• The Best of What I Heard in 2008 (A bit late)

    31. Dez. 2009, 23:40

    Alright, so it's a bit late. I made the list a year ago, but never published it anywhere (not that many folks were waiting with bated breath or anything).

    So, without further ado, and because I'm a little OCD and can't publish the 2009 list without first getting 2008 out of the way, here comes the best of what I heard in 2008:

    Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

    Shamefully, this was my first Sigur Ros CD. It's shameful because they've been around for about a dozen years, and I'd never heard them before. They are now one of my favorite bands, and I own all of their CDs. Even one that I had to order from Iceland.

    This is the most transcendent music I've heard in my life. There are moments that I would swear the heavens opened up and the music coming out is like the very voice of God.

    My words can't do it justice. It must be heard to be believed, and not just in 30-second snippets. Buy this album, listen to it from beginning to end, and let it wash over you.

    Kris Delmhorst - Shotgun singer

    Kris Delmhorst is a singer/songwriter, and she makes some extraordinary music from sparse arrangements on this CD. Personal favorites are... well, it doesn't even matter, because it's all fantastic stuff.

    Lettuce - Rage!

    Lettuce is a bunch of world-class musicians who have a deep appreciation for old-school funk, and aren't afraid to pick up the mantle and carry funk music boldly into the 21st century. These cats are baaaad...

    Dave Barnes - Me & You & The World
    (Not sure why there isn't an album page on for this)

    Dave Barnes could be the best singer/songwriter you’ve never heard of. A friend of mine dragged me to one of his shows in 2007, and I was hooked. If I'd heard him before, his first two releases (Brother, Bring The Sun & Chasing Mississippi) would have been at the top of my lists for 2004 and 2006. This one’s only a half-step behind the other two.

    He deserves a huge audience. Hopefully, someday...

    Avishai Cohen Trio - Gently Disturbed

    I don't know a lot about Avishai Cohen, except that he's a great standup bass player, and he writes music that grooves in spite of the fact you can't always tap your foot to the beat. When Cohen's involved, Piano + Bass + Drums = A mind-blowing experience...

    Al Green - Lay It Down

    Al Green is one of the greatest soul singers of all time, but his recordings of late have sounded like a stale attempt to update his sound. That's not what the good Reverend needs.

    Thankfully, this album sounds like an unreleased session that's been sitting in a vault, untouched for decades. Producer Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson (from The Roots) is wise enough to let Green do what he does best: sing about sweet love.

    Q-Tip - The Renaissance

    The former member of A Tribe Called Quest finally releases his second solo CD (not counting Kamaal The Abstract, which sat on the shelf for 7 years before being released this year).

    The Renaissance shows Q-Tip hasn't lost a step in the nine years since he released Amplified. It’s intelligent hip-hop that you can't help but bob your head to. It's good to finally have Q-Tip back.

    Steve Winwood - Nine Lives

    Nine Lives is a fantastic album. The instrumentation is sparse, made up of Winwood on organ and guitar, a drummer, and a percussionist. Occasionally, he's joined by a sax or flute player. The vocals are Steve solo, without a doubled lead vocal track or any background vocals. It's a minimalist arrangement, but the sparseness makes it that much more effective.

    Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords

    What kills me about Flight Of The Conchords is that while the lyrics are hilarious, each song is a spot-on sendup of whatever genre they've decided to tackle at the time. They're humorous, and actually good, to boot. You can't fight it, so don't even bother trying. Just get it and be highly amused...

    Sia - Some People Have Real Problems

    Sometimes I’ll see a CD and buy it solely because I like the look of it. My aesthetics very rarely let me down, and I’ve found quite a bit of good music that way. This was not one of those purchases.

    One night at Starbucks, I liked what was playing and asked who it was. They pointed toward this CD. I had seen it previously and passed it by every time, so I asked, "Seriously? The girl with markers all over her face?" I was assured it was, so I bought it. I’m glad I did.

    Don't let the markers on her face fool you. Her Australian-flavored soul music is worth a listen.

    So there you have it. The best of what I heard in 2008 - one year late, but moving fast...
  • The Best of What I Heard in 2007

    6. Jan. 2008, 4:47

    2007 was a bit of a lull musically, but that doesn't mean there wasn't anything worthwhile to listen to. There may be some releases from '07 that I won't hear until later that would have made the list, much like Dave Barnes would have been toward the top of the '06 list if I'd heard him in '06. But that's the way things work sometimes. So, here's the list for 2007:

    Jill Scott

    Jill Scott - The Real Thing
    Jill Scott has been one of my favorite neo-soul singers since she first arrived on the scene in 2001. From production to performance to songwriting, this album knocks it out of the park. Be forewarned, though: There may not be any Parental Advisory sticker on it, but the subject matter of a lot of the songs is quite... um... adult. A little more adult than I would usually feel comfortable recommending, but that's how strong this album is...

    Innocence Mission

    The Innocence Mission - We Walked in Song
    I cannot say enough great things about The Innocence Mission. The Lancaster, PA-based folk trio have found a niche that they seem quite content with. They continue to make gentle, beautiful, heavenly music that I could listen to all day long, and I actually have on many occasions. Now, if only they would start playing the occasional live show again...


    Donnie - The Daily News
    Donnie goes all in with "The Daily News," an independently released CD which garnered little fanfare from mainstream media. Listening to the lyrics, it's easy to see why. Donnie tackles some pretty weighty issues (racism, the Atlanta Child Murders, and so on). Not exactly radio-friendly background noise, but it's well worth diving into...


    Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity
    Deerhoof isn't for everybody. They are artists first and foremost, and because of this, they get quite experimental with their sounds. Even I have a hard time getting through "Look Away," the nearly 12-minute closer. However, every song leading up to it is a joy to listen to, even if it is an experimental kind of joy.


    Burial - Untrue
    Burial is a British DJ whose music is classified by reviewers on as "dubstep." Maybe I'm just getting old, but I have no idea what that's supposed to mean. What I do know, however, is that I like it. A lot.

    Arcade Fire

    Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
    I'm not going to lie: I first checked into Arcade Fire because other people were making such a stink about them. What I didn't expect, though, was that I'd actually like "Neon Bible" as much as I do. There's something about this album that I can't put my finger on, but it haunts me for hours after listening to it. Good stuff...

    Ryan Shaw

    Ryan Shaw - This Is Ryan Shaw
    Ryan Shaw is a 26-year-old cat from Georgia who can sing like there's no tomorrow. The fact that he prefers to sing as if he were a product of the Stax studios of the 60's is just icing on the cake. He takes some relatively obscure old cuts, mixes in some original songs of his own, and whips up a wonderful concoction.

    Rahsaan Patterson

    Rahsaan Patterson - Wines and Spirits
    Rahsaan Patterson is one of the most criminally overlooked music artists in the business today. His fourth album, "Wines and Spirits," is definitely a return to form for him, after the comparatively disappointing "After Hours." It's a daggone shame that he hasn't caught on like he should have. Go check him out. Now. No, seriously. Now...

    Okkervil River

    Okkervil River - Stage Names
    Okkervil River is a band that's kind of in the same vein as Arcade Fire, albeit a little less orchestral. It's still good stuff, and the fact that they weave "Sloop John B" into the end of a track about a man who's about to commit suicide is absolutely genius.

    Flight of the Conchords

    Flight of the Conchords - The Distant Future EP
    Here, we have one of my favorite finds of the year. If you haven't found out about Flight of the Conchords yet, then just run out and buy the DVD of their TV show now. Do it. Now. The only reason this CD isn't higher on the list is because it's an EP, but they're releasing a full-length in '08. "The Distant Future" will just have to tide us over until then. Binary solo: 0000001 00000111...

    Sly & The Family Stone

    Sly & The Family Stone remasters
    Finally, I give you the best reissue of the year. Epic Records remastered the works of Sly & The Family Stone, from 1967's "A Whole New Thing" to 1974's "Small Talk." While it's not all must-have, there's still plenty of good stuff on every disc to make them worth picking up. You can buy the Collection box set, or you can buy them individually. Classic stuff...