Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My 2008 Year In Music review

2008 was a big year in music for me. Pretty much every band I like put out an album, which meant lots of money going towards CDs and concerts... all very well spent. Here's a bit of a breakdown of what I listened to this year:

OASIS -Dig Out Your Soul.

Anyone that knows me knows that I love my Oasis. I am totally convinced by their swagger and justified attitude towards all that is beneath them. Though I didn't think their well reviewed 7th studio album was as strong as 2005's 'Don't Believe the Truth', I still dug it. It's a bit more of a pared down sound, with some steady, not quite psychedelic rockin' tunes. Their borrowed Beatles' bits have become even more apparent than before. With actual audio clips of an interview with John in Liam's extremely Lennon-esque 'I'm Outta Time' to several chords of 'Dear Prudence' inexplicably tagged on to the end of 'The Turning', Oasis is almost heading in to trendy sampling territory.

About a month before the album was released I saw Oasis play at the Toronto V-Fest, and it was my best Oasis concert experience to date. Liam looked and sounded younger than he did on the previous tour and the audience was given stunning visuals to accompany the music (the band barely moves while playing) in the form of 30 foot tall monitors displaying the animated collage-based artwork of Julian House that can also be found all over the album insert and 'The Shock of Lightning' video (seen below). The fact that this show was on my birthday and that Noel was attacked on stage also made this night all the more memorable. I saw them again last month in Detroit, and though they played a few songs from the new album that weren't heard at the Toronto show, the half full arena show didn't have the same magic as the outdoor festival venue.

Perhaps my favorite song on the new album is Gem's 'To Be Where There's Life' followed by Liam's 'I'm Outta Time' which makes me wonder if Noel is hanging on to some of his own gems for the oft rumored solo project.

Weezer -the red album

I'm reminded of popular children's book, 'Red is Best.' Okay, maybe this album isn't as good as 'the blue album', but it's pretty damn good. As the other members contribute songs we get the most eclectic Weezer album to date. The highlight of which is 'Heart Songs' where Rivers sings soulfully about the music he listened to that lead him to start his own band. The singles ('Troublemaker' 'Pork and Beans') were typical fun Weezer pop tunes with well made videos, but I think the album will continue to gain momentum and respect with the next single, an anthem with an epic feel called 'The Greatest Man That Ever Lived.' Apparently Spike Jonze is set to direct the video (for those that don't know, he's the genius behind the 'Buddy Holly' video and several feature films since). Make sure you get the deluxe addition, as the four extra songs are worth it, particularly 'King.'

I was fortunate enough to catch their show in Vancouver last October. It was my first Weezer concert and it did not disappoint. I was surprised at how much the singing was shared as it seemed that Rivers would often stop singing whenever he felt like it and the other members would pick up where he left off. This frees up Rivers to take a turn on drums or head-but a trampoline for a little while. Highlights included Pink Floyd and Nirvana covers, an acapella instigated version of b-side favorite 'Suzanne', and having about 20 young local musicians come up on stage to assist them with 'Island in the Sun' and 'Beverly Hills' (the guitar solo of which was reproduced by a girl with a violin... very cool).

Through the release of River's 'Alone' home recordings and a plethora of stuff on youtube, I've recently been made aware of the huge back catalog of Weezer b-sides and rarities of almost Oasis proportions. It can be overwhelming at times.

Lots of band released their 3rd albums this year...

The Sam Roberts Band -Love at the End of the World

What really sold me on this album was seeing it performed front to back at the Montreal album release party a week after the disc hit stores. Sam Roberts' live performances have consistently impressed as he always manages to top himself. After playing the 13 new tracks almost perfectly, he did an encore consisting of about 6 older songs. All in all, a very cool album recorded in their hometown as Roberts has recently entered fatherhood, I mention these circumstances because I feel they're reflected in the music. Also, check out the video for 'Detroit '67.' Tops.

Kaiser Chiefs -Off With Their Heads.

Upon first listen, their non sequitur pop lyrics may seem a little silly. There's not really a 'Ruby' on this one to instantly latch on to. It's unique in that it's a purely pop record that takes multiple listens to really catch. The tunes are simple but belted out by a group that has really mastered their niche. Even if you don't like it at first, I recommend giving this one a chance, particularly 'Tomato in the Rain' and 'Like it Too Much.'

As with any band that achieves wide success, particularly ones like the Chiefs who could be accused of having a generic pop sound, they have their critics. But I challenge anyone to knock the band after seeing them put on a show like they did at the Mod Club last November. Most people this side of the pond have never heard of the Kaiser Chiefs, but in the UK they headline big festivals like Glastonbury, which is why it was such a privilege to see them rock out in a small club. The show was pure energy from start to finish. Pudgy singer Ricky Wilson looks funny squeezed in to his little vest, but I had already forgotten about his humorous appearance by the time he walked across the top of the bar mid-song and poured himself three fingers of whiskey, downed that then crowd surfed while singing 'I Predict a Riot' sounding just as he did when he sang it on their first record.

Bloc Party -Intimacy

This came out the same day as The Kaiser Chiefs album, and is almost as good. Among the 14 tracks are several of the more techno-type they've been drifting towards, including the slightly off-putting opening track and 'Flux' which was released over a year ago. Songs that are a lot easier to get in to include 'Signs' which is a slower, haunting song that comes way closer to matching the magic of their first record than anything on their second did, 'Biko' and 'Talons' also help in elevating this record over the previous. Unfortunately I only caught the last 15 minutes of their set at V-Fest which I believe was cut short due to technical issues. The abrupt finish was punctuated by singer Kele Okereke throwing his guitar down and storming off stage. I've already got my ticket to see them at the Kool Haus in March, hopefully that will go a little better.

The Killers -Day and Age

This November release was a pleasant fourth quarter surprise. I had presumed that last year's album of b-sides was their way of saying it will be a little longer for original Killers material following the success that was 2006's 'Sam's Town.' With 10 tracks, this is not an accomplishment equal to that of their second record, but it has some great club tracks similar to those on the first album. Perhaps in an effort to shed the impression many people have the The Killers are British, this is their most domestic album to date, as songs like 'Joyride' reference the dessert and Vegas living. In my opinion, the first two singles, 'Human' and 'Spaceman' blow away the other tunes by making even the most devout headbangers want to dance like teen on 'e' at a rave. I haven't seen The Killers in concert yet, but I'm hoping to get that opportunity when they play Air Canada Center later this month.

Razorlight -Slipway Fires.

I was really into their first two albums, so I was surprised when this one came out in November without my even knowing about it. My first impression of the album was the ridiculous video that is 'Wire to Wire.' Once you get past the silliness that is the video, it's actually a pretty good song. I've never heard a positive thing said of diva singer/ songwriter Johnny Burell, who always looks pissed off that few are buying his self manufactured genius hype. I had heard that his attitude had led to the band splitting... apparently not yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if this album's poor critical reception and performance becomes their last, but hopefully Burell still has a few more 'Rock n Roll Lies' left to tell.

The Dandy Warhols ...Earth to the Dandy Warhols.

This is the sixth album from another band that I thought had split up. As with their last few records, they're definitely still staying on the 'jam band' side of things. Some good tunes, including one that is clearly an homage to the Stones' 'Miss You' but sounds a little too close to home. I'd love to see this band live, but I would have to get very high.

The Verve -Forth

This band actually had broken up but reunited this year with a tour and a new album. To be honest, I had kind of always thought of The Verve as one hit wonders, I was mistaken. 'Forth' is their fourth album and sounds very similar to their earlier efforts. It's a strong record, but 1997's 'Urban Hymns' still seems way ahead of anything else they've done, making this reunion almost feel like a step backwards, but I have high hopes for what they'll do next.

The Kooks -Konk

I passed up Foo Fighters at V-Fest to watch these guys, certainly no regrets there. These kids write catchy songs and play all of them. Thus far, I don't find their sophomore album as good as their debut, but in its defense, I did only pick it up yesterday.

Radiohead -In Rainbows

Given the musical tastes reflected in this little blog, you would think I'd be way in to Radiohead, but this has never really been the case. The new album continues on the path the last few albums have been on, where every song has a very soft sound and we get fewer and fewer rock songs like 'Karma Police' and 'The Bends.' I do have a lot of respect for Thom Yorke and his band, but as hard as I try, I just can't get in to this new stuff. This is why I found it hard to differentiate or recognize most of what they played when I saw them this summer. I still enjoyed the show, particularly the perfectly fitting rainbow that graced the rainy day just before the band took the stage.

The Raconteurs -Consolers of the Lonely

I'm pretty sure Jack White can write a song in about as much time as it takes most people to poop. The man is a talent, and anyone that's ever complained about the White Stripes being too minimalist can enjoy this side project. There was no promotion for the album and its existence was only confirmed a week before its release. Probably not as many good songs as the first record, but the best is saved for last with the rock opera 'Carolina Drama.'

The Fratellis -Here We Stand

I bought this CD right after seeing them play a great set at V-Fest. These three Scots had people aged14 to 40 thrashing at three in the afternoon. For my money, the best is again the last on the album, a rock ballad called 'Milk and Honey.'

Foxboro Hot Tubs -Stop Drop and Roll!

Did you know Green Day released an album this year? Well not really, but the members independently released this sweet little record that often sounds like another 'Kerplunk'. My theory is that following the massive success of the conceptual 'American Idiot', the guys had some lower concept (which isn't to say inferior) songs that didn't quite fit with the thesis of the album, and decided to make them part of an unofficial Green Day project in an effort to delay the scrutiny that will come along with the eventual 'follow up' album. The result is a modest success that invokes the sounds of the 60s, yet also sounds bit like old Green Day and new Fratellis.

David Martel -I Hardly Knew Me

An acquaintance of mine in Montreal put out an amazing album this year. The title is quite apt, as I'd always known he was a music man, but I hardly knew the talent that was there until seeing his group live and then picking up the CD. Here's an acoustic version of my favorite song from the record.

Mission District -Youth Games

Another Montreal friend of mine in and up and coming band had a good year. They made a video, had the song featured on Big Shiny Tunes and were interviewed on Much. I haven't picked up the CD yet (sorry Rob) but have been enjoying their stuff on youtube and myspace.

Kid Rock – Rock 'n' Roll Jesus

I wouldn't have picked this up, but it was given to me for Christmas and it's not bad. I'm a bit of closet country fan, so I don't mind listening to Kid Rock sing about being a redneck or try to appeal to the sentimental people with another 'Only God Knows Why.' 'Lowlife' provides the funniest lyrics on the album, with rhymes like 'the rent is due, I spent it all on a Kiss tattoo and rock and rolled all night 'cause I'm a lowlife.'

A bunch of bands I don't like also put out albums this year. They make the 'Fuck That' list (it should be noted that I didn't actually listen to any of these albums).

Metallica -Death Magnetic

This used to be my favorite band until they became old, greedy, and talentless. Fuck Metallica.

Guns 'n' Roses -Chinese Democracy

This used to be my second favorite band, before it became Has-beens 'n' Never-will-bes. Long live Slash and Duff. Fuck Axl.

AC/DC -Black Ice

I've got nothing against these geezers, I just don't like 'em as much as I used to.

Coldplay -Viva la Vida

Apparently Coldplay is splitting up because Chris Martin thinks bands should break up before they get too old (refer to above band). Seriously though, my grandma rocks out harder than these guys ever have. Good riddance Mr. Martin.

Nickleback -Dark Horse

You go from Pearl Jam to Creed to Nickelback and it's like the steady decrease in quality one sees from the original as a copy is made of a copy. Nickelback represents the extreme deterioration, which is why it blows my mind that they are achieving more international success than any other Canadian band. I couldn't believe my eyes when I read that their new album sold more than Oasis' did IN THE UK! Fuck... just, FUCK!

Here's a couple 2007 albums I'm including because I didn't hear them until this year...

Cuff the Duke -Sidelines of the City

Another 3rd album that somehow escaped my attention upon its initial release, despite the fact that I was already a fan of the band. This is the kind of Canadian band I wish would transcend boarders for the international success they deserve. I prefer just about every song they've recorded to anything The Tragically Hip ever made. I finally got my hands on the once unavailable first album 'Life Stories for Minimum Wage' which is also an incredibly good record.

Patrick Wolf -The Magic Position

I still know very little about this musician or this peculiar album that I got from my friend's mp3 player, accept that I like it a lot and I'm guessing he likes Bloc Party and The Smiths.

Coconut Records -Nighttiming

This band is the baby of actor turned singer/ songwriter Jason Schwartzman. Is there anything those Coppolas can't do? 'West Coast' stands out as a great single on a diverse album. I'm looking forward the second album 'Davey' which comes out later this month.

Also in 2009...?

Ben Kweller -Changing Horses

Jason Schwartzman and Ben Kweller have very similar singing voices. Kweller's new album comes out in February, a couple weeks before his show at the Mod Club which I already have my ticket for.

The View -Which Bitch?

Not many people know about these young ones from Dundee, Scotland, but their first album was pretty hip and did well in the UK. Hopefully the second album doesn't take too long to get distribution here.


They have already announced a reunion tour, no word on a new album yet.

Stone Temple Pilots

I missed their reunion tour last summer, but rumors have begun about a forthcoming album.

Tegan and Sara

In November, Tegan wrote in a blog that for the first time ever the sisters are collaborating on their writing process. It is with great anticipation that I await the result.


I've read that they were supposed to be among my many favorites to release a third album in 2008, but the release was pushed back. To my knowledge, there's no release date set yet, but I'll be getting a copy whenever it hits shelves.

Buck 65

If not an original album, I would at least like to see distribution for his Greetings From Tuskan collaboration called Bike For Three.

Arcade Fire

I'm not counting on a new album from them this year, what with all the side projects and pretentiousness. I read a while back that they may be scoring a movie, perhaps that will be just as good as an original album.

The Strokes are also supposed to be hitting the studio in February. Looks like 2009 could be a pretty good year for music as well, but 2008 will be a tough act to follow.

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