At the risk of sounding chock full of emptiness(Bah Humbugger off!) I will tell you that 2008 was the most challenging year of my life so far. The reasons have been volleyed around on this here blog from time to time..and your holidays are yours, mine are mine, so because you want to be festive, and I don't, I will not rehash the reasons.(Just know that the stench of the economy was barely on my radar) I decided to do a year end list of the best albums of 2008. But what I really should have called it is The Only Albums I Liked from 2008..(I'm a mean one, Mr. Grinch)....no need to number them for that reason...
Rose Hill Drive- Moon Is The New Earth This young power trio from Boulder, Co., led by the Sproul Bros...Jacob on Bass, great pipes and his brutha Daniel on guitars put rocking smidgens of everything into this album and it shows. A passionate hint of Queens of the Stone Age meets the Allman Brothers meets Big Star accompanied with rockworthy,melodic and clearly decipherable vocals. I had a chance to discover them at the Austin City Limits Music Fest while romancing the sweat,dust and Lone Star Beer in 2007 and they blew me away...So should they you?....Standout tracks: Laughing In the Streets, Trans Am.
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds- Dig Lazarus Dig! I have a fairly famous relative who told me about Nick Cave Years ago as she worked with him way back in his Birthday Party days...I never caught on until now. Wow! I guess I'll have to go backwards with a fever for the flavor because this album schooled me...It challenges and thrills at the same time..his characters are desperate,depraved champions and I never failed to be kept upright and alert... mezmerised by his prolific sort of spoken out and half sung lyrics...so poetic and greasy grimy at the same time..and the Bad Seeds could be one of the most underrated back up bands ever.....Standout tracks: We Call Upon The Author,Dig Lazarus Dig.
Lindsey Buckingham- Gift of Screws- If there was any doubt in your mind that Lindsey Buckingham was in the top echelon of guitarists on this planet, this album will slap you silly and set you straight..and maybe send you back to that woodshed with your 3 chords and a prayer. The licks are delicious.. The production is flawless and the songs are much more cohesive and fun than anything off Go Insane or Out of the Cradle...and Lindsey can do what Lindsey wants here without getting any guff from the dinosaurs in the Mac. He's clearly letting loose and taking names and I was caught in the wake.. Standout tracks: Great Day, Wait For You.
Valient Thorr-Immortalizer- I'm into bad-ass bearded bands who can back it up with a blur of denim, epic riffs and melody. Welcome to my life Valient Thorr. I'm betting any one of these guys would punch me in the mouth for complimenting them, and then wear my tooth on a chain around their scarred viking neck. I love how everyone in the band has the surname Thorr(Think Ramones, not De Francos)and although Valient Himself(vocals, lyrics) can't really sing, I dig his lyrics to the point of wanting to carve them into something hard and immovable, like a column in the fortress of solitude or even a park bench.... I would cut the sleeves off of my denim jacket for these guys Standout Tracks: Tomorrow Police,1000 Winters in a Row.
Gutter Twins- Saturnalia- It was a dark and stormy night. There's a knock on the door and you see two stonefaced, sullen men, clothes soaked to the bone. You let them in and see that it's Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli. Mark clears his throat, and in a voice that could send Beelzebub packing, asks " Got a cigarette?" As you pull one out and shakily place it in his mouth, he grumbles "Thanks". and with that, Greg pulls the door back and they shuffle off into the dark whirl of whipping thunder and rain. Thats how this album makes me feel. Sticks to you for days like rough storm residue. Standout tracks: Circle The Fringes,Who Will Lead Us, All Misery Flowers.
Howlin' Rain- Magnificent Fiend. Ethan Miller and his San Francisco cohorts continue to impress with every listen with this, their second release since Miller's exodus from space/psych rock geniuses Comets on Fire. It deviates between a wailing gospel rock call and response blues jam and a melodic folk rock but goin'-for-it vibe. I cannot believe I lived in San Francisco for 3 years and never got to see them, although the drummer for the Comets worked at Streetlight Records in my old 'hood and I never said a word to him. What was I gonna say anyway? " Great drumming, dude...err.. Love the way you hold your sticks! Hey... too bad Ethan left the band, bummer, huh? But at least you still have this job..Do you have the Bad Company box set by the way? " Standout tracks include Lord Have Mercy and Dancers At The End of Time.
Black Crowes- Warpaint- No it ain't no Southern Harmony..but its better than Lions(2001) and at least we still have them around..at least one band can still get away with bell bottoms, right? And for almost 20 years give or take a few gaps. Chris Robinson has honed down his lyrics and reeled in his free formed vocal phrasing to set the Crowes back into an earned place among the great blues based rock bands to try and live up to Humble Pie or the Allmans. Its good to see Rich Robinson's back up vox wayyy back in the mix, too. Rich, my ears, thank you. You turned my frown upside down, man. Luther Dickinson from the North Mississippi All Stars takes over lead axe duties from the dearly departed Marc Ford...very different styles but he holds his own..Standout tracks include Evergreen and Movin' On Down the Line.
The Sword- Gods of the Earth- The Texas battleground- metal scene stealers return triumphant after their 2006 debut Age of Winters with a whiplash and crunching fury, sounding like clanging blades under tornado skies.This is frontline metal...charge ahead and slay,check chain-mail, apply bandages and repeat. Obviously influential, never shred shy...they have garnered fans from the likes of Dave Grohl to Metallica( for whom they have/will open some dates). Put on your armor while watching The Return of the King on mute and listen to To Take the Black or How Heavy this Axe.
Black Keys- Attack and Release- The Akron boys teamed up with the most popular nerd in school Danger Mouse and have never sounded better. Waves of spooky synth and subtle samples over Dirty, empty factory type blues. Lookin' for trouble with no regrets blues rock. No salvation, no worries. Its hard to believe that there are only two of them. Like the White Stripes only better, for their drummer has way more than one beat. Key tracks include I Got Mine, Psychotic Girl and Remember When (side A).
Last but not least...Radiohead- In Rainbows....yes, it came out in Oct 2007, I know. I was there on day one, stupid.I should have paid more than a penny,though. This release picked up a glow and really started to shine the way for me in early/throughout 2008. After Hail To the Thief and its unevenness,this one was really toiled over and it showed. Thom Yorke and the Greenwoods can really do no wrong. Their out-takes shine brighter and embed themselves deeper into ones steely veins and rusted heart(like mine) than most bands best efforts. House of Cards is truly a masterpiece..one of those songs that truly transports you elsewhere..like it or not it will sabotage your emotion and warp it wildly into what you truly need at that moment. This album sits nicely right behind Ok Computer and Kid A, taking the bronze medal position in their discography with songs like Videotape, Nude, Bodysnatchers and Weird Fishes(Arpeggi) Instant therapy.(not karma)for everyone involved...creator and listener.
HMs include lots of fading to black.... Black Ice-AC/DC, Black Mountain's latest In The Future and a suprisingly solid and very young metal band from Miami called Black Tide with a great singer/ guitarist by the name of Gabriel Garcia...remember that name..he's 16 YEARS OLD. I also loved Raising Sand by Allison Krauss/Robert Plant, and it also came out in 2007, so come after me with that, if you may. 2 absolute masters of their voices with superb songs and production by the very sought after T-Bone Burnett.
Here's to 2009 for one million and one reasons. Let the serious and steady rocking continue to guide you through your exploits and emergencies. See ya soon enough, Seano