it's here. are you ready? as promised, folks. it's...
woolgathering...'s inaugural best- of list.
i'm psyched. let's get this party started.
:: woolgathering...'s favorite albums of the year ::
1] arcade fire. neon bible.
notice that i did not promise that this list was going to vary wildly from the countless other best- of lists that this album finds itself atop. there's no getting around it. arcade fire put out the best album of the year.
i saw win, regina, and the rest of the group twice this year*, once at the greek and once at shoreline [!] with lcd soundsystem. quickly: the greek show was probably the best show i saw all year... the song 'intervention' chokes me up-- i mean really chokes me up-- almost every time i hear it... and my wife and i can always agree to listen to it in the car when we make our bimonthly trip to target. arcade fire never lets me down.
2] eddie vedder. into the wild.
those of you who know me well know that i am absolutely and aggressively cuckoo for pearl jam and have been now more than half my life. but in no way should that color the fact that this is an incredible album**.
the soundtrack to the film of the same name, it was performed almost entirely by eddie alone [corin tucker notwithstanding] and features some really beautiful songs, songs that really conjure up the spirit of the movie that they were written for. 'society' and 'guaranteeed' are songs that will forever be in my mixed- tape rotation. my only complaint is that some of the songs are too short, especially 'no ceiling', which could have benefitted greatly, i think, from a couple of extra choruses.
3] wilco. sky blue sky.
i just got married. i get this album.
my brother, once one of the world's biggest wilco fans [glenn kotche in particular], to my knowledge still does not like this album. and i've kind of gotten that from a lot of people. that it's no 'yankee hotel' or 'ghost' is, to me, what's cool about it.
it's less of an album, in the 'ok computer'- vein, than it is a collection of cool songs that sound great when played live. probably the only other show i'd say was as good as the arcade fire/ greek show was wilco, also at the greek, and i can tell you firsthand and front row that songs like 'side with the seeds', 'walken', and especially 'impossible germany' are fucking great songs live [nels cline is incredible to watch, with those bony fingers and overactive use of the whammy bar]. add that to the fact that 'on and on and on' is probably the most powerful song that wilco has ever done and what's, really, not to like? except 'what light', of course.
4] feist. the reminder.
i know that my girl leslie feist is almost getting a little too ubiquitous for her own good, but i've had no problem so far enjoying her success. and while at the end of the day, 'let it die' is probably the record i prefer, 'the reminder' is an awesome album. seeing her perform at the fillmore*** [grizzly bear opened] really solidified my admiration for her and love for her music. she's crazy talented, and is worth all the hype. even that ipod commercial is kinda cool, for chrissakes.
5] bruce springsteen. magic.
i take it all back: seeing bruce springsteen was my concert highlight of the year [in a year when i saw the aforementioned acts wilco and arcade fire, and elvis costello, and tom waits, and yo la tengo, and my morning jacket, and neil young, and neil young jamming with jerry lee lewis on chuck berry tunes****, and thurston moore solo in a small place, and the original dinosaur jr, and built to spill, and the police].
not only that, but 'magic' is a first- rate album. there isn't a lukewarm song on it. 'girls in their summer clothes', 'devil's arcade', and 'magic' are particulary incredible. you should own this record.
6] band of horses. cease to begin.
i wish i'd seen these guys when they came to town-- it was the day after thanksgiving and the timing couldn't have been worse. this album is fucking gorgeous. 'no one's ever gonna love you' in particular is a song you just want to listen to over and over in a year when you married the most wonderful and special woman in the world [aww...].
7] the national. boxer.
it occurs to me that there hasn't really been any order to this 'best- of' since the eddie vedder record. because if there was, 'boxer' wouldn't be down at #7.
i remember when the strokes were blowing up back in the summer of 2001 and everybody was saying that julian casablancas sounded just like lou reed, if lou reed could sing. that's how i feel about matt berninger, except in this case it's leonard cohen who he sounds like if leonard cohen could sing. i'm sure i'm not the first person to say that, but i haven't read a lot of press about the national so i don't know that i'm recycling... i'm just guessing that i'm recycling.
'boxer' is one that should be played start- to- finish-- the songs are great and it's got a cool mood and the pacing is just perfect. and, seriously, matt berninger's got a haunting, melancholic, really really cool fucking voice.
8] iron & wine. the shepard's dog.
this is my kind of album. how does sam beam do it? i want to know. i want to be like sylar on 'heroes' and get into beam's brain and take his magical powers, except of course i wouldn't want to kill, or harm, in any way whatsoever, in fact, mr. beam to do this. i just want to know how he does what he does. brilliant.
9] various artists. 'i'm not there' original soundtrack.
there isn't a whole lot to say about this. it defines 'no- brainer'.
so let's get a bunch of incredible artists, like jim james, chan marshall, yo la tengo and stephen malkmus, to cover a bunch of disparate bob dylan tunes, all for the soundtrack to one of the coolest movies ever made, one that's an art film about bob dylan.
right. moving on.
10] modest mouse. we were dead before the ship even sank.
modest mouse is a band i have listened to forever and loved-- 'the lonesome crowded west' and especially 'the moon and antarctica' were really pivotal in terms of my falling back in love with modern music coming out of my hippie phase, in fact, right up there with 'ok computer', 'keep it like a secret', and 'oh, inverted world'. and then they put out 'good news' and i know it wasn't terrible but i didn't like it and was sad.
but they really turned it around with this album for me. i don't know how much credit should go to johnny marr-- some, certainly, but it's isaac brock who steers this 'ship' and i 've always thought that he's been underrated as a songwriter and bandleader.
i listened to this album almost every morning as i biked from my house to the media gems office in pier 38***** and it now occurs to me how funny it is that so many of modest mouse's songs are about travel and being in motion and almost all of my modest mouse memories are either of a] jogging, the summer of 2001, to 'the moon and anarctica'******, b] driving home, to athens and that house i lived in on peter street circa 2002, on the loop listening to 'teeth like god's shoeshine' on 'the lonesome crowded west' at full volume, and c], this last adventure biking in sf. so there it is, folks: modest mouse-- great for gettin' you there.
and that's kind of it, folks, at least for now. all this sharing has made me hungry and sleepy. friday nights are good for drinking wine and writing, though. we'll continue this soon... i'll be back with even more best- of's and things i forgot [like the shins' 'wincing the night away' and radiohead-- radiohead!--'s 'in rainbows'. in the meantime, have a beautiful weekend [we're having a party tomorrow night and thus won't be back until probably tuesday] and leave me some muthafuckin' comments, won'tcha?
*a quick note about their stage attire: i really dig it the most. i love that they're a little clash, a little children of the corn.
**i was so into this album when it came out that i got home drunk one night-- from the arcade fire/ lcd soundsystem show, coincidentally-- and bought a copy online each for two of my best friends, both women, and had them mailed to their respective places: one in new york, one in atlanta. i have no idea still if they like the album or not.
***grizzly bear might have opened, and they were beautiful and weird, but the highlight of the night for me definitely was when she and kenny g-- yes, kenny g-- came out for the first encore and performed 'lover's spit' by broken social scene. mr. g played a baby grand and ms. feist danced seductively on that baby grand, michelle pfeiffer- 'fabuolous baker boys' style, and sang. seriously, it was pretty spectacular.
****the bridge festival. awesome.
*****tragically, i was in two bike accidents in four days, bringing a swift halt to my biking- to- the- office- every- morning career. the first accident was on mission, around 2nd street. i was 'doored', which is when somebody doesn't look before they open up their car door stepping out into oncoming traffic, nailing the poor son of a bitch in the bike lane. don't fucking do this. look before you get out of your car. if i had been a city bus i would've taken the guy's door off. instead i just flipped over his door and really banged myself up. what did he do? drove away.
that was on a friday afternoon. monday morning i was trying to be a brave soldier and got right back up on the horse [i'd named my bike rocinante, like don quixote and john steinbeck before me] and went right on to work, this time taking a different path. on market, right around 7th street, i was trying to avoid getting boxed in by a city bus and went over the trolley tracks at a wrong angle and totally wiped out. and it fucking hurt. knocked the wind outta me, scraped me all up. somehow i got to work and made it home later that day but i haven't really ridden since. which is such a shame, because i loved to ride. i don't know. i started driving to work and never looked back.
******which i did every day for months, from jittery joe's in five points all the way down milledge to prince, down to boulevard on grady by stipe's house, down boulevard zig- zagging the cross streets but making sure i went by the wynburn house that b., r., j.h., and i all lived in together in 1997- 98, and then all the way back up milledge to jittery joe's. goddamn... i can remember it like it was yesterday. i was front- end manager of earthfare, which is like a mini- whole foods. i'd work from 7:30 to 2:30, go home, take a nap, go running, fix dinner [salmon and broccoli-- always], and then go out drinking with l.t., b., a., and whoever else was around. this was the summer before september 11th and a really great time for me. see the 'reveal' section of my first column for further brilliant musings on this period of time.