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  1. #1
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    My Year-End Top 10 List

    Maybe the third week of December is a tad too early to post this, but what the hell.

    My 2008 Top Ten list goes something like this…

    10. (tie) The Redwalls - self titled
    There is nothing particularly original about their sound…it’s pure Brit-vasion power-pop, with a John Lennon sound-alike on vocals. But these shaggy kids from my former hometown of Deerfield, IL, went all the way to Sweden and producer Tore Johansson to find the right sound for their eponymous third album; and while it’s not quite as raw as The Hives or as icy smooth as The Cardigans, it sounds pretty good to me.
    Key Track: Modern Diet

    10. (tie) Interpol - Our Love to Admire
    Not nearly as cool as their first disc, but more consistent than Antics. Took a while for me to embrace these songs, but (as is often the case) seeing them live helped. These guys just have an interesting sound (to me, anyway), and this disc adds a few flourishes to that sound. Coolness.
    Key Track: No I in Threesome

    9. Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band – Magic
    The critics who proclaimed this an ‘instant classic’ were probably jumping the gun a bit. But there are some very interesting tracks here, and an achingly topical lyrical theme throughout. Bruce and the band get their rock on with the opening tracks (“Radio Nowhere” and “You’ll Be Coming Down”), then cruise through the next several numbers before setting phasers to “stunningly wistful” on the Phil Spector-meets-Brian Wilson crooner “Girls in their Summer Clothes”.

    As noted in a previous thread, there are some serious issues with the production and arrangements on this disc. It sounds almost like he wanted it to be played on AM radio or something. But sonics aside, this is a decent album. Not quite in the same league as any of his first six albums, but a ****load better than most of his latter-day work.
    Key Track: Girls in their Summer Clothes

    8. Soundtrack - "I'm Not There"
    Indie all-stars Sonic Youth, Jeff Tweedy, Calexico, Iron & Wine, Stephen Malkmus, Cat Power, Sufjan Stevens, Yo La Tengo, Jim James, John Doe, The Hold Steady and The Black Keys team up with legends like Richie Havens, Rambling Jack Elliot, Willie Nelson, Los Lobos and The Band to cover America’s greatest living songwriter. And the result is…mildly disappointing. I mean, how could it NOT be? But it’s still worth your $15, pal. Easily.
    Key Track: Dark Eyes, by Iron & Wine with Calexico

    7. Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
    Gawd, did I hate this the first 5 times I listened to it. And then, of course, it grew on me. And grew some more. It’s still not among their better works, but it’s well worth having. But if you don’t already have Being There, that’s where you should start.
    Key Track: Impossible Germany

    6. Radiohead - In Rainbows
    OK, never mind the distribution strategy. Or the pricing strategy, for that matter. I got more than I paid for, with Radiohead’s most intimate and personal album to date. It’s all moody as hell, of course…but not in a “help...the world is out of control and crushing my head like a grape!” sort of way. It’s an interesting and cohesive album that doesn’t sound as contrived or as noisy as their more recent releases. Me likey.
    Key Track: All I Need

    5. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha

    Smart, quirky alt-pop from one of the best lyricists working today. I mean, who else could possibly use the ancient Scythian Empire as an allegorical stand-in for 21st Century America, and make you whistle along with it? “Dark Matter” and “Fiery Crash” rank among his best songs, and most of the rest of the album rates very high as well.
    Key Track: Dark Matter

    4. Porcupine Tree - Fear of a Blank Planet
    On the first few listens, one can’t help but feel like the whole album is a nest for the epic-length “Anaesthetize” that occupies the middle 18 minutes. But subsequent listens reveal plenty of substance throughout this disc, especially the haunting “Sentimental”. The lyrics are well-intentioned, but trying a little too hard. That said, this is a very solid release. It’s maybe a half-star off the pace of their previous two, IMO, but definitely some quality stuff. And that drummer (Gavin Harrison) keeps blowing my friggin mind.
    Key Track: Anaesthetize

    3. New Pornographers – Challengers
    2. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

    Two Canadian bands release breakthrough discs a couple of years ago, then follow up this year with excellent discs that may not have quite the same transcendent high points as their predecessors…but are easily more consistent and very enjoyable throughout.

    The Pornos start off with an outstanding song, “My Rights Vs. Yours” and then follow it up with (arguably) an even better song, “All the Old Showstoppers”. And every other song on this disc is a treat…no exceptions. It’s just good music, immediately enjoyable AND with room to grow on you.

    Song of the Year goes to the Arcade Fire, with their soul-wrenching story-song of a demented stage father who wants to pimp his precious songbird daughter on TV as some act of quasi-religious devotional fervor in “Antichrist Television Blues”. It’s powerful, artful stuff…and the rest of the album is great stuff, too. “Keep the Car Running” would be the Key Track on any other album this year.

    And now, the moment you’ve been wishing would hurry up and get here already…

    1. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
    This is my #1 pick by a fairly wide margin. It is classic, stripped-down Spoon. It’s just amazing to me how much feel they can pour into a song with so little to work with. But it works beautifully. The only gratuitous embellishments here are the horns that show up (to great effect) on “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” and “Underdog”. At this point, I’m not sure that this won’t end up being my #1 favorite Spoon album. And that is a bold statement.
    Mr. MidFi
    Master of the Obvious

  2. #2
    all around good guy Jim Clark's Avatar
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    I don't think it's early, I wish I was ready to go too.

    Nice list with a couple I haven't heard or heard of and that's always nice. Gives me something to look into. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one that's gonna have Interpol in the top 10.

    Anyway, nice effort and it was appreciated.

    Regards,
    jc
    "Ahh, cartoons! America's only native art form. I don't count jazz 'cuz it sucks"- Bartholomew J. Simpson

  3. #3
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    Thanks, Jim. That's the beauty of these lists, IMO. One of my favorite releases from 2006 was something I only heard of for the first time on your top 10 list last year (Now It's Overhead).

    And now a few honorable mentions I should have added to my list:

    The Most Interesting Remaster I picked up in 2007 was Genesis' first release after Peter Gabriel's departure in 1976, Trick of the Tail. I have been intimately familiar with every nuance of this album since it first came out, so it was very interesting to hear what they've done with it...and there are some very interesting choices here. But probably the coolest thing is the bonus disc of video goodies, including a spotty 40-ish minute concert film that documents Bill Bruford's very, very brief stint with the band.

    Also interesting is the first-ever CD release of Warren Zevon's classic 1980 live album, Stand in the Fire. It is truly poignant and touching to hear him introducing one of his earliest songs by recounting how it saved him from starvation...and how great it feels to be alive today. RIP, Warren.

    And finally, my favorite live DVD of the year was Okonokos from My Morning Jacket. Just great, great rock 'n roll with a bizarre character-based intro and outro.

    The REM Live CD/DVD works a lot better as audio than as video. The songs from their last couple of albums sound pretty good. Overall, I would call this one "for fans only". And I definitely count as one.

    And director Peter Bogdonovich's 4-hour documentary on Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers was actually far more interesting than I expected, but it's best if you watch it in 4 or 5 chunks, like a mini-series. The bonus concert disc is decent too, with solid A/V production values.

    Finally, the musical moment I'm most anticipating in 2008 is the Wilco "Winter Residency" at Chicago's Riviera Theater in February. They are playing their entire recorded catalog of songs across 5 nights. I have tickets for night #4.
    Mr. MidFi
    Master of the Obvious

  4. #4
    very clever with maracas Davey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr MidFi
    Also interesting is the first-ever CD release of Warren Zevon's classic 1980 live album, Stand in the Fire.
    Nice job MMF! Stand in the Fire is a truly great testament to how good Zevon was. He had a pretty hot band back then too. I'm glad it finally got a widescale release on CD, but it's been available from Japan for a few years. Don't know how the sound compares with the latest Rhino, but I'd heard it was pretty nice sounding. I just have the original LP.

  5. #5
    Big science. Hallelujah. noddin0ff's Avatar
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    Thanks, Mr Mi, I needed some help on my stocking stuffer list!

  6. #6
    Indifferentist Slosh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr MidFi
    8. Soundtrack - "I'm Not There"
    Indie all-stars Sonic Youth, Jeff Tweedy, Calexico, Iron & Wine, Stephen Malkmus, Cat Power, Sufjan Stevens, Yo La Tengo, Jim James, John Doe, The Hold Steady and The Black Keys team up with legends like Richie Havens, Rambling Jack Elliot, Willie Nelson, Los Lobos and The Band to cover America’s greatest living songwriter. And the result is…mildly disappointing. I mean, how could it NOT be? But it’s still worth your $15, pal. Easily.
    Key Track: Dark Eyes, by Iron & Wine with Calexico
    Wow! What rock have I been hiding under? Okay, so I'm not a Bob fan but still with that line up you'd think I would have at least read about this somewhere along the line before now. Gots me a Lame v0 preview copy that I'm spinning for the first time. Might have to buy this one soon. We'll see.

    Not quite ready for my list just yet but Andrew Bird and Iron & Wine are definitely getting the top spots. Gotta start working on my Overflow YEC disc soon

    NP:
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Originally Posted by Troy: She has that same kind of cleft-pallet, slightly retarded way of singing that so many other people find endearing.


  7. #7
    Suspended 3-LockBox's Avatar
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    I too dug the new Spoon and Arcade Fire. I didn't warm up to the Andrew Bird as of yet, and the new Wilco is very gorgeous and mellow, nothing from it stands out like YFH's Kamera or Jesus Etc. or I'm The Man Who Loves You.

    Good list though.

  8. #8
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    Nice list

    Wilco, Arcade Fire, Andrew Bird and Spoon would figure highly on my list too...if I had one, but have to say Iron and Wine would probably pip most of those it's a gem.

    Thanks for the effort on the mini reviews always good to read some comments, I'll have to check some of the others.

    Cheers
    Mike

  9. #9
    Forum Regular audiobill's Avatar
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    Nice list mr midfi.

    I, especially love your capsule reviews.

    Your take on the Springsteen disc is excellent:
    The critics who proclaimed this an ‘instant classic’ were probably jumping the gun a bit.

    As noted in a previous thread, there are some serious issues with the production and arrangements on this disc.
    Key Track: Girls in their Summer Clothes


    Can't wait to see Bruce in early March 2008.

    Bill

  10. #10
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    Just curious...Did Santa stuff anyone's stockings with any of these sonic sugarplums / lumps of coal?

    If so, first impressions?

    NP: Arcade Fire, "Black Wave/Bad Vibration"
    Mr. MidFi
    Master of the Obvious

  11. #11
    Man of the People Forums Moderator bobsticks's Avatar
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    Santa and I are pretty tight. Accordingly, he new that I already had a fair amount on the list--except for "Im Not There" which evidently wasn't at the time of departure from the North Pole.

    Santa ain't a fan of the Boss.

    Nonetheless, a pretty solid top ten list, I'd say.

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