Thursday, December 25, 2008

Best Albums of 2008

Normally I don't post things on this site that are not news related, but I like to do a year-end wrap up with a list of my favorite records of the year. This list is of records that I really enjoyed and recommend. This list is in no particular order.

1. The Gaslight Anthem - "The '59 Sound" (SideoneDummy Records)

These Jersey' Boys mix the sound of Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty with the attitude of the Clash and the Ramones. Lyrically this album sounds right out of pages of a Jack Kerouac novel yet the album manages to have that nostalgic feel without sounding dated. This is punk rock for those who love the E Street sound.

Favorite Tracks: "Miles Davis and the Cool" "Here's Looking at You, Kid"

2. LaGrecia - "On Parallels" (Suburban Home Recordings)

LaGrecia broke up before their debut record "On Parallels" had even been released. Fortunately for us, the album was released. This is Jason Shevchuck's (Kid Dynamite, None More Black) latest band. This seems like a natural progression from the last None More Black record, "This is Satire", moving further from punk and more into rock with a tinge of blues. Great sing along songs and great lyrics have been at the heart of all his work and it continues here. Though the band broke up before this records release, None More Black has reformed and hopefully will continue the good work done on the this record.

Favorite Tracks: "You Like Baseball, I Like Ghosts" "In the Grass"

3. The Hold Steady - "Stay Positive" (Vagrant Records)

The Hold Steady returned this summer with a great record filled with alcohol soaked sing-along songs. I've always liked the Hold Steady's music, but at times found their lyrics to be a bit lacking. This time around the lyrics seem to have matured along with the songwriting to make a great record. The Hold Steady keep alive the spirit of the E. Street Shuffle by making what could once be described as bar songs, accessible to the mainstream. Plus there is guest vocals by Ben Nichols of Lucero on many tracks (extra bonus).

Favorite Tracks: "Constructive Summer" "Sequestered in Memphis"

4. She & Him - "Volume I" (Merge Records)

The longstanding myth that Actors turned Singers/Musicians tend to be awful (as opposed to Singers/musicians turned Actors) has been debunked with this debut from Zoey Deschanel and Matt Ward. The songs are written by Zoey Deschanel (Elf, Yes Man)and the arrangements are by Matt Ward(singer / songwriter / Bright Eyes Collaborator). A great mix of folk and country with vocals that at time sound like out of the 50's. Strong songwriting and great performance by everyone involved in this project makes this a record that will remain on repeat in your car stereo.

Favorite Tracks: "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?" "Sweet Darlin'"

5. Mates of State - "Re-Arrange Us" (Barsuk Records)

This is probably the catchiest record I have heard all year. This husband and wife duo know how to write great pop songs. This time around they change up their a sound a little by using more piano and less organ. This works out great giving the band a fuller and more mature sound. This is a fun record that I think anyone can enjoy.

Favorite Tracks: "This is My Only Offer" "Re-Arrange Us"

6. Ryan Adams & the Cardinals - "Cadinology" (Lost Highway Records)

Only a year since his last release, "Easy Tiger", Ryan Adams continues to earn his stripes as a prolific song writer. With that said, this is the best and most cohesive record he has put out in years (though most of his records are pretty great). It sounds like Adams finally knows what sound he wants out of the Cardinals and the best way to get that sound. There is a good grove based feel to this record that seems to blend the sound of his records "Love is Hell" and "Cold Roses" with his "Rock n' Roll" record. Not really alt-country, not really rock, but all around enjoyable.

Favorite Tracks: "Fix It" "Magick" "Cobwebs"

7. My Morning Jacket - "Evil Urges" (ATO Records)

Three parts southern rock, one part jam band is how I would describe My Morning Jacket. Great song writing and interesting arrangements make this band really great. This album explores new territory by adding some funk and soul, a la Prince, on a few tracks (Evil Urges, Highly Suspicious). The key to this band though is the strong songwriting and Jim James' great voice.

Favorite Tracks: "Evil Urges" "I'm Amazed"

8. Bloc Party - "Intimacy" (Atlantic Records)

Only a year and half after their last record, Bloc Party continues to keep things interesting with "Intimacy". The first two tracks on the record (Ares / Mercury) are the most progressive and envelope pushing songs the band has ever written, and that is a great thing. The band throws you into the record with intensity and intrigue. The rest of the album follows by reinventing a good mix of sounds from the first two records, keeping it sounding fresh and new. I really loved the last record by Bloc Party and this record is just as good, if not better.

Favorite Tracks: "Mercury" "Trojan Horse"

9. Vampire Weekend - "S/T" (X-L Records)

What happens when you mix a bunch of Ivy League indie kids with the sounds of Africa? You get Vampire Weekend. Though not totally original (check out Paul Simon's "Graceland") Vampire Weekend has managed to write a simplistic yet brilliant album mixing indie rock and african music. The key is the simple yet catchy songs that will have you humming along and tapping your toes before you know it.

Favorite Tracks: "Cape Code Kwassa Kwassa" "Oxford Comma" "The Kids Don't Stand a Chance"

10. Solo Projects -
Love You Moon - "Waxwane" (MDB / Sargant House Records)
Jenny Lewis - "Acid Tongue" (Warner Bros. Records)
Vic Ruggiero - "Something in My Blindspot" (Cobraside Records)

This year was a good year for singers of bands putting out solo records that were really good. Matt Embree of Rx Bandits released "Waxwane" under the name Love You Moon. A mix of folk, blues, and jazz, at times this record brings memories of Bob Dylan (the protest songs) and at other times Brad Nowell's solo stuff (Sublime). Favorite tracks: "H Bombs at the Shopping Mall" "Berkeley Shingles". Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley puts out her second solo album "Acid Tongue". A mix of country, folk and pop, this album has great songs and good guest appearances (Elvis Costello). This os a record I think almost anyone could enjoy. Favorite track: "The Next Messiah". Lastly, Vic Ruggerio of the Slackers puts out another solo record, this one is called "Something in my Blindspot". Though Vic likes to write traditional ska songs with the Slackers, his solo efforts are a mix of blues,folk, and pop. Matched with his unique and great voice, Vic manages to combine good songwriting with interesting arrangements and instrumentation. Favorite Track: "Taking Care of Business".

11. Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis - "Two Men With the Blues" (Blue Note Records)

What can one say about mixing Willie Nelson with jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis for a live record except what a great idea. More of a traditional sounding jazz record than a country or folk record, the way Nelson and Marsalis work off of each other is truly inspiring. Mixing some jazz standards and some of Nelson's tunes, this album makes me truly appreciate the art of great music.

Favorite Tracks: "Bright Lights Big City" "Georgia on my Mind"

12. Lemuria - "Get Better" Asian Man Records

Somewhere in between Jawbreaker and Tegan and Sara there is Lemuria. The debut from this female fronted indie band is great. Catchy songs and great lyrics mixed with a voice that nerd rockers will fall in love with.

Favorite Tracks: "Yesterday's Lunch" "Buzz"

Honorable Mentions:
Conor Oberst - "S/T"
The Matches - "A Band In Hope"
Chuck Ragan and Austin Lucas - "Bristle Ridge"
The Loved Ones - "Build and Burn"
Jaguar Love - "Take Me to the Sea"
Jolie Holland - "the Living and the Dead"

Best EP's of 2008:

Ben Nichols - "The Last Pale Light in the West" (Lament and Liberty Records)

Ben Nichols of Lucero's first official solo release is an EP (or mini album) based on the Cormac McCarthy novel "The Blood Meridian". A great batch of songs that really put you into the old west.

Favorite Tracks: "Davy Brown" "The Last Pale Light in the West"

Dead to Me - "Little Brother" (Fat Wreck Chords)

The follow up to Dead to Me's debut "Cuban Ballerina" proves that they are one of the best punk band's playing today. Influenced by the '77 punk of Sex Pistols and the Clash but updated for the new millenium, every song on this EP is great. The only thing disappointing is that this is only an EP and not a full length album.

Favorite Tracks: "Little Brother" "Arrythmic"

Best Album of 2007 that I didn't discover until 2008:
M.I.A. - Kala

Most Disappointing Album of 2008:
The Streets - "Everything is Borrowed"

Most Overrated Album of 2008:

No Age - "Nouns"

Most Anticipated of 2009:

Lucero, Rx Bandits, Fake Problems, Propagandhi

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Warner pulls all content from YouTube

Talks between Warner Bros. Music group and YouTube seemed to have broken down and Warner has begun removing all songs and videos that they own from YouTube. Warner is unhappy with the amount of money they have been receiving from ad revenue for licensing their content the video site which is owned by Google. Warner is the first of the major record labels to walk away but Universal and Sony/BMG are still renegotiating their deals with YouTube. For more info check out this article from the Wall Street Journal.

RIAA gets in the Christmas Spirit

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Recording Industry of America (RIAA) is going to abandon their strategy of mass law suits against individual file-sharers in search of a more effective way to combat illegal file-sharing. The campaign has been a PR disaster for the RIAA and critics say that it has done little to actually stop file-sharing. The RIAA are exploring new ideas that involve (through a relationship with Internet Service Providers) giving users several notices and then shutting off their internet service if they continue to file-share illegally. For a more in-depth article go here.

It is about about time that RIAA realized how ineffective their lawsuits have been. The absolute mismanagement of who was sued and the PR around the law suits has hurt the music industry more than it has helped it by lowering consumer confidence in the industry as a whole. Working with the ISPs is a step in the right direction but the music industry has to come to terms with the fact that the decline in sales has more to do with the decline in the economy and the diversification of entertainment available then with file sharing.

New York iTax

The Governor of New York, David Paterson, has proposed a new tax on digital downloads in next year's state budget. The 4% tax charge, nickedname the "iTax", would cover music, movies, books and all other digitally delivered entertainment services. Read more about it here.

Lil' Wayne Sued for Copyright Infringement

According to, Lil' Wayne has been sued by Urband & Lazar Music Publishing for sampling the Karma Ann Swanepoel's song "Once" in his song "I Feel Like Dying" without permission. Lil' Wayne's record label claims they tried to negotiate a license before the songs release but were not successful. Lil' Wayne's attorney's are seeking more time from the court to gather all the documentation.

It seems to be a pretty sloppy move on the part of Lil' Wayne's record label to release a song before they have the rights to use a sample. An artist of his stature has the best resources available to him and this is just a rookie mistake by the people at his label.