Ballots are starting to roll in for the Teenage Kicks readers poll (details here - be sure to vote!), and Todd Palmer, a longtime friend of the site, checks in with a list of his favorite albums of the year:
Here's the album list, no particular order.
The Gaslight Anthem
The '59 Sound
Thanks TeenKicks! A classic that will stand the test of time for me. For sure. Really great songwriting, and the band is as tight as last year's underwear. The drummer seems to eschew a normal drum kit in favor of a machine-gun, to good effect. Even the slow songs are excellent, which isn't always the case with the young punks. Drop the needle on 'Great Expectations' and you're off.
The Hold Steady
You know it was coming, but they found another new way to come at you and surprise you with a totally different vibe and technique for song construction. This album seems to be built for live shows, but still works well turned up to 10 in the car as well. I have to say, it's also perfectly sequenced; it just flows.
His best work as far as I'm concerned, 'Real Animal' was a gift that kept on giving this year. Every time I cued it up in the office I had people stopping by to ask about it. And every time I listened to it another song turned into my favorite, which is the mark of an classic with legs. Let's hope he keeps it up for another 20 years or so.
Two Cow Garage
Speaking In Cursive
I have a hard time being objective about these guys. One of my favorite live acts, I have real trouble separating their live and recorded stuff. I'll just say that this is a more diverse set of songs than they have displayed on any previous album, and all the songs hold up when played live. They beefed up their sound earlier this year with the addition of a keyboard player, and I think the addition takes a little pressure off the vocals, so there's less shouting and more singing. And playing. Buy this for God's sake, it's only $8.99 on their myspace page.
Feed The Animals
OK, I lied. I do have one favorite album this year, and this is it. 14 songs, each made up only of samples from other songs, assembled by one guy (Gregg Gillis) and his computer. Pitches bent, beats sped up and slowed down, vocals from one song inserted over beats and melodies of other songs. Not for the kids, but I dare you to download it (www.myspace.com/girltalk), listen, and not be TOTALLY addicted. It's free to download (pay what you want), so there's no reason not to do it right now. You can thank me later. Possible top music moment of 2008: Girl Talk's 'Like This': Mya's 'Ghetto Superstar" into Diana Ross' 'Upside Down' into The Carpenter's 'Superstar' into Meallica's 'One'. Genius.
LL Cool J
Old school hip hop, from the guy who practically invented it. Tough, hard, begs to be played loud. If you ever liked his beats back in the day ('Radio', 'Mama Said Knock You Out', etc.) give this one a shot. Back to the roots of the genre.
She & Him
Unexpected. Heard this one on NPR and was shocked at the depth of the whole thing. M. Ward is a genius arranger, and plays in a subtle manner that stays out of the way of Zoe D.'s soaring vocals. Great stuff, and gets better with repeated listening.
Kings of Leon
Only By The Night
I have their entire ouevre, but this is the first of their recordings that I loved right out of the box. It's a lot more accessable, with meoldies that flow and vocals that don't sound like nails on a chalkboard the first time through. It may help that I saw them live, where it became abundantly clear that every song on every album was built to play live. Once I got that, this album became a masterpiece. As with most of the other stuff on my list, this is an album that gives up more and more upon repeated listening. Get this one, even if you never liked their other ones, and please go see them play live if you get a chance. Stunning.
My Morning Jacket
These guys are the new face of "southern rock", and as a longtime fan of the genre I'm OK with that. Their albums deliver that creepy, swampy feel that you got with the best albums from Wet Willie and The Dixie Dregs, while several songs sport those lyrical turns that you came to expect from Skynyrd or the Allmans. They are virtuoso players as well. Bonus: Lead singer Jim James is now Obama's national security advisor. Or at least that's what my friend Pete told me. We need more beards in the White House.
Sorry Ma, Hootenanny, Stink, Let It Be, Tim, Pleased To Meet Me
I cannot let the reissue of these seminal works pass by. Any one of them would belong on their respective year's best-of list, especially if the included bonus tracks were, well, included. Shining them up and adding songs makes this a great year to be a Replacements fan. These were the albums (along with REM) that turned it all around for me. I didn't think that it was possible to love them more than I did, but the bonus tracks are great additions that lift the curtain a bit on the process of writing and recording these gems, plus they add missing songs that probably should have been included in the first place. Now if they would just remaster "When The Shit Hits The Fans" and release it, their story would be complete.
Keep up the good work Trip and Mike.