This year, I’ve asked a few Phoenix-area musicians/people of interest for their year-end, best-of lists: albums, songs, whatever. This installment comes from Jason Woodbury, who plays in (at least) two great local bands – Cardiac Party and Hands on Fire – contributes to Tiny Mix Tapes and manages the Zia Records store in Chandler, which I’ve heard has a great vinyl selection.
Jason, whom I’ve tried to convince to contribute some writing around here, offers up his favorite lyrics of 2008. I think you’ll agree we should see more of him on these pages after reading this.
1. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – We Call Upon the Author
From Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (ANTI Records)
“What we once thought we had we didn’t, and what we have now will never be that way again. So we call upon the author to explain.”
Nick Cave opens his mouth and spits out incredibly profound things. I listened to this song over and over again, dissecting each line like it was scripture. I think what it comes down to is that Cave balances out his reverence for God or the unknown or whatever with really sardonic wit. This song basically asks the undefined higher power to explain the suffering and shittiness in the world, but it doesn’t come across as plaintive or weak willed, it basically sounds like the world is coming off the rails, and Cave and his Bad Seeds are there at the epicenter of it all, demanding answers. Probably my favorite song of the year.
2. The Hold Steady – Constructive Summer
From Stay Positive (Vagrant Records)
“I read the gospel it moved me to tears/but I couldn’t find the hate and I couldn’t find the fear.”
I think my favorite thing about Craig Finn is that there’s this palpable tension in his music between the sacred and the profane. He doesn’t spend half the time singing about wasted teenagers and half the time singing about Christ and the angels; he sings about both of them at once. I like how he recognizes the beauty of the gospel story and the core value, the message of love, sacrifice and redemption, but can’t accept the fear and violence that drives so many faithful. We’re currently involved in two wars, where at least one side (though let’s be honest, it’s both) views the battle as a holy one, Finn’s lyric speaks to the conflict between our ideas of truth, and our willingness to kill/die for them.
3. The Donkeys – Bye Bye Baby
From Living On The Other Side (Dead Oceans)
“Love ain’t nothing but a human disease.”
Well hell, dudes.
4. The Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride
From Heretic Pride (4AD)
“I waited so long and now I taste jasmine on my tongue/And I feel so proud to be alive/And I feel so proud when the reckoning arrives.”
John Darnielle crafts these ridiculously good lyrics and always frames them in interesting ways. Here we have a perfect example, an uplifting tune about the power of life, and the blessed nature of being alive, sung from the perspective of an accused heretic being pulled from his house by an angry mob, dragged along the ground and burned at the stake. Darnielle is a curious dude. This song is the perfect synthesis of Amy Grant and Marduk.
5. Dr Dog – From
From Fate (Park the Van)
“But oh my love [Oh my love]/No it ain’t easy [It ain’t easy]/But it ain’t the type to give up and die.”
I really don’t understand why Dr Dog aren’t given more credit. In addition to creating timeless pop music, their lyrics are fantastic. Never heavy handed or forceful, they ask the Big Questions in really simple, plain, beautiful ways. This song meant a lot to me this year, as I realized that usually, if something is worth anything, it’s extremely difficult to understand and come to terms with. It’s easy to stay comfortable, to try and shrink away from feelings or beliefs, but it takes real stones to acknowledge and confront that stuff. I saw these guys at Club Congress with Hacienda and the Delta Spirit, and I could hardly wrap my head around the vibes and good nature emanating from the stage.
6. TV on the Radio – Lovers Day
From Dear Science (Interscope)
“Give the keys to your hiding place, I’m not going to tear it apart/I’m going to keep you weak in the knees, try to unlock your heart.”
Songs about sex are pretty difficult. You can go straight up sexy, like Let’s Get it On, and achieve classic booty jams status, but to try and get deeper with it usually results in a Sex on Fire, which is unfortunate for the listener and ultimately the act of lovemaking itself. Lover’s Day is a perfectly put together work. It ping pongs between the animalistic nature of the act and the spiritual aspects, it’s at one celebratory and reverent, and it’s heart-stoppingly gorgeous. Every song states something on Dear Science, but I don’t know if any of the tunes stated anything this visceral and universal.
7. Grampall Jookabox – Girl Ain’t Preggers
From Ropechain (Asthmatic Kitty)
“Don’t it make you feel good when the girl ain’t preggers? Don’t it make you feel sad when the girl ain’t preggers?”
My dude Bryan Reed over at Tiny Mix Tapes picked up the melancholy nature of this jam while the rest of the indie world was cracking up ’cause he said “preggers.” Sure, Dave Adamson feels he can’t feed himself and a little dude/gal, but at the same time, that strange longing to be a parent is there. A couple of my close friends have had kids recently, and believe me, they were all severely freaked out. I tried to comfort them, saying that if they weren’t freaked out it would be a truly bad sign. I mean, who’s ready to be a dad? Not Grampall. Not me. But still, you know?
8. Matthew Reveles – The New One for Reals
From We’ll Meet Halfway (Independent Freedom Tribe)
“Well I know where I am, and it’s where I’m meant to be/no sense crying over it.”
I kinda went through a Bukowski phase during the summer/fall, drinking more whiskey than I should and generally feeling cynical and sad and horny, and this line just kept playing in my head, until eventually I pulled myself out of it and quit being such a bastard about it all. Whatever crap you’re being dragged through, that’s the crap you’re supposed to be dragged through, that’s the crap that’s going to make you into some sort of better, crap-covered person. My buddy Zane and I were sitting at the bar the other night, and he said to me, “You know that line in the Big Lebowski, were the Stranger says to the Dude, ‘Sometimes you eat the bar, sometimes the bar eats you?’, those both sound like bad situations to me.” And I said, “Sometimes things are bad, and sometimes things are bad.” Matthew’s line, with all that zen simplicity, just kept ringing in my ear, all year while I realized just how joyful everything, even the bad things, can be.
9. Nodzzz – I Don’t Wanna Smoke Marijuana
From I Don’t Wanna Smoke Marijuana (Make a Mess Records)
“I don’t wanna smoke marijuana … I just wanna get high on another drug.”
I don’t even do drugs, but this song is just a perfect little slice of demented power-slop. The guitars and jangly, the drums are simple, the vocals are bratty and perfect. Lots of great garage/low-fi/art punk stuff came out this year, but I can’t think of a single jam that is as moronic, lovable and righteous at this one. Good luck finding the seven inch.
10. Princess Ladyfriend – Gift of Rejection
From History Time Travel Gig (Princessladyfriend.com)
“I’m haunted by grayish-colored ghosts, floating, empty cigarettes and Diet Coke.”
Oh damn thee, Pacific Northwest, for stealing one of the best things we’ve got here in the Valley. Princess Ladyfriend blew my mind consistently this year, and though I’ve no clue what this line really means, it sounds impossibly complex, the imagery inspiring terrific thoughts of lonely ghosts wandering over discarded party favors. Sometimes it’s a case of the classic “not what you say but how you say it,” and when singers Michael James Dunford and Taylor DePonte, both drop dead sexy, belt it out in perfect harmony, you get shivers and hairs stand up on end. Hope Seattle is treating these Phoenix transplants well, and I hope in a year we’re talking about how crazy it is that their Barsuk or whatever debut got a freaking 9 on Pitchdork.
Favorite albums of 2008
Favorite song(s) of 2008
Guest list: Zachary James Dodds
Guest list: Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World
Guest list: Brian Coughlin of Kinch
Guest list: Charlie Brand of Miniature Tigers
Guest list: Jay Wiggins (aka DJ Funkfinger)
Guest list: Brendan Murphy of Source Victoria