I figured that I would grace the digital archives, yet again. I only write one or two of these bloody blogs a year. So, let's see... I'm due! I will spare all of you the pity party, and instead, write something a little more meaningful. How 'bout something like: "Highlights of '08." Or, perhaps "Songs to Piss off Your Tone-Deaf Neighbors." Actually, I originally considered doing a "Most Annoying Songs of '08 That Sucked So Hard, They Sucked Ass Fuck Juice Through a Silly Straw!" Alas, It would prove to be too emotionally draining for me, plus, I would be too disgusted to actually finish it.
Moving along then... This past year, I've managed to hold my own; kicking against an angry array of screaming emo kids, trendy-ass snot-nosed indie punks, and beguiling Mormon bigots. Fortunately for me, all of that was by the wayside. I can also attest to not falling victim to all the sugary-sweet, saccharin fueled, pop commodities that were strewn about the air waves in 2008. Well, almost... This one weekend; I was smitten by some vampires, but it was temporal, for the most part. By mere serendipitous blunder, I happened upon some real gems. Other times, it felt like I wasted the better part of my evening, sifting through a bunch of rubbish---the schlock that spewed forth Pitchfork's backdoor! Rolling Stone's Rave Reviews---the Tumultuous Top 10, 20, 50, etc... They're fads, not music!!! But, you know what? "There's gold in them there hills." (and copper, too! But, fuck copper) You just have to know where to look. It doesn't hurt to have a little luck on your side, too! Unfortunately, there are only 365 days in the year and of these past 365 days, I've managed to purchase only 157 CD's. I know that I've missed some Great Reward, some Unknown Pleasure, and abandoned joy---just begging to be discovered; feelings not yet felt, some enigmatic tune smith pounding out rhythm's in his mother's basement, on a dusty old analog synth. It's so very depressing to think about what escapes my grasp, each year... The stuff I may never hear.
Instead of merely listing the top releases of 2008, I will also mention a few "older" releases that I was fortunate enough to discover. Sure, I may have discovered them a bit late, but hey; at least I discovered them!
*The following appear in no particular order and are assembled as they slip into my stream of consciousness*
1. No Pussy Blues
(Single) by: Grinderman (2007)highlight/s: Chain of Flowers
So, I buy the Grinderman album sometime around mid 2007. Almost a whole year later, I snag the single for it's inclusion of a single b-side. I'm thoroughly convinced that no one, NO ONE, can write a love song like Sir Nicholas Cave. This song is a single testament to what feels like an eternal struggle to find my better half. Nick Cave declares, "...people keep telling me I'm lonely, that I'd be happy if you know me."
by: John Cale (2003)highlight/s: Things, Things X, Bicycle, Archimedes, Twilight Zone, Letter from Abroad, Set Me Free
I'm sure you've heard the term, "blew the doors wide open." This particular piece of work did a whole lot more than that! How 'bout, "blasted the the whole fuckin' door, right off its bloody hinges." But, seriously... It's the first excitingly new and creative work of art that Cale has done for quite sometime! And really, that's exactly how this album should be taken into context; as art. A living, breathing, pulsating realization of arduous proportions that mutates into something new with each listen. The ghostly remains of Cale's past body of work is still intact, only this time; it's buried slightly under a myriad of cacophony: glitches, distortion, pops, clicks, hisses, animalistic grunts of the demonically possessed, and what ever other esoteric noises one could ever hope to conjure. Most critics will tell you that present day Cale can never hope to come close to ever touching the fringes of the successors in his backlog, like: 'Fear' or 'Paris 1919.' I won't negate those "vintage" releases, however; I'm sure those records were mind blowing for their time and were light years ahead of anything else Cale's contemporaries were dabbling in, suffice to say, that Cale's current works are tachyonic-light years ahead of anything we could ever possibly fathom. Just like Evolution; the next act of transgression will be that of the Hobosapien.
3. 5 Tracks
by: John Cale (2003)highlight/s: tracks 1-5
These 5 tracks were released just before Hobosapies hit the street and were recorded during/around the same sessions. The tracks are independent from the aforementioned release, and together, with Hobosapiens; they make a killer double disc set that is the perfect induction into the Cult of Cale!
by: Foetus (2001)highlight/s: Cirrhosis of the Heart, Mandelay, Suspect, (You Got Me Confused With) Someone Who Cares, and Kreibabe.
Think Casablanca; only with switchblades and hand grenades and more black than white! With super secret spy's around every corner, drinking Molotov cocktails and playing Russian roulette!
5. Scott 3
by: Scott Walker (1969) highlights: It's Raining Today, Copenhagen, Big Louise, We Came Through, 30 Century Man, Winter Night, Sons Of, Funeral Tango
As the appropriately titled opening track would indicate; "It's Raining Today." The PERFECT music to accompany a winter evening. This is exactly how I took it in: It's December 26th, the glow of Christmas is still present. It's 4 in the evening, the weather is overcast with a slight touch of snow. I'm at my computer desk, with a hot cup of Matcha tea with rosemary. I sip and listen and observe. As I take in all the stimuli that surrounds me; for a moment in time, everything stood still, and all was well.
by: Pere Ubu (1989) *Remastered and Expanded (2007)highlights:Breath, Race the Sun, Waiting for Mary, Bus Called Happiness, Love Love Love, The Waltz, *Wine Dark Sparks, *Bang the Drum
Probably how the Beach Boys would sound if they dropped acid and their lead singer suffered from St. Vitus Dance. Thank you, Dr. Jones!
7. Women As Lovers
by: Xiu Xiu (2008) highlights: I Do What I Want When I Want, No Friend Oh!, Under Pressure [feat. Michael Gira], Black Keyboard, You Are Pregnant, You Are Dead, Gayle Lynn
This one is a little more accessible, when compared to their previous endeavors; which lacked sufficient continuity. This album, as a whole, seems to be more congruent. I guess you could say this is Xiu Xiu's attempt at making a "pop" record. While this is definitely not my favorite Xiu Xiu release, It's still one of their better ones; given, that Michael Gira makes an appearance.
8. shotgun wedding
by: Lydia Lunch & Roland S. Howard (1991)highlights: Burning Skulls, Endless Fall, What Is Memory, Pigeon Town, Black Juju
This is Lunch at the top of her game, with none other than long time Birthday Party and Bad Seeds collaborator; Rowland S. Howard. For the most part, it sounds like a hybrid of proto-punked out goth-rock with Roland's blistering guitar assaults. Truly, Lydia Lunch is Nick Cave's female counterpart---This is pretty much like an extension of the force that was the Immaculate Consumptive! Brutal, poignant, raw, and yet, somehow delicate; as if it could all just fall apart at any given moment.
9. The Tired Sounds Of
by: Stars of the Lid (2001)highlights: (disc1) Requiem for Dying Mothers (Parts 1 & 2), The Lonely People (Are Getting Lonelier), (disc2) Piano Aquieu, Ballad of Distances (Parts 1 & 2)
My foray into the Minimalism/Drone category of music. This is definitely mood music, but when you're in the right mood, it can prove to be extremely enjoyable and transcendental. Most of the compositions are presented, thematically, in two or three parts; where one piece bleeds into the next and then shifts direction throughout the course of each subsequent piece. God, it's beautiful! If the last few milliseconds before the body succumbs to death could be slowed down to a pause, this is probably how it would sound: Quaint, peaceful, mysterious, and very heavy...
10. The Sound of The Smiths
(2xcd) by: the Smiths (2008)highlights: C'mon; it's the bloody Smiths!
Sure, I know what you're probably thinking. "Another Smiths compilation?!" "Aren't those comps a dime a dozen?" Blah, blah, blah... OK! So, here's the deal. I just got into the Smiths this past year. "Holy shit!" Right?! I should have been jamming this back in high school! The "teenage me" would've ate this right up. So, it speaks to me now just like I'm sure it would have, back then. The unrequited love... The dead-end job... All of the trials and tribulations, worries and woes of, "do I have what it takes to make it in a world that doesn't want me and would much rather swallow me whole?" Sorry. I got a bit off track. Why bother with this if you already have the other Smiths' comps and releases? Well, if you're an audiophile, such as myself; all 45 tracks have been lovingly restored and mastered for optimal sound quality. I may not have listened to the Smiths back then, but even if I had; I can't imagine them ever sounding better than they do now!
11. Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
by: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (2008)highlights: Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, Night of the Lotus Eaters, We Call Upon the
Author, Lie Down Here (& Be My Girl), Midnight Man, More News from
This is not 'classic Cave,' so to speak. It's done in the same vain as the Grinderman recordings. But, just like the Grinderman album, the best stuff exists as non album b sides. For some prime Cave, check out the three b sides from the following singles: Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (Accidents Will Happen), More News From Nowhere (Fleeting Love), and Midnight Man (Hey Little Firing Squad)
12. Hearts And Bones
by: Paul Simon (1983)highlights: When Numbers Get Serious, Think Too Much (a), Think Too Much (b), Song About The Moon, Rene And Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War, Cars Are Cars
... Honest, genuine, and intelligent. Conjures memories of eternal summers by the campfire; roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories.
13. Don't Give Up on Me
by: Solomon Burke (2002)highlights: Don't Give Up On Me, Fast Train, Diamond In Your Mind, Soul
Searchin', Stepchild, None Of Us Are Free, Sit This One Out
With such greats, as: Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Van Morrison, Brian Wilson, Elvis
Costello, and Nick Lowe; all lending their lyrical prowess to this creative output, how could you possibly go wrong?--You can't!
14. The Ape of Naples
by: Coil (2005)highlights: EVERYTHING!!!
I may get hammered for saying this, but, "Damn! This is my absolute, favorite release from Coil!!!" I know I'm a neophyte to the wonderful and frightening world of Coil, but I'm still entitled to my opinion! 'The New Backwards' was released earlier, this past year. That too, is definitely worth picking up! It's just unfortunate that it will be their last venture, since Jhonn's untimely demise. I guess it's due time to investigate The Threshold HouseBoy's Choir...
by: Have a Nice Life (2008)highlights: (disc1) A Quick One Before the Eternal Worm Devours Connecticut, Bloodhail, Hunter, There Is No Food, (disc2) Holy Fucking Shit: 40,000, The Future, I Don't Love, Earthmover
I honestly can not say enough great things about this recording! This could very well be the definitive release of '08! It explores the darkest corners of the "Drone/Shoegaze" genre, all while adding it's own distinct take on it. Almost like old school, Jesus and Mary Chain or My Bloody Valentine. The first track on disc one is so incredibly warm and inviting. Imagine, if you will, being led by the hand, further and further down an uncharted cavern---you have a flash light, but it's dim---fragments of light dance around the cavernous walls as the subterranean lake diffracts the beam of light--the darkness is thirsty for such light--and soon--very soon--your flashlight dies and you're left all alone. Total Bewilderment! That's pretty much how I would describe the transition from track 1 to track 2.
16. Mr. Alien Brain vs. The Skinwalkers
by: Psychic TV/PTV3 (2008)highlights: No Good Trying, The Alien Brain, Papal Breakdance, Pickles and Jam, Foggy Notion, New York Story (Michael Gira Mix), Rollercoaster
This one was a pleasant and unexpected release from PTV. It's centered around the unfortunate loss of Lady Jaye and seems to come off as an exorcism or a cathartic release, for Genesis. There are a couple of reworked tunes on here which end up sounding a lot fresher, and dare I say; poppier, than their original counterparts. Genesis draws influence from the Velvet Underground and 13th Floor Elevators, to name just a few. Michael Gira even lends a helping hand for his rendition of 'New York Story.'
17. 4:13 Dream
by: the Cure (2008)highlights: Underneath the Stars, The Reasons Why, Sirensong, The Hungry Ghost, The Perfect Boy, This. Hear and Now. With You
This is an excellent return to form for the Cure. I never cared too much for Blood Flowers, and let's not even talk about the S/T release! This one actually sounds like vintage Cure! Well; maybe not vintage, a la 1980's Cure, but pretty damn close. I'd say it fits in nicely between 1989's Disintegration and '92's Wish. As always, be sure to check out the singles to The Perfect Boy and Sleep When I'm Dead for some more b-side bliss.
18. Hey Ma
by: James (2008)highlights: Bubbles, Hey Ma, Waterfall, Oh My Heart, Boom Boom, Upside, Whiteboy, I Wanna Go Home
After James' hiatus in 2002, I thought they had called it quits. Then, without a warning, this album surfaces in 2008! I'd say it's their best since Whiplash!
19. Go Away White
by: Bauhaus (2008)highlights: Too Much 21'st Century, International Bullet Proof Talent, Endless Summer Of The Damned, Mirror Remains, Black Stone Heart, The Dog's A Vapour, Zikir
If some one were to tell me, at the beginning of 2008, that Bauhaus were going to regroup and record a new album, I would have told them that they were full of shit! Seriously; I never saw this one coming. It's been some odd, 15 years since their last album. Sure, they might be mocking the very genre that they helped establish but at least they're having fun doing it. More fun than dancing around on a bunch of bibles!
20. The Devil's Muse
(soundtrack) by: David J & Ego Plum (2008)highlights: Black Dahlia Theme, Indelible Blue, Pretty, In The Temple Of The Id, The Devil's Muse (Burnt), The Devil's Muse (First Cut)
I'm not even going to discuss the movie; frankly, because I'm rambling on about
music, not film. Besides, it's one of those things that you just have to see for yourself, trust me... If your familiar with J's previous work, than you should feel right at home with this one! It's classic (solo J) presented in his signature dark-cabaret style with plenty of menacing undertones, in fact; In The Temple Of The Id, sounds as though it were lifted straight off one of Bauhaus' early albums. Overall, the whole thing plays out like a showtunes-esque carnival from hell, and as J would say; "it's the only show in town!"
21. Black Hill: Midnight at the Blighted Star
by: Human Greed (2008)highlights: Invocation (III), Silver Coin, Portrait Of God With Broken Toys,
Examination, Freeview, Midnight At The Blighted Star, The Graces Departing
This one was a long time coming. It's their third release, and their best! The past two outings seemed to posses an artificial feel; intrinsic to their aesthetics. This one, however; is a lot more pastoral and organic. That's all due, thanks to Julia Kent (Antony & the Johnsons), Fabrizio Palumbo (Larsen, Blind Cave Salamander), Clodagh Simonds (Fovea Hex, Mellow Candle) and my favorite; David Tibet (Current 93). Besides the beautiful music you'll find on this release,
you also get the beautifully decadent artwork that Deryk Thomas does so well. Check out more of his work here: http://www.derykthomas.com/
22. Songs In A&E
by: Spiritualized (2008)highlights: Sweet Talk, Death Take Your Fiddle, Soul on Fire, Sitting on Fire, Don't Hold Me Close, Borrowed Your Gun
Where's Thighpaulsandra!? While this outing is far from their magnum opus, (arguably, between Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space & Let it Come Down) it's still a notable entry into the Spiritualized Cannon. Soul on Fire, is simply beautiful!
23. Martha Wainwright
by: Martha Wainwright (2005)highlights: Factory, Ball & Chain, When The Day Is Short, Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole
If you like folksy female singers with sharp wit and a "Fuck You" attitude, than you should definitely give her a listen. 'I Know You're Married, But I've Got Feelings Too' was released, this past year, however; in my honest opinion, it's not as explicitly blunt or as genuine as her S/T release.
by: Naked City (1993)highlights: *because of the breadth of such a release; it is imperative, that it be taken in as a whole.
What's more frightening than playing Silent Hill all by yourself, with no lights on? Listening to this whilst looking at any of Hans Bellmer's works of art, including the one that graces the cover of 'Absinthe.' A very atypical recording form Naked City; one of great depths, for sure! To be fair, you should probably give it 2 or 3 listens before you can expect any of it to seep in. Kinda like opening the so called
"Third Eye," only aurally. These are sounds from the ether, invisible to the naked eye, however; formless creates form and yields way to the disturbing images that manifest themselves within the mind's eye. Brilliant!!!
25. The Beautiful Struggle
by: Talib Kweli (2004)highlights: We Know, I Try, Around My Way, We Got The Beat, Ghetto Show, Black Girl Pain, Beautiful Struggle
No; I'm not regressing back to my high school days. Yes, this is a Rap/Hip Hop release, but, this restored my faith in the genre. Amen...
In retrospect, it's not much, but these are the releases that ended up getting stuck inside my Cd player and ended up having to most profound impact on me.