Colin's Best of 2008 List

So, as you'll notice, the list went from ten to twenty. Why? Because this year was that good. I wrote it out at ten and it was leaving off some really excellent albums. Even fifteen wasn't enough. Twenty kept the ones on there that I thought should be on there, but there are some that I felt were also worth mentioning, which you'll find at the bottom of this list.
I have a lot of hopes for 2009 as well. When I spoke to Laura Gibson at her show in Prescott in May, she mentioned that her new album should be out in February of this year, and that's what's been in her recent blog posts. Aloha should also be putting something out. But Andrew Bird has really come out with a bang with his new album, "Noble Beast," which comes out in just a few days (Jan 20). I've never been very excited about his past stuff, but this album is really great.

Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer 2008-06-18 ++ What Made Milwaukee Famous - What Doesn't Kill Us Austin-based What Made Milwaukee Famous, in 2005, became the first unsigned artist to play on PBS' "Austin City Limits." They played tracks off of "Trying to Never Catch Up," which was released on Barsuk (Mates of State) in 2006 once the band was signed to that label. I had heard the band at around this time, and, honestly, didn't think much of them. A little too poppy and hipster for me, but still fairly good. It wasn't until I stumbled upon an advance mp3 from this album, the track "Resistance Street," that I really got into them. That track featured a use of alternating time signatures, somewhat awkward rhythms, making it hard to dance along to (something I really like), great use of the band's instrumentation and, most importantly, showed off lead singer Micheal Kingcaid's vocal abilities like nothing I had heard up to that point. That turned out to be just a taste of what really is a very good album. Aside from a couple of minor stumblings (some may latch onto these tracks, actually), the album flows so well that it sounds like a much more experienced group rather than a band only on their sophomore release. I finally got to see WMMF at their homebase just after New Year's (2009) during Emo's (the quintessential Austin venue) free week. We watched the members walk by most of the night as four Austin-based (yes, 4) bands played before them, leaving a bit of a stunted set that led the band, as well as the crowd, to be quite drunk when they finally got on at around 1. The band surprised me though by playing quite a few covers, including, of all the random shit out there, California-based Delta Spirit's catchy "Trashcan." I was also very impressed by the drummer. That guy is something and, although he's more reserved on the albums, he really comes through live as a great musician. Although much more produced-sounding than their debut, that fact actually works well for the group, only adding layers and intricacies to be admired and does nothing to step on the vocals of Kingcaid (originally from Katy, a Houston suburb), who, in my mind, rivals Ted Leo for the best vocalist in indie rock today. And, if you have any doubt of his ability, watch the band's impromptu performance of "Sultan" from the 16th Street Mall bus in Denver in the videos section below. What may surprise you about WMMF more than their music, general lack of notoriety, or even good sense of humor is that, aside from having a great voice, is a fabulously attractive guy, with the rugged good looks that may have won over Kris Kristofferson fans two decades ago (I'm not comparing the two though). There are so many stand-out tracks on this album. "Sultan" is easily the radio favorite with its fast lyrics and quick changes, but then the softer, sweeter "Self Destruct" could do so much to bring in the teenage girls as Kingcaid swoons "I wouldn't self-destruct for anybody else." While "To Each His Own" borders on cheesy with its repetitive chorus, a simple chord change saves it for me, although a clap-along section will likely make it a favorite for some, just as "Middle of the Night," although a little over the top for me, is such a good sing-along song that others may love it. The album's closer, an acoustic ballad entitled "The Other Side," shows a side to Kingcaid's vocals that we had not yet seen on the album. My favorite though is "For the Birds," which offers an excellent peak on the band's abilities. At the end, you're invariably left wanting more. Surely there's another track? But, no, it's over. And that's one of the things that I would knock this album for: it really should have another track. This band has shown that they're good enough to pull excellent music out of their collective asses, so they surely could have come up with something. I guess we'll just have to wait until the next release. 2008-03-04 ~ Thao with the Get Down/Stay Down - We Brave Bee Stings and All I think that, since Cat Power effectively removed herself from the scene of intelligent rock music several years ago with a series of self-destructive moves, I've been waiting for a replacement to come along: a strong, female, singer-songwriter who uses intelligent yet reflective lyrics that everyone can identify with, over a simple layer of guitar-driven music. Thao Nguyen (pronouced "tao win"), originally from suburban Virginia, finally pulled off her Kill Rock Stars (The Decemberists, Why?, Xiu Xiu) debut in January, after quite a bit of time on the label. She not only fits that Chan Marshall mold, but exceeds it on some levels, mainly in that Thao is actually a pretty damn good guitar player and is very sociable in performing, where Chan Marshall could barely play a chord and was known for running off of the stage mid-set. I finally got to see Thao live in March in Phoenix, opening for label-mate Xiu Xiu. It was one of the few shows I can recall seeing that actually started right on time. When we pulled up, we happened to do so next to Thao's touring minivan (an older Toyota), where the band was hanging out and listening to what sounded like their Daytrotter sessions, which I heard and assumed that I was missing the show, only to get to the door and realize what had happened. I also, on the way out, had to ask the guitarist, who was dozing in the passenger seat, to close the door in order to get out. The show was excellent. Both Thao (who I was more excited to see, even though I love Xiu Xiu) and Xiu Xiu played with heart and soul. I got to see Thao again this summer, this time with openers Horse Feathers, and it was just as good, if not better. And this album has just as much heart and soul put into it as her live performances do. It's as if Thao understands very well that this, songwriting, is her calling, and her music comes across as such. The lyrics on here are introspective but also relatable, moving between songs about childhood, boyfriends and feminism in a manner that makes the album easy to listen to. "Big Kid Table," "Swimming Pools" and "Fear and Convenience" are, for me, the highlights and offer the best of what Thao has to offer. 2008-01-29 +++ Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend 2008-01-29 +++ Throw Me the Statue - Moonbeams This album came out on Secretly Canadian (previously self-released) near the beginning of the year and it's hard for me to imagine that it was actually 2008 when it was released. I first came across this Seattle-based group on a Blogoteque video. Something is especially fun to me about that site's concept: get artists to play in awkward and unlikely public spaces. Throw Me the Statue played on a Puget Sound Ferry (I believe the Bainbridge Island one on its return trip). Very appropriate for their hometown and well executed. They played "About to Walk," and did so while walking through the main ferry level, picking up more band members along the way while passing by somewhat surprised passengers, and ending up on the roof looking out at the Seattle skyline on a relatively clear winter day. On a crazy music trip this April, I just happened to catch them at an intimate yet untraditional venue at the College of Santa Fe in New Mexico. The sound was terrible, the piano (which the band was excited about finally getting to play) did not work, and there were maybe ten people there. But the guys in the band were so incredibly nice, insisting that people stay after the show and actually talking to people excitedly afterward. But what about the album? The album is full of cryptic, inside joke lyrics that may alienate those who focus on the lyrics. "About to Walk" (which, I guess, is about living in a shithole apartment) offers as its chorus "Strange nights, locked inside/I was waiting for the road ahead/I was lying in my Western bed/Clues and clues, dressed in white/Double dreams tend to land big blows/After all with the evening ghosts/They were only there to break my toes." ...WTF? Strange, but also a bit reminiscent of the genius of Isaac Brock, although certainly lacking his canny ability to provide prolific insight that's easy to identify with. Other tracks, like the cutesy "Lolita" and the more ballad-like title track, have more intuitive lines such as Lolita's "Shaking off the dusty cape/Lacing it up again/'Cause she used to love it/So I bury my shame/She was nineteen and we all rearranged." The band (or, rather, their label, Secretly Canadian) even invested in a well-produced video to the song "Lolita," which sees the flannel-donned band members awkwardly playing in an attic above a Denise Richards lookalike's bedroom while she is being fought over by two captivated suitors. Throw in some exploding pies and a trampoline, and you've got a really strange video. But, then again, Throw Me the Statue's kind of a weird band even though, personally, they seem to be so down-to-earth. I saw them again in July at Seattle's Capitol Hill Block Party. Despite playing in front of a local crowd, there were still a ridiculous amount of "Where are you from?" yells and a girl next to me who persistently yelled "It's my birthday!" The band seemed to take it all with good humor and put on a decent set. Not to say that I don't like the band, they just seem to be one of those bands that does much better in the studio. I saw them yet again when they finally came to Tucson to play a free show with LA's Princeton although, as I found out in talking to them, they were just there for the free hotel room. 2008-02-18 + The Dodos - Visiter 2008-03-18 +++ Headlights - Some Racing, Some Stopping 2008-03-06 +++ Plants and Animals - Parc Avenue 2008-02-26 +++ TV on the Radio - Dear Science 2008-09-22 ++++ Mogwai - The Hawk Is Howling 2008-09-22 +++ Sun Kill Moon - April 2008-04-01 ++++ Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes 2008-06-03 ++++ Mates of State - Re-Arrange Us 2008-05-20 ++ Stereolab - Chemical Chords 2008-08-19 +++ Hayden - Of Field & Town 2008-01-15 +++ These United Status - A Picture of the Three Of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden 2008-03-04 ? Ratatat - LP3 2008-07-08 +++ Horse Feathers - House With No Home 2008-09-09 +++ White Denim - Workout Holiday 2008-06-23 +++ ([\w\d\s\-\_\!\@\#\$\%\^\&\*\(\)\;\:\'\"\/\?\.\,\+\=<>]+)<\/item\>/",$content,$matches,PREG_SET_ORDER); foreach ($matches as $item=>$details) { echo '
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