Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Download Fitz's Best of 2008:
(available until Feb. 17, 2009 in MP3 format)

Hmmm, what to say of the year in music, 2008, just past? The challenge for the list maker and the incessant music fanatic is that one can start to take on the role of the protagonist from Nick Hornby’s 'High Fidelity', Rob Fleming; forever changing his lists of thematic top 5’s, looking for the perfect playlist that meets any “life soundtrack” challenge, such as, “Top songs to listen to after being broken up with” (grammatical error known and included). As we “went to press” I have been playing Beast’s self-titled first record and can’t get over the punched sound. The club pounding beats and mostly spoken female lyrics aren’t things I normally gravitate to so this has been a recent discovery not included but should be checked out and given some patient listens, loud!

My first reaction to 2008 was that it was weaker than most. Then I started compiling my unabridged playlist (order based on playing sequence), above, and thought it was a pretty good collection. And pretty diverse to boot.

Looking for themes, there are some beautifully melodic releases, most with many layers of background vocals- among them, Fleet Foxes’ record (this track, ‘Mykonos’ is actually from an ep from 08), along with Horse Feathers, Yeasayer, and Bon Iver. Elbow’s ‘Seldom Seen Kid’ is the most sophisticated and orchestral of this bunch, and has been a steady “grower” for me. Horse Feathers and Bon Iver are accurately described, for these releases, as autumnal folk (All Music Guide). Their covers, not that different from each other, reflect the music within- stark and metaphorically rural.

I’d have to say that the Bon Iver’s ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ was my favourite of the year. A somber mood is established at the outset and is maintained throughout. The frequent complaint these days is that in the age of the track download, there are fewer albums that hold up as a singular piece. This is a great one. And 2009 has started strongly for Bon Iver with the 4 song ep, 'Blood Bank'. The title track is outstanding. Sounds a lot like Low.

Lots of excellent straight ahead rockers including tracks from the Drive-By Truckers, Billy Bragg, The Hold Steady, The Whigs and The Night Marchers.

The Ryan Adams award for prolific (excessive?) output goes to The Raveonettes with an album (‘Lust Lust Lust’) and 2, 4-song EP’s (‘Sometimes they Drop By’ & ‘Beauty Dies’). What I enjoyed was getting a dose of new material from The Raveonettes every few months last year. I wish more bands did this and thought to package music up in more creative groupings (sometimes more or less than a standard cd), delivering fresh new music periodically instead of once every couple of years. Maybe it’s time to reinvent the artist “fan club” and release music throughout the year.

A few more comments:

Another record that I've been listening to a lot since I drafted this list, is The Gaslight Anthem's 'The '59 Sound'. My "contrivance" radar is picking up some signals and yet there is something exciting and sincere about them. Reminds me of early Dexy's Midnight Runners ('Searching For The Young Soul Rebels') in approach more than music; passionate and direct.

I've also been listening to the newest Oasis, 'Dig Out Your Soul' and like what I have heard.

When I saw Beyonce do 'If I Were A Boy’ on SNL with her all-girl band, I couldn’t get the song (and performance) out of my head. Oh and I tried.

The Night Marchers’ record, ‘See You In Magic’ is solid from start to finish. Pretty good show at Pat’s Pub last year as well.

Billy Bragg had a strong comeback album, appropriately titled ‘Mr. Love & Justice’. The cool thing about this release was that they included 2 discs of the same songs, one just Billy (guitar and/or piano) and one with his band.

The TV series, Flight of The Conchords is comedy gold about a couple of under-performing Kiwis in a 2 man novelty band, their one fan (a stalker) and their lame manager. See the show, for crissakes.

Dylan’s ‘Tell Tale Signs’, number 8 in his ‘Bootleg Series’, is outstanding. The liner notes themselves are fascinating with details of the sessions that primarily included ‘Oh Mercy’, ‘Time Out of Mind’ and ‘Love & Theft’. Dylan has an almost pathological need to do songs differently, to not repeat the tempo, key and often lyrics when recording. Those of us who have seen him live know this about Dylan. What’s interesting about this collection is that you can see him building the finished product and yet each version stands alone.

REM’s record, ‘Accelerate’, was much touted as a “return to form” and it was a very good release. Also note that REM’s first record, ‘Murmur’, has received the “Deluxe Edition” treatment. It holds up really well and I’m playing it over and over again like it’s a new record. The second disc includes a 1983 show at Toronto’s defunct Larry’s Hideaway (same year that ‘Murmur’ was released) and includes songs from the then forthcoming second record, ‘Reckoning’. Excellent recording and lots of jangly guitar from Peter Buck.

My approach to music discovery hasn’t changed much the past few years. Any article I read about a band that sounds interesting (Exclaim, Uncut/Q/Mojo, newspapers, various blogs), I jot down and store by my computer. I then look for these artists first on eMusic, then iTunes or blogs and read their bios on All Music.

So much music, so little time…


Blogger James said...

Thanks for the low down Fitz. FYI there's a good performance and interview with Billy Bragg on Jian Gomeshhi's 'Q'

'I Almost Killed You'...

4:45 AM


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