Friday, December 12, 2008

2008: Album(s) of the Year

Like last year (and again much to my surprise), my album of the year is a treasure from the distant past. More on that later. First, to the niche winners.

Best Album That Channeled A Soul: Songs in A & E (Spiritualized)

I didn't know what to expect with this album. Enough people recommended it that I took a leap (as an aside: how many people get exposed to unexpected books and music because they need to get to the $25 free shipping threshold on Amazon?)

From the very first track, you're listening to karmic reincarnation of Led Zepplin and early Pink Floyd as it should have been.

Listening to Songs in A & E is like mainlining emotion at its most raw. This is slap you upside the head emotional intensity, with an honesty that is shocking.

Anyone who can channel this much of their soul in a recording deserves our attention and respect, and certainly deserves a listen.

Best Album That No One Knows Existed: Love Bits (Unicorn Dream Attack)

In October I was driving home from work listening to our local public radio station. On came a story about a local Minneapolis band that absolutely mesmerized me (link to audio of the piece at the top of the article in the link). Unicorn Dream Attack is a local musician who has interfaced a keyboard to a Nintendo Game Boy and plays through the music synth chip in the device (aka, 8-bit music).

Before you roll your eyes and close the tab, this is not just a gimic. Listening to these tracks evokes the same feeling of impending greatness as watching Reggie Bush play in college or looking at an Andy Warhol painting before he jumped the shark.

There are flashes of blow-you-away-can-he-possibly-be-doing-this-on-purpose-absolute-brilliance in these tracks that made me thankful that an album could still surprise and touch me in this way. Wow.

After listening to the radio piece, I could not get Pill0w F0rt out of my head. Night and day, my brain worked overtime to get wrapped around this tune.

Do me a favor and drop the $10 to buy this CD. There are a lot of misses, but the hints of brilliance are transcendent. This is a talent that should be encouraged and emboldened. I can't wait for the next album.

2008 Album of the Year: Naked Songs (Rickie Lee Jones)

My album of the year is a Rickie Lee Jones album from 1995 that I did not know existed until a couple weeks ago (thanks internets). Naked Songs is a WONDERFUL live recording of Rickie, playing solo with sparse guitar and piano.

20 years ago, I took great pleasure in disconnecting my right brain and soaring with Rickie with her marvelous studio albums. Those that did the same have probably stopped reading so they can buy this gem from Amazon.

On this album, Rickie proves herself to be one of the finest singers alive. With nothing but sparse guitar and piano to accompany herself, she soars higher than I would have thought possible. I am in awe at the texture and sublty of vocals on this album. An extraordinary talent in her studio recordings proved to be even more extraordinary live.

Naked Songs includes the authoritative versions of all her finest songs. From the breathtaking take of Horses opening the set to Young Blood like it was meant to be to a rendition of We Belong Together that made me believe that we actually were.

This is the type of recording that we all wish Van Morrison had captured when he was in his prime.  If you had even a passing interest in Rickie Lee Jones back in the day, set your right brain free, close your eyes, and soar to places we all wish to be. Bravo Rickie.

1 comment:

Steve said...

If you liked Naked Songs try The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard. Some of the best work I have heard from Ricki in years.
Regards, Steve Hardek