Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Long and the Short of It... Part 3

I had hoped to get the longlist wrapped up before now but New Years celebrations and a trip to the NFC Wild Card game in Minneapolis interfered with that plan. Ah well - c'est la vie; here's list three.

The Hold Steady - Stay Positive (Vagrant)

The world's best bar band follow up the amazing Boys And Girls In America (#9 on my 2006 Best Of) with a pretty solid fourth effort that further mines the drunken good times Craig Finn lives and breathes. Speaking of drunken good times, rumour has it I missed a particularly good show when the Hold Steady played Fargo in July. A Wurlitzer rising out of the stage and DJ Co-op riding a little kid's bike?!

Here's my favourite track from the album, "Sequestered In Memphis"

The Black Keys - Attack and Release (Nonesuch)

While another Danger Mouse-produced record got more attention in '08, his work with Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney resulted in the better record. Loose and bluesy, Attack and Release also features Marc Ribot - the king of loose and bluesy guitar work. DM's production is understated to the point where if you didn't read his name on the liner notes you'd be unlikely to know he was involved. There is a bit of a groove to A&R, which he no doubt contributed to, though that groove would have been amplified had Ike Turner worked on the record as had been rumored before his death. Ah well, don't think about the one that got away - just enjoy what you have.

Connie Price & The Keystones - Tell Me Something (Ubiquity)

Like El Michaels Affair on their Sounding Out The City record, Connie Price & The Keytones create dope hip-hop instrumentals within a band setting. Tell Me Something finds CP&K teaming up with some great emcees including the legendary Big Daddy Kane and up-and-comer Ohmega Watts to craft some cold crush classics of the new school. Mykah 9 from the Freestyle Fellowship rides the bass heavy "Highlife" to grand effect and things wrap up with a double dose of Percee P. Here's "Masters At Work," the song, not the group:

Earth - The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull (Southern Lord)

Now either I wasn't paying attention when Hibernaculum first came out or I just didn't get to hear it before the end of 2007. Either way, that album didn't make my list last year but after being tipped to Earth after the fact, I was up on them in time for The Bees' release. Apparently what they play is referred to as "drone doom" - which may be a pretty weak genre name but speaks to the spaced out heavy metal vibe this band has mined for six albums. Here's lead-off track, "The Driver":

Santogold - Santogold (Downtown)

This album nearly made the top list solely on the strength of its first single, "L.E.S. Artistes." Despite having heard it about a thousand times over the year it never wore out its welcome or lost its impact (unlike say, this song). While it never quite recaptures the high of that first song, the album as a whole is catchy and multi-dimensional. I don't know why but I find the "L.E.S. Artistes" video somewhat unsettling:

Deerhunter - Microcastle / Weird Era cont. (Kranky)

I don't think it rivals Cryptograms, but credit is still due to Bradford Cox for managing to follow up that stellar record with material that doesn't pale in comparison. That he managed to come up with TWO albums worth of material boggles me a bit...

Atlas Sound - Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel (Kranky)

...though two albums don't boggle me as much as THREE! Cox's other project, Atlas Sound, finds him doing something entirely different but equally good. The dude is apparently hoarding talent. Which may explain why Nickelback has none.

Bison BC - Quiet Earth (Metal Blade)

I first heard about this Vancouver band when they were just "Bison" but after signing with Metal Blade, the group added BC (which could be taken as either a reference to their home province, or the prehistoric magnitude of their rock) to preempt any lawsuits as they entered the US music market. Kudos to local metal maniac James Korba for being up on the band so long ago that I was looking forward to Quiet Earth before even Cretin Rob knew about it (speaking of Cretin Rob - if you're in Winnipeg and you read this before Friday January 9th come out to the Cretin Hop). Riff-heavy and punishing, Quiet Earth is anything but quiet - have a listen to the "Slow Hand of Death":

Horse Feathers - House With No Home (Kill Rock Stars)

It may seem a bit incongruous to follow up the very loud Bison BC with the very quiet Horse Feathers but that's the kind of year it was. I first discovered Portland's Horse Feathers when I was looking to do a show on "equine music" and found 2006's Words Are Dead album in UMFM's library. House With No Home builds on the strengths of that record and finds lead vocalist Justin Ringle echoing early Iron & Wine (without sounding derivative) with his hushed, delicate delivery. The not-so secret weapon in Horse Feathers though are the gorgeous string arrangements of Heather and Peter Broderick - cello and violin are the perfect accompaniment to Ringle's heartfelt songs. Here's Justin and Peter performing "Curs In The Weeds," in the weeds:

Peter Broderick - Home (Hush Records)

So Bradford Cox isn't the only person with more than one album to make the longlist. Broderick's solo album Home - while different from his work with Horse Feathers - is no less impressive. Opener "Games" bathes the listener in a warm wash of sound (and lyric-less vocals) that sets the tone for the album - it's as immediately comfortable as coming home. Eschewing the violin he plays in Horse Feathers, and the piano he has played in the past, Broderick crafted this album simply with layered guitar work and his voice. The results are beautiful. Here's Broderick performing "Below It" from Home, live in Berlin:

I'm going to wrap Part 3 up, but there's only one more longlist post left. Watch for it soon. Thanks for reading, now start listening...

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