nate and tiffany

January 21, 2009

Nate's 2008 Eight Best Albums

Filed under: Uncategorized — nateandt @ 4:27 am

“Me and my friends are like

The drums on ‘Lust for Life’

We pound it out on floor toms

Our psalms are sing-along songs”

-from “Constructive Summer” by The Hold Steady

Nate’s 2008 Eight

1. AA Bondy – “American Hearts”

I decided sometime this year that the TV show “The Wire” is probably the greatest show in the history of television. You wouldn’t know it from watching just one episode though – you have to see it as a masterwork. When asked why it is so good, it’s hard to explain. It’s consistently good, keeps you interested, and has a lot of storyline depth. “Just watch it,” I’d say. I guess that’s the same attraction to this year’s top album. As a stand alone group of songs, it’s decent but not enough to draw you in. This is music that mainly revolves around a guy and his guitar. No fancy sonic touches, no vocal effects. Like “The Wire”, it starts a bit scary and depressing for some. As a whole album though, it really shines. I was drawn to all of the depth the more I listened – the honest word play of “World Without End” and “There’s a Reason”, the loveable occasional lisp of Bondy’s voice, the sadness of the songs, and the romanticism of the words; the way it just all fit together well from start to finish. Just listen to it.

Cliff’s Notes: Folky guitar picking and lispy singing in the vein of Bob Dylan.

Jams: World Without End, There’s A Reason, American Hearts, Of The Sea

2. The National – “Boxer”

Technically “Boxer” came out last year but I was late to the rodeo and it was categorized in the “to be determined” column of last year’s list. For me, this album is a lot like the rash that I got yesterday from eating a package of rice crackers I bought in Tokyo (I guess it’s not always a good idea to eat stuff when you can’t read the packaging). It comes on slow. There’s a little itch here and there. You think it might be nothing but then all at once it’s all over you and all consuming. You try to ignore the tingle but it’s too much to bear. “Boxer” snuck up on me in the same way. The most polarizing piece of the album is the baritone voice of lead singer Matt Berninger. It’s in your face the minute the record starts and either is a big turn off or it’s tolerable enough that you don’t stop listening. For me, the music was intriguing enough to stay with the album in the coldest winter months. What won me over though was the drumming. I read a review this year that probably was the best description of an album’s sound that I saw all year. It said, I’m paraphrasing, that the drummer of The National doesn’t so much just keep rhythm but also pushes each song around. I thought this was dead-on. Each track is formed and lead by the beats, like a drummer leading a parade down a street. I’m just marching on.

Cliff’s Notes: Deep throated songs

Jams: Apartment Story, Slow Show, Fake Empire, Brainy

3. Bon Iver – “For Emma, Forever Ago”

I knew this guy in high school who broke up with his girl. She went on to new and greener pastures and he didn’t realize the error of his ways until a month or two afterwards. This ended badly with him showing up at a buddy’s house with an acoustic guitar playing Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” over and over and crying. It was awful (the music). Well Bon Iver’s “For Emma, Forever Ago” is the result of a similar situation, except it’s really good (the music). The album hits its’ stride early with the opener “Flume” and a more up-tempo “Lump Sum” before launching into the A-side’s best, “Skinny Love” where you get sad sack lines like “I tell my love to wreck it all / cut out all the ropes and let me fall” and “now all your love is wasted? / Then who the hell was I? / now I’m breaking at the britches / and at the end of all your lines” juxtaposed with a jangly upbeat guitar strumming. To me, an optimist, a sad record is good when the mood fits, but this album comes together perfectly at the end on the last song “Re: Stacks” when the listener is left with a sense that while sadness is there for the time being, not everything is lost; that this experience will stay will you even though it’s gone away (last lines of the album “this is not the sound of a new man or a crispy realization / it’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away / your love will be / safe with me”). It’s a song that I found comfort in twice this year when I lost two grandparents. And at the end of sad sighs and slow guitars is the memory that, in the end, while the experience was difficult, it makes us part of what we are and we’re going to be OK.

Cliff’s Notes: Guy breaks up with girlfriend, guy goes to parents cabin in remote Wisconsin and records this album with his falsetto and an acoustic guitar. The kind of breakup music a sad, lonely, and alone guy would play and sing to with his guitar…except it doesn’t suck.

Jams: Re: Stacks, Skinny Love, Flume, The Wolves (Act I And II)

4. Vampire Weekend – “Vampire Weekend”

Paul Simon introduced me to this album. You see, I don’t like musical hype. Especially the kind granted to Vampire Weekend early this year. I did get really back into “Graceland” though, to the point of listening to it about every other day. The biggest appeal is the vocal harmonies, Paul’s word play, and, most of all, the African guitar sounds. That love for the guitar sounds was, to paraphrase a line from Paul, the loose affiliation of millionaires, and billionaires, and babies that led me to Vampire Weekend. So the guitar parts got me there. The howling vocals on Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, the references to Peter Gabriel, the clap along parts of “A-Punk”, the nursery rhyme repetition of Walcott, and the slow build of “I Stand Corrected” make it one of the best albums of the year.

Cliff’s Notes: An Ivy League band writes simple and catchy songs that generate the biggest indie hyped record of the year.

Jams: Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, A-Punk, Walcott, I Stand Corrected

5. The Weepies – “Hideaway”

I had my first Godzilla moment this morning and it was amazing. I woke up early in the San Diego area of town called La Jolla and took a stroll through a beachside park until I happened upon a whole family of sleeping seals on the beach, about 50 in all. As I approached through the sand, one rolled over to look at me. “How cool,” I thought, “I’m hanging out with the beasts. I can get real close and if they want to attack me then I can outrun them.” I stepped a bit closer and reached for my camera to document the moment. I must have made a sudden camera movement because suddenly every seal became aware of me and started scurrying for the surf. Seeing their movement, I starting giggling a bit which caused them to scatter some more. As they “ran” (I say this in quotes because it’s more of a shuffle or like a really fat person trying to do The Worm as a way of movement across the dance floor) they kept turning their heads to look back in fear. I’ve decided that if Godzilla was real, this was the exact picture he would have seen. It was kinda awesome. I lead with this story because The Weepies are kinda awesome too, but in that same wussy and vulnerable way that the seals were laying there.

Cliff’s Notes: Husband and wife wuss rock. The kind of stuff you write after you have a kid.

Jams: Hideaway, Antarctica, Can’t Go Back Now

6. Fleet Foxes – “Fleet Foxes”

When we were in Nashville earlier this year, an old guy and his wife got into the elevator and a lady asked him if he was in town for the Barbershop Quartet Competition and Convention. Whhhhhhhhhaaaaaat??? That sounds like the greatest musical gathering that I’ve never been a part of. Is there a seminar when all the deep throated guys gather to talk about what are the hot new words that year for singing really low? Are there any young guys at this convention? I’ve always been a fan of that purer sound from the 50s. I don’t understand why it isn’t tried more often. Well Fleet Foxes approach to music, lots of harmonies, acoustic guitars, organs sounds a bit like something spiritual and older. I think that’s why it resonates so well. This album is all over everyone’s top albums this year. I think because it evokes music of the past (most noteably the Beach Boys, if they were from the mountains) while putting their own spin on things. I saw them this year at ACL and what really won me over was all of the harmonizing they did. It was real and in concert it was easier to see how that vocal play helped build the basis for the songs on the record. That’s something I can appreciate and something I can relate to.

Cliff’s Notes: Long haired melodic doods who harmonize like the Beach Boys if they lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Jams: Oliver James, White Winter Hymnal, Sun it Rises, Quiet Houses, Ragged Wood

7. Josh Radin – “Simple Times”

Tiffany loves Josh Radin. This year we got to hangout with him backstage before his concert and Tiff asked him if he was going to play her favorite song, “Somebody Else’s Life”, that night. He said no but then offered, “But what if I play it right now?” He got his guitar, she sang a little backup and even prompted him a couple of times when he forgot the next lines. That experience alone was about as close to musical perfection as you can get for her and for that Josh Radin makes this list. The fact that he got Patti Griffin to appear on the album doesn’t hurt either. Neither does the fact that he can write some pretty good sad sack lyrics, is the master of whisper singing, and is friends with Zach Braff. But he’s at his best when the pace picks up toward the end of the album when he’s channeling Simon and Garfunkel on “We Are Okay”. Okay indeed.

Cliff’s Notes: Man with guitar wooing the ladies with he gentile guitar playing and whisper crooning.

Jams: We Are OK, You Got Growin’ Up To Do, They Bring Me to You

8. The Lemurs – “Million Little Bits” EP & Low Line Caller – “Hi Def Soft Core”

2008 was a big year for cool new stuff at the Cross house. First, we sold our P’ville home and moved to a new one in Austin and second, we purchased the greatest video game since I was a kid – Guitar Hero World Tour. It’s the great uniter. Everyone that comes round our place is required to rock out. Tiff is up to Supreme Dork Expert on the guitar while I slowly round to form on the drums. At our Halloween party this year lots of people in the mood to rock started impromptu jam sessions outside while the game was broadcast on the side of the house. That’s the greatness of the game, if you feel the need to rock and scream, it’s right there. It’s that same appeal that drew me to The Lemurs and Low Line Caller this year. Both are Austin staples (The Lemurs much more so) in the Austin scene and on most weekends if you’re feeling the need to rock they are there to help you get your fill. So they go on the mantel. The Lemurs because I love their keyboard heavy, guitar heavy, drum heavy sound and Low Line Caller because they remind me of a spacier rock-y-er version of The Cure.

Cliff’s Notes: Austin bands for those in the mood for rock.

Jams: The Lemurs (Blackspot, Yours Mine Ours), Low Line Caller (Killing the Cool, Heartstrings Playing Notes)

Top Tunage (doesn’t include anything from above) of 2008:

_____ Beliefs – Car Jacker

The Decemberists – Days of Elaine

Grizzly Bear – While You Wait for the Others

Jaime Liddell – Another Day

Kings of Leon – Your Sex is on Fire (2nd Half of the Year Radio Song of the Year)

MGMT – Time to Pretend (1st Half of the Year Radio Song of the Year)

Nada Surf – See These Bones

What Made Milwaukee Famous – Sultan

Alkaline Trio – Help Me

Okkervil River – Pop Lie

Eddie Vedder – Go All the Way

Eef Barzelay – The Girls Don’t Care

Paramore – Misery Business

Lil Wayne – Mrs. Officer

Kayne West – Heartless

Top Tuneage For Other Years But Discovered in 2008:

Charlie Pride – Is Anybody Going to San Antone?

George Jones – Cup of Loneliness

George Jones – White Lightning

Hot Chip – Keep Fallin’

Neil Diamond – Cracklin’ Rose

Peter Sarstedt – Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Keeping Me Alive (from the really good Petty documentary “Runnin’ Down a Dream”)

Pearl Jam – Love Reign O’er Me

Crooked Fingers – Cannibals

Laura Gibson – Hands in Pocket

Bob Seger’s Greatest Hits

Sound Endeavors

· I really enjoyed the radio program “This American Life” this year. A free podcast from NPR, I especially liked listening on long car rides through Montana/Wyoming and Australia. My favorite story of the year was a girl who wanted to write a breakup song after being dumped by her boyfriend and decides to turn to an 80s musical master for assistance. Just listen to it.

· Daytrotter Sessions – A website that draws some of the best indie rock musicians to their studios, has them play a couple of songs, and then puts all of those recordings online for free for you to download.

· Seeing The Weakerthans in concert with my brother. Sometimes expectations get the best of me. Most of the things that I really want to see and do end up being a little bit of a let down because of the build up. New Year’s Eve is the holiday representation of that theory. It always seems bigger and better than it actually turns out being. Well for once something worked out. Seeing the writers of my favorite album of the aughts was the finest validation of something great that I’ve had in a long time.

· A friend told me about Lefty Frizzell and Hank Williams two years ago. When I told him how much I enjoyed them he told me my next trip was to see James Hand. I caught him late in the year at his regular free Thursday at 6pm gig at the Saxon Pub. There’s no truer representation of the “old country” sound in Austin today.

· My friend Adam had been going on and on about Girl Talk since a trip to Seattle earlier in the year. When he came down and took Tiff and I to the show, I purposely didn’t listen to anything by Girl Talk ahead of time because I wanted to be wowed. It was definitely surreal. I don’t think I’ve seen that many people on drugs in one place in a long while.

Globe Trotting Trips in 2008

· Montana and Wyoming with a visit to Yellowstone

· Kansas City and St. Louis for my Grandma Shirley and Grandpa Pete’s funerals respectively and respectfully.

· Washington DC and a behind the scenes tour of the Capitol courtesy of Sandra and Adam.

· Our Annual Lake Weekend

· My 10 year high school reunion in Flower Mound and Tiffany’s in Versailles.

· Australia – Sydney, Port Douglas, Daintree, Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, Tanunda, Warnamabool, and Melbourne

· Japan – Tokyo and Kyoto

· Family Reunion at Dale Hollow Lake in Tennessee and a trip to Nashville

· Indiana for Christmas

· Johnson City and Fredricksberg

2008 Best Of Tracks

  1. AA Bondy – “World Without End” – my favorite song on my favorite album of the year.
  2. What Made Milwaukee Famous – “Sultan” – I maintain that this is the best Billy Joel song of the that had nothing to do with The Stranger.
  3. The Decemberists – “Days of Elaine” – this year’s best offering from my favorite lit-rockers.
  4. The Weepies – “Hideaway” – Probably one of my favorite songs of the last three years.
  5. MGMT – “Time To Pretend” – Served well by a killer keyboard line. The best radio rock song of the 1st half of the year.
  6. The Lemurs – “Yours Mine Ours” – The best sing-along tune at their concerts.
  7. Alkaline Trio – “Help Me” – My favorite ghastly pop punk band’s catchiest song of the year. Tiff and I had a fun time traveling the Australian Outback trying to figure what they’re saying leading up to the refrain.
  8. Okkervil River – “Pop Lie” – A very good song from an album that’s not consistent enough to land on this list.
  9. Kings of Leon – “Sex Is On Fire” – The best radio song of the 2nd half of the year and the best song about an STD ever.
  10. The Hold Steady – “Constructive Summer” – an awesome hard working and hard drinking song.
  11. Vampire Weekend – “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” – Not their best song but the most fun to sing along with (the whole point of mix albums). See if you can keep up with the howling “doooooo oooooooooo oooooooo oooooo oooooo”.
  12. Crooked Fingers – “Cannibals” – This song reminds me of an upbeat version of my favorite song of last year “Man O War”. I guess that it helps that it’s by the same guy.
  13. Josh Radin (featuring Patti Griffin) – “You’ve Got Growing Up to Do” – If the guys at CSPAN got PG to sing some of the mindless drivel on that channel, the ratings would quadruple.
  14. Eddie Vedder – “All the Way” – My favorite voice of all time writes a song about my favorite sports team of all time (the Cubs). Seriously, when I heard about the the existence of this song I thought my head might explode from anticipation. Fortunately it delivered too.
  15. Grizzly Bear – “While You Wait for the Others” (live on Morning Becomes Eclectic) – my favorite angular rock song of the year.
  16. The National – “Apartment Story” – The best mid-tempo rock song of the year.
  17. Low Line Caller – “Killing the Cool” – My favorite song on a good debut EP.
  18. Eef Barzelay – “Make Another Tree” – the best song on Eef’s new album and one that found a home in my head while driving through the forests of Tennessee.
  19. Fleet Foxes – “Oliver James” – at ACL Fest this year I saw the band do this song just after lunch totally a cappella. Best single song I heard all weekend.
  20. AA Bondy – “Of the Sea” – great ending to my favorite album of the year.
  21. Bon Iver – “Re: Stacks” – probably my most listened to song of the year. I read an interview with him this year where he was asked about the Qumran reference in the opening lines of the song and he said, “It’s referring to the excavations where they found the Dead Sea Scrolls. When they found them it changed the whole course of Christianity, whether people wanted to know it or not. A lot of people chose to ignore it, a lot of people decided to run with it, and for many people it destroyed their faith, so I think I was just looking at it as a metaphor for whatever happens after that is new shit. Yup, just like that.

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