Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Best of 2008: Miscellaneous

I was originally going to have our "Best of 2008" column for songs and albums posted this week, but I was worried Chris Martin might read it and then try and pass it off as his own, so I thought it best to hold off a week. Instead, a few NQL contributors decided to each post any random list, musing, or rant of their choosing. And we also teamed up and compiled one list at the end. 2008 songs and albums coming soon.

NQL Honorary Awards

The Rod Blagojevich Award for the band that I don’t ever want to hear from again goes to Times New Viking. Good God, turn that racket down. And Barack, please tell me you’re in no way shape or form affiliated with this band.

The Michael Phelps Award for the album that I really liked but got sick of hearing about from every single person I ran into goes to the Fleet Foxes self-titled record.

The 2008 Chicago Bears Award for the album that was hard to figure out whether it was good or not goes to Conor Oberst's solo album. I still haven't made up my mind. But I think it is safe to call the album intriguing, which, in essence, is a good thing, I just don't see myself remembering much about this album (or this Bears team) five years from now. I hope I'm wrong, though.

The Freaks & Geeks Award for band that I should have realized was fantastic years ago but for whatever reason didn't come to my senses until this year goes to Belle and Sebastian. If this award were for an album, New Adventures in Hi-Fi by R.E.M would have won.

The "Boilermaker" by The Jesus Lizard Award for the song that most made my neighbors angry on account of it possessing an inability to be played at a soft-to-medium volume is a tie between "In the New Year" by the Walkmen and "Paper Planes" by M.I.A. Yeah, I know "Paper Planes" isn't really this year but after The Pineapple Express trailer it was pretty much resurrected, so I say it's in play. And besides, I mentioned New Adventures in Hi-Fi earlier, so obviously we're not going to be too strict in the miscellaneous section.

The Dark Knight Award for the album that I wouldn't shut up about for the first two weeks after I listened to it, and then realized maybe I was kidding myself just a tad, and that perhaps it wasn't as good as maybe I actually wanted it to be in my mind, but then a few months passed and it became obvious that it really is a pretty great record goes to Dear Science, by TV on the Radio.

The I Can't Believe You're Still Using that Cell Phone Award goes to me every time I find myself at a record store buying a CD. It's almost to the point where I feel like I just walked into a Best Buy and asked the clerk to direct me to the Sega Genesis section.

My Top 10 of 10 Years Ago
This wasn't easy. I always consider the late '90s to be a dark time for music. For reference, look at this awful best-of list compiled from 1998. Perhaps not the greatest source, but that gives you an idea of what I'm working with here. No matter, without further ado...

10. Hole Celebrity Skin—Once a guilty pleasure. Piss off.
9. Liz Phair WhiteChocolateSpaceEgg—Her last album worth buying.
8. The Beta Band The Three Eps—You can instantly sell five copies just by playing "Dry the Rain."
7. Smashing Pumpkins Adore—Misunderstood and misunderrated.
6. Billy Bragg and Wilco Mermaid Avenue—Mr. Bragg and Wilco took old Pat Boone lyrics and turned them into songs. And it worked.
5. Beck Mutations—Perfect schizo softy follow-up to the obnoxious Odelay.
4. Destroyer City Of Daughters—As good as Rubies.
3. Outkast Aquemini—Whenever I brought a girl back to my dorm room in college I would play this album while absolutely nothing in the form of awkwardness unfolded.
2. Neutral Milk Hotel In The Aeroplane Over The Sea—An independent rock music classic.
1. Lucinda Williams Car Wheels On A Gravel Road—An American classic.

--Alex Crisafulli

Musings and Miscellanea

No snappy introduction here; just an alphabetical list that contains a concert, a song, and some albums that weighed heavily upon my year in listening.

David Byrne at Clowes Memorial Hall in Indianapolis: Even though David Byrne has to know that everyone in the room loves him, he acts like he can't believe it (and I guess he still might not)--that he's astonished people are there to listen to him, that the crowd's effusion is genuinely for him--a humbleness which came through as generosity onstage: Byrne eagerly gave up center stage to his dancers and backup singers, drummers and keyboardist, more often joining in the choreography than leading it (and he did that dumb running-in-place dance move, which rules). For over two hours, counting the three encores, Byrne & Co. ran through the best of the new Byrne/Eno album--"One Fine Day," "My Big Nurse," "Everything That Happens," "The River" (still concerned with the quotidian, eh, David?), "Wanted for Life," "Strange Overtones"--one song from the old Byrne/Eno album--"Help Me Somebody"--and innumerable Talking Heads classics--"The Great Curve," "Air," "Born Under Punches," "Take Me to the River," "Once in a Lifetime," "Heaven," "Burning Down the House." The result? Tears of joy (mine), and, spotty sound notwithstanding, easily one of the best concerts I've ever seen.

Califone - "The Orchids": Lore has it that Tim Rutili was out of ideas, and upon hearing "The Orchids" on a years-old mixtape, he was inspired afresh to record 2006's Roots and Crowns. Understandable: lyrically obtuse though it may be, "The Orchids" is a song about confusion leading to rejuvenation if you're open to the possibility. I haven't heard the Psychic TV version, but it's difficult to imagine it being better than Califone's.

The Cars - The Cars: I used to think The Cars were boring, just another dad-rock radio band--but then I listened: Impeccable melodies and clean, robotically precise musicianship make their self-titled album a front-to-back classic. It doesn't matter how many times you've heard "Just What I Needed" or "My Best Friend's Girl," or how pronounced your sense of irony is, these songs still have the power to stop you dead in your tracks. And then make you dance. In that herky-jerky fashion that no one understands but you.
Feist - The Reminder: As astounding as Let It Die is mediocre, which is to say, quite.

Jurassic 5 - Quality Control: The press has been unkind to J5 for a few years now, perhaps somewhat justifiably: Their most recent album, Feedback, is a chameleonic cash-grab that suffers not only from the absence of Cut Chemist but also from the lack of a focused aesthetic. But dig a couple albums backward in their discography to Quality Control, and and ignore the haters who call J5 one-note (they're lying), and you'll find some of the smartest, feel-goodest hip-hop released in recent years. Also, "comin' harder son as if my name was Kadeem" is awesome.

The Nerves - The Nerves EP: That this EP was long out of print and long The Nerves' sole document (until this year, anyway) is a criminal act. In pre-punk Los Angeles, it must've been impossible having three outstanding songwriters--Peter Case, Jack Lee, Paul Collins--in a three-piece band, but you'd never know it listening to The Nerves: Not one second of this EP feels tossed off or slapdash. Everyone knows "Hanging on the Telephone," but the other three tracks are even better. "When You Find Out" is the sardonic lost-love song; "Give Me Some Time" is the I-can-do-it love song; "Working Too Hard" is the unstoppable-bassline-having I'm-too-young-for-all-this-love-shit love song. The gamut of post-adolescent emotion in seven minutes, fifty-five seconds.

Russian Futurists: I'm not sure how, but I accidentally bought The Method of Modern Love from iTunes last spring, and what a happy accident that turned out to be. So happy, in fact, that I snatched up Our Thickness when I saw it at B-Sides in Indy. Russian Futurists are the absolute inverse of early Magnetic Fields--jubilant instead of mopey bedroom pop, as if Stephen Merritt grew up on rap and electro-pop instead of The Smiths. Matthew Hart needs a bigger budget next time.

Paul Simon - Graceland: There isn't really anything more I can say about Graceland. It's amazing in every respect, and, even though I've known the album since my childhood, somehow I didn't understand its amazingness till this year.

--Brian Herrmann

Top 10 from 10 Years Ago: (It's completely possible that I missed some '98 releases as I put this list together with the help of the tubes in about 20 minutes.)

10. The Beta Band The Three EPs: Still sounds good any time, any place.
9. Air Moon Safari: Ditto above.
8. Placebo Without You I'm Nothing: Every song is good.
7. Mercury Rev Deserter's Songs: "Opus 40" still almost makes me cry every time.
6. Spiritualized Live at Royal Albert Hall: For the rendition of "No God Only Religion" alone.
5. Outkast Aquemeni: My favorite hip-hop album. P.S. I hate hip-hop.
4. Beck Mutations: For my money, his best album.
3. Massive Attack Mezzanine: Best 3 a.m. album ever.
2. R.E.M. Up: Criminally underrated.
1. Neutral Milk Hotel In The Aeroplane Over The Sea: Obviously.


Best non-2008 album that I discovered in 2008: Paul McCartney Ram

Non-2008 record that I listened to the most: Built to Spill Perfect from Now On, Jay Reatard Blood Visions (tie)

2010 Rookies of the Year: Lars Anderson (AL), Madison Bumgarner (NL)

Thing that most made me want to jump off a bridge: Saved by Zero

Super Bowl prediction: Dallas 31, Jets 24

What I had for breakfast: Special K

Most disappointing album of 2008: Bloc Party Intimacy. Unforgivable.

Aliens vs. Predator: Predator

Favorite concert I went to in 2008: Built to Spill

Album I'm most looking forward to in 2009: Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavilion

--Jim Powers

Best Shows I Saw In 2008:

10. Spoon. The Metro, Chicago. New Year's Eve/Day, just after the stroke of midnight.
9. The Avett Brothers. Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle. August 27
8. Destroyer. Logan Square Auditorium, Chicago. April 17
7. Tapes 'n' Tapes. The Metro, Chicago. April 11
6. Les Savy Fav. Pitchfork Music Festival, Chicago. July 19
5. Cold War Kids. The Showbox, Seattle. September 29
4. Okkervil River. Schubas, Chicago. August 2
3. The Dodos. Bottom Lounge, Chicago. October 8
2. Wilco. Winter Residency, Night 1. The Riviera, Chicago. February 15
1. My Morning Jacket. McCaw Hall, Seattle. September 28

--Audrey Wen

She & Him, But Please No You & You
In light of this year’s success of the (fantastic) She & Him record Volume One by M. Ward and actress Zooey Deschanel , the NQL staff has compiled a list of actors and musicians that we would rather not see get any ideas.

10. Conor Oberst & Elizabeth Berkley
9. R. Kelly & Dakota Fanning
8. Huey Lewis & Gwyneth Paltrow
7. Amy Winehouse & Meshach Taylor
6. The Beach Boys & John Stamos
5. Sista Soulja & William Ayers
4. Abe Vigoda & Abe Vigoda
3. Bob Mould & Isaiah Washington
2. Jenny Lewis & Blake Sennett
1. Madonna

--NQL Staff


Anonymous said...

"R Kelly & Dakota Fanning"
That is just wrong. Funny, but wrong. :-)

Alex said...

Powers, that might be the worst Super Bowl prediction I have ever seen. Are we even sure both of those teams are going to make the playoffs? PLAYOFFS?!

This is what a SB prediction looks like:
Pittsburgh vs. NY Giants
The 'burgh wins.

Matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt said...

A couple I just thought of off the top of my head:

1) Toby Keith and Penelope Cruz
2) Phil Spector and Rebecca Schaeffer
3) Nat King Cole and Lindsey Lohan
4) Def Leopard and Marlene Matlin

Jim P. said...

That prediction was made 2 weeks ago when it was plausible. It being a prediction and not a statement of the NFL two weeks ago, I agree. It's pretty pathetic. But if it happens, I'm a genius.

Brian said...

Jim, Alex, I want to see your lists of what you were actually listening to in 1998, rather than your favorite albums that were released in that year. I know that Alex sandwiched the first Destiny's Child record between "Fly" by Sugar Ray and "You're Still the One" by Shania Twain until his roommate wanted to strangle him. Powers says he hates rap, but I hear he has a thing for Master P.

Jim P. said...

If I recall correctly, in 1998 I listened to a lot of Aquemini, Mezzanine, Mutations, the first two Gomez albums, Blur's 13, REM's New Adventures, Meddle, and maybe some other stuff. Oh, and the Cardigans' Gran Turismo, which I don't think was released in '98. If it was, please insert it between numbers 5 and 6. No Master P. Travis, please confirm.

Jim P. said...

Oh, and the first half of 1998 was basically entirely devoted to OK Computer and The Bends.

Alex said...

Powers, if you turn out to be right, you won't look like a genius, you'll look like Biff from Back to the Future II with that Almanac from the future.

Brian, everyone knows Destiny's Child's first album dropped in 2000. That said, I should have been more specific. I was only listening to the more mainstream acts on that list back in 98. In fact, I probably didn't start listening to City of Daughters and Aeroplane until '04 maybe.

"Fly" was a horrible song.

Farra, you are horrible.

Brian said...

Destiny's Child's first album came out in 1998: I did my research...

Audrey said...

I'm a little surprised Lauryn Hill's Miseducation...has not been mentioned. Jesus christ that was a great album. I remember being really upset when someone in my dorm stole my copy of Tupac's "All Eyez on Me" back in '98.

Alex said...

Brian, you've humiliated me for the last time!

Travis said...

Sorry, I've been away from the internet from a while. - I will back Jim up, no Master P in '98, though there was a lot of Chris Gaines coming from his dorm.

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