Best of 2008 – Songs

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1. “Stay Positive” – The Hold Steady

From the Arcade Fire school of depressing songs that sound like joyous hymns comes this year’s best song, “Stay Positive”. As Craig Finn’s lyrics rumble over an organ drenched soundscape with muted power chords, the listener is presented with a somewhat bleak picture of a dying scene. But when the chorus kicks in there is full on euphoria. It’s rather difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes this song so great, but I can’t get it out of my head and I don’t mind. I guess that says enough.

2. “Don’t Trust Me” – 3OH!3

Look, I know that it’s not hip to like this song. I know that it’s target audience is 14-year old fake scenester girls. But it’s so good that I don’t care, and you shouldn’t either. Yes it’s ridiculous, but it’s also ridiculously catchy. I can’t not dance and clap along every time I hear it. With pulsating beats and deceptively clever lyrics, this is the anthem for your 2008 dance party. Plus who can argue with a lyric as brilliantly absurd as “Shush girl, shut your lips. Do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips.”? No one. At least no one I want at my party.

3. “After Hours” – We Are Scientists

While We Are Scientists’ Brain Thrust Mastery might be the most disappointing album of 2008, the album’s first single, “After Hours”, is golden. An ode to nights on the town, the songs simple rhythm guitar part fits perfectly with the quick high open E-string lick. The does the time honored trick of constantly growing to crescendos with ease. It also stays with the We Are Scientist formula of no part of the arrangement (guitar, bass, drums) doing a similar thing, while adding a slew off small detail sounds by a wide range of instruments to the background. Overall, it’s just the perfect nightcap for anyone lit more by artificial glow than sunlight.

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Best of 2008 – Live Music

There are few (if any) things better than amazing live music. Now I’m not gonna go out and say these are the best live bands of the year, because I know how much certain bands can vary from night to night (although it’s probably likely if they’re on the list they’re consistently solid). I’ll just say these are the 10 best sets I saw performed this year. A lot were confined to the Sasquatch! festival this year, but I’m okay with that. Anyway enjoy…

Top 10 Sets

1. The Flaming Lips – Sasquatch! (The Gorge)

Look, I was a doubter of The Flaming Lips heading into Sasquatch Festival. I never understood what all the fuss was about. I didn’t get it. Then, I saw them live. Holy Jesus Christ and Mary Chain. It was surreal. There is just this euphoric sense of joy that their live show gives off.

The scene was surreal. From the band decending from a UFO to the people in Teletubby costumes to the naked people to the Wayne Coyne’s hallowed hamster ball, it was all part of a brilliantly insane party. Oh yeah, and the music was great too. Songs like “Yoshi vs The Robots” and “Do You Realize” just seem like epic

Immediately after their set was done it began to rain, as if the clouds had waited to release the drops not wanting to spoil their set. As I joyously ran around the hills of The Gorge, dancing with a Cherise cat grin on my face, I knew that I finally “got” The Flaming Lips.

2. The Hives – Sasquatch!

The Hives had been #1 on my “Bands I Need To See Live” since the release of Vini Vidi Vicious. They didn’t disappoint one bit. The Hives are custom made for huge festivals like Sasquatch!. Lead singer “Howlin'” Pelle Almqvist knows how to work the whole stage and sea of listeners with his frenetic energy. Meanwhile the rest of the band provides buzzing hooks and pulsing beats for him to parade around. The band rattled through 18 or so songs of garage rock brilliance in about 40 minutes, and when it was all over you could hear exclamations of praise from all corners of the crowd. That’s the way to live up to expectations.

3. Against Me! – Warped Tour (Denver, CO)

Tom Gabel and company know how to bring it, even in the less than brilliant atmosphere of this year’s Warped Tour. With their usual blistering pace the band played mostly tracks off of New Wave, but luckily still threw in a couple from their old cannon including “Walking Is Still Honest” and “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong.” No one does live punk better. No one.

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Heart Burns – Tom Gabel

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It might seem odd to some that Tom Gabel has released a solo album figuring his band Against Me! started as a solo act. However, Heart Burns is not an album full of Against Me! songs. Instead the seven tracks that attempt to cross Gabel’s Against Me! sound with an earnest attempt at folk-rock that misses a bit more than it hits.

Two unfortunate problems that plague Heart Burns are strange percussion sounds and heavy handed lyrics. The percussion sounds, especially those on tracks such as “Conceptual Paths” and “100 Years of War”, just sound incredibly unnatural. While this might work in another situation, it sucks the warmth and lifeblood out of a folk album. Instead of feeling incredibly real and personal, the percussion sounds throw up a barrier that separates Gabel and the listener.
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My Music Videos

So I’ve been slacking. It was finals week for me last week, which would be a good excuse for the lack of anything posted if I would’ve had any finals. My bad. To tide you over, here are some music videos I’ve made for class…

“Nineteen” – Tegan and Sara

“Forward” – The Thermals

A Few Quick Reasons Why You Should Never Read Rolling Stone (2008 Edition)

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*A rundown of this year’s covers from newest to oldest:

Brad Pitt
John Lennon/Bob Dylan/Aretha Franklin
AC/DC
Barack Obama
A John McCain caricature
Metallica
David Letterman, Tina Fey, & Chris Rock
A George W. Bush caricature
The Jonas Brothers
Barack Obama
Coldplay
Eddie Van Halen, B.B. King, Jimmy Page, & Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
The Eagles
The Hills
The Best of Rock 2008 (An issue from May)
The Rolling Stones & Jack White
Chris Rock
Barack Obama
Jack Johnson
Britney Spears
Radiohead
Johnny Depp

*Cover Count:
Relevant modern artists: 1 (Radiohead alone; though Jack White & Omar Rodriguez-Lopez shared covers)
Actors: 5
Politicians: 5
Artists who’s heyday was before the 2000s (many WAY before): 6
Barack Obama: 3

*The magazine has become like a printed Fox News for the left, covering politics seemingly as much as music.

*They put The Jonas Brothers’ album, A Little Bit Longer, as their #40 album of 2008.

Looking Back: Top Albums of 2006 & 2007

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Since this site is in it’s infantile state and I’ll shorty be doing my “Best of 2008” posts I figured it might be nice to combine my previous year end album retrospectives. These were basically written for my own pleasure and posted on old blogs, Facebook, and things like that. There are essentially parts of 3 previously written articles here: my original “Top 10 Albums of 2006”, “Redux: Top 10 Albums of 2006” done in December 2007 (because I always miss good albums and change my mind), and the album list from “Year In Music Review – 2007”. The have differing styles, so I apologize for that.

Additionally, I’m throwing on a second redux the 2006 list and one for the 2007 edition as well. And after reviewing this I have to say, 2006 was about 10 times better than the past 2 years combined, which is a comment on how good that year was and how sub par 2007 & 2008 have been. Anyway…

“Top 10 Albums of 2006”

1. Bug Sessions Volume One – Saves the Day

I guarantee you won’t find this on other top 10 lists, and probably for many good reasons. It’s an EP. It’s old material that is just played acoustically. It was only available at Saves the Day shows. All that aside, when you get down to it this is an amazing, amazing album. This was literally the only thing in my car’s CD player from July to September. Every track is better than it original version (with the possible exception of “Freakish”). The new versions of “You Vandal” and “Sell My Old Clothes, I’m Off To Heaven” are inescapably fantastic and are the highlights of the album. It’s really tough to describe what makes Bug Sessions Volume One so great. This album may be hard to find, but it’s worth the effort.

2. The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me – Brand New

After waiting years for their follow up to the masterpiece Deja Entendu, Brand New finally delivered with this record. While it can’t quite match Deja (which is expected) it is still a must hear record. The best way to describe it is as an incredibly disturbing record to listen to, but in a good way. Singer/songwriter Jesse Lasey takes a more somber approach to the lyrics on this album. The imagery is filled with religious references and, at times, pure hatred and frustration. While the middle tracks (5-8) aren’t Brand New’s best, the albums bookends are superb. “Sowing Season (Yeah)” is a bio-polar blast of anger. “Millstone” best captures Brand New’s brand new sound. “Degausser” might be the best song of 2006. “Luca” is the only song to ever make me jump from my seat listening to it, courtesy of the car crash ending. And “Archers” is the furiously straight forward hit single that won’t be. This is the best “real” album of the year.

3. With Love And Squalor – We Are Scientists

We Are Scientists are just one of those bands that does everything right. Their music is killer. Their videos are top notch. They have the best band website ever (www.wearescientists.com). And on top of all of that they rock some serious facial hair (well except for the dangerously good looking frontman Keith Murray). Their debut LP could easily be the album of the year in a weaker musical year. “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt” kick starts the rock party. “It’s A Hit” and “Lousy Reputation” are almost too simple and fantastic for their own good. One great thing about WAS is that they are never playing “in sync”. The drums are doing one thing, and the bass is doing something completely different, while the guitar is doing something else on it’s own. It makes With Love And Squalor so interesting and fun to listen to. This is an album that just doesn’t get old to listen to. Let me put it this way, you won’t be finding yourself skipping any of these songs on iPod shuffle.

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“Best” of My Concert Photography

A few years back I started taking my camera to a few shows. I’d never been big on the whole concert photography thing before, but I really enjoyed some of the shots I got. I eventually started to do it more and more often.

Now I’m no photographer really, and my camera is a piece of crap and often gets shaky images. Still, I know more about photography than some who claim to be seriously into it and sometimes the crappy little camera gets very cool lighting. Oh and for the record, I don’t use flash because it is unrealistic and makes things look terrible. I’d rather have shaky and real than anything fake looking. So here are some of my favorites.

Jimmy Eat World @ The Wilma in Missoula, MT (10/7/07)

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Light can…

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…be so…

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…damn amazing.

Minus the Bear @ The Service Station in Spokane, WA (9/23/07)

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My only published photo, not that I try.

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Dave Knudson’s headbanging hair horn.

Rocky Votolato @ The Service Station in Spokane, WA (3/1/08)

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Light & sound.

The Hives @ The Sasquatch! Festival (5/26/08)

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Sing along.

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Charisma.

Shiny Toy Guns @ The Service Station in Spokane, WA (9/6/07)

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Carah Faye Charnow is angelic, even if it is a dark angel.

Fall Out Boy @ Warped Tour in Bozeman, MT (6/15/05)

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On stage because it was a few weeks before they got HUGE and other bands wouldn’t let me up.

The Flaming Lips @ The Sasquatch! Festival (5/26/08)

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Wayne simply emoting.

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Green bliss.

Against Me! @ Warped Tour in Denver, CO (6/29/08)

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Yes it’s blurry, but I don’t think I could better capture the spirit and energy of AM!.

Relient K @ Warped Tour in Denver, CO (6/29/08)

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This just screams, “Warped Tour,” to me.

The Hold Steady @ The Railyard in Billings, MT (6/24/08)

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If you’ve seen them then you know the man can’t stand still.

Queens of the Stone Age @ The Shrine in Billings, MT (6/29/07)

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Note to everyone: Josh Homme is fucking huge and will kick your drunk ass if you stage rush him.

Rancid @ Warped Tour in Bozeman, MT (6/20/08)

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Basking in love and loathing.

P.O.S. @ The Warped Tour in Boise, ID (8/17/07)

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Stages are for chumps.

Alkaline Trio @ Warped Tour in Bozeman, MT (7/16/04)

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The “Blair Witch” feel really fits Alk3.

David Bazan @ The Sasquatch! Festival (5/24/08)

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Just simple and modest like the artist himself.

Death Cab for Cutie @ The Sasquatch! Festival (5/25/08)

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Death in motion.