Well folks, I’m a few weeks later than I wanted to be with this, but I think early July is still a valid time to publish a best-of list for the halfway point of 2008. This is something I’ve been doing now for a few years, and I know it’s pretty boring for the lot of you. But, it’s something I enjoy doing, so I’m gonna stick with it and press ahead. Who knows, maybe one day Keaton will reference these lists to see what Dad was “into” back in the day – maybe even make a mixtape of Dad’s “oldies” when she hits that parental-appreciation phase sometime in college. A guy can dream…
I know you’re on the edges of your seats, so here they are, in reverse-countdown order:
8. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band – 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons
Let me be clear right up front, this music isn’t for everyone. It’s whiny and dark, it’s angry and the tunes are as far from common pop as you can get, the themes are long and dense, and, for some reason, it always makes me think about the end of the world. Yeah, this is some serious shiz. Each song like some fifteen minute funeral procession for all of mankind and our entire planet (but, maybe that’s just me). You’re either gonna hate this, or you’re going to love it for the same reasons I do: The simple repetition, the seething, the bad-ass backing chants, and the drone of strings. If you’re curious, just go get it – and try not to wring your hands in an anger while it crunches along in your ears. Yes…
7. Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer
6. Jason Collett – Here’s To Being Here
What’s that though? You want to know what you’re gonna hear if you listen to this album? Well, don’t expect anything even remotely like what the Broken Social Scene puts together, even though Mr. Collett is an alum of that band (they’re all making solo bows of late, a coordinated effort it seems). When the needle drops on this you’re going to hear roots rock, you’re going to think Dylan – there’s no way in the world you’re not gonna hear Dylan… Collett’s croon and even lyrics recall the master immediately. So, what’s this album good for? Backyard summer barbecues; days spent in chairs alongside a river; road trips; poolside get-togethers.
I’ll summarize thusly: If you think most of the stuff I have on hear is neaveau-rock BS, get this record and be pleasantly surprised at how “normal” and enjoyable it is to Joe Lite Rock. C”mon, you know you’re a little curious… for your next BBQ and all…
5. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
I, on the other hand, eat this stuff for breakfast. The lyrics remind me of a time in my life that may or may not have really happened the way I remember it – but sure is fun to remember that way regardless. It’s just bar-rock people, just plain old guitar and drums and bass and beer-soaked vocals. I would suggest you grab one of those little bowls of nuts, get a firm grip on your frosty mug, light a cigarette if you’re in one of the less-Draconian states that still allow it, and try to identify all the classic rock references in “Joke About Jamaica.” It’s a fun album, give it that much at least.
4. Cloud Cult – Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes)
3. Islands – Arm’s Way
There’s a song on this album called “Creeper” that you should really hear. Admittedly, it’s not the best track on the album, but it is a decent introduction to the off-the-wall style that flavors the entire effort – with the stabbing string sections, scale-climbing groove-bass, and all the cracks filled with nifty little synth lines and fills. Oh, and then there are the lyrics – where lead singer Nick Diamond recounts a story of coming home to what he thinks is an empty house, only to be stabbed by a stranger hiding in the shadows.
2. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
I can still remember how crisp and cold it was outside in Portland the day I first really listened to the album. I was riding public transit from the airport into work, more than an hour’s worth of travel through downtown out into the suburbs. And, even if I’m wrong about the “blue CD-R” and its poor mastering, that album struck me that day. I felt the African-tinged rhythms pick up my spirits, bouncy and Graceland reminiscent, but with these punchy have-fun vocals stringing you along, hooking you.
Just stop reading this and go listen to “Walcott,” and tell me you don’t feel like donning your best-fitting khakis, slipping into some deck shows, tying a sweater around your neck and playing a rousing round of croquet with your “brothers” on the frathouse lawn, tumbler of scotch in-hand under the Massachusetts sunshine. Look, just go get the album, the Midwestern dandy inside you will thank you for it.
1. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours
The Utah Saints vibe, the strummy guitar accompaniment, and all the “aaahhh” and “oohhh” you care to warble along with. If you know me, you know I don’t often dig beats-based electronic albums, but the mix here is too good to turn an ear from. I don’t care if the entire percussion section is comprised of a sequencer and a Roland, doesn’t mean I have to wear baggy pants and suck on pacifier or anything. But by God in Heaven y’all, this record will get you moving. If you’re so inclined, it may even get you dancing. Me, I’ll stay firmly rooted to my seat thanks, although I may shake and sway in place there if the mood strikes – might even do some Mitsubishi car-commercial arm-dancing, you never know what might bubble up with this saccharine stuff on the speakers. You don’t want to miss this record, for real.
Well, that’s it for today. There were a couple near-misses that I wrote up, trying to hit a list of then, but decided at the last minute didn’t really warrant inclusion (I’m looking at you Tapes ‘N’ Tapes). Lotsa work here even if you didn’t read it all. Thanks for indulging me a bit. Goodnight, and, until tomorrow, take care friends.