Monday, December 29, 2008

Tex Plush's Top 13 of 2008

13. The Broken West - Now or Heaven
The hooks are plentiful, the songs are well-written, and the beats ride that nice line between electronic and acoustic underneath up-tempo jangly guitar-pop. Though my frustration with the quality of writing in the AV Club continues, this was one recommendation they made in 2008 that I am grateful for.

12. The Sea and Cake - Car Alarm

Listening to TSAC to me is in some ways like The Band - I can focus on any one player in the mix and have a revelatory listening experience, yet they all come together into a totally unique blend. You already know if you like this band. If you do, don't miss this record.

11. Dr. Dog - Fate
Their vocal harmonies in concert are fucking outstanding. I see big things for these guys if they keep on their current trajectory.

10. Sun Kil Moon - April
If you've tried to be a fan of Mark Kozelek in the past and it never worked out, don't listen to this album. If you've ever loved a Red House Painters album or a Sun Kil Moon record, April is up there with the best of them. It definitely feels more to me like old school RHP with all its sprawl, rather than the more efficient sensibilities of Ghosts Of The Great Highway. But as long as you're not in a hurry, the hypnotic tension Kozelek builds during his verses always pays off when he unexpectedly hits the chorus. And when those electrics finally chime in - never has a three guitar attack been so soothing and mind-bending at the same time.

9. Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Vol. 1 (World War 4)

8. Blitzen Trapper - Furr

7. Randy Newman - Harps and Angels

No artist makes me laugh out loud the way Randy Newman does. He is STILL at the top of his game. This record was sorely overlooked this year by the establishment.
Favorite line: "You know, it pisses me off that the Supreme Courts gonna out live me. Couple young Italian fellows and a brother on the court now too. But I defy you, anywhere in the world to find me two Italians as tight assed as the the two Italians we got. And as for the brother, well, Pluto's not a planet any more neither."

6. Mates of State - Rearrange Us
Their most mature, best sounding, most diversely orchestrated album to date. Though it drops off a little in the 2nd half, it's the catchiest, sweetest and most optimistic pop record of the year. I've never been a huge fan of these guys, but this time they hit it out of the park.

5. Lil' Wayne - Tha Carter III

I've never listened to a hip hop album as much as I listened to Tha Carter III. His voice and flow is one of a kind and I never get tired of hearing it, specially sandwiched btw the hottest R and B hooks this side of R. Kelly. Funny thing, I have a feeling that Q and I have completely different favorite tracks on this disc....

4. Guns N' Roses - Chinese Democracy

3. Bob Dylan - Tell Tale Signs

2. Bon Iver - To Emma, Forever Ago

In hindsight, I guess I'm not surprised that no one really responded when I posted a track from this album a while back. It definitely requires a certain mood to be appreciated, maybe even a certain kind of weather or a particular time of night or early morning. I'm a little bit fascinated by the way some albums have stories connected to them that become part of their mystique and can help communicate that particular atmosphere they need in order to be appreciated. Yes, such stories also serve as marketing, and I guess that is the other part of me that likes them- the part of me that appreciates shrewd business sense. For Emma is a perfect example of how one of those stories dovetails with an albums mood: Justin Vernon's band broke up. His relationship ended too. So he retreated to an isolated cabin in the Wisconsin woods for a long, lonely winter, and he produced this album. He ended the winter with what he thought was a decent demo. What he actually came out of the woods with was the most beautiful sounding record of the year. The emotion just drips from the speakers.

1. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Lie Down In The Light
After a string of records that sounded like the work of a warmed-over corpse, Will Oldham got his groove back in the year 2008. No matter when I put this album on this year, it never failed to make me feel more connected to myself, to nature, to my family, to my girlfriend, to life and to death. That's a motherfucking tall order, if you ask me. This album is so meaningful and earnest, yet never heavy and it retains a loose, communal back porch jam feel throughout. I'm tempted to give all the credit to Mark Nevers, whose production is a revelation for Oldham's music. The instruments breath in space, and on almost every track there are new, surprising, yet perfect instrumental additions, whether it be a honky tonk piano, a clarinet, a chorus of horns or a hammond organ. No Bonnie "Prince" Billy album has felt this alive in years, and none have EVER felt this joyful. Oldham is actually singing his heart out and it is just gorgeous. In a year of transition and stress, Lie Down In The Light was just what I needed.


drischord said...

No mistaking the joy in that Bonnie "Prince" Billy album. It didn't connect with me on that same level, but I appreciate your appreciation.

Granted, I'm not the typical BPB fan. My favorite by him is Master and Everyone. Yeah, I'm serious.

drischord said...

Also, I heard Street of Dreams being played at a bar tonight.

Quinapalus said...

I like the Bon Iver track you posted here...I may have to check he/them out further.

Also, the fact that The Roots apparently love Fall Out Boy so much has made me curious to hear their new album. I will say that when I've heard their songs in the past, they seem to at least stand above the pack of...whatever we're supposed to call the style of music now that they play...I guess I'll just go with "rock music songs". I always liked "This Ain't a Scene it's an Arms Race".

Tex, this may be the most crossover between our lists ever! My favorite Lil' Wayne tracks of the year are probably "Love Me or Hate Me" and "I'm Me" from The Leak EP, and "Mr. Carter" from TC3...and I'd like to like "A Milli" more than I do, it's a shame it has all that misogynist nonsense halfway through that spoils the whole thing for me. I'm going to guess your favorites are 'Mrs. Officer" and "Comfortable".

Via Chicago said...

I am thrilled with your #1, and that Dr. Dog clip was fantastic. Very nice stuff.

I'm fascinated by the way things are crossing over on multiple lists. It looks like if we were to make a group list, Lil Wayne would do mighty well for himself, with Bonnie Prince Billy and GnR also doing well. I approve.

Eric said...

I still haven't checked out Bon Iver but of late have been meaning to. But Tex, it's funny, I feel the exact opposite way to you about the marketing behind the album. Maybe it speaks more to the laziness of music journalists than anything else but that little back story appeared in EVERY single mention of that record, both in the original reviews, and in the year-end list mentions. So it just started to kind of rub me the wrong way. But I kind of like how you appreciate that aspect of it, being somewhat in the business of trying to market artistic endeavors yourself.

This list has some great stuff on it, and a lot of stuff I now want to check out. I had seen Mates of State open for someone a while ago and enjoyed them fine, and have liked random songs of theirs that I've heard, but have never gotten into an album. But my GF has been playing this one a lot and I've really been liking it so it might be time to take the plunge.

I also shamefully have literally no Will Oldham music, from any of his incarnations, but I may start with this one given your enthusiastic nod.

And lastly, I find it so interesting to see Lil' Wayne crossing over all of these lists so much. I actually have Tha Carter III (one dollar, stoop sale) and I've really tried to get into it but I just haven't. It just seemed like the de facto hip hop pick for the critics this year (since neither Kanye nor Outkast released an album this year). But seeing all the appreciation it's getting here from people with relatively diverse tastes is making me want to take it out again. I like some of tracks and I definitely like how defiantly weird he is, but it just hasn't really clicked.

texplush said...

Q, you are correct - Comfortable and Ms. Officer are my favorite Lil' Wayne tracks. Eric, I would start with those for maximum hookage.
Also, for what it's worth, the best Fall Out Boy songs on the new album are She's My Winona, America's Suithearts, and for the awesome Elvis Costello cameo, check out Watch A Catch, Donnie (though you need to hear Headfirst Slide into Cooperstown first to truly appreciate it).
I think when all this is said and done we should award points to each ranking on everyones list and come up with a consensus!

Via Chicago said...

Eric - not sure if this means anything, but before Lie Down in the Light, I also owned no Oldham/Billy/Palace/etc music. This was my first, and I couldn't be happier. I think you'll quite dig it.

texplush said...

My other favorite Oldham albums are:
Viva Last Blues
I See A Darkness
Days In The Wake

texplush said...

Also, wanted to belatedly give some love to:
Drive By Truckers and The Hold Steady, both put out GREAT albums this year.

Eric said...

I agree with doing some kind of wrap up after VC's list is posted (whether it's through points or not I don't really care-- I don't feel strongly about my own list so I would only participate in that aspect to a limited extent anyway).