Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Top 10 Albums of 2008

Here it is. My official annual top 10 albums of 2008 list. This year, I've included You Tube clips of each band so you can see and hear them instantly! What albums did I leave off my list that you feel belonged on it? Comment on this post to let me know!

10. Swell Season – Live from Chicago

I admit this album is a bit of a “cheat” choice and a make-up addition to the list for not adding the Once soundtrack to my 2007 list. From a recording of their show at the Chicago Theatre in 2008—where I was in attendance—this group really delivered a performance that left nobody in the building doubting how downright talented they all are. If you haven’t seen the movie Once, go rent it ASAP. Then, go buy the soundtrack and music from Swell Season—featuring the Once duo with a full band. Some people are just born with the skill. And this band proves it.

9. Army Navy – Army Navy

I hated the Smashing Pumpkins when they first came out. I thought Billy Corgan’s voice was too odd for my ears. But the unique vocals were something I grew to appreciate and I was—until recently—a big SP fan. Army Navy can be described in the same way. The vocals my bother you at first. They sound whiny and flimsy. But once they grow on you, you’ll hear an album that is a fine and unique brand of pop music.

8. TV on the Radio – Dear Science

A critically-acclaimed album, so I was swayed into buying this album. Upon first listen, I admit I thought only one thing: overrated. But I gave it another shot and discovered this is an album that grows on you slowly. With elements of Prince, New Wave, Beck and old R&B, the group puts together a unique sound that draws you in deeper.

7. Santogold - Santogold

It took me some convincing to give Santogold a shot, as she seemed more like an M.I.A. copycat from a distance. But a closer listen to her self-titled album disproves this assumption with a wide range of sound that borrows heavily from the 80s, but updates the sound with gracefulness and rhythm.

6. Foals - Antidotes

Foals are a math rock band. (Math Rock is music that sounds electronic/techno, but is actually created with real instruments). Since I’m not generally a fan of this type of sound, it takes a good album for me to take a liking to it. Foals accomplishes this with Antidotes; a catchy, powerful album that demands your attention.

5. Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter

Technically an album from 2007, I had overlooked Josh Ritter for years until discovering this effort. (Truthfully, with the emergence of Robin Thicke—son of 80’s TV icon Alan Thicke—I made an unfair assumption of Josh Ritter and avoided his music altogether.) But I’m glad I gave the guy a shot, because he’s a heck of a songwriter. This album takes elements of Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen and reworks them into Ritter’s own brand of sound.

4. Albert Hammond, Jr. – Como Te Llama

Albert Hammond Jr., of The Strokes fame, is not an easy guy to like; as is the entire Strokes group. They all act like they’re too cool for school; like you’re missing out on the big joke. But the annoying attitude does not transfer to Albert Hammond’s latest album, which picks up that Strokes sound; removing some of the punk elements and replacing them with more harmony. The result is a good, classic pop rock album.

3. Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight

Frightened Rabbit are what Snow Patrol had the potential to be: very good. An album that at first listen sounds like a Scotsman beat up the lead singer of Counting Crows and took over; but after a few more listens, you’ll realize it’s much more than that. This album is a truly great pop effort.

2. Clear Tigers – Brutal

This artist is hard to describe. Sometimes, you hear the Shins, other times I Am Kloot. But overall, the song development and creativity of this album is remarkable. Many textures and layers and a catchiness that will get you hook you in. My favorite song: Igloo, which sounds like a modern pop song using the framework of an old 1920s French tune.

1. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that my top album of the year would come from a band whose primary influences seem to be African pop artists and 1980’s Paul Simon, I’d have said you are crazy. There is so much about this band that I should hate. One, the Paul Simon influence. Two, their overtly ivy school preppy style. Three, MTV has even pushed this band.

Yet ever since the album was released way back in January 2008, it has consistently found my iTunes and CD players and I knew it would take quite an album to top it for the year’s top honor. It’s catchy, well written and fun music that will get your toe tapping. I urge you to purchase this album and if you aren’t singing “Who gives a f*#@ about an Oxford comma?/I’ve seen those English dramas toHOO/They’re CruHOOL” within a week, then you can ask me to refund your money…and you can call me Al.

Monday, December 15, 2008

best songs of 2008 list

It's that time of year. Here is my annual list of the best songs of the year. If you would like to receive a free CD of all the tracks below, feel free to email me your address and I will burn a copy and mail it your way. Or, if you have an iPod and just want the tracks, I will be posting a zip file for download later this week. Let me know if you want me to email you the link to download the file.

Tomorrow, I will be posting my annual top ten albums of the year.

Best songs of 2008 (and some from 2007 that I didn't hear until this year), in alphabetical order by band name:

gfcalbert hammond, jr.
my thin sides – army navy
evening/morning – bombay bicycle club
igloo – clear tigers
what up man – the cool kids
nothing ever happened - deerhunter
am I wasting my time – eli “paperboy” reed and the true loves
cassius – foals
the modern leper – frightened rabbit
try not to think – the grey race
to the dogs or whoever – josh ritter
better to be – liam finn
death to los campesinos! – los campesinos
little bit – lykke li
get better – mates of state
weekend wars – mgmt
i woke up today – port o’brien
l.e.s. artistes – santogold
love dog – tv on the radio
a-punk – vampire weekend
valium skies – the verve
right hand on my heart – the whigs

If you think I missed a track, comment on this posting and perhaps I'll publish an amended list later this week!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Durbin: Make Ryan Serve

Somebody should ask Senator Durbin why he has misplaced his sympathy. With his request to have George Ryan's sentence commuted--citing a concern about the poor health of Ryan and his wife--he seems to have lost touch with real people like Pastor Duane Scott Willis.

We remember Pastor Willis as a father who--along with his wife--lost six children in a 1994 car crash that was caused as a result of Ryan's criminal corruption involving illegal licenses.

We remember the horrifying story told by Willis and his wife about how they had to witness their six children being burned to death. (You can read their story in their own words here.)

But Senator Durbin has seemed to forget about regular people like Pastor Willis and his wife. His sympathy is better placed with their family, not with a criminally corrupt, unrepentant man.

Yet Durbin has sent in a request for Ryan to be spared the inconvenience of serving time under the duress of being in poor health.

Senator, George Ryan deserves his time in prison. Why? Because the Willis family's grief over the loss of their children can never be commuted. Their lives are forever changed. They don't get to pull a few strings with the President and get their six children back. And they never will.

Ryan has never sincerely apologized to the family and was defiant and angry about his sentencing. He is a truly bad person.

It's not fair to them or any of us who demand justice rise above corruption to let Ryan walk. If you are somebody who demands that Ryan should stay behind bars, write a letter to Senator Durbin now urging him to make Ryan serve. You can submit an online letter to the Senator here. It will take only three minutes of your time, but may be just the difference needed to see justice served.