Friday, November 30, 2007

It is Essential that I find more clever ways to use the word Essential

Bam! Here they are, #18 - #13...they look delicious, have seconds.

Neon Bible – Arcade Fire

Working for the Church while your family dies, You take what they give you and you keep it inside. Curtains pulled tight and heart poured out as Arcade Fire wrote the most morose album I’ve ever owned…and they did it with style. The very sound itself is black, underscored with a glaring Neon glimmer of hope that envelops the listener. As the album plays through the themes of loss, despair, confusion and doubt smother, but the jubilant rhythms and anthems of chorus allow you to look beyond the shadows and into the soul of the music, and that’s where the heart of Arcade Fire lies. It’s not what most expected as a follow up album to Funeral, but once it was unearthed there was no denying its force. The songs are more hit and miss than the critics and fans owe up to, but when they are ablaze few bands capture such passion. If early trends predicted that Bruce would be the new black in ’07, then Neon Bible was the multi-billboard ad campaign in Times Square. Antichrist Television Blues I still believe deserves a cosign notation to the Boss, and although I am not part of the music populous that feels Bruce is a national treasure I do feel this to be the best track on the album…so maybe there is something more to this trend?
They know my name cause I told it to them, But they don't know where and they don't know, When its coming, oh when but its coming Keep the car running!

The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse – The Besnard Lakes

It’s the work on the high hats that truly snagged me here. I suppose the parallels this album draws to Animals – Pink Floyd is what gives it its power. There is also the wash of guitars that roll in and out, soaring and plummeting, altering with the subtle ebb and flow of the vocals as the stories unfold. Then there is the voice that serves as the muse to these stories, a rarity in rock, a female lead. Then comes the complex element that makes this listen so intriguing; the ambling voices and electronic muffling placed at the intro and outro of songs throughout the album, creeping in at the dénouement of the thunderous climaxes. What Brightblack Morning Light did for stoner folk music in 2006, The Besnard Lakes have done for psychedelic in 2007…given it new intent and a fresh body by stripping off the binds that weigh the genre down. 2007 also saw a re-release of their previous LP as well as an adjoining EP to Dark Horse, but there will be no cheating this time around, Dark Horse stands as valiant effort alone. Bringing the earnestness of southern rock to the woozy headed vibes of the late ‘60s and tossing in some modern day production values and the Besnard Lakes’ days as the Dark Horse on the horizon are numbered and the coming of a new way is fast approaching.

Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? – Of Montreal
(reviewed by reader Jejune, quite nicely I might add)

This is easily the most danceable record about an existential crisis that I've ever heard. The best songs on it feature a nice contrast between jaded, personal lyrics and upbeat, glammed-out music. Kevin Barnes has always had a gift for uniquely expressing universal themes like alienation and love, and this album features some of his strongest writing (My personal favorite line is "Somehow you've red-rovered/ The Gestapo circling my heart"). It's nice to see a lyricist who hasn't run out of interesting ways of phrasing things after a bunch of albums (Monsieur Tweedy, I'm looking in your direction. Was that a cheap shot? Sorry, I'm just trying to fit in on this blog.) It's true that the album is kind of front-loaded; there's not much after "The Past is a Grotesque Animal" that really stands out. But that seems kind of appropriate for one of the great late-night records of all time: if you can't close the deal with the cute androgynous girl in the glasses after the first 6 tracks, then don't blame Kevin Barnes.

Plague Park – Handsome Furs

Cadence, speaking verses over downtrodden and torn pleas of vocals with the searing brilliance of craftsmanship upon keys and chords, Handsome Furs have the most underrated album of the year and I am proud to sing it’s praise! It’s jittery, prickly, creepy and reeking of lover’s quarrels. This is the other half of what makes Wolf Parade such an amazing sound. The strength that Boekner brings with fragile voice is hard to describe and in perspective is even more tedious to enjoy. It’s the delicate balance of terror in lyrics and love in meaning that give repose to such prose as
I stood outside in the bright black nightBeneath their buzzing power linesAnd I saw a number in the sky, in the skyAnd if there's a God, he's a little gunAnd he holds you closely inside these wallsBut he hates his babies most of all .
This is the one album that I am timid to share with others for fear that they’ll discover just how odd I can be. As Krug reaps the benefits of endless praise for his works, the other wolf in the parade has earned his chops here and some. The drum machines vary little over the course of the album and the tracks do resemble alternate takes on the same theme but it’s still a creative portrait. Despite the pulse of songs and numerous time changes and crossovers that structure, the element that gets below my skin and swims in vein is Boekner’s eeriness. He describes Handsome best; "basically Wolf Parade without the guy that everybody likes and no real instruments."

Emotionalism – The Avett Brothers

This title frustrates me. It makes the band sound soft and beyond the glory of it’s bar brawling past. A blatant misnomer and a discredit to an enduring and sweeping album. This is storytelling music at its best and its might should be told of. I have pride in heritage and am a Carolina boy tried and true. Although it would be easy to wave the Carolina flag for Ryan Adams, it’s the Avett Brothers that are heroes to the graces of the Tarheel state. The folk craft is perfected here as the brothers turn down the hollering and lean in on the harmonies. The album delivers with tales that all can relate, tales of home, family, love, tradition and finding yourself while having some fun. Being real is what the Avett’s do best; this is some of the most sincere music you’ll find. Emo, does have a gentle, grown up feel to it, but it is a thin veil to those who know how raucous and vibrant the live show is. I tip my glass to these boys and can’t wait to hear what they come with next. A live album?

Strawberry Jam – Animal Collective

Jejune strikes again! I own and listened to Feels, the predecessor to Jam and I missed what it was. When I was told to take another run with the band I discovered what I had overlooked. What it is is that Animal Collective sounds, for all intensive purposes, like nothing else. They are inventors of sound. So when the songs echo discordant and alien, it’s not that they are flawed, it’s that you’ve never heard this before. You rookie! The lyrics, as alluded to previously, resemble the Mad Lib effort of drugged out Ivy League students, desperate for something bold and inspiring to tear down the mundane and conservative. It hooks, stammers, rumbles and joyously screams, belting out ‘you may not get this, and that is our secret!’ Rabid fans of this Collective claim Jam to be a vivid effort, but short of the peaks that they have reached. As new addict taking his first few hits, I’m naïve to the drug and feel at comfort with what I dabble. Praise be-a-plenty to the bizarre, it has never sounded so endearing. I am slowly becoming addicted.

WOW, can you believe it? Next time I post it will be to list the 12 Essential albums of 2007! It seems like yesterday that I reviewed the little bluegrass show of Chatam Co. Line and LTME was launched. (tear) Looking forward to closing out on a high note.
As always, thanks for reading and taking part…it keeps me motivated.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Essentially, I am putting you to work

I have enlisted Jejune to review an album* for the list and it got me thinking 'why not let others take a crack at it?' So, if there is an album you have a passion for and would like to post a review let me know or just send it in and I'll either post it as part of the list (if album is on the list or not yet reviewed) or I'll include an extra post with readers reviews for albums that I have already reviewed but you have a different opinion (throw in a Wilco, Ryan Adams, Broken West, Dead Confederate etc.) or those albums that I did not review.

I can also do a another post like this and make even more wordy and slightly more confusing and redundant to read.

It's really up to you.

*Jejune is reviewing Hissing Fauna, are you really that good?- Of Montreal

Monday, November 26, 2007

necessary, vital, indispensable, crucial?

Ah, Essential!

A little more time for the ones that are a little more gooder. Making our way, they only way I know how, #24 - #19 of the Essential Albums of 2007.

The Shepard’s Dog – Iron and Wine

Folk music has a hero and it’s big bearded and big-hearted Iron and Wine. There are plenty of others in the trade, but Iron and Wine have the one thing they don’t…general appeal and a sound that won’t put you to sleep. Iron and Wine nudges its sound over into what many may consider outside of true folk and more indie country. Regardless, I and W turn up the amps (to about 6) and mellow folk rock till the cows come home on this one. It’s clangy and plucky in all the right ways. Bluegrass for those that like to harmonize and watch the sunset but still have that urge to keep things jumping. The decidedly more uptempo and fuller sound to Dog, make this both the most successful LP and at the same time their most courageous; a feat that normally alludes. This album does reside in the area just beyond the music that I truly dig, but I respect the heck out of it. Personally it’s still too mellow, but I love the boldness in the approach and I sense SUBPOP is the perfect label for I and W to gather the heard and head for the greenist of pastures. A powerful and absorbing album.

Good Bad Not Evil – Black Lips

Right off the bat it’s the best album name of the year. Once that RBI is in the books comes the fact that these thrashers of the old are from Atlanta. The homerun comes right when you realize that the throwback, high-school drop out sound is far more complex that it seems and that’s when you hear the lyrics. Poignant and fierce, they tackle everything from the great religions to Katrina, all while swerving and swaying the sounds of true punksters…with dare I say more swagger and a few more chords than the likes of the Ramones? Many will write this album off, that’s their loss. This earns a true listen. How many great Punk acts can you name? Probably not many. Reason: they usually lack in the talent department relying on brash sex appeal and when that runs dry, well they fade away. Look for the Black Lips to stick around and one day they may just make that short list of great punk bands. This one’s a grand slam.

Ash Wednesday – Elvis Perkins

I’m gonna cheat here, deal with it. Ash Wednesday + the EP All Night Without Love combine to launch what I hope will be a brilliant career for Mr. Perkins. Carrying the title of Elvis anything brings with it a certain weight, but Perkins either tosses it aside or lifts it well upon his back because there is no sign of weakness or fear to his work. I found myself deep into several of these songs over and over again this year. The Dumps, All Night Without Love, and While You Were Sleeping, these songs crush me. The backing band, Dearland, doesn’t get the nod on the album cover, but they have been road warriors with Perkins (even crashing on a buddy of mine’s couch here in Charlotte). They’ve picked up many fans this year and have shared the spotlight some with Alec Ounsworth of CYHSY, but their music is of their own style. Spoil yourself and get the full package on this one, it won’t dissapoint.

Sojourner – Magnolia Electric Co.

Jason Molina’s band name may have changed over the years (Songs:Ohia) but his focus and sincerity in making brilliant music has stayed true to the heart. The title Sojourner finds origins in faith, overcoming and truth. Molina has a voice that sets him aside from all others. Smokey, dusty, a bit hollow and weighted with thought and intent, it yearns to be heard. The collection is overwhelming in quality and in size, running 34 tracks deep. I own the abridged collection, trimmed down some, but still full of the ambitiousness of the full set. The songs play like grimy yellowed westerns reeling slowly across the silver screen. Lonesome Valley, Nashville Moon, Texas 71, the moon songs and Hold on Magnolia are strong in every sense of the word. It’s size and scope can be daunting so start slow. Let it grow, wrap around and settle in. Soon the forest is grown and you’ll lie deep in thicket of sound.

Fort Nightly – The White Rabbits

It’s the black tie gala swinging event of the year and who else but a bunch of New Yorkers with a flare of the exotic and even a little topical should take center stage? It's the Walkmen meets calypso and I’m hitting the open bar to get the party rolling. Relentless and energetic to the max, it doesn’t make you want to tap your feet its reaches out of the stereo, grabs hold of the ladies and drags them to the dancefloor. This album was met with mixed reviews, some praise and plenty of bashing. I stumbled on it, got hooked on Kid on My Shoulders and then disregarded it. A while back MOKB had them in studio and I streamed the tracks. How had I missed this? It’s a flat out blast listening to this stuff…albeit a bit repetitive, but never droning. Once I re-approached this album so much more came to life under the glaring spotlight of center stage. It moves, it jumps, it tosses and turns and keeps perfect time on a wide variety of percussion. A true diamond in the rough.

Wild Mountain Nation Blitzen Trapper

In all reality this album should be a complete flop of mixed ambitions and half-thought through messy songs. It’s more than a little ambitious, it’s genre defying. Wild is far too predictable a word to describe the heaping jumble of whatnots composed here and as off the map as it is, it still finds the buried gold. If Pavement had been from North Texas by way of Montana, they easily would have made this album. The way the songs follow no suit, no order no allegiance to country, rock, folk or anything, it’s downright silly. Take in some of the most bizarre song titles and easily the most off kilter lyrics aside from Animal Collective and you’ve got yourself Wild Mountain Nation. Luke said it best when he regarded the album as some Neil Young project…he just failed to throw in the phrase “on speed.” I like this album as much for how off guard it caught me as for the true lasting power of these songs. In a sense it’s an impact album, but it’s got more too it than just some shock value, it’s got a pulse and buried deep in there, somewhere, a direction.

#18 - #13 later this week…

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


The Next 12, better than the last, not as good as those to come.

The Reminder – Feist
Who knew bad dances moves and a catchy hook could bring such success? Oh, right, everyone in the music industry. The cute at first, obnoxious by the end success of the 1234 iPod video brought massive attention to Feist in 2007. As with most heavily pushed singles however, the song serves as a poor indicator to what the rest of the album has to offer. More stripped down, and friendlier to acoustics, the remainder of the reminder is arguably more of a success than its single. Also, Luke and Jejune earned the right to have this make the list.

Fameseeker and the Mono – Arizona
The first of the LTME reviewed cuts to make the list, actually an EP, but still nudging its way into the Essential. Full of strings and arrangements that flirt with rock and classical, Arizona appeals to the Sufjan fan, just without making you feel like a wuss for listening to it. Making it sound easy, that’s how Arizona does complex pop. Fameseeker is rare in that it’s a full, well delivered EP, not just a single and some filler like most.

† - Justice
Dance, Dance, D.A.N.C.E. !!! Not much of a dance music fan myself, but I couldn’t resist the single and the video wowed me, so I took the plunge. This album is for the cool kids, who know how to kick it through the night and into the day, playing through until the real party begins…the next night. Most dance albums flow together in such a way that it is difficult to discern when one track fades and another cranks up, not the case with Justice, who lay it down with complete track after well composed track. S.U.C.C.E.S.S.

La La Land – Wax Fang
You say you rock with reverb and grandiose landscapes of sound? You just weird enough to stay intriguing but not cliché? You pay homage to your influences, but never reveal how it is they get into your music? You must be Wax Fang. And this? Well, this must be your breakthrough. Heavy on the operatic feel of late Floyd or Queen, Wax Fang are making music unlike anyone else. The Doctor Will See You Now is one of the more rollicking songs of the year. I’ve streamed a few tracks from this collection since I saw these guys open for MMJ and although the album just dropped and it hasn’t had much official review time, it’s exactly what I thought it would be, and that earns the nod.

Vietnam – Vietnam
So what’s the most rollicking song of the year? (That’s what you asked yourself moments ago) The answer: Priest, Poet and the Pig. It’s a dirty and sloppy style of rock, but’s a crucial sound that is missing from the landscape these days, so it’s presence is received with open arms and open booze. Snarly vocals and restlessly relentless guitar churn and churn, but what sets Vietnam apart are the wry lyrics. It’s slack and unwashed at times, but that’s what gives it it’s biker babe charm. Just listening to this album makes me want to buy a leather jacket…or at least act tough, because if I wore leather, I’d probably just look gay.

Yours to Keep – Albert Hammond Jr.
Yeah, it’s no Strokes album, but it’s still pretty kickass. ‘Ol Al may have left the band mates behind on this one, but he did remember to pack their signature fearless rock sound…he just turned it down some. Although not a giant stretch in terms of redefining a sound, Everyone Gets a Star for the effort. It’s easy listenin’, just cruisin’ music for folks who heart aggressive rock (I am trying as hard as I can to avoid the ‘garage rock’ moniker too often slapped on this stuff) and although this album was very much under the radar this year, it got plenty of airtime in my car.

Run From Safety – Octoberman
What started as a good find for me on what was a good album has grown into a grand album of discovery. Run drips a powerful paint on the canvass, displaying what you already know but have never seen quite like this. To say that the lyrics have meaning would be like saying Run From Safety contains the word ‘Safety.’ Octoberman have ‘a style of their own’ painted all over them. It’s a gritty, more indie rock feel to Josh Ritter and it sounds anything but safe. Keep running boys, you’re headed in the right direction.

Beyond Dinosaur Jr.
This album did slide some in the rankings, but mostly because it’s peers grew on me more and the recommendations from others led to more and more albums to squeeze in ahead of it. That being said I still think this is a phenomenal album. A friend told me it sounded too much like the stuff that was big in the early 90’s, to that I replied, that’s exactly what draws me in. I am a huge sucker for grunge rock, and Dino’s been playing that perfect role of grunge/alt/indie rockers, before anyone even knew what was going on with the scene (well maybe Built to Spill knew). I’ll say it again, I love the guitar work on this album, despite the poor live reviews that have been relayed to me, I’d still love to see these fellas.

We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank Modest Mouse
I’m an Indian giver. This album has slid since the midpoint of the year. It was the benefactor of little else being released and some catchy hooks and some clever ideas. The longer I listened the less it sounded sincere…almost like Modest Mouse covering Modest Mouse. Still some great songs on here, but much of it simply does not have any lasting power. It’s hard to be blunt on a favorite band (Wilco) but sometimes it’s the ones you love the most that you hurt.

Random Spirit LoverSunset Rubdown
It may be overwhelming to perform a six degrees of separation of indie rock with Spencer Krug, the guy is all over my map. After being stunned by the first official Sunset release and then growing a bit confused by some of the follow up projects, I am relieved to hear Spencer back in his full element. I feel like I just reviewed this album, so I will let it’s high ranking speak the rest.

Turn the Lights Out – The Ponys
Quality punk music is back, but it doesn’t sound like it used to. In the 90’s and much of the ‘00’s, punk has had an identity crisis. In a lot of ways it has been more experimental in production (which really isn’t punk at all) and at the same time punk has gone mainstream (which will never be punk). The Ponys reside in the healthy realm of, well just being modern day punks. When I say this is a punk album, I don’t mean it’s 2min songs, yelling and poor musical quality; what I mean is that it is fast, often heavy and it does exactly what it wants and isn’t concerned what you think (now that’s punk). Heard ‘em before the Spoon show, now I am hooked.

The Good, The Bad and The Queen – The Good, The Bad and The Queen
Breaking the halfway mark of the Essential 50, this album was once on heavy rotation but faded some as the year moved on. I dug the sound at first, but it’s a short album and it blends and now seems a bit forgettable at times. The songs that do still stick out, History Song, Herculean, and The Bunting Song, still come across loud and clear, serving as reminder of what got me into this album to begin…the brit pop meets world music sound done so well.

We’re closing in gang, stick around to see who makes it to the upper cut and who finds it’s spot in the 12 Essential Songs of 2007

#24 - #13 will be here before you know it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Fringe Essentials

Let the games begin... still need some input on the top 12 (by some I mean someone post a comment for fucksake!)

Because of the Times – Kings of Leon
Overproduced, arena guitars and vocal distortion turned me off of this album immediately. It grew on me. At its core, its still a KOL album and says a lot for me. I am announced fan of KOL. The recipe is simple, punk rockers raised in the south singing about partying and babes. The get a little big for their britches at times on this one, but safe themselves from disaster on tracks such as My Party, Arizona and Fans. As I’ve allowed this album to mellow of the course of the year, I have decided to commend the Kings for being bold and trying some experimental sounds, although the screeching and controlled vocals I can do without.

Drums and Guns – Low
Very much a Built to Spill meets Wilco sound (note they opened for Wilco on most recent tour) they do separate themselves from the pack by turning up the volume and intensity. Distortion and altered sounds support the droning melodies and create interesting layers to peel back. My first go round with Low, I like what I hear. Start with Breaker.

Some Loud Thunder – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
I may be the only person in America that has this album on their list, I’m OK with that.
Written off because it wasn’t CYHSY II, there are some real gems on this follow up album that give a new depth to the bands material and lends itself to a fuller more complete focus. Emily Jean Stock is among my favorites for this yelpy bunch and Yankee Go Home and Satan Said Dance pull this album through. Way to make the list fellas!

Person Pitch – Panda Bear
I am without a doubt the most unhip pseudo legit blogger ever because I do not think that Panda Bear is a gift from the indie gods. It’s just not my cup of PBR. I get that its neat and different, but it sounds a lot like a soundtrack to a made for TV movie to me, just mixing classic pop songs with indie overtones. Maybe I’m missing something and then again maybe I just don’t like this stuff as much as the rest.

Easy Tiger – Ryan Adams
I’ll give it to him, this is the most direct and intent he’s been in years and that works, but its not as thrilling as the works of his past. The on again-off again drama of women and drugs as well as a confusing working relationship with the Cardinals all seem to be resolved. Where does that leave Ryan? Well apparently it keeps him from relasing 10 albums in a year, but it also keeps him from stumbling into his true ability. Some didn’t care for this album because it stressed his alt-country leanings too much…that’s why I like it.

Ongiara – Great Lake Swimmers
Speaking of Alt-Country, these guys have got that genre down to a folk perfection. Mellow, dramatic and ultimately incredibly listenable, this album soaks in and settles quite nicely. It’s a much-needed break from the guitar heavy, more rock than country, alt country norm. It lends itself more to a bluegrass/folk feel, but its songs build and evolve more than that company. Its frustrating that a sound so simple and pure is so difficult to describe, so give it a listen for yourself.

Raising Sand – Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
I’ll start by saying this album is being cheated here, I haven’t given it a full listen and it deserves more, but I need it on the list and not sure how great it is yet. I gotta say hearing Robert Plant harmonizing and singing ballads with country queen Alison Krauss throws any Zeppelin fan for a loop. That’s part of the problem, I can’t get past the non-rocking Plant, which is too bad, because this album appears to have much to offer. I’ll re-approach this album in the new year.

You, You’re a History in the Rust – Do Make Say Think
It’s Besnard Lakes light. Brilliant composition and perfectly timed transactions maker this is an intriguing listen, but it lacks the punch of a standout track or an anchor sound. This is a creative band with high aspirations, so the album comes off a bit underdeveloped, sounding more like a random assortment of very talented folks that ran through some ideas, agreed enough on how they will sound and hit record. Still a quality work, just not what it could be.

Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon – Devendra Banhart
This is letdown number two of the year. I had high hopes for this album and although its got some great tracks, including the powerful Seahorse, Devendra’s most rocking song to date, it sounds like the band spent too much time smoking the doobage and staring at crystals and not enough time writing real material. Its not a concept album in the classic seanse, but there is a concept that’s overly abundant here. Sings songs in different languages and maybe the listener won’t notice that it’s nothing more than a run of the mill song. Nice try, you crazy multi-linguist hippie, but I need more than this.

Cryoptograms – Deerhunter
I will admit I bought this simply because Pitchfork told me too. Shit, this is nothing, was my initial reaction, but it came out at a time of the year when little else was being released so I gave it more than its fair share of time. Perhaps it’s the number of listens that solidifies this album on the essential list more than the actual recorded material, but there are some solid tracks on this wild thing as well. Give Providence and Lake Somerset a creepy listen.

Tears of the Valedictorian – Frog Eyes
Yet another Spencer Krug supergroup (Mercer, Campbell etc.) this one hits the mark several times. The precursor to Swan Lake, hardly has an Idle Song (pun strongly intended, likely not gotten). Most of you won’t ever listen to this, and those that do probably will not like it. It’s not easy to listen to, and the stuff comes and goes and the rhythm and melodies are difficult to discern. For some reason I dig this stuff.

All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone – Explosions in the Sky
I am one of those kids that discovered this band through Friday Night Lights, here again, I’m OK with that. Some of the best driving music ever created, it’s the big skies of Montana moments before the storm rolls in, put to music. Enveloping, monumental, colossus, and I don’t know what all…its stunning, and a great bridge between the jam-guitar fans and indie kids.

Back to Black – Amy Winehouse
It’s the most mainstream this list gets, and you can argue why it doesn’t belong, but I dig the sultry sounds. Like a lounge singer in a strip club, Winehouse drunkenly stumbles through song after song, dropping some of the best lyrics of the year. Rehab, the non-sober single got me to pick it up, Me and Mr. Jones and Back to Black, kept me ordering drinks and dropping ones in the g-string.

Friend Opportunity – Deerhoof
At first I hated the crazy singing of Satomi Matsuzaki, felt she distracted from the tremendous music that was being made, then it hit me. That’s their whole gig. They want to be bizarre, way off the expected and on the brink of annoying. It works. Possibly the most creative album of the year…if it doesn’t drive you crazy first.

#36 - #25 to come soon…

Monday, November 12, 2007

Essentially, these albums are not, essential

Non-essential albums of 2007

Era Vulgaris - Queens of the Stone Age

I have yet to hear a QotSA album that sounds like a completed effort. Josh can sing and rock with the best of them and when David Grohl grabs the sticks the sound is vulgar and of a dark era no doubt, but it's often a little too rough around the edges. Era should have been the album that defined them as the best heavy rock band in the US, instead it simply confirmed that they have a ways to go.

A Place to Bury Strangers - A Place to Bury Strangers

What? I'm confused. Is this not just fuzzy fuzz run through a fuzz machine with some odd arrangements and super loud guitars...that sound fuzzy? You looking for a place to put these unknown corpses are ya? Tell you right now they sure shit aren't gonna end up in the beautiful pastures of my Essential list.

Year Zero - Nine Inch Nails

I like Trent Reznor a lot. Most of what he has accomplished is borderline genius, the worry is that he now knows that and thinks he can get away with anything. He's sober now and it seems that rarely ends up well for artists I like, but in all reality that doesn't seem to be what makes his new material suffer. I think it's that he now relies far too much on computers making his music too accessible at times, which he tries to balance by throwing beats/guitars that are prob too heavy to hide the flaws. All in all, this album is prob comes in at 51 on my list of 50, I never said much about it during the year so I needed to address it.

Liars - Liars

Nothing really wrong with this album in the sense that it is a poor effort from the musicians involved or anything like that, but it is a problem that the music is tired and played. Like a lot of the indie bands that flirt with the shoegazer-emo genre, the songs drag and lean on sloppy structure to give a shadowy feel...trying to out cool you to the point where you forget that 'hey, this stuff is pretty damn boring.'

Our Love to Admire - Interpol

I won't say that this album is not good, it is, it's just that I wanted it to be amazing and I was letdown. Nothing has evolved for this band, at least not on the scale that seemed destined when they stormed onto the scene. Our Love is in it's best sense, just a good album, which isn't nearly good enough. I've a got a feeling the band will bounce back from this one, especially since many fans enjoyed it, I am asking more from a band that has it, they just didn't bring it.

Two Albums that Surprise me with the Praise they receive...

Andorra - Caribou; not half as good as Panda Bear and by the way why is 'sounding like the Beach Boys' such a positive, it's 2007

God Save the Clientele - The Clientele ; from what I gather this is not the album to meet the band on, but I don't plan on being in this neighborhood again any time soon so the cold greeting will remain as my sole impression

And of course my most hated album of the Year.

Sky, Boring Ass, Blue Sky - Wilco

Aaaagggrrhhh!!!!! Why?????? Tweedy did you get lost in the Adult Contemporary section at Target? Somebody slip an Oxycotin in this guys drink asap. You made this album like ten years ago. It's almost like you didn't even watch I am Trying to Break Your Heart. Let me give you the elevator pitch; Jay Bennett wasn't good for the band, you fired him, you created one of the best albums in the modern era and the new sound of the band was perfect, followed it up with another stellar album and released one of the best live albums of all time...why did you retreat? The band had sideprojects and solo tours, everything was primed for the most creative and inspiring album to date and then we get this. I'm so sad with this.

The most glowing response to this album has been "It is far easier to listen to." Not being easy to listen to is the prime reason Wilco made such worthy music and has such a rapid fan base.

I hate this album because I love this band and I know they are better than this. But, Wilco is proud of this album and a lot of people like it, shoot love it and some say its among the best of the year. I need to see these guys live soon to reaffirm why they are still great, but for now I remain distraught.

Albums I will not be reviewing.

Graduation - Kanye West
Believe it or not I haven't heard, not gonna buy anytime soon either
Kala - M.I.A.
Not my thing

Wizard of Ahhhs EP - Black Kids
Haven't heard it yet, despite the vote of approval from Don Marshall

From Here We Go Sublime - The Field
I don't even know what this is

Challengers - The New Pornographers
Didn't buy it

Cassadaga - Bright Eyes
He's gotten too self important/political and there is no way this is as good as Wide Awake, didn't bother

Magic - Bruce Springsteen

Lupe Fiasco and Wu-Tang Clan will not be released prior to completion of list

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Year that was...2007

For me it’s been a predictably content year. Nothing overly evoking or defining, just an affirmation of where it is that I am in my life. The endless cycle of dealing with a job that I can’t put my heart into, yet controls my life continued, rendering me stuck. In early spring, as the winds slowly shifted and a fresh goal was spotted on the horizon it seemed the tide had finally turned and I was about to embark on a new venture, one far more inspiring. Just as the promise of something new, something creative, something that was anything seemed certain, I was hit with the news that my older brother has opted to rejoin active duty for the US Army and as of October he is stationed in Afghanistan. This revelation came as a knock for several reasons, many in the obvious, others I’ll hold to myself. At the tail end of the summer I also sent off a dear friend to Iraq, where he was headed for the next 15 months, neither of these was easy, but I knew they were coming.

The year also saw me back on the wedding circuit, traveling across the southern states, far and wide to see others make life commitments. Where two years ago the notion of getting married seemed so foreign and reasonably unattainable, I now see a glimmer of light that perhaps it is not that these friends of mine are moving ahead too fast in their young lives, but that maybe I am not moving fast enough. With talk of family members moving and several friends leaving Charlotte behind I struggled to see what was next for me. To find a center and a focus outside of the aspects of life that found me frustrated I delved deep into my passions. Being with friends, staying active, getting outdoors, eating good food while downing the drink and the only passive venture that I whole-heartedly endorse upon myself…endlessly devouring and discussing music.

I can recall afternoons spent as a child in a dusty storage room above a partially dilapidated carport. Jammed in amongst the sun faded tan cardboard boxes, leaning amongst the creaking support beams just listening in on albums for hours on end. Tight quarters allowed for a powdery echoing effect as the cassette tapes whined through the songs of artists of all genres and eras. At the far end of the floorboards spun an exhaust fan that pulled the blistering summer heat from the upper room, swirling gusts against the electric hum of the motor adding a simple ascetic to the experience. As it spun the fan drew streaks of dust and cobwebs along the angular roofing, in a sense aligning arrows aiming towards the fan, where they where whirled, spun out in new direction, outward and onward. It was a great escape for two kids of the eighties when rock decadence was at its crowning achievement and spending time in isolated defiance was of utmost importance.

The yellowed drywalls displayed more than lack of proper maintenance to those who had the privilege of setting their eyes upon them. In dark paints and inks were scrawling song lyrics, album covers, band names and rock icons. For it wasn’t just the aural aspect that drew me to rock, it was the art as a whole. The images, the visions, the act, the performance…everything down to the very symbolic way a bands name was printed on the album booklet, all of it was everything to me. From Zeppelin and the Byrds to Fugazi and the Dead mixed with the Beastie Boys and INXS, I knew music had a hold on me. I also knew I possess no means to express myself, lacking what many refer to as “any way, shape or form of talent that lends itself to creating music.” In other words, my favorite form of artistic expression was something that I simply couldn’t express at all.

Since the attic days I have tried endlessly to wrap myself around music and what it does to me, to no true avail. Live shows, album swapping, sitting around drinking beer discussing the southern sincerity of Tom Petty’s music and why Nirvana is not truly punk. Anyone that knows me well, for better or worse, has been exposed to healthy doses of music they have never heard and wonder how/why I got my hands on it. One thing that has resounded is the attempts to get me to start a forum to share my thoughts. I excelled in literature classes throughout school and I am an enthusiast of journalistic writing, but I never thought I had much of a voice. After several epic recounts of weddings, bachelor parties, wild weekends and the sort the efforts of my friends gave way to new forms of expression and a voice. Soon after I spawned Listen to My Eyes…the most amazing thing ever, really.

While the flaws are many, and readership scarce, this blog slays the demon that swells inside. A demon that yearns for creative release, a voicing of opinion and a justification for all the money I blow on music and beer. I’m proud of this little fella and someday it may just lead me to my true calling.

For now, it serves to give you schooling in what’s worthy.

That being said it is time!

You’ve waited ALL YEAR for this, I know I have…

LTME Essential Albums of 2007, a work in progress soon to come to close.

Let me hear what you’ve got. The good, the bad and the ‘wtf were they thinking?’…I want to evaluate it all. I can honestly say that I have now given a fair shake at everything you readers (the apparent 7 of you) have sent my way and I am ready to tell you the right and wrong of what you think…

Send them in, send them in and I’ll rank them up.

<---Don’t be afraid of that new technology I put up over to the left as well, its pretty uselful. ----- In other blog related issues, Jay the Intern wrote a great piece on his summer as an intern for American Songwriter and what you already know will be LTME album of the year, The National’s Boxer.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Now that’s some funny shit right there

Who’s got their finger on the laughter sign this season? Who is further defining themselves as possibly the most important show of our generation? How the folks in big corporate TV are starting to get what the funny really is. There’s no clever spin on how I present these, the shows are strong enough in their own right and most are available on basic cable (sorry to outclass you last time Mike).

The Office: NBC
Oh the BBC version is so much better, the US version has run its course…says the prick who clearly doesn’t get why our version is not trying to duplicate the success of the BBC’s and why office humor is some of the best around. The subtle nuances and awkwardness of interacting with various types of people is best personified in the professional realm. You put up a front or act when working, clearly the person you are on a sales call is not the same person who tries to get a girls number at a bar with a Jaberbomb on his shirt, and that’s why when your personal life mixes with your professional the hilarity ensues. Michael Scott and Co. are successful because they write and act the parts making them eccentric yet recognizable…you know these people, you work with these people. Although this season’s hour long episodes almost exhausted me, this has been a stellar start to a show that should have run out of ideas two years ago. 10 Schruete Bucks to the crew at The Office.

30 Rock: NBC
The Office’s redheaded stepchild…not even close. The cast of 30 Rock rivals that of The Office and in some ways wins. Where this show succeeds is in the point the finger at me approach. Mocking corporate America, the suits, the absurdity of celebritism (made up word) and of course NBC mocking NBC and what once was the flagship youth show in SNL (of course FOX has mastered the art of making fun of FOX over the years). Baldwin, Fey and Morgan, it simply doesn’t get much better than that…but it does. The rest of the cast is pitch perfect and tailor made for the character’s. Although I don’t like the page on the show, he remains a popular fixture, proof that even in a slapstick, one liner show, they is layered writing and characters that are written to appeal to a variety of viewers.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: FX
I’ve wanted to get into this show for sometime now. I always saw clips or previews and it looked like something I’d like, for some reason I never put out the effort to find. Man am I glad I did. The humor didn’t really hit me until about the third episode I watched, but as I watched an episode last night I found myself laughing aloud several times, now I’m hooked. The show is hyper. Written for AAHD’s in their mid-20’s to mid 30’s. It plays on the reality of amounting to nothing in life and how who you were in HS is who you will always been in your hometown. The characters are outrageous and the dialogue so incredibly dumb yet insanely brilliant at the same time, which is not easy to do (see blog). The show is at it’s best when the arguments breakout, which is about 4 times an episode. The floodgates unhinge and the tidal wave of one off the wall, perfect one liners comes at you from all sides. The half-cocked ventures these bartenders get themselves into are balanced perfectly by the comedic expertise of veteran Danny DeVito, whose mere involvement of the show pays respect to the level of writing involved. Grab a beer at this local whetting spot, skip the bill, hit on the bartender’s sister (she’s easy) and snag a wallet on the way out.

South Park: Comedy Central
The Greatest Comedy of our generation? Time will tell, for now The Simpson’s has reached all time lows, abandoning our generation and tossing candy at the kids to regain a fanbase. South Park, they aim to piss off everyone. EVERYONE. And not just piss you off, but rather make people start petitions, call city officials, file lawsuits and call Al Sharpton. We may be going to Hell in a handbucket for this show, but at least we are enjoying the ride! I have and Exxxtremely high tolerance when it comes to humor and pressing buttons, some may say it’s kinda my bag, others my Achilles. Either way, the shit cracks me up. I had never been offended by South Park until the went after a kid who had cancer…for the first time it struck a chord, I finally got how the show rips at people. It was then I realized the power of this show. Where it’s peers (Family Guy, Drawn Together, Aqua Teen) rely on quick blurbs and Internet humor, SP remains hugely topical, with episodes completed weeks, sometimes days before airing, giving it an edge over any other animated show. The cast in this one is beyond words…pure brilliance. Things are always more interesting and honest through the eyes of a child...even a child like Cartman.

Family Guy: FOX
Yeah, the show I just talked junk about, well I’ll be honest, it’s hilarious as well. I’m not going into a long description on this one, because I’ve only caught one episode this season, but I will say this show has progressed most unexpectedly. At the height of the show being noting but a platform for a string of 5 second pieces of TV eye candy, the show grew a back bone and develop a plot to its episodes (ironically this started not long after the fellas over at SP ran Family Guy through the gutter). The one episode I did watch this year is one of the funniest and most well written animated shows I have ever seen (the Star Wars espisode). At the same time its nothing more than a farce. The story had already been written, seen, loved and worshiped by millions, we know the flaws of Star Wars and they are easy to pick at…at that’s about the extent of what Family Guy brings to the table.

Curb Your Enthusiasm: HBO
In what will likely be it’s final season, Larry David and his who’s who in comedic assemble never seize to amaze me. Written on the run, adlibbed dialogue and situational humor that would make even me uneasy…this show has a real formula and it is a runaway success. Prior to the start of the new season I heard a interview on NPR with a few members of the cast, it got me drooling. So far the show has been so awkwardly hilarious that it’s been difficult to watch, and that’s a compliment. Taking in a family, the Blacks, who are black, genius, and having Cheryl leave Larry as added a much needed and much appreciated new dimension to the show. The Anonymous episode is among the best sitcom performances I’ve ever watched. The scene where Larry’s agent admits to masturbating at Larry’s house is priceless. The laughter and smiles of those on camera bring the realness and spontaneity of the show to life, you can just see Larry and Ted Danson do all they can to keep from losing it on camera in this clearly adlibbed scene.

Flight of the Conchords: HBO
I told you this would be good, I was wrong, it was you know like really really good. Right? I haven’t wanted to hang out with the characters on a TV show since the OC went off the air, I would ditch all my friends to hang out with these clowns. Jermaine is the best character since Borat. The insecurity, the social mocking and sadness of the characters are unreal. The reverse comedy and racism towards New Zealanders with highly relatable friendship/roommate humor and this thing was a hit! The Agent Murry is the funniest supporting character since Moe on the Simpsons. The simpleness (in accent) of this show makes it tick. These hipsters could have taken an underground approach, joking about things only the kids in the know could relate too, instead they give us leather jackets, non-beer drinking, “Prince grocery shopping”, Bowie as a source of guidance and cell phone-camera humor.
I’ll give you an early warning, Demetri Martin has his own show next year (he was in the spinoff band episode), you heard it here first.