sand is overrated

all songs posted are for evaluation only. if you hear something you like and would like to hear more, please go ahead and support the artists by buying their music--i will always include links for you to do so. copyright holders: if anything on my site needs to be taken down, please email me and it will be removed immediately.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

my dear acquaintance, it's so good to know you

i was just looking back at my new years eve post last year, and it's funny the way these past two years resemble each other even though things happened oh-so-differently. much of 2007 was fantastic for me, until things sort of fell apart during the last few months; much of 2008 was so-so for me, and then things suddenly, unexpectedly, and all-together-wonderfully came together during the last few months. now, looking toward 2009, i believe i stand on the brink of what may end up being the most incredible year of my life. the new year looks to bring a long-time-in-coming graduation, along with three additional letters after my name; some exciting and significant milestones in this company that i've helped to found; and, most importantly, the continued growth and development of a relationship with the woman who truly makes me feel like the luckiest guy on the dear acquaintance, it is indeed so incredibly good to know you.

happy new year!

regina spektor : "my dear acquaintance (a happy new year)"

2008 is overrated : albums of the year (1-5)

finally, on the very last day of the year, my five favorite albums of 2008...

click here for albums of the year 6-10
click here for tracks of the year 1-10
click here for tracks of the year 11-20
click here for tracks of the year 21-30

the midnight organ fight

frightened rabbit

fat cat, april 14, 2008

"backwards walk"
"the twist"

thanks to charles at heartache with hard work for turning me on to the midnight organ fight. after reading his recommendation back in april, i remember going over to frightened rabbit's myspace page and listening to "the twist", "the modern leper", and "head rolls off". i must have listened to those songs ten times that day before heading off to emusic to download the whole thing. the album's consistency is marked by the presence of two tracks on my favorite songs list, and there could have very easily been three or four more. there is just so much to love about this album: musically, the melodies rattle around in your head for days, the guitars are crisp and the strings forlorn, and grant hutchison's drumming is relentless. but, for me, the best thing about the midnight organ fight is the stripped-to-the-bone honesty and unabashed rawness in scott hutchison's lyrics and voice (with a scottish accent no less!), providing a description of feelings that are at once startling and yet altogether familiar. there is simply nothing about this album that i don't love.

með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
sigur rós
xl recordings, june 24, 2008

"inní mér syngur vitleysingur"
"heima" (japanese album)

sigur rós has always made beautiful music, but the release of með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust added a dimension that was previously unheard (at least by me)--joy. this newfound happiness manifested itself in the nudity on the album cover, the similar nudity in the first video released, and within the song in that video as well, "gobbledigook". in fact, the unfamiliar tenor of "gobbledigook", first released as a single in may, seemed so strange and unfamiliar that i at first wasn't sure quite what to think of it. but when the full album was released, and i heard "inní mér syngur vitleysingur" as track two, this joyous new dimension came across so convincingly and refreshingly that it was impossible not to love. there is plenty of the minimalism and ethereal beauty that have defined the band for years, but there is no mistaking that this album is a celebration, and by the time the half-way point of "festival" comes along, you'll be ready to lose yourself as well. the only adjective that i can summon at this point that seems to do this album a hint of justice is "glorious".

for emma, forever ago
bon iver
jagjaguwar, february 19, 2008

"re: stacks"
"for emma"

the backstory has been told many other places in much more eloquent ways than i ever could, but for emma, forever ago is the product of a catharsis. the gravity of the nine songs represent the deliberations and reflections of a man so longed steeped in sadness and loneliness that his mirrored reflection, perhaps once unrecognizable at the beginning of this pain, had probably become...familiar. but the songs are also a process, illuminating a path on which failure, disappointment, and heartache can be weathered, and by the end he's in a different place completely: "this is not the sound of a new man / or a crispy realization / it's the sound of the unlocking and the lift away". there will always be challenges in life, but learning how to let go of what can be let go, and knowing where to put the things that can't, is an endeavor of majestic proportions. and an album that is so purely reflective of that process is surely one of the best of the year.

3 rounds and a sound
blind pilot
expunged records, july 15, 2008

"3 rounds and a sound"

this was my favorite discovery of the year. there is a highly significant personal dimension to this album that has nothing at all to do with the quality of the music, as it played an important role indicating mutual interest in building what is now the most important relationship in my life. but that doesn't help you at all, does it? so know that lead singer israel nebeker's voice is as melodic and wonderfully expressive as any you'll find in indie rock. musically, acoustic guitars are strummed with purpose and combine with freshly brushed drums and horns that are, at times, dripping with sorrow, to create a mood that is somehow simultaneously laden with melancholy and consistently bright, recalling an acoustic jeff tweedy. and lyrical gems abound, with thoughtful lines that are capable of discerning the complexities of a life full-lived. in other words, regardless of the personal connection you may or may not have to this album, it is one that is definitely worth hearing.

you & me
the walkmen
gigantic, august 19, 2008

"if only it were true"
"four provinces"

i never got around to writing about you & me, and i'm really not sure why. it's one of those albums that i can come back to again and again, any time i'm in need of a solid, consistently great listen. i've been thinking about what attracts me to the album, and i think the best description i can come up with is an abstract notion that it occupies the space in between sunset and evening. after you've cut off work for the night but haven't yet had a chance to change out of your work clothes. when there's a strange combination of weariness and energy, of relief that the working day is done and anticipation for what comes next. especially when what comes next involves a me and a you. you & me encompasses all of that. hamilton leithauser's voice gives the band a working-class feel, brass sections give slower songs a weary quality that quickly gives way to the nervous vigor of songs like "four provinces", and all the while a sense of hope and excitement pervades throughout, infusing the album with the anticipation that "i know that it's true / it's gonna be a good year"

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 is overrated : albums of the year (6-10)

click here for tracks of the year 1-10
click here for tracks of the year 11-20
click here for tracks of the year 21-30

looking back on this list and this year, i think i could have easily stopped at five albums and been done with it. in recognition of that fact, i think this list deserves to be split into two parts. it's not that albums six through ten are not very good, it's just that my preference for the first five is so clearly apparent. anyway, here's the first part of the albums that i loved this year:

fleet foxes
fleet foxes
sub pop, june 3, 2008

"he doesn't know why"
"blue ridge mountains"

maybe it's a bad sign that i have a hard time figuring out what to say about fleet foxes. i have yet to find any particular personal connection to any of the songs on a lyrical level and, save for one or two exceptions, i don't even know if i could identify by name most of the songs on the album. all i know is, i was immediately hooked on this album over the summer, put it down for a few months, and then got even more hooked when i picked it back up over the fall. i can think of nothing else in my recent library that sounds quite like fleet foxes, so i'll keep on listening and keep on loving this until it no longer sounds fresh. something tells me that won't happen any time soon.

conor oberst
conor oberst
merge records, august 5, 2008

"milk thistle"

it was tempting to dismiss conor oberst's first solo album in, oh, 15 years, as an album to be taken less seriously than a regular bright eyes release. but to miss conor oberst was to miss an album that stands up well to any bright eyes release, recent or past. oberst's evocative lyrics, though sometimes incomprehensible, shine through as always, but content-wise they seem to be an extension of cassadega's turn toward a calmer, seemingly more comfortable soul. oberst indulges some whims and even seems to have some fun on tracks like "i don't want to die (in the hospital)" and "nyc - gone, gone". but it's when he recalls his inner tom petty, on "moab", and then gets to his most introspective, on "milk thistle", that repeated listens pay off the biggest dividends. it seems strange to listen to a conor album without mike mogis, but in case there was any doubt, conor oberst makes clear that he has the talent to go it alone.

honeysuckle weeks
the submarines
nettwerk records, may 13, 2008

"submarine symphonika"
"you, me and the bourgeoisie"

blake hazard and john dragonetti are in love, and they want to sing you songs about it. the follow-up to 2006's declare a new state!, honeysuckle weeks makes clear that blake and john's fairy tale lives on. if declare a new state! was the story of the pieces being irresistibly drawn back together, honeysuckle weeks is the story of those reassembled pieces being superglued together. if declare a new state! was a story that seemed too good to be true, honeysuckle weeks is the evidence that sometimes the fairy tale actually sticks. every song on the album is about love in some form or another, and only three of the ten songs fail to mention the word. it is clearly what is on their mind and in their hearts.

in ghost colours
cut copy
modular interscope, april 8, 2008

"hearts on fire"
"far away"

much like fleet foxes, i'm finding it a little difficult trying to figure out what to say about in ghost colours. maybe it's that the 80s synth-rock-pop dynamic is so different from most of what i listen to these days. maybe it's the lyrics, made to seem nearly overly earnest by the dancehall beats. maybe it's that this album takes me back to erasure, depeche mode, and growing up in the 80s. or maybe i need to stop trying to figure it out and just enjoy this immensely enjoyable record for what it is--a great listen.

xoxo, panda and the new kid revival
her space holiday
mush records, october 7, 2008

"the new kid revival"
"sleepy tigers"

given how undeniably poppy and catchy this album is, i wasn't quite sure how lasting an impact xoxo, panda and the new kid revival would have on me. but it's several months in and i still can't quite get enough of it. i love the melodies, i love the sometimes-kitschy lyrics, and i love the story behind the album's stylistic departure. who knows, this one may not last that long with me, but for now it's still all about what sounds good, and this still sounds really, really good.

Monday, December 29, 2008

2008 is overrated : tracks of the year (1-10)

click for tracks 11-20
click for tracks 21-30

1. "lost coastlines"
okkervil river
from the lp the stand ins (jagjaguwar)

maybe it's the mammoth expectations that accompanies every okkervil river release since i heard black sheep boy, but i was sadly underwhelmed by the stand ins. however, "lost coastlines" was it from the first listen. with will sheff's trademark ear for melody and clever lyrics, this vocal duet is a song that marks the transition of jonathan meiburg away from okkervil river, but it also reminded me of an applicable transition in my life and provided inspiration for my favorite post of the year. [more]

2. "backwards walk"
frightened rabbit
from the lp the midnight organ fight (fat cat)

the midnight organ fight had so many great songs on it that it might have been difficult to identify my favorite one. but what might have been never was, because "backwards walk" so clearly struck a chord in my life and, well, provided material for my second-favorite post of the year. looking back on these two songs, and knowing where i am at now, i am so thankful for the path that i have walked--someone was indeed waiting for me, and someone is waiting for you, too. [more]

3. "inní mér syngur vitleysingur"
sigur rós
from the lp með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (xl recordings)

of all the different ways that happiness manifested itself on með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, the one that surprised me the most was the unabashed expressions of love in "inní mér syngur vitleysingur": "þegar að við hittumst (when we meet) / þegar að við kyssumst (when we kiss) / varirnar brenndu, höldumst í hendur (the lips burning, we hold hands) / ég sé þig vakinn (i see you wake) / ég sé þig nakinn (i see you naked) / inní mér syngur vitleysingur (within me a lunatic sings)". pure joy...

4. "breezy"
conor oberst
from the ep gentleman's pact (self-released)

written by conor about an amazing woman who tragically passed way before her time, "breezy" is simply one of the most beautiful songs i've ever heard. there is a pain in conor's voice that may seem to be too often present when he sings, but in this song and in these circumstances there is no doubting the legitimacy of the quivers of his voice, made all the more haunting by the accompanying reverb. the song is beautiful in any context, but the backstory and the singularity of the subject give it such an added poignancy and sadness--it is absolutely devastating. [more]

5. "3 rounds and a sound"
blind pilot
from the lp 3 rounds and a sound (expunged records)

this one is easy. i think it's safe to say that this song is a primary reason why i'm in the situation that i'm in today. from the opening lines ("they're playing our song / can you see the lights? / can you hear the hum?") to the gentle strums of an acoustic guitar, to the chorus ("blooming up from the ground / 3 rounds and a sound / like whispering you know me / and you know me"); this was the moment we knew we were interested. beautiful.

6. "re: stacks"
bon iver
from the lp for emma, forever ago (jagjaguwar)

on an album overflowing with staggering honesty, "re: stacks" was the final curtain, the circle closing, and the journey completing. having now found the ability to move on from the past, "everything that happens is from now on" for justin vernon. "this is not the sound of a new man / or crispy realization / it's the sound of the unlocking and the lift away / your love will be safe with me". just so.

7. "lover's day"
tv on the radio
from the lp dear science (dgc/interscope)

much like "couleurs" by m83, "lover's day" was notable to me for the eroticism it conjured up. but while "couleurs" is vaguely sensual as an instrumental piece, "lover's day" is blatantly sexual in its lyrics. but like any good lover, the wanton desire and erupting passion are carefully balanced with tender hooks and delicate glances: "yes here of course there are miracles / under your sighs and moans / i'm gonna take you, i'm gonna take you / i'm gonna take you home"

8. "he doesn't know why"
fleet foxes
from the lp fleet foxes (sub pop)

i can't even really identify what it is about "he doesn't know why" that i love so much. maybe it's the beach boy vocal harmonies that open the song. maybe it's the feverishly melodic verses. maybe it's robin pecknold's soaring vocals in the second half of the song. or maybe all of the above give the song such a sunny, lilting disposition that it's impossible not to like.

9. "if only it were true"
the walkmen
from the lp you & me (gigantic)

i guess a lot of my favorite songs have a lot to do with my state of my mind as i near the end of 2008. while there are so many great songs on you & me, "if only it were true" stands out for me simply because of the wistfulness of the closing stanza: "so don't come calling for me / 'cause baby, my dream ain't through / and when, when i've had enough / oh then i'll die in dreams of you"

10. "bixby canyon bridge"
death cab for cutie
from the lp narrow stairs (atlantic records)

without a doubt the standout track on narrow stairs, "bixby canyon bridge" is ben gibbard's discourse on the struggle of seeking and recovering a muse that cannot be sought or procured. the band let loose nearly two minutes of aggression and frustration that threaten to fracture the song completely, only to regroup in a place where the listener realizes that the muse was there all along, and yielding one of the better opening tracks in recent memory. [more]

Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 is overrated : tracks of the year (11-20)

click for tracks 1-10
click for tracks 21-30

11. "as tall as cliffs"
margot & the nuclear so and so's
from the lp animal! (epic)

they made the record they wanted to make. their label gave a cd release to the album they thought would sell, and a vinyl release to the original incarnation. thankfully, both releases contain the best song on either album, "as tall as cliffs".

12. "smokin from shootin"
my morning jacket
from the lp evil urges (ato records)

"highly suspicious" was the most controversial and talked-about song on evil urges, but "smokin from shootin" was easily the best. "who makes my decisions? / who reads all your thoughts? / what makes us how we are? / faith can't prove what science won't resolve / kumbaya my lord, c'mon row your boat ashore / the river's long, it is cold, it chills the body but not the soul" [more]

13. "you'd rather run"
from the lp autumn fallin' (blue note records)

the standout track on jaymay's debut album is a rambling folk song full of fits and starts that to these ears could only be described as dylanesque. [more]

14. "milk thistle"
conor oberst
from the lp conor oberst (merge records)

"milk thistle" was a bit higher on my list until "breezy" knocked some of the sheen off my concept of what a beautiful conor oberst song sounded like. it's a beautiful song, though, with typically-poignant lyrics: "newspaper, newspaper, can't take no more / you're here every morning waiting at my door / i'm just trying to kiss you but you stab my eyes / make me blue forever like an island sky / but i'm not pretending that it's all okay / just let me have my coffee before you take away the day"

15. "opportunity to cry"
priscilla ahn
from the lp a good day (blue note records)

back in march, "opportunity to cry", priscilla ahn's cover of a willie nelson song, was my favorite vocal performance of the year at that point. i stand by that statement nine months later. [more]

16. "the twist"
frightened rabbit
from the lp the midnight organ fight (fat cat)

the midnight organ fight is the only album that i've picked two songs off of this year, and i could have easily picked three or four more ("the modern leper", "good arms vs. bad arms", "poke"...). there's just something about the honesty in scott hutchison's lyrics: "twist and whisper the wrong name / i don't care and nor do my ears / twist yourself around me / i need company, i need human heat"

17. "the new kid revival"
her space holiday
from the lp xoxo, panda and the new kid revival (mush)

xoxo, panda and the new kid revival marked a stylistic departure for marc bianchi, but he makes clear on the opening track, "the new kid revival", that he's not making any apologies for that fact: "so let's start the new kid revival / we'll make it up as we go along / and if they tell us that we're doing it wrong / we'll just turn up the sound of our song" [more]

18. "submarine symphonika"
the submarines
from the lp honeysuckle weeks (nettwerk records)

blake and john are still in love, and for the cynics out there, they make it known in their letimotif that they haven't given up on you either. [more]

19. "hearts on fire"
cut copy
from the lp in ghost colours (modular interscope)

i have a draft from june in my post list entitled 'cut copy', but like a lot of other albums this year, i never got around to writing about in ghost colours. it's still one of my favorite albums of the year though, for its ability to recall the synth-pop days of my 1980s youth.

20. "listen to the math"
tokyo police club
from the lp elephant shell (saddle creek)

i don't even really know what to say about elephant shell and tokyo police club. it was just a really, really fun record to listen to. quick-hitting, insanely-catchy, well-crafted pop songs that even make use of the word 'australopithecine'...what else is there to say?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

2008 is overrated : tracks of the year (21-30)

i've had as difficult time finding time for sand is overrated this holiday season as i ever have, i'm extremely late to get this list out, and i have so much other work to do. so what do i decide to do? expand my year-end track list from 20 to 30 songs. i guess that's an indication of how much great music was out there this year. even though i've written about so little of it over the year, i was definitely listening, and in the end i just couldn't leave out tracks by m83, thao, santogold, etc. so here we are, the first of four parts of my year-end list. [part two] [part three]

21. "couleurs"
from the lp saturdays=youth (mute u.s.)

i thought about the post i wanted to write for this song for a good chunk of the year, but just could never quite get it out. it was going to be something about how sexually provocative the pulsating rhythms, throbbing beats, and rising and falling tensions in this song were. but i never got around to it. i guess i had a headache... (but i never stopped loving it.)

22. "m79"
vampire weekend
from the lp vampire weekend (xl recordings)

i never got around to writing about vampire weekend either, but if anyone got more than enough blog-love this year, it was them. you have to love the playful riffs that open "m79", transitioning from harpischord to strings to guitar.

23. "feet asleep"
from the lp we brave bee stings and all (kill rock stars)

there is an incredibly charming playfulness to thao's voice that deceives the gravity of her lyrics, making for an altogether fascinating combination of joy and sorrow, innocence and carnal knowledge. [more]

24. "all you ever wanted"
the black keys
from the lp attack & release (nonesuch)

it seems like these days i don't listen to that many bands that rock, but the black keys provide a nice wake-up call to an otherwise mellow selection in my library. fitting then that my favorite song on attack & release starts out so slow before getting really loud.

25. "sweet darlin'"
she & him
from the lp volume one (merge records)

i still love m. ward doing his own solo thing, but it's hard not to love the girl group sound that he and zooey deschanel put together for the first of what will hopefully be many she & him albums.

26. "little person"
jon brion with deanna storey
from the soundtrack synecdoche, new york (lakeshore records)

i'm still trying to figure out and analyze synecdoche, new york, but i'll always remember the movie for two reasons--sitting in the theater next to the future love of my life, and this song. it's sad, jazz-lounge feel perfectly complemented the pensive, introspective tone of the movie.

27. "i'm a lady"
santogold (featuring trouble andrew)
from the lp santogold (downtown)

another album i never got around to writing about, santogold's eponymous debut was so full of contrasting styles and genres, it was like her own personal mixtape. after some r&b, punk, rock, and electronic songs, "i'm a lady" finds her in full indie rock mode.

28. "jack killed mom"
jenny lewis
from the lp acid tongue (warner bros.)

even though this is only at 28, "jack killed mom" is the main reason i needed to expand my list to 30 songs--i just could not get through the year without mentioning jenny lewis and the best song that jack white never wrote.

29. "boys with girlfriends"
from the lp meiko (myspace records)

my favorite quarter-japanese singer from the hotel cafe in los angeles who pronounces her name incorrectly...i still love you, meiko.

30. "you don't know me"
ben folds (featuring regina spektor)
from the lp way to normal (sony)

i'd never really listened to ben folds before this year, so getting this from the good people at sony/epic was a pleasant surprise but yet another album that i didn't get around to writing about. it's never too late, though, to feature the vocal stylings of the lovely regina spektor.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

feeling lucky

it looks like the next substantive post on here won't come until the end of the month, when i can put together my year-end lists (how can it possibly be the end of 2008 already?). but, in the meantime there might be a few quick posts reflecting my present state of mind (and heart). right now, nothing could be a more accurate reflection of how i've been feeling lately than the title of this song from the jesus & mary chain.

the jesus & mary chain : "feeling lucky"
from the lp stoned & dethroned (warner bros, 1994)
feeling lucky
i've been feeling lucky
i've been feeling lucky
i've got someone who knows me
and she still wants to hold me

all songs posted are for evaluation only. if you hear something you like and would like to hear more, please go ahead and support the artists by buying their music--i will always include links for you to do so. copyright holders: if anything on my site needs to be taken down, please email me and it will be removed immediately.

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