Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Top Ten Albums (that will not make my best of 2008 list)

Everybody always makes a list of the year's best albums, myself included. However, this year I have purchased or received a ridiculous amount of music. So, my year-end list left out a few key releases from the year. Some of these records are certainly not the worst of the year, but some are close.

10. Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
The term "shit sandwich" usually comes to mind when I think of Acid Tongue. It wouldn't be such a letdown had Rabbit Fur Coat not been so great. Also, the fact that Rilo Kiley has gone down the same road doesn't help.

9. Mates of State - Re-Arrange Us
Do kids make you boring? God, I hope not.

8. Cold War Kids - Loyalty to Loyalty
I don't know what they were thinking with this release. Maybe using the word "loyalty" twice in the title was supposed to make their fans stick with them, but man, it's hard. Someone should tell the Kids that blogger love only lasts for one album.

7. The Ugly Suit - The Ugly Suit
This was a record that was given to me to review for a website that has never happened. I also saw this band open for Iron and Wine. They're OK. Nothing special. What I can't over is that such a so-so band is somehow on Touch and Go. How does that happen?

6. The Kills - M
idnight Boom
I liked them better when they were a rock band. I actually went back and forth on this one. The fact is that I never listen to it. That says enough.

5. REM - Accelerate
Another aging alternarock band attempts to come back without ever really going anywhere. Meh.

4. Colin Meloy - Sings Live!
Essential for all those who love the Decemberists, just not for everyone.

3. The Breeders - Mountain Battles
This one is sort of a disappointing mess. I liked Kim and Kelley Deal before the drugs (well, most of them) and before Tammy and the Amps. It just hasn't been the same since '94.

2. Cat Power - Jukebox
Gone are the days when a drunken Chan Marshall strips apart a great pop melody, slowing it to a halt until we fully recognize her sad genius. Now she's out to make a buck and has to pay the bills with some respectable albums. Her transformation over the past couple of years from indie rock mess to queen reminds me of Liz Phair.

1. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
This is one of the best lo-fi, sad-sap indie folk I've heard in a long, long time. This would easily be one of the five best albums of 2008...had it not originally come out in 2007.

Don't forget, starting on December 1st, I will post my top 32 albums of 2008 in 32 exactly word reviews. None of these records will make the list. Care to guess who does?


Kate said...

Wha?! I love the clean & sober Chan Marshall. I think I might be alone in that too. Comparing her to Liz Phair is blasphemy (sp?). Liz Phair was always a 2 bit skank who got lucky on the first album because her ametuerism was considered endearing. Now she has the Matrix doing the writing for her. Oh, and just to clarify, I like Exile in Guyville but do think it sounds rather dated these days. Tangent, anyone?

comoprozac said...

Whoa! Have you got a bone to pick!

I don't think comparing Marshall and Phair is unfair in any way. They both had sorted pasts (perceived or otherwise) that contributed to their music. Now that they've cleaned up and earned some fame, both of them have sold out to build on that fame.

The irony is that it was when they were at their lowest that they created their best material.

Exile is only dated in that it is an early-nineties lo-fi classic. I seem to recall someone liking Pavement and Guided by Voices (like me). Aren't they just as dated? Dated's OK with me.

ks said...

I'm pretty sure Liz Phair is doing her own stuff again. She was very unhappy with the 2003 debacle. (Although her tour that year was GREAT....almost all old stuff) As for Chan Marshall, the druggy years did yield her best music, but also the MOST uncomfortable shows. I witnessed one ONCE...never again. It made me feel dirty -- kind of like when I saw Wesley Willis (or you seeing Daniel Johnston).

comoprozac said...

KS-The Daniel Johnston comparison is very accurate. The first time I saw Cat Power was at Little Bros. It was so uncomfortable that it still gives me the willies. (The second time was much, much better, but before she put together a band.)

The trajectory of Marshall's and Johnston's careers is also similar. The underground legends have become rather fashionable in recent years. The only difference seems to be the mental state in which they find themselves as their careers finally break through. Marshall seems almost healthy, contrasted with Johnston's lack of a reality.

This is such an interesting discussion. I may have blog more later.

GE said...

Great idea for a list, CP. And I almost forgot about that mess of a Breeders record. Yuck.

Kate said...

I wouldn't say GBV is dated but Pavement definitely is. GBV was always copying the Who so they always seemed in the past for me. I think good music can come out of happiness too and I don't begrudge Marshall for making money. I'm not sure any of us are in a position to poo-poo someone for making a little extra money for their talents. I wouldn't mind if people paid me lots of money for my baking, does that make me a sell-out? I don't believe the music has suffered for the money so I'd say selling-out is pretty inaccurate and, well, dated hipster/grunge speak.

Yes, you should write a post on this and I should get back to work before my head explodes.

comoprozac said...

Are you saying GBV is timeless? I don't think I'd agree with that. Their lo-fi Who impersonation will always hold a special place in my heart, but their best work (Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes) will always be tied to '93/'94 for me. So yes, they are dated, especially the lo-fi, bedroom recordings aesthetic.

I don't begrudge Marshall for making money or being happy. I just feel as though there are signs of a drop-off in her creativity. Also, as she becomes more of a celebrity, she becomes less of an artist.

Good for her for finding some success, but it doesn't change the fact that her last two albums (although I liked The Greatest) don't measure up to her previous work.

"Dated hipster/grunge speak" maybe, but selling out is what it is. That's fine. Make some money doing what you want, but don't try to convince me it's good just b/c you got some press.

Speaking of 'hipster,' check this.

bdegenaro said...

I really liked The Kills' record, especially the songs that bring the melody ("Tape Song") without sacrificing the rough hew that the band does so well. You see "Midnight Boom" as less "rock band"? They've always relied on that drum machine, no?

comoprozac said...

Sure, the drum machine element has long been a part of the Kills' sound. It's just that this album sounds more electro-trash than rawk. Other bands who have traveled down this path include Blonde Redhead, Brainiac, and Girls vs. Boys.

While I love all these bands, their tendency to give in to their electronic dance impulses often sounds contrived and silly.

I don't hate any of these bands for these lackluster albums, I just feel let down or disappointed...which inspires me to write another post.

That said, "Tape Song" is a pretty good track. Thanks, bdegenero. (Do you know my partner, her colleagues, or someone else who frequents this blog?)

Kate said...

Well, I couldn't disagree with you more.

Don't we all kind of view our musical heros as celebrities? Was I not the stupid drunk you wrote about who spewed her words at Malkmus & Bob at the Jicks show? Would I have acted that way had I not viewed Malkmus as a celebrity? Why do you like to tell your "meeting Isaac Brock" story if he's not a celebrity? Or is it not cool to refer to him as a celebrity because then all credibility is lost?

I think The Greatest might be her best album. I love it and still listen to it so don't state "... but it doesn't change the fact that her last two albums (although I liked The Greatest) don't measure up to her previous work." Just because you think that, doesn't make it a fact or reflect how others feel. The Greatest does measure up in my opinion.

Selling out doesn't even exist anymore as a way to differentiate between worthy/unworthy bands. Band of Horses, The Walkmen, The Shins, Malkmus, Modest Mouse, the Flaming Lips, Os Mutantes, SAM BEAM for chrissakes...I could go on and on about people that have "sold out" just as bad as Chan Marshall.

comoprozac said...

Kate, I really struck a chord with you today.

I am not talking about how we view musicians. I am talking about how some of them seem to embrace celebrity more than others. You know, hang out with actors or pose for fashion spreads or whatever. I find that this puts into question an artist's integrity.

You getting drunk had nothing to do with Malkmus seeing himself as a celebrity.

The Greatest is a fine record, but it's not what turned me on to Cat Power. Her earlier albums were new, different, not a new take on an outdated musical form. However, you could make the point about The Greatest being a high-point in Marshall's career. I'll give you that. Jukebox on the other hand does not add up. And that is what I originally wrote about.

Sure, all those bands sold out to some degree. I'll admit that. There are degrees of selling out though. You're right that it's not that big of a deal to sell your song to McDonald's just to pay some bills. I've got no problems with that.

I think when musicians give in to the celebrity and sacrifice a piece of their artistry in order to sell 500k rather than 50k records, the art often suffers. That is a fair criticism.

Juliet said...

Oh wow, you just reminded me that I need to start planning my "best of 2008" radio show. How the time does fly...

comoprozac said...

I know. I know. When I realized December was around the corner, I started making my list. These ten were left off.