Best Of 2008
2008 was a rich year for songs. In my last-day-of-the-year retrospective radio show, there was barely time for a third of the music chosen. New groups, seasoned writers, quirky styles and twists of imagination. A select number of these songs were found on albums that were strong all the way through.
What else separated the top ten from the pack...
• Clarity and depth of emotion in the writing and performance of a song(s).
• The obscure fun factor.
Already a conflict in judgment. Clarity and obscurity having equal weight in value. Let's go one at a time and see what unfolds. Counting down from number...
10. CALEXICO - Carried to Dust I've been a fan of Calexico since seeing them two years ago, in particular their Southwestern horn sounds layered across modern folk music. There is not one song that immediately pushed the "listen to me" button. Carried to Dust drifted into the frontal plains of my mind and colored the world in a way that kept bringing my back. It is subtle and quietly beautiful. Makes me want to travel to Tucson.
9. THE WOOD BROTHERS - Loaded Each year it seems more and more groups are covering songs from a wide range of rock and roll, pop, and blues. Three of my favorite 2008 versions of older songs are on this album. The Wood Brothers mine these songs for that intangible ingredient great songs share, then let them unfold in their own voice, taking the listener to a familiar song from a new perspective.
That alone would have gotten my attention, but they are also fine writers. I was surprised their previous album, Ways to Lose, didn't get more notice. I'm equally surprised, or more so, Loaded hasn't been noticed more. Try Postcards from Hell, Walk Away, or Lovin' Arms. Any track on this cd is worth a listen.
8. DeVotchKa - A Mad & Faithful Telling An Indie band that defies category. Chosen just because I like it. Nothing else like it has come through the studio this year. With elements of unidentifiable, or imaginary Middle Eastern, Slavic, Gypsy folk music, I wonder what runs through the minds of these musicians from Denver, USA. You want to put a different twist on your next party at 11 PM if it's getting dull. Put this cd on, it will either drive everyone out, depending who your friends are, or they will never leave. Ok, either way it may not be the best advice for a party, but a worthy social experiment. I know better than to try it a my house, my friends would never leave.
7. KATHLEEN EDWARDS - Asking for Flowers Any song that mentions Marty McSorley will catch my attention. The poignant realization of Asking for Flowers is unlike any relationship song I've ever heard. The Cheapest Key even rocks. Her voice opens these songs to the listener and invites you in. The song that pushed this cd into the best of the year category for me, though, is Scared at Night. There is not a more penetrating song from 2008. Listen to it driving alone at night sometime. I did. That moment has stayed with me ever since. I love it when songs live in their own moment.
6. JOHN HIATT - Same Old Man It impresses me when artists hone their writing throughout their career. When youthful excitement, where songs just jump out, starts running low on energy. After some success, how does the artist respond, then respond again year after year. John Hiatt has songs that have been hits for others. Had his own hit with Perfectly Good Guitar. Gone acoustic on Crossing Muddy Waters. Slightly more electric on Master of Disaster. Songs of many styles and subjects. On Same Old Man he sits back reflecting on personal relationships. Whether with his wife or early touring musicians he shared the bill with, these songs are like sitting around some Sunday morning over coffee, just talking. The conversation gets deeper, more personal, more comfortable. I can't think of another album quite like it. Each song, it's own conversation. A collection of musings on love and relationships from a middle aged man. But don't be fooled, these are deep and meaningful songs. It sounds like he almost surprises himself with the quiet reflection of "what love can do..."
My top five CDs of 2008 will be in the next post at this site.
I'd love to hear your choices and thoughts. Please comment if you get a chance.
Open Tunings with Scott Regan • 88.5 FM-WRUR.Org • M to F 9 am to noon, Sat 10 to noon