Posts Tagged ‘Black Lips’

The 25 Greatest Live Albums Of All-Time

3 July 2010

“A concert is not a live rendition of our album. It’s a theatrical event.” ~ Freddie Mercury

*****

Punch your ticket to 25 of the best live albums of all-time…


25] Yardbirds | Five Live Yardbirds – A young Eric Clapton flashes the skills that would earn him all kinds of silly nicknames, and influence half a generation of guitarists…

Listen: Smokestack Lightning


24] Black Lips | Los Valientes Del Mundo Nuevo – “This is gonna be the greatest live album ever,” yells one of the Lips during this set recorded in Tijuana, Mexico. It’s somewhere closer to the best live album of the ’00s…

Listen: M.I.A.


23] Grateful Dead | Reckoning – Freed from psychedelic pyrotechnics, the Dead shine on this stripped down, pre-Unplugged set…

Listen: Deep Elem Blues


22] Thin Lizzy | Live And Dangerous – Thin Lizzy capped a glorious run of mid-70s albums with this double-live epic…

Listen: Jailbreak


21] Various Artists | Woodstock – A bit of the good, bad and ugly, but Richie Havens, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Country Joe, Canned Heat and Alvin Lee save the day(s)…

Listen: Soul Sacrifice [Santana]


20] Bob Dylan | Live 1966: The Royal Albert Hall Concert – Dylan’s willful clashes with his audiences in ’66 would be echoed by Johnny Rotten in ’77 and Axl Rose in ’88, but the original punk is still the snarlin’est of them all…

Listen: I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)


19] Eric Clapton | Unplugged – Clapton rejuvenated his career – and gave his fans a new way to hear his songs – with this groundbreaking MTV Unplugged show…

Listen: Layla


18] Talking Heads | The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads – What do you know, they actually were punks! The first album comes from the years 1977-79, while the second covers 1980-81. Both trump Stop Making Sense

Listen: New Feeling


17] Otis Redding | Live In Europe – Recorded in March 1967, during the Stax/Volt ensemble tour of Europe, this album overflows with the enthusiasm of the audience, and foreshadows Redding’s knockout performance at the Monterey Pop Festival just a few months later…

Listen: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction


16] Muddy Waters | Live At Newport 1960 – At the 1960 Newport Folk Festival, Muddy Waters wasn’t yet a Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame inductee or Chicago Blues titan – he was simply a man with a band trying to impress a whole bunch of white people. This soulful yet blistering set did the trick, and sent him on his way to all those accolades…

Listen: I’ve Got My Mojo Working


15] The Rolling Stones | LiveR Than You’ll Ever Be – The original concert bootleg was recorded in Oakland, CA on November 9th, 1969. Highlights include a ferocious version of ‘Midnight Rambler’ that lays bare the psychotic violence at the heart of the song, and a tough-as-nails take on Robert Johnson’s ‘Love In Vain’. This is one of the best documents of the self-proclaimed ‘World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band’…

Listen: Midnight Rambler


14] Led Zeppelin | How The West Was Won – Taken from a pair of Southern California shows in June of 1972, this is the live showcase that Led Zeppelin always deserved. Jimmy Page considers the group to have been at its artistic peak during this period, and How The West Was Won bears out such an opinion…

Listen: What Is And What Should Never Be


13] Neil Young | Live Rust – Recorded at the Cow Palace on October 22nd, 1978, this double LP is the audio twin to Young’s concert film Rust Never Sleeps. The CD version omits ‘Cortez The Killer’, so stick to LP…

Listen: Sugar Mountain


12] AC/DC | Live From The Atlantic Studios – Originally released as a promo for radio stations, this show was captured on December 7th, 1977 at the Atlantic Recording Studios in New York City. AC/DC was a purring beast by this point, and the sublime aggression of songs like ‘Live Wire’ and ‘High Voltage’ come through loud and clear…

Listen: Live Wire


11] Dzihan & Kamien | Live In Vienna – Aided by a grant from the Austrian government, Vlado dZihan and Mario Kamien threw a very special release party for their 2003 album Gran Riserva. Featuring three percussionists, a horn section, five violins, a viola, a cello, a DJ, bass, guitars, a sampler and keyboards, and a host of exotic middle eastern and african instrumentation, the dZihan & Kamien Orchestra created live electronica like you’ve never heard it before, and likely never will again…

Listen: After


10] Little Feat | Waiting For Columbus – The best concerts are parties, and no band this side of the Dead threw a better party than Little Feat. Filled with pure boogie and swinging grooves, Waiting For Columbus includes definitive versions of ‘Fat Man In The Bathtub’ and ‘Spanish Moon’. Recorded in August of 1977, less than two years before group mastermind Lowell George suffered a fatal heart attack, this album remains a fan favorite…

Listen: Spanish Moon


9] Lynyrd Skynyrd | One More From The Road – The plane crash that killed most of Lynyrd Skynyrd remains the largest scale tragedy in the history of rock, and not just because of the body count. When that plane went down on October 20th, 1977 it took one of the best live acts of the ’70s. Ronnie Van Zandt was a good old-fashioned ass-kicking frontman, and his moxy is on full display throughout One More From The Road. Recorded July 7th-9th, 1976, this one’s a keepsake…

Listen: Call Me the Breeze


8] Ramones | It’s Alive – The Ramones were straight ahead, no bullshit rawk-an-rowl. No “We love you Cleveland!” or “There’s a story behind this next number…“, they just blasted away. Recorded at the Rainbow Theatre in London on New Year’s Eve 1977/78, It’s Alive features 28 songs in 54 minutes – you do the math. Better yet, just sit back and get blasted…

Listen: Blitzkrieg Bop


7] Nirvana | MTV Unplugged In New York – Recorded just months before Kurt Cobain’s death, this album functions as a roadmap of Nirvana’s influences. The covers included here shed light on several of the band’s musical relatives; from Leadbelly to David Bowie to Meat Puppets to the Vaselines, one can connect the dots among a number of influences that might not otherwise have been readily apparent. By all reports, Cobain was seriously addicted to heroin and in poor health during the weeks leading up the Unplugged date in November of 1993, and alienated his bandmates to the point that Dave Grohl offered to quit the group during rehearsals. [read full review]

Listen: Where Did You Sleep Last Night


6] The Band | The Last Waltz – Scorsese. The Band. Guest stars aplenty – Dylan, Neil, Van, Muddy, Joni, etc. Critics have quibbled over some of the performances captured here, but The Last Waltz is still the classiest goodbye from any band of the rock era. Rather than ending in death, insanity, internal strife or commercial failure, The Band threw a party. And you’re invited…

Listen: It Makes No Difference


5] Jimi Hendrix | Live At Winterland – Hendrix may have lit his guitar on fire at Monterey, but he burns down Winterland on the shows captured here. ‘Killing Floor’, ‘Fire’ and ‘Crosstown Traffic’ find their ultimate expression in these live versions, and the album is topped off with an epic, note-perfect reading of ‘Red House’. Live At Winterland is not only a fine place to wade into the guitar legend of Jimi Hendrix, but ultimate proof that he was a man apart on his instrument…

Listen: Red House


4] Jerry Lee Lewis | Live At The Star Club, Hamburg – The Star Club in Hamburg, Germany is the cabaret where The Beatles perfected their live act before conquering America and the world. It’s hard to say whether that connection played into the fire that Jerry Lee Lewis played with on this particular evening, but from the word go he assaults his piano with a beautiful fury that is breathtaking to behold. His backing band, The Nashville Teens, were clearly in over their heads, and spend the entirety of this show holding on for dear life and trying to keep up with The Killer (“Play that thing right boy!” Jerry Lee yells at one Teen during a cover of Ray Charles’ ‘What’d I Say’). From the first notes of ‘Mean Woman Blues’, this is a nasty, snarling, unhinged performance that presages the nihilism of punk rock. “Jerry, Jerry…” he chants along with the crowd at one point, before cutting them off with an acidic “Alright already!”. Johnny Rotten, your grandpa is on line one… [read full review]

Listen: Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On


3] James Brown | Live At The Apollo – Recorded on October 24th, 1962, Live At The Apollo was more than just a financial gamble. Live albums were unusual at that time, and this particular album was recorded before The Apollo Theatre’s famously fickle and unruly Amateur Night crowd. The audience was well-mic’d, and their squeals, screams, and gasps of delight are no small part of what makes this such an amazing document. JB’s sizzle comes blasting through the stylus, and at times he toys with the crowd, cajoling them to give it up before unleashing his own orgasmic yelps of joy. Regarding his stage presence, Brown explained that “Sometimes I feel like I’m a preacher as well [as a singer], ’cause I can really get into an audience.” [read full review]

Listen: Lost Someone


2] The Allman Brothers Band | At Fillmore East – This LP finds Duane Allman at a short-lived peak – he would die in a motorcycle accident in Macon, GA just a few months after the release of At Fillmore East, and a few weeks shy of his 25th birthday. His epic soloing on ‘Whipping Post’ and ‘In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed’ reflects Coltrane’s ‘sheets of sound’ approach to playing, and stands as some of the most outstanding guitar work of the rock era. ‘Whipping Post’ goes for 22:40 and sees Duane build up an amazing piece of musical architecture, before tearing it down piece by piece. It ends the album with a few bars of the intro to ‘Mountain Jam’ – which itself would occupy two entire sides of the double album Eat A Peach. Even if he’d lived to be a hundred, it’s hard to see how Duane Allman could have topped his work here. [read full review]

Listen: In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed


1] Johnny Cash | At Folsom Prison – Johnny Cash was one of the most charismatic performers to ever set foot on stage – put him in front of a delirious and potentially dangerous audience on one of his best days, and you’ve got a recording for the ages. If you want to hear how thrilling live music can be, and find out what happens when a legendary performer is driven ever higher, until he reaches something close to the zeitgeist, pick up a copy of At Folsom Prison. [read full review]

Listen: Folsom Prison Blues

*****

25 More That Are Worth A Spin…

Curtis Mayfield | Curtis/Live!
Tom Waits | Nighthawks At The Diner
Van Morrison | It’s Too Late To Stop Now
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers | Live Anthology
Various Artists | Wattstax
The Clash | From Here To Eternity
MC5 | Thunder Express
Jay-Z | Unplugged
Duke Ellington | Ellington At Newport
The Kinks | BBC Sessions 1964-1977
Bob Marley & The Wailers | Live
J. Geils Band | Full House
Charles Mingus | Mingus At Antibes
Fred Neil | The Sky Is Falling
KISS | Kiss Alive II
The Byrds | Live At Royal Albert Hall 1971
The Stooges | Live In L.A. ’73
Elvis Presley | ’68 Comeback Special
Jeff Buckley | Live @ Sine-E
Ozzy Osbourne | Tribute
Velvet Underground | The Quine Tapes
The Jam | At The BBC
Miles Davis | Live Evil
Stevie Ray Vaughan | Blues At Sunrise
The Steve Miller Band | King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents…

*****

And 6 More That Should Come With Earplugs

Elvis Presley | Having Fun On Stage With Elvis
Bob Dylan | Live At Budokan
Led Zeppelin | The Song Remains The Same
The Beatles | Live At The Hollywood Bowl
Jimi Hendrix | Isle Of Wight
The Doors | Absolutely Live

A Dozen Modern Albums That Sound Like 1969

10 May 2009

Here are a dozen albums released after 1990 that sound like they could have been released in 1969…

The Stairs | Mexican R 'n' B
The Stairs | Mexican R ‘n’ B

Year it was actually released: 1992

Why it sounds like ’69: Lo-fi, with lots of gratuitous drug references, Mexican R ‘n’ B sounds like it might have been recorded on LSD. The modern corollary to bands like The Remains and The Seeds, The Stairs are now but a musical footnote from the early 90s.

Listen: Weed Bus

The Black Keys | Thickfreakness
The Black Keys | Thickfreakness

Year it was actually released: 2003

Why it sounds like ’69: The Blues reached the apex of its influence on popular music around 1969, and The Black Keys are a band that’s all about the blues. Fuzzed out to the max, Thickfreakness fits right in with the spirit of what some of the freakier bluesniks of that time were up to.

Listen: Have Love Will Travel

M. Ward | Transfiguration Of Vincent
M. Ward | Transfiguration Of Vincent

Year it was actually released: 2003

Why it sounds like ’69: This is no frills, acoustic music that features Matt Ward and his guitar, along with bass, drums and some piano. Ward’s guitar is reminiscent of John Fahey, and he sings like a choir boy channeling Howlin’ Wolf. If this album had been released in 1969 it would currently reside in the top 50 of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums Of All-Time.

Listen: Helicopter

Devendra Banhart | Cripple Crow
Devendra Banhart | Cripple Crow

Year it was actually released: 2005

Why it sounds like ’69: This is some freaky hippie wailing. There is nothing about Devendra Banhart that doesn’t scream 1969.

Listen: Heard Somebody Say

The Mighty Imperials | Thunder Chicken
The Mighty Imperials | Thunder Chicken

Year it was actually released: 2001

Why it sounds like ’69: This is raw gut-bucket funk, and Joseph Henry’s occasional vocals are dynamite. If you dropped this one on the turntable, you’d have to convince listeners that it wasn’t released in the late-60s.

Listen: Joseph’s Popcorn

Madeleine Peyroux | Half The Perfect World
Madeleine Peyroux | Half The Perfect World

Year it was actually released: 2006

Why it sounds like ’69: Peyroux sings with the phrasing and feeling of a modern day Billie Holiday, but her sultry, sophisticated style is at home in any era. This woman makes me purr…

Listen: Blue Alert

The White Stripes | The White Stripes
The White Stripes | The White Stripes

Year it was actually released: 1999

Why it sounds like ’69: Like Thickfreakness, the Stripes’ self-titled debut is of a piece with the power-combo blues bands of the era. And seriously, covering both ‘Stop Breaking Down’ and ‘St. James Infirmary Blues’ is a late-60s move, not a late-90s move.

Listen: Stop Breaking Down

Black Lips | Good Bad Not Evil
Black Lips | Good Bad Not Evil

Year it was actually released: 2007

Why it sounds like ’69: This is sloppy, Nuggets-ready rock that sounds like it was concocted in a garage and produced by Frank Zappa. [On LP, the last track on side two is grooved backwards, so you have to put the needle at the end of the album to play the song, which spins out towards the edge of the record!] You’ll feel like you’re tripping after listening to an entire album of this stuff…

Listen: It Feels Alright

Dave Alvin | Public Domain: Songs From The Wild Land
Dave Alvin | Public Domain: Songs From The Wild Land

Year it was actually released: 2000

Why it sounds like ’69: Alvin’s take on traditional music – songs of “…honkey tonks, railyards, barnyards, backyards, church choirs and bedrooms” as he put it in his eloquent album liner notes – is kin to the lost-music explorations of groups like The Band and The Flying Burrito Brothers.

Listen: What Did The Deep Sea Say?

Raphael Saadiq | The Way I See It
Raphael Saadiq | The Way I See It

Year it was actually released: 2008

Why it sounds like ’69: Saadiq’s neo-Soul was inspired by Motown groups like The Temptations and The Four Tops, and The Way I See It sounds every bit like a vintage, chart-topping Motown release.

Listen: 100 Yard Dash

Erik Truffaz | Out Of A Dream
Eric Truffaz | Out Of A Dream

Year it was actually released: 1997

Why it sounds like ’69: Tapping the same creative vein as Kind Of Blue, Truffaz’ debut sounds more like 1959 than 1969. But well-executed ballads are timeless, and Out Of A Dream would have provided an interesting jazz counterweight to the fusion that Miles Davis was making at the time.

Listen: Down Town

Air | Moon Safari
Air | Moon Safari

Year it was actually released: 1998

Why it sounds like ’69: This album features French electro-pop that was created on vintage synthesizers and keyboards and tips its cap to Burt Bacharach on more than one occasion. Moon Safari wouldn’t have stood a snowball’s chance of gaining popularity in the 60s, and inevitably would have become one of those “great lost albums” that record geeks like me spend so much time tracking down.

Listen: La Femme d’Argent

Fleet Foxes | Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes | Fleet Foxes

Year it was actually released: 2008

Why it sounds like ’69: Fleet Foxes’ pastoral songs are distant relatives of the folk experimentation of artists such as Fairport Convention and The Incredible String Band. This is one of many albums on this list that sounds more like the 60s than the 00s…

Listen: Blue Ridge Mountains

Review: Black Lips @ GAMH

8 October 2008
Chaos is the name of the game at a Black Lips show. Photo by dk.

Chaos is the name of the game at a Black Lips show. Photo by dk.

The Great American Music Hall opened its hallowed doors Monday (and Tuesday) night for the lunacy of Atlanta’s Black Lips. It’s tempting to say that the Lips’ brand of garage-punk went out of style shortly after the 1972 release of Lenny Kaye’s famous Nuggets compilation, but in truth this kind of music has always lived in the margins of popular culture. It’s no coincidence that the Lips were mentored by Bomp! Records impresario Greg Shaw. The living legacy of Shaw’s musical vision was on display Monday night, and it was a sight to behold: pop music laced with the psychedelic fuzz of garage rock and performed with the frantic, anything-goes spirit of punk.

The gilded hall was about half full – to be expected considering the day of the week and the musical margins mentioned above. But this was no passive audience, content to sit back and nod along. More than half the people in the building were involved in a rather feisty mosh pit, and the energy on the floor was matched by the whirling dervishes on stage. When the band launched into ‘O Katrina!’ and ‘Bad Kids’ the stage became an ocean beach, pounded by wave upon wave of bodies. By the end of the night, that stage was littered with crushed beer cups, stray brassieres, a set of car keys, and a lone Chuck Taylor high top. Impressive damage for a crowd of about 300 people.

Black Lips are gloriously ragged, but there’s a method to their madness. Drummer Joe Bradley is steady as a rock, and bassist Jared “Hondo” Swilley is on point enough of the time to provide a solid bottom, freeing guitarists Cole Alexander and Ian St. Pe – and I swear I’m not making these names up – to wander off key, elicit feedback with their mic stands, or climb the speaker stack in a big floppy pilgrim hat. Late in their set, Alexander (the pilgrim) called to the stage hands “I’m tangled up real bad here.” He was talking about the myriad chords connected to his effect pedals, but could easily have been referring to his band’s psychedelic web of sound.

2007: The Year In Music

31 December 2007

“Not good.” Any serious reflection upon the year in music naturally leads towards that two-word assessment. Another blurb that summarizes the direction of music during this year is “digital download.” This wasn’t the year that MP3s finally outsold CDs, but it did become increasingly apparent that downloads are affecting the way artists approach the creation of albums. Does the death of the compact disc signal the death of the full-length album? It certainly seems that more and more releases feature a few good songs, surrounded by a whole lotta nothin’.

A few bands – most notably Arctic Monkeys – have made noise about forgoing albums altogether and simply releasing their music as a series of singles. In a digital download world where most listeners never even purchase tracks 8 or 9, why spend the time and money to create them? This model makes even more sense as it becomes increasingly clear that album sales aren’t the golden goose they used to be. Madonna and Nine Inch Nails recently signed high-profile deals based around touring and merchandising. Radiohead used digital downloads to essentially give their new album away to fans and allow those fans to determine the value of the album. What’s an album worth in 2007? If you spent much time with your ear to the ground this year, you know the answer is “not much.”

Here are some albums that defied the prevailing trend, and rocked from start to finish…

The 20 Best Albums of 2007

Battles - album
20) Battles * Mirrored – An album of titanium-tipped beats that blast at the very structure of your skull, Mirrored is the work of a supergroup of musicians that includes longtime Helmet drummer John Stanier. While most bands are using technology to make their instruments more musicial, Battles are busy using their instruments to make their music sound more technological – and creating songs that don’t sound remotely like anyone else.

Listen: Atlas

Jay-Z - album
19) Jay-Z * American Gangster – As head of Def-Jam records, it’s amazing that Jay-Z has time to make any album, let alone a stone classic like American Gangster. Inspired by an advance screening of the Denzel Washington movie of the same name, Hova rips through a series of bumping rhymes that nod to blaxploitation-era Curtis Mayfield, while staying within his well-worn philosophy. Slinging bags and slinging albums? It all comes down to handling the delivery.

Listen: Roc Boys (And The Winner Is)…

Budos Band - album
18) The Budos Band * The Budos Band II – The best-kept secret of 2007 came blasting out of Staten Island with a series of funked up instrumental jams that just don’t quit. This 11-piece band builds funky groove after funky groove, working an afro-soul vein that yields plenty of wicked pleasures. Budos Band II is the instrumental album that the Beastie Boys wish they’d released this year.

Listen: Chicago Falcon

Black Francis - album
17) Black Francis * Bluefinger – Charles Thompson/Frank Black/Black Francis has been softening up over the course of his last several albums, taking a detour through Nashville, and creating plenty of adult comtemporary pop. So it’ll be a big relief to Pixies fans to hear his latest effort – an all-out return to the knife-edge histrionics that made his former group so compelling. Bluefinger doesn’t all kill, but what does is dangerous stuff indeed.

Listen: Captain Pasty

Black Lips - album
16) Black Lips * Good Bad Not Evil - These buzzing fuzzologists created one of the best trips of the year. The only question is, what year? Complete with swirling guitars, backward masking, and shouted vocals, the entirety of this album sounds like it was lifted from the legendary Nuggets compilation. Far out and right on…

Listen: It Feels Alright

1990's - album
15) 1990′s * Cookies - This Scottish trio kick out the jams on their infectious, fully-realized debut Cookies. Combining a propulsive post-punk sound with a series of catchy hooks and choruses, this is an album good enough to have you pumping your fist in the air on the first listen. All it needs it just a little more cowbell…

Listen: Is There A Switch For That?

Rilo Kiley - album
14) Rilo Kiley * Under The Blacklight – Right down to its name, this album is a blatant tribute to the sounds of the 70′s. Rilo Kiley has wrapped confessional tales of heartbreak and excess in so much aural cotton candy that you can’t help but tap your toes and sing along. No wonder they keep getting compared to Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac.

Listen: Silver Lining

White Williams - Smoke
13) White Williams * Smoke – If Generation X found itself trapped in that creepy hotel from The Shining, this would be the ballroom soundtrack. The loping beats and off-kilter lyrics are reminiscent of Midnite Vultures-era Beck – it’s electronica tarted up with guitars, vintage synthesizers and plenty of smart attitude. Joe Williams may be white, but there’s nothing vanilla about his sound.

Listen: Going Down

Spoon - album
12) Spoon * Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga – This is the album Spoon has been building steadily towards over the last decade. There have been a lot of great individual moments on their past albums, but here the group revels in horns and handclaps, sounding like a Stax/Volt reincarnation, and creating nothing less than the best blue-eyed soul album of their generation. At this point Spoon is a major label band merely masquarading in Indie clothing.

Listen: You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb

Era Vulgaris
11) Queens Of The Stone Age * Era Vulgaris – Like the worn record ring on the album cover, QOTSA are an anachronism from another age. In 2007 hardly anyone plays straight-up Rock&Roll, but Josh Homme is a true believer, and keeps pumping out great riffs with regularity. ’3′s & 7′s’ ‘Sick, Sick, Sick’ and ‘Make It Wit Chu’ prove that you don’t have to accept Rock that’s been watered down with a bunch of hyphens.

Listen: Make It Wit Chu

Raising Sand - album
10) Robert Plant & Alison Krauss * Raising Sand – Plant & Krauss weave their voices together in a tapestry of sound that is filled with warmth and heart. T-Bone Burnett’s flawless production wraps their voices in digital effects and plenty of space, creating an atmosphere that is at once eery and comfortable. Plant is forgoing a tour with his former bandmates in Led Zeppelin so that he can tour with Krauss. Which sounds crazy, until you have a listen to the graceful melodies of Raising Sand.

Listen: Rich Woman

Paolo Nutini - album
9) Paolo Nutini * These Streets - On his debut album, this 19-year old Scot showed he’s got the voice of a man. In spots his lilting brogue calls to mind an early 70′s Van Morrison, even if his songwriting abilities aren’t quite yet up to that comparison. The upbeat songs are the highlights here, but Nutini shows a deftness of touch and feeling on ballads like ‘Autumn’ and ‘Alloway Grove’ that belies his youth, and bodes well for the future.

Listen: New Shoes

Pink Martini - album
8) Pink Martini * Hey Eugene! – Pink Martini may not garner rapt critical attention, but make no mistake – this is a band that has arrived. This 15-piece, self-dubbed “little orchestra that could” features the blazing talent of lead singer China Forbes, who holds forth with an incandescent voice that is part torch-singer and part torch. On Hey Eugene!, the band moves through many instruments, languages and styles, creating a sound that is at once completely retro and totally fresh.

Listen: Hey Eugene!

LCD Soundsystem - album
7) LCD Soundsystem * Sound Of Silver – Party on, Garth!

Listen: All My Friends

Radiohead - album
6) Radiohead * In Rainbows – The “choose your own price for the download” method of delivery netted the band more than two million dollars and untold notoriety, but it’s the songs that really count here. A solid album from start to finish, In Rainbows avoids much of the recent experimental noodling that has put off more casual fans of the group. While not necessarily a return to the form of OK Computer or Kid A, it’s certainly the most accessible album the group has made since either of those masterpieces.

Listen: Jigsaw Falling Into Place

The National - album
5) The National * Boxer – In 2007, the finest proponents of Brit-Pop came from Brooklyn by way of Cincinnati, OH. The National’s fourth album finds the group building on the momentum of 2005′s excellent Alligator without losing any of the existential dread that made that album so memorable. Matt Berninger’s lyrics are cryptic and intensely personal slices of melancholy, set against musical vistas that are as wide as the Manhattan skyline. Boxer is a monumental album built from a million and one nagging cares.

Listen: Mistaken For Strangers

Iron & Wine - album
4) Iron & Wine * The Shepherd’s Dog – The first several notes sound like they’re coming through a tinny radio, teasing at Sam Beam’s lo-fi, man and a guitar sound. Then The Shepherd’s Dog bursts into full bloom – awash in sonic flourishes that enhance Beam’s sound and purpose. Definitely not the kind of album that Sub Pop cut its teeth on, this is carefully crafted psychedelic folk that is both beautifully lush and soulfully spare.

Listen: Boy With A Coin

Amy Winehouse - album
3) Amy Winehouse * Back To Black – In an era of pitch-corrected and overly digitized music, Amy Winehouse is a welcome throwback. Her songs reflect her real life struggles with life and love, and she’s been an irresistable train wreck for tabloids everywhere, but that sideshow shouldn’t overshadow the music on Back To Black. A timeless collection of songs that sound better with every play, it shows Winehouse to be a diva in every sense of the word. The question isn’t whether this woman has skills, it’s whether her dangerous liasons will dim her bright talent before she can make another classic album.

Listen: Back To Black

I'm Not There - Soundtrack
2) Various Artists * I’m Not There Soundtrack – Where Bob Dylan cements his status as the most influential musician of all-time. Sure, the argument’s been out there for some time, but hearing 33 covers by a variety of contemporary artists brings home that Bobby D. will have sway over musicians for as long as song continues. Sonic Youth, Iron & Wine, Mark Lanegan, Jim James, Cat Power, Antony & The Johnsons, Los Lobos, and many more don’t so much cover Dylan as he covers them, encompassing all of their styles within the breadth of his ouvre. In this context it’s easy to see how far the onetime Robert Zimmerman’s influence really reaches – to the horizon of music. The fact that Richie Havens and Willie Nelson nearly steal the show only adds to an incredible package.

Listen: Tombstone Blues [Richie Havens]

Zeph & Azeem - album
1) Zeph & Azeem * Mixed Messages (official ‘Rise Up’ mixed tape) - Poetry slam champ and former Spearhead protege Azeem deserves a new handle: most underappreciated rapper in the world. Released as a promotional add-on to Zeph & Azeem’s new album Rise Up, Mixed Messages collects B-sides, remixes, outtakes and more onto perhaps the finest hip-hop album of the last decade. This tour-de-force features a buffet of tasty samples, including Latin horns, disco strings, and Pink Floyd. Throw in Azeem’s world class rhymes, which touch on everything from global tourism to the Illuminati, and you’ve got a monster album that flows from top to bottom like the Mississippi river, and demonstrates how relentlessly inventive hip-hop might sound in a world without overly restrictive copyright infringement laws.

Listen: Don’t Quote Me (Xclusive)

Listen II: What If (Xclusive Remix)

*****

The next 10…

Neil Young * Chrome Dreams II
Ministry * The Last Sucker
Justice * †
Kanye West * Graduation
Digitalism * Idealism
Band Of Horses * Cease To Begin
Arctic Monkeys * Favorite Worst Nightmare
The Hives * The Black & White Album
Andrew Bird * Armchair Apocrypha
Ween * La Cucaracha


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