Monday, December 7th, 2009
Well another Krampus Night has come and gone. Seems like the good times are always over so fast. I didn’t celebrate the festivities by roaming city streets dressed like a giant Ewok and beating unsuspecting children with sticks the way they fest it up in Europe, but I was blessed with the joy of sharing the wonders of Krampusdom with an eight year old girl who candidly asked me what the opposite of Santa was. Boy was she in for a earful.
Rest easy, though, everybody. There’s always Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Life Day to boost your spirits. If you don’t know what Life Day is, see if you can’t track down a copy of the Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978. Wait, no, don’t. I just remembered it’s the worst thing that’s every been broadcast on television ever. Seriously.
On to matters promised, we’re still counting down some of the best pop culture contributions of the entire decade. If you missed last week, check out my picks for best movies and by all means, email me if you feel like adding to or debating the list. Now here’s my ten favorite albums of the decade:
10. The National, Boxer. They’re showing up on college radio stations all over the country now. If you haven’t heard them yet, do it soon. Very soon. Highlight: Start A War.
9. Ryan Adams, Love Is Hell, Parts I and II. I don’t know why these two EPs had such a hard time getting released commercially. Adams’ superior cover of Wonderwall had radio single written all over it. C’est la vie. Highlight: Shadowlands.
8. Spoon, Girls Can Tell. Man, I wish Britt Daniel would start writing songs like this again. Spoon has best appreciation for space in music of nearly any band today, and this record shows it beautifully. Highlight: The Fitted Shirt.
7. Sufjan Stevens, Greetings from Michigan, The Great Lake State. I’ll always remember the first time I hear this record in my roommate’s car and how I wanted to keep it all to myself and not let anyone else hear it. Now I’m delighted that Stevens has become a sort of Patron Saint for indie folk rock. Highlights: Romulus, Vido’s Ordination Song, For All the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless In Ypsilanti.
6. Radiohead, Kid A/Amnesiac. I know they’re two separate records. But not really. Anyway, the albums recorded together in the same sessions paved the way for Radiohead’s current and evolving sound. Like them or think they’re overrated, you can’t deny they changed the face of music over the last decade and a half. Highlights: Everything In It’s Right Place, Pyramid Song.
5. Beck, Sea Change. Man, what a library to choose from. But this, Beck’s most mellow of records, is the one I keep coming back to again and again. Highlights: Everything.
4. The Shins, Oh Inverted World. When James Mercer put this home-recorded album out in 2000, I unashamedly claimed it was going to be one of the best of the decade. I’m glad I didn’t have to retract that statement. Highlight: Past and Pending.
3. Death Cab For Cutie, Plans. Yes, debaters, I loved Transatlanticism and Narrow Stairs too. But this was a record that opened doors and proved that Ben Gibbard knew how to not only write songs, but compose an album. Highlights: I Will Follow You Into the Dark, Someday You Will Be Loved, Brothers On A Hotel Bed.
2. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Jeff Tweedy and the Late Jay Bennett couldn’t get a record released. Then they did. Seems pretty boring, except for the fact that it was one of the most innovative and enjoyable records of our time. The first time I heard the opening track I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and that it was the same band that made Summerteeth just a few years prior. Just outstanding. Highlight: I Am Trying To Break Your Heart.
1. Teddy Thompson, Separate Ways. I know. I filled the number one spot with a record with no radio singles, no heralding by the masses, and little recognition outside of fans of British folk enthusiasts. Fact is the son of Richard and Linda Thompson delivered with his sophomore release one of the most perfectly balanced pop/rock/country records I’ve ever heard. I’ve endorsed it before, but I’ll do it again. Go buy this record. Highlights: Everybody Move it, Separate Ways… and everything else.
That’s it for me everybody. Chances are by this time next week I’ll be a dad for real, so I probably won’t be posting for a bit. Enjoy your holidays and buy one of these records for the music lover in your family. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions/comments about the list, or if you need anything for your iPod, iPhone, MacBook or MacBook Pro. And keep one eye open for the Krampus.
Tuesday, December 30th, 2008
Hello readers! Well, well well. Here we are again in the waning days of another year. Everybody get a good haul last week? iPhones and iPods a-plenty, I presume. And lucky you if you landed one of the new Aluminum Unibody MacBooks or MacBook Pros. Well, let’s cut to the chase. Here’s my annual short-list of must-sees, must-listens, must-haves of 2008, by no means comprehensive. In no particular order:
Beck, Modern Guilt. It’s good to hear Beck reinvent himself again. Perhaps not as ground-shaking as Odelay, Mutations or Sea Change, but solid nonetheless.
Teddy Thompson, A Piece of What You Need. The son of folk royalty Richard and Linda Thompson proved his solo-artist caliber once again with this year’s brighter sounding pop/rock/alt-country disc. If you haven’t listened to him yet, do yourself a favor and get this album. And 2004’s Separate Ways.
Mike Crawford and His Secret Siblings, Songs from Jacob’s Well, Volumes I and II. Some of the more creative orchestral arrangements and sincere song writing I’ve heard in a long time. These guys left it in the studio.
2008 was a standard-setting year for comic book adaptations, no doubt. I’ll keep it brief. Incredible Hulk- awesome. Iron Man- AWESOME. The Dark Knight- OMG AWESOME LOL. Moving on.
I don’t think I read any new books in the last few months, so here’s some classics I dug into again, and suggest you do the same.
G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.
Spalding Gray, Impossible Vacation.
So, if you haven’t read/seen/heard those items, you have a year to catch up. If any of you happen to be snowboarding at Monarch this weekend, be sure to stop and say hello. Heck, I’ll give you $50 off your next portable repair if you can find me. Have a Happy New Year, friends, and drive safe.
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