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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Best and the Rest (and everything else too)

Just like every year, here are my top CDs of the year. Because I'm poor, it's actually all the CDs I got, but you know, the intentions are there. I wish to be irresponsibly rich and spend all of my dispensable income on CDs, that would be sweet. So here we go - from worst to first in my saddest year, musically, ever.

Weezer - Weezer (The Red Album)
**Weezer has officially become one of those bands that's hard to figure out and this album really puts that into a tangent light. This album is wildly much so that the tracks by the three other members of the band actually come out as the most solid stretch. It's kind of depressing when one can't string together more than three strong songs...especially out of ten...but that's the beast we're dealing with here. The tracks, individually (like most Weezer albums) are solid enough, but far from coherent when put together. The thing is, whenever this album let me down, it had a pick-me-up almost immediately, meaning that regardless, I'll still get the next Weezer I guess it has that going for it. Check out "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations of a Shaker Hymn)"

Juno Soundtrack
**One of the big movies of the year was a huge hit in the soundtrack department too. Little known Kimya Dawson (one half of the Moldy Peaches) holds the album together while throwing in a handful of classics (a little Mott the Hoople here, a little Buddy Holly here) make it a good listen. Like the movie, it's a little out there, but it's heart is in the right place. Sadly, it's Kimya Dawson's tracks which are the thinnest in the all-star bunch and while they stand out and they are fun the first few listens, they are overall pretty thin which means they are only good for a relisten every once in awhile. What's worse, is that the original version of "Anybody Else But You" (who many swear by) is completely blown out of the water by the movie version, sung by Michael Cera and Ellen Page, which contains a lot more emotion and has a quiet grace about it. Check out "Anybody Else But You" by Michael Cera and Ellen Page.

The Raveonettes - Lust Lust Lust
**The Raveonettes came back in '08 and released more feedback than your eardrums even knew they wanted. While easily holding the strongest opening song on any album this year (and very likely since "Seven Nation Army") in "Aly, Walk With Me" the album still lacks where past Raveonettes albums didn't...diversity. In the past, the band has recorded an album all in B Minor ("Whip It On"), B Major ("Chain Gang of Love") and then the very schizophrenic "Pretty in Black" but that's neither here nor there, the problem is that while the songs here are all great Raveonettes songs, it's very easy to put it on and let it fade into the background. Only "Aly, Walk With Me" rises above the static, while everything else while great alone, sounds like white noise in the context of the album. Since then the Raveonettes have released four digital only EPs, including a Christmas one, which I'm hoping are released via CD soon because you all know how I hate not having physical versions of my songs. The EPs show a much more experimental side, which is what "Lust Lust Lust" was lacking. Check out "Aly, Walk With Me" with your headphones's amazing the first time.

Katy Perry - One of the Boys
**Ahh, yes, my annual foray into the annals of pop music. This is a frustrating album because it's good in spite of itself. The production is often flat, the lyrics atrocious at times (see "If You Can Afford Me") and yet, it's strikingly different than anything else out there. It begs to for you to sing along with it and it's a solid album, but there's very little emotion in it which is where it comes up the shortest. Maybe next time? Check out "Ur So Gay"

The Kills - Midnight Boom
**When I first heard "Cheap and Cheerful" I thought - what is this? This isn't the Kills. The Kills have a dirty guitar and a cheap drum machine and that's it! This is borderline dance music. Last I checked in with the Kills, they were actually taking more from their minimalist approach than before...taking an almost engineering approach to their albums. So they head back to Benton Harbor and hire a producer? And bust out an album focused the drums instead of the guitar? This album flipped the band on its head and what a result! Even when it feel rudimentary ("Getting Down"), it's still a blast and you feel like you're at the best house party ever. The album is consistent, yet diverse enough that every track has it's own personality. It has all the same sexual tension of their live shows and usually more than previous albums and the emotions here are high too. The Kills debuted their softer side on "Rodeo Town" from "No Wow" but here, they nail it. "Goodnight Bad Morning" is the hangover at the end of the album and will someday accompany the final credits to some great indie film about the perils of youth. Almost like a sequel to the Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning," the song is the perfect conclusion to a great album. Check it out because you'll find at least one track you like, I promise you that. Check out "Goodnight Bad Morning"

Biirdie - Catherine Avenue
**Released on January 22, this album blew me away in many ways. Where their debut album ("Morning Kills the Dark") was a sparse cross-country trip of Americana, recorded in living rooms and kitchens across the nation, "Catherine Avenue" is a return trip home in Los Angeles and if I had to associate an album with a city, this one nailed it. Rooted in the late sixties folk-rock movement, mostly the Beatles let's be honest here, the band doesn't really do anything revolutionary or new but what they do is absolutely gorgeous. The album isn't nearly as consistent as their debut, but by taking chances, the band is able to really start to carve out their own little niche in the music scene. The best example of this album comes on the one cover from the bands previous effort, "I'm Gonna Tell You Something" - originally this was a sparse song that sounded lost in traffic across the world but when the band puts a Pink Floyd spin on the song including some mad crazy atmospherics, it becomes something totally different. No longer is this star drawn couple just separated by the perils of the road but now it's their own's the day to day come-and-go which muddles everything. Then there's the album focal point, "Careless and Unconcerned" - somewhere between a break-up song, a love song and an advice for graduating seniors song - with crippling lyrics and a piano buildup worthy of its own film montage, the song is absolutely engaging. Now throw in songs like "LA is Mars" which wouldn't find itself out of place on a soundtrack like Donnie Darko, or the "Hey Jude" aping "Estelle" and this album hasn't left my car since I got it. There was a long stretch of time I'd listen to a good stretch of it daily, a la Lifted, when I first got it. Plain and simple, this album is amazing - again, it won't blow you away, but it is beautiful and worth a listen and for many, I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't require more than that. Check out "Estelle"

So that's it, like I said, this was a depressingly down year for me and music (I think my worst to date) so hopefully I'll be able to expand my '08 catalog in '09 as well as get some new stuff in there as well. Ta.

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