Without further adieu, here are the 24 CDs that I listened to the most in the last 12 months.
1. The New Frontiers – Mending – Militia Group
My music-swapping buddy Jason turned me onto these guys saying that they reminded him a bit of The Damnwells. I don’t take the comparison lightly but he was right and I was instantly hooked on The New Frontiers’ road-weary Americana rock filled with spirituality and emotion. The live show turned things up a notch and revealed an ethereal Brit-rock layer (ala Doves, Coldplay) in the guitars that I hadn’t noticed when listening to this CD but made it all the more enjoyable on further listens. It figures, just when I decide that this is going to top my list due to the massive amount of airplay it got on my iPod, the band announced they were breaking up! If any of the guys go on to new projects, you’ll be able to read about it here.
2. Darker My Love – 2 – Dangerbird Records
Perhaps the greatest live show I saw in 2008 was Darker My Love’s night-before-Thanksgiving show in front of 25 or so people in Columbus, Ohio. The album blew me away as it recalls everything I loved about early Dandy Warhols, BRMC, Ride, The Beatles and the Beach Boys but the live show was even more incredible – fuzzy guitars channeled through reverb pedals, echoey vocals shared between Tim Presley and Rob Barbato and rich harmonies that were even more pronounced live than on CD.
3. Blind Melon – For My Friends – AdrenalineRecords
I had mixed feelings when I heard Blind Melon was reforming around a singer that nobody outside of Texas had ever heard of. I was happy that the guys were able to find a reason to get back together to record new music but wasn’t sure anybody could fill Shannon Hoon’s shoes. Rogers (Blind Melon guitarist) sent me 3 MP3s recorded early on with new singer Travis Warren and I could hear the magic. I happened to be at the show where Shannon’s mother met Travis for the first time and seeing the two of them hug made me think that everything was right in the world. Unfortunately, Blind Melon’s future with Travis is on shaky ground right now, we’ll have to see what happens in 2009 but if nothing else, I’m glad that the guys gave it another shot and left us with this album.
I didn’t know anything about De Rosa before reading the Matador Recordsyear-end blog entry in which anybody/everybody associated with Matador weighed in on their favorites of 2008. Maybe an eighth of the way down the page, Barry Burns of Mogwai listed his number 1 of 2008 as: “Promo of Scottish band De Rosaâ€™s new album called Prevention on Chemikal Underground Records. If I like it, itâ€™s bound to sell literally hundreds, of downloads.”
A Scottish band on a label which never fails to deliver as recommended by a member of Mogwai? I had to check it out and was pleased to discover – albeit twelve months late – that De Rosa had a number of songs they had recorded but for one reason or another weren’t right for Prevention. Starting in January ’08, they released a new song every month on their site, effectively making a 12-song release available by December AND available as FREE downloads.
As the offer for free downloads for an album that De Rosa has dubbed Appendices will be removed on Dec.31, I’d highly suggest you grab these songs NOW if you’re into the post-rock indie stuff ala Mogwai and The Delgados.
If this stuff has you excited, you can pick up De Rosa’s debut, Mend,Â on the cheap (as a used CD) on Amazon while waiting for the March release of Prevention. Hopefully some U.S. touring will happen next year (SXSW????).
Bob Duffy over at Sunken Treasure Records has opened the vaults and through the end of the year is GIVING AWAY digital copies of ALL the releases he’s put on his little record label. Duffy also runs Donewaiting.com, a site I regularly contribute to (and the site where Atomic Ned first debuted), and this collection of music represents some of his favorite Columbus based bands. Whenever somebody is giving away something FOR FREE I recommend you check it out, but I’ll go so far as saying that it’s worth downloading every one of these CDs while you’ve got the opportunity, each is special in it’s own way.
Miranda Sound – The flagship of the Sunken Treasure label, the band has released their final two CDs on Duffy’s label before breaking up this past summer. It was a terrible loss for the Columbus music community but methinks we haven’t seen the last of this fearsome foursome.
RIYL: Jawbox, The Dismemberment Plan, Sunny Day Real Estate, The Wrens, Nada Surf
The Evil Queens – Here’s what I had to say about this release when Sunken Treasure dropped it in May 2007:
Letâ€™s not get stupid and start making flippant comments like â€œthe best blend of metal, punk, and grunge since Nirvanaâ€™s Nevermind – or at least since Alta Mayâ€™s We As in Usâ€œ, but Iâ€™ll be damned if there is a hybrid album containing these different elements that Iâ€™ve enjoyed listening to more than the latest from perennial â€œthese guys deserve a big record dealâ€ Columbus stalwarts The Evil Queens. Wow, that was a long and slightly inaccurate sentence as the Queens do have a deal in place for this album with Sunken Treasure. On more recent releases, singer Jacob Sundermeyer has had a bit more control over his voice than previous efforts which were basically screamfests though he certainly hasnâ€™t become a â€œsmoothâ€ vocalist – there is definitely some grit and grime in his vocals. Some of the chugga-chugga guitars (â€Means to an Endâ€, â€œFight Songâ€) remind me of Monster Magnet and maybe even an in-tune Mudhoney who always seemed to be on the verge of being great but never quite could cross that line. Thereâ€™s also an undeniable link between these Queens and another band of Queens (of the Stone Age variety), particularly on the title track and â€œInto the Drinkâ€. If youâ€™re looking for the one thatâ€™s going to truly blow your socks off (the one you should download from Napster if youâ€™re not willing to buy the whole thing), itâ€™s â€œDitchdigger Bluesâ€, with some buried soulful keyboard playing and fucked up guitar work by Sundermeyer and Mike Eckhardt (could this be a leftover from Sundermeyerâ€™s now-buried, never released jackshit, side project, The Killionaires?). This CD might not change your life the way Nevermind did, but if youâ€™ve got a long summer of drinking PBR tallboys to cool yourself off from the blazing summer sun ahead of you, this is the album youâ€™ll want to â€¦ no â€¦ NEED to â€¦ own.
RIYL: Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, Mudhoney, Murder Your Darlings, Nirvana, Fu Manchu
Megan Palmer – The polar opposite of The Evil Queens (which shows the diversity of the Sunken Treasure label), Megan Palmer spent the early part of her musical career playing violin in various bands. It’s only been within the last few years that she decided to put something out on her own (with a bevy of guest musicians paying her back for all the contributions she’s made to their music). While I don’t have the numbers in front of me, I suspect this is the biggest seller in the Sunken Treasure catalog.
Eric Metronome – I was a fan first, a friend afterwards. Eric led the hip-before-their time Tiara, a band that forever seemed to be on the cusp of really making it big (band members have gone on to other projects like Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s and Brainbow). All along, Eric was going the lo-fi route and recording songs on his own under the Eric Metronome moniker. I think he’s got something like 74 CDs worth of music that he’s recorded and/or handed out over the years (okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but it’s probably close), his most recent being the Sunken Treasure release You Should Be Happy which I called the missing link between Death Cab for Cutie and Elliott Smith in an interview I did with Eric.
RIYL: Death Cab for Cutie, Elliott Smith, John Vanderslice, Hayden, The Mountain Goats
The Celebrity Pilots – Chris Sheehan is an amazing pop songwriter and always manages to surround himself with top-notch talent. Somehow, he’s involved in the whole Guided By Voice family tree though I’ve never quite been sure where he fits in (he might be a cousin once removed or something as he’s collaborated with ex-GBV member Doug Gillard on a few occasions). “Lemons from Lemonade” is one of the greatest melancholic pop songs you’ll ever stumble across – it’s got a Zombies meets Beatles meets ELO feel.
RIYL: The Zombies, The Byrds, The Smiths, Guided By Voices, Apples in Stereo
Stay tuned for my favorites of 2008 list which will be coming real soon. In the meantime, there’s some new streaming music on the web that I thought I’d point out. No downloads, unfortunately.
Ben Lee’s got a couple new ones (“I Love Pop Music”, “What’s So Bad About Feeling Good”) from his February release (The Rebirth of Venus) streaming on his MySpace page. And check out the email he describes as “the coolest thing to ever happen to me”.
Honestly, I’ve never spent much time listening to M Ward’s stuff outside of the She & Him collaboration, but I find myself returning again and again to his website to hear the Mercury Rev-ish sounding new song from his forthcoming Hold Time CD.
The name might not ring a bell to most readers, but the Loyal Divide really impressed me a year and a half ago when they were making a buzz around Columbus. Not sure how they’re faring in Chicago (where they moved at the end of 2007 – I think) but they’ve just released a new EP, Labrador, which can be purchased at CDBaby and can be streamed on their MySpace page. I just discovered the new EP (thanks to a posting on the Donewaiting message board) so I haven’t had time to listen or digest it yet but look for a review soon. The title track – from what I’ve heard – is very electronic/glitchy, a shift in sound for the band but a really interesting new frontier to explore.
About five years ago someone from California sent me about 20 CDs with Blind Melon music. I had not listened to any of those until recently. When I ran across this CD I felt that I had found a treasure to be shared with all the people who love Shannon. After thinking about it for days, I have concluded that Shannon would have wanted me to give this as a Christmas present to you and you and you and you and you … so Merry Christmas!
What a great early Christmas gift. Here’s the tracklisting: