’08: At the half

29Jun08

OK, rock years don’t really get started until sometime in April. But then they kind of slow down after mid-November. Then again, people with wide tastes generally find themselves still catching up with the previous year in February. But for schoolteachers, like me, the end of June presents its own milestone, so why not a list now?

Addictive:

1. Lil Wayne Tha Carter III

Great:

2. Steinski What Does It All Mean? A Retrospective 1983-2006   Hard to think of as a new album, as I’ve known the first 15 minutes inside and out for 20 years and first heard disc 2  five years ago. Real glad to have it all in one place, and in a legal package, too. If you’ve never heard the three-part “Payoff” trilogy, be prepared to marvel that fully 25 years of ensuing DJ work has not eclipsed its surprise value, or its delight value either. Be prepared to be surprised and delighted, too.

Near-great:

3. Drive-By Truckers Brighter than Creation’s Dark Wish I were playing this songful album, which probably means it’s too word-dependent even though whenever I do play it I respond to the music, too.

Near-near great:

4. DJ Yoda Fabriclive 39  Probably not quite as hot as Girl Talk’s Night Ripper, not to mention Steinski. But any album that puts together beat-ed up Violent Femmes, big band “Sexual Healing,”  good ol’ Run-DMC and Salt-N-Pepa  along with somewhat more typical Gang Starr and Handsome Boy Modeling School classics, before going out with an old calypso about Yoda’s hometown, is worth hearing once, and Yoda insures that it all makes both sense and fun.

5. R.E.M. Accelerate  OK, so nearly as classic as I said a couple months ago.

6. Santogold 

7. Hayes Carll Trouble In Mind   I thought this one wasn’t quite making it, just too mired in footloose cliches, when I noticed that, like last year’s Miranda Lambert album, it may crest on an uber-novelty (Miranda’s opener “Dry Town,” Hayes’ closer “She Left Me For Jesus”),  but you come back to it because that writer can really sing.

Strong but not quite compelling:

8. The Roots Rising Down  9. James McMurtry Just Us Kids  Must: “We Can’t Make It Here”  10. Mostly Other People Do the Killing Shamokin!  I.E.: Monk Goes to New Orleans (post-Armstrong).  That they wrote the tunes themselves makes it less indelible, of course, but avoids comparisons I don’t blame them for avoiding.  Sax guy could be less squeaky, but trumpet, bass and drums compensate. 11.  Robert Forster The Evangelist  12. Kate Nash Made of Bricks  13. Magnetic Fields Distortion  14. Vampire Weekend  if you liked XTC’s Drums & Wires….    15. Erykah Badu New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)  Real smart groove record, funnier and funner than I expected. 16. Les Amazones de Guinee Wamato  Great Sound.

Also: Service Industry’s Limited Coverage is somewhat of a concept album about meaningless wage labor in search of a distinct band sound, tunes, vocals. Plus, the album’s stone classic is a departure. “Palestine” it’s called, so sad and deep that it reminds you how much worse life can be than a bad job, and how much more meaning there can be than a good one. And someday I must figure out something coherent to say about the Mountain Goats,  whose Heretic Pride is their/his fifth pretty good album in 6 years.

Trends? Well, four hip-hop albums in my top 8, but two are DJ-rather than MC-identified, which I always consider aberrations (aside from jazz, I tend to prefer vocalists to instrumentalists), and one of those is old. I’d count classic singer-songwriter if McMurtry or Forster or Nash or Darnielle had quite lived up to  Carll or Hood-Tucker-Cooley.

 

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