Friday, December 11, 2009

2008 In Music: Recap

We're almost done...I have a feeling that the conclusion of Aught Music will be both satisfactory and bittersweet. However, it's not over just yet. Here are my selections for 2008.

1.) "Librarian" by My Morning Jacket (from the album Evil Urges)

Finding beauty and sexiness in a quiet, alluring librarian? No, this isn't a Whitesnake song. This is a beautiful evocation of the kind of connection that all of us have every now and then, admiring someone from a distance and letting daydreams run wild. My favorite line is one that is only a part of the set-up:

Ramble up the stairwell, into the hall of books...
Since we got the interweb these hardly get used


This almost makes the song a sort of rambling inner dialogue, but it builds into a beautiful love story. The lyrics are a bit more direct than Jim James and company usually go for, but the difference works amazingly well, combined with their atmospheric music.

2.) "Acid Tongue" and "Carpetbaggers" by Jenny Lewis (from the album Acid Tongue)

"Acid Tongue:"

As I've written about Lewis before, I'm utterly convinced she would have been just as relevant and emotional had she been singing in the 1940s or 50s. This song is no exception. The combination of sadness and hope are perfect, with neither one dominating, but blending into an atmospheric haze. It's the soundtrack of sitting in a bar after a bad week and feeling a little sorry for yourself.

To be lonely is a habit
Like smoking or taking drugs
And I've quit them both
But man, was it rough.


"Carpetbaggers:"

I'm sure that most of my co-workers have wished bodily harm against me, since I've played this song dozens of times. It's unbelievably catchy and a piece of alluring storytelling. I can easily imagine the Decemberists covering this one:

They come to town when the war is over
Dirty boots in the middle of the night
Trolling the bars, hitting on the soldiers
Boys give it up without a fight
They say, "Hey, boy, how about your place?
I know you really want to take me home"
Drop the bags off on the bedroom floor
They make love with the lights on


It's also a testament to Lewis's prowess as a vocalist that she can duet with a legend like Elvis Costello and completely overshadow him. That's not to say that he doesn't fit in on this track; but there's no denying that this is a Jenny Lewis song, despite the amazing collaborations on the entire disc.

3.) "Long Division" by Death Cab For Cutie (from the album Narrow Stairs)

As much as I love Ben Gibbard and company, as much as I appreciate their evocative, poetic lyrics and soft accompaniments, it's refreshing to see that they can rock out now and them. Long Division doesn't sacrifice any of the lyrics that Death Cab has been known for since Day One:

The television was snowing softly
As she hunted for her keys
She said she never envisioned him
The type of person capable of such deceit


The atmosphere is still the same as you'd find in their slower numbers. Perhaps this is a case of 'don't fix it if it's not broken,' but a little energy can go a long way, as this song proves.

4.) "Ragged Wood" by Fleet Foxes (from the album Fleet Foxes)

It's so odd that the Fleet Foxes have been compared to 1960s folk acts, when in fact, at least in my opinion, they (almost scarily) sound like My Morning Jacket. However, despite this similarity, they still manage to retain their own style and creativity. This track is uplifting, folksy, and yet has just enough echo and reverb to sound haunting. A lot of criticism in pop music focuses on technology and production overtaking the actual process of singing and creating music. The recording on this track is all about the song, yet there's just a hint of recording manipulations that add just a touch more atmosphere.

5.) "(I Don't Want To Die) In the Hospital" by Conor Oberst (from the album Conor Oberst)

Like a lot of great tracks, this one can either resist strict genre classifications, or it can be viewed as a blend of a few different ones. The opening honkytonk piano is almost too brief, but the rest of the track keeps up a strong, folk-rock tempo. Perhaps I'm way off, but the lyrics can be easily interpreted into a folk-protest song, not unlike a faster Pete Seeger song for the 21st century.

I don't give a damn what the doctors say
I ain't gonna spend a lonesome day
I don't wanna die in the hospital
You gotta take me back outside
They don't let you smoke and you can't get drunk
All there is to watch is these soap operas


I see a ton of excellent metaphors here. I could get into some slightly outlandish hypotheses, but I think anyone can come up with their own views. Or...maybe Conor just really hates hospitals.

As I mention with every Aught Music update, the links go to free listens and downloads. These are just my contributions; there are literally dozens more for each year, selected and written by some impressive writers/music lovers. Check it out while you still can...2009 shall be commencing very soon.

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