Sunday, December 28, 2008

top records of 2008

I believe this is the third year I have been doing this. I think this is pretty helpful for finding good music. I have asked a few of my music loving friends to give me their top 10 records for the year. the only rule was that the record had to be released in 2008. for last years list click here.

two notes: I'd love to add hyperlinks for you, but I don't have time, and you have google, so there. also, feel free to add commentary, or your own lists in the comments section.

my list first, then my friends (notice I am quick and to the point):

Brian T. Murphy

sun kil moon - april
foals - antidotes
ryan adams - cardinology
ray lamontagne - gossip in the grain
cut copy - in ghost colours
beck - modern guilt
sera cahoone - only as the day is long
jon foreman - summer
coldplay - viva la vida
red mountain chuch - silent night

*wanted to include the bon iver record but can't because I got it in 2007.

Clint Wells

1. Ryan Adams - Cardinology
I promise this was not my top record of the year just because it's Ryan Adams. It's the sound of the Cardinals growing and weaving together through beautiful landscapes of deep, dark awesomeness. Download Immediately: Crossed Out Name, Sink Ships, Evergreen.

2. Hot Chip - Made In The Dark
This is a dance/techno band from Europe (where else? sheesh) that actually have really GREAT pop songs hidden beneath their beautiful walls of electronic sounds. Download Immediately: Ready For the Floor (top song of the whole year), Shake A Fist.

3. Metallica - Death Magnetic
Um, the POWER is BACK!!! This is for anyone who misses the ...And Justice For All days mixed with a bit of Black Album and Load/ReLoad era. A happy record for those of us who have waited patiently for Metallica to remind the world that they are the seminal soul destroyers of metal goodness. Download Immediately: The End of the Line, That Was Just Your Life.

4. Counting Crows - Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings
The first half of this record rocks like no other Crows record. The second half is typical sweetness reminiscent of August and Everything After. Download Immediately: Sundays, Washington Square.

5. Coldplay - Viva La Vida or Death and all His Friends
This record has grown on me a lot. I know Coldplay is really uncool to like now...but when the hell did that happen? They are undeniable. Download Immediately: Lost (OMG, fucking amazing tune), 42.

6. Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs
The first time I heard Grapevine Fires I nearly crapped my britches. Enough said. Download Immediately: Grapevine Fires.

7. Jon Black - Goodbye Golden Age
This record has some songs that have truly haunted me. Songs my soul has continued singing long after the record has ended. That means a lot to me and so does this collection of songs. Download Immediately: The Ghost of Elvis, Nothing But a Fire.

8. Al Green - Lay It Down
Surprisingly amazing record. Produced by ?uestlove. Sexy, tight, withheld. WAY behind the beat slow jams. A legend...and this record reminded me why. Download Immediately: Too Much

9. Ron Sexsmith - Exit Strategy of the Soul
What a sweetheart this guy is. Wow. LOVE his voice. LOVE his band. LOVE his tunes. Download Immediately: This Is How I Know, Thoughts and Prayers.

10. Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords
These songs are funny, sexy, surprisingly verbose, and of course, very smart. Download Immediately: Business Time, The Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room)

Alex Mason

1. Evil Urges - My Morning Jacket
2. Microcastle - Deer Hunter
3. Tha Carter 3 - Lil Wayne
4. Dear Scince - TV on the Radio
5. Hercules and Love Affair
6. Department of Eagles
7. Feed the Animals - Girl Talk
8. Dig Lazarus Dig - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
9. Fleet Foxes
10. Injustice Dance Party - East Buddha

Price Mason

Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago
The Walkmen- You & Me
Dennis Wilson- Pacific Ocean Blue (rereleased)
Deerhunter- Microcastle
Cut Copy- In Ghost Colours
Magnetic Fields- Distortion
Beach House- Devotion
Gza- Protools
Fleet Foxes- Fleet Foxes
Lil Wayne- Tha Carter III

Nicholas Fiedler

Phantom Planet, Raise The Dead
Death Cab, Narrow Stairs
Ray LaMontagne, Gossip in the Grain
Nine Inch Nails, The Slip
Coldplay, Viva La Vida
Flight of the Conchords, Flight of The Conchords
Jon Black, Goodbye Golden Age
Nick Lowe, Jesus of Cool
Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
Ben Folds, Way to normal

Benj Pocta

1. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
2. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
3. Ray LaMontagne - Gossip in the Grain
4. Sarah Jaffe - Even Born Again
5. Theater Fire - Matter & Light
6. Samamidon - All is Well

Jon Black

10. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
09. Hayes Carll - Trouble in Mind
08. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
07. Weezer - The Red Album
06. Ben Folds - Way to Normal
05. Aimee Mann - @#%&*! Smilers
04. The Whigs - Mission Control
03. Coldplay - Viva La Vida
02. Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal
01. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
01. Jon Black - Goodbye Golden Age

Brad Lyons
In no particular order.

1. Ben Folds-Way to Normal
2. Gossip in the Grain-Ray LaMontagne
3. Narrow Stairs-Death Cab
4. Only By the Night-Kings of Leon
5. Cardinology-Ryan Adams & The Cardinals.
6. (*)For Emma, Forever Ago-Bon Iver
7. Fleet Foxes-Fleet Foxes
8. Viva la Vida-Coldplay
9. April-Sun Kil Moon
10. Beck-Modern Guilt

* Yes this album was released independently in '07, but the national release was '08. Cut me some slack.

Larry Holt

in no particular order:
Magnetic Fields, Distortion
American Music Club, The Golden Age
The Raveonettes, Lust Lust Lust
Sun Kil Moon, April
Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
The Gutter Twins, Saturnalia
REM, Accelerate
Santogold, Santogold
Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak
Guns N Roses, Chinese Democracy

(I thought that Bon Iver record sucked.)

Shawn Avery

top 10 (-5)

i tried to come up with 10 albums, or even 10 artists that i really liked this year and i failed. i don't buy music anymore, or seek out new music. i'm long gone from the hungry-hipster habit of buying several cd's a month. i've been buying albums for 25 years... eventually, you get sick of the search, although i'm greatful when a good song finds me, which luckily did happen this year.

modern music releases are ubiquitous these days. we no longer have to seek out music. it finds us. my favorite album this year was released by one of the biggest rock acts in history... for free... on no label.

tangibility is dead, and so goes with it any true application of the album as we know it. when juxtaposed with the year 1968 - with rock, folk and soul music exploding out in ten million directions, pollinating the entire planet or 1978 - with the gigantic genre shifts of punk, new wave, heavy metal and early hip-hop... 2008 shuttered at it's own cultural irrelevance, and scurried away to some dark cubicle underground.

even 2007 seems like a great year compared to this one. history is dead, but that isn't neccessarily a bad thing. here a 5 decent albums that i haven't even finished listening to yet, but probably deserve a nod. there was definitely more exciting art being made for the eyes than for the ears this year...

nine inch nails - the slip
mgmt - oracular spectacular
santogold - santogold
empire of the sun - walking on a dream
radiohead - in rainbows

Carla Jean Whitley

Cardinals, Cardinology
It's far from my favorite Ryan Adams, but like I said, this is the year of the fan girl.

Tristan Prettyman, Hello
I can't help but smile when I'm listening to Tristan. This was a perfect spring CD.

Peter Bradley Adams, Leavetaking
Apparently this was also the year of dark, moody CDs... And Birmingham folks. This list is disproportionately skewed toward the locals.

Matthew Mayfield, The Fire EP
I am really excited to see what's ahead for MM.

Act of Congress, Declaration
One of my favorite local bands, and even better live.

Sandra McCracken, Red Balloon
This is my favorite in years from Sandra.

Sam Phillips, Don't Do Anything
Again with the moody CDs... there are a few moments when the light breaks through, but the dark, moody feel makes it for me.

Red Mountain Music, Silent Night
What's a year without a Red Mountain CD on the top 10?

Tift Merritt, Another Country
This CD can fight its way into the top 10 on the strength of "Broken" alone.

Punch Brothers, Punch
I was prepared to be devastated by Nickel Creek's "hiatus." Then I heard Chris with these guys. I think I'll be OK.


My favorite album of 2008:

Portishead - Third
Sweet mother of mercy, this is a beautiful album. Like swimming across a lake at sunset. Seamless, thrilling, suspenseful, sensual, transcendent. Best listened to from one end to the other, in its entirety.

Honorable mentions:

My Brightest Diamond - A Thousand Shark's Teeth
Deerhunter - Microcastle
Beck - Modern Guilt
Pylon - Gyrate. This one actually came out like 30 years ago. But it's new to me. And this may just be what I've been missing all my life.

Brett Echerd

Foals - Antidotes
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Paper Route - Are We All Forgotten
Brooke Waggoner - Heal For The Honey
Red Mountain Music - Silent Night
Coldplay - Viva La Vida
Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
Sigur Ros - Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust
Weezer - The Red Album
Beck - Modern Guilt

George Edema

Coldplay - Viva...
Pretty good. I like the energy. I put this one in whenever I can't think of anything to put in.

Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
I really liked this album. It is unique sounding, and super catchy (which turned to annoying on one or two tracks).

Counting Crows - Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings
I was very disappointed with this one. Nothing stood out in a good way at all.

Juno - Soundtrack
Great compilation, Any soundtrack that has both a Kinks song and a Velvet Underground song is okay by me.
my retro pick for this year is Liz Phair's Whitechocolatespaceegg - cool voice, interesting delivery, super creative lyrics, and brilliant insight into the painful nuances of life.

Brian Barrett

I actually have 7 and they aren't all good:

1. "Cardinology" - Ryan Adams. "Easy Tiger" had lots of great hooks and singles - they grabbed you at first listen. "Cardinolgy" is a much more subtle album - and for some reason felt strange the first few listens with short songs and abrupt endings - but these songs are so incredibly solid and compete... yes - simple is usually more beautiful that complexity. And jumping out on a limb here: the Cardnials are the best touring band in the world right now.
2. "April" - Sun Kil Moon. Wow.
3. "Viva La Vida" - Coldplay. Chalk one up in the "redemption" category. "X&Y" - while it had some bright spots - was such a lame follow-up to "Rush of Blood" that I'd pretty much written Coldplay of as a creative entity. "Viva" flows well, sounds great and is full of nice elements (weird tag shifts on many songs). This one is a pleasure to listen to. Caveat: the videos for this album are less than creative, as was their extended SNL performance this fall.
4. "Narrow Stairs" - Death Cab for Cutie. Nice bass parts (guitars too).

Going to purchase with Christmas $. I've been streaming these and just haven't bought yet:
1. "Fleet Foxes" - Fleet Foxes. Kind of Autumn Defensey, Midlakey and Jim Jamesy...
2. "Volume One" - She & Him.

Disappointment of the year:
1. "Way to Normal" - Ben Folds. I have to say something about this one. Ben's last outing (2005's "Songs for Silverman") was a well crafted album & I enjoyed every track. It followed a year of 3 EP releases, also each full of great songs. I'm not sure what happened to Ben over the past 3 years but his muse must have skipped town. Do yourself a favor and skip this album.

Jeff Irwin

J. Tillman Vacilando Territory Blues
Mirah Location Temporary
Dawn Kinnard The Courtesy Fall
Peter Bradley Adams Leavetaking
Thad Cockrell To Be Loved
The Two Man Gentlemen Band Heavy Petting
Stephen Gordon Almond EP
Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago
Coldplay Viva La Vida
O'Death Broken Hymn, Limbs, and Skin

Chris Copeland (official winner of 2008 verbose awards)

I know you like it short but sweet Murph, but I like the commentary and Blogger gives you the space for free. I’ll try to keep it shorter than Jacob (from last year).

#10 Air France, No Way Down & The Deep Vibrations, Veracruz

A slight cheat here. Because these are EPs I am combining them as one album. These groups couldn’t be more different. Air France is techno pop and very enjoyable. The Deep Vibrations is southern rock (more like Ryan Adams than Lynard Skynard) and if Veracruzhad been a full-length record it might have cracked my top 3. These are very well conceived songs.

#9 The Joseph Arthur Cornucopia

Another cheat. Arthur got bit by the Ani DiFranco / Prince / Ryan Adams bug and released A LOT of music this year: 4 EPs before a full-length record in September. Unlike DiFranco though (a few absolutely killer five star songs and a few absolute throwaway one star spngs) these releases are all solid three and four star songs. Nothing mind blowing and nothing bad, just good music and a fun departure on the 2nd EP into psychedelic rock experimentation. The strongest songs actually come on the simple, first EP, Could We Survive.

#8 M83, Saturdays=Youth

The sugar cereal of my musical year. Tasty synth-pop straight out of a Molly Ringwald film; the final track is so ballsy-11 minutes of two synthesizer chords.

#7 Laura Gibson, If You Come to Greet Me

This record requires a certain mood or environment. They are sparse (most songs are just her vocal and a classical guitar) but pretty folk songs.

#6 MGMT, Oracular Spectacular

Is it possible to place an album in the top 10 on the strength of one song? If so, this could be it. The opening track, Time to Pretend, I just never want to stop playing. Good thing the rest of the album is excellent as well.

#5 The Black Keys, Attack & Release

The hard driving counter to Laura Gibson.

#4 David Byrne & Brian Eno; Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

Because of what he has accomplished with U2, Brian Eno is a producer of god-like proportions. But I recently listened to the Talking Heads album Remain in Light (which Eno prooduced with Byrne) for the first time and I thought it kind of sucked, despite it’s “seminal” status. I guess the 30 years in between was a good time of maturing, because this album has lost none of the experimental sounds and rhythms yet is so incredibly listenable. I bought this album on sale “just to see” and it has turned out to be one that stays on the iPod.

#3 TV on the Radio, Dear Science

A great example of a band taking a fantastic record (Return to Cookie Mountain from 2006) and tastefully improving upon it.

#2 Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago

Just plain awesome. Will become the cliché choice, but who gives a damn?

#1 Matthew Ryan, Matthew Ryan Vs. the Silver State

My favorite of the year. I wonder how this guy made 10 records before I heard of him. This one is so close to perfect I am scared to delve into the past ones. Doug Lancio (of Patty Griffin fame) played guitars and produced this with the same kind of Daniel Lanois / ethereal thing going on. The songwriting is solid, reminiscent of Ryan Adams, and the music is simple four chord progressions made awesome by the underplayed yet just right backing parts. Ryan’s voice is Dylanesque in that it is texturally bad but fits so well with the songs and he sings and writes his lyrics with the authority of someone who has put his time in.

Jacob Tubbs

I was thinking Dead Confederate was an EP, but it’s actually a full length. That album is the best full-length I heard all year, and it is solid start to finish, with only 2 tracks that lose focus, and detract from the whole.
Coldplay’s new one is close. I am still a big Coldplay fan, and I think that album is very good start to finish.

Lykke Li – Little Bit EP (the album doesn’t improve at all)
British Sea Power – Krankenhaus EP
Avett Bros – The Gleam EP
MGMT – Time to Pretend EP (Oracular Spectacular comes up short as an album)
We Were Promised Jetpacks – WWPJ EP (includes best song of the year: Quiet Little Voices)

Good albums on my aborted list:
Wax Fang – La La Land is a solid album, but has some pretty bizarre moments (1000 kazoo harmony part comes to mind)
Black Keys – Attack & Release has a few killer tracks and a bit of filler in between. Epic moments.
M83 – Saturdays = Youth is the same.
Kings of Leon – Because of the Times – same. 3 of my favorite tracks of the year, but some real crap mixed in.
Hold Steady – Stay Positive – same. Several great songs, the best guitar solo of the year, and a couple clunkers (including Navy Sheets, the worst song they’ve ever made).
Ryan Adams – Cardinology – one of the most listenable albums of the year, but not “great” in my mind. Some very good tracks on there though.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

thoughts on advent

Last night was a good night. It was such a pleasure to gather with friends and play some of our advent songs at workplay. Thanks to everyone who made it out. Thanks especially to my sister katie, who drove in from atlanta (and back afterwards) to be there, which was pretty much awesome. the room last night was warm and was filled with good people and it was good to share some of the songs we’ve worked hardest on this year.

And as I said last night, I’ve been thinking a lot this year about advent, about Christmas. Its been good to spend time remembering these great mysteries that surround our faith. It is so easy to talk about baby jesus. It is easy to sort of forget how massive an idea baby jesus is. Maybe that’s why I prefer to sing about it.

I love the ideas of silence, of waiting, and that the climax of advent is this message "I am with you". for so much of the bible, god is silent. for so much of my story, god seems incredibly silent. A friend says to me that is all we really need to hear. “I am with you.” she says that is all we’ve ever hoped to hear.

Clint and I have talked a lot about advent this year, and clint likes to remind me that the promise of advent is also the promise: “and I am coming again.”

And I love the ideas of jesus being disguised among us. He was born into poverty and humility, and to this day, that is where he remains. Jesus is among the poor, the sad, the hurting, the widows, the orphans. this idea haunts me.

A friend told me recently that jesus comes either as the fulfillment of our desire or a rival to our self love. I have so much tension with that.

And for me, it always kind of comes back to the music. The music seems to carry us and sing our faith for us. At least it does for me. It as if, mysteriously, through songs, my doubt is moved toward belief.

Another friend told me this just yesterday morning:

"I have read that the christian life is not moving from ignorance to knowledge but from doubt to faith, over and over and over and over again. we are made for it to be so. as soon as we find any sense of certainty or belief or rest a new doubt creeps in, a new angst, a new question, a contradiction and we go through the cycle all over again.

for me, the music is the balm in the doubt. it holds the note while the doubt is being changed to faith. earth and heaven cannot hold or sustain him. but music does." all of us who feel alone, who are weary of the silence, who are hopeful for grace and for mercy, and for doubts to be carried into faith: merry christmas.

cheers to a hopeful advent, and the silence we all know so well.

Monday, December 22, 2008

red mountain concert - workplay - tonight

okay everyone. tonight at workplay. not gonna lie, I'm pretty excited about it. I've spent more time than usual this year creating, thinking about, and listening to christmas music.

as most of you already know, we put out a christmas record this year. and so tonight at workplay, we're going to be doing a christmas-only concert. our friend drew holcomb is coming down from nashville and doing an all-christmas set before us. drew has been on most of our records, and it will be great to see him again.

I'm expecting a really great night of music. and 3 days before christmas, I think the timing is just about perfect. from red mountain, we're going to have an 8-piece band featuring multiple violins and of course, ashley spurling. we got together to rehearse about a week ago and the music came together so effortlessly I forgot we were rehearsing.

I have this friend brad and he says to me "I hate christmas music". and I tell him. "it's okay. I'll like it for you." brad will be playing with us tonight.

maybe we'll see you as well. looking forward to it...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

another classic red mountain video

also be sure to check this super hot interview I just did with birmingham magazine. thanks carla jean.

lots of serious conversation in this one:

video editing by clinton wells.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

new video from red mountain

thank you clint wells:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

just hit 4 ten times

so tonight I had this gig with jon black in nashville, but due to an intense blizzard, we turned around just after crossing the state line and ran home to alabama.  4 alabama boys + snow = tragedy.

on the way back, we stopped at a starbucks (which I love, because I love the man).  clint and I are working on some new promotional videos for the new red mountain christmas cd.  here's a piece of raw footage that clint will probably be mad at me for posting:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

couple shows with jon black

tonight: workplay, birmingham.

tomorrow night: 3rd and lindsley, nashville.

clint will be doing his normal awesomeness.  and irwin is driving down from nashville to join in the fun as well. should be delightful, to say the least.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

barrack wants your gun

recently, I heard someone say "bhusseinO wants all the guns".

I said "wha?"

"yeah btm it's true. once he's prez he's gonna take all the guns away."

"man I had no idea. that is really a shame. I like my guns."

"you have a gun?"

"I have three guns."

"three guns?"


"what do you do with them?"

"I shoot them every december 24th. that's about all. and generally, I keep them around to keep people guessing about who BTM really is. same reason I have a six cylinder motorcycle, and a flame thrower."

"you own a flame thrower?"

"no not actually. not at all. but I drew a picture of one once. i'll let you see it sometime."

"I would really like that, btm."


Monday, December 1, 2008

more thanksgiving photos

about once every 2-3 years, my entire family gets together, and to be completely honest, it is a wonderful, beautiful thing. families are not always encouraging and refreshing. and I know that my own family has caused me issues and despair over the years. and yet, as I get older, the more I am learning to just really appreciate and enjoy the people who are around me. it's one thing to talk about community and friends - who I also consider extremely important and valuable - but it's another thing entirely to consider family - the people I come from and the people I will spend the rest of my life inevitably caring for.  you don't choose your family.  you just love them because they are given to you.  

I am fortunate to be apart of a big family. two brothers, two sisters, and 13 children who call me "uncle brian". more photos here.