The Best Music of 2008

I’ve been trying to write this post for almost a week now, and just couldn’t decide how to pick my “favorite” albums of the year, since there are a bunch of them. But, iTunes has rescued me and taken any and all opinion out of it, and given me a way to empirically prove which albums I consider my favorites this year. How? I created a Smart Playlist in iTunes where Year was 2008 and then sorted by Play Count. I then picked the albums from the list with the songs with the most plays and ta-da, I’m done.\
So, in order of plays, here are my favorite albums of 2008:

  1. Kensington Heights by The Constantines – This is their best album yet, solid throughout with two or three songs that are destined to be all-time classics (New King and Time Can Be Overcome in particular).
  2. Everything That Can Happen Will Happen Today by David Byrne and Brian Eno – This album is just plain gorgeous. In fact, I’ve already declared it the best album of the year. Of course, my formula has proven me wrong, but that’s OK.
  3. Accelerate by R.E.M. – I haven’t listened to it much in the past couple months, but it was on constant repeat for a while there, hence its position at the top of the list.
  4. Earth to the Dandy Warhols by The Dandy Warhols (duh) – I love this band without guilt or any shame at all. Yes, they’re kind of poppy and weird, but they’re also full of awesome. They fly all over the spectrum and their latest album is just more of it, but better. Love Song is my favorite track on the album, followed quickly by Talk Radio.
  5. Parallel Play by Sloan – A full-on rocker, there’s no guesswork involved in this album. It’s just good ass-kicking rock and roll.
  6. These are the Good Times People by The Presidents of the United States of America – This one sort of rocketed up the charts, seeing as I only bought it this week, but two songs are already on my empirical list. The playlist doesn’t lie, people. Sharpen Up Those Fangs may be a perfect pop song.
  7. The Odd Couple by Gnarls Barkley – Three songs put this album in the top ten: Going On, Run and Blind Mary
  8. Med sud I eyrum vid spilum endalaust by Sigur Ros – It’s not my favorite album by the band, but it’s more good stuff from them, and that’s fine with me.
  9. Parc Avenue by Plants and Animals – Another great band discovered through the CBC Radio 3 podcast.
  10. Anything by DJ Earworm – Really. He’s the best mashup artist around and doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Girl Talk gets all the press, but Earworm’s the real thing.\
    2008 was a great musical year. There are albums released last year that I listened to a lot this year are LP by Holy Fuck (yes, mom, that’s really their name), Challengers by The New Pornographers, Live from Austin, TX by The Polyphonic Spree, anything by The Shins and recently rediscovering The Wrens. Now that I work for a music company, I’m listening to a lot of stuff and always on the look out for new music to sink my ears into.\
    I can’t wait to see what comes out next year.
Categorized as music

Best Album of the Year: Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

I don’t say this lightly, because there have been some fantastic albums this year already, but David Byrne and Brian Eno’s brand new joint effort Everything That Happens Will Happen Today is unbelievably good. It’s rich, gorgeous and the songs are beautiful. I can’t stop listening to it.\
Don’t believe me? Listen for yourself (especially Everything That Happens, Life Is Long and One Fine Day):

It really is amazing. The ethereal music behind David Byrne’s fantastic vocals are transportive in the best sense of the word. I don’t even know how else to express it… it’s just beautiful.\
Oh, and who did they beat out? Here are the rest of my favorite albums that have come out this year:

  • The ConstantinesKensington Heights
  • Sigur RosMed sud I eyrum vid spilum endalaust
  • SloanParallel Play
  • REMAccelerate
  • Plants and AnimalsParc Avenue\
    That’s some good company to beat out, especially The Constantines best album ever
Categorized as music

A Musical Interlude

This week has been one to forget at Chez Lawver. Jen, Brian and I have all had the stomach flu, and it hasn’t been pretty. So, as a break from the disgusting offal-ness of it all, here are some musical recommendations for your Friday afternoon. These are all things I’ve picked up in the last couple of months, many of which are Canadian. I blame the recent Northern influence on my iTunes library on CBC Radio 3 and their wicked podcasts.

  • Holy Fuck – I prefer LP to their self-titled album, but this is some wicked butt-moving stuff. If you crossed Beck with The Chemical Brothers and took away the lyrics, you’d have Holy Fuck (sorry mom, that’s really their name).
  • R.E.M.‘s Accelerate – I love the band’s early albums, especially Document, but this is a return to that style of garage awesomeness. Absolutely fantastic stuff, especially Supernatural Superserious.
  • Sunparlour PlayersHymns for the Happy – I first heard If the Creeks Don’t Rise on one of the CBC podcasts. It’s just good folksy rock – no pretense, just great vocals, lots of instruments and some harmonies.
  • The Polyphonic Spree – Jen calls them “Up With People for grownups”, and I’m OK with that. They’re an alt-rock band backed by a horn section, a full choir and sometimes strings, and they sing some seriously happy stuff. My current favorite, though, is their cover of Nirvana’s Lithium.
  • And only because I can’t remember posting it before, Great Lake SwimmersOngiara is one of the most beautiful albums I’ve ever heard. It’s acoustic and the lead singer’s voice is hypnotic. Where in the World Are You is one of my all-time favorite songs. It’s heartbreakingly romantic and forlorn and never fails to choke me up.\
    There you go. That should keep you busy for a while. And yes, those all go to the Amazon MP3 store. It’s cheaper than the iTunes store, and they give you mp3’s instead of annoyingly locked down AAC files. Enjoy!
Categorized as music

Rasputin’s Booty

I frequently whine to anyone who will listen about the lack of good used cd stores in Northern Virginia. But, that’s definitely not a problem in the Bay Area, so when I’m out here, I always try to make a run to Rasputin to stock up on cheap tunes. I may have overdone it a bit yesterday. Here’s what I got:

  • Massive AttackSingles 90-98: I’ve wanted this set for years and I found it for \$30 (it’s \$120 on Amazon). It’s totally worth the wait. Twelve CD’s of the 12 best songs from their first three albums. Each CD is one song, with several remixes. The Teardrop CD alone is worth almost the purchase price.
  • Broken Social SceneYou Forgot It In People: I keep hearing about them on the CBC Radio 3 podcast and decided to take a flyer on this one. I listened to it in the car, and it’s good stuff – deep rich layers of instruments, which I can’t wait to go over with headphones on and pick out the layers.
  • Annie LennoxMedusa: Two bucks. How could I not?
  • Something for Everybody: It’s a collection of remixes of songs from Baz Luhrman’s movies and stage shows. Yeah, it was two bucks too. Another flyer.
  • WintersleepWintersleep and Untitled: I just got their latest album and love it (and now everyone on the project I’m working on does too because I keep playing it for them). I found these in the Indie bin and had to get them. I had to order their new album from Canada, so figured I should get these while I could.
  • Mountain GoatsAll Hail West Texas: I love Get Lonely and the gimmick on this album was too good to pass up (ten songs about seven people from West Texas). I haven’t listened to it yet.
  • The ClashCombat Rock: After Tim’s Joe Strummer tribute, I had to pick this up. Another \$2 steal.
  • The ShinsOh, Inverted World: I love both Chutes Too Narrow and Wincing the Night Away. This one was on sale, so why not?
  • Art of NoiseAmbient Collection: The Seduction of Claude Debussy is one of my all-time favorite albums. I’m not a huge fan of their other stuff, but for two bucks, I was willing try this one out.
  • New PornographersChallengers (Executive Edition): It was only two bucks, so I figured I’d see what was “executive” about it. Turns out, it came out before the album and has a code to download a bunch of b-sides, demos, and live tracks from a super-secret website. Very cool. And yes, I already have the album.
  • Kimya DawsonI’m Sorry The Sometimes I’m Mean: She’s all over the Juno soundtrack, and I love her lyrics. A really good angsty folk album.
  • Take Action! Volume 5: Yeah, no idea why I got this one. It was a dollar. I think it was because the Dropkick Murphys have a song on it. Yeah, that must have been it.\
    So, that’s a grand total of twenty-four CD’s (there are three CD’s in the New Pornogaphers set even though you have to burn them yourself) for a little over a hundred bucks. I love used cd stores!
Categorized as music


Jason asked about favorite covers on twitter today and there are just too many to list 140 characters at a time. So, here are my favorite cover songs at the moment:

  • José Gonzalez’ cover of Massive Attacks’ Teardrop: Already one of my all-time favorite songs, the cover is haunting in a completely different way. It’s gorgeous.
  • The Rheostatics’ cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald: The original is old, dour and has gravity. Unfortunately, it also shows its age. The cover is really good. The song rocks, but still packs an emotional punch, even more so than the original.
  • Luna’s cover of Guns n’ Roses Sweet Child o’ Mine: It takes the radio anthem from middle school and turns it into a lovely ballad.
  • Living Colour’s cover of AC/DC’s Back in Black: I know the original is a classic, but between Vernon Reid’s guitar and Corey Glover’s vocals, the cover is better. Yeah, I said it. The cover is better.
  • This Radiant Boy’s cover of They Might Be Giant’s Don’t Lets Start: Actually, everything on Hello Radio is good (The Wrens and Steve Burns’ songs especially), but this takes a classic we’ve all heard a million times, as great as it is, and turns it into a great little punk anthem.\
    There are a ton more, but those are the ones that stick out at the moment. There are of course the classic covers like Jeff Buckley’s cover of Hallelujah that’s pretty much turned into the canonical version of the song, any cover of Leonard Cohen’s stuff (I’m Your Fan is a GREAT tribute album), Cake’s cover of I Will Survive, etc that I didn’t mention (well, I just did, but whatever).\
    What’s your favorite cover?
Categorized as music

A Couple Awesome Things

First off, anyone who can find a funny way to raise money for a charity, especially one dealing with hairblz, is awesome. The Great Mustache Contest is awesome. Not only do they have a killer tag line: “Because it takes balls to grow a mustache”, they’re raising money for testicular cancer research – by getting guys to grow mustaches!\
I’m still thinking about it… the only thing holding me back is that I may be speaking at a conference smack in the middle of the contest, and I’m not sure I want to go speak, representing AOL, sporting a Cletus. But, I may go ahead and do it anyway (update: I went ahead and signed up – the donate button will appear on the site shortly).

Pirate Kitteh!

Pirate Kitteh!

Secondly, the awesome Scott Andrew is self-producing his new album. I accidentally discovered Scott a long time ago and loved his work with The Walkingbirds. I met him at SxSW, and he’s a really good guy. He’s accepting donations to try to finish up the album, and I think that’s great. It takes balls (there they are again!) to go it alone and try to do it all yourself, and I think that should not only be applauded, but supported. The more artists are able to really go it alone without having to sell their souls to corporate record labels, and make it work, that can only mean good things for music fans. It means more music for us, and gets us closer to the artists we like. Go, Scott, go!\
I’m slowly working on the Rails app that will power The International Day of Awesomeness blog and an extra special something that my pal Kedar suggested. Slowly because by the time I do 9-10 hours of “real” work, and spend a couple hours playing with the boys, I’m pretty much shot. I’ve got things started, but nowhere near ready to launch – but keep your eyes peeled. I’m hoping to launch it in the next month or so…

Morphine Day!

No, I haven’t decided to become a morphiend. I’m talking about one of my all-time favorite bands, the amazing, soulful, power trio – Morphine. For no reason in particular, I’ve decided that today is Morphine Day and I’ll be listening to the wonderful sounds of the band, plus the related bands that came before and after: Treat Her Right and Twinemen (and I’ll probably even throw in Orchestra Morphine). Here’s the playlist:\
From Morphine (in order of how much I looooove them):

  • Bootleg Detroit
  • Cure for Pain
  • Good
  • Yes
  • Like Swimming
  • B-Sides and Otherwise (I might skip this one in favor of Sandbox)\
    From Mark Sandman:
  • Sandbox\
    From Treat Her Right:
  • What’s Good For You\
    And then Twinemen and Orchestra Morhine:
  • Live Boston, MA 10/23/03
  • Twinemen\
    In other news, my 30gb iPod is almost full…
Categorized as music

Canadian Music Day

I’ve decided that today is my personal Canadian Music Day. I started this morning with the CBC Radio 3 Podcast, and have now moved on to The Arcade Fire. I’ll probably finish up the day with The Constantines and James’ mix cd from SxSW ’05 (not all Canadian music, but since it was compiled by a Canadian, I’m declaring it OK).\
Update: Thanks to James’ aforementioned mix cd, I’ve found some more music to fill Canadian Music Day. This afternoon will be composed of (none of which I’ve listened to yet):

  • RheostaticsNight of the Shooting Stars
  • The Magnetic Fieldsi (oops, they’re not Canadian, but James put them on the CD!)
  • Martin TielliWe Didn’t Even Suspect He Was the Poppy Salesman
  • The New PornographersTwin Cinema\
    Yes, record companies, this is what happens when you let people play music on the internet – we buy more music. I never would have purchased any of this music if not for the internet, if not for mix cd’s. Give away a little, and people will return the favor by buying a lot.
Categorized as music

A Happy Post About Rock n’ Roll

I listen to music almost all day every day during work. If I’m at my desk, I’ve got my headphones on, and I’m listening to something. My pared down library (I backed up a bunch of stuff I never listen to) in iTunes is over twenty-five gigabytes.\
I’m no music critic, but I know what I like, and I like a lot of different weird stuff. I go on binges, listening to a band’s entire catalog for a week, a month, sometimes longer (my Massive Attack and Morphine binges lasted years). Right now, I’m in love with The Constantines. It’s funny, I’ve been gobbling up Canadian alternative rock since discovering the CBC Radio3 podcast. The Constantines are only the latest victim in my Canuck buying binge (I like to think of them as Morphine on 78 with a guitar player instead of a saxophone – the bass is that good).\
When you hear the band for the first time, it’s easy to get lost in the feedback, gravel-voiced garage rock of it all. But, after a couple listens, the layers start coming out. Their lyrics, even on the balls-out rockers, are intricate poems of love, loss and depression. The bass player is amazing (and it sounds fantastic through headphones). Sometimes, I listen just to pick out the bass line.\
If you’d like a sample of their stuff, I highly recommend:

  • St. You, Soon Enough and On to You: Their slower stuff is gorgeous. The guitar is still there, but the lyrics and melody are awe-inspiring.
  • Working Full-Time: This song kicks all the asses in Canada – at the same time. I love how the intro builds on the simple snare and guitar riff into a smashing crescendo of ass-kicking rock goodness. And then when the bass comes in… you’ll get chills.
  • Poison: Fantastic bass line in this song. Your head will bob along like hula doll on a gravel road. Not a barn burner, but that bass line keeps me coming back for more.
  • The Long Distance Four: There’s a lovely harmony between the guitar and bass in this song that shows up in several other numbers, but I really like this one (Justice is another good one).\
    I need to get back to work, but I’ve posted too many consecutive bummer posts… so I had to post something resembling happy – and music certainly makes me happy.
Categorized as music