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Artists of the Decade – 2000s (#21 to 25)

1st Jan 10 (Fri) 5 comments

So, I can’t / won’t do a Top XX Albums of the Decade… it’s probably more “can’t” than “won’t.” There are so many great albums from the past 10 years… but, what I can do is recount the artists that have been my chief form of musical pleasure for the past 10 years.

But first…

Artist of the Decade – Special Mention

Dweezil Zappa only had a couple albums in the 2000s, but he gets a special call out for carrying on Frank Zappa‘s music since 2006. Dweezil & Co have toured for the past three and a half plus years, playing Frank’s music in a new setting each year. I hope this continues. It’s a fantastic tour, every time I’ve seen it.

~*~*~*~*~

Artists of the Decade – Honorable Mentions

Tori Amos ~ In the 1990s, she ruled. I still love what she does, and she’s very important in the foundation of my musical interests. The fact that she’s still active with albums and touring all throughout the decade gets her an honorable mention.

Her best albums of the decade…

Celldweller ~ He’s only released one regular album in the entire decade… had he done more, he’d probably make the proper 25 list. Despite the one album, he has released a mostly instrumental soundtrack, a handful of internet-only singles and Eps and a skad of remix CDs and EPs. He’s been far from lazy. I look forward to the 2nd full length Celldweller release sometime in the 2010s.

His most excellent debut and instrumental “score” release…

Iron & Wine ~ I got into Iron & Wine mid-decade, but immediately fell in love with Sam’s flourishing vocals and interesting guitar work. He has a beautiful whispy voice, a penchant for storytelling, and a great eye for videos (prior to music, he taught film down in Florida, and the videos he’s produced for his band and other bands have been fantastic).

My favorite release of his this decade…

King’s X (and related solo & side projects) ~ Between the regular band albums, all three solo members’ albums, the side projects, the live albums, and the indie demo issues – there are probably close 30 releases in the 2000s. Prolificity abounds. This is one band that keeps on ticking, and for that, I am grateful.

A few gems from this decade…

Derek Webb ~ Creative and exploratory since leaving his first band, Caedmon’s Call, Derek continues to push the boundaries of what a singer-songwriter is supposed to do. His latest, Stockholm Syndrome, is a fantastic exit from the 2000s and entrance into the 2010s. Rumor is that he’s working on one (or multiple) Caedmon’s Call-related releases with his old band, too… should be interesting.

My faves from this decade…

~*~*~*~*~

Artists of the Decade

25 ~ Ben Folds (solo)

The Five were no longer at the turn of the decade / century / millennium, which left the name sake on his own. Ben Folds was one of the first to ditch the full length and rapidly release several EPs all in one year. He saw the writing on the wall for the eventual, slow death of the CD format… and his solo albums (all in the 2000s) were generally fantastic – yeah, they are always a few tunes on each one that are doozies. He ended the decade with a cute (and enjoyable) acappella tribute album to himself from various college singing clubs. I was skeptical, but once I got it, I was very pleased with the covers.

~*~*~

24 ~ Peter Mulvey

Peter Mulvey is one of my favorite singer-songwriters around. He’s a hard worker, touring all around from Alaska, the entire U.S. (including Alaska) and Europe.  He’s put out more albums to count on two hands in the past 15 years.  He started off the decade with the stunning The Trouble with Poets and ended the decade with the fantastic Letters from a Flying Machine.  He’s a truly wonderful storyteller, and if he comes near your town… GO!

~*~*~

23 ~ Opeth

From singer-songwriter to Swedish death metal… roar!  Opeth came along with the “getting into prog band Porcupine Tree” period of the decade for me (check in later for Porcupine Tree’s position).  The string of three Opeth albums produced by PT’s Steven Wilson rank among the BEST metal out there… ranging from melodic rock to sweeping progressive movements to the in your face “cookie monster” vocals.  The first in the series, Blackwater Park, may be my favorite metal album of all-time (sorry, Dave Mustaine, you’ve been trumped).

~*~*~

22 ~ dredg

I showed up early to a Coheed & Cambria show and was blown away by the opener… once I dug into dredg’s music, I really fell in love.  They run a tight ship of well-crafted, melodic neo-progressive rock music.  Gavin’s vocals and lyrics are a major selling point, too.  Their latest album (The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion) is my favorite album of 2009 – hands down.

~*~*~

21 ~ Holy Fuck

Starting out as a more experimental “live electronic” noise-jazz band and evolving into a more groove-oriented electronic jam band, Holy Fuck shot up on my hot list quickly.  Their 2nd full length is superb, and their live show is not to be missed.  Raw energy, dual keyboards, groovy rhythm section, crazy film-reel instrumentation, and uncanny dance-ability.  They’ve also embraced the vinyl comeback… score!

~*~*~

The rest of the decade recap to follow in the next few days… more musical variety awaits…

My Other Favorites of 2009 Recaps:

~Dan – np: Charlie Hunter Gentlemen, I Neglected To Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid

Oh, and for those who say that the decade ends at the end of 2010… meh. I’m starting with 0 and ending with 9 (like a LOT of people). Rationale: the 80s, the 90s… you don’t say the 80s went from 1/1/1981 to 12/31/1990 or the 90s from 1/1/1991 to 12/31/2000.

* Favorite Instrumental Albums of 2009 *

31st Dec 09 (Thu) 10 comments

Disclaimer (with a nod to Andy Whitman of Paste): No, I haven’t heard all 8,000+albums released this year. I’ve heard about 200 of them, which makes me at least 97.5% likely to be wrong. I make no claims to objectivity. These albums are my favorites from 2009. You might think that the one you’ve heard that I haven’t heard is the best album of 2009. And you might be right. So go ahead and vent. Enjoy!

As I start this post, I will say that this is all very subjective and really put together for my own purposes. I’ll also state that, yes, some of the music below does have some vocals. For the most part, it’s sequestered to a track or two on a long CD of mostly instrumental goodness. My list, my rules, and/or my breaking of the rules. With that being said, all of the artists below tend to be in the jazz and instrumental frame of reference anyway.

Hopefully my spilling out of music that I like finds interest with someone else. But if not, thanks for stopping by… check out their webpages, SpaceBook pages, yadda yadda yadda. OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year on the mainly instrumental front…

Honorable mentions: Uri Gurvich‘s The Storyteller, John Zorn‘s Filmworks XXIII: El General, AhleuchatistasOf the Body Prone, Secret Chiefs 3‘s Le Mani Destre Recise Degli Ultimi Uomini (The Severed Right Hands of the Last Men), and Skerik & The Dead Kenny G’s Bewildered Herd.

Osso String QuartetRun Rabbit Run: A Tribute to Sufjan Stevens’ Enjoy Your Rabbit (Asthmatic Kitty) :: I feel lucky that I got to witness the world premiere of Osso playing Sufjan Stevens’ Enjoy Your Rabbit at MusicNOW Fest 2007 in Cincinnati. I think almost immediately after that show, I emailed Asthmatic Kitty to see if they were going to release audio or video of that performance. Little did I know that they’d do me one better by putting Osso into a studio to record the full length stringed tribute. Huzzah! While the novelty of the initial project has worn off for me, the musical arrangements stand firm. I really dig Osso and I’m looking forward to their further collaboration with Sufjan, My Brightest Diamond, or their own pieces.
Mike PattonCrank High Voltage Score (Lions Gate) :: Well, Mike Patton pretty much took a year off of Ipecac stuff due to Faith No More reuniting. I supposed this score satiated me, but I would have loved for Mondo Cane to make its way out the door in 2009 (as was initially promised by Patton himself). Anyway, this album has a couple of vocal tracks, but overall, it features Mike’s voicebox gymnastics and razor-edged composition schizophrenia that I’ve loved since I first got into Mr. Bungle… Fantômas… and the rest of his vast body of work…
Feldman / Caine / Cohen / BaronSecrets (Tzadik) :: This album snuck on me as I was re-listening to my 2009 CDs. It has that klezmer jazz feel as is common in the Tzadik Radical Jewish Culture series, but it also has a much more accessible feel as well. With Uri Caine’s piano in the mix, he almost adds a Vince Guaraldi aspect to the klez-jazz that permeates.
Jónsi & AlexRiceboy Sleeps (indie) :: Sigur Rós is one of my favorite groups, and a few years ago frontman Jónsi started an arty project with his partner Alex. At first it was a hand-printed notebook and a few musical things on MySpace, but it transformed into a full album as time went along. It’s much more ambient when compared to Sigur Rós – but definitely appeals to fans of Jónsi’s main band. In other news… they have a raw, vegan cookbook PDF on their website (for free)… holy cow… I’m totally gonna make some raw strawberry pie when the season comes around. That and many other recipes look flippin’ delicious… much like the music. Yeah, this is a music blog, right? Sorry for my drooling over “Icelandic rockstar” recipe books.
Wadada Leo Smith with Jack DeJohnetteAmerica (Tzadik) :: I love trumpet… I have some of Wadada’s other work, and I usually find it to be hit or miss. I wasn’t coming in with a lot of preconceptions or whetted appetite about this album, and after the first spin, I loved it. It’s fairly sparse sonically, with only Wadada on trumpet & flugelhorn and Jack on drums. The sound from his horns is so brilliant and melodic, yet searching. I hope they can get together for a 2nd duo outing sometime soon. This wins my “best surprise” award for instrumental albums in 2009.
The Fantastic Terrific MunkleMusic To Dance To (Jazz Groove Australia) :: I got into the Fantastic Terrific Munkle via band member Julian Curwin, who put out his fantastic Tango Saloon out on Ipecac a few years ago. Munkle and Tango Saloon have similar jazz meets groove meets world music meets danceable rhythms. This one was harder to get, as I had to directly order it from Australia (but at least they accept PayPal in US dollars). I wish I could find similar luck with Tango Saloon’s second album, Transylvania (still no stateside release, and the AUD to USD conversion is killin’ me these days).
900XMusic for Lubbock, 1980 (Asthmatic Kitty) :: I got this download for free from Asthmatic Kitty along with the other Library Catalog Music Series (they’re great in supplying review subjects to music bloggers), and the 900X album simply surpassed the others in the collection, if you ask me. I ended up buying it on vinyl… a great addition to the collection. I don’t know if 900x (or James McAlister dba 900x) have any future plans for further releases of this nature. I hope so.
McTuff (Skerik & Joe Doria)McTuff, Volume 1 (indie) :: Joe Doria’s tribute to Jack McDuff has turned into a great Northwest jazz quartet (and trio when Skerik isn’t available). I’m lucky to have seen them a couple times thus far. Skerik’s sax is fantastic, Doria’s hammond keeps the groove, Lewis’s drums are killer, and Coe’s guitars really know how to burn (which I didn’t really pick up on until the 2nd time seeing them live).
Roberto RodriguezThe First Basket (Tzadik) :: Roberto Rodriguez’s Cuban-meets-Judaic music have been some of my favorites out of Tzadik the last few years… this one was a bit different. It’s a score to a film (of the same name) that follows the history of Jewish basketball… its scope covers klezmer, classical, rock, dixieland, and more. Its variety is what helped this album beat out his other 2009 album from the list this year (Timba Talmud is also really good).

Medeski Martin & WoodRadiolarians II & III (Indirecto) :: Starting in 2008, MMW set out to record three albums back to back to back, heading out on a short tour before each album and going directly into the studio and then out on the road again. They swung through Eugene in late 2008 as part of the Radiolarians III Tour. By that time, only R1 had come out; so the crowd didn’t really know the material being played. They played two sets, one set of experimental meets groove and one set of the eventual R3 material. Near the end of 2009, they released the Evolutionary Boxset (all Radiolarians albums with tons of extras: vinyl/live/remixes/DVDs)… great material from a fantastic groove-oriented jazz band. I’m stoked, as they’re coming through Eugene again in Feb 2010. Yay!
Wynton MarsalisHe and She (EMI Blue Note) :: Wynton is a great trumpet player, puts on a great live show, writes and releases great music, and he’s also a jazz bigot. Sigh.
Eyal Maoz’s EdomHope and Destruction (Tzadik) :: Great Jewish instrumental rock. I dug Eyal’s first album, Edom. It appears he’s made an official band out of it… yay. I don’t have much else to add; so I’ll leave it with Tzadik’s P.R. niblit… “Hope and Destruction presents powerful Jewish rock instrumentals from a cutting edge guitarist who combines the harmonic lyricism of Bill Frisell with the angst and skronk of Marc Ribot.” Ribot and Frisell influences… me likey.
Jon Madof’s RashanimThe Gathering (Tzadik) :: Similar but a bit rockier compared to Eyal Maoz’s Edom, Jon Madof has been on my radar since his first instrumental Jewish rock album, Rashanim (which subsequently turned into the band name similar to Edom’s recent evolution). Anyway, this is Madof’s third album under this band moniker. Guitars, bass, drums… banjo… banjo bass… jaw harp… glockenspiel… melodica… tiple… chonguri… it all sounds great!! Jon also has another band called CircuitBreaker that I’m waiting on with baited breath.
Stabat AkishStabat Akish (Tzadik) :: From Toulouse, France, this is one of those rare Tzadik releases that fits into the “Composer Series” that doesn’t bore me to tears. Don’t get me wrong, there are some gems in the CS catalogue, but most of them are violin noodlers. This is more of the rock band variety of composers. It has elements of French street music (which I witnessed first hand in Toulouse, coincidentally), elements of Zorn’s schizophrenia, and elements of the ever excellent Frank Zappa… thanks to the vibraphone and bass marimba acrobatics.
ZuCarboniferous (Ipecac) :: I got this due to Mike Patton’s involvement… he actually sings on one track (and vocal instrumentation on another). Despite that Patton vocal song, this is definitely an instrumental band and a chiefly instrumental album. Zu is powerful rock from Rome, sometimes lumped in with the math rock scene, sometimes with metal. They have had their hand in the jazz scene in the past, too (their album placed in The Village Voice‘s 2004 jazz poll). This album is my only experience with them, but I hope to get into their diverse and vast back catalogue soon.
SF Jazz CollectiveLive 2009 (SF Jazz) :: SFJC 2010 will not quite be the same… they lost Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano, and Miguel Zenon – all key players in the 2007 through 2009 seasons. This 2009 season was dedicated to the music of McCoy Tyner and also features great compositions by the eight members of the band. It is truly a collective of many great musicians, not just a band fronted by a few.
Tim SparksLittle Princess: Tim Sparks plays Naftule Brandwein (Tzadik) :: A fingerstyle guitar virtuoso, I’d heard Tim on some other Tzadik releases, but I think this one is my favorite of his. This album is a trio of Tim, Cyro Baptista on percussion, and Greg Cohen on bass. I think the added players helped fill out Tim’s sound – which was awesomely virtuosic, but a touch too sparse on prior releases.
Dave DouglasA Single Sky (Greenleaf) :: This was the third of three Dave Douglas releases this year. It features three new Dave Douglas tunes and four rearranged Douglas tunes by Jim McNeely and his Frankfurt Radio Bigband. The entire album has a great big band feel, something I’m a sucker for – obviously. I love Dave Douglas’s prolific nature – 2009 was good to his fans.
John ZornAlhambra Love Songs (Tzadik) :: One of the more accessible albums in Zorn’s catalogue, this is his ode to his favorite San Francisco Bay Area artists and musicians: Vince Guaraldi, Clint Eastwood, David Lynch, Mike Patton, Harry Smith, and more. The music is played by the Rob Burger Trio (Rob + Greg Cohen & Ben Perowsky). The albums leads off with the very Guaraldian tribute to Vince himself – “Mountain View.”
Dave Douglas & Brass EcstasySpirit Moves (Greenleaf) :: Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy is coming to Portland / PDX Jazz Fest this coming February! I’m so stoked. This band features Dave on trumpet, Vincent Chancey (French horn), Luis Bonilla (trombone), Marcus Rojas (tuba) and Nasheet Waits (drums). The tuba really adds that bouncy backbone that I love (I’m also a fan of the rockier band Drums & Tuba). Check out DD&BE’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert (video).
Sufjan StevensThe BQE (Asthmatic Kitty) :: It is atrociously difficult to read the lettering on the front cover… maybe as easy as navigating the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in rush hour. This was Sufjan’s first foray into studio album land since the Avalanche (but that was more of a b-side collection of 2005’s Illinoise). Anyway… it’s a moving, 40 minute piece dedicated to NYC’s traffic clusterbomb. It comes with a film to accompany it, and if you get the double-gatefold vinyl, you get a spiffy comic book written by Sufjan and a fantastic full-color booklet. I like it how Sufjan “keeps it weird” when he’s “keeping it real.”
John ZornO’o (Tzadik) :: While the music is stunning, I think longtime Tzadik artwork designer Chippy deserves a ton of credit as well. This album is the band from The Dreamers: Baptista, Baron, Dunn, Ribot, Saft, and Wollesen. It carries on that world music / surf / exotica sound, but adds the element of nature: being a tribute to rare birds (the album is named after an extinct Hawaiian bird).
Tides from NebulaAura (indie from Poland) :: Tides of Nebula is powerful, evocative progressive post-rock goodness from Poland. They have links on their MySpace page on how to get their CD. It’s really, really, really, good. It combines the huge sound from post-rock giants like Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai, but adds a tight edge as well – similar to if Brit progressive rockers Porcupine Tree tweaked some Explosions or Mogwai songs. This is one of those bands and albums that I had no idea about even this summer, and then out of nowhere – BAM! Way up to the top of the pile. I’m looking forward to more from this great group.
Masada Quintet & Joe Lovano play Masada Book Two: Book of Angels, Vol. 12: Stolas (Tzadik) :: The original Masada quartet’s last studio album was in 1999. They continued as a quartet (John Zorn / Dave Douglas / Joey Baron / Greg Cohen) throughout most of the 2000s (I got to see one of their last shows in March 2007). Zorn moved on in the 2000s with writing a 2nd book of Masada tunes, not to be played by Masada, but rather interpreted by other bands. The past 11 albums in this series have been fantastic (Secret Chiefs 3, Medeski Martin & Wood, and the Bar Kokhba Sextet (related-to-but-not-Masada) albums have been my faves). I would never have imagined that Zorn would “allow” Masada to record an album for this Masada Book Two series. Well, he didn’t (sort of). He added pianist Uri Caine and tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano to the mix. A great “supergroup” album!!

Where do I get most of these jazz and other instrumental releases? My #1 favorite source for jazz is Downtown Music Gallery in New York. Manny and Bruce and their great staff are superb… and being the official distributor for John Zorn’s Tzadik doesn’t hurt my affection for them. I usually do a monthly Tzadik order (if the releases strike my fancy), and they have a ton of other non-Tzadik jazz and avant-garde releases as well.

And, no, I’m not affiliated, I don’t get a commission, and beyond my initial “big tax refund / gotta get caught up on Zorn order of 2005,” I haven’t gotten a discount with DMG. I just love and support what they do.

My Other Favorites of 2009 Recaps:

~Dan – np: Brian BorcherdtTorches

* Favorite Vocal Albums of 2009 *

29th Dec 09 (Tue) 20 comments

Disclaimer (with a nod to Andy Whitman of Paste): No, I haven’t heard all 8,000+albums released this year. I’ve heard about 200 of them, which makes me at least 97.5% likely to be wrong. I make no claims to objectivity. These albums are my favorites from 2009. You might think that the one you’ve heard that I haven’t heard is the best album of 2009. And you might be right. So go ahead and vent. Enjoy!

As I start this post, I will say that this is the second year now that I bought more instrumental CDs than vocal CDs. I think as I get older, I am drawn more towards jazz and other instrumental forms of expression. For that reason, the favorite vocal albums list goes first this go ’round. Hopefully my spilling out of music that I like finds interest with someone else. But if not, thanks for stopping by… check out the artists’ webpages, SpaceBook pages, yadda yadda yadda. OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year…

Honorable Mentions: Jars of Clay‘s The Long Fall Back to Earth, U2‘s No Line on the Horizon, Madeleine Peyroux‘s Bare Bones, Piano Magic‘s Ovations, and Ember Swift‘s Lentic :: 子玉.

ChevelleSci-Fi Crimes (Epic) :: I don’t find Chevelle to be all that original. I mean, I found them early on (the Squint days) and I liked them due to their sound similar to Tool. I don’t know… I continue to like what Chevelle puts out, regardless of its similarities to other bands. They have good hooks, vocals, and melodies. I’ve yet to see them live… they tend to always show up where I’m not. Maybe I’ll get lucky on their next batch of tour dates.
Kim TaylorLittle Miracle (indie) :: Kim is a Cincinnati favorite of mine. She tours a lot with another Cincinnati band, Over the Rhine – which is how I first heard of her (so many years ago). Anyway, if you’re in Cincinnati, swing by her coffee shop – Pleasant Perk (and buy a CD along with the Mocha you’re craving). This record came out only about a week ago. It still needs to sink in, but it’s got that Kim Taylor vibe – sultry/smoky vocals with heartfelt lyrics. This album is more stripped down than her prior releases, full of warmth.
Tori AmosAbnormally Attracted to Sin (Universal) :: Tori’s heyday for me was the 1990s. Sin hearkens back to those days, but still remains in this weird phase of “I don’t know if I like, but I do kinda like it” for me. It’s not classic Tori, but it is a good record. Her live show this year in Portland helped me get into this album a bit more. After 20 or so years of touring, she still delivers the goods consistently.
Chali 2NaFish Outta Water (Decon) :: Chali 2Na was always my favorite rapper in Jurassic 5. I dig all of those gents, but Chali has that powerful booming baritone with quick delivery. His first official solo album [he had a mixtape type thing a few years back], this one doesn’t disappoint the J5 fan in me.
Alice in ChainsBlack Gives Way to Blue (EMI Virgin) :: New singer, same great grunge sound. Jerry Cantrell and Company are back with a great new hard rocking record. While Layne can’t be replaced, the band goes on and it doesn’t disappoint. Their live show this year was excellent as well.
IsisWavering Radiant (Ipecac) :: Post-rock, post-metal, ambient metal… I don’t know what you want to call it. I first saw these guys open up for Tool a few years back, and I subsequently quit putting off getting their music. They’re on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label (so I had heard of them prior to the Tool gig), and they are both meandering and powerful. This is not a metal band full of riffs… they would fit more in the camp with post-rockers Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed! You Black Emperor than with Metallica and Megadeth.
Talking Snakes (Gary Lenaire)Nonogram Zen (indie) :: Former guitarist/vocalist for metal band Tourniquet, Gary Lenaire, released his book An Infidel Manifesto a few years back. This album is his first solo album as being an out atheist. I love the music and lyrics in Nonogram Zen. I think this album stacks up to anything he did in Tourniquet (OK, Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance still “owns” Gary’s catalogue, in my opinion). Musically, Nonogram Zen ranges from really heavy, to electronic-tinged, to more melodic pop songs (with auto-tune… *shudder*) – but all in all, I’d consider it to be a metal/hard rock album. It’s only currently available as a digital release, but perhaps it will see a physical form in the near future.
Dream TheaterBlack Clouds and Silver Linings (Roadrunner) :: I bought the special edition of this record, mainly for the CD of completely instrumental versions of Black Clouds songs. While I love the instrumental versions better, the entire album is really well crafted. As much as I think James LaBrie’s vocals and Mike Portnoy’s oft-clunky rhyme-writing get in the way, I think this album holds up in their ever-expanding catalogue.
Bad VeinsBad Veins (Dangerbird) :: Three years in existence and the band finally gets their debut album out the door. While I think it’s a solid album, and I think the song-writing is superb, I think my fondness of their early live shows and acoustic / in-studio sets have more musical magic to me. I did get a chance to see Bad Veins twice this year, which was quite the coup – as they live 2,300+ miles from me. I’m glad that this album finally made its way out and I hope there’s another one to follow in less than three years time.
dUg Pinnick (of King’s X) & RAZR 13RAZR 13 (RockArmy) :: Doug Pinnick (aka dUg) has an amazing voice; so when he starts lending his voice out to other bands, well, I am not complaining. This collaboration finds dUg rockin’ out with Austin metal band RAZR 13. It is more like his prior metal collaborations with The Mob and 24-7 Spyz than the more straight-ahead Supershine or Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament collaborations. 2010 promises another dUg Pinnick collaboration in the new group with 24-7’s Jimi Hazel called A.N.M. Yay, more metal Pinnick!!
Regina SpektorFar (Sire Warner) :: Regina’s latest album grew on me slowly. By the time I saw her in Portland (in early November), I was digging this latest album the best out of her material thus far. It is quirky, poppy, and makes you think (especially on “Laughing With”). Her live show is energetic and quite a full night of music.
Extra GoldenThank You Very Quickly Vol. 3 (Thrill Jockey) :: I didn’t know about Extra Golden until about 3 or 4 months ago, when my friend Aaron told me about their set at Eugene Celebration. I went to that show and was a fan. They are a half American, half Kenyan group… and they play sort of jammy, sort of African songs. It’s a great melting pot of sound. Their record and live show are highly recommended!
Various Artists (produced by Ric Hordinski) – Notes From the Monastery (indie) :: Rarely do I buy a “various artists” album… in the age of iTunes, it’s easier (and usually beneficial) to just buy the few tracks from artists that I know. Well, this compilation is all music produced by a person who I enjoy and respect… Mr. Ric Hordinski. He was a founding member of Cincinnati band Over the Rhine, the creative force behind the more meandering band MONK, and the knob-noodler for his Monastery Studios. This album features all new, previously unreleased songs by Ellery, Over the Rhine, Sarah Masen, Ric Hordinski, Phil Keaggy, David Wilcox, and more. There is not a bad song on the whole disc. Kudos, Ric!
Works Progress Administration (featuring Glen Phillips)WPA (Elite Artist Services) :: While I often lump this in the “Glen Phillips side project” category, it that doesn’t really do it justice. My favorite songs are the Glen ones, but Luke Bulla and Sean & Sara Watkins (of Nickel Creek) round this album out into an important Americana album in 2009. Let’s just say, I came to find WPA due to Glen, but I stuck around due to it being a great band with a great new record.
FanfarloReservoir (indie) :: The best way to build a fanbase overnight… have a moderately successful internationally touring artist pimp your music directly via their website and offer your album for a $1 download months before it’s available in shops. Sigur Rós’s web viewers and mailing list got a first taste and nudge to check out Fanfarlo, and that’s all it took – a gentle nudge. While Fanfarlo isn’t really all too much like Sigur Rós, I can see why their fans intersect… gentle songs with complex and often unusual instrumentation. I missed Fanfarlo as they swung through the Pacific Northwest, as I was on vacation, but I hope they come through again soon.
Tegan and SaraSainthood (Sire Vapor) :: This T&S album is rockier than their last few albums, but after the second listen, I think I like it more than both The Con and So Jealous (and, yeah, their pre-Jealous ones, too). I think with The Con, they had started to really figure out to write really hooky yet still mature songs. While Sainthood heats it up on the rockier edge, I think the songs are better overall. This was their first album where they wrote a large chunk of the songs together in the same room – maybe that was their secret formula. I’m looking forward to their upcoming tour… April 2010 in Portland!
The Swell SeasonStrict Joy (Anti-) :: The ONCE soundtrack sunk in immediately after I heard it. While Strict Joy took a while to sink in, I think it’s a more solid record than Once. While this album represents their personal “break up,” I hope they keep working together as a band. I’ve heard some of Glen’s work with The Frames, and it’s good – but Marketa and Glen together really seems magical.
David BazanCurse Your Branches (Barsuk) :: The oft-used tagline for this record is “David’s break-up album with God.” Sure, OK. I never really thought his prior albums were all that ostentatiously “God-y” anyway. I admired David’s doubting and questioning in his prior Pedro the Lion music. His move to a more agnostic / atheistic-leaning artistic expression is a-OK with me. I realize that it’s a personal journey, and as long as he keeps putting out challenging and witty lyrical numbers, and he keeps touring & bringing some fun Q&A time to stages near me – I’m fine with whatever his philosophy moves towards.
O.S.I.Blood (Inside Out) :: What, a Kevin Moore album at #7 in its release year? I know, I know… Chroma Key and the first two O.S.I. albums were at least Top 3 spots in their respective years. While I have been moving towards a lot more instrumental music, this year’s vocal albums that I did get had some great music… the Top 10 vocal albums for me this year are especially strong albums, regardless of my bent towards the sans vocal route. Anyway, I really dig this new O.S.I. record. I wish more news and touring from Kevin Moore would leak out… I mean, news bites are few and far between. It gets a bit frustrating in this era of readily available information. Chroma Key or O.S.I. album #4… I hope not too far out there.
Nellie McKayNormal As Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day (Verve) :: While I dig Nellie’s own music better than this batch of mostly Doris Day cover songs (there is one Nellie original), this may be the most perfect tribute album. From the cover art, to the campy photos inside, to the delivery that truly honors Doris Day, to Nellie’s excellent jaunt with The Aristocrats – this album I think is more than the sum of its parts. Back on a major label (this time Verve instead of Sony), I hope they give Nellie some creative control to go back in the studio to make her next originals album.
Porcupine TreeThe Incident (Roadrunner) :: I think I like the non-concept songs on disc 2 more than the individual parts in The Incident concept disc. Regardless, I think Steven Wilson has turned the corner away from Fear of a Blank Planet, and maybe he’s heading back into a more interesting progressive arena. The tour was also great this year, but maybe they play their instruments too perfectly. I almost felt as if I could have gotten as much out of the DVD of the show as the actual show (hey, my only negative about this latest effort is that they play “too perfectly”). Go figure!
Peter MulveyLetters From a Flying Machine (Signature Sounds) :: Half spoken word, half poppy singer-songwriter tunes… that doesn’t scream “Top 5” album release. But it is. I think this is Peter’s most solid piece of work in a while, and it ranks amongst The Trouble with Poets and Kitchen Radio for me. Peter is still fairly unknown… but he is quite prolific (12+ full lengths in 17+ years), hard-working (constantly touring all places from Alaska to Ireland), quite witty (he could be a comedian if the whole music thing doesn’t work out), and energetic (he did a 1,100 bicycle tour this year – playing gigs from Michigan to Massachusetts). He plans to do a bicycle tour from Wisconsin to the West Coast in 2010… yay!
Derek WebbStockholm Syndrome (INO) :: I grew up with Derek Webb as he made his musical start in the contemporary christian music scene – with Caedmon’s Call. I always loved his songs and vocals the best; so when he left the band, I followed. His latest album gets it right in both music and lyrics… calling out those who hate others due to their sexuality (the “controversial” What Matters More) and calling out hate in the name of God (“Freddie, Please” dedicated to Westboro Baptist’s jackass preacher). I feel that even though I have differing (non-)religious beliefs, I still can call Derek Webb a compatriot. The more electronic-tinged music is also welcome from his more “guy & a guitar” days (though, he carried that sound well, too). I look forward to his upcoming subscriber series in 2010 – Democracy, Volume 1.
WussyWussy (Shake It) :: Wussy just keeps getting better. Lisa and Chuck & Company have really stepped it up on their third full-length. I wish I still lived in Cincinnati sometimes after seeing their “hey, we’re playing at Northside Tavern” posts on SpaceBook and MyFace. Anyway, I’m utterly delighted with this record, and they’ve unofficially promised to hit the West Coast in Spring 2010. Fingers crossed…
dredgThe Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion (Ohlone) :: dredg has evolved from “good opener” the first time I saw them to “really good rock band” after I delved into Catch Without Arms (specifically “Ode to the Sun” and the b-side “Stone By Stone”) to one of my favorite bands with this new release. Quite honestly, from the first full listen back in June, I knew this would be my #1 album for 2009. It’s a concept album based loosely on Salmon Rushdie’s “Letter to the Six Billionth Citizen,” and, well, it shows off dredg’s great vocals, subtle progressive guitars, and unique and inspiring drumming. I hope album #5 is not another 4 years away… or, if it is, I hope they keep touring. I got to see them twice this year – both fantastic shows.

Top 25 instrumental albums coming up later this week… still making my way through them at this point… oy…

My Other Favorites of 2009 Recaps:

  • Fave Concerts of ‘09 are recapped *HERE*
  • Fave EPs/Vinyl/Live/more of ‘09 are recapped *HERE*
  • Fave Instrumental Albums ‘09 are coming soon
  • Fave Artists of the Decade are coming soon
  • Old Years: 2008I, 2008V, 2008ep, 2008C, 2007V, 2007I, 2007C, 2006, 2005

~Dan – np: Roberto RodriguezThe First Basket

* Favorite Instrumental Albums of 2008 *

29th Dec 08 (Mon) 9 comments

Disclaimer section is again shamelessly plagiarized from Andy Whitman at Paste

Disclaimer #1: No, I haven’t heard all 8,000 albums released this year. I’ve heard about 200 of them, which makes me at least 97.5% likely to be wrong. But hey, this isn’t math class, and I make no claims to objectivity. These albums are my favorites from 2008. You might think that the one you’ve heard that I haven’t heard is the best album of 2008. And you might be right.


Disclaimer #2: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just get it out of your system now and be done with it. I am deliberately trying to be obscure. Who the hell has even heard of these people? So go ahead and vent, then read Disclaimer #1 again.

My Other Favorites of 2008 Recaps:

  • Fave Concerts of ‘08 are recapped *HERE*
  • Fave EPs/Vinyl/Live/more of ‘08 are recapped *HERE*
  • Fave Vocal Albums ‘08 are recapped *HERE*
  • Old Years: 2007V, 2007I, 2007C, 2006, 2005

As I start this post, I will say that this is all very subjective and really put together for my own purposes.  I’ll also state that, yes, some of the music below does have some vocals.  For the most part, it’s sequestered to a track or two on a long CD of mostly instrumental goodness.  My list, my rules, and/or my breaking of the rules.  With that being said, all of the artists below tend to be in the jazz and instrumental frame of reference anyway.

Hopefully my spilling out of music that I like finds interest with someone else.  But if not, thanks for stopping by… check out their webpages, MySpaces, my fave song recommendations on iTunes (in 30 second bursts), yadda yadda yadda.  OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year on the mainly instrumental front…

Honorable mentions (aka my list is too jam packed, and I still really love these records, too): Bill Frisell‘s History, Mystery (with Eyvind Kang, Jenny Scheinman, Kenny Wollesen, etc); Charlie Hunter‘s Baboon Strength; John Zorn‘s Filmworks XX & XXI: Sholem Aleichem & Belle de Nature / The New Rijksmuseum; Medeski Martin & Wood‘s Radiolarians I; and Dub Trio‘s Another Sound is Dying.

ReptetChicken or Beef? (Monktail Creative Music Concern) :: I feel like I’ve written too much (especially on my Top 20 Vocal albums blog); so these descriptions / raves might be shorter… we shall see.  Reptet is a great 6-piece jazz band from Seattle.  I heard about them via Jim Wilke’s Jazz Nothwest podcast back in late 2007, when a collaboration of Seattle jazz & avant bands called the Monktail Creative Music Concern played a gig that got aired in its entirety.  Anyway, Reptet is one of my fave bands in the MCMC.  They’re a quirky jazz band with an odd sense of humor.  I dig it… a great, modern brass-forward jazz sextet.  Favorite tracks are “Reptet Score!” and “Eve of Thrieve.” http://www.reptet.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/reptet
Daniel ZamirI Believe (Tzadik) :: I have some of Daniel’s Satlah project, of which I dig a plenty.  This one was outside of the Satlah camp, enlisting NYC scene heavyweights Uri Caine, Greg Cohen, and Joey Baron.  I waffled on including it until I heard it again recently.  It’s really gorgeous.  More on the mellower, nee spiritual, side of the the music coming out of the Radical Jewish Culture series, Zamir really offers up his soprano sax melodies as prayers.  The title of the album and the music really match up perfectly. Favorite tracks are “Poem 10” and “Poem 51/52.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/danielzamir
John ZornFilmworks XIX: Dimitri Geller’s The Rain Horse (Tzadik) :: John Zorn put out a handful of Filmworks this year, and all of them are good.  FW XXI would have made it on the list as well, had it not been for the too often used harpsichord in The New Rijksmuseum scoring (the parts for the Belle de Nature score are really gorgeous, though).  Anyway, the Filmworks series are usually some of John Zorn’s most accessible. The Rain Horse is a subtle trio of Erik Friedlander on cello, Greg Cohen on upright bass, and Rob Burger on piano.  Favorite tracks are “Parable of Job” and “Tears of Morning.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/johnzorn
TalkdemonicEyes at Half Mast (Arena Rock) :: No, their album cover doesn’t really do the animation thing (a la Tool’s Ænima).  I just couldn’t help using that animated GIF from their MySpace page.  This Portland post-rock duo swung through Eugene at least twice this year.  I caught their brilliant February show.  Their album didn’t come out until later in the year, and it continues in the sound from their prior two albums.  Great electro-acoustic post-rock… drums, viola and electronics. Favorite tracks are “Duality of Deathening” and “Tides in Their Grave.” http://talkdemonic.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/talkdemonicmusicmaking
NIИ Ghosts I-IV (halo) :: Sparse and haunting, Ghosts I-IV reminds me of a soundtrack meets demos for Trent’s next album.  Perhaps that’s where they came from, ideas kicking around in his head.  For a fan of instrumental music, it’s a highly enjoyable 110 minute journey into many different soundscapes.  For the download version, each track has it’s own artwork attached in the file which is a nice addition even though I hate the shift towards the potential eventual demise of the “album.” Favorite tracks are “14” and “31.” http://www.nin.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/nin
Bobby Previte & New BumpSet the Alarm for Monday (Palmetto) :: A new version of Previte’s Bump the Renaissance, this group includes two of my favorite players – – Ellery Eskelin on sax & Steven Bernstein on trumpet.  Drummer Bobby Previte does many projects, some more in the avant-garde scene… but New Bump definitely fits into an accessible range (similar to Coalition of the Willing with Jamie Saft & Skerik).  This album is really “jazz-cinematic” a la a private investigator drama soundtrack perhaps. Favorite tracks are “I’d Advise You Not to Miss Your Train” and “There Was Something In My Drink.” http://www.bobbyprevite.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/previte
Steven BernsteinDiaspora Suite (Tzadik) :: This is Bernstein’s fourth in his Diaspora series for Tzadik’s Radical Jewish Culture, and it very well be my favorite.  It seems much more adventurous than the past efforts, which is what I like about Steven’s trumpet playing and compositions.  I think Suite fits better in with his larger Sex Mob and Millennial Territory Orchestra catalog (but from a decidedly Jewish musical culture standpoint, obviously).  I hope I get a chance to see him sometime… he played in Ohio just after I moved away, and he played in Seattle in November (as part of Earshot Jazz Fest), but being on a Wednesday… well, I didn’t make it up for the show. Favorite tracks are “Zebulon” and “Judah.” http://stevenbernstein.net/ -and- http://myspace.com/stevenbernsteinmusic
AuragamiEsoteric (indie) :: Auragami is a former Dayton, OH, now San Diego-based bass guitarist named Michael Miller.  This album isn’t commercially available, as far as I know.  I know Michael Miller from going to shows around Dayton (and surrounding).  We’ve got a lot of the same leanings with the rock stuff (Galactic Cowboys, King’s X, et cetera), and I’m happy that I made it on his Christmas card list… because the Christmas card list has been a new CD of his for the past few years. Esoteric is a 40-minute record with the melodies, crunch and remix-friendly bass that I’ve come to love about his music.  He also collaborates with others on this album (a personal fave, Mike Georgin, being one of them).  As far as the sound, it’s very much a bass with drum loop affair… some subtle melodies, some heavier/grittiness (a la NIN), and some organic-electronics that fit well with another San Diego artists, The Album Leaf and Goddamn Electric Bill.  Not being commercially available officially, you can check out his music on MySpace and maybe see if he’ll sell you a copy.  It seems to be a crime to not be out there.  Anyway, thanks for the Christmas gift, Michael! Favorite tracks are “Colab” and “Clover.” http://www.myspace.com/auragami
Goddamn Electric BillTopics for Gossip (99X) :: GdEB is a one-man electronic band from San Diego (Jason Torbert is his name), similar in that sense to The Album Leaf, but I’d say GdEB is less ambient and definitely more in the electronic / remix realm when compared to TAL.  GdEB might compare similarly to Frog Pocket, but maybe less… um… buzzy & bleepy.  I don’t know.  I suppose me comparing a little known San Diego electronic artist to another lesser known Scottish electronic artist doesn’t help much.  Check GdEB out for yourself… Favorite tracks are “The Morning Commute” and “The Shallows.” http://www.goddamnelectricbill.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/goddamnelectricbill
Hiromi’s SonicbloomBeyond Standard (Telarc) :: Hiromi Uehara is a freakin’ whiz on the piano.  I got into her with her 2007 CD Time Control after a few clips on BMG’s website (I was trying to round out an order).  Her style is very much a jazz-rock fusion, which I’d almost say the rock element comes from her piano skills rather than the rest of the band.  You wouldn’t expect this sound just based by the cover alone… the 29 year-old Hiromi amidst bright colors.  You’d think it were some Japanese bubblegum pop or something.  Anyway, this is her 2nd Sonicbloom album in as many years.  She played a several date run at the Triple Door in Seattle this past summer.  If she does it again soon, I’m totally making the drive up. Favorite tracks are “Led Boots” and “XYG.” http://www.hiromimusic.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/hiromimusic
Medeski Martin & Wood play John Zorn‘s Masada Book Two – Book of Angels, Vol. 11: Zaebos (Tzadik) :: Medeski Martin & Wood have been in the Tzadik family for a while.  They contributed a track to the Unknown Masada album, which was sort of the initial idea that eventually brought out the Masada Book Two series (i.e.- new, previously unrecorded Masada book tunes not recorded by the Masada quartet).  John Medeski has also appeared on many other Tzadik releases in a studio musician sense.  With that being said, MMW’s inclusion into the Masada Book Two series came as a total shock, though.  I think it was announced in early June ’08 for a July release.  Whereas Secret Chiefs 3’s Masada Book Two release was announced in winter ’07 for a May ’08 release (almost a year and a half).  Anyway, MMW’s Zaebos is a great record.  I’d say it doesn’t rank as high as Xaphan and Lucifer for this year’s releases in that for some reason I don’t think the MMW Masada tunes work as well with their style as the tunes work with Secret Chiefs 3 or Bar Kokhba Sextet’s style.  All said and done, it’s still a brilliant record for 2008 and for both the Masada and MMW catalogs. Favorite tracks are “Chafriel” and “Tutrusa’i.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://mmw.net/ -and- http://www.myspace.com/medeskimartinandwood
Tiptons Sax QuartetLaws of Motion (Zipa! Spoot) :: Similar to Reptet, I got into the Tiptons via Jim Wilke’s Jazz Northwest podcast.  I found out about them literally a day after they had been in Eugene in Dec ’07.  D’oh!  Anyway, I believe that this is their 3rd full length CD, though they had some former releases with different members under the name the Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet.  They’re an all-woman sax quartet (plus drums) from Seattle.  They’ve got ties to some great jazz musicians & composers (Eyvind Kang & Wayne Horvitz for example).  This album has some vocals, but all in all, it’s a jazz record with a touch of eastern European music (balkan-klezmer per my untrained ears) thrown in. Favorite tracks are “Fallout” and “Number Six.” http://www.tiptonssaxquartet.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/tiptons
Mostly Other People Do the KillingThis is Our Moosic (Hot Cup) :: I saw trumpeter Peter Evans in Eugene in February, and it was a mind-blowing avant-garde set.  This band on the other hand, led by Moppa Elliott, is more of a Sex Mob-influenced jazz funk romp.  Great music from these NY gents.  You can get their albums on CD Baby (please, support indie moosic). Favorite tracks are “The Bats in Belfry” and “Drainlick.” http://www.moppaelliott.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/mostlyotherpeopledothekilling
StebmoStebmo (indie) :: Multi-instrumentalist Steve Moore has played with Earth, Sunn 0))), and enlisted some friends (Eyvind Kang, Matt Chamberlain, Todd Sickafoose, Tucker Martine and more) to help out on his first solo album.  I saw him open for Skerik’s Maelstrom Trio this past spring as well as play with Earth in June.  As mentioned in the live review, his album is a bit like the organic/melodic elements of the Album Leaf mixed with the building nature of an Explosions in the Sky set mixed with a heaping handful of electronic jots & tittles like those that may have hit the Kid A cutting room floor. Favorite tracks are “Dark Circles” and “Waiting Game.” http://stebmo.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/stebmo
John Zorn’s Moonchild Trio (Mike Patton/Joey Baron/Trevor Dunn) – The Crucible (Tzadik) :: This album is a rare December release on Tzadik (since 2000, they’ve taken the month off).  Continuing in the Moonchild Trio’s glossolaliac noise metal theme, this album also adds John Zorn’s wonderful sax trade-off with Mike Patton’s screaming utterances.  Guitarist Marc Ribot also adds very Led Zeppelin riffage on one track (“9×9”).  When the original Moonchild album was released (2006), I thought it was going to be a one off… well, four albums in, I’m definitely hoping it continues a bit more… Favorite tracks are “Almadel” and “Maleficia.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/johnzorn
Swami Late Plate (Bobby Previte & Jamie Saft) – Doom Jazz (Veal) :: The album’s title, Doom Jazz, says it all.  This album fits well for fans of Sunn 0))), Earth, Bohren & Der Club of Gore and others in the slow rock, doom, sludge movement.  I find it completely compelling… Favorite tracks are “Malignant Cloud” and “The Bearded Man Cannot Help You.” http://myspace.com/swamilateplate -and- http://myspace.com/doomjazz
God of ShamisenDragon String Attack! (Reptile) :: God of Shamisen is Kevin Kmetz, an I first heard of him when he was playing with world metal band Estradasphere.  He’s also played (briefly) with Secret Chiefs 3.  He’s had a few solo albums, but this year saw GoS release two band efforts: the 7″ vinyl for “The Science Fiction of Ray Bradbury Attack!” and then their full-length debut this past fall.  I picked up this debut at their show in Eugene (go here for my review with pictures).  While it has some minor vocals on a song or two, it’s still primarily a instrumental attack.  Japanese metal fusion… excellent stuff. Favorite tracks are “The Science Fiction of Ray Bradbury Attack!” and the spread across the album in several waves “Dragon String Attack!” http://godofshamisen.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/gos
MogwaiThe Hawk is Howling (Matador) :: Much more enjoyable to me than their recent tour (review link). I can control the volume… yay! I dig this record A LOT. This Scottish band has put out some consistently great records. This one bounces back from their mellower Zidane with more gusto, more power, yet still retaining the melody. You know… the melody that gets drowned out in their live show. Favorite tracks are “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead” and “The Precipice.” http://mogwai.co.uk/ -and- http://myspace.com/mogwai
Yoshie FruchterPitom (Tzadik) :: Wow… I’m definitely looking to more from Yoshie Fruchter in the future.  Like Jon Madof’s Rashanim and Yves Weyh’s Zakarya, Yoshie Fruchter brings in a great rock vibe to the Radical Jewish Culture series. Favorite tracks are “Go Go Golem” and “Lungs and Spleen.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://www.yoshiefruchter.com/
SF Jazz Collective 2008 (Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano, Miguel Zenon, and more) – SF Jazz Collective 2008  (Wayne Shorter feature) (SFJAZZ) :: I became a fan of this band because of one man: trumpeter since their 2007 band, Dave Douglas.  I also got to see them this past February at the PDX Jazz Fest (see my combo SF Jazz & Ornette Coleman review here).  This jam-packed 3-CD set is full of Wayne Shorter arrangements and originals by the band members.  It’s a little step on the price by today’s standards, but it helps support the not-for-profit SFJazz organization. Favorite tracks are “Aurora Borealis,” “Secrets of the Code,” and “Aung San Suu Kyi.”
http://sfjazz.org/
John ZornThe Dreamers (Tzadik) :: Played by the Electric Masada band, The Dreamers continues with the motif and accessibility of 2001’s The Gift… mixing world, jazz, exotica, surf and more into a very pleasing John Zorn package.  Combined with the fantastic cute animal art by Chippy, this one will most definitely rank in the top Zorn releases.  I hear it may find its way onto vinyl, or perhaps that’s just me stoking the embers of the rumor house’s fireplace. Favorite tracks are “A Ride On Cottonfair” and “Nekashim.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/johnzorn
Jason Schimmel’s Orange Tulip ConspiracyOrange Tulip Conspiracy (Web of Mimicry) :: Jason Schimmel has played with two bands that I love: Estradasphere & Secret Chiefs 3.  This album continues on with Estradasphere’s Palace of Mirrors’ eclectic world music sound, but also brings in a bit of exotica, cinematic sound.  I saw them in Eugene in November, and John Whooley’s sax blew me away as much as Jason’s guitar work. Favorite tracks are “Fall Creek” and “Rendezvous.” http://orangetulipconspiracy.com/ -and- http://www.myspace.com/orangetulipconspiracy
EarthThe Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull (Southern Lord) :: I went to their show at WOW Hall in Eugene in June after getting into Stebmo (see #12 above).  They pretty much played stuff from their latest album.  After the show, I quickly nabbed their prior work from Amazon used (and whatnot).  Great band in the slowcore genre.  They have deep ties to the Seattle scene, co-mingling with Kurt Cobain, the Melvins, Sunn 0))), and others.  In fact, Kurt Cobain even guested on Earth’s 2nd EP, Extra-Capsular Extraction.  With that being said, they’re definitely not grunge, they’re not rock, they’re not metal… they’re what you might call drone rock.  Slow but powerful. Favorite tracks are “Engine of Ruin” and “Rise to Glory.” http://www.thronesanddominions.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/earthofficial
The Bar Kokhba Sextet plays John Zorn‘s Masada Book Two – Book of Angels, Vol. 10: Lucifer (Tzadik) :: The Bar Kokhba Sextet showed up in 1996 as an almost direct spin-off of the Masada book; so them doing a Book Two album was almost a given.  Holy cow, it’s a brilliant record… but I always loved what the Sextet had done previously.  The Sextet is the tour de force of Cyro Baptista, Joey Baron, Greg Cohen, Mark Feldman, Erik Friedlander, and Marc Ribot.  This is one band in my list that I wish I’d seen… I’m crossing my fingers that Earshot Jazz can bring ’em over to the PacNW sometime. Favorite tracks are “Sother” and “Abdiel.” http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://www.last.fm/music/Bar+Kokhba+Sextet
The Secret Chiefs 3 play John Zorn‘s Masada Book Two – Book of Angels, Vol. 9: Xaphan (Tzadik) :: I shant write too much about Xaphan, as I wrote a fairly in-depth review of it back when it came out.  I will say that it aged well and still held the Top spot all year.  It’s a GREAT record.  My main disappointment is that I wish they’d have played some from it at their tour this past fall.  Favorite tracks are “Shoel,” “Bezriel,” and “Balberith.” http://webofmimicry.com/ -and- http://tzadik.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/secretchiefs3

Well, I bought ten (10) John Zorn CDs this year (unless I’m misscounting), and 2 of them didn’t make it anywhere on the list (the Lou Reed & Laurie Anderson improv benefit CD for The Stone NYC & the score for The Last Supper, aka Film Works XXII)… so, you can’t say that I’m totally biased towards John Zorn. :)  Though, I do buy just about everything in his label Tzadik’s Archival series, Key series, and Radical Jewish Culture series (and a handful of the rest of the other series).

What I’m looking forward to in 2009? More great music…

~Dan – np: Miles DavisMiles in the Sky

* Favorite Vocal Albums of 2008 *

24th Dec 08 (Wed) 7 comments

Disclaimer section shamelessly plagiarized from Andy Whitman at Paste

Disclaimer #1: No, I haven’t heard all 8,000 albums released this year. I’ve heard about 200 of them, which makes me at least 97.5% likely to be wrong. But hey, this isn’t math class, and I make no claims to objectivity. These albums are my favorites from 2008. You might think that the one you’ve heard that I haven’t heard is the best album of 2008. And you might be right.

Disclaimer #2: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just get it out of your system now and be done with it. I am deliberately trying to be obscure. Who the hell has even heard of these people? I am a sell-out who includes ridiculously well-known artists such as Metallica on his list. Who the hell actually believes that Metallica could make a great album after their atrocious efforts post-1996? So go ahead and vent, then read Disclaimer #1 again.

My Other Favorites of 2008 Recaps:

As I start this post, I will say that this is the first year (ever) that I bought more instrumental CDs than vocal CDs (though after 12/31/07, 2007 instrumental albums have since overtaken 2007 vocal albums in the CD racks).  For that reason, the favorite vocal albums list goes first this go ’round… and now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year…

Jude ChristodalCuba (indie) :: 2008 marked the first time in 8 years or so where I had the absolute pleasure to see Jude live.  He came through Portland in June, and absolutely blew me away.  This Cuba record didn’t necessarily “blow me away,” but it is full of some gems that for some reason or another never made their way onto a real release.  Call it a “b-sides” record.  Since Jude is totally independent these days, it’s available on CD Baby.  Favorite tracks are the title track and “One of These Days.” http://www.judemusic.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/judechristodal
Praxis – Profanation: Preparation for a Coming Darkness (Columbia Japan) :: Bill Laswell’s supergroup with Buckethead & Brain on just about every track with guests spots by Iggy Pop, Mike Patton, Serj Tankian, Killah Priest, Tatsuya Yoshida, Otomo Yoshihide, and more… It’s a veritiable onslaught of sound.  This is definitely on the heavier side of things, with a touch of the avant-garde.  As far as I know, it’s only available in Japan (or cool outlets like the Downtown Music Gallery in NYC). Favorite track is “Larynx” with Mike Patton. http://www.innerhythmic.com/
MetallicaDeath Magnetic (Warner Bros) :: Ever since May of 1996, I never thought I’d really care that much about another Metallica record again. Load, Re-Load, St Anger, and all of the crap in between was utter rubbish. St Anger being the absolute nadir of their recorded work, in my opinion.  Well, somewhere inside I hate to say it, “Death Magnetic is a great record.”  I don’t know if the band (specifically Lars Ulrich) can pull it off live… nor do I plan on spending a brazilian dollars for a nose-bleed seat to find out.  Anyway, it was good to hear the band in good form again (even with their ridiculous lyrics).  Sometimes it’s like it’s a comedy record with shreddin’ guitars behind it.  Favorite track is “Broken, Beat & Scarred.” http://www.metallica.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/metallica
Ty TaborBalance (Molken Music) :: A late release… just got it a few weeks ago.  Ty Tabor is one of my favorite guitarists around.  He’s got the whole “volume swell” thing down to a science, and while he can do some flashy work, he’s more of the subdued genius.  Being in King’s X, he’s one of the founders of the grunge sound (though rarely gets credit).  Anyway, he’s got the chops, but when he puts out a solo album… it’s usually more of a subdued affair.  Well, not this time… it’s definitely more rocking and shows off some of his great guitar work while still maintaining the balance of his usual songwriting.  I could totally skip the opening track (“Money Mouth”), but he recovers from it greatly (IMO).  My favorite track is “Good that Way.” http://www.tytabor.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/tytabor
OpethWatershed (Roadrunner) :: My favorite Swedish death metal band, Opeth, is known for their blistering drums, shredding guitars, cookie monster vocals, and… their softer side?  Eh, since 2006’s Damnation album of slower tunes, they’ve had that option to expand into more genteel tunes.  The two videos from Watershed thus far (“Porcelain Heart” and “Burden”) have (IMO) been a mockery of their sound.  I mean, regardless of Damnation, these videos are totally butchered into ballads that I don’t think are giving a good representation of Opeth’s sound.  Anyway, with that being said, the nearly hour-long 6.5 song album finds great favor to my ears.  My favorite tracks are “Heir Apparent” and the aforementioned “Porcelain Heart.” http://www.opeth.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/opeth
Mike PattonA Perfect Place (Ipecac) :: While Mike Patton has had some silver screen exposure (he “acted” in the indie flick Firecracker and was the voice of the evil animals in Will Smith’s I Am Legend), this was his first time scoring anything (though he’s on the docket to score the feature-length Crank 2).  Released as a double-disc (soundtrack CD and short film on DVD), this was a great way to get a small budget indie short film by Derrick Scocchera out to people who may never have seen it.  It’s got a twist of murder, idiocy, and humor.  Mike Patton’s score suits it well, and it also fits his eclectic back catalog fairly well also.  Favorite tracks are “A Little Poker Tomorrow Night?” and the title track. http://ipecac.com/
King’s XXV (Inside Out) :: King’s X rarely disappoints (2003’s release fit that rare disappointment category).  Anyway, getting beyond the opening track “Pray” (what is it with both King’s X and Ty Tabor leading off with doozies?) it gets into the great rockin’ groove that King’s X is known for.  Doug Pinnick covers most of the lead vocals on this album, but Ty handles a few, and drummer Jerry Gaskill also pulls out his excellent lead vocals this time around on “Julie.”  I also got to see them in August in Cincinnati (my review with pictures), and they were a tight 3-piece unit.  They’ve been making music together for more than 25 years.  I hope they continue for a little bit more.  Favorite tracks are “Move” and “Alright.” http://www.kingsxrocks.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/kingsx
NoctalucaStill the Wicked Rest (indie) :: I bought this thinking it was just some live CDR or something (I don’t pay attention sometimes).  When it showed up, I was all like, “holy cow, they went all out on packaging a live CD.”  Well, my mind was blown when I heard the first bursts from the newly recorded “Monkey Moon,” which didn’t make it on their last stellar album (2006’s Towering the Sum).  Let’s just say that I hope Jason Ludwig and Noctaluca can continue to make great music.  This sophomore studio record doesn’t disappoint at all.  It’s a great mix of grungy hardrock with dreams of Pink Floyd, Radiohead, and Alice in Chains with Rage Against the Machine meets Operation:Mindcrime lyrics.  And, yes, I’ll continue calling them one of my favorite local bands.  I still own property in Cincinnati (under duress due to the whole housing bubble elephant dump in Ohio); so they still count as local to me here in Eugene, Oregon. :)  Favorite tracks are “Monkey Moon” and “Hegemaniacal.”  And the vocal work by Jason at the beginning of “Doomed are the Killers Who Hide Behind the Banner of God” totally pwns me. http://www.noctaluca.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/noctaluca
Kaki KingDreaming of Revenge (Velour) :: Venturing more and more into singing… Kaki’s 4th album shows off her songwriting in addition to the reason I found her music – her superb fretwork.  She’s on my list of “why does she keep swinging through town when I can’t go see her” artists.  Anyway, excellent songwriting, excellent guitars… a beautiful record.  Favorite tracks are “Bone Chaos in the Castle,” “Life Being What It Is,” and “Can Anyone Who Has Heard This Music Really Be A Bad Person?.” http://www.kakiking.com/ -and- http://www.myspace.com/kakiking
Carla Kihlstedt’s 2 Foot YardBorrowed Arms (indie) :: Carla Kihlstedt almost made it on here with another album as well (her collaboration with Matthias Bossi & Dan Rathbun called Ravish and Other Tales for the Stage).  She’s an outspoken violinist from the SF Baby area, who works in the chamber music, avant-garde jazz, and experimental metal scenes with Tin Hat Trio, Book of Knots, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Fred Frith’s Cosa Brava, and many more.  2 Foot Yard is more of her string rock band with Charming Hostess’s Marika Hughes and avant-world guitarist Shahzad Ismaily (who has worked with the Secret Chiefs 3 & Marc Ribot to name a couple).  2 Foot Yard is a supergroup of sorts.  Anyway, their 2nd album, Borrowed Arms, is a tour-du-force… my favorite track “Octopus” grabs you with it’s first lyrical sting of confusion, pizzicatto strings, and reverse-sounding effects on the drums in spots… “I have three hearts and one’s for you.  It’s only big enough for two.” fwoup fwoup fwoup http:/www.2footyard.com/ -and- http://www.myspace.com/carlakihlstedt -and- http://www.myspace.com/2footyard
Greydon SquareThe CPT Theorem (indie internet release) :: As if being a rapper doesn’t bring you drama enough… Greydon is also an atheist who tends to have beefs with his own group of people (Brian Sapient and the Rational Response Squad).  Anyway, major drama notwithstanding, Greydon put out a great follow-up to 2007’s The Compton Effect.  With content like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and style like Eminem (and some say Germaine Williams aka Canibus, of whom I haven’t heard), Greydon’s music really pops with me.  Favorite tracks are “Cubed” and “Judge Me.”  This album was an internet-only release; so it’s only available on iTunes and other e-music shops. http://myspace.com/greydonsquare
Hotel LightsFirecracker People (Bar/None) :: I loved Ben Folds Five… a lot.  One of my favorite songs of theirs wasn’t one of the quirky tunes, it was the sentimental “Magic” written by their drummer Darren Jessee.  Well, after Ben Folds Five broke up, Darren went on to form Hotel Lights.  He’s traded the skins in for a guitar and the vocal duties.  2006 brought the excellent self-titled debut.  Last year brought a great EP, goodnightgoodmorning.  And this year brought their sophomore record, Firecracker People.  My favorite track is the lead-off “Blue Always Finds Me.” http://www.hotellights.net/ -and- http://www.myspace.com/hotellightsmusic
Ani DiFrancoRed Letter Year (Righteous Babe) :: Ani DiFranco played a few tunes that made it on this record for us in Eugene in April.  It was a fantastic show, but it doesn’t take an accountant with a spreadsheet fetish to tell you that she was bound to release that album 9.38 months after her previous release, Canon.  Oh wait, yeah, it might take an accountant with a spreadsheet fetish to get that detailed.  Anyway, this is yet again a solid product put out by her indie empire build on car tires and chicken wire.  Sometimes her detractors think her albums have too much filler (and she shouldn’t put out so much music).  Well, with every song that doesn’t work like (IMO) “The Atom” (it might work better as a poem), she has gems like “Alla This,” “Present/Infant,” and the horn-driven “Red Letter Year Reprise.”  I think if she had a new album every other month, it’d still be more geniius than what’s hovering at the top of the Billboard charts. http://www.righteousbaberecords.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/anidifranco
Sigur RósMeð suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (XL) :: With a buzz in our ears we play endlessly… Sigur Rós continue to deliver excellent music in superbly and lovingly crafted packages.  This album might be their most “accessible.”  It took a bit to grow on me, though.  While it doesn’t seem as compelling as their earlier albums, I still dig it a plenty.  I also got the chance to see them in Portland in October (excellent show!).  It baffles me how this group of non-conformist, non-mainstream musicians from a small country like Iceland seem to have taken the indie rock scene by storm since 2001.  I mean how does it happen?  I guess I’m just glad that it did happen.  My favorite tracks are “Gobbledigook” and “Við spilum endalaust.” http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/ -and- http://myspace.com/sigurros
CelldwellerSoundtrack for the Voices in My Head (FiXT) :: OK, this one actually fits my rules for an instrumental album… most of the tracks are instrumental industrial jams that Scott Albert (aka Klayton aka Circle of Dust aka Celldweller) has been kicking around since working on the follow-up to his utterly superb debut (under the Celldweller moniker).  However, one of the lead off tracks and other tracks intertwined in the CD have lyrics.  So, I’m making a judgment call and including it in this list rather than the instrumental list.  The truth is that my instrumental top list is getting jammed up and I needed to flip this one to the vocal list to make room.  I make the list… I can break my own rules.

I’ve been a fan of Scott/Klayton since, oh, 1995?  His music is mezmerizing, full of powerfully rhythmic industrial music with a very heavy dose of pop sensibility.  “Celldweller” is my favorite project of his, though his other musical work (even with magician Criss Angel) rank high in my music collection.  I hope the long-awaited sophomore Celldweller release sees the light of day before 2012.  Oh, this album is available for free in mp3 format (though the CD is cheap and comes with extra bonus tracks).  Favorite track is “Birthright.”  Check out his webpages for more info. http://www.celldweller.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/celldweller

Plover (Glen Phillips / Neilson Hubbard / Garrison Starr)Plover (indie freebie on the internets) :: I’m a big fan of Glen Phillips, whether with Toad the Wet Sprocket, solo, or side projects.  Well, this year saw him release a solo EP (which is grand), tour on his own (of which I saw when he came through Eugene), tour with Toad the Wet Sprocket (which I sadly didn’t see this time), collaborate with nerdcore rapper MC Frontalot, tour again with Jonatha Brooke (which I missed due to work schedules changing), sit on and break a glass coffee table and shred up his arm (he’s recovering nicely, I hear), and put out two solid A++ side-projects.  Plover is the more subdued side-project (compared to RemoteTreeChildren further down the list), but it really fits in well with Glen’s music.  I’d never heard Neilson or Garrison’s music before, but I like what all three artists brought to the table.  Also, it‘s absolutely free (if you want).  You can pay what you want for better quality 320kbps or FLAC (and you should, as it’s also the only way the artists get money).  Favorite tracks are “Wishing You Were Somewhere Instead of Wishing You Were Somewhere Else” and “All Eyes.” http://plovermusic.com/
ExtremeSaudades de Rock (Open E) :: What can I say?  I spent more than words on this band this year… I flew to Cincinnati to see them put on a kick-ass show at Union Center Blvd Bash.  Go here for my review with many pictures of King’s X and Extreme.  While I think there are a couple of snoozers on this record, overall it’s still a very solid record.  I hope Gary, Nuno, Pat and whatever drummer they bring along (sorry KFigg) continue to make great music.  And I hope it’s not another 13 years until their 6th studio album comes out.  Favorite tracks are “Comfortably Dumb” and “Interface” (one of Nuno’s from Dramagods). http://www.extreme-band.com/ -and- http://myspace.com/extreme
Steven WilsonInsurgentes (indie) :: I felt guilty paying for this limited edition release.  The original pressing was only 4,000 copies, complete with in a special coffee-table book photo edition. Well, I felt guilty until I got it and saw how beautiful it it turned out.  Great job Steven!  And the music is pretty damn kick ass as well.  For those familiar with Steven Wilson (and his many bands: Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, No-Man, Bass Communion, IEM, et cetera), this first solo album hit the spot for me compared to the most recent PT & No-Man releases.  It’ll be out in a “normal” version in Feb 2009.  My luck is that Steven will tweak it or add stuff to the Feb 2009 (or later) release(s) and I’ll have to buy it again.  He’s like that… hmph.  Favorite tracks are “Harmony Korine” and “Insurgentes (Mexico).” http://swhq.co.uk/ -and- http://myspace.com/therealstevenwilson
My Brightest DiamondA Thousand Shark’s Teeth (Asthmatic Kitty) :: When this album first came out, I liked it.  But I didn’t think it’d rise to be in the top 2.  I mean, I like it, but I liked her debut (Bring Me the Workhorse) a lot better right out of the gates.  This one was more of a slow burn.  I suppose seeing her play a lot of these tracks live last month also helped solidify the album in my mind as a gem.  Shara is charming, witty, powerful and sublime.  This is a great record, and there has also been a plethora of other MBD activity on the internets (iTunes EPs, remixes, etc) to keep me happy this year.  My only complaint… she needs to get her buddy Sufjan back in the studio and on the road.  Favorite tracks are “Inside a Boy” and the deliciously cute “Apples.” http://mybrightestdiamond.com -and- http://myspace.com/mybrightestdiamond
Remote Tree Children (Glen Phillips / John Askew / others?)Veteran of the Loudness Wars (indie freebie on the internets) :: OK, first off, this may seem totally unfair to the albums that were in my collection for longer… but as of December 9th, I had no idea about the impending pwnage of this record.  Then Glen Phillips posted a blog and dropped it on top of the internets’ head.  Then I downloaded it… and it’s such a slut, it made sweet love to my ear holes.  I think I spun it about 10 times that first day.  Actually, maybe my ears are th sluts.  Never one to not be hyperbolous, I think it’s great and it wins as my favorite vocal album of 2008.  And the kicker?  It’s absolutely free (if you want).  You can pay what you want for better quality 320kbps or FLAC (and you should, as it’s also the only way the artists get money and can continue to make sweet love to ear holes all around the world).  Favorite tracks are “You Will Be Pwned” and “Blood Pressure Rise.” http://remote-tree-children.com/

OK, so 3 of my top 6 are ones you can nab for free (legally).  So… go on… get some great music!

Top 25 instrumental albums coming up later… before year’s end, I promise.

~Dan – np: Goddamn Electric BillTopics for Gossip

* Favorite EPs / Vinyl / Live Albums & more of 2008 *

21st Dec 08 (Sun) 9 comments

Before I start… happy 68th birthday to Frank Zappa.  You are missed.  Ya Hozna!

This is sort of a precursor to my “official” Favorites of 2008 blog.  Up later this coming week or two, I’ll post my favorite vocal and favorite instrumental albums of 2008.  I’m still making my way through the re-listening phase.  Yeah, I know, I’m slow (or dedicated? or certifiable?).  I was waiting on a few to show up in my mailbox.  Anyway, on with the music pimping

My Other Favorites of 2008 Recaps:

  • Fave Concerts of ‘08 are recapped *HERE*

Favorite EPs of 2008 (coincidentally all indie artists)
1 Ellery You Did Everything Righthttp://www.ellerymusic.com/
2 Estradasphere The Pegasus Vaulthttp://www.estradasphere.com/
3 Glen Phillips Secrets of the New Explorershttp://www.glenphillips.com/
4 Kim Taylor The Greatest Storyhttp://www.kim-taylor.net/
5 Wussy Rigor Mortishttp://www.wussymusic.com/

Favorite Vinyl of 2008
1 Holy Fuck Lovely Allen 19″ single (7″+12″) – http://www.holyfuckmusic.com/
2 God of Shamisen The Science Fiction of Ray Bradbury Attack! 7″ single – http://www.godofshamisen.com/
3 Puscifer Dozo 7″ single – http://www.puscifer.com/
4 David Bazan (of Pedro the Lion) Jingle Bells / All I Want for Christmas (Christmas 7″) – http://www.davidbazan.com/
5 Puscifer Queen B 7″ single

Favorite Live Albums of 2008
1 Dave Douglas & Keystone Live at the Jazz Standard, April 2008http://www.greenleafmusic.com/ (this was 4 nights, 2 sets each night, 8 hours of music released as “instant live” within 24 hours of each performance… and fantastic)
2 Porcupine Tree We Lost the Skyline EPhttp://www.porcupinetree.com/
3 David Gilmour (of Pink Floyd) Live in Gdańskhttp://www.davidgilmour.com/
4 Ani DiFranco Hamburg Germany, 10.18.07http://www.righteousbabe.com/
5 Tori Amos Live at Montreux 1991 & 1992http://www.toriamos.com/


Favorite Comedy Albums of 2008
1 Flight of the Conchords Flight of the Conchords
2 George Carlin It’s Bad For Ya
3 Mitch Hedberg Do You Believe in Gosh?


Favorite Reissues in 2008
1 Jurassic 5Jurassic 5 11th Anniversary
2 John Zorn, Bill Frisell & George Lewis News for Lulu
3 John Coltrane The Impulse Albums, Vol 2 (including John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman, Impressions, Live at Birdland, Crescent, and A Love Supreme)
4 Ahleuchatistas The Same and the Other
5 Beck Odelay (deluxe edition)


Favorite Debut of 2008
God of Shamisen‘s Dragon String Attack! -and- Ashes Divide‘s Keep Telling Myself It’s Alright

Favorite Internet Only Releases in 2008
Glen Phillips had his hand in both of them… and they’re both free
PloverPlover -and- RemoteTreeChildrenVeteran of the Loudness Wars

Favorite Internet Leaks in 2008
Ben FoldsWay to Normal (fake version of the album leaked by Ben himself) -and-
Sufjan StevensSongs for Christmas, Vol VIII: Astral Inter Planet Space Captain Christmas Infinity Voyage (he made it for family & friends… luckily one of those also let it loose for the rest of us)

Favorite Artwork in 2008
NINGhosts I-IV each song in the download version had it’s own unique artwork attached to it.  Whether studio or nature or electronic, it worked well with this release.

Favorite Packaging / Design in 2008

  • Sigur RósMeð suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (deluxe edition)
    Steven Wilson Insurgentes (deluxe edition) – Both Sigur Rós and Steven Wilson came out with lush coffee table-sized books that housed the music. Call it an incentive to somewhat combat the illegal downloaders.  I call it great art.
  • Ani DiFranco Red Letter Year – Always a packaging visionary, this one was more subtle than recent efforts… the glow in the dark moon was a nice touch.
  • Metallica Death Magnetic – Not necessarily breaking new ground musically, their packaging for the return to form metal album evokes digging through 6 feet of fresh dirt to see if Lars Ulrich’s drumming sounds better than beating on a metal folding chair.  Thankfully it does… this time.
  • Secret Chiefs 3 plays John Zorn‘s Masada Book Two: Xaphan – I love what Chippy does for Tzadik Records.  The Masada Book Two series artwork and die-cut Star of David with offset colors that poke through is some of her best work.

Favorite “Local” Album of 2008
OK, they’re from Cincinnati and Portland (respectively)… but local enough for me… I’ve got my ears in two locales (the Cincinnati/Dayton scene will probably always have a shot at winning in this category).
Noctaluca‘s Still the Wicked Rest -and- Talkdemonic‘s Eyes at Half Mast

Favorite Soundtrack or Score
Joss Whedon‘s Dr Horrible’s Sing-along Blog -and- Mike Patton‘s A Perfect Place

Favorite Concept Album
Noctaluca‘s Still the Wicked Rest -and- Zakarya‘s The True Story Concerning Martin Behaim

That’s all for now… more coming in the next week…

~Dan – np: CelldwellerSoundtrack for the Voices in My Head

* Favorite VOCAL Albums of 2007 *

6th Feb 08 (Wed) Leave a comment

My Other Favorites of 2007 Recaps:
Fav Concerts of ’07 are recapped *HERE*
Fav Local / Vinyl / Internet-Only / Podcasts of ’07 are *HERE*
Fav EPs / Compilations / Music DVDs of ’07 are *HERE*
Fav Instrumental Albums of ’07 are *HERE*

Favorite Vocal Albums of 2007
1) Silverchair Young Modern – Daniel Johns, leader of Silverchair, is one of my rock heroes. On Young Modern, he and the boys didn’t disappoint. This album is a continuation of the feel from Diorama, but perhaps more cohesive. Diorama was fantastic (A++), but this one seems less disjointed. Best album of the year, by far.

http://www.chairpage.com/
http://www.myspace.com/silverchair

2) Radiohead In Rainbows – This is a quintessential Radiohead album. Check out my track-by-track review HERE.

http://www.radiohead.com/
http://www.myspace.com/radiohead

3) Elliott Smith New Moon – I had many of the songs on this double-CD already from the demo stockpile on the internets, but this collection also had many new tunes from my favorite long lost songwriter. His death affected me more than any other “celebrity.” His words really cut through, and I’m glad that his unreleased music still made its way out.

http://www.sweetadeline.net
http://www.myspace.com/elliottsmithnewmoon

4) Ken Andrews Secrets of the Lost Satellite – Another rock hero of mine… I got into Ken Andrews via Chroma Key (Ken’s 1st On record was highly talked about by CK’s Kevin Moore, or Kevin was touring with Ken). Anyway, this newest solo album is a bit like On but also a bit like Failure & Year of the Rabbit. You can’t go wrong in my book, Ken. Some great hooky hardrock.

http://www.kenandrews.com/
http://www.myspace.com/kenandrews

5) Puscifer V is for Vagina – Another Maynard James Keenan side project. His main band (Tool) is still my favorite of his artistic outlets, but Puscifer has a really good vibe. Poor choice in album title (in my opinion), but I realize that it’s a stand against censorship (which I support.. meaning I support the stand against, not the actual censorship). Alas, the packaging for this album wins the Best Packaging Award for 2007. It’s built like an emergency airline pamphlet… and it’s quite hilarious. Kudos, Maynard!

http://www.puscifer.com/
http://www.myspace.com/censorshipisacancer

6) Iron & Wine The Shepherd’s Dog – Hush-toned singer-songwriter tour de force. Gritty and witty, subtle brutally honest lyrics. Nice story telling…

http://www.ironandwine.com/
http://www.myspace.com/ironandwine

7) Dug Pinnick (of king’s X) – Strum Sum Up – I love Dug/Doug. This is by far his best album. Great songs, and the extended jams are exciting, too (I kinda was disappointed when I first heard of the idea, but loved it once I heard the music). Wally Farkas (of the Galactic Cowboys) and Hal Sparks helped out on this record.

http://www.dugpinnick.com/
http://www.myspace.com/dugpinnickpoundhound

8 ) Michael Kelsey The Way It Rolls – Michael Kelsey gets added to the list of things I’m sad about moving away from Ohio. Michael Kelsey (not from Ohio, but neighboring Indiana) is a fucking Midwestern U.S. musical TREASURE. His records are always great, but his live show is one of legend. He blows your mind, the mind of the guy next to you, and the mind of the lady in the parking lot paying the meter… all with 6 strings and 37 fingers. I mean, the way he plays, he has to have 37 fingers. Doesn’t he?

http://www.michaelkelsey.com/
http://www.myspace.com/michaelkelseymusic

9) Wussy Left For Dead – Best local CD (Cincinnati, OH) for me in 2007. Lisa and Chuck are a great songwriting team. I dig both of their vocals, and the band knows how to kick it! Great rock and a well-produced sophomore record!

http://www.wussymusic.com/
http://www.myspace.com/therealwussy

10) Nellie McKay Obligatory Villagers – Quirky, cute, brilliant songstress and obfuscator of journalists. Short and sweet third record. We got to see her this year in Eugene (concert review) this year. Fantastic show!! She rarely disappoints. I hope to hear more of her music now that she’s out of the clutches of Columbia/Sony/Artist Screwers Int’l.

http://www.nelliemckay.com/
http://www.myspace.com/prettylittlehead

11) Tegan and Sara The Con – Great indie pop rock record from this twin sister songwriting duo. This is their 5th record (by my count), and they truly get better with age.

http://www.teganandsara.com/
http://www.myspace.com/teganandsara

12) Abigail’s Ghost Selling Insincerity – For fans of Porcupine Tree… get this album now. It did for me what Steven Wilson didn’t do for me this year… get to 12 on my list. ;) Don’t worry, Steven Wilson continually impresses, too. Regardless, Abigail’s Ghost is right up a PT fan’s alley — lush progressive rock without the spandex, frizzy hair and crotch-too-tight falsetto.

http://www.abigailsghost.com/
http://www.myspace.com/abigailsghost

13) Blackfield Blackfield II – Ok, Steven Wilson made it to 13. I got to see Blackfield in NYC this year (concert review). Aviv Geffen and Steven Wilson have a great chemistry. Blackfield II continues on the path laid out by BF I.

http://www.blackfield.org/
http://www.myspace.com/blackfield

14) Eisley Combinations – A harder-edged Sixpence None the Richer, perhaps. This five-piece band of siblings astonishes me. Mainly because if I could never be in a functioning band with my 3 other siblings. Add another… fahgetaboutit. Eisley brings great vocal harmonies and a rocky edge to what might have otherwise been sugary pop. Kudos on the sophomore album! I dig it.

http://www.eisley.com/
http://www.myspace.com/eisley

15) Foo Fighters Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace – You may have heard some of their songs on the radio. Dave Grohl and Co know how to rock and grab you with a hook. That’s all I can say.

http://www.foofighters.com/
http://www.myspace.com/foofighters

16) Megadeth United Abominations – Chunka chunka chunnk. I’m glad Dave Mustaine is back at it. Sometimes cheesy lyrically, usually brutal and fun listen, though. A+.

http://www.megadeth.com/
http://www.myspace.com/megadeth

17) Dream Theater Systematic Chaos – Complex and more rewarding after each listen.

http://www.dreamtheater.net/
http://www.myspace.com/dreamtheater

18 ) Crunchy Loserville – Monty Colvin (of the Galactic Cowboys) knows how to write a good pop-punk song about being an outcast. Some may say that’s his downfall. Oh, but what a sweet downfall… or… er… resulting record. His 3rd record under the Crunchy moniker… it’s a welcome addition to my collection of Colvin art (I also own one of his paintings… he’s a superb painter, yo!).

http://www.montycolvin.com/
http://www.myspace.com/montycolvin

19) Finger Eleven Them vs. You vs. Me – I had no idea that “Paralyzer” was big this year. Just shows you how much I know about radio (I haven’t purposefully listened in going on 20 years). Anyway, I’ve been a big fan of F11 since Tip (late 90s), and I’m glad that their last two records have been solid consistent hard rock… with vocals that I love.

http://www.fingereleven.com/
http://www.myspace.com/fingereleven

20) Over the Rhine The Trumpet Child – Well, I got “fired” by the band for being a “bad fan.” It was equal parts embarrassing, and equal parts rewarding. Alas, I still liked this record enough to crack the Top 20. “If a Song Could be President” (while quaint in lyric) is one of the worst songs ever for me (way too country for me), but “Don’t Wait For Tom” makes up for it. Totally fun track… and a solid record overall. Oh, and, Karin… sorry for being a bad fan. I still like ya.

http://www.overthewhine.com/
http://www.myspace.com/overthewhine

21) Greydon Square The Compton Effect – Great rap style with free-thinking atheist lyrics too boot. Infectious rhythms and vocals. I hope his follow-up this coming year tops it. :-) I also hopes he catches on more and can tour more beyond skeptical/atheist conferences to which I can’t afford to travel.

http://www.greydonsquare.com/
http://www.myspace.com/greydonsquare

22) Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam) – Into the Wild – Got this for xmas from my brother (and sis-in-law). Fantastic short set by Eddie. I really need to see this movie, too… it’s from a book that I actually read. :P

http://www.pearljam.com
http://www.myspace.com/intothewildmovie

23) Tori Amos American Doll Posse – Solid album by pop’s bad girl. I think her many personas are getting tiring (see, I’m a “bad fan” of more than just Over the Rhine), but she still brings her A game for 95% of this CD. I wish I’d have seen her on her latest tour, too… I heard it was killer.

http://www.toriamos.com/
http://www.myspace.com/toriamos

24) Porcupine Tree Fear of a Blank Planet – Their material on the Nil Recurring -EP- should have made its way onto this record. Great stuff nonetheless… it grows on me, slower than prior PT work, but solid songs nonetheless.

http://www.porcupinetree.com/
http://www.myspace.com/porcupinetree

25) Tomahawk Anonymous – Mike Patton and Duane Denison (Jesus Lizard) on Native American sourced rock songs. Not as all over the place like prior Tomahawk records… which is unfortunately missed. Alas, Mike and Duane still bring it, and over up a wonderful take on traditional tribal melodies.

http://www.ipecac.com/
http://www.myspace.com/tomahawkofficial

honorable mentions:
Coheed and CambriaGood Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV – Volume Two: No World For Tomorrow / That1Guy and the Magic PipeThe Moon is Disgusting / La Mar Enfortuna (aka Elysian Fields) – Conviviencia / OzomatliDon’t Mess With the Dragon / My Brightest DiamondTear It Down (remixes)

myspace/coheedandcambriamyspace/that1guymyspace/lamarenfortunamyspace/ozomatlimyspace/mybrightestdiamond

That’s it for my 2007 lists… whew… next year it’ll take less time to do (hopefully)…

~Dan – np: George HrabInterrobang

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