I’d tuned out of Lewis for about a decade, but this “return” to music for Lewis is her most personal. Also, it’s pretty amazing that my 4-year-old daughter knows all the words to “Just One of The Guys”
This fall I spent a couple days with my brother and parents sorting through my grandfather’s house in the small southern Missouri town of Rolla. My grandfather and his wife moved to a nursing home in Dayton, Ohio. My dad was left to sell the house. Sifting through old pictures, letters and belongings that would either find themselves in the trash or in one of our houses I gained insight into my grandparents’ early life together and relatives I never knew existed. I wound up walking away with a couple of my grandfather’s old tools and a shoebox of journals and old letters. Simon Joyner’s “Ghosts” is filled with lost souls, memories of faded conversations and this bitter longing that at times is heartbreaking; other times uplifting. The record clocks in a few minutes under 90 and requires a lot of attention. It was recorded in Joyner’s Omaha warehouse on reel-to-reel and has that classic analog sound. This collection of songs is a lot like that shoebox from Rolla I have sitting down on a basement shelf; proof that the emotions of the people you miss dearly, have long forgotten or never knew about still have relevance in your life.
These 50-something Aussies have been putting out records for nearly 20 years and on “Toward the Low Sun” it sounds more relaxed and more refined than it ever has. Since their last record, 2007’s Cinder, Violinist/bandleader Warren Ellis has spent time recording and touring with Nick Cave for the Bad Seeds, Grinderman and various film scores. Ellis plays accompaniment on those records and its a blast to remember what it sounds like when he steps behind the wheel alongside minimalist guitarist Mick Turner and the phenomenal Jim White on drums. In a year that I saw both Radiohead and Bob Dylan live, Dirty Three’s set at Gabe’s in Iowa City wins show of the year for me... by a landslide.
A political record at its core, “Generals” is an authoritatively forceful album that tackles our society’s shortcomings in a tactful and frustrated approach that comes off anything but trite. What’s equally as powerful is how beautiful Laura Burhenn’s voice is on the record.
Jurado’s finest collection of music since 2006’s “And Now I’m in Your Shadow” takes the listener to a fictional town full of the astute observations of suffering that Jurado has become known for. It doesn’t hurt Richard Swift is a great producer.
I bought “Plastic Fang” at a Virgin Megastore in Chicago when I was 18 when I thought listening to Dave Matthews Band was thinking outside the box. I liked that record but I wanted to see what else was out there, so I bought 1994’s “Orange” and I fell in love. I haven’t heard anything from the band that really gave me that same feeling until Meat + Bone. It has the spontaneous and edgy sound that first drew me to them and feels like a return to the turrets-infused lyrics that every JSBX fan loves.
Votolato does simple incredibly well. His albums are consistently good and I find myself gravitating to some a lot of his songs individually, not albums as a whole. But Television of Saints is the closest I’ve felt to more than just a collection of songs. The tracks fit together as he navigates ache in his strained tenor and solace in the more hushed moments.
It’s not very often Cohen releases something new. These sage words of wisdom are a reminder of how important he’s been over the years. Let’s hope as long as he’s on this earth he continues to let us in.
I can’t keep up with Ben Chasny. It seems like he’s releasing something new from at least one of his projects every year. But I did this year. Chasny marries metal, raga and world music beautifully on this sonic release.
This isn’t the Matt Ward that first caught my ear in the early 2000s, but that’s not a bad thing. Ward’s earlier records were weathered and rustic. Now, he’s refined incredible production skills and they shine on “Wasteland.”
1. Thurston Moore – “Demolished Thoughts” “There’s lots of secrets and lies in these songs that I probably won’t ever be able to talk about.” – Moore talking about "Demolished Thoughts"
I’m a new Sonic Youth fan. Intimidated by its expansive catalog I’ve attempted to get into them a few times since college. But the last two years I’ve immersed myself with their music. I was struck by the anxiety and pain in the lyrics of Demolished Thoughts, reminiscent of Beck’s “Sea Change”... who produced "Demolished Thoughts". The arrangements are beautifully haunting and are as sparse as they are full. The album made much more sense later in the year when we found out about he and Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon were splitting after 20 some years. I was disappointed to think that waiting till now to get into Sonic Youth would cost me seeing them live… but if the change in Moore’s life means he’s going to create music like this… I think I’m fine with that.
I waited 7 years for a follow up to "Real Gone"… and while I’m happy with Bad As Me. Waits isn’t pushing any boundaries here. With themes of starting over and falling apart, Waits has created the closest thing to a pop record here. The Frankenstein meets Elvis swagger of tunes like Chicago, Get Lost and Satisfied is what sells the record for me. In his interview with NPR’s Terri Gross Waits said his wife and longtime collaborator Kathleen Brenan encouraged him to write short songs. I feel like that adage held him back from the beauty and ridiculousness of Real Gone.
2011 was really the year of Wilco for me. I’ve always loved "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" and it remains one of my favorite records. But the three albums that followed didn’t do anything for me when they came out. After hearing the band had a new one coming out this year, I thought I’d give them another shot. I’m glad I did. This is their best since YHF and it made me revisit the last three… that are now dust-free and in heavy rotation. They get labeled dad-rock quite a bit… now that I am a father maybe that means I’m just connecting with my lame-dadness. Nah.
Al the critics claim this is MMJ’s return to form record after 2008’s odd and experimental “Evil Urges”. I agree. It’s hard to believe its been 8 years since I first saw the band live and fell in love with “It Still Moves.” This is the band’s strongest effort since.
When I first heard Bazan’s new record was about the relationship between religion and politics I was really taken aback. 2009’s "Curse Your Branches" was an important record to me and I didn’t know how he would follow it up. I had all intentions to dismiss this record, but somehow he pulls it off in a subtle and mostly respectful fashion.
I’m probably the only person that likes this record more than “In Rainbows.” The bass of Colin Greenwood really makes this album for me. Seeing how they play it live is also quite impressive. Radiohead is probably the only band I’ve listened to since high school and still love.
I haven’t been this excited about a debut album in a long time. The husband/wife duo live in LA, have Omaha cred (Bassist Drootin was in Saddle-Creek’s The Good Life), and guitarist/vocalist Senseney (Baby Walrus) is originally from one of my favorite towns in Nebraska, Valentine. Senseney handles the basics of the songwriting and Drootin gets them up to tempo. Whatever they are doing, its really paid off with “White Hat” and I’m looking forward to seeing how their career evolves.
I just started listening to this record last week. Harvey’s eighth album focuses on the brutality of war. In interviews she talks about the firsthand interviews she did with those that served in combat as playing a big part in the album. I’ve avoided Harvey’s music for a long time, this might be the album that makes me give her a deeper look.
I started following Ribot’s guitar work after I realized how much of Tom Waits’ sound was defined by his playing. Since then I’ve been really taken in by his solo compositions. It hadn’t been since 2001’s “Saints” had he released such a beautiful solo record. The songs are meant to function as music for films: some adaptations of he wrote for films and others inspired by actual silent movies. This is my pick for record of the year.
The sequel to 2007’s raw and powerful self titled album from Nick Cave’s side project. I love how when so many musicians age their music gets more and more timid. Not the case for Nick. Also hands down the [event=]best show[/event] I saw in 2010.
By far the band’s best effort since their debut. It’s been years since I’ve been able to get into this band, but after purchasing the album to accompany a solo 9 hour drive this summer it rekindled my love affair with these blues-rock badasses from Akron Ohio.
2 of my favorite guitarists Sir Richard Bishop and Ben Chasney (of Six Organs of Admittance) playing together. I’ve actually wondered what they’d sound like playing together… never dreaming they even knew each other.
Talk about a surprise. I loved Wallflower’s Bringing down the horse and Breach when they were new but for the last decade I’ve found all Dylan’s music to be washed out and uninspired. But his 2nd solo record proved to be a vivid portrayal of the great recession. And it doesn't hurt T-Bone produced it.
1. David Bazan - "Curse Your Branches" After waiting 2 years for this album to come out, it was well worth the wait. Bazan's first full LP took a detour from his Pedro the Lion recording which focused on fictional characters to center on Bazan's falling out of religion. These are some of the most personal lyrics I've heard and it's evident that by taking his time Bazan really did the album justice. I just have to wonder he's going to go from here.
Hard To Be... The album's first track and my favorite off the disc... all stripped down...
2. M. Ward - "Hold Time" Matt Ward's most eclectic effort yet. I still think Matt Ward is the most dependably superb guitarist and lyricist out there.
Ward performing One Hundred Million Years off Hold Time
3. Justin Townes Earle - "Midnight at the Movies" After seeing JTE live in 2009, it made me a believer in the music he's creating. I've never heard someone mix authentic country and Merle Travis picking like him before. And it sounds so current too. This guy is going to go light years ahead of his tiresome father.
JTE performing They Killed John Henry
4. Yo La Tengo - "Popular Songs" This has always been one of those bands that I knew once I started paying attention to I would really get into its back catalog. Popular Songs was the excuse for me to start in on their material. I think it helped me seeing them live too. Probably the best show I saw in 2009.
And the Glitter is Gone
5. Bill Frisell - "Disfarmer" The album is inspired by Depression-era photographer Michael Disfarmer's sobering images of rural America. Of all of the Firsell records I've listened to I've never heard him quite this on top of his game. With an underlying theme in the melody running through the entire record, these short recordings are barren and haunting and accompany Disfarmer's photographs perfectly.
Hear and see some of the pictures...
6. Monsters of Folk - "Monsters of Folk" At first listen I wasn't too interested in this supergroup combo of Mike Mogis, Conor Oberst, Jim James and M. Ward. But all the songs have really grown on me. After seeing them first play in 2004 performing their own individual songs I was always interested in what they could produce together in terms of original material. This was a nice surprise in 2009.
Here's Ward doing the lead vocals on Temazcal. A track that Oberst fronts on the album version.
7. Mason Jennings - "Blood Of Man" I wasn't expecting such a quick turnaround between "In The Ever" and this new record. But Jennings returned with the greatest leap of sound in his career and I think he nailed the transformation. It's also impressive to note that he played all the instruments on the album and produced it all on his own at his cabin in the great state of Minnesota.
Jennings' performing the haunting Sing Out live in MPR's Current Studio
8. Dave Rawlings Machine - "A Friend Of A Friend" I've always been interested in Rawlings and his guitar playing, his work with Ryan Adams and Conor Oberst, so I was excited to learn his own album was coming out this year.
9. The Flaming Lips - "Embryonic" This was such a welcome to my ears after 2006's "At War the Mystics." The record is a long blur of acid rock and reminds me why I first got interested in their sound in the first place.
Watching the planets
10. Do Make Say Think - "Other Truths" They returned with a four-song blast. I feel like DMST peaked with Winter Hymn, Country Hymn, Secret Hymn but I still find myself falling in love with each of their albums.
The four tracks on the album are Do, Make, Say and Think. This is Do.
So I've been thinking a lot about my music listening habits in the 2000s and what albums really remind me of each year. Nothing profound here, folks... this is what I came up with...
2000 Radiohead-Kid A This is already topping the best of the 2000s lists already. And what has been said about it for everyone else is what I have to say about it too. I knew Radiohead for The Bends and OK Computer, so this album came as a complete shock. I remember first listening to it and being completely confused. At first I tossed it aside and dismissed it. But later a good friend convinced me to give it another listen. I did. And do.
2001 David Gray-White Ladder While it was released in the UK in 1998, It didn't hit U.S. shelves until 2001. And the album still puts me smack dab in my last year in high school.
2002 Beck-Sea Change This album came out at a perfect time in my life as far as encompassing my current feelings on relationships. Especially Lost Cause and Round the Bend. It still transports me back to a time when I was really unsure about my future.
2003 My Morning Jacket-It Still Moves Talk about being completely blown away by a performance. I saw Jacket play at a bowling alley in Omaha on the first of October that year. This album is the soundtrack to the beginning of my relationship with my now wife. This disc puts me in the happiest of happy moods and is why I still hold a special place in my heart for their tunes.
2004 Tom Waits-Real Gone Just when I thought Waits couldn't get any more insane Real Gone is released. I was slowly going through buying all his albums at this point in time and had no idea the man was capable of such an insane sound. I still remember when I bought it. A local record store was still doing midnight sales. I remember sitting in the driveway when I got home and finishing the album. The Day After Tomorrow was such a powerful song and still is but especially at the time of its release.
2005 Ryan Adams & The Cardinals-Jacksonville City Nights At the time I don't think I would have called this my favorite album of the year, but it's the most representative of that year of my life. I was coming to terms with what I wanted to study in college, and damnit The End is an insanely well-written country tune. This was the year Adams was releasing 3 albums, who would have thought in that massive amount of creativity he would release his best album.
2008 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds-Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! A good friend and I drove to Denver to see Cave on the Lazarus tour, and I can honestly say it was the best show I've ever seen. Yes, better than the two Waits shows I've seen. The power in which that band creates live is the most intense thing I've ever witnessed. It's cliche to say, but I still find something new to love every time I hear this album.
In the fall of 2007 a solo show of Bazan's was floating around the internet and in the performance he played a lot of new songs that he said was coming out in the spring. It didn't come out until 2009, and the songs about falling out of religion are so captivating and well put. I got to see him play them live in 2008 and am going to see the final versions performed later this year. I've never been so interested in and able to see an album take shape than this disc.