Monday, December 22, 2008

May all your Christmas' be bright...

So it is that time of year, get out your wool slippers, throw another log on the fire and hunker down for a long winters nap. Yeah it's really cold up here in the great north east, and I'm trying to figure out why I subject myself to this. I hate the cold weather. Hate it! However with this MS thing hanging around the heat has become a bit of a kick in the pants as well. Figures.

Anyway, I hope that everyone is staying warm and enjoying the holiday season. We here at "Did You Montel Willams has that?" ("We here..." I like to to make it seem like my blog is actually a fortune 500 company, and I have a team of advisors and assitants that attend to the blog and it's needs. People running around like crazy yelling things like "Save, save, make sure you save that post!" or "Mr. Faranda this is just came to my attention...."at which point I push everything off my desk in disgust. Nothing like this ever happens but, perception is everything.) would like to wish you a very Merry of whatever it is your celebrating, and if you aren't celebrating then disregard completly. I had hoped to get this out before the holiday but it was a crazy time hardly appropriate for this bald guy to disregard his real family for his new cyber one.

But allow me to take the time now to say that these few months since I have been writing have been great. Thanks to everyone who reads and to those of you leaving comments. It means a lot to me to hear your thoughts. Also, and probably more importantly, to those of you who are witting your own blogs keep writing. There are some amazing things out here and
I have been real lucky to find some of them. It's nice to know that I'm not so alone in this thing. Your words are really important to me as well to many others.

Anyway, Christmas to me is about wishes and dreams, and while it is true that everybody knows that your first wish should be for more wishes, and that trying to explain your dreams in real time generally just makes you sound foolish if not insane, in the Christmas spirit I would like to try to put one of my wishes forth into the world of the waking.

Of course we should be wishing for world peace, the end to hunger, the overthrow of the American political system, but lets be honest these things aren't good for business. I don't think there is a genie, let alone a Santa Clause, we could find to make these things come true. So that then leads me to the obvious: that this damn MS thing didn't exist. That is my one true wish for me and for all of us, but then this of course is not good for business either (theirs not ours). So I move on to my next wish that I think I can get an angle on since it is self made and not really much of a wish at all. That this wasn't some nambie pambie diseased blog it's the place you come for all you musical needs.

A hip cutting edge sorta place where you come to see, listen and discuss the latest in music, but not the kinda stuff you would find on some billboard listing or on the cover of the Rolling Stone. A blog for only serious music aficionados and those looking for a new spin on your record player. You see that is really what I wish.

So here is a blog about music in our new mythical world........(look for normal posts about MS and all that stuff in the new year. Till then Happy Holidays)

Happy Holidays from all of us here at "Did you know Montel Williams doesn't listen to that..." Things have finally settled down over here at world headquarters as all of my advisers and assistants all have taken some well deserved vacation time. I will be outta here as soon as I get this last post of 2008 up and to you the loyal reader.

So here is the big pay off of the year, what you have all been waiting for: 2008's top 10 albums of the year as per Bald Ben. It was an odd year. A quiet year for the most part, I mean to say that the records that were released seemed to be on the quieter side. Which makes me wonder if the artists were feeling quieter or if those of us listening have just tuned into this quiet sound? I mean its been a tough year all around and who knows what's coming up in 2009? (besides the new Andrew Bird album, Neko Case, Great Lake Swimmers, Animal Collective, M. Ward, Grizzly Bear just to name a few). Furthermore it seems that all the "top ten lists" this year have had a lot in common, but not many that have agreed on rankings. You will notice that my number ten has topped many lists this year, while my number two really hasn't shown up anywhere. One man's trash....

So here is the criteria: the record has to have been released in 2008 (although as you will find I don't exactly follow this). Second and most importantly it has to move me enough to want to give the record the highest of compliments: to purchase it on vinyl. Yes that old school antiquated means of relaying sounds to eager listeners. A large 12" disc generally made of black plastic with circular grooves that somehow hold music. Truth be told I only own one of these on vinyl right now, but the economy is weak, I got kids, and I'm a bit too lazy to get out to a record store to find them. I mean it's the holidays, aren't people supposed to surprise me with presents and what not? I guess I should have put the list out before Christmas. Anyway, feel free to comment and tell me how much of a genius I am, or how terribly predictable.

10. TV on the Radio – Dear Science [4AD/Interscope]
This record has topped tons of lists this year. Not mine. I think this is a great album, but it’s not quiet what I was looking for at least as a topper. There was tons of hype before its release and there was even more after we all got our grubby little indie-rock fingers on it. I resisted, maybe I was just trying to be too cool for school or whatever, but I just didn’t listen to it. No matter who told me I needed to hear it I passed it by. It was in November that I actually broke down and took a listen.

The sonic guitar opening of “Halfway Home” quickly drops the Ramone’s style BaBaBa’s before the smooth vocals of Tunde Adebimpe seep into your veins and helps you realize that you’re not on “Cookie Mountain” anymore. This record is deep with layers and deserves a little more of my attention, perhaps had I taken the time it would have placed a bit higher on my list.

9. MGMT – Ocular Spectacular [Sony/Columbia]
You will find that my list has a bit of a leaning. These days find me listening to much more organic acoustic based music. Luckily for me it was a year that also leaned that way. That being said MGMT’s ablum “Ocular Spectacular” is not any of those things. This is a record drenched in drum machines, delay pedals, and studio trickery to polish these gems of indie-electro pop. The album may run the gamut of styles but at its heart it is just an ironic mess of catchy pop songs.

One of the biggest problems with this record, though, is that the opening track “Time to Pretend” is so good that it sets the stage for an album that would be almost impossible to deliver. Try they might they never quite reach that mark, but they have still put together one of the most solid debut albums to date.

8. Grouper - Dragging a Dead Deer up a Hill [Tape]

This is what ghost sound like….

7. Blitzen Trapper – Furr [Sub Pop]
I have also come to this album late. While it was only released in September I didn’t get around to hearing till after it hit a few “best of” lists that I have some respect for. This is a band that has gotten better and better each time they release an album. The obvious Dylan, Neil Young influences are still very present here, but there is a much deeper understanding of what these folk rock troubadours were/are after. Deeper still are influences of Big Star or a late 60’s early 70’s sensibility to music that I happen to really love. If for the title track alone go find this album and listen to it over a lazy afternoon with your favorite girl/guy near by. Furr is easily my song on the year.

6. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – S/T [Say Hey Records]
This record hasn’t made too many lists. Perhaps it is Robinson’s unabashed take on his own struggles with drugs, depression, and his sometimes homelessness. The lyrics are dark and heavy. The music, while based in folk rock, has a frenetic edge to it that gives the listener a taste of the chaos that he sometimes must live in. Although for all the darkness, there are some hopeful moments as well. Even if it is only the fact that he has unabashedly expressed himself to us the listener. A guy has to think that that has to be good for something, right?

5. Dr. Dog – Fate [Park the Van]
I may be biased here. You see I know these guys. I have known them for a long time. I knew them before they were Dr. Dog, and I continue to be very very proud of them as they release great album after great album. I wish I could take an ounce of credit for the great albums, but I can’t. As a matter of fact I have nothing to do with their music. I do however have a lot to do with listening to their music and being in awe of a bunch of great dudes that can write great songs like I have never heard before.

Well I suppose that isn’t totally accurate. They write songs like I have heard before. Songs from the cabinets of my father’s record collection, from dusty vinyl hidden in the back of some long lost forgotten set, songs from an era that we could only hope to have been a part of. Yet in wearing there influences on their sleeve they are able to surpass and even improve upon what it is they are emulating.

Their new album “Fate” is making lots of peoples lists this year and the Dr. Dog name and their albums have been touted by the likes of Beck and Lou Reed. It seems like just a few years ago when there were only a handful of us going to shows, and now they play to thousands who have the same if not a greater sense of devotion, and it is well deserved. To the Beatlesque vocal lines of “My Friend” or the Waitsian delivery of “The Beach” these boys have tapped into something that we all have responded to since the early earliest days of recorded music, good songs.

4. Fleet Foxes – S/T [Sub Pop]
I grabbed this one very close to release date and loved it from the moment I heard it. Although truth be told lead singer Robin Pecknold vocals remind me a lot of Jim James of My Morning Jacket. There is a soaring quality, an echo that doesn’t need studio mastery to embolden it. It carries you through the top of the grain silo and out over the fields into the mountains that they are so desperately trying to let us know about. This is a credit to the record but for me was also a detriment. The similarities of voice lead me to turn off of the record for a while. Luckily the Ipod shuffle function brought me back to the record and the more I listen to it the more I tell myself to shut the hell up and listen to one of the best records you’ve heard in a long time.

3. Vampire Weekend – S/T [XL]
Easily one of the best records this year and one of the worst. Their hype burned bright even before the album was released which, as with all great flames, begins to consume itself. Yet, the album and the 13 songs you find there can hardly be contained. A bunch of white, over-privileged kids from New York producing some of the best Afro-tinged pop heard this side of “Graceland”. All the haters be damned, these are just good, catchy songs. There maybe a second album, there maybe a career in the future, but for now just enjoy these 13 perfect punchy numbers.

2. Death Vessel – Nothing is Precious Enough For Us [Sub Pop]
I am sitting here listening to this right now trying to figure out how this album makes it to #2 on my list. This record barely made a blip on anybodies radar, but I can’t stop listening to it. Essentially Death Vessel is nothing like what you would think they are. The name quickly denotes some sort of visceral grind core sound, but in all reality it is the exact opposite. A clean record of what is called neo-traditional folk music (what the hell that means is your best guess). Death Vessel is really only comprised of one member: Joel Thibodeau. Joel then adds a cast of revolving musicians to fill out the production.

Here is the rub: Please note I said Joel Thibodeau. Joel as in a boy’s name. I make mention of this so you do not have to go through the same crisis of conscious that I went through. See Joel sings in a very high falsetto voice: a very feminine sound. To further compound the mental image while he sings in this high register, his voice also has an almost pre-pubescent timbre to it.

Now I went into listening to this record (as well as their first record) not knowing this. I assumed it was a woman singing. Imagine my surprise just a few weeks ago when I found out about Mr Thibodeau. That she was in fact a he, and I’m not talking I picked up some girl in a bar only to find out she’s got an….adam’s apple. No, this is just a guy who sings real high. No illusions of femininity. This revelation led me to some serious introspection.
The preciousness of my then favorite record was suddenly lost. My mental picture had been blow to hell. There was no closing my eyes listening to this one anymore. Yet here it is at #2 on my list of 2008. Why, you ask? Well, you get over it and quickly. The songs are so so so good, The musicianship is amazing, and the voice even though it comes from a grown man, is still just as precious as it was the first time I heard her---I mean him, despite all my inner tumult.

1. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever ago [jagjaguwar]
There has been a lot of talk about this record. Sadly lots of the talk these days is about the validity of the release date. Yes, it is true that this record was released late in 2007 independently. However it was given a much wider distribution in January of 2008 when good sir Justin Vernon signed with jagjaguwar. This is insignificant to me. While I heard some rumblings about this record when it was released in 2007 I didn’t get my hands on it till probably around February, but let me tell you that I had wished I had it before that.

I wished that I had it the day it came out, I wish that I was there when he recorded it, hell I even wish I was sitting on his molars while he was singing it. This is just a perfect little record. Very plain, very heartfelt, hits me in all the right places.

The record itself was made in only the way great or mythic records seem to come about. Ala “Exile on Main St”, Mr. Veron, exiled himself to a cabin in the mountains of Wisconsin (Wisconsin has mountains? Who knew?) a few months later a bearded Justin emerged from said wilderness with a record that will endure in my memory for a very long time. Makes a bald guy wishes he had lots of hair and a big beard and was able to go hid in the woods to find some songs. Dig this record out of whatever shop, mp3 site, or however you procure music, particularly for those of you enduring the snow filled months that are upon us, it will keep you warm in only the way heartbreak can.

Happy Holidays eveyone...thanks for indulging me this year. See you in 2009.....


pUNKrOCKfairy said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You've made my Christmas wish come true too!

Jim said...

You are a fine young man, Faranda. Because of this, I will grace you with my responses to your top 10. That's right - I will not post a top 10 of my own. I will strictly comment on yours. Why? Because I haven't made my list yet, pal.

Here we go:

TV on the Radio: I kind of like this one. Maybe better than Cookie Mountain. I tend to get lost in the murk of Cookie Mountain.

MGMT: I'm not on board yet. Truth be told, I only have about 4 or 5 songs from this record but other than "Time to Pretend," none have clipped my feathers just yet. Tell me why I should like it more. I will listen to you. Oh wait. You just did.

Grouper: I don't know this at all. I am not cool.

Blitzen Trapper: This is a record I can't wait to hear. I tend to get into a band then I go back to the beginning and try to end with their present record. So I'm still knee deep in Wild Mountain Nation, which is awesome.

Miles Benjamin something or other: Anothe reason I'm not indie.

Dr. Dog: Oh hell yes. Love it. It sounds more dire and baked than their first two for some reason. The basement was mustier, the vents were clogged, their vintage vests were tighter, the smokes were unfiltered...the whole mess just sounds leaner and meaner. Did any of that make sense? And how about that Reindeer song?

Fleet Foxes - I had 3 songs through most of the year and just bought the rest. It's great. Everything else has been said. Bring your beard.

Vampire Weekend - A bit frontloaded but still tons o' fun. "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" is still awesome no matter how many times your boy David Dye plays it.

Death Vessel - Sounds like something I need to hear. You love death metal, Ben.

Bon Iver - Another one I got to late (sometime in the fall) and can't stop listening to. The opening track is really, really gorgeous (is he ebowing an acoustic guitar?) and his voice is remarkably soulful for the style. Just when you thought someone couldn't do anything new with indie folk...

Great list, man. One question though - where are the Walkmen? WHERE ARE THEY?

Bald Ben said...

I did listen to that Walkmen album. They were a band I wrote off a long time ago until one day while at lunch at bar(copa II) they were playing "A Hundred Miles off" and I was like is this some sorta of long lost Dylan record I never heard? I love that album. I feel the new one is just more of the same stuff. It's really good but not killing me. Tell Dom to shove it with that one.

MGMT like I said they really set the bar high with the opener but there are a lot of great songs on there. Take the crap outta your ears and listen to it.

I would have never known Grouper if not for Umile. He had it on his list and I looked 'em up. pretty great stuff.

Jim, if I know you, and I like to say I have an idea. I think we are friends for a reason, right? Blitzen Trapper is right up you alley. Not that I know about your alley or anything. Like I said we are just friends.

Look at this


You're the man. our families should hang out and we can discus this in further detail. Music not MS.


You’re welcome. I'm not sure what it was that I did to make any wish to come true, but man am I glad I did. You were definitely one of the people I was referencing in my post. Rock on.

Tracys Ramblings said...

It's funny, but I always write the same thing "We here at.." when I'm blogging. It makes all of this sound more official and not a waste of time, which it totally is not.

You know, my oldest daughter wrote a letter to Santa at school that was read on the local radio station. She asked for normal kid things, a Nintendo DS, a cellphone (which sadly, she did not get) but the last paragraph was this:
But Santa, seriously here, if you could just bring a cure for MS so that my mom and all of the other people with MS could get better, I wouldn't take a present. Her feeling better would be the best present of all. And maybe you could bring her a DS that she would share with me too?

The radio guy reading it cried. I cried.
Such innocence.
That's what I miss most. Christmas, for me, was a time of wonder and magic, thinking anything was possible.
When did that stop?