Category Archives: year end

Eric’s best albums of 2012

As I wrote recently, it’s been a few years since I’ve done a proper year-end list of favorite songs/albums. Thankfully, Eric – who has stepped up as a very welcome fresh voice around here – came through with a 2012 list. Even if we’re already getting knee deep in 2013 albums, it’s never too late to look back and consider the year that was.

Please forgive the laziness, generic-ness, and Januaryness Februaryness of all this (Editor’s note: The Februaryness of this is my fault). Yeah, usually there are 10. Usually they’re posted in December. Buuut, considering that’s all pretty arbitrary, aaaaand it’s an easy way to get myself back in this here bloggin’ racket, I’m going to just do it anyway. I’ve talked about some of these already, and you may be familiar with some others, 13 for 2013? That work for you guys? Awesome.

LORD HURON: Lonesome Dreams (IAMSOUND)
Definitely in my roots-y, beard-y, folky wheelhouse. Seattle’s KEXP, my streaming radio station of choice, has been all over these guys lately, with good reason. Fans of Fleet Foxes, take notice. There’s a good chance you’ll like ’em.
[VIDEO]: Lord Huron – Man Who Lives Forever

EL-P: Cancer 4 Cure (Fat Possum)
When I think of ex-Company Flow front man El-P, it takes me back to the late ’90s, when I was first introduced to any sort of off-the-radar stuff, hip-hop wise. I remember my college buddy Dave playing Company Flow’s Funcrusher Plus in his dorm room and just being in awe of what I was hearing. Rapid-fire and angry, but intellectual. His show at Crescent Ballroom with Despot, Mr. MFN Exquire and Killer Mike, who almost made the cut for this list as well, was pure energy and head-nodding gold.
[STREAM]: El-P – Tougher Colder Killer

JAPANDROIDS: Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl)
Unabashedly fist pump-y, epic rock from Vancouverians on the rise. This album threw a lot of new ears their way without compromising their music or what they’re fundamentally about.
Previous post: Japandroids, the Casbah (San Diego), 6/16/12
[VIDEO]: Japandroids – The House That Heaven Built

KEXP strikes again. Over the last couple years, watching that station throw its full support to a local artist it believed in has made me hope for the day when Phoenix bands might also enjoy the fruits of that backing. I imagine I’ll sound pretty corny pledging allegiance to Macklemore as crossover “hipster rap” Exhibit A someday (or now), and that’s certainly justifiable and understandable. He may soon (or now) be “That Thrift Shop Song Guy” (61 million views on YouTube as I write this – guess that rules out a return trip to Club Red on his next visit to the Valley), but before he’s potentially written off as such, I hope people take note of how much is actually going on with him. He’s funny, bluntly honest, and equally comfortable rapping about your grandpa’s coats, marriage equality, former Seattle Mariners announcers’ passings, overcoming addiction, and losing friends to it.
[VIDEO]: Maklemore and Ryan Lewis– Same Love

BEST COAST: The Only Place (Mexican Summer)
Not even the slightly guiltiness to my pleasure at this point. I was a big fan of the simplicity and sweetness of 2010’s Crazy for You. On this one, Bethany Cosentino’s subject matter has shifted somewhat beyond the fertile realms of a) boys she has crushes on and b) her cat. The sound is less garage-y, more singer-songwriter-y. Microsoft commercials or no, happy fun time beach rock has become musical comfort food for me.
[VIDEO]: Best Coast – The Only Place

TAME IMPALA: Lonerism (Modular Fontana)
Simultaneous double fist-pump/knee raise combo to myself for making sure I caught these guys early in the day at Lollapalooza. Not sure I can give myself more pats on the back for seeing a next-level jaw-dropping live band from Australia who neeever plays the U.S. Inevitably, what’s old is new again, and I’m convinced that their brand of psychedelic fuzziness would’ve legitimately been huge in the early ’70s, yet it still sounds fresh in 2012.
[VIDEO]: Tame Impala perform “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”

TWIN SHADOW: Confess (4AD)
Along with being one of the better albums I listened to in 2012, Twin Shadow at Crescent Ballroom was also one of the better performances I saw. Having seen them years ago as an opener for Jamie Lidell (?!) at Rhythm Room and part of a tripleheader (with Warpaint and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart) at Club Congress in Tucson, my already lofty expectations were exceeded by a tight, focused, high energy show.
[VIDEO]: Twin Shadow performs “Run My Heart”

BEACH HOUSE: Bloom (Sub Pop)
The Baltimore duo, who have been a staple in Casa de Eric since 2010’s Teen Dream, came back with an even dreamier classic. I’m fairly certain Beach House and Twin Shadow need to re-score some ’80s brat-pack era classics together.
[STREAM]: Beach House – Myth

There’s not a more interesting or naturally funny person in music right now than the former Fleet Foxes drummer turned frontman Josh Tillman. Along with the drumsticks, he scrapped his J. Tillman moniker, at least for now, and created something uniquely his. As previously mentioned, I’d very much like to hang out with him. The stars aligned, and I was actually able to see his show at Rhythm Room with my brother. Quality bro-age indeed.
[VIDEO]: Father John Misty – Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings

HOSPITALITY: self-titled (Merge)
So twee. So cute. I’m pretty sure going to tell a bunch of friends (or friends’ girlfriends/sisters) about Hospitality. I saw Vincent Gallo in the crowd at their Crescent Ballroom show. No, I didn’t tell him I went to the same college as Roger Ebert when I had the chance to do so. If I had a job deciding what songs would work in movies, commercials, and TV shows, I’m pretty sure I would have used songs from this album in pretty much anything involving young people and/or coffee. Tell me I’m wrong.
[STREAM]: Hospitality – Eighth Avenue

ALT-J: An Awesome Wave (Canvasback)
What’s there not to like? Predictably, KEXP was all over them super early, so I’ve benefited from hearing these guys since pretty early on. I missed out on their Lollapalooza aftershow. At least it was for a Toro y Moi DJ set. Also, they won the Mercury Prize. Which is nice. Check out this clip from Jools Holland, this British musical variety show that always has the most disparate and awesome guests. Also, it’s on that random Palladia channel on cable like ALL THE TIME. It’s pretty great – why don’t we have something like this in the U.S.? Who would host it? My vote goes to Oates from Hall and Oates.
[VIDEO]: Alt-J – Something Good (the Amazing Sessions)

DJANGO DJANGO: self-titled (Ribbon Music)
Another British band, along with Alt-J, that blew my mind in 2012. Bouncier than Alt-J, and sure to be compared to bands that dwell in more Americana-ish circles, Django Django is a band I can’t wait to see more of.
[VIDEO]: Django Django – Firewater (acoustic session)

DIIV: Oshin (Captured Tracks)
DIIV (pronounced and formerly called “Dive” – guess there was another band called that very thing) is the side project of Beach Fossils’ Zachary Cole Smith. Unlike Beach Fossils’ jangly, for lack of a better term, “beachyness,” this is dreamy post-punk that would have fit well on the Donnie Darko soundrack. If you like the Cure, Joy Division, or the like, give this one a spin.
[VIDEO]: DIIV – Doused

Favorite song of 2010

Better late than never … albums to follow soon.

I had a feeling about England in May, and in the seven months since, nothing changed my mind.

Before even trying to decipher the lyrics – which appears to many, including myself, to be mostly a futile task – the song’s triumphant swell of music had already won me over. England actually surfaced in early-ish 2009, a live version with different lyrics that are about as unintelligible as the final version. … Pffft. Words. Who needs ’em anyway?

The lush instrumentation is the star here, from the opening piano line to the gorgeous layers that build into a climax that’s more subdued than, say, Mr. November, but no less satisfying.

I said in May: “England takes you to the edge, but never jumps, and just the suggestion of a frenetic culmination is sometimes sexier than actually realizing it.” As much as I enjoy the cathartic nature of Mr. November, it has about all the finesse of a hammer on concrete. But the slow simmer of England is breathless in a subtler less screaming way, inspiring a finish that leaves you wanting more.

I also really liked these songs (in no particular order):
Arcade Fire: City With No Children and Rococo
The Morning Benders: Cold War (Nice Clean Fight), Excuses and Stitches
5 O’Clock Shadowboxers: No Resolution 2 (feat. Has-Lo, Elucid and Nico the Beast) and Bottomfeeders (Small Pro Remix)
Band of Horses: NW Apt. and Laredo
The Walkmen: Victory
Beach House: Walk in the Park
Open Mike Eagle: Art Rap Party, Unapologetic (feat. Nocando) and Go Home (feat. Swim Team)
Miniature Tigers: Rock n’ Roll Mountain Troll
Frightened Rabbit: The Loneliness and the Scream and Living in Colour
Phantogram: Mouthful of Diamonds
Aloe Blacc: I Need a Dollar, Loving You is Killing Me and Hey Brother
The Soft Pack: C’mon, Answer to Yourself and Pull Out
Freddie Gibbs: Crushin’ Feelin’s
Isaiah Toothtaker: T.T.T. (prod. by Eric Steuer of Meanest Man Contest)
Big Boi: Tangerine (feat. T.I. and Khujo Goodie) and Shutterbugg (feat. Cutty)
The New Pornographers: Crash Years, Moves and Silver Jenny Dollar
Nocando: Hurry Up and Wait, I’m On (feat. VerBS) and Exploits and Glitches
Retribution Gospel Choir: Workin’ Hard
Kanye West: Monster (feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver), So Appalled (feat. Jay-Z, Pusha T, CyHi the Prince, Swizz Beatz and The RZA), Blame Game (feat. John Legend) and Hell of a Life
The Roots: Radio Daze (feat. Blu, P.O.R.N. and Dice Raw), How I Got Over (feat. Dice Raw), The Day (feat. Blu, Phonte and Patty Crash) and Doin’ It Again
Spoon: The Mystery Zone and Trouble Comes Running
The Besnard Lakes: And This is What We Call Progress and Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent Pt. 2: The Innocent
RJD2: A Spaceship for Now
LCD Soundsystem: I Can Change
Menomena: TAOS, Dirty Cartoons and Five Little Rooms

Favorite song of 2009
Favorite song(s) of 2008
Favorite song of 2007
Favorite song of 2006
Favorite song of 2005

Favorite albums of 2009

“How can it be bullshit to state a personal preference?” – Rob Gordon, High Fidelity

For many reasons – personal and otherwise – I’m glad 2009 is over. I realize this is probably an unpopular sentiment, but the year in music seemed like a dud. As my friend Royce claims, it was the year of the No. 8 album – as in, the best albums belong no higher than the eighth spot on year-end lists. That’s his theory and I’m sticking to it.

That said, I know I’m only getting back as much as I put in, and I felt particularly curmudgeonly in ’09. I shunned Wavves and chillwave. I didn’t really get into The xx or Animal Collective or Dirty Projectors (so sue me). And don’t get me started with the lo-fi/no-fi/glo-fi/bro-fi bullshit. This is the first year in the almost five I’ve written this blog that I felt sort of mentally drained by it all.

If it seems the circle of artists and albums I’m listening to is slowly shrinking, that’s probably because it is. I’d like to think I’m trimming the fat and listening smarter. Who has time for all that’s out there? (And how much of it is really that good anyway?) So, as always, I don’t even pretend that my list is comprehensive or a collection of the “best” albums – these are just my favorites and, aside from record No. 1, the rankings are negligible.

10. JASON LYTLE: Yours Truly, the Commuter (Anti-)
So maybe it sounds a lot like a Grandaddy album … is anyone going to complain about that? Lytle stays true to his old band’s spaced-out sound, prominently declaring his return in the first line of the album opener: “Last thing I heard I was left for dead. I could give two shits about what they said.”
Favorite tracks: Brand New Sun, Birds Encouraged Him.
MP3: Jason Lytle | Brand New Sun

9. TELEKINESIS: Telekinesis! (Merge)
Every year, I need an album like this: a bundle of expertly crafted indie-pop that crawls into and lives inside my brain. Michael Benjamin Lerner possesses a keen sense of melody that is airtight. You won’t find a weak song in the bunch.
Favorite tracks: Coast of Carolina, Tokyo, Calling All Doctors.
MP3: Telekinesis | Coast of Carolina

8. MOS DEF: The Ecstatic (Downtown)
After experimenting — but misfiring badly — on two albums following his seminal debut Black on Both Sides (1999), Mos Def rediscovered the touch that made him a force 10 years ago. Sharp production from supreme beatmakers like Oh No (Supermagic) and Madlib (Auditorium) appear to have put Mos back on the path to greatness.
Favorite tracks: Supermagic, Auditorium, Casa Bey.
VIDEO: Supermagic

7. NEKO CASE: Middle Cyclone (Anti-)
It just seems like a given any more that when Neko Case puts out an album it’ll end up on my top 10 list. Hers is a voice I never get tired of hearing. (It’s also hard to think of a better album cover for the year.)
Favorite tracks: People Got a Lotta Nerve, Polar Nettles, Prison Girls.
MP3: Neko Case | People Got a Lotta Nerve

6. JAPANDROIDS: Post-Nothing (Polyvinyl)
For an album I almost entirely overlooked, Post-Nothing (whose title cleverly mocks genre labeling) may stick with me as long as any other release from 2009. Brian King and David Prowse strike a nerve here with an energetic mess of rock songs about dysfunctional love (Crazy/Forever) and fading youth (Young Hearts Spark Fire).
Favorite tracks: Young Hearts Spark Fire, Heart Sweats, Crazy/Forever, I Quit Girls.
MP3: Japandroids | Young Hearts Spark Fire

5. BUILT TO SPILL: There Is No Enemy (Warner Bros.)
A brilliant return to form for Boise’s finest, led by Doug Martsch, the everyman’s rock hero. It’s not hard to imagine the highlights here — Aisle 13, Oh Yeah, Done — ranking among some of the band’s best tracks from a storied catalog.
Favorite tracks: Aisle 13, Oh Yeah, Done, Things Fall Apart.

4. VARIOUS: Dark Was the Night (compilation) (4AD)
Based on logistics alone, this two-CD benefit compilation deserves hearty recognition. Recruiting some of the brightest names in indie rock — Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, Dirty Projectors, Spoon, My Morning Jacket and so on — to contribute can be no easy feat. But instead of a ragtag collection of B-sides and throwaways, we get all-star original material.
Favorite tracks: Deep Blue Sea (Grizzly Bear), So Far Around the Bend (The National), Tightrope (Yeasayer), Hey, Snow White (The New Pornographers / Destroyer cover), Well Alright (Spoon).
MP3: Yeasayer | Tightrope

3. MAYER HAWTHORNE & THE COUNTY: A Strange Arrangement (Stones Throw)
Mayer Hawthorne’s falsetto-heavy soul owes an obvious debt to the Motown Sound, his sweet-sounding vocals recalling the best of the 1960s R&B movement.
Favorite tracks: Maybe So, Maybe No, Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out, Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin’.
MP3: Mayer Hawthorne | Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out

2. PHOENIX: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glassnote)
On the strength of the undeniably catchy 1901 and Lisztomania, Phoenix earned its well-deserved breakout in 2009 (hello, Grammy nomination). But the album that launched a thousand remixes digs down past Phoenix’s pop mastery. It’s the sprawling, two-part Love Like a Sunset that anchors the album and shows a band eager to venture outside its comfort zone.
Favorite tracks: 1901, Lisztomania, Love Like a Sunset.
MP3: Phoenix | 1901

1. THE TWILIGHT SAD: Forget the Night Ahead (Fat Cat)
If The Twilight Sad’s debut Fourteen Autumns, Fifteen Winters was a cathartic gut punch, Forget the Night Ahead is the emotional comedown. There are fewer drastic swells, both in the music and James Graham’s vocals, but it’s no less powerful with the songs wrapped in dark tones and Graham’s thick Scottish accent, making for another dramatic — and sometimes emotionally draining — effort.
Favorite tracks: Interrupted, I Became a Prostitute, Reflection of the Television.
MP3: The Twilight Sad | Reflection of the Television

The next five (in no particular order): The Cave Singers, Welcome Joy (Matador); Port O’Brien, Threadbare (TBD); We Were Promised Jetpacks, These Four Walls (Fat Cat); Wilco, Wilco (The Album) (Nonesuch); Andrew Bird, Noble Beast (Fat Possum)

Favorite song of 2009
Favorite albums of 2008
Favorite albums of 2007
Favorite album of 2006
Favorite albums of 2005

Favorite song of 2009

Sometimes, the most obvious answer is right in front of your face.

I went around and around, mentally juggling my favorite songs of the year – all of which were great but none of which really stood out above the rest. In a year that I felt was just sorta “eh,” singling out one track as my favorite seemed daunting. (Hell, I even considered a Yeasayer song – Tightrope – and anyone who knows me knows how ridiculous that sounds.)

But then I recently heard Phoenix’s 1901 for the umpteenth time (still not sick of it) and thought back to the first night I downloaded it, when I played it and replayed it. Over and over. I never grew tired of 1901 – only of the countless remixes it inspired.

Given my track record of favorite song selections in years past (see links below), this positively danceable jam certainly strays from the sometimes-mopey narratives I’ve come to love. With 1901, I’m still not sure what singer Thomas Mars is saying and, frankly, I don’t really care. The beat is powerful enough and the hook catchy enough to render a lyrical analysis an inconsequential task. You might say it’s the Cadillac of 2009 songs.

  • Phoenix | 1901
  • I also really liked these songs (in no particular order):
    A.C. Newman, Like a Hitman, Like a Dancer
    Bowerbirds, Northern Lights (mp3)
    The Twilight Sad, Interrupted and I Became a Prostitute and basically the whole album
    Yeasayer, Tightrope (mp3)
    The National, So Far Around the Bend
    Grizzly Bear, Deep Blue Sea, Two Weeks and While You Wait for the Others (with and without Michael McDonald)
    Japandroids, Young Hearts Spark Fire, Heart Sweats and Crazy/Forever
    The Phantom Band, Island
    Julian Plenti, Only If You Run
    Lymbyc Systym, Bedroom Anthem
    Digital Leather, Photo Lie (mp3)
    Mayer Hawthorne, Maybe So, Maybe No, Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out (mp3) and Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin’
    Jason Lytle, Birds Encouraged Him and Brand New Sun
    Mos Def, Supermagic and Auditorium (feat. Slick Rick)
    Bobby Birdman, Victory at Sea
    Neko Case, People Got a Lotta Nerve and Prison Girls
    Phoenix, Lisztomania and Love Like a Sunset
    5 O’Clock Shadowboxers, No Resolution and Weak Stomach
    People Under the Stairs, Trippin’ At the Disco
    Port O’Brien, Oslo Campfire and My Will is Good (mp3)
    Wilco, Wilco (The Song), Bull Black Nova and You Never Know
    Throw Me the Statue, Hi-Fi Goon (mp3)
    Built to Spill, Aisle 13 and Oh Yeah
    Source Victoria, Slowburner (Traindead cover) (mp3)
    Wale (feat. Bun B), Mirrors
    We Were Promised Jetpacks, It’s Thunder and It’s Lightning
    The Cave Singers, At the Cut, Jangle and I Don’t Mind

    Favorite song(s) of 2008
    Favorite song of 2007
    Favorite song of 2006
    Favorite song of 2005

Guest list: Nick Piecoro (The Arizona Republic)

This Last year, I asked a few Phoenix-area musicians/people of interest for their year-end, best-of lists for 2008: albums, songs, whatever. This installment comes from friend/former co-worker/music lover Nick Piecoro, who covers the Arizona Diamondbacks for The Arizona Republic.

Since I’m not a musician, I’m guessing I fall into the “people of interest” category only because Kevin was interested in having at least one person parrot his picks. He turned to the right guy.

Top five albums

1. Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight

It kicks off with The Modern Leper, my favorite kind of indie rock song – anthemic and always building, getting better and better until the final seconds. Yes, it’s a sensitive breakup album, but it’s more than that. It has a song in which frontman Scott Hutchison begs for sex (The Twist), one in which he admonishes the fruitlessness of the anonymous variety (Keep Yourself Warm), and another (My Backwards Walk) where he can’t seem to extricate himself from a relationship (“My clothes won’t let me close the door, these trousers seem to love your floor” “You’re the shit and I’m knee-deep in it”). Yet, somehow, in the end, it leaves you feeling hopeful.

2. Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid

Love the way singer Guy Garvey makes the commonplace unique: “We took the town to town last night, we kissed like we invented it,” or, when speaking of the lure of the local watering hole, “There’s a hole in my neighborhood down which of late I cannot help but fall.”

3. Department of Eagles – In Ear Park

Daniel Rossen’s side project might be even better than his main band, Grizzly Bear. Still, it’s very Grizzly Bearish. Meandering and atmospheric, it tends to grow on you with each listen.

4. Vampire Weekend – self-titled

Justify it if you must by saying you dig its afro-ness, its worldliness, its learnedness, but come on. It’s fun and catchy and pop at its finest.

5. Okkervil River – The Stand Ins

Admittedly, it is (if we can borrow from Squid and the Whale) minor-Sheff, but we love it still.


Five more

Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours

MGMT meets LCD meets The Avalanches and all combine to make an ’80s pop album.

Fleet Foxes – self-titled

I really like it, but apparently just not as much as everyone else.

MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

Four kick-ass songs, led by The Youth, but not enough after that.

Atlas Sound – Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel

I can occasionally be a sucker for dream pop.

Fuck Buttons – Street Horrrsing

Weird but good. Tribal, noisy, at times a little terrifying, but, for whatever reason, good.


Of course, I expect the list to evolve as I discover things I missed. That in mind: Here are three great 2007 albums that I didn’t start listening to until 2008.

1. Broken Social Scene Presents, Kevin Drew – Spirit If…

Dear Canada, Thank you for BSS. Sincerely, Nick.

2. Handsome Furs – Plague Park

P.S., Thanks also for Dan Boeckner, whom I had incorrectly pegged as the clear weak link in Wolf Parade but now view as very nearly Spencer Krug’s equal.

3. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – Soundtrack, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

So beautiful. (And: The movie is also worth it.)


11 songs

1. No One Does It Like You by Department of Eagles. It’s four minutes of hand-clappy, catchy, doo-woppy greatness that never gets old, no matter how many times someone might hit repeat on your car stereo.

2. Lost Coastlines by Okkervil River. At 2 minutes, 43 seconds in, you get to the start of probably my favorite minute in music this year.

3. The Youth by MGMT. This is a dreamy and sort of psychedelic hippie-like tune that always always always gets stuck in my head.

4. My Backwards Walk by Frightened Rabbit. Heartfelt, sad and beautiful.

5. Starlings by Elbow. “You are the only thing in any room you’re ever in.”

6. Black River Killer by Blitzen Trapper. It’s like they said, ‘I know! Let’s turn Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian into a Tom Petty song!’ (Side note: Probably my second favorite song about murder, ranking behind Okkervil River’s Westfall.)

7. M79 by Vampire Weekend. I listened to this song while on the M79 over the summer. Yeah, I’m a dork. The song appears to name-drop an obscure minor leaguer(!).

8. Fools by The Dodos. Love the clattering, clanking, frenetic beat.

9. The Grey Estates by Wolf Parade. According to my iPod, I listened to this song 21 times from May through the end of July.

10. 2080 by Yeasayer. The echo-y chants are wonderful.

11. Sweet Love For Planet Earth by Fuck Buttons. This is not for everyone.

Favorite albums of 2008
Favorite song(s) of 2008
Guest list: Snow Songs
Guest list: Jason Woodbury (Cardiac Party/Hands on Fire)
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

Guest list: Snow Songs

This Last year, I asked a few Phoenix-area musicians/people of interest for their year-end, best-of lists for 2008: albums, songs, whatever. This installment comes from Yolanda Bejarano, a longtime Valley musician who now performs her indie-folk stylings under the name Snow Songs.

1. Dr. DogFate
2. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinsonself-titled
3. Fleet Foxesself-titled
4. Lucinda WilliamsLittle Honey
5. Bon IverFor Emma, Forever Ago
6. Kanye West808s & Heartbreak
7. Ryan Adams and the CardinalsCardinology
8. Lykke LiYouth Novels
9. Department of EaglesIn Ear Park
10. CSSDonkey

Favorite albums of 2008
Favorite song(s) of 2008
Guest list: Jason Woodbury (Cardiac Party/Hands on Fire)
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

Guest list: Jason Woodbury (Hands on Fire/
Cardiac Party)

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 (

“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

Guest list: Zachary James Dodds

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 Zachary James Dodds, who played guitar in the Via Maris and whose solo EP, One More Life, I reviewed for the Phoenix New Times.

Zach gives us a fresh take on a year-end list (at least on this site): best album covers. (He even saved me the dirty work of finding the jpegs myself.)

During my high-school years, my family and I would go to Borders every Thursday night to have a media holiday. My parents would spend the time reading books and sipping coffee in the café of the store, and I would check out new CDs at the store’s listening stations. This was before MySpace, Pitchfork or Pandora were around to help streamline the hunt for new music. When I approached a CD, there were only two factors to convince me of whether I wanted to give it a try. The first factor was a write-up that Borders would place under the CD telling about the artist’s musical style, similar artists, and specific highlighted tracks. The second factor was the album art. It was only because of intriguing album artwork that I initially took a chance on records like Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Daft Punk’s Discovery. Even though album art has shrunk from the original glory of a 12.5” vinyl record sleeve to the current 1.75” iTunes image, I am still fascinated by it and view it as an integral part of any music release. With that, I present my picks for the Top 10 Album Covers of 2008:

(Click thumbnails for larger image)

1. Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes
This cover worked exactly how covers should work. I had no knowledge of Fleet Foxes, yet when I saw this cover posted in a blog, I was taken with it, did a Google search, and was soon enjoying Fleet Foxes’ music. The original painting, “The Blue Cloak” by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, was an excellent choice by the band and is gorgeous in its own right. The text fits the style of the painting and is balanced as not to intrude on the picture, yet not allow the band name to be ignored by its viewer. Perfect.

2. Saturdays = Youth by M83
By far, some of the best portrait photography I’ve seen. It’s intentionally styled with a 1980s look, as the album is a tribute to Anthony Gonzalez’s teenage years that took place during the same decade. The references to films such as The Karate Kid, Sixteen Candles and A Nightmare on Elm Street add nostalgia and fun to it as well. I like the use of a park as the background of the shot. It serves to reinforce the dichotomy of innocence and corruption in the teen years. The grass hasn’t been paved with concrete and the trees aren’t cut down for buildings, but the grass has been mowed and the trees have been segregated. It’s beauty with an edge.

3. Feed the Animals by Girl Talk
In my opinion, there are two main interpretations of this cover. One is that it is referencing the Crann Tara tradition in Scotland in which a burning cross was used to alert townspeople that war was coming and they all needed to arm themselves. The second is that it’s referencing hate crimes. Assuming the light in the house is that of a teenager’s, my guess is that the cover is depicting a call to arms for all Girl Talk fans to defend their love of the groups explicit hip-hop, or a Girl Talk hate crime against an N*Sync fan. Whatever it may be, it’s a very striking image done very well.

4. Crystal Castles by Crystal Castles
Much like Rio by Duran Duran screams 80s, I think this will be an album cover that will eventually scream 00s, and that’s why I love it! It uses flash photography that has become fashionable this decade thanks to the resurgence of Polaroid cameras and nightlife blogs such as The Cobrasnake. In addition, Ethan Kath is sporting a hoody/leather jacket combo and Alice Glass is wearing a vintage t-shirt, both styles that have become popular in recent years. Artistically, the 00s have been a decade about breaking basic aesthetic rules – off-center graphics on shirts, oversized and pixelated fonts, out-of-focus pictures – and this cover breaks the artistic rule that says album titles should be written 3, 5 or 7 times if they’re going to be repeated. Having “Crystal Castles” written twice is a violation, and thus is even more 00s! Right on. It also doesn’t hurt that Alice Glass is a babe and a half.

5. Forth by The Verve
The Verve’s last record, Urban Hymns, was released 11 years ago, sold 8 million copies and yielded the hit single Bittersweet Symphony. With that in mind, I think this cover of an epic, sprawling and heavenly cloud-scape is what the band needed in order to live up to its hype and assure everyone that they were back and were going to be even more massive than before. Although the record received good reviews, it hasn’t surpassed Urban Hymns in praise, sales or fame. However, of all the covers this year, this is the most grandiose, and is tied with Fleet Foxes for the one most likely to look good as a poster on a wall.

6. When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold by Atmosphere
In keeping the artwork extremely simple, using gold ink for the cover, and embossing the letters, Atmosphere did a great job of emphasizing their humorously blunt album title. Other artists might have put a naked woman in gold paint on the cover and served up sex appeal, but these guys kept the focus where it needed to be. Could the title also be addressing the issue of “fake it ‘til you make it” in the music industry? Wonderful simplicity.

7. Para Siempre [Special Edition] by Vicente Fernandez
Vicente Fernandez looks, dresses and sounds awesome and has also stayed true to his regional Mexican music roots his entire career. The reason I love this cover is because it looks like all the rest of his covers. Something has to be said for not giving a damn about keeping up with the times, sticking to what one loves and being authentic.

8. Remind Me in 3 Days by The Knux
Out of all the hip-hoppers, I’ve always admired the guys like Public Enemy, Outkast, and The Roots, who made it their goal to let their personality shine through instead of always playing the rich-badass-thug card. When I look at this cover, I see a very believable scene of rappers Krispy Kream and Rah al Millio chilling out. Through the men’s posture, expressions and clothing choice, they give off a vibe of being intelligent, hip, cool, confident and genuine; kind of like urban gurus. Mixed with the conflicting scenery of a beautifully hand-carved Victorian couch in a cracked-concrete alley, the cover is both cool and intriguing.

9. Keep Your Silver Shined by Devon Sproule
This is the kind of record cover that I find peace in on the days when I’m tired of the sometimes glam-stained and mellow dramatic antics of the entertainment industry. The cover has a classic layout and features a muted black and white picture of three friends in the midst of everyday life. Visually, it’s quiet, and that’s what draws me to it. It’s a refuge for the eyes that are tired of cover images screaming out for attention.

10. Pop Up by Yelle
Putting the fun and energy back into pop music, French artist Yelle matches her cover to her own music perfectly. What you see is what you’ll hear. Simple as that. In addition, her jump is loaded with emotion. I’m gonna call it a sex-jump to rock ‘n roll heaven.

Favorite albums of 2008
Favorite song(s) of 2008
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

Guest list: Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World

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 Jim Adkins, frontman for Jimmy Eat World, one of this state’s greatest music success stories.

The band, working on its follow-up to 2007’s Chase This Light, will embark in early 2009 on the Clarity x 10 tour, which concludes (fittingly) with a March 7 date at Marquee Theatre.

Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight (Fat Cat).
This was my favorite album of the year. Such a great combination of writing and delivery. One of the best live acts I got to see this year, as well. I am really excited to see what 2009 brings for these guys.

It was too hard to decide a hierarchy for the others, so consider them all close 2nd.

Ida – Lovers Prayers (LP) / My Fair, My Dark (EP) (Polyvinyl)
Sun Kil Moon – April (Caldo Verde)
Calexico – Carried To Dust (Quarterstick)
Vampire Weekend – self-titled (XL)
Sigur Ros – Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (XL)
Little Joy – self-titled (Rough Trade)
M83 – Saturdays = Youth (Mute Records)
French Kicks – Swimming (Vagrant)

Here are some of my favorite 2008 songs:

Sparkadia – Jealousy
The Walkmen – In the New Year
The Notwist – Good Lies
Calexico – Two Silver Trees
Sun Kil Moon – Moorestown
Land of Talk – Some Are Lakes
Frightened Rabbit – The Twist

Favorite albums of 2008
Favorite song(s) of 2008
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

Guest list: Brian Coughlin of Kinch

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 Brian Coughlin of Kinch, whose full-length Advances was recently listed among 2008 favorites by Phoenix New Times music editor Martin Cizmar. (It’s also available as a free download.)

Coughlin gives us his top 10 local songs of 2008.

1. Black Carl – Dirty Wine
2. Neba – Rest
3. Kirkwood Dellinger – New Juice
4. The Stiletto Formal – Fiesta Fiesta Fiesta Fiesta
5. Holy Rolling Empire – Bipolar Bear Mania
6. Source Victoria – Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948
7. What Laura Says – July 23
8. Miniature Tigers – Cannibal Queen
9. Sleepwalk, a Robot – Rx
10. Yellow Minute – Car Ride in Greece

Favorite albums of 2008
Favorite song(s) of 2008
Guest list: Charlie Brand of Miniature Tigers
Guest list: Jay Wiggins (aka DJ Funkfinger)
Guest list: Brendan Murphy of Source Victoria