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The Best Music of 2008

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2008 was a pretty good year for new music.

The Best albums released in 2008 (Album –  Artist):

  1. Brighter Than Creation’s Dark –  Drive-By Truckers
  2. The Evening Descends –  Evangelicals
  3. The Chemistry of Common Life –  F**ked Up
  4. At Mount Zoomer –  Wolf Parade
  5. HLLLYH –  The Mae Shi
  6. Hold On Now, Youngster… –  Los Campesinos!
  7. Liver! Lung! FR! –  Frightened Rabbit
  8. Ice Cream Spiritual –  Ponytail
  9. Jim –  Jamie Lidell
  10. Heretic Pride –  The Mountain Goats

“You! Me! Dancing!” by Los Campesinos!, from their debut album, Hold On Now, Youngster… (also found on the 2007 EP Sticking Fingers Into Sockets)

The rest of the best (in no particular order):

  • 808s & Heartbreak –  Kanye West
  • Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
  • Third –  Portishead
  • We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed –  Los Campesinos!
  • Vivian Girls –  Vivian Girls
  • In The Future –  Black Mountain
  • Distortion – The Magnetic Fields
  • Ferndorf –  Hauschka
  • Life…The Best Game in Town –  Harvey Milk
  • Cities of Glass –  AIDS Wolf
  • Microcastle –  Deerhunter
  • The Odd Couple –  Gnarls Barkley
  • Skeleton –  Abe Vigoda
  • The Midnight Organ Fight –  Frightened Rabbit
  • The Twilight Sad Killed My Parents and Hit the Road –  The Twilight Sad
  • Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea – Silver Jews
  • Methods: (EP) –  Imperial China
  • Sing Along (EP)  –  Caverns
  • Kittens! (EP)  –  Caverns
  • Music Needs You –  Ryan Blotnick
  • Red, Yellow & Blue –  Born Ruffians
  • A Certain Feeling –  Bodies of Water
  • Nouns –  No Age
  • Smile –  Boris
  • Pop-Up –  Yelle
  • Made In The Dark –  Hot Chip
  • Lost and Found –  The Dexateens
  • Long Gone And Nearly There –  Julie Ocean
  • Litany of Echoes –  James Blackshaw
  • Arm’s Way –  Islands
  • Magnificent Fiend –  Howlin’ Rain
  • High Places –  High Places
  • Flight Of The Conchords –  Flight Of The Conchords
  • Christmas On Mars (Soundtrack)  –  The Flaming Lips
  • Street Horrrsing –  F**k Buttons
  • Visiter –  The Dodos
  • Nothing Is Precious Enough for Us –  Death Vessel
  • Drippers and  Bonus Drippers –  Black Moth Super Rainbow
  • Rip It Off –  Times New Viking

Best Re-issue of 2008:

  1. Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul –  Otis Redding

– R.H.

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The Best Albums of 2008 :

1. Is it the Sea – Bonnie Prince Billy : Our favorite melancountry superstar delivers a live album that reminds one of his greatness while examining it in a whole new light.

2. Stay Positive – The Hold Steady : Working class is not a label that readily describes Craig Finn and co but their tales of townies and misguided teenagers are just as funny, touching and perfect in their own scrappy way as ever. The world’s best bar music as interpreted by indie elitists.

3. Glasvegas – Glasvegas : Melodic catharsis in spades delivered by four Glasgowians. This young band is not infallible as a whispered poem over Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata suffers in comparison to the original but they got spirit, energy and stories of absent fathers, wounded teens and overall angst that really should not work as well as they do.

4. We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed – Los Campesinos : Cheeky and clever but much more than that. Nihilists on the outside but pop craftsmen at heart, their ruminations on youth’s assured end in dejected failure are all good fun until you stop and realize they’re telling you the party’s going to be over and there’s nothing you can do.

5. Microcastle – Deerhunter : There’s something ethereal about this band and especially this album. Playing with avant garde ideas without sacrificing listenability, these ambassadors of indie keep winning.

6. You and Me – The Walkmen : The Bob Dylan comparisons become ever more pronounced especially with frontman Hamilton Leithauser affecting nasally intonations. Still, their chief appeal is heartfelt, esoteric storytelling, aged and cackling.

7. Skeletal Lamping – Of Montreal : The hype machine finally broke down and Kevin Barnes began to tumble critically while selling out shows. The music, however, is just as inventive and grand as it ever was. Though lacking the darkness of Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, Barnes’ latest is rife with the new ideas he keeps discovering and surely will stand more prominently in the cannon once the sobering influence of time takes hold.

8. Modern Guilt – Beck : The dream team of Beck and The Gray Album mastermind Dangermouse creates surprisingly ignored quality tunes. Beck is still haunted by his demons from Sea Change but he still finds time to offer Dangermouse jubilant, sampled pop ditties to wash down the depression.

9. Saturnalia – The Gutter Twins : An album that abounds with apocalypse throughout as two musical legends push each other to the limits of their sensibilities, one high the other low.

10.That Lucky Old Sun – Brian Wilson : A musical legend who seems to be experimenting with the harmonies and arrangements that have fascinated him throughout his career not for the audience’s benefit but his own. The results are as reliably stunning as ever.

Honorable Mention: 808s and Hearbreak – Kanye West, Untitled – Nas, A Larum – Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit, The ’59 Sound – The Gaslight Anthem

– Vman

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Bonnaroo 2008

…was awesome.

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Live: Drive-By Truckers, the Dexateens – 5/10/08 at the 9:30 Club

Awesome show. Great, great show. Completely different from the night before. Amazing. Absolutely great.

The band opened with “That Man I Shot.” They played “Bob,” “Steve McQueen,” and “18 Wheels of Love” (!!!). DBT played “18 Wheels of Love” with the start-the-song story intact and then followed it up by concluding the story with the present-day tales of Chester and Patterson’s mother. DBT also played a righteous version of Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen.”

They ended the set (before the mind-blowing encore) with a take on “Let There Be Rock” that was completely different from the night before. While the song was an emotional power-punch of a glorious rock’n’roll anthem on Friday night, Saturday transformed the song into a joyous celebration of a song. Shonna Tucker did not sing any songs for Saturday’s show.

Remember those Cadillacs that Patterson Hood parked in between without a scratch? Well, what made the performance of “Let There Be Rock” even more special was that the friend’s who’s parents owned those Cadillacs was at the show, in the VIP balcony above stage right. Even the man’s life-saving sister DD was there.

The biggest difference between Friday and Saturday’s shows was that there was more stage banter at Saturday’s show. Patterson gave a telling introduction to “Puttin’ People On The Moon” and he told of how he twisted his ankle on stage the night before. Plus, they played “18 Wheels of Love” (!!!).

Openers the Dexateens again rocked the house. It looked like most of the sold out show’s crowd showed up before DBT, in time to see some of the Dexateens, and the applause the band received was something close to uproarious. They did their Southern-tinged rock and played well. They too talked more than they did the night before, although the Dexateens’ setlist was basically the same.

Both bands reunited for another closeout jam in the encore, playing “Buttholeville,” “State Trooper,” (Bruce Springsteen) and “People Who Died” (Jim Carroll). (same as Friday)

These two nights have provided the most euphoric rock shows ever.

Thank you, Drive-By Truckers. Thank you.

– R.H.

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Live: Drive-By Truckers, the Dexateens – 5/9/08 at the 9:30 Club

It’s f__kin’ great to be alive!!

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What a great, great show. The Truckers gave it their all. Every ounce of their energy for one of the best rock shows I have ever seen.

You can put the Drive-By Truckers into whatever country subgenre you want, but when it comes down to it, they are just pure rock ‘n’ roll. They are, without a doubt, one of the best present-day rock bands in America, if not the world. Heck, they’re even better than some old classic rockers. These guys are good.

“Baby every bone in my body’s gone to jumping/like they’re gonna come through my skin/If they could get along without the rest of me, it wouldn’t matter if they did,” sang Mike Cooley on “A Ghost To Most,” one of the many great tracks on 2008’s superb Brighter Than Creation’s Dark. The set list spanned their entire career and contained hit after hit. Brighter Than Creation’s Dark is such a charming record, that songs off of it were often highlights. But every song was a highlight tonight.

When Cooley finished playing “Checkout Time In Vegas,” (from BTCD) the band then played the three following songs on the record straight afterward. “You And Your Crystal Meth” was brilliant and even darker live. “Goode’s Field Road” proved just why it’s an excellent song, and everyone already knew that “A Ghost To Most” is a classic.

As the Drive-By Truckers played, it was hard for me to see any effect pedals on the stage for their guitars. Then I realized, they don’t need any pedals. The only effect they need is “Southern Fried.”

I did see some pedals toward the back of the stage, but they were scarce and that was just fine. The guitars were in fine, fine form.

Touring member on the keys, John Neff on pedal steel and a third guitar, Brad Morgan on drums, Patterson Hood on guitar and vocals, Mike Cooley on guitar and vocals, and Shonna Tucker played bass with an endearing enthusiasm. Shonna sang one song during the show, her best one off the last record, “I’m Sorry Huston.”

Morgan is a very talented drummer. This was obvious right away with rockin’ opener “Puttin’ People On the Moon.”

The Truckers put so much energy out on the stage. I don’t know how they can top it tonight (as in the tenth) (two dates at the 9:30 Club this time around, the ninth and tenth of May). I’m sure they will, but last night was pure rock awesomeness. Great setlist, great energy, great, great rock music. I really cannot use the word “great” enough. Or the word “rock.”

DBT classic “Let There Be Rock” had a shining moment as the third to last song in the righteous encore. The best song I have ever seen performed live. Absolutely amazing.

And the final rock-out jam of the encore had DBT pull openers the Dexateens (who played a well-received and joyously country-rockin’ set to start the late night off (doors at 9)) back on stage (along with another guitarist friend) to play “Buttholeville” and whatever other song I could not tell by ear (thanks to the mass of instruments pervading the sound system) (the vocals were inaudible at this point. Throughout the night, the vocals were hard to hear in the club). It wasn’t pure rock fury. It was pure rock soul.

The musicians traded swigs from the Jack Daniels bottle all bitter and clean, and the show ended with one hell of bang. Patterson Hood lying on the stage, 10 other people playing music around him. And then he popped up for another round of soul revealin’ rock.

Great show. Great band.

– R.H.

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