Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best Albums of '08 ... part deux!

If you missed it, Part 1.


11. Lil' Wayne (New Orleans, LO) Tha Carter III
I don't speak 'Homeboyeeze' so I'm not sure what to say about Lil' Wayne (Weezy?) other than he should stick to rapping and give up his blogging, because he can barely speak English, let alone write. Not that I'm professing to be God's gift to the field, but, I can write ... a sentence... and... words. And, in my opinion ESPN would be better off putting the money they're spending on editing his work into allowing us up north access to their streaming TV... I'm just saying...
Song: "A Milli"
Winner of: The Album that I'm Shocked that I like So Much.


1c. Ketch Harbour Wolves (Cambridge/Toronto, On) Dead Calm Horizon
Thanks to Ack at the Herohill for posting about these dudes, since, their album/EP was the nicest surprise for me all year. I kind of feel like this is the album that Fleet Foxes would've made if they had to deal with all the snow in SW Ontario... in that respect, I think the album art really says something about the album. Best of all, they've got the album up for free on their website.
Song: "So Long to the Ground" ... just love the stripped down beginning...
Winner of: Best Surprise of the Year
Also: Playing January 3rd at El Mocambo. Yay!


25. Brett Shady (Burbank, CA) Demo
He sounds almost exactly Paul Simon, which might be a problem if he didn't write songs like Paul Simon, but he does... so no big deal. He's in process of putting together an actual album, and when he does I suspect you'll hear about it... at least from me.
Song: "Red House Plea"
Winner of: Artist Most Likely to Write the Song "Me and Julio Down by the School Yard, part II"



10. Tokyo Police Club (Toronto, On) Elephant Shell
I might have been a little over the top the first time I commented on this album. I may, or may not have said that I was sure it'd be my favourite of the year... what can I say, I got a little excited. I think its good, probably better than any of the Death Cab or Decemberists albums ever were, and for me those bands are probably a fair point of comparison for these guys now.
Song: "Your English is Good"
Winner of: The Best Album by a Band I'm Unlikely to Listen Again


13. Wale (Washington, DC) the mixtape about nothing.
WA-lay's Seinfeld inspired mixtape is probably my favourite concept album since DangerMouse put out his Jay-z/Beatles mash-up CD, The Grey Album. Like most concept albums, I find its probably a little better in theory than it is in practice, but the high points "The Perfect Plan" "The Kramer" "The Vacation from Ourselves" etc. are, well, very high. Also, love the cameo from Julia Louise "Elaine" Dreyfus.
Song: "The Artistic Integrity"... You're not artistic, and you have no integrity...
Winner of: Best Concept Album

26. Q-Tip (NYC, NY) The Renaissance
Initially, this album wasn't on this list, and I'm pretty sure that I won't be listening to 'Tip next year, let alone a month from now, but it reminds me too much of discovering ATCQ along with other hip-hop (that wasn't 2Pac/Biggie/Snoop - which I never really got into) in high school. I mean, its not bad - to invoke ATCQ I don't think it could be - but its not going to change anyone's life... it actually kind of reminds me of all the albums that artists like Springsteen, Seger, Tom Petty, etc. have put out in the last few years... you're probably going to listen, and will give you a little taste of what they used to be like, but its never going to be like they were.
Song: "Gettin' Up"
Winner of: The Makes Rob Feel Like He's in High School Award


21. The Knux (Hollywood, CA) Remind Me In 3 Days...
If I were to be completely honest I'd tell you that I'm not sure that I've made it all the way to the end of this album once. But, I suppose the fact that I've included this album is a testament to how much I like the first half of the album from track 1 "The List" to track 6 "Daddy's Little Girl".
Song: "Cappuccino"
Winner of: Best Song about a Yuppy Drink Award


16. Raphael Saadiq (Hollywood, CA) The Way I See It
I wrote about this album a few weeks ago so no need to rehash what was, in all likelihood, a poorly written "review".
Song: "Staying in Love"
Winner of: The Foxy Cleopatra Throwback Award


22. Ra Ra Riot (Syracuse, NY) The Rhumb Line
I was really fired up about this album before it came out, but my expectations were probably a little high, and the album - for whatever reason - hasn't really struck me the same way that their EPs did. It also could be that I'm not really sure that there's a time/place when I ever go to an album like this... after a few times through it doesn't quite feel as .... sharp.
Song: "Oh, La"
Winner of: Album I Expected to Like A Lot More Than I Did



24. Adele (London, the real one) 19
Like Amy Winehouse except she's bigger, nicer and younger; so, the songs are predictably a lot more passive/less interesting... nonetheless she has an unbelievable set of pipes.
Song: I'm kind of sick of the single "Chasing Pavements" (it was good the first 50 times... so, "Daydreamer"
Winner of: Girl You Made Fun of in High School and is Now Rubbing Your Face in It Award


20. Entire Cities (Toronto, On) Deep River
A variety of people had talked about this band at the beginning of the year (including me), but all has been quiet on the "Entire Cities Front" for, I'd say, probably at least three or four months now. And, honestly, I probably would've forgot about them had I not created a word file on my desktop titled "Best of 2008" where I wrote "Entire Cities Deep River"... I went back and listened to it to make sure I'm not crazy, and I wasn't... I mean, I'm not... anyway, it still quite a good Psych/Folk/Country album...
Song: "Accountants Dream" ... for my parents (who, you guessed it, are accountants), but actually "Coffee" is my favourite.
Winner of: Album Most Likely to Convince Me to Attend a Hootenanny in 2009


12. Born Ruffians (Toronto, On) Red Yellow & Blue
I think "bouncy" is the best way to describe this album... its fun, as is/was their live show.
Song: ... the less bouncy "Little Garcon"
Winner of: Band that Reminds Me Most of an Excited Puppy Award


7. Frightened Rabbit (Selkirk, Sctlnd) Midnight Organ Fight
I normally don't like British Bands, see: Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, U2, Interpol (I don't care how much you argue, they sound British), but there is something about Scott Hutchinson's Scottish drawl that is really charismatic (like Glen Hansard). I'm actually surprised this one hasn't shown up on more lists ... or maybe it has and I'm just not paying very close attention.
Songs: "Old Old Fashioned" "Good Arms vs. Bad Arms" "My Backwards Walk"

Winner of: Best Chorus, "Keep Yourself Warm" - It takes more than fucking someone you don't know to keep warm/You won't find love in a, you won't find love in a hole ... You stay classy San Diego


8. The Golden Hands Before God (Montreal, QC) Here EP
They are absolute rock stars... if you don't like this EP you are basically saying you hate Rock 'n' Roll.
Songs: ... after hearing it live "Girl Half My Age", but before that "Blood of November"
Winner of: The Stillwater Award for bringing back Rock 'n' Roll into the 00's


1a. KanYE West (everywhere) 808s & Heartbreaks
Yeah... you knew this was coming...


27b. M83 - Saturdays = Youth
27a. Provincial ParksIron Ponies EP
26. Q-TipThe Renaissance
25. Brett ShadyDemo EP
24. Adele - 19
23. Flight of the ConchordsFlight of the Conchords
22. Ra Ra RiotThe Rhumb Line
21. The KnuxRemind Me in 3 Days …
20. Entire CitiesDeep River
19. HaydenIn Field & Town
18. The Rural Alberta AdvantageHometowns
17.
Lykke LiYouth Novels
16. Raphael SaadiqThe Way I See It
15. Why?Alopecia
14. The AcornHeron Act
13. Walethe mixtape about nothing
12. Born Ruffians Red, Yellow & Blue
11. Lil’ WayneTha Carter III
10. Tokyo Police ClubElephant Shell
9. Fleet FoxesFleet Foxes
8. The Golden Hands Before GodHere EP
7. Frightened RabbitMidnight Organ Fight
6. BowerbirdsHymns for a Dark Horse
5. Black Hat BrigadeBlack Hat Brigade EP
4. Bon IverFor Emma, Forever Ago
1c. Ketch Harbour Wolves -Dead Calm Horizon
1b. Chad VanGaalenSoft Airplane
1a. Kanye West808s and Heartbreaks

Monday, December 29, 2008

Best Albums of '08 (Part 1)!

First, you'll notice that my list is probably a bizarre mix of small, local Toronto stuff, Canadian stuff, and then some big swingers. This is, as you may have noticed based on my post on Saturday, probably of the idea that I should recognize some of the big "blog" bands this year (who I actually like), while still giving attention to local artists who I think are really good/interesting/deserve to be heard.

Second, some records that didn't make the cut (that I think are worth listening to because, ya know, we probably don't have exactly the same taste in music)...

Too energetic: Woodhands Heart Attack, Winter Gloves About A Girl, Cut Copy In Ghost Colours, D'Urbervilles We Are The Hunters
A couple of great singles, but generally too uneven: Elliot Brood Mountain Meadows, Forest Fire Survival (but, it was free, so, that's good...)
I'm not a hippie: Dr. Dog Fate, Plants and Animals Parc Avenue
Disappointments: Ben Folds Way to Normal, TV on the Radio Dear Science

Albums that would've got much more consideration if I had started listening to them before this week:

Lightspeed Champion Falling Off the Lavender Bridge - maybe its just because they're British, but they kind of sound like a stripped down version of Bloc Party (whom I don't care for). I like them better... I'm just not sure how much better, but I suppose better enough to mention them.

Dodos Visiter - I like a bunch of the songs, could do without some of the extended jams, but some kool folk stuff that reminds me a little bit of the Acorn... but on waaaaaaay more drugs. I guess that kind of thing happens in San Fran... maybe that's why my Niners suck so hard...


M83 Saturdays = Youth - I think that I thought M83 was a lot like Prefuse73, RJD2 (maybe it was the combination of numbers and letters that confused me), but, turns out it isn't. Or, it is, but there's singing and stuff ... and that makes it much more interesting to me. Given more time, and a few more spins I suspect this record would've made it somewhere on the list... let's call it 27b.

With that - and I'm not saying that everyone is wrong, so much as they're just not right - the definitive 27 best records of 2008.... unless I've missed something... which is, as always, entirely probable.

Oh, and PS my list is ranked, but, not in order... just to spice things up...


27a. Provincial Parks (Toronto, On) Iron Ponies EP
Maybe a little on the overproduced side, but some beautiful harmonies and they certainly are taking a step toward making teen and tween-aged girls swoon in a city near you.
Song: "Young Bride"
Winner of: The John Mayer in Group form Award.



23. Flight of the Conchords (Wellington, NZ) Flight of the Conchords
I can't say that I ever listened to the *air-quotes* album, but they are really, really funny.The TV show... also funny.
Rob crosses his fingers that the "Formerly New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo" doesn't stink it up in Season 2 of their show...
Song: It was hard to pick against the most beautiful girl in the room song, but"Bowie"
Winner of: most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo


9. Fleet Foxes (Philadelphia, PA) Fleet Foxes
This will be on everyone - or almost everyone's year end list - and that's because, well, its very good.
Song: They're all kind of the same, but "Your Protector"
Winner of: Most Homeless looking Band to Sing Harmonies Something Like the Beach Boys.
14. The Acorn (Ottawa, On) Heron Act
No, its not new material, but the Ottawa band is just outstanding - both live and recorded - and this is both (live, and recorded on CD, or, MP3 I guess)! Also, I'm a sucker for a good cover, and their cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Good Enough" was awesome - although I've never heard the original.
Song: "Crooked Legs"
Winner of: Best Response to Someone Shouting At Them On Stage (click on the link and scroll down to the bottom of the post).


1b. Chad VanGaalen (Calgary, USA) Soft Airplane
He's a weird dude... I've often described him to friends as the Tim Burton of singer-songwriter music, dark, weird, but this album is pretty accessible. If it doesn't win the Polaris next year... well, I don't know, I'll be upset. Just an outstanding album and this video that B passed along of him playing in a French laudromat was awesome.
Song(s): At various times "Willow Tree" "Molten Light" "City of Electric Light"
Winner of: The Let's Hope He Leaves His Basement to Tour in Canada in 2009 Award.


17. Lykke Li (Stockholm, SWE) Youth Novels
There are a lot of very catchy singles on this album "Dance Dance Dance" "I'm Good I'm Gone" "Little Bit", but it also has some neat, more artistic moments. Plus, all the cool live stuff she's done... the cover of ATCQ "Can I Kick It?", Black Cab Sessions, and doing "Dance Dance Dance" with Bon Iver...
Song: uhhh... maybe "Breaking It Up"
Winner of: Coolest Indie Rock Chick of the Year


4. Bon Iver (Somewhere in Northern Wisconsin) For Emma, Forever Ago
... is the new Sufjan Stevens... not so much in a musical sense, but more in a no one I know actually knows how to pronounce the name. Oh, and it is a really haunting kind of album that I've listened to approximately a thousand times this year. Along with Fleet Foxes this is the album that just about everyone can get behind... it'll be interesting to see how the new one (due out sometime in January) will play out now that he's had some success and doesn't have a break-up to fuel his creative juices...
Song: All of them. Every one.
Winner of: I Bet This Girl Really Regrets Breaking Up With This Guy Award


6. Bowerbirds (Raleigh, NC) Hymns for a Dark Horse
I described them before as a more American version of the Acorn, which may not be helpful if you don't know the Acorn, but, you should, so - not really my problem. A lot of great songs to sit under a tree (possibly a Bur Oak tree?) in the summer and have a picnic to.
Song: "In Our Talons"
Winner of: Best Blogotheque Video of the Year


19. Hayden (Toronto, On) In Field & Town
Remember back in January when I said I wouldn't forget about Hayden... no... no one was reading this... huh... anyways... Its certainly more upbeat and jaunty (yes, I just used the word jaunty - but I think its appropriate) and, as an added bonus there are no songs - as best as I can remember - about being mauled by a bear, or driving a car into a lake.
Song: "The Van Song"
Winner of: Probably the Best Show of the Year Award - Hayden and Basia Bulat at Aoelian Hall, London ON (complete with videos - thanks Liz!)


5. Black Hat Brigade (Brampton, On) Black Hat Brigade EP
There was a little reaction back in... the Spring?... when I not only compared the Black Hat Brigade to Wolf Parade I said that they were like Wolf Parade, but way better. Well, I stand by that, and will suggest to anyone who likes Rock Music that this is a band to watch. I think they're recording a new album now, which I expect will be pretty awesome ... I hope...
Song: ... really difficult to choose, but "Swords"
Winner of: Band Rob is Acting as an Unofficial Cheerleader For


15. Why? (Oakland, CA) Alopecia
This album I think is a lot like Entourage (or it was at first) I didn't think it was very good, but still, I kept going back to it. Then, unlike Entourage, it got better (not worse) and better to the point where its been a go-to album for me this fall.
Song: "Good Friday" for the opening line "If you grew up with White Boys who only look at black and Puerto Rican porno 'cause they want something that their Dad don't got..."
Winner of: Most Bizarre Looking (Rap) Group and Inexplicably Weird Album Cover


18. The Rural Alberta Advantage (Toronto, On) Hometowns
I've seen this band more than anyone else this year (twice! - yes, I'm THAT adventurous) and they've been terrific both times. They are starting to pick up a little steam and hopefully that will roll over into a new album, more shows, etc. in 2009.
Song: "Sleep All Day"
Winner of: Band Most Likely to Become a "Blog Band" Next Year


To summarize, what we have so far:
27b. M83 Saturdays = Youth
27a. Provincial Parks Iron Ponies EP
23. Flight of the Conchords Flight of the Conchords
19. Hayden In Field & Town
18. The Rural Alberta Advantage Hometowns
17. Lykke Li Youth Novels
15. Why? Alopecia
14. The Acorn Heron Act
9. Fleet Foxes Fleet Foxes
6. Bowerbirds Hymns for a Dark Horse
5. Black Hat Bridage Black Hat Brigade EP
4. Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago
1b. Chad VanGaalen Soft Airplane

Saturday, December 27, 2008

On Lists

I've been saying for a little while now that I'm going to put together my Best of '08, and its done, but before I post it (on Monday) I thought I would just comment on lists in general by addressing what I think are a few common complaints other people have about these year end compilations.

... a warning before you get reading this is (basically) a rant about "indie-kids" and people who hate indie-kids... for the record, I like Barack Obama (yes, I just compared myself to Obama and yes, I'm about to try and justify it -- but, in all fairness my grandma had Tyra on yesterday and she compared Wayne Brady to him so, I don't feel so bad). I feel like there is some type of middle ground we can strike here...

Complaint #1: The lists are all the same.

First, no they're not... they're similar... don't be a drama queen (or king). A lot of artists show up on more than one list, in fact, a few artists (Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver in particular this year) will show up on just about everyone's list, and you know why? Because they're really good albums. So if you haven't heard them let me be the five hundredth person to say, you really should hear them. If you have heard them they may not be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but they're very good and you need to chill out a little when other people (particularly people who haven't heard them before) freak out because they're really good (and they don't sound like Franz Ferdinand - or whatever else is cool these days...).

Second, a lot of people are sheep. I mean, people like music for different reasons (entertainment, art, it makes them feel better, its something to do), but, most people (I think) have/use the same sources for new music (radio, pitchfork, stereogum, etc.) which produces similar lists. That said, with more new bands, blogs, music network things, I think these lists are becoming increasingly diverse...

Complaint #2: The list only include really obscure artists/bands.

I think a lot of people will look at a lot of year end lists and say to themselves "how can ten bands I've never heard of have put out the best ten albums of the year"? I would explain it this way...

My year end, best movies of 2008 might look like this:
1. Batman
2. Ironman
3. Wall-E
4. Up the Yangtze (which, turns out, was actually released in 2007)
5. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
6. Vicki Christina Barcelona

But, I'm not really all that into movies ... I don't spend much time watching them (I've seen maybe 30 - 40), let alone reading about them, discussing them. Something like Up the Yangtze - which was a terrific movie - I only came across by a fluke recommendation of a friend, and, also, its not this year so it probably shouldn't count.

I'm not that into movies, I'm not up on the latest movies, and naturally my list is pretty narrow. So, the lesson is: the more into something you are, the more you are going to acquire specialized knowledge of the subject area, the broader your contributions are going to be. And sometimes, and you know who you are, these lists are ways for bloggers/indie-music-snobs to prove that they know more different/cool bands than other people... feel free to call me on it if I ever fall into that category.

Complaint #3: The lists aren't/can't be objective.

Uhhhh .... yeah. So what? Everyone has their own opinion (whether or not they are well founded, or strongly supported is another story), but its really a waste of time complaining about #1 or #2. If you're interested in getting the best/most objective look at what's going on there are a couple of great opinion aggregators out there (see: metacritic, also - stereogum's "Gummys" are also a pretty good) that give a good overview of what's gone on in music this year. If you've made complaint #2 to someone recently, those two are good places to start.

If you've made complaint #1, find people that you like reading that your taste matches up with, and check out what they recommend (see the sidebar).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Golden Hands Before God @ Rancho Relaxo. Dec. 20. 2008



Despite my impulse to avoid Snow-Maggedon II: Electric Boogaloo (as an aside - I'd love to meet the person who coined the phrase "Snow-Maggedon") to stay at home and re-watch old episodes of the Office with my sister, Allie (who is one of my favourite sisters), we (I) decided that going to see some Rock 'n' Roll would be better than spending 8 hours straight in front of the TV.

I'm not even sure what to say about the Golden Hands Before God (Conducts the Incredible Magic Band & The Spirits)... they started off by each introducing themselves and their backing band, which I thought was very clever, and then proceeded to put on the greatest Rock 'n' Roll show I have ever seen.

I actually kind of felt like the kid journalist (for the record I'm 26) in Almost Famous, like I had stepped into a world that I just didn't belong (see photos below) ... sweat-soaked shoulder length hair, open shirts, shots of whiskey on stage, jumping off things, jumping onto things, cursing, etc. etc. For me, they kind of embody some type of real-life, probably 'R' rated version of Stillwater - in Almost Famous - at the beginning... not when they get self-centred and petty.

I guess what I mean by that is that they play Rock 'n' Roll like they don't give a fuck, they're there to have a good time, make sure that everyone has a good time... just go see them if you get the chance.

[wav] The Golden Hands Before God "Girl Half My Age" (live at Rancho Relaxo)

... I couldn't leave without saying that seeing them live has given their Here EP new meaning for me (as often seeing a band live does, I think), which was terrific in the first place...




Thursday, December 18, 2008

Everyone Else's Best _____ of '08: Bands

Sadly, KanYE wasn't able to participate this year, but, luckily, I was able to get a lot of bands that I really like to throw in their two cents about 2008. That was great. In fact, I think at least 4 or 5 of the bands that have contributed in some way/shape/form appear on my own year end Best Albums list plus a lot of other ones I like/should hear more from, etc.. So thank you all.

One thing I want to comment on quickly... just a reply to my long time friend Cali/Geoff, who is the lead singer of the Sea Inside. Geoff wrote - as did many others - a really creative list "Most Personally Ambivalent Moments of '08" which was very, for lack of a better word, cool; which is fitting because Geoff is a pretty cool guy. But, I do want to disagree with his second last point where he suggests that, and I'm paraphrasing (Cali is a much better writer than I, so I apologize if I'm butchering his point) that the internet/increased accessibility of music has created fewer 'rockstars' and because there are no rockstars music is losing its ability to inspire.

I certainly agree on the first part of the argument, that there will be no more Bonos, Cobains, 2 Pacs, etc., but, I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing, nor do I think it means that music can no longer inspire. In fact, I'd say the great thing about the local music scenes - and even in London (On) there is a small one - is that music becomes more personal. I think, when you get to see music up close - and not, say, from a half kilometre away in the ACC/JLC/Corel Centre - its easier to connect to, and be inspired by. Sure, we're not watching icons, but we are watching our "friends" who, typically, are grateful for us showing up and enthusiastic about playing; rather than some ego inflated 'rockstar' who wants their paycheck so they can get on their private jet, do their blow, and move on to the next city.

Maybe I'm the exception rather than the rule, but now, pretty close to all my favourite bands (Ohbijou, Sunparlour, Shad, Black Hat Brigade, etc.) are all local (or close to local), and I like it that way...

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand, now that I've got that out of my system, here's what different bands thought about '08:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jamie Greer (Montreal, QC) Golden Hands Before God

Top 5 Live Moments of 2008

1. Monotonix (Gus' Pub, Halifax Pop Explosion)
Single greatest live experience of my life. I felt like my brain had been highjacked by rock and roll aliens. Their music is somewhat Stooges meets Black Flag-ish, not entirely unique or original, but when combined with their frantic over the top rock and roll performance - which literally involves the entire audience, the ceiling, anything not nailed down and the adjoining city block - makes for one of the most satisfying rock and roll experiences I have ever sweated buckets for.

2. Fleet Foxes (Magic Stick, Detroit, Michigan)
These guys were unknowns at the start of the year when I caught them. They had just released their debut EP on SubPop (about 6 months ahead of the full length) and were opening for Blitzen Trapper, who I'd gone to see. Their live harmonies were so gorgeously brilliant that I actually ran over and bought their EP - as well as a T-Shirt - simply from hearing the first 2/3 of the first song. Their performances are powerful, like glorious folk music church choirs. Brilliant. If you haven't seen Fleet Foxes live, you're missing out on what beautiful music should sound like.

3. The Golden Hands Before God, HotKid, Vancougar and Bad Uncle (L'Escogriffe, Montreal)
Okay, so this is one of our shows, but the magic surrounding the night was unbeatable. First off, it was our warm up gig before heading to Halifax Pop Explosion, so we were already giddy and ready to rawk. The show was originally just supposed to be us and HotKid. But through some miscommunication, Bad Uncle - a side project of Unsettlers' bassist (and our part-time sub) Santosh Lalonde and his Unsettlers bandmates Darcy Nicholls and Ben Brandes (who is our bassist) - joined the bill. When we were setting up, a group of ladies approached us and asked if they could join our bill cause they'd been cancelled from their own. We said yes. They were Vancougar. They rocked. Bad Uncle rocked. HotKid SLAYED. Shiloh Harrison is one of the most entertainingly talented guitarists I've seen in a while. She's smoking! And then we rocked. Afterwards, we all got loaded and danced the night away. What a great night.

4. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble (Club Lambi, Pop Montreal)
This Chicago 9-piece got off to a slow start - with nine horn players, sound check took some work - but once they kicked in, MAN did they kick in. These dudes have played their jazzy-hip hop sounds for Mos Def and Erykah Badu amongst others, and their professionalism was evident. These guys stole the show that night with their unique approach to the horns and fantastic charisma. A real highlight of the festival.

5. The Unsettlers (The Pound for Halloween, Montreal)
The Unsettlers are brilliant every time they play, and I'm not just saying that because they're dear friends of mine (and that our bassist is the ringleader). Their 10+ piece folk orchestra cabaret act is one of the most entertaining musical ensembles you'll encounter live. It feels like you're in a Russian music hall just before the revolution every time, no matter where you see them. But this night they were all particularly revved up and in costume to boot. Ben dressed up as Britney Spears a la the "Hit Me Baby One More Time" video was kinda creepy. Kinda hot.


---------------------------------------------------------

Ben Brandes (Montreal, QC) – Golden Hands Before God

Best Live Shows


1) Monotonix at Gus's in Halifax at the Pop Explosion
2) Elliot Brood at Le Divan Orange in Montreal
3) Mark Berube and The Patriotic Few CD release at Cabaret Juste Pour Rire in Montreal
4) David Simard and Brie Neilson at Grumpy’s Bar, Montreal
5) Dark Meat at Pop Montreal


---------------------------------------------------

Ben Wilson (Ottawa, On) That’s the Spirit


1. The War on Drugs - Wagon Wheel Blues (Secretly Cdn). I no longer feel guilty putting too much reverb on my snare drum...
2. Beach House - Devotion (Bella Union).
3. Fleet Foxes - s/t (Sub Pop).
4. Snailhouse - Lies on the Prize (Unfamiliar). A fantastic album, possibly my fave of his many releases. Jeremy Gara's mixing/recording work deserves kudos as well...there's a real warm, inviting sound to this record. Lovely.
5. Chad VanGaalen - Soft Airplane (Flemish Eye).

Honourable mentions: Human Highway, The Acorn/Ohbijou split 12", Jolie Holland, Whispertown 2000, Tusks E.P.


----------------------------------------------------------

Rajiv (Toronto, On) Oh No Forest Fires

Listen, I'm not a huge fan of solo's. Not usually anyway. They're often self-indulgent, unnecessary, distracting- just all around unpleasant. Okay so maybe I'm painting with broad stokes here and probably being way too critical. But it's rare that I see someone take a guitar solo and say to myself "wow that rocked" usually, it's like "that guy's an asshat". However, every so often, someone will take a solo where it gave me goosebumps or at least put a huge smile on my face or maybe it just made the song for me. Anyways, 2008 had a bunch. And after racking my brain for a bit and going through some concert tickets I found around my room I put together my top 5 favourite live solo's I saw this year... and they're not just guitar either. A "mouth-trumpet" and "tambourine" solo made the list too.

Also, I'm not good at ranking. These are in no particular order.

Sebastien Grainger - Sebastien Grainger And The Mountains (Phoenix Concert Theatre, Mar 5 2008)
This was my first time seeing SG's band (and arguably the best, maybe just because it was so new to me). I honestly hadn't seen someone take a guitar solo of this caliber in quite a while, but man oh man, when he ripped into "(I Am Like A) River" and a couple of other gems I was awestruck at the "elbows-up-in-the-air-kneeling-on-the-ground-inches-from-your-amp-I-got-my-O-face-on" solo's this guy took. I'm quoting someone else here but he brought the r-a-w-k. Wow.

Jamie Seerman - Jaymay (Danforth Music Hall, Feb 19, 2008)
I knew nothing about this girl from Long Island prior to her set opening for Hayden at the Danforth Music Hall in the winter of 2008. And her set wasn't even that spectacular or memorable. BUT MAN OH MAN. She did a "mouth-trumpet" solo which just SLAAAYED, it was amazing, and I'll never forget it. Easily a top 5 favourite solo of 2008.

Alex Feder - XYZ Affair (Drake Hotel Underground, Mar 21, 2008)
I became a fan of XYZ Affair when I random heard an mp3 posted on sterogum in late 2007. When I finally got a chance to check them out at the Drake Underground earlier this spring I was not at ALL disappointed. The Drake suddenly felt like an arena, huge sound, made all the bigger by the guitar solo's that could have easily pushed into cock-rock territory but were just restrained enough that he didn't sound like a wanker. Real nice, can't wait to see them again. Apparently the lead guitar player studied jazz guitar in New York under John Scofield! Crazy!

Romesh Thavanathan - Hey Rosetta! (Horseshoe Tavern, Nov 19, 2008)
Normally, this guy just plays the cello in Hey Rosetta. And he's really good at it don't get me wrong, incredible musician actually. But man oh man, when he took a tambourine solo during an instrumental break during HR's november Horseshoe set- it lit the stage up. Dancing as erratically as Iggy Pop, literally pushing other band members and destroying the tambourine against the stage wall, it was one of the highest energy solos I've ever seen. Amazing. Wish I had a video of it. Oh wait I totally do (it starts at 6:38: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mk6ts34LeE )

Dale Murray - Cuff The Duke (Hillside Festival, July 27, 2008)
By now everyone knows that CTD are pretty much the perfect backing band for Hayden. Tasteful arrangements and impeccable musicianship add just the right amount of colour to Hayden's otherwise stripped down melancholy songs. However, at Hillside this year, they were definitely more muscular than they'd ever been before, and something about the guitar playing from Dale Murray (and to some extent Wayne Petti) was incendiary! During songs like "Tree's Lounge" or "Home By Saturday" it took Hayden's from being incredibly intimate to jaw-dropping levels of rockness. The perfect sound didn't hurt either.


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Dave Norris (Ottawa, On) Dave Norris!

My 5 favorite self-referential lines of 2008.
Scratch that. 5 favorite albums of 2008.

Destroyer - Trouble In Dreams. "I saw you in Swan Lake, you were great!"
Kathleen Edwards - Asking For Flowers. I've been a fan for a while now. I think this is her best. Everything comes together very honestly.
Meredith Luce - Neck Of The Woods. Meredith is a friend and a general awesomefest. Hard work pays off here.
Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Lie Down In The Light. "Good earthly music singing into my head." I am in awe of this dude.
Mount Eerie f/ Julie Doiron and Fred Squire - Lost Wisdom. I'd never heard any Elverum, but I'm trying to listen through the catalogue now. I mean actually now. Right now I'm trying to listen to a Microphones record my roommate lent me, gotta go.


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Zach Stockill (somewhere, India) Zach Stockill

2008 was a good year for music. Good, not great. I believe time will hold the year of our Lord 2008 much like the final couple of seasons of Seinfeld. Definitely pretty good, not lacking in quality, yet somehow a little tired-seeming and not as good as what immediately preceded them (2006, 2007.) That being said, there were a number of quality albums produced this year. Please excuse the fact that Canada takes up an unfair proportion of my year-end Top-Five albums list - I am proud of my Great White North, despite CBC.ca informing me every day that the government is falling apart. I'd like to dedicate this list to the two Canadians who were killed here in India on the 26th of November in the Mumbai terrorist shootings. All of the places in which the terrorists were shooting people, I visited a matter of weeks ago, so I feel an oddly personal connection to all of these victims, despite never having met them. Anyway, here are my picks for the top five albums of 2008.

HAYDEN - In Field & Town
Now this is an album that truly gets better with every listen. Unique in the Canadian's back catalogue, but seemingly also territory he should have pursued years ago. This album boasts more horns and more piano than anything else Hayden has done, and the record is all the more strong for it. From the hypnotic opening title-track, to the slow burning philosophical speculation of "More Than Alive," to the happy bounce of "Where & When" (DEFINITELY one of the years catchiest singles), this is a record without a single bum track or clicheed musical moment.

JUSTIN RUTLEDGE - Man Descending
Unquestionably a huge leap forward for Justin. While fans of 2006's masterful The Devil on a Bench in Stanley Park may prefer that album's more obvious catchiness, pop-sensibility, and more-full musical backing, Man Descending was recorded in a hurry (three days I believe) - to the huge benefit of the record. This is another album which grows on the listener with every spin; a slow burner in the best sense of the word. I suppose you may classify this record as alt-country, and it is, however the twang and steel guitars which were all over Rutledge's earlier records have been replaced by a more stripped down, intimate-feeling atmosphere, which serves the dark (and light) characters of Justin's narratives remarkably well. A consistently excellent listen.

RYAN ADAMS & the CARDINALS - Cardinology
"Easy Tiger" it ain't. Cardinology boasts a more raw, unpolished sound than its predecessor. It also sounds like the record Ryan has been waiting to make with his band for several years now. After the break-up with his long-time girlfriend, anybody familiar with the man's back catalogue or his blog (guilty of both, I am) were expecting another Heartbreaker, or perhaps more likely Love is Hell. Both fantastic records, but with this album it is apparent Adams has largely outgrown their sentiment. "Cardinology" is a more hopeful record ("Born Into a Light"), while remaining emotionally honest ("Fix It") than perhaps the North Carolinian has ever been. Is Ryan finally growing up? Nah. (Again, seek out his blog.) But perhaps his sound is.

BECK - Modern Guilt
This is perhaps one of the best examples of the rock star-getting-married-having-babies-bored-to-tears? genre. I think this may have been a difficult listen for his wife. There is a sense of...well... guilt permeating the album. When it comes down to it, I don't think you can throw a bonafide rock and roller like Beck into pseudo-domestic bliss and have him not sound like a man wanting to break out a little. Add in top notch production from Danger Mouse, and you have a record that sounds a little like Sea Change lyrically, with a more Guero-esque backbone. All in all, probably the best record from the world's coolest Scientologist in half a decade.

SIGUR ROS - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
This is a record which divided a lot of critics in that it definitely represents a leap forward for the band ("Gobbledigook"), while also spending a good portion remaining in comfy territory ("Ara batur"). Whatever your take on the record, it's difficult to deny its beauty. Sigur Ros themselves are a band which divide a lot of people, and I can see why. But when it comes down to it, despite the band's perceived musical elitism and snobbery, it truly is just about the music on the tape, and few musical acts from the past century are better at building a simple melody into a life-affirming crescendo, a musical orgasm if you will (to quote the Beatles' producer, Sir George Martin.) This album does nothing less, though I will agree with a friend of mine when he said that the band "needs to do something different" on their next album.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Radiohead - In Rainbows (physical copy)
Van Morrison - Keep it Simple
The Roots - Rising Down
Randy Newman - Harps & Angels

And... Scarlett Johansson - Anywhere I Lay My Head (jokes).

SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION
http://www.myspace.com/zachstockillmusic
iTunes: Zach Stockill - Songs for the Ride Home


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Don Campbell (Toronto, On) Don Campbell

Radiohead - In Rainbows
Eddie Vedder - Into the wild
Oasis - Dig out your soul
Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
Peter Katz - More Nights


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Bryan (Brampton, On) The Black Hat Brigade

Favourite Records 2008

5) Deerhunter - Weird Era
- This album surprised me. I liked Cryptograms but didn't really play it that much. I really liked the atmosphere that Bradford and the rest of the gang create on this record.

4) The Walkmen - You and Me
- I loved Bows and Arrows but couldn't really get into A Hundred Miles. I didn't buy this record until I saw The Walkmen play a live video on Pitchfork (which you should all go watch). Fantastic rhythm section.

3) Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
- This album is great. Couldn't have asked for a better 2nd LP from these guys.

2) Chad Van Gaalen - Softairplane
- What pulls me into this record is the diversity in his instruments and vibes of the songs...and Chad VanGaalen sings like he's a ghost.

1) Department of Eagles - In Ear Park
- This album came out of nowhere for me. I'm a big Grizzly Bear fan and hadn't heard of the Daniel Rossen's other band. I stumbled upon it while creeping Grizzly Bear's myspace. I clicked on the profile and found that the album was coming out the next week. I bought it right away. Teenagers and No One does it like you are instant classics for me.


Favourite Shows of the year:
5) Plant and Animals at the Horseshoe during CMW
- I hadn't heard any of their songs but heard their name being tossed around. I saw them 3 time after this show and the CMW set was by far their best.

4) Wolf Parade at the Koolhaus
- I'd never seen them live before and was thoroughly impressed. Vocals and sound were bang on (which I find rare at the Koolhaus)and they played a ton from their early album(s).

3) Tilly and the Wall, Ruby Suns and Miles Anthony Benjamin Robinson at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC.
- I saw this show my first night in NY. All the bands were great but Ruby Suns really impressed me. Great vibe and percussion.

2) Handsome Furs in Ottawa at Mavericks.
- We actually played this show along with Handsome Furs. They played a ton of new songs and everyone had a great time. Fantastic.

1) Radiohead and Grizzly Bear
- 2 of my Top 5 bands on the same bill??? Amazing. I can't wait for the new Grizzly Bear record. And Radiohead are easily the best band I've ever seen play live.

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Brett Shady (Burbank, Cali) Brett Shady

Here's my Top 6 favorite songs of 2008 (in no order):

The Dodos - Red & Purple
Ida Maria - Oh My God
Fleet Foxes - Ragged Wood
Let's Wrestle - I Won't Lie to You
Porlolo - Meadows
The Walkmen - In the New Year


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Geoff (Toronto, On) The Sea Inside

Most Personally-Ambivalent Music-Related Moments of 2008:


5. The Killers 'Day and Age'/first single 'Human' - I like The Killers, despite my every attempt to not like them. Quite simply, they write some really good (great?) pop-rock songs. Brandon Flowers sings with all the dramatic bravado you would want in the lead singer of a big-sound rock band, and the musical hooks (even drum hooks) seem to be endless on their albums. 'Day and Age' is a great album – perhaps not their best, but certainly the most mature they’ve produced to date (and Brandon Flowers sounds incredibly at home here; his vocals, delivered effortlessly). AMBIVALENCE = the first single 'Human' is really catchy (although not a great song) but includes that annoying, grammatically awkward chorus lyric, 'Are we human, or are we dancer?' - I find it incredibly disagreeable. I mean, let's face it: anyone with half a brain, and who knows of 'The Killers' in any capacity whatsoever, will quite naturally agree that Brandon Flowers takes himself to be 'above' most other people (in fact, this may be why so many admire him); but to position oneself 'above' linguistic guidelines...this is just too much, no? Dear Mr. Flowers: if it's the privilege of the genius to 'break the rules', please don't break the rules. You have a long way to go - very long indeed - before you can even glance toward that group. At this point in your career, the lyric just looks awkward and grossly out of place (even with that obscure Hunter S. Thompson reference). P.S., you have a gift for writing incredibly poignant vocal melodies.


4. Coldplay 'Viva La Vida'/Chris Martin press-brain idiocy - Coldplay, with the help/guidance of the prodigious Brian Eno, have created an absolutely beautiful, singular album. I'm really happy for them. To my mind, no longer merely a 'singles' band, they have finally separated themselves from all those 'Coldplay imitators' out there (I'm looking directly at you here 'Snow Patrol'). Not to say that their preceding albums weren't good – some, in fact, were great. The appeal on those albums, however, consisted in the fact that they offered a number of great singles - put all those good songs together, you're left with a very pleasant listening experience. The new album need not rely on ‘great singles’; it’s a fantastic album, with a completely closed-in integrity all of its own. For the first time in Coldplay's career, I can't separate the album into [songs I love] [songs I like] [songs I don't really like] - I simply love the album itself. AMBIVALENCE = great album, stupid band spokesperson. Why oh why, Chris Martin, did you go on record saying that no band should ever make music past 33 years of age? The only explanation: you are not a very bright person (one who is obviously so self-absorbed, he has no trouble extending the sentiment, 'what's best for Chris Martin' to some kind of universal prescription). Must I go into the plethora of earth-shattering material that was produced by bands/musicians past the age of 33? Must I really do that Chris? One would have hoped you would be intelligent enough to think about that list yourself before you shat that now infamous comment out of your dirty little mouth. How ignominious of Neil Young to produce 'Harvest Moon' at the ripe old age of 47 - what was he thinking? What gall Roger Waters took into the shameful exercise of giving the world 'The Wall' at age 36. Certainly the world would have been musically better-off had Thom Yorke just stopped writing at the Martin-requisite age 33 - we would have been spared that shamefully bad album 'In Rainbows', produced in his 39th year. If I’m being a touch 'over-the-top' with my sarcasm, it certainly fits the bill. Dear Chris Martin: please make more albums with Brian Eno...and then, when it’s done, just shut the fuck up.


3. Smashing Pumpkins Live at Massey Hall/Billy Corgan arrogance – The anticipation was at an all-time high as I approached the front entrance to Massey Hall that Thursday night in late November. Settling into my seat, I could almost taste the glorious nostalgia lying so near in my future (early Pumpkins records have remained a staple in my musical library). Out struts Billy Corgan – a figure who has never had any trouble promoting himself in a ‘larger-than-life’ fashion – swathed appropriately in an attire similar to that of the Egyptian sun-god Ra. The band rip into their first number…“Huh…don’t recognize that one”. Then the second, the third, fourth, etc. – I’m left with the same mildly dispirited response. About an hour into the show (my energy fading), the first notes of ‘Mayonaise’ flutter through the stale air; that song, immediately followed by ‘Tonight, Tonight’. “Ah (a sigh of relief) - here we go…finally” – Nope. After quickly (almost forcefully) getting through those two ‘throw-away’ songs, a return to another hour and a half of long, drawn-out solos – both guitar and drum – on songs that appeared to be more about Billy Corgan than about his fans ensues (an embarrassing rendition of ‘Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun’ was surely the night’s low point). AMBIVALENCE = thoroughly disappointed, the show coming to an end, and ready to chalk this one up to ‘a big waste of 3 hours’, Corgan walks out and personally addresses the audience. (I paraphrase): “We hope you enjoyed yourself; we hope you were mesmerized, tantalized, stupefied. We gave you what you wanted – NO! We gave you what you NEEDED! You see, here at Smashing Pumpkins, we don’t buy into that mentality ‘play whatever songs will allow the fans a nice taste of a life they no longer live’; we aren’t in 1994 anymore, and neither are you. We’re going to make our fans work hard to be Smashing Pumpkins fans. At the end of the day, if we lose fans because of that, we’ll still be much happier than we would be with a bunch of people who have put us, and themselves, into a time capsule”. Needless to say, I felt like a big ass. Dear Billy Corgan: you are an asshole for not giving me the nostalgia I so desired, but you are awesome for coming right out and telling me why I am such a dink for desiring it.


2. The Toronto Music-scene/Technology contra Ideology – As is the case with all things, the more available/accessible something is, the less ‘value’ it takes on. Music is much more accessible now – and, following the formula, it seems too to be losing its ‘value’ (not to mention, and what’s worse, its ‘shine’). Case in point: the Toronto music-scene. We have so many amazing unsigned bands playing every night of the week right here in Toronto - at venues as historic as they are individual - and no one seems to care (exceptions can, of course, be found – thank you ‘The Lonely Vagabond’ of MySpace). Unfortunately, people seem to be bringing a new-found sense of ‘entitlement’ to music – even to live music. Most unsigned bands in Toronto are now relegated to the position of a.) playing to an empty room, or b.) playing to a room half-filled by friends who cannot, by nature of their relationship, see those musicians as anything but friends (and the ‘shine’ dulls even more). AMBIVALENCE = it is certainly a good thing that musicians now have certain forms of media that can assist in the dissemination of their music, but at what cost is this happening? At the cost of the value of music itself? Mine is not an economic point (one so commonly made), but an ideological one. My concern is not with the economic fall-out from, e.g., less album sales, etc. (a capitalist economy has, and always will, privilege the creative and diligent) but with the very ideology surrounding music. The division between ‘the Musician’ and ‘the Listener’ has always been an important component of one’s love of ‘the music’. A mythology exists – it was a privilege to hear the music; to see it played live. With increased accessibility, the mythology dissolves, and what’s left is a consumer who simply wants their goods. The Musician becomes a commodity – to be used and discarded at the whim of the consumer. No longer is the Musician integrated as a part of the whole story of one’s life (the way Morrissey, or John Lennon, is to me). If this trend continues, we will surely lose a very sacred part of music: its ability to inspire. Dear Music Listener: with increased literacy came the leveling down of literature (J.K. Rowling the most successful author of all time? Is this really the image we, as humans, want to promote?) – don’t think the same thing won’t happen to music.


1. Leonard Cohen World Tour/Fly back to the Poet – Leonard Cohen is putting on a long, two-year world tour at the amazing age of 74. His music, and indeed his person, is timeless. Anyone lucky enough to be involved in any one of these shows will be thankful for quite a long time, I’m sure. AMBIVALENCE = it is so inspiring to see someone so legendary still ‘fighting the good fight’, but the tour has taken someone I, and many others, love very much away for a long time. Dear Leonard Cohen: continue to amaze people every night, but please take care of ‘Her Shell’.


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Nils (Toronto, On) The Rural Alberta Advantage

Best Discoveries of 2008

So I've decided to focus on the Top 5 things that I discovered in 2008, now just for the record these aren't things that are exclusive to 2008, but instead a list of things that I was more or less oblivious to this time last year.

1. McSweeney's Quarterly Concern
My brother introduced me to McSweeney's in the spring with the statement "As someone who likes quality stuff you should really check out McSweeney's". I've always been a fan of art with a common theme throughout so this pretty much fits the bill.

2. Bruce Haack - "Electric Lucifer"
I guess I have CMG to thank for finding this one. How is it that I'd never heard of this guy until now? He was an electronic pioneer who orginally wrote kids music and built his own synths and modulators out of gadgets and surplus parts with no formal training .... and he's from Alberta ...... WTF!!!
Songs: "Electric to me turn" and "Cherubic Hymn"

3. Dennis Wilson "Pacific Ocean Blue"
Though I had heard of this album it wasn't until the re-released this year that I was actually able to hear it. "Moonshine" kills me everytime .... listening to it is like having a weight dropped on your chest 22 seconds in.
Songs: "Moonshine" and "Farewell My Friend"

4. Paavoharju "Laulu Laakson Kukista"
I think I've purposely tried not to find out anything about these guys because I really like walking around late at night listening to this album and feeling like I'm trapped in a foreign film.
Songs: "Tuoksu Tarttuu Meihin" and "Italialaisella Laivalla"

5. Invincible "Shapeshifters"
Once again I need to thank CMG for finding out about this album .... to be honest I'm not a hip hop guy but this is really really great. "Spacious Skies" was my track for Summer 2008.
Songs: "Spacious Skies" and "In the Mourning"


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Scott (Toronto, On) Provincial Parks

5 best musical happenings this past year


spookey ruben playing at rancho relaxo for a no shame show - this show was amazing
the album dead calm horizon by ketch harbour wolves - best album I got this year
the song vultures by hungry lake - my favorite song from this year
the think about life, miracle fortress, amos the transparent and ruby coast show at sneaky dees - best show ive been too in years
and shamelessly, all of the delaware house shows have been amazing, so delaware house - my favorite venue



Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Everyone Else's Best _____ of '08: Bloggers.



Kyle
(Toronto, On) - You and Your Deranged Protege
A Playlist for 2008

I won't go so far to say these are the 12 best tracks of 2008, but they're a dozen tracks that (for better or for worse), I keep coming back to. Playlist here (if adding to iTunes, sorting by track # should give you the proper order).

1. "Just Dance" by Lady GaGa: I know, I know, but goddamn if this isn't the catchiest song of the year.
2. "Love is Noise" by The Verve: note: this single is considerably better than anything else on the album, so let's not jump to conclusions and say the Verve is all the way back. Still, it's a welcome return.
3. "Electric Feel" by
MGMT: possibly my favorite tune of '08, as, unlike some of MGMT's other good tunes ("Kids" and "Time to Pretend") it has yet (yet) to appear in every movie, television show, commercial, and video game aimed at 18-34s.
4. "Lost" by
Coldplay: another year, another extremely disappointing album (this one more so than the technically-good-but-just-kinda-dull X&Y) for the band that was--seemingly--once poised to be the biggest in the world, but this, their third single, gets the nod for the pleasing hook running throughout.
5. "Constructive Summer" by The Hold Steady: ...which makes me nostalgic for a time in my life that, strictly speaking, never actually existed.
6. "White Winter Hymnal" by Fleet Foxes: kudos to you, Robbie, for introducing me to these guys (whom I liken to
Whiskeytown if they really, really liked the O Brother Where Are Thou? soundtrack)...and at my wedding of all places! This song is, simply put, gorgeous.
7. "Hang Them All" by Tapes n' Tapes: I'm still sort of baffled as to why these guys aren't much bigger.
8. "Go Easy" by Ryan Adams: ...shocking absolutely no one, least of all you. This is the best thing he's done since Cold Roses three years ago. [Insert joke here about how: (a) that's roughly nine albums ago, and/or (b) that's not saying much.]
9. "Halfway Home" by TV on the Radio: the album you can't seem to get behind is starting to thaw my cold, cold heart. It's no Return to Cookie Mountain, but Dear Science just goes...and never more than here.
10. "In Step" by Girl Talk: really any track from this infectious (in a good way!) album (best described as Jive Bunny meets The Go! Team) is deserving, but I'm going with this one, if only for the inclusion of Roy Orbison in the mash-up mix.
11. "Feel the Love" by Cut Copy: again, lots of songs to choose from on this album, but the lead track may well be the strongest. If you like Melbourne dance punk (and, really, who doesn't?) this album--In Ghost Colours--will be in heavy rotation.
12. "
Jizzed in My Pants" by The Lonely Island: Andy Samberg's tribute to the Pet Shop Boys does something that I previously thought impossible: it (just this one time) beats Flight of the Conchords at their own game.

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Bob Battams, (Toronto, On) It's Not the Band I Hate It's Their Fans


1. 'Woof & Warp of the Quiet Giant's Hem' featuring Blitzen Trapper with members of Fleet Foxes and Fox Jaws at the El Mocambo on April 2nd, 2008. This was the last song of the evening and it was controlled chaos at its most chaotic as at least 15 tambourine and percussion wielding band members and fanatics took to the tiny El Mo stage and banged the snot out of their respective instruments while screaming "Yah! Yah! Yah!" at the top of their lungs, resulting in bloody hands and at least one very badly demolished cymbal!

2. 'Against The Wind' featuring Cuff The Duke and members of Bruce Peninsula, Basia Bulat and The Stables at The Horseshoe on August 22nd, 2008. Whatever possessed Wayne Petti to choose this particular Bob Seger cover is beyond me, bit it was a perfect blend of warmth and hillarity as each rotating vocalist strove to muddle through the lyrics in the best way that they could, causing all kinds of warm and fuzzy to waft through the dark Horseshoe air.

3. 'I Need A Life' featuring Born Ruffians and about a dozen or so dancing tweens at The Opera House on November 1st, 2008. There simply was not enough room on the dance floor for the overpacked all ages audience to get their groove thing on so, much to the security's chagrin, the kids made the stage their personal dance floor as Luke, Mitch and Steve reminded us that the kids are alright.

4. ' Marching Backwards' featuring Black Diamond Bay and a wicked awesome Fender strat at The Drake Underground on September 10th, 2008. As Patrick Krief came down off the stage and displayed his Hendrixian chops to the small but enthusiastic crowd, it was contagious to watch everybody try not to air guitar as their faces contorted into several different shades of Jack Black-ness.

5. 'Swimmers' featuring Emily Haines and the 354 members of Broken Social Scene at The Sound Academy on November 28th, 2008. I don't think anyone was expecting Ms. Haines to make an appearance on that night, and although it was great hearing her do 'Anthems,' this song was the real event, seeing as it had been several years since the band played it last. I was close enough to see her mouth the words, "I love this song Kevin," to Mr. Drew, which led me to believe that she was wallowing in the nostalgia of her full time BSS days as much as I was.


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(History) Jen (Toronto, On) – Narratives

Best (favourite) Toronto albums of 2008 (of the one's I've heard):

Born Ruffians: Red Yellow & Blue
One Hundred Dollars: Forest of Tears
The Rural Alberta Advantage: Hometowns
Laura Barrett: Victory Garden
The D'Urbervilles: We Are The Hunters

Bonus entry...
Woodhands's Heart Attack. It's not really a listening to at home record (for me), but if you want a dance party...

All this is highly selective, but I listen to these records a lot.


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Ack (Halifax, NS) Herohill

Lesser Known Bands that People Should hear ‘08

Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir
Christina Martin
The Speaking Tongues
Azeda Booth
Olivier Jarda
Mt. Eerie ft. Julie Doiron & Fred Squires
Old Man Luedecke


See also, Ack's 10 Best EPs of '08.

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Sean (London, On) Everything is Pop

Best Re-Issues of '08

5. The Replacements | Sorry Ma Forget to Take Out the Trash, Stink, Hootenanny, Let It Be, Tim, Pleased To Meet Me, Don't Tell a Soul, All Shook Down


The Replacements have always been near and dear to my heart and I have been waiting for someone to do this right for many years now. Rhino Records have though with this bevy of lavish reissues. It's not necessarily the remastering though that is the big draw this time though. In fact much to my chagrin, some even sound a little worse. (I'm looking at you Pleased to Meet Me). It is however the inclusion of a number of rare and unreleased bonus tracks that make these discs so very essential. Paul Westerberg's early solo home demo for 'You're Getting Married' from the Stink EP and the Alex Chilton produced bonus tracks on Tim really illuminate the greatness and true potential this band truly possessed. So it's with a certain sense of pride that extensive versions of these albums are available for new fans to discover and old fans to love again.

4. Dennis Wilson | Pacific Ocean Blue + Bambu (Caribou Sessions)
This record was one of my most highly anticipated releases this year and it did not fail to disappoint. Long out of print since its original release in 1980 this record finally got its due with this year's double cd package. True, in the thirty years since, Pacific Ocean Blue's reputation has risen with the Wilsonian superlatives lavished up on it by fans such as The Verve and The Charlatans. Similarly,unavailability has also played its part in ballooning the myth – Be assured though Pacific Ocean Blue meets and surpasses even the loftiest of sonic expectations.

Nearly twenty five years after Dennis' untimely death, we'll never know if this version of Bambu matched the creative vision of its creator but it does offer a rare glimpse into a profoundly creative mind. Bearing in mind the fact that this was the same album that had been left abandoned by Dennis himself a full four years before he died in 1983. For the ardent musicologist in all of us, this collection is a treasure.


3. Pavement | Brighten the Corners (Nicene Creedence Edition)

Matador Record's two-disc Nicene Creedence Edition of Pavement's seminal Brighten the Corners goes way beyond the original 12-song release, adding a whopping 31 additional cuts: outtakes, B-sides, compilation tracks, and live radio sessions, all of them top-notch. (When I do my top five song title list "Neil Hagerty Meets Jon Spencer in a Non-Alcoholic Bar" will surely be first and foremost.)


I recall very well when the original release of this album graced our ears. By then Pavement had perfected their slacker ideology with their clever mélange of idiosyncrasy and competence. These guys were such a huge influence on indie music for years since. I've always considered them to be this continent's version of the Fall. High praise, trust me, Mark E. Smith is a demigod in my books.

So get out the air guitar and go Guitar Hero over the seven-minute "And Then (The Hexx)". Pure postmetallicfunkjammingslacker goodness!

2. R.E.M. | Murmur (Deluxe Edition)

You know how sometimes you get that little burst of adrenalin when you get some good news about something you really love. Well I got that burst when I heard about this records impending reissue. When I actually heard it though, it was a whole new ballgame. Hearing this reissue was like hearing it for the first time over twenty five years ago. But the real bonus here is the oft bootlegged live cd from Larry's Hideaway in Toronto. This generation's functional equivalent to Live at Leeds. (IT IS JUST THAT GOOD)

I could write an essay on the importance of this CD in my music pedigree but this time I defer to you the listener to discover its riches. It rarely gets better than this.

1. Otis Redding | Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul (Collector's Edition)

On July 10, 1965, Otis Redding took only 24 hours to record ten of the eleven songs that would make up Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul, arguably the 1960s' greatest studio-recorded soul LP. Allow me to amend that. It may be the last centuries greatest recorded LP.

This is unquestionably Redding's crowning achievement. The sprawling two CD Collector's Edition of Otis Blue really helps to illuminate that contention. This amazing package includes rarities, live versions of the album tracks, alternate mixes, and the original LP in both mono and stereo. It was pure bliss to discover anew the magic that lies within this record. Not unlike the more extensive Beach Boys - Pet Sounds boxed set this release goes a long way in explaining the back story of this legendary musician.

The music on this disc will affect the way you listen to and interpret music. "Change Gonna Come", Redding's cover of Cooke's civil rights anthem "A Change Is Gonna Come", is the real gem of this package. Emotional, raw and so extraordinarily passionate the hair on the back of your neck will stand on end.

For an album that took one day to create is still a stunning revelation to me- Testimony to the inimitable soul and sublime talent of Otis Redding. This record needs to be in everyone's collection. It deserves reverence, it deserves love. It is a blueprint for all of us to do just that.


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Allan (Toronto, On) AW Music

Frightened Rabbit - Midnight Organ Fight

Microcastle - Deerhunter

The Bug - London Zoo

M83 - Saturdays=Youth

Fleet Foxes s/t

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Christian (Toronto, On) AW Music

Best Albums '08/Best Songs


1. Deerhunter - Microcastle

2. Department of Eagles - In Ear Park

3. Chad Van Gaalen - Soft Airplane

4. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

5. Women - Women


"Recent Bedroom" Atlas Sound

"Black Rice" Women

"Seal Eyeing" Animal Collective

"Open Spaces" Johnny Greenwood (There Will Be Blood OST)

"No One Does it Like You" Department of Eagles

"The Rip" Portishead

"Gila" Beach House

"Mykonos" Fleet Foxes

Rabid Bits of Time - Chad Van Gaalen

Chemtrails- Beck