R.E.M. Breaks Up

“R.E.M. Call it a day”  Wow.  R.E.M. was one of a few seminal bands in my musical upbringing.  During middle and high school, I listened pretty excursively to them and 2-3 other bands faithfully.  It was by downloading tab to the full R.E.M. catalog and finding a chord chart that I taught myself how to play guitar (and subsequently record 17 albums of demos that I have never really shared with the world).  I was really disappointed in the Up-Reveal-Around the Sun era, but so excited when they came back in force with Accelerate and Collapse into now.  So, it is sad to hear they are calling it a day.  However, it is better that they go out on a high note than to drift off into oblivion and irrelevancy by devolving again and putting out forgettable albums.  R.E.M. – you will be missed.  Yours is the soundtrack to a LOT of my adolescent and early adult life.  Thanks for the music.

From the R.E.M. HQ Website;


“To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening.” R.E.M.

In their own words: The guys share their thoughts on why now.


“During our last tour, and while making Collapse Into Now and putting together this greatest hits retrospective, we started asking ourselves, ‘what next’? Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together.

“We have always been a band in the truest sense of the word. Brothers who truly love, and respect, each other. We feel kind of like pioneers in this–there’s no disharmony here, no falling-outs, no lawyers squaring-off. We’ve made this decision together, amicably and with each other’s best interests at heart. The time just feels right.”


“A wise man once said–‘the skill in attending a party is knowing when it’s time to leave.’ We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we’re going to walk away from it.

“I hope our fans realize this wasn’t an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way.

“We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31 years; our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It’s been amazing.”


“One of the things that was always so great about being in R.E.M. was the fact that the records and the songs we wrote meant as much to our fans as they did to us. It was, and still is, important to us to do right by you. Being a part of your lives has been an unbelievable gift. Thank you.

“Mike, Michael, Bill, Bertis, and I walk away as great friends. I know I will be seeing them in the future, just as I know I will be seeing everyone who has followed us and supported us through the years. Even if it’s only in the vinyl aisle of your local record store, or standing at the back of the club: watching a group of 19 year olds trying to change the world.”


Albums you Must own (for $5 a piece!)

Amazon.com is constantly running $5 album deals for mp3 albums – some really great deals.  They are currently featuring 100 albums.  Here are my top 5 albums that should 100% be in your music collection and if they are not, your music collection is NOT complete.
Give Up
Kid A (Collector's Edition)
The Creek Drank The Cradle
Everything All The Time
Document (R.E.M. No. 5)
  Here’s a couple other good albums on the list and worth checking out.

Best Albums of 2009: October Edition

Best Albums of 2009

October Edition

Rather than compiling a huge list at the end of the year, not having enough time to do a good job, and simply throwing something together really fast, I’m going to start compiling my thoughts on albums over the whole year – month by month. Some of these may have actually been released earlier in the year, but are in this months set because this is when I got my hands on them.



Needless to say, a new Mountain Goats album is always a welcome treat. With much hype, including an appearance on The Colbert Report, I came to this album with a little trepidation. The last release, a split EP with John Vanderslice entitled Moon Colony Bloodbath was ok, but not great. The Life of the World to Come is not a dramatic departure from regular Darnielle & Co. affairs. All of the song titles are Bible verses, and it makes for an interesting project to sit down, crack open your King James and ponder the verse while listening to Darnielle’s lyrics. This is not a concept album though. Furthermore it is not overtly religious. He said the songs are inspired by tough lessons the Bible and his life have taught him. The album is great. But, it is not my favorite Mountain Goats release. On a side note, the intro to Genesis 3:23 sounds an awful lot like the intro to the Doogie Howser theme. Just a thought. Top tracks include Genesis 2:23 [download mp3], 1 John 4:16, and Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace.


R.E.M.’s return from the brink of insignificance, last years Accelerate, got me really excited about the band again. They were the bedrock of my high school music experience, and I loved most everything they did up through New Adventures in Hi Fi. This Live album comes from a rehearsal, not concert, and is absolutely fabulous. It is HEAVY on their 1980s releases and boast 39 tracks. Here’s a rough breakdown of the number of songs from which albums:
  • 8 songs: Accelerate (2008)
  • 6 songs: Reckoning (1984)
  • 4 songs: Chronic Town (1982)
  • 4 songs: Fables of the Reconstruction (1985)
  • 2 songs: Murmer (1983)
  • 2 songs: Life’s Rich Pageant (1986)
  • 2 songs: Document (1987)
  • 2 songs: New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996)
  • 2 songs: Automatic for the People (1992)
  • 1 song: Monster (1994)
  • 1 song: Reveal (2001)
  • 1 song: Around the Sun (2004)
There is no need to list top tracks, because you will recognize many of the song titles.
Built to Spill albums have been too few in his decade, if you ask me. Ancient Melodies of the Future in 2001, You in Reverse in 2006 and There is no Enemy in 2009. This band seldom disappoints. Martsch’s guitar chops are as meaty and dazzling as ever. There is No Enemy does feature the band playing with a few new sounds and styles. A welcome addition to an already impressive discography. Top tracks are Hindsight, Done and Tomorrow.
After the break up of Mike Doughty’s previous act, Soul Coughing, in 2000, Doughty hit the road on extensive solo acoustic tours. Since then, his releases have remained largely acoustic in essence, but have explored a variety of different sounds and levels of production and instrumentation. Generally speaking, Doughty’s releases have been increasingly more polished from year to year. Sad Man Happy Man is an aburpt return to his earliest solo acoustic efforts. Most songs are simply him, his guitar and touring-mate Andrew Scrap Livington on cello. A few other instruments and percussion make appearances, but are largely peripheral to the core thrust of the album. I think this is a fabulous triumph! I could have, however, done without the excessive use of parenthetical phrasing in the song titles. A bit trite. Top Tracks are (You Should be) Doubly (Gratified) and (When I) Box the Day (Up).



If you were a fan of Andrew Kinney’s previous musical outlet, American Analog Set, then you will love The Wooden Birds. Whether or not he intended for it to feel like a direct extension of AAS’s solid tradition, that is the way it comes off. The Wooden Birds pick up where AAS left off, and evolve his unique mellow, plodding, melodic songwriting and performance. Top Tracks are False Alarm [download mp3], Sugar and Hometown Fantasy.


I am always happy to see more Ben Gibbard. Perhaps I should have taken notice that he is listed 2nd on the album. This release feels much more like a Jay Farrar product with Gibbard playing 2nd fiddle. Heavy on the alt-country sound, take it for what it is. It is part of a film project. For more info see, their website. I prefer the Gibbard tracks such as California Zephyr, All in One and The Void.

Drew has been putting out DIY acoustic tunes for a few years now. With 2 LPs on the horizon (Goodnight Dannii and Goodnight Gary) Danburry recently offered up a free EP to the masses. Please visit his site and donate some money for the download. The highpoint is Lynette, I Love You [download mp3].

Mmm… tasty! With the eminent future of Radiohead releases or LPs a bit murky, I will gladly take some solo Thom Yorke. This was released as a double A-side. Greenwood’s involvement is evident as well, so stating them as a “solo Yorke” project is problematic.

Running LP List
  1. J. Tillman – Year in the Kingdom (September)
  2. Joshua James – Build me This (September)
  3. J. Tillman – Vacilando Territory Blues (January)
  4. Brendan Benson – My Old Familiar Friend (August)
  5. Owen – New Leaves (September)
  6. fun. – Aim and Ignite (August)
  7. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (May)
  8. The Mountain Goats – The Life of the World to Come (October)
  9. Shark Speed – Sea Sick Music (April)
  10. Say Hi – Oohs & Aahs (February)
  11. The Great Lake Swimmers – Lost Channels (March)
  12. R.E.M. – Live at the Olympia in Dublin (October)
  13. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast (January)
  14. Iron & Wine – Around the Well (May)
  15. David Bazan – Curse Your Branches (August)
  16. Mike Doughty – Sad Man Happy Man (October)
  17. The Wooden Birds – Magnolia (October)
  18. Built to Spill – There is no Enemy (October)
  19. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love (March)
  20. Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band – Outer South (May)
  21. Fruit Bats – The Ruminant Band (August)
  22. Volcano Choir – Unmap (September)
  23. Mos Def – The Ecstatic (June + July)
  24. Before Braille – Spring Cleaning (June + July)
  25. A.A. Bondy – When the Devil’s Loose (September)
  26. Art for Starters – Drugs Made / Drugs Ruined (April)
  27. Dent May and his Magnificent Ukuele – The Good Feeling Music of Dent May (March)
  28. Jeremy Enigk – OK Bear (May)
  29. Coconut Records – Davy (January)
  30. Jimmy Eat World – Clarity Live (April)
  31. Iain Archer – To the Pine Roots (April)
  32. The Appleseed Cast – Sagarmatha (February)
  33. John Vanderslice – Romanian Names (May)
  34. Peter, Bjorn and John – Living Thing (March)
  35. Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard – One Fast Move or I’m Gone (October)
  36. Jonsi and Alex – Rice Boy Sleeps (June + July)
  37. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (May)
  38. Grand Archives – Keep in Mind Frankenstein (September)
  39. Lateef the Truth Speaker – Truth is Love Mixtape (April)
  40. Vetiver – Tight Knit (March)
  41. General Elektriks – Good City for Dreamers (February)
  42. Dark was the Night compilation (April)
  43. Ben Kweller – Changing Horses (January)

Running EP List

  1. Common Market – The Winter’s End (March)
  2. Death Cab for Cutie – Open Door (March)
  3. Owen – The Seaside (August)
  4. Joshua James – Sing Songs (May)
  5. Drew Danburry – Geraniums (October)
  6. Andrew Bird – Fitz and the Dizzyspells (August)
  7. Thom Yorke – Feelingpulledapartbyhorses/the Hollow Earth (October)
  8. The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice – Moon Colony Blood Bath (April)
  9. Blue Scholars – OOF! (August)

Best Albums of 2008

My Favorite LPs of 2008

1. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

· Wow. I have been following Sub Pop new bands for quite some time, but Fleet Foxes took me completely by surprise. It was a good surprise. Their blend of folk, indie rock and near-Mamas and the Papas-esque harmonies was such a breath of fresh air. Their sound was completely their own and this album came out of nowhere. With a set of internet songs out, and the Sun Giant EP, Fleet Foxes have now honed their sound and found their voice. Their sophomore effort will be one of my most anticipated for the next couple years. Top tracks are . . . all of them. Seriously. Here’s a couple live tracks via la blogotheque.

Fleet Foxes – A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

2. Sigur Rós – Með suð í eyrum við spilum end

· Mmm. Sigur Ros. I loved Agaetis Byrjun. Takk was a masterpiece. They were albums that I liked to listen to on a nice set of headphones – with all other sounds blocked out. However, for some reason, when they came up on my iPod when on shuffle, I would often skip their tracks. The songs were something to be experienced and enjoyed outside of the shuffle format. Med sud I eyrum vid spilum defies that. On this album, Sigur Ros comes closer than ever before to writing traditional pop-rock songs. I’m not saying that pop-rock is the gold standard for good music (heaven forbid). However, for my shuffling tendancies, there is something to be said for a traceable intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus (or some permutation thereof) format. This album incorporates new sounds as well: a heavier reliance on acoustic guitars, more vibraphone and celesta than ever before, and more brass, more orchestra. This move away from the regular underlying cello-bowed distorted electric guitar allows the band to explore new sounds. I hate the term “soundscapes,” but in the case of Sigur Ros, it might actually be a worthwhile term. Again, Top tracks are all of them. Here’s a live concert for your enjoyment.

3. Grand Archives – Grand Archives

· I think this was an underrated album. I loved it. Grand Archives is a fabulous example of straightforward indie-rock. Just some guys making good music. Lots of acoustic guitar and endless layers of vocal harmonies. Contains former members of Band of Horses and Carrissa’s Wierd. Top tracks are Torn Blue Foam Couch, Miniature Birds, George Kaminski and Sleepdriving. Here they are on late night TV.

4. Common Market – Tobacco Road

· I find myself listening to this album a lot more than I thought I would. I love that Seatlle has a burgeoning Hip-Hop scene. Two of the premier acts are Blue Scholars and their Massline Media label-mates, Common Market. The two groups share their DJ, Sabzi, but have different MCs. Common Market’s self-titled debut was good, but is overshadowed in everyway by Tobacco Road. MC RA Scion’s new album has a more coherent voice that their previous LP lacked. HE focused heavily on his roots in the agricultural U.S. South, the troubled family life of his childhood and other seemingly autobiographical themes. He finds new cadences and new rhythms as well. DJ Sabzi finds new sounds as well – lots of vibraphone and other instrumentations that seem borrow from his skills as a jazz pianist. Top tracks include Trouble Is, Winter Takes All, Weather Vane and Tobacco Road. In particular, try Weather Vane. Common Market juxtaposes a smooth, almost sleepy, vibraphone track with the album’s grittiest and most disturbing lyrics – focused on domestic violence in small town rural America. Its chilling stuff. Here’s their 1st music video.

5. Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs

· This was a highly anticipated album if there ever was one. I still can’t believe that Death Cab for Cutie – that band that I first heard while growing up in Bellingham, WA, where they were going to college there at Western Washington University. Heck, I used to play them on my radio show at KUGS 89.3 when they were wandering the Western U.S. in beat-up vans. It is unbelievable to see them headlining major festivals, debuting their new album Narrow Stairs at #1 on the Billboard charts and getting Grammy nominations! Wow! Well, maybe I should be surprised, because they ARE amazing. Narrow Stairs finds them in a more stripped down and raw state than on the previously uber-produced Plans. The result is fabulous. Indie rock at its best. Some guys in a room, playing great music. Gibbard lyrics continue to impress me. The music industry has few true poets. Gibbard may be one of them. Top tracks are Cath . . . , Grapevine Fires and Your New Twin Sized Bed. Check out this documentary on the making of Narrow Stairs:

6. The Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride

· Oh the Mountain Goats. John Darnielle is by far my favorite lyricist in the business. On each successive album his oft nasally vocals get more refined and his talent as a musician is more polished. As has been mentioned in some reviews, Darnielle is more a songwriter than a musician. Top tracks are San Bernadino, How to Embrace a Swamp Creature and Michael Myers Resplendent.Here’s a video off the album – one of my favorites of the year.

7. Dear and the Headlights – Drunk Like Bible Times

· I found this band via their record producer, Bob Hoag @ the Flying Blanket Studio. On a side note, I’m still waiting for Bob’s The Go Reflex to release a new album. Please Bob, for my sake . . . I need some more Go Reflex. OK, back to Dear and the Headlights . . . This band’s first album, Small Steps, Heavy Hooves was good. I liked it. Drunk Like Bible Times is better. They seem more comfortable with their voice, and claim that this album better represents who they are, whereas their previous LP was outdated and unrepresentative of where the band was. The vocals are more frenetic than ever (if you can believe it), guitars are more noodley and there is a broader instrumentation overall. Top tracks are I’m not Crying, You’re not Crying, Are You?, Saintly Rows (Oh Oh) and I Know. Here’s a video from their first album.

8. J. Tillman – Vacilando Territory Blues

· J. Tillman has been putting out some great solo, singer-songwriter material for a few years. I found him via his current gig as the drummer for Fleet Foxes and form my bro-in-law McGreggor. His 2nd release of the year, I like this one better than Minor Works. The production value and sound quality isn’t quite as good as Minor Works, but thankfully, he didn’t lay down the countrified slide guitar as much. Top tracks are Firstborn, James Blues, Barter Blues and Master’s House.

9. R.E.M. – Accelerate

· Hallelujah for a comeback. R.E.M. was probably the most influential band during my adolescent/teenage years. My wife claims I like them simply for the nostalgia, but I disagree. However, as much lamented by myself and other, their last couple efforts have been soooo disappointing. Up, Reveal and Around the Sun . . . I could do without them. So, their latest effort was so exciting. Wow. R.E.M. is back, mad and pumped full of something! This album is full of angst, energy and direction. Accelerate is a good mix of their traditional sensibilities with some of the added energy of Monster and New Adventures in Hi Fi. Top tracks are Living Well is the Best Revenge, Man-Sized Wreath, Hollow Man and Mr. Richards. Here’s them on late night

10. Someone Still Loves you Boris Yeltsin – Pershing

· Another good release from Polyvinyl Records! Upbeat, harmony-laden indie rock. I was glad to find it on vinyl for $7 in a discount bin at graywhale records in SLC! Top tracks are Glue Girls, Modern Mystery and Think I Wanna Die. A video.

11. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

· Overrated? Over exposed? Critical backlash due to all the hype? Blah blah blah. This band and album has receive a lot of blogosphere attention. All of the bickering aside, this is a fun album. Enough said. It is unique, upbeat, has good strings and again, its fun. Just fun. Top Tracks are Mansard Roof, A-Punk and The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance. Another top video of the year for me.

12. J. Tillman – Minor Works

· Previously mentioned, this was J. Tillman’s first release of the year. The sound quality was a vast improvement from his previous 3 releases. However, as many bands do when they have a larger budget for recording, Tillman over did it a bit. Too much slide guitar . . . and at times a bit overproduced. Top tracks are Jesse’s Not a Sleeper, With Wolves, and Restlessness.

13. Okkervil River – The Stand-Ins

· As intended, this is a good follow up to 2007’s The Stage Names. If you liked that, you’ll like this. Top tracks are Lost Coast Lines, Starry Stairs and Bruce Wayne Campell Interviewed on the Roof of The Chelsea Hotel, 1979. Lost Coast Lines video:

14. The Mighty Underdogs – Droppin’ Science Fiction

· The Gift of Gab (Blackalicious), Lateef the Truth Speaker (Latyrx and Maroons) and Headnodic (Crown City Rockers) . . . you can’t go wrong. This is a fun album with great beats that underlie the expected lyrical expertise of the MCs. Top Tracks are Monster, Ill Vacation and Hands in the Air. Gunfhigt Video:

15. Damien Jurado – Caught in the Trees

· I have heard people say that Jurado is poised to be the next Elliott Smith. Hmmm. I don’t know about that. He is great though. Good orchestration on the album. A solid release. Top tracks are Trials, Everything Trying, Paper Kite and Best Dress. Video for Caskets:

16. Panic at the Disco – Pretty. Odd.

· I feel like I need a huge disclaimer for including this on my list. I despised everything this band was on their previous work. The eyeliner, the Fall Out Boy clone vocal styling. All of it – makes me shudder. This album however, was impressive. They were obviously shooting for a Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band type album and sound. The reason it isn’t higher on my list is that the lyrics were abysmal. Honestly. The more I listened to the words, the more I realized how banal they were! The music though, is really impressive. Great instrumentation, great transitions, very fun. Top tracks are Nine in the Afternoon, That Green Gentleman, When the Day Met the Night and Behind the Sea.

17. Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst

· I’m not entirely sure why Bright Eyes frontman (is he a frontman if it has largely been a solo show?) Conor Oberst decided to put out a new album under his own name, but I’m glad he released more music either way. Bright Eyes, or Conor Oberst and the Mystic Vally Band, he puts out some good stuff. The sound is a bit grittier than Cassadaga. It feels more spontaneous and less calculating. Top tracks are Moab, Get-Well-Cards and Souled Out.

18. Joshua James – The Sun is Always Brighter

· Turns out I knew this guys’ sister without putting together the “James” last name connection. Small world. I don’t know why this album hasn’t generated more buzz. Excellent indie-acoustic-rock with great instrumentation, strings, etc . . . James writes good songs and spins a good yarn. Top tracks are The New Love Song, FM Radio and Dangerous. A coupel vids HERE

19. Ben Folds – Way to Normal

· This is not my favorite Ben Folds album. It was a bit noisy for my taste and it lacked two things that many of his previous efforts had: a cohesive thematic voice, and some sort of traceable stride or pacing to the album’s flow. There were also quite a few tracks that I simply could have done without. Top tracks are Hiroshima (honestly one of the catchiest songs of the year), Cologne and Kylie from Connecticut. The fake versions of songs that leaked were quite a treat as well. Another top video of the year:

20. Matt Pryor – Confidence Man

· The New Amsterdams, side project for Matt Pryor, always played 2nd fiddle to his primary gig as the frontman for The Get Up Kids. Nevertheless, they put out some great albums. Worse for the Wear was a masterpiece. The early free internet release versions of Killed or Cured were quick favorite. However, once the Get up Kids broke up and Pryor dedicated himself fulltime to the New Amsterdams (ok . . . and the Terrible Twos), the music took a turn for the worse in 1 awful (Story Like a Scar) and 1 “acceptable” (At the Foot of my Rival) release. Then, out of nowhere, Pryor dropped his Amsterdam moniker and released under his named, Matt Pryor. The resulting LP drives straight back to what The New Amsterdams had started as. Minimalistic, acoustic, harmonicas, singer-songwriter-esque stories to music. I’m glad for this return to roots. Top tracks are Confidence Man, When the World Stops Turning, and the now multiple times redone Dear Lover.

My Favorite EPs of 2008

1. Common Market – Black Patch War [EP]

· This EP got me so ramped up for the Fall 2008 release of Tobacco Road. His Eminence may be my top hip-hop track of the year. Gritty, personal, rooted in southern agricultural and rural roots. Very good.

2. The Mountain Goats & Kaki King – Black Pear Tree [EP]

· John Darnielle’s lyrics + Kaki King’s guitar. Wow!

3. The Mountain Goats – Satanic Messiah [EP]

· More Mountain Goats is always a good thing!

4. Fleet Foxes – Sun Giant [EP]

· Can you think of a better debut EP? I can’t.

5. Colin Meloy – Colin Meloy Sings Sam Cooke [EP]

· Colin Meloy teams up with Zoey Daschelle on backup vocals. The result is my favorite of all of Colin Meloy’s cover EPs. Cupid is great.

6. The Mighty Underdogs – The Prelude [EP]

· This was a tasty teaser!

7. Minus the Bear – Acoustics [EP]

· GUNS & AMMO is a great new track. I also like hearing We Are Not a Football Team acoustic.

8. Conor Oberst – Gentleman’s Pact [EP]

· 4 good tracks.

9. Blue Scholars – BUTTER&GUN$ [EP]

· I can always use some more Blue Scholars. Butter&Guns is the only track worth mentioning though.

10. Josh Ritter – Live at the 9:30 Club [EP]

· I like Josh Ritter. I love Josh Ritter live.

11. Drew Danburry – Mother [EP]

· Hooray for Drew Danburry! Not only is he a great guy and a quality human being, but he makes some very entertaining music.

12. Matt Pond PA – The Freeep [EP]

· Nothing sticks out to me. Good, but not gripping. Much like most of Matt Pond PA’s music.

13. Ben Kweller – How Ya Lookin’ Southbound? Come In . . . [EP]

· This EP worries me. It is supposed to get us ready for next year’s Changing Horses. I don’t hear a lot that I like here. Too county.

Other notable releases:

Amos Lee – Last Days at the Lodge

· Nice and bluesy. Not as good as his self-titled.

Ashton Allen – Wellspring

· I was really excited to hear that Ashton Allen was putting out a new full length. His first album, Dewdrops was really great. It was a mix of the Beatles, Elliott Smith and Ben Kweller. This album, however, didn’t grab me as before. Good, but not great.

Before Braille – Kill the Messenger, Keep the Message

· Has this officially came out yet? Kind of, I think so. Frontman Dave Jensen (also owner of the Sunset Alliance record label) mailed these out for Christmas. A bunch of old tracks from his now defunct band. Some great stuff though. A few tracks honestly among B4B’s finest. You should all buy it from Dave. Try Dave’s new bad Art for Starters

Chris Walla – Field Manual

· For a long time, Death Cab for Cutie multi-instrumentalist and producer Chris Walla has been recording songs and putting them up on his website for free. I was glad to see him properly put out an LP. It is really good. His voice is not the strongest, but it is interesting to try to juxtapose his music with that of Death Cab – trying to distill his musical voice from the broader Death Cab sound. Good stuff.

Cold War Kids – Loyalty to Loyalty

· A grittier Maroon 5 with Led Zeppelin vocal crooning. Robbers and Cowards, their previous LP had so many catchy hooks and grooves. This album has much fewer.

Colin Meloy – Colin Meloy Sings Live!

· Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy can (almost) do no wrong. He sounds so great live.

Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords

· Funny and entertaining, but not something I listen to very often. Season 2 should be good.

Hotel Lights – Firecracker People

· I hope this grows on me. Darren Jesse from Ben Folds Five as frontman.

Hudson River School – Rise & Fall

· A long time coming, this Salt Lake City group offers this as their last effort, simultaneously announcing their breakup. Some good tunes.

Jack Johnson – Sleep Through the Static

· Better than his last couple. Its still not Brushfire Fairytales, but held my interest more than his last couple efforts.

Kaki King – Dreaming of Revenge

· Good, but not great. I like her 1st two better.

Less than Jake – GNV FLA

· Hooray! Less Than Jake got their voice back! The last couple albums strayed too far into mainstream sound for my tastes. It is great to hear them back in their prime.

Lyrics Born – Everywhere at Once

· Very very very very very very disappointing! Man! Lyrics born can be such a good MC, such a lyricist with some of the best flow, breath control and fast syncopated storytelling around! This album was weak sauce. Too much fluff. Too much R&B!

Lyrics Born – The Lyrics Born Variety Show, Season 3

· Some really good tracks. The first 2 seasons were better, but this is a welcome addition to the series.

Mates of State – Re-Arrange Us

· The best release to date by this married couple. Very catchy.

Mike Doughty – Golden Delicious

· Alright Mike Doughty! More tunes from our former Soul Coughing frontmanThis was close to being on the top 20. It had a couple great songs. I just want the girl in the blue dress to keep on dancing was one of my favorite songs of the year! Put it down was also great.

Phantom Planet – Raise the Dead

· I was really disappointed with Phantom Planet’s last self-titled release. REALLY disappointed. In previous releases, Phantom Planet is Missing, The Guest, Polaroid, etc . . . they had carved a unique sound and made some really fun music. Then their last LP seemed to poorly mimic and jump on the garage band – Strokes bandwagon. Boo! This release was significantly better. Top tracks are

Ra Ra Riot – Rhumb Line

  • Just barely got this, and it needs some more listens. So far, so good.

Ratatat – LP3

· Their self-titled was better. This album lost my attention, but stayed on my iPod nonetheless.

Reggie and the Full Effect – Last Stop: Crappy Town

· Crappy Town is right. Reggie always had a great quirky sense of humor with some good sounds as well. This just devolved into generic screamo-core way too much! A couple good songs though.

Sun Kill Moon – April

· Also a close contender for my top 20. Kozelek can be great and can be very mediocre. This is one of his better releases.

Thao Nguyen with The Get Down Stay Down – We Brave Bee Stings and All

· Quirky and fun.

The Dodos – Visiter

· A few tracks I could have done without, but come really good stuff.

TV On the Radio – Dear Science,

  • I liked this a lot better than their previous work. The vocals are still as erratic as ever, but the underlying music was much improved.

Initial Thoughts Album Review # 2 – R.E.M. Accelerate

Initial Thoughts Album Review # 2
Unpretentious album reviews that forgo the big words, analogies and obscure music-references to simply voice some initial thoughts and gut reactions.

There has been quite a bit of hype out this album, and I’ll be the first to admit that it has gotten my hopes VERY high. I lived off R.E.M. back in middle and high school and I even liked their controversial Monster and New Adventures in Hi-Fi releases (I say “controversial” because some fans despise those releases . . . I liked them). But, since this it has really been disappointing. Up and a good song or, but Reveal and Around the Sun were tragedies. As I sit and listen to Accelerate, however, I find myself transported back to their golden era . . . almost. It is an interesting mix: On certain tracks I find myself feeling like I’m listening to some unreleased song from the Life’s Rich Pageant sessions, but at the same time I hear elements in Michael Stipe’s voice that are distinctly post-Automatic for the People. In other words, I’m excited. I think that Stipe and the boy have taken what they always did best and updated it to include some of the good new evolutions, jettisoning the bad habits of the last 8 years or so. Hooray! I’m so excited to be excited about R.E.M. again!