Posted in Artist, Live Shows

The Hip2besquare 2008 Year End Favorite Albums List

What I like about the year end lists is getting to see what all your peers have been jamming to over the past year and discovering what gems may have fallen through the cracks. With all the music that comes out in a single year, you’re bound to miss a few no matter how much time you spend staring at your Google Reader for the next best band or album to be released.

What I don’t like about the end of the year lists is all the pressure that seems to be on picking the top 10, 20 or 50. Look, if there were 22, 29, 31 or 49 albums in all that stuck with me this year through thick and thin, then I’m going to mention those albums. I’m not going to throw in Kings of Leon just because they happened to come out with an album this year and “use to be” a solid band. Unfortunately KoL have gone down hill in my mind. It all began with that ridiculous video they put together for “Sex on Fire”. It then ended when the song appeared on Gossip Girl. Yes, I’ve watched the show but keep in mind, I live with my girlfriend.

Listed below are albums that I and my friends were all about in 2008. They’re not in any particular order but based on how much I wrote you can probably tell how much the album meant to me. A few of these may actually have been released in previous years but the fact remains that they were discovered by our ears in 2008. That’s all that really matters. In the end, the year end lists are to help those who don’t spend countless hours scrolling their Google Readers for the latest and greatest music. This is for you, friends.

Fleet Foxes – “Fleet Foxes”

  • By Album: Amazon MP3
  • Stream and Download “White Winter Hymnal”: (Right Click and ‘Save As’ to download)

Sub Pop had a few gems this year but it was clearly Fleet Foxes that took home the grand prize for one of the best break out artists of 2008. Many make comparisons to My Morning Jacket’s early work, and rightly so. They have the reverb, southern country rock with classic Americana rock sound mixed in. But there’s something about their harmonies that blow me away more so then My Morning Jacket. MMJ blew me away with their soaring riffs and hooks. Yeah, Jim’s vocals are great and all, but nothing compared to Fleet Foxes Robin Pecknolds and his supporting cast, Skye Skjelset, J Tillman, Casey Wescott and Christian Wargo.

Their debut full length self-titled album was released on Sub-Pop and came after critics were already drooling over their Sun Giant EP. And speaking of drooling, I’ve been known to go limp after the first two or three songs of listening to their album as I’m usually in a calm trance and lose a good portion of my bodies functionality.

Missing them live this year is probably one of my greatest disappointments. They played at the Somerville Theatre which is literally a hop skip and jump from where I live. To make matters even worse, I bought tickets to see Hot Chip in NYC on the same weekend that Fleet Foxes was playing in NYC. Yeah, I guess I could have sold my Chip tix, but I couldn’t disappoint the crew, some of whom had never seen the Chip live and I love being with friends who get to dance their faces off for the first time during their short but sweet live set. God, I love music. Lets keep it rolling.

Bon Iver – “For Emma, Forever Ago”

  • By Album: Amazon MP3
  • Stream and download “Skinny Love”:

There were two moments in 2008 where I cried because of joy. One of course was when the greatest baseball team ever, the Philadelphia Phillies, won this years World Series and broke a 25 year period where no major Philadelphia sport (Football, Hockey, Basketball and Baseball) won a championship. I was three years old in 1983 when the Sixers, our basketball team, won the last championship. So basically, on October 29th, 2008, this twenty eight year old saw for the first time his home town team raise a championship trophey over their heads and get to say, “WE’RE NUMBER ONE”, and actually be the number one team in the league. It feels soooooooooooooooo goooooooooooooood.

The second occasion wasn’t quite as deep as the Phillies win but it was close. How Jason Vernon’s voice has gone unnoticed till now is beyond me. I have not heard any of the other bands he played in. I know that one of the reasons the songs that eventually made up his debut solo album, “For Emma, Forever Ago”, came about in part because of his original bands break up. That and some other break ups such as his dead beat job working in North Carolina at a food establishment, his break up with direction in life, his break up from his girl which all drove him out to the Wisconsin woods, the state where he grew up, for some alone time. Apparently there were even moments of ending it all. Jeez. Can you imagine. Jason had no prior notion of making any music during his escape from reality. At the beginning it was filled with routines such as chopping wood to stay warm during the winter months he took refuge (3 months). The trips to town to get bags of rice and so on. But no musician can stand still for too long. Sooner or later you get the itch and she comes calling to you. And boy, did she come calling to Jason.

The album was actually released by Jason himself in 2007 after sending it to friends and getting feedback that this is something that must be shared with the masses. Well, the masses responded and a year later Jason was signed to Jagjaguwar and on tour with labelmates, Black Mountain. This is another live show I am mad I missed. They played the Middle East…UPSTAIRS! The place holds 194 people. What a show that must have been. But it didn’t take long for Jason to return. Only this time, instead of opening for another band at a small venue, he was headlining his own tour and playing no less, the Museum of Fine Arts. It was at this show, with my best girl to my left, sitting in the amazing Remis Auditorium, that the joy hit me.

Keep your eye out for his four song EP, “Blood Bank”, to be released on 1/20/09. Expect his new material to be more of a traditional full band sound versus the solo sound you get on his debut but I don’t expect any diminish in the presence of Jason’s virtuosic vocal chords.

TV on the Radio – “Dear Science,”

  • Buy Album: Amazon MP3
  • Bonus Download “Dry Drunk Emperor”, recorded in 2005 while still on the Touch & Go label

The opening song “Halfway Home” on “Dear Science,” is one of the better lead off songs I’ve heard in awhile. It’s also one of the strongest songs on the album. This was not as strong of an album as Return To Cookie Mountain. The presence isn’t as clear upon first listen where as the presence of Cookie Mountain was hard to ignore. Their forceful punch was held back slightly on ‘Science. A lot of this has to do with the polished production of Dave Sitek, one of the founding members and lead guitar player in the band.

With the polished sound we were exposed to even more textures, exemplifying the talents that make up this Brooklyn based group such as the vocal capabilities of Kyp Malone. It also exposed their political side with songs like the “Golden Age” and “Red Dress”. But if you’ve seen any of the members in an interview or been to a live show, you probably already knew how political they are.

TV on the Radio are one of today’s premier artists and I’m looking forward to following what I hope to be a long lasting career.

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