces. Preferably for the next few weeks while I ready all the rest of it...