Monday, December 07, 2009

Now when the roses bloom this year and our soul's up in our ears with some newer music sung in a strange place

It's that time of year for the top 10 albums of the year.  It's been a special year, music has been a best friend, the heart and mind open, the tunes plentiful.  A special nod goes out the to the gal from Colorado who's been my first and foremost filter for new music.  Below, a biased look of new music, old but new to me, and of course people that automatically make the list based on preconceived notion.

10 -- Green Day -- 21st Century Breakdown
 
Rockin' since 1987, the Green Day purists say the band has 'sold out' since its punk days, I say they've grown older with dignity.  It's all relative, Metallica gets hair cuts and still produce things like 'St Anger' and the world throws stones at them, Bon Jovi gets haircuts and sings 'It's My Life' and wins Grammies.  21 Guns, a mall punk'esque ballad is my favorite on the album, a double play on a couple and their relationship issues, and 21 gun salutes for lost lives.  Viva La Gloria is a tune that continues in proper fashion Green Day, lots of mood and tempo changes, pioneers in this 'Green Day' sound, many have tried, but it's not been duplicated. Did I say Green Day enough?  Lyrics span working class heros and the last of American girls, all baked into to the album to near perfection.

9 -- Fanfarlo -- Reservoir

For many weeks, my walk to work and walk home music, looking up at a bright desert sky, thinking MAN, everything is wonderful.  Comets tops the list of my favorite songs on the album, 'Cry Murder, cry what you like, Just let the comets be your guide,' and 'If you look at the horizon there is always something ducking out of sight,' two lyrics that catch me.  The album contains inspiring themes of hope, desire, and ambition.  Harold T. Wilkins's captures the spirit of movin' on with new adventures even when you think you're not ready (In a hot air baloon with a rusty nail, looking over your shoulder setting sail).  There's something omnipresent in a few of the tunes, something that captures the human spirit perfectly.  The back half of the album is solid, they're also approachable.

8 -- Sondre Lerche -- Heartbeat Radio

He's the simple truth, that's why it's hard to understand.  I've seen articles that try to pin a labels on him and his 'fancy chords.'  He is one of the absolute best in the business in a singer / songwriter context.  By means of listening to the words, you get a sense that this guy really gets it, the texture just works as always, a world class band supports him.  Sondre, the radio's perfect pitch makes me nauseous too, we know they'd vote you off American Idol or anything else like that in the prelims, and people would perhaps laugh, but that's OK, that's validation.  You've to this day made enough music to make me happy a lifetime, and I'm forever in debt for the continuing perspective you give me on life.  Like Lazenby has to be my favorite tune on the album, "Like a fairytale, with blood on every page my failures brought about some blessings someone must be watching out for me."

7 -- Roy Orbison -- Black and White Years

Think of it as the most exclusive cocktail party you could ever be invited to in your life.  If I were James Bond, I would have skipped a mission to attend this.  From the starting gate, Roy's perfect pitch belts out Only the Lonely, hence, instant bliss.  You know you're swinging a pair when Bruce Springsteen is your backup singer, and the back row of your entourage consists of people like Elvis Costello and Bonnie Raitt.  The DVD is pure magic.

6 -- Leonard Cohen -- Live in London

75 years old, still a kid with crazy dream...A man who has studied the philosophies and religions until cheerfulness creeps in.  A man who covers all the hard bases and uncovers every stone, understands the Freudian nature of $ex and violence, yet reasserts love being the ultimate disease and cure.  Seeing the man live this year was magical and enlightening.

5 -- Crooked Fingers -- Dignity and Shame

Sleep all summer, such a warm tune, the imagery that comes to mind is one of man and woman singing to each other, gazing into each other's souls, and constantly coming back for more as the proverb suggests, starting out with a fire and commencing to a slow burn.  Twilight creeps...I'd say it's a good way to represent typical night life from the lens of a 30 something, further affirming that I don't want to be that 'old dude' in the clubbing / dating scene.  Something about them reminds me of Roxette, and for me, that's golden.

4 -- Luna -- Luna's Greatest Hits

Guitar Harmonies are the gist of this band, I can't believe how tight and phenomenal they sound.  It's the party buzz sound, the sound that is echoing in your head at the party when you're having a good time and don't even know it.  Pop it in, listen, and every now and then you'll catch yourself going, damn, that's slick.  The instruments and illusion are what carried this band.

3 -- Blind Pilot -- 3 Rounds and a Sound

While working in an old busted up dictators palace, I'd have this on while troubleshooting various things broken.  Throw a capo on 5 and play derivatives of F and that's what I call the palace at night sound.  I haven't heard a finely produced album like this since Travis' The Man Who -- Blind Pilot's instrumental reverb coupled with crystal clear voice add nuance to the ever evolving trickery in making things sound good. Oviedo, Paint or Pollen, Two Towns from Me, and 3 Rounds and a Sound are the standouts.  Two Towns from Me echoes the sentiment of people in love, who would do anything for each other, even spend the night running two towns over for a visit.  Put in on repeat for months, you won't be disappointed.

2 -- Mason Jennings -- Blood of Man

The Field, Tourist, Sunlight and Blood of Man are what catapult this surprising very dark themed album to the top of the field.  At first glance Mason Jennings appears to be a 'NWB' Naive White Boy.  Once you get under the hood you have the most soulful balanced artist in the game.  Hands down 'The Field' is the best war song I've heard.  It's not political or ideological or abstract for that matter, it's purely emotional, raw, and hits the bottom line.  People die in war that other people care about, this song is an articulation of this -- Bob Dylan / Neil Young, and you have officially been 'one upped.' Although Mason brings out the electric guitar for the majority of the album, he's also true to his roots and songs of love.  The album very much reflects the true opposites of the unadulterated world, hope and despair.  Tell me where's your heart, now that it's stopped beating...it's right here, right here, right here....

1 -- (And by Blowout) -- Roman Candle -- O Tall Tree in Ear

Skip along with his wife and bro bring a sincerity, purity, simplicity and understanding to life seldom seen, but it is there in common voice if you care to listen.  At least every other line is metaphorical, and as it should be, he is a solitary man with his pride.  From the opener Eden Was a Garden to Early Aubade, the album has a flow, contemplative, curious and whimsical.  I could write a dissertation on what this gang from Chapel Hill does for me, but mentioning captain wafers and lipton tea in song takes the cake!

I leave 60% of my Iraq time behind with a shrug of the shoulders, these guys help me put ANYTHING and EVERYTHING into perspective, even this.

"And the last thing we'll leave is a love song for this vacant room sunk in the walls, and trapped like the ocean enshelled - with everything else we ever exhaled..."

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