Wednesday, December 17, 2008
THE RUNNERS-UP: The Best Records Of 2008
2008 has been a remarkable year for music. Sales may have reached an all-time low, but the quality of music released in 2008 almost makes me forget Lou Reed's "The Raven." And that was 5 years ago. I love lists. I've been making lists since I was a young, Catholic school boy. Back then, the lists weren't always music related. "Favorite Actors." "Favorite Comic Books." Occasionally there'd be "Top 5 Ways Sister Martha Will Beat On Joey"
4. Phonics Book
3. Mary's Hair Brush
You get the point.
This year, I had 29 records waiting to be included on my year-end Top 10. This is a good thing. It means, one more list.
Here are THE RUNNERS-UP:
11-20, with my top 10 to follow.
11. THE RACONTEURS- CONSOLERS OF THE LONELY
I never boarded The White Stripes bus. I don't need to go into that now. This is not about why I don't care for their records. It's about why I love The Raconteurs. Jack White is one of the most exciting guitar players in the game, and with Brendan Benson's knack for melody, and Cincinnati's killer rhythm section, The Greenhornes behind the wheel, The Raconteurs create some seriously infectious rock and roll.
12. JOHN BOUTTE- GOOD NEIGHBOR
We all have an artist who we hold dear to our hearts. An artist, whose time you know is about to come. New Orleans' own John Boutte is that man. A great interpreter of everything from the great American songbook, to traditional New Orleans' gospel, to rock and roll classics, Boutte and his mellifluous voice cover it all on his new release. You can't help but think of Sam Cooke while hearing John sing, and that's not a bad thing. Listen to this record. And check out John Boutte and The New Orleans Social Club performing on Austin City Limits.
13. THE PARLOR MOB- AND YOU WERE A CROW
I'm sure the boys in the band wouldn't appreciate comparisons to so many classic hard rock bands of the 70s. They surely want to be known for their own thing. But this record is without question, the best hard rock record of the year. Zep-inspired riffs, a dual guitar attack that would make Thin Lizzy fans proud, and melody to boot. Check out the Mob live from Maxwell's below.
14. JULES SHEAR- MORE
I love this record. Jules always seems to move me. Lyrically, it tore me up. The last track, "You Might Show Up" put me over the edge. (listen HERE) Could be my fave track on the album. I hear elements of everything I have ever loved about Jules, all over this record. It even rocks... more than a bit.
15. ANAT COHEN- NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND
Few jazz releases this year hit me as hard as Anat Cohen's record. There is an intensity in her soloing that speaks more than words. From the soulful version of the Cuban standard "Siboney," to the playful sounds of "Washington Square Park," a Cohen original, the music on this record will seep into you and remain there for a long time. It never meanders and never strays too far from the melody. Superb playing all around.
16. AMANDA PALMER- WHO KILLED AMANDA PALMER
I can't recall ever hearing a note of Miss Palmer's work with The Dresden Dolls. It all just slipped by me. But a friend recommended this CD, simply because he thought I would like it. He was right. Think Sally Bowles fronting the Spiders From Mars, with John Cale and the Mael Brothers standing by for moral support. (Seriously, think it!)
17. LENNY KRAVITZ- IT IS TIME FOR A LOVE REVOLUTION
I will reiterate what I said in Mark Levine's post of his faves of the year, Lenny Kravitz just don't get no respect. And he should. He is keeping alive the music that has kept us alive. And he does it better than most. Soulful, hard rocking, funky and trippy, this is a great record from head to tail.
18.- RAPHAEL SAADIQ- THE WAY I SEE IT
And speaking of keeping the spirit of the great ones alive, Raphael Saadiq's "The Way It Is" is not just a 60's soul pastiche. These are real songs with mind-boggling production that will...uh...boggle the mind. I put this CD on, looked at the cover, and still thought I was listening to a Smokey Robinson record from 1966.
19. THE FIREMAN- ELECTRIC ARGUMENTS
I thought it was a fluke. First listen to Sir Paul McCartney's third attempt as The Fireman killed me. My immediate thoughts went back to one of my fave McCartney albums, "Ram." But, you know what? I've gone back to this record again and again. It is no fluke. It ends on a blah note, just gets a bit too ambient. But for 40 minutes, Macca's voice will remind you that he WAS a Beatle and not the guy behind so many of those dreck records of recent years,
20. BHI BHIMAN- THE COOKBOOK
No, this is not the token "New York Times school of 'Let's pick the most obscure shit we can think of that no one has the ability to purchase just so we can say we discovered something' choice." This is another recommendation that was right on the money. Bhiman is a Bay Area, singer-songwriter, sounding not unlike Taj Mahal, yet completely original. Topical lyrics, subtle and heavy, with a swingin', soulful groove throughout. I love this record. And if you're into country blues with tight harmonies, you need to find some time and check Bhi Bhiman out.
And there you have it.