Passion Pit – “Chunk of Change”
Listen and download “Sleepyhead”: (Download courtesy of RCRDLBL)
Over the past few years we’ve seen various bands go from zeros to heros in a matter of minutes. Success in the music business varies depending on who you’re talking to. Some want it all and some are happy if just one of their songs, albums or jingles gets recognition. For the sake of this post, lets just say success is when you decide to record some songs for your girlfriend for Valentines Day and having those songs turn into a six song EP which eventually gets passed around, has you land some gigs at Pianos in Manhattan, play some showcases at CMJ and then get signed by a major (Columbia Records, UK), all in less then a year.
Passion Pit are Michael Angelakos, Ian Hultquist, Ayad al Adhamy, Jeff Apruzzese and Nate Donmoyer. They all knew each other from Emerson College in downtown Boston and are slowly but surely becoming top players in the electronic pop world along side LCD Soundsystem and the 2008 newbies, MGMT.
She and Him – “Volume One”
Listen and download “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?”: (Download courtesy of Welikeit.indie)
Watch weird and sadistic video for above song: Pitchfork.tv
Back in 2007 I was introduced to M. Ward with Post-War. And just like last year, I’m late to the party of another M. Ward creation. Only difference, this year his creation was helped by an unlikely songstress, the actress Zooey Deschanel, the actress most famously known for her role along side Will Ferrell in the Christmas classic, Elf (and now most famously known for getting engaged to Ben Gibbard if your an indie kid).
I knew of She & Him for sometime but failed to connect the M.Ward dot. How I missed this major detail is beyond me. I remember Aquarium Drunkard posting their live recordings from their “wet and wild” set at this year’s Newport Folk Festival. However, I didn’t pick up the album till about a month ago.
While it’s a late addition to my listening cycle, it’s definitely showing promise of a trusty stand by. Besides M. Ward’s ingenious arrangement of classic songs, Zooey’s vocals are a comfort during every listen. Her ability to change her vocal style is impressive as well. She’ll throw in some country, lounge, jazz and has a very distinct Peggy Lee sound.
The stand out song of the album is their cover of the Beatles tune, “I Should Have Known Better”. They completely changed up the tempo, creating a slow waltz with Hawaiian style slide guitar playing out the melody. Not since the Grey Album when Danger Mouse successfully combined the Beatles White Album with Jay-Z’s Black Album, has a Beatles song sounded so good outside it’s original format.
Jason Collett – “Here’s to Being Here”
Listen and download “Out of Time”: (Download courtesy of Carl Sandburg Visits Me In A Dream)
The boys and girls in Broken Social Scene may be some of the hardest working musicians in the business. Even when they’re not officially pumping out their own albums, each band member is in some way creating new sounds. This year it was Jason Collett and Brendan Canning (who we’ll talk about soon) that lead the pack in 2008.
Jason’s music has a distinct similarity to Tom Petty. He’s got that slight nasal tone and a rocking guitar to boot. Any fan of Petty would be hard pressed not to go out and give this one a shot.
Broken Social Scene Presents – “Brendan Canning – Something for All of Us…”
Listen and Download “Hit The Wall”: (Download courtesy of Pitchfork)
Unlike Jason, Brendan’s sound rings true to the BSS method – loud, sprawling riffs with soaring vocal lines. I would also throw in cinematic to describe Brendan’s work here with hints of classic rock brewing in the background, as is the case with most BSS albums. The odd man out on this album is “Love Is New”. Here Brendan conjures up Talking Heads and produces one of the albums more straightforward grooves and helps to add some depth to the sound of the album as a whole.
AA Bondy – “American Hearts”
Listen and Download to “Witness Blues”: (Download)
Some of you may know Scott Bondy from his previous work in Verbena, a late 90’s indie rock band that some critics had herald as the next Nirvana and Scott as the next Cobain. Unfortunately I was not an “in-the-know” music man back then but what I know now is Scott has dropped the grundge icons appeal and now applies a different icon to his sound, Bob Dylan.
While us critics can always stand back and make comparisons, in the end, a good musician will differentiate themselves through creative lyrics and melodies and in my opinion, AA is one of those musicians. Lets face it, it was clearly the year for modern day America folk music or as some critics like to call it, the nu-folk movement. AA Bondy’s solo debut, while nothing spectacular, helps make this case even stronger.
Hot Chip – “Made In The Dark”
Listen and Download “Read For The Floor”: (Download courtesy of Cafe Eclectica Music)
Those who know me know that I’m a Hot Chip freak. I’ve been trying to convert both friends and family for a few years now. So I was especially excited this past year when I got the chance to interview one of the founding members, Joe Goddard, before their amazing show at the Paradise Rock Club. This may or may not have been a good idea given how much of a fan and nerd I am about their music. But by the looks of both Joe and the other founding member, Alexis Taylor, they have some nerd in them as well.
What struck me the most about Hot Chip this past year was their refined live sound. During my interview with Joe, he talked about how the band has been practicing alot and perfecting their live performance. There’s a good and bad side to this. The good of course is all the transitions, song extensions and changes are flawless. The bad is the room for improvisation goes away. The argument you can make is that with a band like Hot Chip, where you have several members and lots of intstruments and sounds to manage, having an improvisation session on stage can get confusing. While it’s enjoyable to the player, the listener may get lost. Unless you’re hopped up on a slew of drugs where it doesn’t matter what you’re playing as long as it’s got a beat.
“Made In the Dark” brought about some of the best produced songs Hot Chip has done to date. “Ready For the Floor”, “One Pure Thought”, and “Touch Too Much” were three of my favorites. Yet it’s not the album I turn to the most. You could make a strong argument that “The Warning” is their best studio work but for me, “Coming On Strong” is my trusty stand by.
You can say what you want about one hit wonders or songs that conjure up special moments from the past but to me, albums are like your best friends. They’re there to calm you down, pick you back up or help celebrate life accomplishments. But most importantly, they help keep you moving in the right direction.
Bob Dylan – “Bootleg Series: Vol. 8″
Listen and Download “Mississippi”: (Download)
Besides Tom Waits, Dylan is one of the greatest inspirations not only to artists who strive to play music as long as he (good music that is), but also for the listener. The fact that he can continue expressing his emotions in such a pure way to the world is a testament to humanity.
This is not the Dylan your mom and dad grew up with on the eightth volume of Columbia Records “Bootleg Series”. Or is it? Besides the raspy, smoke damaged vocal chords that modern day Dylan has to deal with, the same passion and genius is there in his lyrics. All songs you here are from 1988 and onward. Pretty impressive considering this kid was making heads turn (including the Man in Black, God rest is soul) back in the late 50’s.
I think this is a good place to end the list.