Wednesday, February 3, 2010
As usual, I'm a bit late in the game, but anyways, here's my list of musical favorites I acquired in 2009. Man, I'm completely not adjusted to it being 2010 by the way. I don't think I could even begin to create a list of the Decade, so I'll just stick to last year. And upon reviewing my previous posts on here I must say I've made some weird decisions on these things in the past that don't really hold up for me. Ah well, here she blows:
Brian Eno & David Byrne- "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today": I guess this actually came out at the end of summer '08, but I didn't pick it up until early 2009. And even then it dwelled around my digital shelf for awhile until it really caught on with me. This album is insanely good and "Strange Overtones" is easily one of my most played songs last year.
Big Star- "Keep An Eye On The Sky/3rd-Sister Lovers": Another cheat. This box set came out last year and I received it as a gift in the last few weeks of the year but didn't really spend a ton of time with it until January. However, even considering myself a Big Star fan I really only had the combo "#1 Record/Radio City" for many years now and a couple of random mp3s from "3rd". I got the entire 3rd album mid-summer and listened to it on a weekly basis through December. Shit.
Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse- "Dark Night Of The Soul": The greatest album of last year that didn't actually get released. You've got to be in the right Lynchian sort of mindset to really enjoy this and once the first track w/ Wayne Coyne was pointed out as sounding like early 80s Phil Collins I haven't been able to listen to it in the same way. Regardless, it's pretty great. And it's been blessed to download for free, so that's always nice.
Phoenix- "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix": These guys are just too cool. "1901" and "Litzomania" were two of the best singles of the year. And if I had to license my music out for car commercials and I was actually 4 painfully cool French guys, I would certainly choose Cadillac. Everyone might not want to admit it, but Phoenix are the coolest musicians around and everyone might not want to admit it, but Cadillacs are still really, really cool cars as well.
Jason Lytle- "Yours Truly, The Commuter": I know everybody's not as addicted to Grandaddy as myself, but this was a really great solo debut, contains some of his best songwriting (as well as some kinda bizarre moments that are not my faves) and I listened to this one repeatedly throughout the year. As a personal bonus, we got to work with Jason on some stuff at the end of 2008 and he gave us a copy of the freshly mastered album to listen to while driving behind him north to San Fransisco at dusk. One of the absolute greatest music listening experiences of my life, so I guess I'm kinda biased.
Fruit Bats- "The Ruminant Band": Again, I'm probably a bit biased because of some work we got to do with these guys as well, but I've been a fan of theirs for some time and this album is truly pretty perfect. It feels like they really added a whole new level of production and style to their previous down home songwriting. It's like a great classic rock gem.
Cass McCombs- "Catacombs": It's yet to overshadow "Dropping The Writ" which is very near to becoming my most listened to album at this point, but this is pretty nearly tied with my number one pick. "Dreams Come True Girl" was my 2nd favorite song of the year I'd say and at 6:07, "Harmonia" could go on for another 6 minutes and I'd be happy. I always feel like I can just fall into this album so completely. Perfectly produced. What a cool married dude.
Girls- "Album": I easily listened to "Hellhole Ratrace" more than any other song last year. I would wake up with it in my head and I'll be darned if those guys don't just make you want to be younger, artier and living in San Fran. Christopher Owens oozes superstar power and it's just good old-fashioned, simplified Rock N' Roll. This is the album that I feel like I will continue to revisit for years to come. I am growing my hair. If I youthen and end up in SF soon without warning, you'll know why if you listen to this one. I hope they can follow it up.
SOME FAVORITE SONGS WHOSE ALBUMS DID NOT MAKE MY LIST:
Atlas Sound- "Walkabout (feat. Noah Lennox)": The album is pretty near cracking my top whatever as well.
The Drums- "Let's Go Surfing": I don't surf, but I sure wish I did listening to this. So simple and so good, it feels like it already existed.
Grizzly Bear- "Two Weeks": Yes, this song is amazing. Perfect. Their albums always impress me but I rarely want to listen to them more than once. Maybe I'm just not smart enough for it. I love their voices. That Michael MacDonald version of "While You Wait For The Others" is outstanding too.
I got deeply into a lot of Gene Clark albums last year, a healthy amount of Gram Parsons and George Jones, a number of new to me Waylon Jennings albums, Billy Ocean's "Red Light Spells Danger" (favorite song of the year that came out many, many years before) and a sprinkling of Acid House. It's great to exercise to, if you're interested, ask me for more information. Oh and Inglorious Basterds and A Serious Man were my favorite movies of '09 and Eastbound & Down was the greatest TV show, possibly ever.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
OK – I didn’t want to leave off Sleater-Kinney, so I stretched the list to an unorthodox number. Also, I had planned to write a bit about many of these albums, but I went overboard with No. 1, so I’ll refrain from making this any more gratuitous than it already is.
— Tom McMahon
31. Sleater-Kinney – One Beat
30. Rilo Kiley – The Execution of All Things
29. Outkast – Stankonia
28. Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala
27. Marissa Nadler – Songs III: Bird on the Water
26. Jose Gonzalez – Veneer
25. Cass McCombs – Dropping the Writ
24. Peter Bjorn and John – Writer’s Block
23. The Ruby Suns – Sea Lion
22. The Hives – Veni Vidi Vicious
21. M83 – Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts
20. All Night Radio – Spirit Stereo Frequency
19. Crystal Skulls – Blocked Numbers
18. Sigur Ros – Aegaetis Byrjun
17. Beachwood Sparks – Beachwood Sparks
16. Neko Case – Blacklisted
15. The Faint – Danse Macabre
14. Caribou (then known as Manitoba) – Up in Flames
13. The Walkmen – Bows & Arrows
12. The Decemberists – Castaways and Cutouts
11. Alasdair Roberts – No Earthly Man
10. Alasdair Roberts – Spoils
9. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
8. Radiohead – Kid A
7. Kelley Polar – I Need You to Hold On While the Sky Is Falling
6. Of Montreal – Satanic Panic in the Attic
5. The Aislers Set – The Last Match
4. The Knife – Silent Shout
3. The Clientele – Suburban Light
2. The New Pornographers – Mass Romantic
1. The Shins – Oh, Inverted World
At the end of 2001, I got out a small piece of paper and listed on it my Top 10 albums of the year. I don’t remember showing it to anyone — it was just something I felt an urge to do, I suppose. Two years later, the Jamboree began, and it’s been much more fun sharing opinions with friends and some strangers.
Anyhow, besides getting a little nostalgic, the reason I mentioned that handwritten list from 2001 is that I was surprised, when I dug it out of a box recently, to see that I had the Shins’ Oh, Inverted World at No. 2 (tied with the Strokes’ Is This It), behind Idlewild’s 100 Broken Windows. Eight years later, I rarely even think about 100 Broken Windows, but it’s totally clear in my mind that Oh, Inverted World is my favorite album of the decade.
A few years after the album came out, an annoying character in some sappy movie promised that the song “New Slang” would “change your life, I swear.” I don’t believe that any one song or album has changed my life. Rather, I think this album reminds me of my life.
One morning this fall, I listened to the album as I was driving along a narrow, windy road in the Santa Monica Mountains, trying to enjoy the spectacular panorama of the Pacific without going off the road. Almost as captivating as the view was these songs, which sound as magical and mysterious now as they did the first time I heard them.
As I listened, it was like the whole decade flashed before my eyes: college, meeting the love of my life, marrying her, road trips all over the Golden State, having kids. Not that the album was constantly playing (aloud or in my head) in everything I did. But I’ve come to regard Oh, Inverted World — and I think I will continue to many years later — as the sound of my 20s, which, appropriately enough, almost exactly matched the span of the 2000s.
Why do I love this album so much? I don’t think I can fully explain it, although I can pull out some key points: the leaping melodies, the weird harmonies, the cryptic lyrics, the tinny, reverby production, the muted but persistent drums, the swirling keyboards, the chiming guitars (especially in the intro of “The Celibate Life”). On paper, that may not seem like a recipe for success, but it all comes together in a strange and beautiful way. In my mind, every song here is a classic, and, unlike me, it never gets old.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Monday, January 4, 2010
— Tom McMahon
15. Get Back Guinozzi! – Carpet Madness
The photo on the front of this album is like a Bizzaro version of the Buena Vista Social Club cover. And like with that Cuban masterpiece, it was the album cover that led me to check out this band I had never heard of. It was a rewarding venture. This is an irresistible batch of lo-fi party jams, with chirpy, French-accented vocals and hilarious lyrics like “Ooh, Mommy, Mommy, I love your tan.” Oddly enough, it includes a fantastic cover of the Clash’s “Police and Thieves.”
14. Alela Diane – To Be Still
Beautiful, haunting folk with some lush but organic-sounding arrangements.
13. Farmer Dave Scher – Flash Forward to the Good Times
More catchy stuff from this Beachwood Sparks and All Night Radio space cowboy. Less psychedelic but a little more soulful than ANR’s Spirit Stereo Frequency.
12. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
This is alternately mind-blowing and frustrating. “In the Flowers” is one of my favorite songs of the year. I love the way it jumps from an enchanting, dreamlike atmosphere to what sounds like a raucous street carnival. MPP is undoubtedly sonically innovative all the way through, but I find several of the songs to be tedious — particularly “Brother Sport” and “Taste” — with some lyrics inducing cringes (for example, the many-times repeated “Am I really all the things that are outside of me?”). I think they have a better album in them.
11. Desolation Wilderness — New Universe
Some of my favorite albums make me think of driving along the wide-open stretches of the central California coast, the Pacific shimmering in the sun. This album taps into that feeling, even though these guys live in Olympia, Wash. But it’s pretty clear from the song titles (“Venice Beach,” “Boardwalk Theme,” “San Francisco 2AM”) that they had California on their minds.
10. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
An incredible voice, and an outstanding songwriter. This album feels more fully realized than Fox Confessor did to me, although I don’t know why the last track, which is nothing but cricket noise, had to go on for more than 30 minutes.
9. Fever Ray – Fever Ray
Karin Dreijer Andersson of the Knife goes downtempo and even darker. I love this, but I also miss the crazed, fantasy-like electro jams that prevailed on the Knife’s Silent Shout. Here’s hoping that the siblings reunite soon.
8. The Clientele – Bonfires on the Heath
Just reading the lyrics of this album — which, unfortunately, may be their last — gives me the chills. Listening to Alasdair MacLean sing them in his soft, serpentine voice set to ghostly guitars, pianos and organs is, often, a transcendent experience. I think Suburban Light will, for me, always be their pinnacle, but this would be a great swan song.
7. Washed Out – Life of Leisure
I guess this is technically an EP, but it’s too good to leave out for that reason. Although I’ve never been to Miami, I think Life of Leisure should be the soundtrack to cruising around the city in a convertible on a summer night. It’s not nearly as slick as that might make it sound, though. It actually has a kind of warped, old-cassette feel to it. But it is seductive, what with its ethereal harmonies and pulsing beats.
6. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
I didn’t think this would eclipse their Yellow House for me, but as I just listened to it one more time, I realized that it finally has. Probably enough has been said about Veckatimest already, so I’ll just go with, “Pretty, pretty … pretty great.”
5. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast
As Andrew Bird was about to play in Los Angeles after this album came out, the local paper had a blurb that I found really insightful. It said something to the effect of him having been tip-toeing on the verge of making an essential album. That’s the way I feel about this one, and the way I’ve felt about others of his. The first several songs on Noble Beast are so strong that it can’t help but lose some steam around the middle. But then he ends it with a great run, including a triumphant remake of one of his old tunes (the name of which he changed from “The Confession” to “Privateers”).
4. St. Vincent – Actor
I remember briefly checking this out around the time it was released and not thinking much of it. I must not have been listening very closely. Later in the year, Jamboree veteran Colin forced me to give it another shot, and I soon realized that this is no pedestrian singer-songwriter fare. It sounds by turns old-timey and experimental, charming and powerful. I continue to be stunned every time I experience the end of “Black Rainbow.”
3. Papercuts – You Can Have What You Want
This guy, Jason Quever, makes melancholy sound so inviting. The way the opening track washes over you with a plaintive organ and then hits you with “Once we walked in the sunlight / Three years ago this July 5th / Before the earth was a distant dream” — you just can’t help but be carried away. Strongly recommended if you like Beach House, with whom he’s played and whose Alex Scally plays here.
2. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
They say this is some sort of rock opera, but I haven’t bothered to really try to figure out the plot. Honestly, it doesn’t matter much to me. Even without considering the story, this is the biggest and boldest Decemberists work yet. It is a masterfully crafted and thoroughly engaging album. The “casting” of Becky Stark from Lavender Diamond and Shara Worden from My Brightest Diamond is perfect — the former’s voice beautiful and innocent, the latter’s powerful (oh, man, powerful!) and sinister. Then there’s the spooky kids choir. The recurring musical themes tie it all together and really give you a sense of what’s happening, even if you don’t follow the lyrics.
1. Alasdair Roberts – Spoils
Alasdair Roberts (pictured above) was one of my favorite artists of the decade, but I didn’t expect to be blown away like this at this point. Spoils, his fifth album under his own name (he previously went by Appendix Out) is as addictive as it is ambitious. He turns out his most interesting batch of original compositions, many of them shifting into thrilling new directions mid-song. Roberts also branches out instrumentally, throwing in several intriguing antique contraptions (psaltery, anyone?) as well as some prominent electric guitar (even a solo!). Throughout the album, the influence of the Incredible String Band is well incorporated — never overbearing. Perhaps unfairly, I didn't expect Roberts to be able to top No Earthly Man, his intense collection of death-themed folk songs and my favorite album of 2005. Now, it’s hard to imagine him surpassing Spoils, but I hope I’m wrong again.
Friday, January 1, 2010
2. Discovery - "Swing Tree" (by Dolezal06)
When it comes to fan videos, I'm betting less usually clocks in as more. This clip adheres nicely to that aesthetic, simply setting one of the better tracks off Discovery's (mostly terrible) LP to footage from what I can only assume is the most misleading Navy recruitment video of all time. It's a nice fit with amusing results.
1. Grizzly Bear - "Two Weeks" (by Gabe Askew)
It turns out that there are fan video exceptions to the "less is more" philosophy—at least one, anyway. 100% computer animated, this clip uses some of the newest technology available to create a shockingly realistic world of diorama-like simplicity. (How post-modern can you get, right?) Characters and set pieces appear as toy miniatures, stuffed animals, and cardboard cut-outs, all rendered with such meticulous attention to detail, it's easy to forget you aren't actually traveling through an elaborate cardboard maze of art. Add to that the absolutely masterful lighting and camera movement, along with the deftly creative representation of the song's lyrical content, and we're left with a work so captivating, so strikingly beautiful, and so, well, professional, it's downright baffling that no one was paid for it. This is not only the best fan video I've ever seen, it is one of the best overall music videos I've ever seen.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
2. Dance of Anger: A Woman's Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships by Harriet Lerner. Lerner has a plethora of books about different psychological dynamics. She is popular, down to earth and helpful on most counts. This is considered her best. http://http://www.amazon.com/Dance-Anger-Changing-Patterns-Relationships/dp/006074104X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262240021&sr=1-1
3. Unlocking the Mystery of Your Emotions by Archibald Hart. I believe this may be Hart's first book. He is a well respected Christian psychologist out of Fuller. All of his books dealing with such subjects as Adrenalin and Stress, Male Sexuality, and Anxiety, can be helpful. http://http://www.amazon.com/Unlocking-Mystery-Your-Emotions-Rep/dp/0849931991/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262238408&sr=1-16
4. The Truth About Love: The Highs, the Lows, and How You Can Make It Last Forever by Pat Love. Love is a tall, red headed Texan, who after her first marriage failed, went back to get a doctorate in psychology specializing in what makes love last past the chemical high. I have not read her book Hot Monogamy but have her speak regarding it. She is a very entertaining writer and speaker. I think this is one of the best books on the market about what actually comprises love. http://www.amazon.com/Truth-About-Love-Highs-Forever/dp/0684871882/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262238829&sr=1-1
5. How To Avoid Marrying a Jerk by John Van Epp. John writes and speaks to alert his audience of the red flags in relationships in order to prevent marrying a jerk or jerkette. He refers to movie clips to prove his points. http://www.amazon.com/How-Avoid-Falling-Love-Jerk/dp/0071548424/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262239288&sr=1-1
6. Cost: A Novel by Roxana Robinson. Robinson writes a gripping novel on heroin addiction and the devastating emotional effect it brings to a three generation family. http://www.amazon.com/Cost-Novel-Roxana-Robinson/dp/0312428464/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262240195&sr=1-1
7. Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Still Alice, a novel, by a Harvard neuroscientist, is the best book that I read this year. If you wish to learn about Alzheimer's Disease and its effect on the person and their family and experience a poignant story, Still Alice is an excellent read. As one reviewer put it: "A masterpiece that will touch lives in ways none of us can even imagine. This book is the best portrayal of the Alzheimer's journey that I have read." http://www.amazon.com/Still-Alice-Lisa-Genova/dp/1439102813/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262240471&sr=1-1
8. Not " Just Friends" by Shirley P. Glass. Glass, now deceased mother of Ira Glass on NPR, utilizes two decades of original research and hundreds of clinical cases "to chronicle the human story of what occurs before, during and after the trauma of betrayal. Today with the Internet and today's workplace well-intentioned people cross the line that separates platonic friendship from romantic love." http://www.amazon.com/Not-Just-Friends-Rebuilding Recovering/dp/0743225503/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_1
9. How to Get a Date Worth Keeping by Henry Cloud. Cloud, eminent psychologist, gives a quick read on strategies for getting your numbers up in the dating world. Cloud, who married when he was in his 30s, disputes the widely accepted hypothesis of just waiting because God will give you a mate. http://http://www.amazon.com/How-Get-Date-Worth-Keeping/dp/0310262658/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262242216&sr=1-8
10. Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples by Harville Hendrix. I believe this may be Hendrix's first book but it is still one of the best on understanding how when you marry you not only marry your spouse but you also marry your spouse's family. He compares the Conscious Marriage with the Unconscious Marriage. http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Love-You-Want-Anniversary/dp/0805087001/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262242784&sr=1-1
11. You Just Don't Understand: Men and Women in Conversation by Deborah Tannen. Tom and I read this book together when we were trying to figure out why we were having "communication problems." If the truth be known, I read Tannen's book and then persuaded Tom to discuss her ideas with me on a weekend vacation. Our marriage was better because of Tannen. Generally speaking, women's talk is for connection whereas men communicate just the facts. Listen at the chatter at any baseball game. Neither one's communication style is better than the other. We are just different. http://www.amazon.com/You-Just-Dont-Understand-Conversation/dp/0060959622/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_b
12. All You Need Is Love and Other Lies About Marriages by John W. Jacobs, M.D. Jacobs writes excellent, common sense truths that one can apply to their marriage if they are willing. http://http://www.amazon.com/Need-Love-Other-About-Marriage/dp/0060509317/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262243327&sr=1-1
13. The Way to Love Your Wife: Creating Greater Love & Passion in the Bedroom and Men And Sex by Clifford L. Penner and Joyce J. Penner. Preeminent Christian sex therapists (no this is not an oxymoron) Joyce and Cliff Penner are the gurus of all you want to know about sexual intimacy. http://www.amazon.com/Way-Love-Your-Wife-Creating/dp/158997445X/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262244113&sr=1-4 And: http://www.amazon.com/Men-Sex-Clifford-L-Penner/dp/0840777906/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262244113&sr=1-5
14. A Model for Marriage: Covenant, Grace, Empowerment And Intimacy by Jack O. Balswick and Judith K. Balswick. I learned from the Balswicks during my years at Fuller. Their book includes theology from the renowned Ray Anderson and a more academic look at marriage --- still helpful and challenging. I found their Trinitarian model of marriage insightful when considering God's gift of marriage. http://www.amazon.com/Model-Marriage-Covenant-Empowerment-Intimacy/dp/0830827609/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262244198&sr=1-10
15. An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison. Jamison, a Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is a foremost authority on manic-depressive disease from her academic studies as well as from her first hand life experience. http://http://www.amazon.com/Unquiet-Mind-Memoir-Moods-Madness/dp/0679763309/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262245597&sr=1-3
16. Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff. This slim volume is one of the best books that I have read on grief and loss. Yale theologian Wolsterstorff shares his heart break with the death of his twenty-five year old son. One never wants to experience such a loss; however, his thoughts give us a glimpse into his world of intimate pain and questions about such tragedies. http://www.amazon.com/Lament-Son-Nicholas-Wolterstorff/dp/080280294X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262246379&sr=1-1
17. I Don't Want To Talk About It by Terrence Real. For me Real's book was a riveting read. As Pia Mellody notes: "Boys in our culture are taught that real men are stoic. The ability to not complain, endure pain, and strive in the face of adversity is admired and celebrated in story and song. The price paid for this isolation is depression." Real gives men courage by telling his own story of trauma and recovery. http://http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Talk- About-Overcoming/dp/0684835398/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262247305&sr=8-2
18. The Recovery of Family Life by Elton and Pauline Trueblood. I bought my tattered copy of this book at a library sale for 29 cents. Tom quoted the book in our daughter Amy's wedding. It was written in the 50s but it still is one of my favorite books on the sacredness of marriage. http://www.amazon.com/Recovery-Family-Elton-Pauline-Trueblood/dp/9001885128/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262246607&sr=1-1
Saturday, December 26, 2009
The Walking Dead: This zombie series doesn’t pull its punches. It’s graphic and bloody, featuring zombies who arms and faces are rotting away. But like all good zombie stories, the real rot takes places among the humans who are picking up the broken pieces of civilization. The dialogue can be a bit cheesy, but the plots are brutal, and the black and white art is perfect.
Ex Machina: While everyone was salivating over the clever series Y: The Last Man, Bryan K Vaughan was also writing this even better series about a man with superpowers who foils half of 9/11 and ends up mayor of New York City.
Justice: Everybody loves Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come, and I admit that series was more innovative. But Justice reaffirms why people should read classic superhero comics. It offers sharp characterization with insightful little moments, gorgeous art, interesting villains, and great action sequences.
25: Steady As She Goes – The Raconteurs: Jack White’s side projects are better than most regular bands.
24: Instant Pleasure – Rufus Wainwright: When Rufus Wainwright sang “If drinking coffee’s your idea of really cool, you can’t expect no crazy chick to notice you,” I think he was talking about me.
23: What Was I Thinkin? - Dierks Bentley: The decade’s best redneck antics until Cheney shot his hunting partner.
22: Elevation – U2: One of the purest rock songs of the decade. It immediately felt both fresh and classic.
21: White Daisies Passing – Rocky Votolato: My wife put this on the first mix she ever made me. Another reason to love her.
20: Flyswatter – The Eels: An energetic little song, and “icewater/flyswatter” is my favorite rhyme of the decade.
19: Nineteen – Tegan and Sarah: Like all the best songs about teen love, this one makes it sound more serious than it actually is. Also, I ranked this #19! Isn’t that cute!
18: Bohemian Like You – The Dandy Warhols: This catchy, all-purpose riff got overplayed (that’s what happens when you license your song to appear in the Flushed Away trailer), but the lyrics still effectively zing people with hip haircuts.
17: The Hardest Button to Button - The White Stripes: This song gets the maximum mileage out of the simplest riffs.
16: Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key – Billy Bragg and Wilco: It turns out one of decade’s most inventive projects was a recreation of unreleased Woody Guthrie songs. Billy Bragg and Wilco make something old new again.
15: Paragraph President - Blackalicious: When Gift of Gab gets going here, the rhymes nearly fall over one another.
14: Diladed – The Mountain Goats: The decade’s most ominous use of violins.
13: Burn, Don’t Freeze – Sleater Kinney: There are other nominees from Sleater Kinney (Sympathy, Entertainer), but ever since The Guess Who’s No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature, I’ve been a sucker for songs that climax with overlapping vocals.
12: Bowtie - Outkast: Sure, Hey Ya! was the catchy, ubiquitous hit from Speakerboxx/A Love Below, but years later, this is still the dual album’s funkiest cut.
11: Dracula’s Wedding - Outkast: Spooky beats, plus some literary insight: who knew that Van Helsing was so excited about great peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?
10: Red Clay Halo – Gillian Welch: Gillian Welch’s down home harmonies feel even more authentic when they’re about dirt.
9: Til I Collapse – Eminem/50 Cent/Tupac: Easily the best of the 4,317 Tupac songs released after his death.
8: I Turn My Camera On - Spoon: The funky grooves make me want to dance, but in the safety of emotionally distant lyrics like “I turn my feelings off / You’ve made me untouchable for life” I can still keep the stick securely in my ass.
7: John Saw That Number – Neko Case: If you’re one of the three people left not impressed by Neko Case’s set of pipes, this song will do the trick.
6: 99 Problems (Gray album version) – Jay Z: Turns out Jay Z and the Beatles mix beautifully. My experiments blending Flo Rida andThe Monkees have been less successful.
5: Turn a Square – The Shins: This Shins song didn’t change my life, but that part that goes “All my thoughts run astray / and I’m a walking cliché / when such a creature I sight” did make it slightly better.
4: Skeleton Key – Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s: A dysfunctional relationship rarely sounded this good.
3: The Cross - Nas: If the decade offered a pointlessly arrogant and needlessly sacrilegious song that hit harder than this one, I didn’t hear it.
2: Man of Constant Sorrow – The Soggy Bottom Boys: This song performs an almost impossible task in O Brother, Where Art Thou by being good enough to justify the pardon of the men who perform it. Good thing Bernie Madoff can’t sing like this.
1: Hurt – Johnny Cash: Johnny Cash sings like a man pursued by death, and it turns out he was right. The song makes you want to kill yourself, but in the best possible way.
Thanks for reading. Hopefully, the next decade gives us this many good songs and one fewer Fergie.
Friday, December 25, 2009
My Yuletide entry in this series comes from opera guy Luciano Pavarotti, heard on 91.5 Classical KUSC. Obviously, the man had incredible pipes. But I think what I like more about this, his magical rendition of "O Holy Night," is his heavy, heavy accent and the way he adds extra syllables, like "in a-sin and error a-pining." The way he pronounces "the soul felt its worth" is just crazy. But what a powerful performance. And, of course, what a song. Merry Christmas to all.
— Tom McMahon
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
This was a great time for me to reminisce over the last decade of music and what it meant to me…rocking out with roomies in college and then trying to start a lame band, cruising up and down Pacific Coast Highway, walkmen in airports and third world countries, the switch from lugging 3 CD cases in my car to 1 small iPod, trying bands out live in concert, choosing my own wedding music, and great road trips with my wife. Music is an amazing thing and it amazes me even more the memories that come up from all these albums. I had to do a separate list for ’09 since they feel too recent to be considered “classic” yet and the rest have had a chance to really settle in and become a part of my collection. Like ‘em or not, here are my top 30 picks of the decade followed by my top 10 of 2009. (I’ve also included a favorite song from each as a starting point if you are interested in checking them out.)
2000 Lifehouse- No Name Face
Huge favorite for me while at Pepperdine, especially seeing him live at the Whiskey watching a bunch of bikers rocking with arms raised in praise
2000 Robbie Williams- Sing When You're Winning
Big fan of Robbie’s during Heidelberg and this one before he went a little nuts was one of my favs
“Singing for the Lonely”
2000 Jack Johnson- Brushfire Fairytales
Got me into the mellow folky vibe. Still my favorite of his
2001 Ben Harper- Live From Mars
I got started late into Ben, so this was my attempt to catch up and it proved to be an incredible double album. I don’t usually like live albums but I would have loved to see a show from this era
“The Drugs Don’t Work” (Verve cover)
2001 Dashboard Confessional- The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most
My whiny emo guilty obsession…
“The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most”
2001 Jimmy Eat World- Bleed American
Just an amazing album spanning the gamut of their styles.
2002 Jason Mraz- Waiting For My Rocket To Come
I miss the old Mraz…glad the world now sees his talent but it was much simpler back then!
“You and I Both”
2003 Muse- Absolution
Got into them thanks to my brother and would still love to see their live show.
2003 Damien Rice- O
What a sad, beautiful album. Perfect for a rainy day drive
2003 Postal Service- Give Up
So many trips had this as a soundtrack.
2003 Switchfoot- The Beautiful Letdown
Catapulted them out of the CCM industry and into mainstream, and when then really started getting interesting to me.
2004 Relient K- MmmHmm
Their albums always seemed to fit my mood whenever they came out and worked for whatever I was going through at the time.
“Be My Escape”
2004 Rise Against- Siren Song of the Counter Culture
This has been a great staple for the gym. Gets the BPM going
2004 Shawn McDonald- Simply Nothing
Honest, acoustic worship with an amazing voice. Never get tired of his first release.
2005 David Gray- Life In Slow Motion
Almost a tie between this and White Ladder, but too many memories attached to this one.
“From Here You Can Almost See the Sea”
2005 State Radio- Us Against the Crown
Chad from Dispatch puts on a great show and got to see these guys twice locally.
“Right Me Up”
2006 Amos Lee- Supply and Demand
So much soul in this man’s voice. Love it
2006 John Mayer- Continuum
My wife got me tickets to see him and the show solidified this great album as a top pick.
“Stop This Train”
2006 Justin Timberlake- FutureSex/LoveSounds
My poppy guilty pleasure of the decade. How can you not like Justin, come on!
“What Goes Around…”
2006 Mat Kearney- Nothing Left to Lose
Mellow staple for 2006 that still spins a lot to this day.
“Where Do We Go From Here”
2006 Matisyahu- Youth
The undeniable skills of this Hassidic Jewish rapper impressed even the people we were building the church for down in El Salvador.
“Time of Your Song”
2006 Lupe Fiasco- Food and Liquor
I played this one way too much. Can’t wait for his new one…
2006 Ray LaMontagne- Till The Sun Turns Black
Great mellow folk. Putting this one on a mixtape for my wife was a good move!
“Can I Stay”
2006 Silversun Pickups- Carnavas
Basing their entire sound around The Smashing Pumpkins’ 1991 release Gish was a great formula to make a fan out of me.
2007 Angels and Airwaves- I-Empire
Pretty epic sounding album. Who would have expected it from the guy from Blink 182?
2007- Mayday Parade- A Lesson in Romantics
This is the most played in our household mostly because my wife refuses to listen to anything else. Great pop-punk album with lots of harmonies.
“Miserable at Best”
2007 Sherwood- A Different Light
Local San Luis Obispo band that should hit it huge any day now! Unbelievably energetic live show and lots of fun melodies.
2007- Joshua Radin- We Were Here
First introduction was a Scrubs episode where I ran to my computer to figure out who was making this amazing music. The self-proclaimed “king of whisper rock” puts on a great show… unless it’s at a bar with a bunch of drunk frat boys…
2007/2008- Jon Foreman- Fall/Winter/Spring/Summer EP’s
Switchfoot lead singer’s attempt to recreate the 4 seasons musically
“The Cure for Pain”
2008- Coldplay- Viva La Vida/Prospekt’s March
Put them in a whole new league for me. Just good solid release for them
Now for the 2009 in no particular order:
Denver-based band who went to school with my old roommate. I still can’t believe they haven’t hit it big yet!
“Taking the World On”
Muse- The Resistance
Big album full of some different, but great songs.
Phoenix- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Took me a while to get into this one, but many patient listens really paid off.
“Love Like a Sunset”
Owl City- Ocean Eyes
The single got way too much airplay but I really appreciated the rest of the album…especially since Ben Gibbard refuses to put out another Postal Service record this decade.
“On The Wing”
John Mayer Battle Studies
Even I enjoy a good breakup album now and again. Not quite as bluesy as his last release but still a good one.
Fun- Aim and Ignite
What the band name implies…just a fun album from the lead singer of The Format.
“I Wanna Be The One”
30 Seconds To Mars- This is War
Epic album for the end of the year. Pompous and egotistical but still amazing!
Dashboard Confessional- Alter The Ending
Best of both worlds with acoustic versions of all the full band tracks.
“Hell on the Throat”
Relient K- Forget and Not Slow Down
Another good breakup album with a lot more depth from this clever Canton quintet.
“This is the End (If You Want It)”
Silversun Pickups- Swoon
Great follow-up to Carnavas. Wouldn’t expect anything less
“The Royal We”
My criteria for this list is somewhat objective. Not objective in the sense that these are, in my opinion, the "best" records of the past decade, but objective in the sense that it is meant to track which albums I, in fact, listened to the most, from purchase to present. This might explain why an album such as Belle & Sebastian's "Dear Catastrophe Waitress," which I actually think is inferior to "The Life Pursuit," ranks ahead of it; I just happened to listen to the former almost obsessively when driving home from Pepperdine during the winter of 2003. And that naturally speaks to the subjective nature of the list, namely, some records, despite their flaws or their missed opportunities or even their shitty songs, just strike a nerve, and, from that moment on, are indelibly associated with a memory or a feeling. I used to think that phenomenon - treasuring music for its associations - was feminine, so I was either wrong or I've spent a decade getting in touch with my feelings. Obviously, all of the albums listed below are, in my opinion, phenomenal, but to read the list as my critical take on what was "best" or "most important" from the decade would be missing the point entirely. To that end, I still haven't even heard any Wolf Parade records, so my knowledge is woefully incomplete.
So, without further adieu, here are my 75 favorite albums of the past decade. Next to some of the higher-ranking entries I've written blurbs reflecting on my experiences with those albums and, perhaps, why they meant and, in most cases, continue to mean so much to me. I know this is indulgent, but it's too fun for me not to indulge when I actually have the opportunity to write about something I care about. There are about 100 more records that, depending on the week, could have made this list; I love them no less.
- of montreal - Satanic Panic in the Attic -- Oddly, the list begins with an album that I don't have particularly strong associations with but was, plain and simply, the album I listened to the most over the past decade. This album very clearly serves as a milemarker in the of montreal catalog, the album where the band's twee sensibilities started taking a back seat to their Erasure inclinations. I still can't believe they encored with "Alright" by Supergrass at a 2005 concert I attended; had they played "Girl Don't Tell Me" next, I would've expected they had designs on converting me, and me specifically, to their cause.
- Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat -- I bought this album for a friend, and the night I gave it to her, her ex-boyfriend's uncle passed away. I remember that we didn't listen to it but instead drank beer outside her apartment. Had she played the album after I left, I think it would have fit the moment. I didn't buy the album until years later, instead borrowing her copy and burning it to my computer. I still find it to be one of the saddest and funniest albums I regularly listen to (often simultaneously, such as in "Rise Up With Fists!!").
- Yo La Tengo - And then Everything Turned Itself Inside Out -- Ever since I purchased this album the day it came out in Heidelberg, Germany, "Tears Are in Your Eyes" has been a mixtape staple of mine. This album evokes the steadiness and resolve of two people who have gone through it all together (kind of like the couple in Stegner's "The Spectator Bird") and are committed to staying the course. It's probably unfair to hoist that upon Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley but I must admit that if their relationship ever ends, I will look at this album and think, "You lied to me."
- Broadcast - Tender Buttons -- I had been listening to this album in my car for a good month when I decided it would be good background for a game of scrabble with a girl. It was only then, in that silent, pensive environment, that I heard the ghost in the album, the haunting presence that begins with the descending scale in "I Found the F" and continues until the end. You know how horror movies often trot out a little girl to sing nursery rhymes or something to contrast innocence against depravity? This album conjures that vibe without being trite.
- Dr. Dog - Easy Beat -- Kind of like Satanic Panic, this one firmly implanted itself on one listening; I couldn't pry it away for months.
- Spoon - Kill the Moonlight -- No fat on this record.
- Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood -- I've always believed this record was influenced by Carl Newman (see infra) lyrically. Truth is, though, as abstract and intriguing as the lyrics are, it just comes down to the voice. This is Cocteau Twin territory where, to me, it could just be syllables and it wouldn't change a thing.
- Dntel - Life is Full of Possibilities -- I picked this record up at Other Music in the early spring of 2002 and immediately listened to it on a long walk in the snow to the Whitney. I forgive Mia Doi Todd for all of her boring performances solely for contributing to "Anywhere Anyone."
- The New Pornographers - Mass Romantic -- I remember hearing "The Body Says No" on KXLU in the fall of 2001 from my on-campus apartment. Having been a huge Zumpano fan since high school, but never having any reason to believe the obscure band or its members would re-enter the musical landscape, I lost it. I was totally swept up with emotion that Carl Newman, the songwriter and singer I admired so much, had a new project coming out. I can't imagine having this feeling nowadays. With the proliferation of blogs and Pitchfork chronicling indie rock like it was global affairs, the only surprise is the headline, never the actual song or album. I mean, no Dave Grohl fan just happened upon a Them Crooked Vultures song on the radio and lost his shit; that just doesn't happen any more.
- The Walkmen - Bows & Arrows -- I probably saw the Walkmen live more than any other band this decade. I remember the first time - late January 2003 at the Troubadour with Hot Hot Heat. HHH had the radio hit but the Walkmen headlined and seemed committed to stopping all the frivolity. Hamilton Leithauser stalked the stage like a prep school bully, and for some reason (probably b/c I had seen my fair share of effeminate indie rock dudes) it really appealed to me. I think the drumming on this record is phenomenal.
- Radiohead - Kid A
- Gonzales - Solo Piano
- Beachwood Sparks - Beachwood Sparks
- Wilco - A Ghost Is Born -- As much as I love Wilco, I believe this is their only album where the great songwriting isn't compromised by the production. "Sky Blue Sky" sounds great, but not all the songs are there. On the other hand, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" has the songs but Jim O'Rourke's production is cold and sterile; I always prefer "Jesus, Etc." live with the warm organ backing instead of the Quaker strings. "A Ghost Is Born" marries both.
- Cass McCombs - Dropping the Writ
- Stephen Malkmus - Pig Lib and bonus e.p. -- My favorite Malkmus solo record and, sadly, the last with John Moen on drums. Why does everyone think Janet Weiss is such an upgrade? Listen to "Do Not Feed the Oyster;" Weiss' busyness would've ruined that shit, while Moen does his best Bill Ward and comes out victorious.
- Bossanova - Hey, Sugar
- Kanye West - Late Registration
- Cass McCombs - Catacombs
- Belle & Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress
- Low - Things We Lost in the Fire
- The Rapture - Pieces of the People We Love -- I really only listen to the first half of this record, which I believe stacks up against the first half of any record this decade.
- The Walkmen - Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone
- The Shins - Oh, Inverted World
- Blur - Think Tank
- The Strokes - Room on Fire
- Deerhunter - Microcastles
- The Futureheads - S/t
- Outkast - Stankonia
- Blood Brothers - Crimes
- Joanna Newsom - The Milk-eyed Mender
- Madvillain - Madvillainy
- Elliott Smith - Figure 8
- Reigning Sound - Too Much Guitar
- Neko Case - The Tigers Have Spoken
- Sloan - Never Hear the End of It
- A.C. Newman - The Slow Wonder
- Daft Punk - Discovery
- The Clientele - God Save the Clientele
- Field Music - Tones of Town
- Hot Snakes - Suicide Invoice
- Shelby Lynne - I Am Shelby Lynne
- Lambchop - Is a Woman
- Spoon - Girls Can Tell
- Animal Collective - Meriweather Post Pavilion
- Nobody & Mystic Chords of Memory - Tree Colored Sea
- Out Hud - Let Us Never Speak of it Again
- She & Him - Volume 1
- The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
- Enon - Hocus Pocus
- Impossible Shapes - Horus
- Love Is All - 9 Times the Same Song
- Belle & Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
- Lambchop - Nixon
- Unwound - Leaves Turn Inside You
- Tortoise - Standards
- Deerhoof - Milkman
- Exploding Hearts - Guitar Romantic
- The Game - The Documentary
- The Decemberists - Her Majesty, The Decemberists
- Destroyer - This Night
- Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
- Clipse - Lord Willin'
- Jay Reatard - Blood Visions
- Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
- Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights
- Dungen - Ta De Lungt
- Metro Area - Metro Area
- Modest Mouse - The Moon & Antarctica
- Delays - Faded Seaside Glamour
- Air - Talkie Walkie
- The Bigger Lovers - This Affair Never Happened . . . and Here Are 11 Songs About It
- Old 97s - Satellite Rides
- Dungen - 4
- Gorillaz - Demon Days
Monday, December 21, 2009
(14) Roommates (the living situation)
(13) Broken Social Scene
(12) Campers (the shoes)
(10) Smoke Breaks
(9) Colin Powell
(8) Album Release Dates
(7) Bud Light
(6) All Plot Points (Major and Minor) in the First Season of Veronica Mars
(5) Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Matthew Lillard
(4) French Fries
(3) Kevin Brown (the pitcher)
(2) Ja Rule
(1) The Vines
Sunday, December 20, 2009
My second entry in this series comes from R&B also-ran Montell Jordan, heard on 93.5 KDAY. Three things I like about this jam, "Get It On Tonite":
1. It has an awesome sample ("Love for the Sake of Love," by Claudja Barry).
2. Montell Jordan went to Pepperdine.
3. I thought his only hit was "This Is How We Do It."
— Tom McMahon
Saturday, December 19, 2009
i was having too hard a time ordering them by preference so i've just randomly assigned them an order. deal with it. why 25? why not? that's as good a reason as any.
now that we've set the ground rules, here's the list with minimal explanation:
1. menomena - friend and foe (2007)
these are some weird dudes. their song writing process is even weirder. the music, however, is excellent and i'd like them to make more.
2. gogol bordello - super taranta! (2007)
you can't trust gypsies.
3. shins - chutes too narrow (2003)
back when i was driving from sc to pepperdine every weekend i listened to this album like it was going out of style... which it was.
4. the notwist - neon golden (2002)
listen to this album and try to figure out how a band that started in germany's grunge-metal scene made such an awesome indie rock/electronica album.
5. the flaming lips - yoshimi battles the pink robots (2002)
this is a great album, but you should probably listen to the soft bulletin instead.
6. wolf parade - apologies to the queen mary (2005)
the guys in this band are in about 37 bands, none of which have made any albums nearly as good as this one or the newer wolf parade album, at mount zoomer.
7. the good, the bad, the queen1 (2007)
i prefer to think that when damon albarn and paul simonon were writing the songs for this album that simonon did most of the work because the clash were much better than either blur or the gorillaz.
8. ted leo and the pharmacists - shake the sheets (2004)
sure, this guy's a crazy leftist, but he makes good music. just because i'd side with johnny ramone over joey ramone in a political debate doesn't mean i can't enjoy this album.
9. vampire weekend - vampire weekend (2008)
i really wanted to hate this band. they're ivy leaguers who dress like philosphy grad students and sing about grammar and architecture. thankfully, they made a record that lived up to the insane amount of internet hype they generated.
10. okkervil river - the stage names (2007)
this one's pretty darn good.
11. arcade fire - funeral (2004)
montreal was founded in 1642. 362 years later arcade fire made this album and i finally found something not to dislike about french canada. if i had actually ranked these albums, this one would probably be number one. "rebellion (lies)" is one of the best songs ever recorded and the only to capture my utter distaste for sleep.
12. animal collective - sung tongs (2004)
okay, i get it. this should say merriweather post pavillion instead of sung tongs, but i haven't heard it yet. i'll get to it eventually so get off my back already.
13. sufjan stevens - illinois (2005)
"john wayne gacy, jr." is an outstanding song. wait while i listen to it again... okay you may proceed.
14. ...and you will know us by the trail of dead - source tags and codes (2002)
conrad keely probably did too many psychotropic drugs after this album came out. that's the only way i can figure that the band's subsequent albums failed to come close to this one.
15. andrew bird - armchair apocrypha (2007)
i saw this guy open for the decemberists at the hollywood bowl which was excellent. the last time i was on a plane, i had "fiery crash" stuck in my head.
16. the decemberists - crane wife (2006)
picking this album over the hazards of love or any of the others was tough. the facts are these: "o valencia!" is my cell phone ring; my old roommate made a halloween costume based on "shankill butchers"; "sons and daughters" made for an epic sing along at the last concert i attended; the live performance of hazards was insane, but so was seeing the band play with the l.a. philharmonic in '07.
17. interpol - turn on the bright lights (2002)
remember when the strokes were supposed to reclaim the world for rock and roll? neither do i. what i do remember is that this album is awesome and so was antics. our love to admire? not so much.
18. modest mouse - good news for people who love bad news (2004)
this is our moment of indier-than-thou, self-righteous idignance: when "float on" hit the radio, everyone and their mother started listening to modest mouse which was cool. less cool, however, was that everyone acted like they'd discovered this new band and they hadn't. they had been around for eleven years. plus it's not discovering a band if you first heard them on mainstream radio or saw a video on mtv. my first introduction to modest mouse? a band t-shirt with a moose on it when i was 14.
19. wilco - yankee hotel foxtrot (2002)
this album always reminds us of super cool 94.3 which was an actual independent radio station2 in orange county for about a year before it switched to spanish language. they played the heck out of "heavy metal drummer." seriously, they killed that song. of course, hearing a great song over and over beats the heck out hearing crazy town.
20. at the drive-in - relationship of command (2000)
a lot of people like the mars volta better than at the drive-in, but i prefer the focus and restraint of the latter over the experimentation for experimentation's sake of the former. that's probably why i'd pick rubber soul over sgt. pepper's.
21. beck - sea change (2002)
songs from this album are usually my least favorite part of his live shows, but the songs are ridiculously good. i'm still surprised that beck was able to make this album.
22. the deadly syndrome - the ortolan (2007)
these guys need to record another album and you need to hear this one. get on it.
23. spoon - girls can tell (2001)
i could just as easily have picked kill the moonlight or gimme fiction, but i listened to this one the other day on a run and i'm humming "chicago at night" right now.
24. clap your hands say yeah - clap your hands say yeah (2005)
i heard it from a friend; the revolution never happened.
25. ryan adams - heartbreaker (2000)
for the longest time, i considered ryan adams nothing more than a punchline because he made ulysses s. grant look like a lightweight and put out what seemed like an album a month3. then i started listening to this album and, while i kept making jokes until he sobered up, i also gave him the musical respect he deserved.
1the band doesn't really have a name, but it's damon albarn from blur, paul simonon from the clash, simon tong from the verve, and tony allen from africa 70 produced by danger mouse.
2indie 103.1 was owned by clear channel which makes them about as independent at tibet.
3wikipedia lists eleven this decade. i'm not sure, but i think that's how many albums the rolling stones put out in the sixties when most bands could record and release an album between breakfast and lunch.