Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Top Songs of 2008

My Favorite Songs of 2008

Yes. It's that time of the year again, somehow. I didn't feel like putting them in any order this time. Noneoftheless, here are my top 10 favorites (not necessarily best) from this year:


"Smokin From Shootin" - My Morning Jacket (Evil Urges)

Hard to choose just one awesome song from a record chock-full of them. Smokin From Shootin epitimizes everything epic and wonderful about MMJ. It begins with the faint pulse of a far-off and ominous bass drum, resonating like an approaching helicopter. Layers are added and the song builds til the inevitable napalm explosion during the thrilling climax. Jim James' scream is so fucking rock & roll baby!

"I Still Care For You" - Ray LaMontagne (Gossip in the Grain)

Trippy as shit. "I Still Care For You" finds LaMontagne exploring new musical territory. He still delievers his prose in that familiar mournfully hopeful tenor. In this song his voice trudges through a howling Nor'easter of soft guitars and cymbal-laden drums; all the while drenched by rainbuckets of ghostly reverb. Similar vibe to Radiohead's "How to Disappear Completely." It's so depressing, but soo good.

"Hometown Glory" - Adele (19)

The 20 year old from Enfield rocketed to international stardom this year, powered by a soulful debut album and pipes that bely her years. "Hometown Glory" is an instant classic; a simmering piano-ballad with spiraling Etta James vocals. Perhaps it's the simplicity, or maybe the conviction in her voice, that draws you in.

"The Rat" - Dead Confederate (Wrecking Ball)

Five Georgia boys find their inner-Cobain and craft a beautiful record. "The Rat", their first single, is a great place to start if you haven't heard them. Very strong debut.

"Writer's Minor Holiday" - Calexico (Carried to Dust)

Frontman Joey Burns channels Dylan for this low-key indie-folk feast, served over a chilled platter of choirs and acoustic guitars. The echo effects conjure images of a winter sleigh ride across cold snowfields.

"Viola" - This is Ivy League (S/T)

Duo strikes gold with this lovely acoustic Bohemian love song, told from the perspective of an audience member enthralled with a girl singing onstage. I love the simplicity and chilled out vibe. For Kings of Convenience fans.

"Lost Coastlines" - Okkervil River (The Stand Ins)

Will Sheff & co. take us along for an epic 5 minute voyage. Our vehicle? Rich lyrical imagery, chugging guitar and plenty of tambourine. Picture Arcade Fire covering The Strokes.

"Graveyard Girl" - M83 (Saturdays = Youth)

Pure bliss at times. "Graveyard Girl" sparkles with bright energy like the E-Street band on steroids. Complete with enough synths and over-dubbed guitar to do any shoegazer proud.

"Love Me For Nothing" - The Alternate Routes (The Watershed Ep)

"Everybody needs a thrill," croons vocalist Tim Warren, and the first new AR material released in three years is certainly no let-down. This song is the sequel to "Ordinary" I've been waiting for. Up-beat, folk-tinged and hopeful; it's perfect for those long summer drives with the windows down.

"Human" - The Killers (Day & Age)

I'm not a huge fan of the Killers. This song contains all the elements I usually despise: '80s vibe, Brandon Flowers and Brandon flower's retarded lyrics. However, inexplicably, I became obsessed with this song for a period after it was released. I guess it's one of those "stars align properly" kind of deals.


"Blank Slate" - The National
"Can You Tell" - Ra Ra Riot
"Walcott" - Vampire Weekend
"Halo3" - +/-
"Biko" - Bloc Party
"In the New Year" - The Walkmen
"In My Room" - Albert Hammond Jr.
"Magick" - Ryan Adams & the Cardinals

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Don't forget to pick up a copy of Beck's new album, Modern Guilt, in stores today. I will be heading straight for Best Buy whenever I get off of work. Also out today: Albert Hammond Jr.'s new record, Como Te Llama?.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

New Alternate Routes

After nearly two LONG years on the road, The Alternate Routes had time to duck into the studio for a breather. The end result, titled The Watershed Ep, will be released July 8th on Vanguard.

Three cuts have been posted to their myspace page. They also added a beautiful acoustic rendition of "Please Don't Let it Be" from their unplugged cd, The Brooklawn Sessions.

Pre-order The Watershed Ep here before July 11 and recieve a free track!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Friday the 13th (cont)

..We arrived at the covered stage for Minus the Bear, the shade felt pretty terrific after being under direct sunlight during Jose's set. During this time period we were missing bands left and right. Adele, Tegan & Sara and Umphrey's McGee were all going on at the same time. But the extra time allowed us to get right up close for:
Minus The Bear! I just wish I had brought a real camera with zoom, so you could actually see the band in the photo. It's hard to see anything, but we were pretty close to the front.

The crowd went absolutely NUTS when they came out on stage - this had to have been one of the largest crowds they've played for - and the band seemed almost taken aback by the sheer volume of bodies stretched out in front of them.
I don't remember their setlist exactly, but they played a lot of songs off their latest record, Planet of Ice (buy).

The newer songs sounded great live, better than they do on record. But my heart still remains with their older material, and they absolutely nailed those. Classics staples "The Fix" and "Pachuca Sunrise" were my favorite songs of the set.
Standing to watch bands is tiring, I have no clue how people make it the whole day, much less 4 straight days of standing and rocking out. I was pretty wiped out after watching Minus the Bear, so I decided to go to the autograph tent and get one of their records signed.
We had to wait in line for what seemed like forever (a flustered staff member said that the band was 'missing'!) But they eventually found their way to the autograph tent. I bought the re-issue of their 2004 Ep, They Make Beer Commericals Like This (buy).

The guys looked genuinely happy to be there and didn't seem to mind that people were snapping pictures of them every two seconds. Music helps define our identities and it's always amazing to meet of the artists behind it.

Missed out on The Raconteurs to get the autograph, but I think it was worth it. Especially because Steel Train was going on literally right next door to the autograph tent!
Steel Train is going to be absolutely huge someday. Their songwriting just gets better and better, right up to their latest release, Trampoline. (listen to them here). As you can see from the picture there was a good amount of people at the stage to catch their second set of the day. Personally I think EVERY band should play two sets so that people don't have to make hard choices about skipping bands.
From there we caught a few songs by State Radio. They sounded great live, I'll definitely check them out if they ever blow through town. Unfortunately I had to split next door to see Rilo Kiley!

Too bad this image is so small. We were on the rail up front, but unfortunately waay off to the side. In fact directly to our right were a set of speakers blasting a steady stream of bass into our skulls. To the right of the curtain you had an unobstructed view of the drummers, the kit was on an elevated platform.
I'm not embarrased to admit that I frequently listen to Rilo Kiley. I am more or less in love with Jenny Lewis, and having her standing some 50 feet away was unreal! She does a fantastic job making sure evey member of the audience feels loved, going out of her way to sing from all corners of the stage.
I was not a real fan of their newest album, Under the Black Light (buy), but the songs sounded pretty good and I might have to re-check it out. Suprising amount of dudes in the audience singing along; not just to the new stuff but also old songs like "It's a Hit", "Spectacular Views" and of course "Portions for Foxes".
So everything so far that day had been awesome. Unfortunately a little Friday the 13th karma kicked in with a heavy rainstorm. I was totally planning on catching My Morning Jacket's set rain or shine, but it was coming down so hard I just couldn't justify it. Even worse, our tent sprung a leak and its contents got drenched!
I slept in the car.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bloggaroo Pt 2

Friday The 13th

Friday, June 13, 2008

I awoke this morning to a brilliant sunrise (not nearly as pleasant as it sounds). I thought I would sleep like a rock until at LEAST ten or so after a long Thursday. Obviously I didn't learn anything from last years experience. But yeah, I woke up at 6:30am, with six hours to kill until music of any sort started playing.

We sat around at the campsite for a while, but it was already hot as hell outside and we had no cold beverages. Centeroo is open 24 hrs., so we headed there. Began our day with a DELICIOUS breakfast and then browsed the usual mixed bag of vendors.

The problem with music festivals, especially the good ones, is set-time clutter. In other words, if you like enough of the artists, chances are that one or two (or 4 or 5!) will be scheduled to play at the same time.

This was certainly the case Friday. Right off the bat, Drive-By Truckers, Steel Train, and Jose Gonzalez were all playing around 12:30. I had to sacrifice DBT because they were playing halfway across the universe from the other two. Would have been nice to see them, maybe next time.

Steel Train sounded great, but they played twice so I'll talk about them later. I left after a few tunes and met up with my friend Michelle to see Jose Gonzalez.

Friday always makes for the most crowded festival experience. By then pretty much everyone and their grandmother has arrived in Manchester, and hasn't had enough time to exhaust themselves yet. Simply walking around felt like one giant game of frogger.

See that picture up there? That's not from this year, but it gives you an idea of how many goddamn people were at that stage watching Jose Gonzalez. It was an odd mix of die-hard fans, casual fans, people who heard "that one song on the commercial", and spectators simply seeking refuge under the shaded roof.

As expected, Jose played by himself. Just imagine being a lone person onstage, armed with only a silver voice and an acoustic guitar, up against a sea of thousands. I think I would have passed out right away from stage-fright to be honest.

Against all odds, he put on a wonderful show. Even as louder sets adjacent to his stage threatened to overpower his mellow sound, he was in complete control of the spellbound audience.

First off, stage presence. You have it or you don't. Jose was SITTING DOWN, and still projected a powerful aura. So you couldn't look away while he was playing (even though it was crowded and I couldn't really see him too well).

Also, I didn't realize what a fantastic rhythm player he is. Watch him do his thing in a captivating rendition of "Down the Line", a song off his second full-length In Our Nature (buy).

No rest for the weary. After Jose's set we had just enough time to grab a quick lunch before scurrying over to get up close for Minus the Bear.

..to be continued..

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I will be posting little recaps of my Bonnaroo experience.
A Warm Up
Thursday, June 12, 2008


My friends and I arrived at the festival around 4 p.m., and the wait began. This was the first time we used GPS navigation, which led us to a different entrance via Hwy 55 (see map). The line moved sluggishly at times, but we made it past the checkpoint in under two hours. On to the campsite!

As we were herded like cattle to slaughter by hoards of yellow-shirted flag-wavers, I saw the perimeters of the festival area shrink in my rear-view mirror. We ended up roughly a 20 minute's walk from Centeroo. Not too shabby.

Modern art or just one big mess to clean up?

We were in camp zone 8...or as I heard one guy put it: the "chewbacca campgrounds". He was probably talking about our camp's artwork (see above), but could just as well have been referring to endless parade of shirtless cavemen running about!

Some of our neighbors' tents

In a hurry to get into the actual festival, we set up our modest campsite with much difficulty (don't ask). Met some nice girls who go to Harvard and a cool dude named Jeff who said he came down from Jersey by himself to see Metallica & Pearl Jam.

But you don't care about that, you want to hear about the MUSIC:

Let me tell you about Nicole Atkins. I wandered to her stage by accident - MGMT just wasn't doing it for me - in an attempt to meet up with some other friends who came down seperately, and she was playing.
Her music is kind of that post-Michelle Branch, folk-pop, vintage American sound. Martha Wainwright if she kicked more ass. (listen here) Excellent set, definitely one of the more energetic acts I saw Thursday. Maybe some of the performers had opening-night jitters.

You can't blame the weather, a cool breeze fanned our bodies as the hot Tennessee sun set slowly on the horizon. Meanwhile I was rocking out to Nicole's set. Immediately afterwards I ran over to the CD tent and picked up a copy of her debut record, Neptune City (buy).

Left the CD tent and half-sprinted accross the festival grounds to catch the opening notes of:

Vampire Weekend! You've probably heard of them, or sick of hearing about them, if you follow the music biz at all. Those silly Ivy-League kids who sing tunes about New England in the vein of The Strokes, all while drawing on musical influences from 3 continents.
If you haven't heard their debut record, shame on you (listen here). Live, they sounded a whole lot better than I expected, I've heard their live sets can be hit or miss. But the songs sounded extremely fresh. Great energy and vibe. They drew a massive and energetic crowd who came to sing & dance their asses off.
The thing about these big festivals is that where you stand might dictate how much you enjoy a band's set. For instance, when they opened with "Mansard Roof" I was at a horrible angle, and the mix sounded like shit. Fortunately, I found a great spot decently close where the sound came through 1,000 times better.
After being couped up in the car all day, and especially after a few drinks, Vampire Weekend really hit the spot. Their music is sickingly upbeat and happy, like Belle & Sebastian on crack and Red Bull.
They closed their set with "Walcott", one of my favorite cuts from their self-titled debut full-length (buy).
Caught the middle of Lez Zeppelin's show. They were OK, but you know they're just a glorified cover band, so really there's no big deal. I wasn't feeling it at all, so I went back to the campsite around 12:30 and just crashed till I passed out.
Thursday is usually the warm-up day for Bonnaroo, as only 75 percent of the people attending are actually there yet. So the food lines were a little shorter, the stages less crowded, the walkways more walkable. A good start to the weekend.
..Coming soon: Friday the 13th..

Thursday, February 7, 2008

here it is kids

(bold = i want to see)

Pearl Jam
Jack Johnson
Kanye West
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss featuring T Bone Burnette
Phil Lesh & Friends
My Morning Jacket
The Allman Brothers Band
The Raconteurs
Willie Nelson
Death Cab for Cutie
B.B. King
Sigur Ros
Levon Helm and the Ramble on the Road
Ben Folds
The Bluegrass Allstars Feat. Luke Bulla, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer and Bryan Sutton
Umphrey's McGee
Iron & Wine
Yonder Mountain String Band
The Swell Season
Talib Kweli
Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi
Soul Stew Revival
Gogol Bordello
Broken Social Scene
Robert Randolph's Revival
Rilo Kiley
Lupe Fiasco
Against Me!
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
Pat Green
Tegan & Sara
Solomon Burke
Drive-By Truckers
The Avett Brothers
Israel Vibration
Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet featuring Bela Fleck
A Very Special Acoustic Performance by Larry Campbell, Jackie Greene, Phil Lesh & Teresa Williams
Aimee Mann
The Fiery Furnaces
Orchestra Baobab
Ghostland Observatory
Jose Gonzalez
Dark Star Orchestra
Minus the Bear
Donavon Frankenreiter
Lez Zeppelin
State RadioBattles
Jakob Dylan
Two Gallants
The Sword
Vampire Weekend
Little Feat
Nicole Atkins
The Felice Brothers
Mason Jennings
The Lee Boys
Black Kids
Serena Ryder
Steel Train
Grupo Fantasma
Back Door Slam
..stacked, as usual. What, you expected otherwise? overall I am pleased with this line up..not quite as good as last year. However, I think the addition of Ben Folds tips the scales way into awesome territory.
In case you were wondering, Lez Zeppelin is an all-female Zep cover band. they pretty much sound the part (listen here)..still I'm disappointed that the real deal won't be there.
I'll be anxiously awaiting the additional artist announcements.