the state

-of music in ’08; the old 4 by vastate
Sunday, 28 December 2008, 2:56
Filed under: -of jgrimsrud, -of sound

¡favorite albums of 2008!

it’s time to finish this thing (this thing being my state of music in 2008 top 10 list; the new 6 are here, more explanation here).

part 2; the old 4

i wanted to include a set of music that, though it isn’t brand new, has been especially, insidiously habit-forming for me this year.

bruce springsteen: nebraska

some weeks ago, i had a talk w/ brent finnegan at a party about good-old-american songs and records that were deeply bleak and depressing.  john melancamp and bruce springsteen came up, of course, but i thought that as double-edged as “jack and dianne” may be, nebraska takes the cake.  from the badlands-esque narrative of the title track on, this music got in my head & wouldn’t leave.  i think it was an unavoidable hazard of driving through oregon, california, oregon again, washington, idaho, montana, wyoming, south dakota, iowa, illinois, indiana, ohio, pennsylvania, maryland, west virginia, virginia, oregon again, california again, arizona, new mexico, texas, arkansas, tennessee, and virginia again, in a bout 2 summer weeks.  i’m still tired.

antony and the johnsons: i am a bird now

i was a little slow to pick this one up (it came out 2005), but wow did it get me this year.  he’s sung w/ lou reed, and worked w/ (jeff buckley’s ex) joan as policewoman on his own recordings.

the songs on this record are amazingly written & produced,  w/ sharp minimalism from the solo-vocal-&-piano into multitrack-ghost-choir  of “hope there’s someone,” to the drum-guitar-horns-etc. soul of “fistful of love,” there’s always enough space to let the arrangements breathe and the dramatics pop.

he has a new ep (a different world) out now, and the crying light should be out in ’09.

neil young: tonight’s the night

this 1975 gem (recorded in ’73) is a dirtier, looser, grungier record of neil young, almost as if the dirty three got a hold of neil’s smoother, poppier bits and scattered them around the studio.  the sound is rough, and it works in perfect service of the impact of the record.

i’ve been listening a lot to neil young this year, from 1970’s after the gold rush to 2006’s living with war.  i picked tonight’s the night because, like nebraska, it’s an uncanny american record: part denunciation, part reclamation.  a sort-of everything-is-fucked & everything-is-going-to-be-alright, yin-yang balance, that seems timely.  of course neither record is 50% nice & pretty and 50% gloom and doom–both are much more doomy on the surface, but both are disarmingly honest in delivery and unwaveringly american in their construction (sound, theme, voice).

plus, with “roll another number” and “albuquerque,” this record scratched my road music itch.

andrew bird: armchair apocrypha

like antony & the johnsons, this record caught up w/ me a bit late (it came out in 2007), but held on tight once it finally bit.  andrew bird is a violinist, whistler, vocalist, writer, and additional-multi-instrumentalist.  his delivery is almost opposite the rough approach i’ve been so excited about w/ neil young & nick cave and all, but the songs are nearly irresistable.  e.g., scythian empires brings images of disney-seven-drwarves waltzing through blasted-out terra-war-scapes.


it’s a striking effect, and i’m excited to hear noble creatures, out this year, and to see him in d.c. this february.  looks like a promising show (“measuring cups” is off his 2005 release, but it was a bit of a themesong for me during my stint in evergreen’s master in teaching program this year):


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Fascinating (and attractive) choices. A new discovery of old music for me this year was hearing for the first time Leonard Cohen’s early records (they were re-released with some bonus tracks this year)–such as “Songs of Leonard Cohen,” “Songs of Love and Hate,” “Songs from a Room,” and “Live Songs.” I love his later, deeper-voiced stuff but have now grown really fond of the earlier records, too. And what a writer!

On your list of states you drove through this summer, you missed Minnesota (between South Dakota and Iowa). But I think you were asleep then (even though you were driving!).

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