the great

these albums are all great.  none perfect, but some darn close.  there’s a lot of them.  so get comfy cause it may take a while….or you can just scroll really quickly.

the animal yearsjosh ritter

josh ritter just has something to him.  his songs are catchy, his lyrics are witty, he puts on one of the best live shows i’ve ever seen.  the man just knows how to have fun up there on stage.  i can listen to this whole album.

fleet foxesfleet foxes

probably one of the more surprising albums i’ve heard.  i was not ready for their crazy appalachian folk harmonies and musical stylings.  the album gets a little redundant somewhere from “he doesn’t know” to “meadowlark” though.  i’m really excited for them to put out a new album (and with j.tillman none the less!)

the little williesthe little willies

norah jones and company take to covering old country hits.  i’m in.  there’s some duds on the album, but so much good that it’s completely worth purchasing.  i wouldn’t bother with the songs they wrote themselves, but i’d stick with the hank williams and townes van sandt songs.  when it’s on, it’s on.

dead cities, red seas, lost ghostsm83

m83 brings an electronic album masterpiece that makes you want to blast it from your car stereo as you lay in a snowy field with friends looking at the sky…..heeyyyy.

brick (original motion picture soundtrack) nathan johnson

one of my favorite movies of the decade (and all time really) has one of the most brilliant scores.  nathan johnson uses old out of tune pianos and guitars, filing cabinets, kitchen utensils, and instruments he made up like the whine-o-phone.  it has such a presence and a great sense of mood to it.  johnson delivers musically the tone and setting that his cousin delivered visually in the film.  a perfect blend of stylistic filmmaking and stylistic musicmaking.

o.c.m.sold crow medicine show

old crow medicine show is a bluegrass/old timey band who feel completely contemporary.  they are amazing musicians, amazing vocalists, and amazing lyricists.  the fast paced songs are upbeat and fun for the summertime, and the slow ones i love to put on mixtapes.  any band that can make it onto one of my mixtapes has to be good.

aslep at heaven’s gaterogue wave

the more i listen to rogue wave, the more i’m convinced they are the most underrated band working today (besides the frames of course).  i mean these guys are amazing.  they remind me of a mix between radiohead and iron & wine.  asleep at heaven’s gate was one of my favorite albums from 2007 because it was just such a surprise.  lake michigan was a fairly big hit (if i can remember correctly) but the whole album just blew me away.  check this out, seriously.

flowering spadesean hayes

sean hayes took a huge leap with flowering spade.  this album is almost perfect.  he crafts such interesting songs with such a wide range of influences.  his voice is one of the most interesting out there today, and flowering spade is by far his best album.

kill the moonlightspoon

“the way we get by” may have become an indie film cliche, but there’s a reason why.  when i first heard it, i wasn’t sure if i’d ever heard anything like it.  it’s familiar, yet startling.

songs for the deafqueens of the stone age

josh homme is one of the best frontmen around.  he’s got the voice, he’s got the guitar skills, he’s got the hair (he actually looks like a leaner, taller donal logue).  this album is there best.  plain and simple.  one of the best rock albums of the decade.

maladroitweezer

anyone who doesn’t tell you that pinkerton is weezer’s best album, is straight up lying to your face.  don’t ever trust that person again.  but maldroit is very good.  i feel like there’s a little bit of a pinkerton resurgence in this album, and is highlighted by some of their best songs ever.  burdnt jamb is the most unknown masterpiece there is.

elephantthe white stripes

i’m not as big a fan of the white stripes as i think i should be.  i mean they’re very much in the scope of bands that i love, but there’s just something that doesn’t grab me always.  but elephant was an amazing album.  it seemed to grab a consistent tone from beginning to end, and felt like a more solid, better produced (though that’s not always good), and darker album than white blood cells or whatever else came before it.

minor worksj. tillman

if you don’t know who joshua tillman is, then please go buy this album and listen to crooked roof.  that is all.

agaetis byrjunsigur ros

sigur ros makes some of the most beautiful music there is.  but they sing in icelandic, or a made up language, and it’s hard for me to listen to one of their albums from start to finish.  this album has some of the most gorgeous instrumentation i have ever heard.  it makes me sometimes wish that they would just become an instrumental band.

come away with menorah jones

norah jones’ first release was her best and the measuring stick by which all her albums will be held up to, then fail to compete with.

seven swanssufjan stevens

sufjan is one of the most creative artists working today.  he seems to be never satisfied with what he’s doing, always looking to find new ways to create.  seven swans is an album full of biblically based songs.  songs about abraham’s sacrifice, Christ’s atonement, and the book of revelation.  he writes songs about God and his relationship with Him.

the big come upthe black keys

the first (new) vinyl record i ever bought was the big come up.  i had never even heard one song by the black keys.  i was standing in the record store, and pulled it out of the “local” section.  i flipped it over and over, reading the back, looking at the pictures, trying to figure out who these guys were and what they sounded like.  i couldn’t put it down.  something was calling to me.  i needed to buy the record.  as soon as i get home with the record in hand i open it up to find a shiny white vinyl starring back at me.  i put the needle to it and proceeded to have my mind blown.  i listened to the entire thing front to back maybe 3 times.

fox confessor brings the floodneko case

i wasn’t too wild about neko case when i bought this. i liked a few songs of her’s and had a walmart gift card someone had given me so i thought “eh, why not?”.  it has grown on me probably more than any other album this decade, and the first half of this thing is one of the best.  it looses a lot of its charm and character half way through, but the first 5 or 6 songs are phenomenal.

armchair apocryphaandrew bird

this is andrew bird’s masterpiece.  a lot of the time his lyrics go over my head, but his instrumentation and song crafting is the best it’s ever been on this album.  he strikes a mood from the beginning and holds it consistent throughout.  and he puts on one of the best live shows i’ve ever seen.

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the first decade of the 00’s is done.  everyone’s putting out the best of decade lists, and i do love lists.  i’ve complied my favorite albums (somewhere close to 50 i think) and will be revealing them in 4 separate lists: the really good, the great, the almost perfect, and the pantheon.  we’re starting off with the really good.

the really good

transfiguration of vincentm. ward

m. ward’s greatest album on his solo side.  (vincent o’brien, undertaker, outta my head, involuntary, helicopter, let’s dance)

before the dawn heals usm83

maybe not m83’s best effort, but there’s too much here to be ignored.  such great reverence for a era of music that has long since passed its prime. (don’t save us from the flames, i guess i’m floating, teen angst)

robbers & cowardscold war kids

these guys kind of came out of nowhere for me.  all of a sudden i couldn’t get away from hang me up to dry.  it was everywhere.  and i was loving it up.  i thought i read somewhere that the singer is classically trained, which would make sense because his voice is off the hook.  they blended rock with a sort of grandiose yet still indie feel.  and their songs are catchy as hell.  (we used to vacation, hang me up to dry, saint john, hospital beds)

gimme fictionspoon

spoon is a band i have hard time not listening to.  they’re just fun. (i turn my camera on, sister jack, i summon you)

mutemathmutemath

mutemath are one of those bands that you have to see live.  they are unbelievable.  i’ve seen them twice now and they have so much energy and enthusiasm for the show that it’s hard not to get swept up into it (even if you try).  their live shows are so good that it almost makes the cd not as satisfying.  you just don’t get the same experience out of listening to the cd as you do watching paul meany do a handstand on his keyboard.  that being said, these songs are all still really good. (collapse, noticed, stare at the sun, break the same)

in a space outta soundnightmares on wax

these guys can make beats.  it’s what i put on when i need to relax, or for a late night drive.  (passion, flip ya lid, chime out)

half these songs are about younizlopi

i was blown away the first time i heard a nizlopi song.  the vocals were great, the bass and the beat.  these guys had it.  i listened to the rest of the album only to find a liking for half of it (maybe the ones that are about you?).  whenever the lead singer starts to rap he looses me (mostly because he’s awful).  but the ones were he sings are were you want to be.  couple that with a really lousy second effort and they end up on the lower end of my favorite albums of the decade (but some of the better songs!). (girls, faith, jcb, freedom, wash away, worry)

the love belowandre benjamin

andre benjamin is a revolutionary.  the man can do no wrong in my eyes.  and his side of the speakerboxxx/the love below album makes my list.  not the other guy’s.  he brings so much inventiveness, so much fun, so much raw talent to hip/hop.  i’m hard pressed to name another person like him.  (hey ya, roses, take off your cool)

gnarls barkleyst. elsewhere

it’s hard not to include this on the list.  the first time i heard crazy i went crazy.  there’s no refuting that it’s a great song.  and there’s some other really good stuff on this.  dangermouse just knows what he’s doing.  (crazy, gone daddy gone, smiley faces, just a thought)

under the blacklightrilo kiley

rilo kiley was always interesting, but with under the blacklight they became relevant.  it’s a alt. country pop hit!  their songs are catchy, fun, and interesting.  their mix of electronic elements is what sets this album apart. (silver lining, breaking up, under the blacklight)

big black hole and the little baby starsean hayes

sean hayes has one of the most interesting voices out there today.  he has no two songs that are similar.  and no two albums that are similar.  he is continuously improving and moving forward.  big black hole was a huge step forward in his songwriting abilities, as most clearly seen in calling all cars.  he knows the aesthetic he’s going for and he nails it.  (boom boom goes the day, same god, angel, calling all cars)

top albums 2008 pt. 3

January 14, 2009

continuing with the best albums of 2008.  as always catch up if you’ve missed the start of the list…

15-11

10-6

and now the most eagerly anticipated moment of the year so far…the top 5:

5. only by the night – kings of leon

kol’s last two albums have been their best.  many of their die hard fans would tend to disagree with that statement saying that their first two were the best, but for me those albums were nothing new.  i’ve heard garage band, southern rock, all that stuff before.  but with because of the times kol took a very very interesting step into something i’m not sure i’ve heard before, and that was with the song “on call”.  they continued that with this years only by the night.  it’s a step into these dark soundscapes, filled with soaring guitar riffs, and lead man caleb’s pained screeches just sear into my memory.  you may think that the last two albums have been polished version of a radio friendly band, but “use somebody” is intensely more interesting than anything they have ever done before.

“off in the night while you live it up, i’m off to sleep

waging war to shape the poet an the beat”

4. fleet foxes – fleet foxes

the best appalachian folk album of the year comes from a group situated on the west coast.  their songs are reverb clad, filled with larger than life vocal harmonies, and reminiscent of simpler time (i can’t be sure that the time was actually simpler, i didn’t live there.  but that’s what everyone says right?).  they utilize the story-telling method of songwriting to perfection.  they seem to come together perfectly as a band, and hit the notes exactly the way they wanted to.  peckinfold is a beast at the beginning of white winter hymnal, and on the closing oliver james.  his voice fits their musical stylings perfectly.

3. viva la vida – coldplay

i feel like i might loose some music credibility with the final part of my list, including something as broad as a coldplay album on the list.  but really these guys are about as great as it gets.  a rush of blood to the head is my 2nd favorite album of all time, and viva la vida is a return to their musical creativity.  where i think they really went astray with x&y, using very heavy synth and very (very) radio friendly songs.  my favorite song of that albums was the stripped down kingdom come, and while nothing on this album could be considered “stripped down” they hit a consistent musical tone throughout that really struck a chord with me.  they’ve always been compared to U2, but i never really saw it until this album.  the booming drums, the soaring guitars and vocals.  great.  this definitely feels like their largest album and even if it’s not there best, it’s a step in the right direction.


2. volume one – she & him

if i knew that m. ward was  releasing a new album in 08, i would have been excited.  if i knew that zooey deschanel was going to release an ablum in 08, i would have been intrigued and excited.  if i knew that zooey deschanel was going to team up with m. ward to release an album, i would have died.  i don’t know what it is, but the pairing just seems to make perfect sense to me.  i noticed (probably with the rest of the world) that zooey had an amazing voice in the christmas classic elf, but she’s been one of my favorite actresses since her turn in almost famous.  i think most girl-led folk bands fall into the trap of being too cutesy, to fiest-like, and end up being tired cliches.  but zooey brings a throw-back style to her singing. she’s able to blend very old school country/folk melodies and make them sound contemporary.  the video for why do you let me stay here pretty much sums up my thoughts on why they are awesome.


1. for emma forever ago – bon iver

there’s nothing i can say about this album that will remotely do it justice.  let’s just say that for emma forever ago has found a place in my favorite albums of all time, and a place in my heart (ok that sounded really dumb, but it’s true).  justin vernon is able to emote every single feeling of rejection and pain, and ultimately happiness that he was feeling whilst recording the album.  he recorded the entire album by himself, and he did so on a retreat into the woods of wisconsin after breaking up with his band and his girlfriend.  how hot is that?  he doesn’t have the greatest recording equipment.  he doesn’t have the greatest guitar or other musical instruments.  but what came out of that 3 month stay in the cabin is the most emotionally charged, heart felt, bring you to tears and then make you cry even more, album of the year.  i was just absolutely blown away by every track on this album, and the more i listen to it the more i’m convinced that bon iver is going down as one of the greatest artists ever.  i am seriously starting to question if there’s anything more beautiful than re: stacks.  i don’t think there is.  unless you’re talking about his follow up ep blood bank and the amazing song woods.  then maybe.

top albums 2008 pt. 2

January 8, 2009

i’m writing up what i think are the best albums of the year.  as always these are not opinions but stone cold facts.  check out 15-11 right here.

and now 10-6 of 2008…


10. house with no name – horse feathers

horse feathers are the best folk band you’ve never heard of.  and if you’ve heard of them, then well done.  you win a gold star.  house with no name takes what they built up in their first album, words are dead, and expands on these sparse violin, cello, and acoustic guitar folk songs.  lead singer justin ringle sings in a sort of stumbling way, with a hushed breaking into a sort of falsetto voice.  his lyrics are brutally honest (“father your failures are so grave,
they have seeped to son
“), and their instrumentation fills out the bleak feelings of the songs.


9. minor works – j. tillman

if you didn’t notice already i’m a real big new folk (that’s what i call it) kind of guy.  give me a lead singer with an interesting voice, a picked acoustic guitar, brushed drums, and maybe a violin or a cello, and i’m digging it.  j. tillman might be better well known right now as the drummer for fleet foxes (who might possibly make an appearance a little further down the page), but his solo work is just as good.  he’s a alt. country/new folk singer/songwriter you could put a million labels on him, but you won’t know what i’m talking about until you’ve listened to crooked roof (on the actual recording the piano is in tune).


8. maybe they will sing for us tomorrow – hammock

if you haven’t heard of hammock, then you need to.  what they’ve made with maybe they will sing for us tomorrow is more of a sounding board for your emotions.  it’s an ambient filled space of two guitars and a cello.  no beats or vocals.  nothing to distract from exactly what they’re getting at.  it’s an album that when put on will put you in a deep meditative thought.  it’s personal and accessible without calling attention to itself.  you can listen to the album 100 times and come away with different reactions each time.  and that’s a testament to the work put in by the band.


7. með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust – sigur rós

sigur ros traded in their ambient tones, masked vocals, and downbeat drums for a much more upbeat and distinct songwriting style.  there are clear vocal lines and melodies (not that they weren’t doing that before, but on this albums it’s much more prominently featured).  when i first played gobbledigook, i was really taken back to hear the acoustic guitars and the more traditional verse chorus verse chorus style.  i still have no idea what the man is saying, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.  and this album only furthers the notion that sigur ros can do pretty much anything and it’s going to be awesome.

6. the hare’s corner – colm mac con iomaire

colm is my boy.  the violinist from the frames and the swell season has released his first solo album this year, and it’s the best instrumental album of the year…..by far.  i’ve had the good fortune of seeing him perform live (and getting to talk to him, though briefly), and the man is unbelievably talented.  he creates songs full of emotion and incredibly beautiful melodies and violin turns.  definitly check this out and give my boy some love.

top albums 2008 pt. 1

January 7, 2009

i actually got my computer back really quickly, thanks to the fastidious workers over at the apple store in westlake ohio.  but instead of talking about movies, let’s talk about music.  the best music….of 2008.

first what i was disappointed by and therefore will not be making my list…

saturdays=youth – m83

weezer (red) – weezer

make it happen – nizlopi

15. attack & release – the black keys

the black keys’ 2002 debut release the big come up, was a real mind blowing album.  i was blown away by the sound that two guys could make.  their follow up to that was thickfreakness which i thought really blended a more studio sound with their roughneck recordings from the big come up.  but on the next two, gone were the fuzzy recordings, the strained vocals, and the obvious lack of professional equipment that made them so great in the first place (even if they weren’t recorded in a real studio).  2008’s attack and release pairs the duo up with producer danger mouse and for the first time they actually recorded in a real studio.  but in a strange turn of events, going into the studio has helped them find part of the sound they lost on their previous two efforts.  they get back to more soulful hooks and add a dark dimension to the songs (that i’m really attributing to danger mouse’s presence).  it’s nowhere near as good as the bands first two albums, but is definitely a step in the right direction.


14. loaded – the wood brothers

and now to a two man band (though not really) with a much different (but still bluesy) sound.  the wood brothers first album ways not to loose was one of my favorites of 06, and they keep it going this year.  it’s a country album that’s equal parts blues, funk, jamband, bluegrass, and folk.  it’s a real american album, blending everything that’s great about music and doing so in a well balanced manor.  plus oliver wood’s vocals are sick.


13. the way i see it – raphael saadiq

i don’t know if you could tell by looking at me, but i’m a huge motown fan.  so it was a big surprise to me to find this album a contemporary 60s/70s motown album.  saadiq sounds like he went solo from the temptations, but infuses this with some contemporary feeling.  whether it’s collaborating with jay-z or joss stone, 2008 popular music is always just below the surface on an album that buries itself in old school r&b.  saadiq takes all this to make one of the most fun albums of the year (and i would think one of the more radio-friendly but i’m not really one for the radio anyways).


12. welcome to the welcome wagon – the welcome wagon

i read an article in paste magazine about the welcome wagon, and that it was sufjan stevens who discovered them and signed them, then went on to produce what sounds just like another sufjan stevens album (and that’s not a bad thing).  the sweeping melodies and the huge sounding harmonies make steven’s influence undeniable.  the husband and wife combo makes pseudo gospel/folk songs heavily influenced by their faith and their heart.  and i think those are the best albums to listen to.  these are people singing about something close to their heart and their passion shows.

11. the sparrow and the crow – william fitzsimmons

fitzsimmon’s third album i think shows a gigantic leap forward in his song writing capabilities.  his first two albums had their moments, but i think suffered from too much of one thing.  he seemed to resort to the same melodies and riffs over and over again.  but with the sparrow and the crow, he seems to be maturing as and artist.  his songs are more fully realized and the album feels much more complete then the first two.  his soothing voice and the very understated guitar and instrument work make a real soothing album, and i can’t listen to it without smiling.

a little christmas break from our regularly scheduled programing.

what makes a great musical moment in film? a great song for one. a great movie for another. so here they are the 5 best, or the 5 best that i could remember.

5. bohemian rhapsody – wayne’s world

the funniest sing-along in movie history

4. wise up – magnolia

the greatest moment in one of my favorite films

3. pure imagination – willy wonka and the chocolate factory

gene wilder is great. that is all.

2. falling slowly – once

glen hansard is my favorite artist working today. so i was very happy when i found out he was making a movie and writing the entire soundtrack for it.

1. the rainbow connection – the muppet movie

greatest childhood movie. greatest moment

(i’m a dreamer by the way)