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Minneapolis Concerts Captured by the iPhone

The Decemberist- The Walker

Phoenix- The Varsity

Grizzly Bear- First Ave

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Defining the Decade

I’d like to give street credit to some of the biggest names missing from my list who all proved themselves worthy over the last decade, but in limiting the list to twenty-five and my own personal reflection left out: Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys, Animal Collective, Bright Eyes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jay-Z, and Beyonce. Please enjoy the selection I’ve crafted as they represent the songs in the last decade that meant the most to me both musically and personally.  In no specific order:

“Seven Nation Army “- The White Strips

“Munich”- Editors

“While You Wait for the Others”- Grizzly Bear

“Time to Pretend” – MGMT

“Crazy” – Gnarls Barkley

“Paper Planes”- M.I.A.

“Smile”- Lily Allen

“Hey Ya” – Outkast

“All My Friends” –LCD Soundsystem

“Wake Up” -Arcade Fire

“Chicago” -Sufjan Stevens

“Young Folks”- Peter Bjorn & John

“Float On”- Modest Mouse

“Lose Yourself”- Eminem

“Stuck Between Stations”- The Hold Steady

“Since U Been Gone”-Kelly Clarkston

“Jesus, Etc.” – Wilco

“Skinny Love”- Bon Iver

“Heartbeats” –The Knife

“Delicate”- Damien Rice

“Fake Empire”- The National

“Toxic”- Britney Spears

“Someday” The Strokes

“Cry Me A River” –Justin Timberlake

“Suddenly I See”- KT Tunstall

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Best of 2009- Review of the Year

Top 10 Albums

1.    The Avett Brothers- You, and I, and Love

My favorite of the year is a straightforward folk album. These guys have been around for awhile but with sharp lyrics and catchy melodies I became a new and loyal follower. My favorites are “A Perfect Space”, “Ill With Want”, “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise”, and “Laundry Room”. Though, even listing favorite tracks does not give this album the praise it deserves because there’s something special about every song, and this will be one I continue to return to for many years and remember what it was like to be twenty-five.

2. Grizzly Bear- Veckatimest

This album is a great listen all the way through. Perfect for a Sunday morning or lazy afternoon. The first single, “Two Weeks” was a great summer beat with a crazy music video (perhaps my favorite of the entire year). Though, it was the “While You Wait for the Others” that completely sold me on this group; it is BY FAR my favorite song of the entire year. Simple songs like “Foreground” and “Dory” are the sweet gems that have  rhythmic quality that will resonate long after listening. Seeing the band live proved that these guys are the real deal, all four members actively contribute to vocals, instrumentals, and visual effects. One of the real break out groups of the year, hope that they continue to do good things with their talent.

3. Metric- Fantasies

Every song is a winner. This album made me a new fan of Emily Haines beautiful voice. Seeing her live life brought this band alive as they proved they can rock out. The best track is a toss-up between “Gimme Sympathy” asking the famous question “Who would you rather be The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?” or the acoustic version of “Help, I’m Alive” where Emily delivers each word with the urgency of the beat. If “Help, I’ve Alive” was the sad song for a broken heart than “Sick Muse” was the angry one, that trashes on Cupid and begging for freedom. Perhaps the sweetest song is “Collect Call” when Haines sings, “I’m a lazy dancer/When you move I move with you”. This album came out in April and has been on heavy rotation during my runs since, which speaks to the energy these songs create.

4. Phoenix- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Who knows what they are singing about, and who cares because these Frenchman are adorable and created the most catchy beats of the year. The two hits were both wonderful “1901” and “Lisztomania” other favorite were “Lasso” and “Armistice”. After seeing them perform on SNL I kept my eye on the Minneapolis concert calendar and bought tickets as soon as their name appeared. I was one of the lucky few who got to see these guys live in the Twins Cities during their sold out shows in Minneapolis. I’m glad I did too because it was the best concert I saw all year, the infectious songs were delivered perfectly to the adorning crowd.

5. Wilco- Wilco (The Album)

This album seemed to be for the fans with the mocking album title and the opening track being “Wilco (The Song)” where Tweedy croons “Wilco will love you baby” and love us they did with new songs from one of the best bands today. They didn’t cover any new territory and received criticism for that since that’s one of the band’s signatures qualities. Still, there were some great songs on this album even if it lacked cohesively. The George Harrison riff in “You Never Know” made it enjoyable time and time again, while Tweedy’s duet with Feist “You and I” was also charming. Songs like “Deeper Down and I’ll Fight” seemed to capture some old rockability sound from another era, while  “ Black Star Supernova” charted new ground. Seeing them live for the first time also sealed my approval of the new album along with the rest of the collection and Tweedy impressively captured the crowd and delivered the songs with clarity.

6. Animal Collective- Merriweather Post Pavilion

Nobody is going to deny (at least those in tune to the music scene) that “My Girls” is the song of the year by capturing this idea of a return to simplicity, that can be appreciated during the current economic recession as a mindset going forward. Pitchfork and Spin named it album of the year, while other publications like Rolling Stone and Paste included in their top 25 lists. Other songs that also fit the 2009 vibe were “Summertime Clothes” and “Brother Sport”. After a few listens this album grows and grows as demonstrating new directions of the expanding music frontier.

7. St. Vincent- Actor

This is like an indie Disney fairytale soundtrack. I love Annie Clark a.k.a. St. Vincent’s voice and how the album has a definite feel that all of the songs go together and tell an overarching story. “Laughing with a Mouth Full of Blood” had the most repeat listens on my iTunes play count. Though it’s “Neighbors” which was my favorite as she sings “How can Monday be just find/Then Tuesday lose my mind?“ Songs that expand the narrative and illustrated the spring and summertime landscapes these songs filled include “The Party”, “Just the Same But Brand New”, and “Actor Out of Work”.

8. The XX- XX

The first time I heard I this band’s song “VCR” played on NPR’s All Songs Considered I knew I would love this band. It’s hard to believe that the band members are a trio of twenty-year-olds who have grown up with each other since pre-school. What makes this group work are the singers’ vocals and how the male and female harmonize so perfectly together. The focal point of all the songs are about love, that is not to say they are shallow lyrics. Rather lyrically the songs are all solid, particularly “Islands” and “Crystallized”. The fact that many of the songs all begin to sound the same would be the weak link, though even this seems to work into the cohesion of the album. I question what can spring forth from here with their next batch of songs, though I will definitely give it a listen especially after their endearing debut collection.

9. Dirty Projectors- Bitter Orca

I first heard of this group when they collaborated with David Byrne for the Dark Was The Night project with the song “Knotty Pine” I knew then that I would like this group, and when their new album dropped I gave notice as did the rest of the music scene. Similar to the sounds that Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear created this band incorporated it’s members as instruments and collaborative efforts made for sweet melodies. My favorite is “Stillness in the Move” which was inspired by the German film Wings of Desire. Other songs that added the layers of this album would be “No Intention” and Cannibal Resources”. These weren’t only catchy songs, but they demonstrated depth and careful craft to song making which was refreshing to hear.

10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs- It’s Blitz

A dance album and a ballad album? Karen O stripped down versions of “Hysteric” and “Runaway” are absolutely beautiful. While “Zero” and “Heads Will Roll” are some of the most danceable tunes I’ve heard in ages, and somehow the combination seems to work between the multi-tones spread throughout the YYY’s third album. It seemed like the right answer for the band to make this album, at least for the way music sounded this year and to prove that they are more than just the band who did “Maps” as they stretched their teeth with this collection. In addition O proved she’s still got the front woman power to be vying for.

Top 10 Songs

1. “Low Rising”- The Swell Season

From the opening seconds of the song Glen Hansard seems to be channeling Van Morrison and for that alone I absolutely LOVE this song.

2. “Wicked Blood”- Sea Wolf

Alex Brown a.k.a Sea Wolf can make one hellva a song, and “Wicked Blood” is a gorgeous orchestration of instruments, lyrics, and sound.

3. “Animal”- Miike Snow

I previously have said Snow is like the best of Phoenix and Animal Collective and this was a constant go-to song for any type of circumstance.

4. “Home”- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

The new band that was all the buzz in 2009 and I have to admit they captured me too especially with this song. It’s  refreshingly different than the rest and also a sweet song that’s impossible not to love.

5. “Curse Your Branches”- David Bazan

New to Bazan his humble lyrics about spirituality resonated deeply, as he finds the perfect metaphors that are difficult to share “All fallen leaves/should curse their branches/for not letting them decide where they should fall/ and not letting refuse to fall at all/ digging up the root of my confusion/if no one planted it/ how does it grow?/why are some hell bent on there be an answer/ while some are quite content to answer I don’t know.” Absolutely perfect.

6. “So Far Around The Bend”- The National

My favorite band with a NEW cheery New York song, how could it not make the list? The lighter tone makes me anxious to see what’s next in store for this group.

7. “You’ve Got The Love” – Florence + The Machine

The new female British siren that somehow is enjoyable to fans of Annie Lennox, Kate Bush, and Amy Winehouse. This song, especially with The XX remix version fills a loaded space with energy and highlights the essence of this talented new voice.

8. “Sweet Disposition”- The Temper Trap

I first heard this song in the movie 500 Days of Summer and when you hear it you think this fits perfectly into a movie montage because it captures a mood or a space of time which what is conveyed as a compiled memory. This is similar to a montage which take the best memories and mixing them together.

9. “French Navy”- Camera Obscura

A great melody and a sweet song from the charming Scottish band. There were several stellar tracks on their My Maudlin Career disc; though this is the one that captured the band’s essence with these heartfelt and honest love songs that singer Tracyann Campbell sings unassuming to their truth depths.

10. “This Tornado Loves You”- Neko Case

Whose got a better voice that Neko these days? I liked several songs of her Middle Cyclone release, though her vocal range and the emotion put forth in this song is what captured me the most this year.

2009 Soundtrack

January: “Here Comes a Regular”- The Replacements

February: “Too Young”- Phoenix

March: “Love Dog” – TV on the Radio

April: “How Soon is Now?”- The Smiths

May: “Watch the Tape”- LCD Soundsystem

June: “While You Wait For the Others”- Grizzly Bear

July: “Walk On”- Neil Young

August: “Poised and Ready”- Brendan Benson

September: “A Perfect Space”- The Avett Brothers

October: “All My Friends” – LCD Soundsystem

November: “Which Way Your Heart Will Go”- Mason Jennings

December: “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”- Radiohead

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Norah Jones: A Star Reborn

I’ve always been impressed by how poised Norah Jones is during interviews, and I LOVE her Wilco cover that can heard on NPR.

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The Songs the Captured the Last Ten Years

As the decade winds to a close here are the songs that helped to define the culture and my evolution of “music” growth.

2000- “Beautiful Day”- U2

2001- “New York, New York”- Ryan Adams

2002- “Lose Yourself”- Eminem

2003- “Hey Ya!”- OutKast

2004- “Mr. Brightside” – The Killers

2005- “Chicago”- Sujfan Stevens

2006- “Crazy” – Gnarls Barkley

2007- “Young Folks”- Peter, Bjorn, and John

2008- “Time to Pretend”- MGMT

2009- “My Girls”- Animal Collective

2007 Best Year: It was a good year for music with standout albums and collection of great tunes.

Sound of Sliver- LCD Soundsystem

Neon Bible- Arcade Fire

Boxer- The National

Blue Sky Blue– Wilco

The Remainder– Feist

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga– Spoon

The Con– Tegan and Sara

Noteable Songs

“Rehab”- Amy Winehouse

“Paper Planes”- M.I.A

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On the Radar

 One of the most surprising albums of the year comes from Florence + The Machine’s Lungs. The artist’s first radio single, “Kiss with a Fist” makes her sound like a feisty Ida Maria, though a closer listen to any of the other songs on the album reveal a modern day hybrid of Annie Lennox and Kate Bush. The fiery red head, Florence, is the latest t British female to make her debut across the pond.  Every song has an effective beat; the uplifting “Dogs Days Are Over” seems to take a nod from the sounds of Bush’s “Running Up That Hill”.  Some songs highlight a more spiritual side to the artist, such as  “You’ve Got The Love” is reminscent of George Harrison’s “Awaiting On You All”. While Florence’s voice isn’t as deep as Lennox it does have remarkable range, which is demonstrated in both “Howl” and “Drumming Song”. It’s undeniable that this gal has talent. The album is simply fun and is both radio friendly and richly layered in lyrics and sound.  This may be an album I find myself continually coming back to, which is one the highest compliment I can give to a new artist.

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Best Soundtrack of the Year?

Twilight New MoonThis week is the launch of the new Twilight movie, New Moon. The buzz has been building of the release for months, and is sure to be one of the big box office hits of the year.  A few months ago artists that were going to be featured on the soundtrack started to leak. The anticipation grew around the soundtrack as many of the world’s most famous Indie Rock artists were listed with new material. A month ago the soundtrack was released and quickly rose to the top of the charts. What’s exciting about the Twilight franchise is their smart decision to go with some of the most electrifying artists today on the soundtrack, and as a result the music will reach a whole new audience of listeners.

Tom Yorke’s willingness to contribute was enough to lure the rest of the Indie Rock artists to the project.  While Yorke’s “Hearing Damage” isn’t exactly covering any new ground all Radiohead fans will be pleased.  “Friends” by Band of Skulls continues the British up-and-comers streak of great guitar licks that one would expect from the band. One of the most pleasant surprises comes from a band  I knew nothing about, Hurricane Bell, their tune “Monsters” compliments many of the other pop/rock songs on the album.  Another standout track sure to gain attention is from Los Angeles based Anya Marina, whose song “Satellite Heart” could make for a great radio single or highlighted on a TV show.  Sweden’s pop darling Lykke Li’s song “Possibility” shows a more melancholy side to the edgy artist. Grizzly Bear’s  “Slow Life” features the vocals of Victoria Legrand of the band Beach House. The band frequently uses Victoria’s voice as backup vocals and it’s nice to hear her more predominately featured in this song. Death Cab for Cutie’s “Meet Me On The Equinox” is the loudest I’ve ever heard the band.   Seawolf’s contribution, “The Violent Hour” feels like the missing track from his recent album, and while not his finest it’s still a catchy song.

Not all of the songs maintain the same caliber as the ones above.  One of the most disappointing tracks was “Shoot The Moon” by The Editors, who are a great band but are much more effective when they rock-out and the stripped down song does nothing interesting with the lyrics or rhythmic sound. I was initially excited to hear St. Vincent and Bon Iver’s collaboration on “Roslyn” but the song is so dull it’s barely worth repeating which is such a disappointment from the two talented artists.  The Killers are barely recognizable beyond Brandon Flowers’ voice in their song “A White Demon Love Song” the simple lyrics and back-up vocals brings them to the end of the decade sounding the rest of the artists on this soundtrack but without creating anything original or heartfelt.

No matter if you’re a fan of Twlight or not the soundtrack is worth checking out. I’m excited for the artists featured and the new wave of fans that will discover them through this well-crafted selection of songs.

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