Staff Picks: Music
One of the most inpired albums to garner wide spread praise in 2008 was produced by the Seattle-based band Fleet Foxes. Combining soaring vocal harmonies with catchy, folk-pop in the vein of My Morning Jacket and Crosby Stills and Nash, this five-piece group put together one of the most infectious records of the year. These songs will stay with you, echoing throughout your head for hours after you've stopped listening.
Regardless of her troubled lifestyle Amy Winehouse has an amazing voice. Her voice has power and strength with a bluesy, jazzy quality that comes unexpectedly from her smallish frame. When I hear her sing songs from Back to Black or Frank I relate her personal trials with Billie Holiday's and hope she won’t continue to say no to Rehab. I hope instead she will go.
Back to Black
I've been collecting "Best of 2008" music lists from various magazines including Rolling Stone, Paste Magazine, Spin, and Entertainment Weekly over the past couple of weeks to see how my list compares. The one CD that has been on most Top Ten lists, but not on mine, is TV on the Radio's Dear Science. So I decided to give it another listen and although the album is beginning to grow on me it still would not make my Top Ten.
7. The Mountain Goats, Heretic Pride - John Darnielle is one of the best songwriters in music. He consistently crafts songs about characters struggling with very heavy topics. This CD takes a look at religion. Best Tracks - "Sax Rohmer #1," "San Bernardino," "Lovecraft in Brooklyn"
6. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago - Justin Vernon spent a winter in Wisconsin, holed up in a cabin to record this amazing debut CD. His voice sounds like a blustery wind and his lyrics stir up feelings of a broken world. Best Tracks - "Skinny Love," "Flume," "The Wolves (Act I and II)"
5. Nada Surf, Lucky - For most of the year I was claiming that the newest CD from the NYC trio was my very favorite. At first I didn't think it was anything special, but the more it kept popping up on the iPod, the more I became a believer. Lucky is filled with catchy power pop, perfect for the weekend. Best Tracks - "I Like What You Say," "See These Bones," "Beautiful Beat," "Weightless"
I was introduced to the music of John Legend earlier this year in a strange, coincidental manner. My brother was telling me about him and then just minutes later, he came on a Pandora station I was listening to. Strange. But it was definitely a meant-to-be connection because, since then, I've grown to love the music of John Legend. His newest tune, "Green Light" is featured in a recent televison commerical. He has performed with such talent as John Mayer and Corinne Bailey-Rae. It is no wonder that he is the holder of five Grammy Awards. Check out his albums Evolver, Once Again, and Get Lifted. They are filled with remnants of the 70s, echoes of rap, and touches of soul.
I am a music junkie. This past year I was forced to purchase a 500 GB external hard drive to store the thousands of CDs in my collection. Over the past 12 months, I have listened to over 160 CDs. It was tough, but I have whittled that list down to my Top Ten CDs of 2008.
The year 2008 was a strange year for music. Overall it was much weaker than 2007 but filled with strong debut efforts. Below are three that occupy the bottom of the list.
10. R.E.M., Accelerate - After the three previous less than mediocre CDs, Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, and Mike Mills came close to reclaiming their title as indie rock Kings. Best Tracks: "Supernatural Superserious," "Mr. Richards," "I'm Going to D.J."
9. Kaiser Chiefs, Off With Their Heads - The third CD from this band from Leeds, England is Brit pop at its finest. Grammy winning producer Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen) has helped the boys craft a winner. Best Tracks: "Never Miss A Beat," "Addicted to Drugs," "Good Days, Bad Days"
8. Ra Ra Riot, The Rhumb Line - What happens when you add a string section to a indie pop band? In the case of Ra Ra Riot you get pretty sweet music filled with intelligent lyrics. Tragically the original drummer of the band died while working on this record. This is the first of five debut CDs in the Top Ten. Best Tracks: "Dying is Fine," "Can You Tell," "Ghost Under Rocks"
The Rhumb Line
Admittedly, I don’t often locate myself in the choral music section of a store. However, after having attended the annual holiday concert hosted by the First Presbyterian Church and performed by WMU’s award-winning University Chorale singers, my appreciation for this deeply calming and ethereal form of music has been greatly expanded. A perfect compliment to emptied, commercial holiday music, take a chance, like I did, and endeavor to explore something new about the variety and wealth of our arts community.
Song for Athene