Wednesday, January 31, 2007

January Music Roundup

Once a month (maybe more often) I'm gonna try to comment on the music that I've gotten in that period. Here we go with things I've gotten in January:

I just got Endless Highway: The Music of the Band, and it's pretty damn good so far. Standouts thus far are My Morning Jacket's faithful but engaging cover of "It Makes No Difference," John Hiatt & The North Mississippi All-Stars' "Ain't No More Cane," and Josh Turner's "When I Paint My Masterpiece." The tracks that remain closest to the spirit of the originals, however, are the jam band tracks: Widespread Panic's "Chest Fever" and Gov't Mule's "The Shape I'm In." I guess that says something about The Band...

I dug up some demos from Patty Griffin's forthcoming album, Children Running Through. There are some pretty songs here, but I still think she's stuck in a bit of a malaise. I don't know what the hell happened to make her turn away from the direction she was going on Flaming Red and Silver Bell, but I wish it hadn't happened. Flaming Red remains one of my all-time favorite albums, and the stuff since then has been nice, pretty, and lilting but ultimately forgettable (with a few notable exceptions). Granted, these are just demos and thus don't have the final instrumentation, but it sounds like more of the same to me.

Picked up Jesse Malin's new one, Glitter in the Gutter, and it's a definite return to form for him. There's something about the way he writes his lyrics that makes me roll my eyes sometimes, but he reigns it in and makes a good, solid rock album. And Bruce Springsteen guests on "Broken Radio," which almost made me wet my pants when I heard it. They sing very well together, let's hope Mr. Malin repays the favor on Bruce's next record.

I got one track off of Lucinda Williams' upcoming album West called Words. It's not her best material, but being Lucinda Williams, it's still better than 90% of the music out there.

Also got Andrew Bird's new one, Armchair Apocrypha. Love the title, as usual. I'm going to hold off on making judgment because you pretty much have to do that with Andrew Bird records. They are the ultimate growers. I didn't like The Mysterious Production of Eggs or Weather Systems at first, but now I think they're brilliant. We get more of the same on the new one, spare instrumentation, literate songs, interesting use of strings and vocal harmony. More to come later, I'm sure.

I found several old Helen Stellar ep's recently as well. For those who don't know, they had a song on the Elizabethtown soundtrack called Io (This Time Around) that was really good, but I could never find anything else of theirs. There are three ep's, called Below Radar, Newton, and I'm Naught What You Think I Am. It's true shoegazer revival music, drony and soaked in reverb. They write really good songs, though, songs that are good enough to shine through the sameness of a lot of their instrumentation and stick in your head.

Some Loud Thunder is nothing new for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but it's pretty good. Dave Fridman's production is evident but not overbearing, making them sound at some points like The Flaming Lips but never enough to make you roll your eyes. I will never fault a band for branching out and trying some new stuff. Even if it doesn't work, it keeps the ball rolling. Most of the bad reviews I've read of this record can't get past the first record and how different it was. Personally a repeat of their debut was the last thing I wanted.

I have a bit of a weakness for Aqualung, even though a lot of his stuff devolves into Keane-ish hell. His new one, Memory Man, sounds even more like Keane, but strangely I like it more than the first one. He's a really good songwriter, even if he does go over the top sometimes, and he's unapologetically romantic. Hits my soft spot.

That's all I got for right now. Back to work, fools!

Monday, January 29, 2007


1. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
It’s not just about sea shanties any more, folks. The fact that I could say this about the band that put out my number one album of the year says a lot about how far they’ve come. I’ve always loved the Decemberists, but they were the lovable oddballs, the equivalent of Beirut or Andrew Bird: you love the fact that they’re out there, sticking to their guns and making it look easy. But they were never going to make it to the top. Never.
Every time I listen to the album I come up with a different explanation for their transformation from pseudo-novelty act to indie rock juggernaut. To be fair, it started with Picaresque. It broadened the horizons, stretched their wings a little bit. “On the Bus Mall” was a huge leap forward for Colin Meloy’s songwriting. People took notice and waited for what came next. It’s not until the second track on The Crane Wife that you see how far they’re willing to stretch on this one. It’s one of these multi-part suites that’s getting to be de rigeur for bands looking to do something unexpected. Unlike most, though, it makes sense here. They wear the prog rock hat with ease; it’s not a gimmick with them. At the same time, they can leave it behind whenever they need to, and more importantly, they can take that big, bombastic sound of huge prog rock opuses and lay it over their shorter songs, giving them more punch and verve than ever before. “The Perfect Crime 2” and “When the War Came” use the epic language and imagery of overblown prog but keep it simple at the same time, remaining tight little pop songs that pack a hell of a punch. I really haven’t seen a band do that as well since Genesis.
They often get accused of pretentiousness, and that’s a valid point. I have to say that I have rolled my eyes at certain Colin Meloy couplets in the past. The Crane Wife fulfills the promise made on all those previous recordings, though. It’s as if he was saying, “Just bear with me while I tune up here, guys” for three albums. They’re also accused of getting a free pass from indie rock critics a whole lot, too. When I mentioned to my best friend Ted that this album was in the running for the top spot, I could actually hear him roll his eyes over the phone. “Yeah, you and every other indie rock asshole this year.” With those words ringing in my ears, I hopped over to Pitchfork as soon as they put up their year-end list. The Crane Wife was #41. (The Knife was #1. Really? Really?) As a matter of fact, not many people put it up top this year. Its luster faded with repeated listens, I guess.
Not for me, though. I awaited this album eagerly and was blown away when I finally heard it. The songs are literate without being pretentious. They’re grand without being overblown. They’re meaningful without being cumbersome. They’re breezy without being sugary. The Decemberists strike a balance here that is so hard. They manage to take what makes indie rock insufferable and turn it into something beautiful and lasting. And they seem to be having a blast doing it. “Sons and Daughters” is a perfect close, a joyous and hopeful promise to future generations to make it better for them. This is their contribution, and I love it.

My new blog

Hey all! I have a new blog that I started for a class. It will have more to do with my work than Inbound Gowanus does, but hopefully I will be able to make it entertaining to boot. It's called Planner-ama. I haven't formatted it yet, so don't laugh at the awful design or get offended if your name is not on the blogroll yet. It will be there soon, my pretties!


No excuse for me being this late. School's a bitch. I promise to post #1 before the end of January. As if any of you are still in the dark about what it is....

2. Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
It seemed like the worst idea in the world when I first heard about it. I checked several sources to make sure I had read right. And then I promptly forgot all about it. Bruce has been one of my favorite artists for years now, but here, I thought, I could not follow him. It was going to be boring, spare versions of songs that had little relevance today, a senseless act of self-indulgence.
I should have known better. One thing that struck me about Springsteen when I saw him last fall on the Devils & Dust tour was not his energy (which was plentiful), or his charisma (which he has just as much now as ever), but his musical inventiveness. He played with his songs effortlessly, deconstructing them and putting them back together in ways that took my breath away. He made “Reason to Believe” into a bluesy howl full of distortion and scratchy harmonica. He made “Incident on 57th Street” into a beautiful solo piece. He played at least ten different instruments. Above all, he really showed why he has had the staying power that he has had. It’s not the energy, the songwriting, or the sex appeal, although all those things no doubt helped. It’s the fact that the man lives and breathes music. It’s his love of the game. He gives all of himself when he sings, plays, and writes. He recognizes the fact that there’s nothing else he could do with his life and feels so lucky to be able to do it.
It’s this love of playing that makes We Shall Overcome so intoxicating. The album was recorded live during two one-day sessions. No rehearsals. No second takes. Just a bunch of musicians having a blast. It’s the nature of bluegrass that it works best when it’s spontaneous and off-the-cuff. And hearing Seeger’s songs redone as bluegrass tunes really brings out a freshness in the writing that never came across to me listening to Seeger’s recordings of them.
We Shall Overcome will never be my favorite Springsteen album. As great of an interpreter as Bruce is, he never sounds as good as when he’s singing his own words and playing his own notes. It’s better than I ever thought it could be, though, and it will always serve as a reminder of his musical inventiveness and his passion for his art. And yes, he’s my biggest man-crush of them all. Sigh.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A new blog for you to check out

Hey all. My friend Shannon has a new blog that you should all check out. She is a charming, brash, hilarious woman with a lot to say. Listen up, fools!

#'s 2 and 1 are coming up soon. Tara guessed Ghostface Killah and TV on the Radio, both of which are wrong although they are great albums. TV on the Radio almost made it on, but I'm thinking that it will be one of those albums that grows and grows on me so that next year I'll be kicking myself for not making it #1. I will say that #1 is a musical masterpiece, and #2 didn't make it onto many critics' lists for some inexplicable reason, since most everyone loved it when it came out.

Take care....

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


3. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Neko Case could easily build a career around her voice. I’d still buy her records. I have to acknowledge this fact before reviewing Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. I’d rather listen to Neko Case sing a song than anyone else in the world. I’d marry her and be her bitch for life if she’d promise to sing to me every night before bed. It’s that good.
And if that were all she had going on, an album of hers still might have crept into my top twenty for the year. It is most definitely, however, not all she has going on. Fox Confessor is her tightest and most lucid songwriting effort yet. She picks up where she left off with Blacklisted, weaving layers of reverb and ghostly melodies around her words. But where Blacklisted was meandering and unfocused at points, Fox Confessor is tight nearly from start to finish. The one song that I don’t really feel belongs is “John Saw That Number,” and it’s one of my favorites on the album. It just has a different tone.
The rest of the tracks are spare, almost gothic tales that bring to mind some of Bob Dylan’s best work, particularly Oh Mercy. I got to know just about every note on this album before I shook myself and remembered that she was actually singing words with that lovely, lovely voice. Case writes songs that are more like photo albums than narratives, snapshots that inform one another yet also deepen the mystery of the whole. She has grown as a songwriter by leaps and bounds, and these songs have much more staying power than those on Furnace Room Lullaby and even Blacklisted. And at the end of the day, it’s the songs that are the real stars here. They’re mature, literate, and surreal, and they take Case to another level as an artist.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


4. The Thermals - The Body the Blood the Machine
I’ve been really interested in God lately. Moving from a place like New York City to a place like Richmond makes you think. Do people really expect others to keep their religious beliefs out of their political desires and decisions? On the other hand, do people really expect others to respect political views that are so obviously rooted in the existence of a supernatural being? Can there be some common ground here?
The Thermals have made an endlessly fascinating record about these issues. They paint a picture of an America taken over by religious interests and recreated as a fascist juggernaut. It’s not such a far-fetched idea when you listen to our president frame the war on terror as a battle of good against evil rather than a very complicated struggle among various worldviews. But rather than giving in to the sort of schoolyard posturing that characterized Green Day’s last album (which I really liked, by the way), the Thermals posit a nuanced and thoughtful reaction to such a possibility.
That’s not to say that there’s no anger here. Hutch Harris sounds absolutely ferocious on “Pillar of Salt” when he screams “And we don’t want to die or apologize for our dirty God, our dirty bodies!” More than the attacks on civil liberties, more than the judgments, the hijacking of God for political gain is what they are really pissed about. And that’s where the album is so brilliant; it’s not an attack on God, it’s an attack on those who hide behind God. The band actually seems to believe in some sort of spiritual presence. On “Returning to the Fold” Harris sings, “I forgot I needed God like a big brother, and maybe when I die, I’ll die escaping, I’ll die returning to the fold.” He seems to be speaking for all those who, like me, have had the love of God beaten out of them by people who see and present Him one-dimensionally.
The Body the Blood the Machine doesn’t provide any neat answers to the problem of religion creeping into politics. It does make the simple, irrefutable point that when the two things get too close, they corrupt each other. Wars are created and justified in the name of God, and the most fundamental principles of religion can be undermined in pursuit of the pettiest political goals. And yet it is ignorant to suggest that religion should not affect one’s civic life and political views. The nature of religion is that it provides a foundation for all life, not just the parts of life that don’t deal with politics. Maintaining that precarious balance between the two extremes is our duty as citizens.
The final blow, the real thing that puts this album above most others this year, is the energy and ferocity of the music. A lot of people criticized the Thermals for sacrificing their rawness and excitement for the lofty ideas on this album. I think they must not have heard the same record I did. Every song bursts forth with enough energy to change the world and enough joy to convince even the most hardened cynic of the power of revolutionary ideas. It’s the music that lifts these words up to the heights and turns them into art. And it’s the music that’s going to make me go deaf listening to this album as loud as I can over and over again.

Fuck yes!

Barack is coming!

More reviews to follow, sorry I've been such a slack-ass.

Monday, January 08, 2007


5. Bob Dylan - Modern Times
Everyone’s saying this album is just a logical extension of Love & Theft. Except that Love & Theft sucked. It was boring, bloated, and just plain bad. And so Bob Dylan, being Bob Dylan, went and wrote some songs that were even longer and played them in the same style. Paradoxically, it worked. Of course I am being a bit hard on Love & Theft; it has aged fairly well, and its songs make a lot more sense after hearing Modern Times. I guess the main difference in my mind is that Dylan’s sense of humor comes across so much better on Modern Times. The jokes and slyness on Love & Theft seemed very forced. The signature Dylan wit is all over Modern Times. On the first track, “Thunder on the Mountain,” he plays around with the concept of himself as an old man and has one of his best couplets to date: “I got the porkchops, she got the pie, She ain’t no angel and neither am I.” He also pens one of his sweetest and most sincere love songs ever with “Spirit on the Water.” There’s a maturity to his songwriting that somehow manages to hold onto the vitality and energy of his best work. “Someday Baby” is one of the best kiss-offs I’ve ever heard, and “Ain’t Talkin’” is a chilling narrative about revenge, greed, and death. At its heart Modern Times is just the blues done extraordinarily well. Bob’s been there and back, and he’s got some stories to tell.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

#10 through #6

10. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
There was no way that a record could sound this much like Born to Run and not make it into my top ten. Having said that, I understand why a lot of people don’t like this album, especially those people who loved Separation Sunday so much. Craig Finn expressed himself much less self-consciously on Separation Sunday than he does on Boys and Girls in America. The songs on both albums are about teenagers getting loaded and questioning their lives. On the new record, though, Finn is telling you the stories rather than just letting you observe them. His presence as a narrator is absolute, and the music loses something because of it.
Whatever it loses, however, is worth losing if it yields music that is so vivacious and pure. If Finn had pulled any of his punches here, the album would not have worked. But he has obviously drunk the Kool-Aid. He believes in the power of rock ‘n roll and is not afraid to put himself out there. He also believes that youth is wasted on the young. He finds redemptive power in nearly every facet of young America, from drugs to cars to whatever “love” means to those under the age of 25.
Sonically the album is quite adventurous if not all that varied. The keyboard accents are straight outta 1975 and give the album that larger than life feel that makes it work so well. The only place on the album where the formula falls flat on its face is on “Chillout Tent.” Finn gets too caught up in his role as storyteller, so much so that he uses Elizabeth Elmore and Dave Pirner as the voices of his protagonists. It’s an ambitious song, and I give them props for trying it. But it ultimately lacks what makes the rest of the album so great: the identification that Finn feels with the characters that populate his songs. He works best as a first person narrator. The third person omniscient style of “Chillout Tent” takes him too far away from the action. In order for the music to work he’s gotta be right in the thick of it, dancing and drinking and getting high with the best of them.

9. Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris - All the Roadrunning
This is one of those albums with which I went through several stages before I ever heard it. At first I thought, “Wow, that seems like such an obvious pairing that I wonder why they haven’t done it before.” And it is quite a logical pairing. Then I thought, “Wait a second, two older artists pairing up for an album? Sound to me like it’s going to be maddeningly mediocre.” Now I love Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler as much as the next alt-country superfan. But this pairing definitely raised my suspicions. Once I thought about it, though, the temptation to see how two such iconic voices would sound together got the better of me. Good Lord, was it ever worth it! I’ve listened to it steadily ever since April and it just keeps getting better. Their voices go together as naturally as you would think they would. It really throws into perspective for me just how few really great duets there are out there these days. And the songs? They are gems, every single last one of them. There are some slow parts (“Donkey Town” could use some spicing up), but the album is remarkably consistent. “Red Staggerwing” and “Beyond My Wildest Dreams” are two of the best songs Knopfler has ever written, and Emmylou’s two songs, “Love and Happiness” and “Belle Star,” are typically strong affairs. These two are both class acts, and the music is magnificent throughout. Kudos!

8. Tom Waits - Orphans
I can’t write anything profound about Tom Waits. I have tried to convince everyone I know how brilliant he is through every means at my disposal and have, for the most part, failed. It seems that you either have that thing inside you that makes you love Tom Waits or you don’t, and a few people even actively detest the man. I believe that he is the greatest songwriter alive. Including Bob Dylan. And the album? It’s typical Tom Waits, neatly divided into three categories: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards. It’s all fantastic. A few highlights are “2:19,” a bluesy number with some fantastic guitar and sax interplay, “Bottom of the World,” a lilting memoir reminiscent of the Mule Variations era, and “Shiny Things,” a beautiful number that brings to mind his earlier work. The man’s talent leaves me speechless. God bless him. This is why I love music the way I do.

7. Regina Spektor - Begin to Hope
This girl really loves making music. This is without a doubt the most joyful and eccentric album that I heard this year. It’s bursting at the seams with soaring melodies and wild originality. “Shake it up,” she says quietly at the beginning of leadoff track “Fidelity,” and she means it. Her previous album, Soviet Kitsch, was beautiful and eclectic but was too rooted in anti-folk to really allow Spektor to move beyond genre trappings and find her own sound. Begin to Hope veers pretty close to that territory at points. “That Time,” while one of the most energetic and lyrically accomplished songs on the album, smacks of the sort of self-absorption that makes anti-folk so intolerable for me. “Summer in the City” also veers that way, but its nostalgic portrayal of city life and love is a beautiful close for the album. Songs like “Samson” and “Hotel Song” more than make up for any slight missteps, however, and overall the album is an amazing effort from a woman whose best years are most likely ahead of her. Expect more great things from her soon. Oh, and she’s hella cute too. Not that that influenced me in any way shape or form…

6. Drive-By Truckers - A Blessing and a Curse
Southern Rock Opera was a seminal album for me. It not only introduced me to the Drive-By Truckers, it introduced me to the duality of Southern identity. Patterson Hood spoke so eloquently about it that the album not only got me to reconsider my musical opinions, it got me to think on an abstract level about who I am, where I come from, and why that is important. Pretty damn good for a rock record. The albums that the Truckers have released since then have been good, but they lacked that big, almost cinematic vision that made SRO so great. At first I thought that this was because Hood was not exerting enough control over the band. Jason Isbell had begun writing and singing, making the band a trio of songwriters as well as a trio of singers and a trio of guitarists. I was convinced they were falling into the Gomez trap of too many cooks in the kitchen. The fact is, however, that each of these guys is talented enough to lead a great band. Cooley has a gift for wordplay and insight that floors me, and Isbell’s songs are actually some of my favorites. On A Blessing and a Curse they finally figure out a formula that works for them. It’s much more a series of vignettes than a single narrative thread told through song, and this less ambitious approach makes for an incredibly tight and coherent album. All of the usual themes are there: the Southern thing, drinking, failed love, death, and hate. They’re presented in little packages that stand by themselves just as well as they do in the context of the album. All three of them are at the top of their game in terms of the songwriting. Hood still pens the majority of the songs, six out of the album’s eleven tracks. The best are “Feb 14,” a pounding remembrance of a relationship’s disintegration, and the title track, a meditation on the paradox of ambition. While he doesn’t change his style much, he continues to probe his own psyche with startling results. Cooley’s two tracks, “Gravity’s Gone” and “Space City,” are whip-smart and contain some of the best lyrics on the record. My personal favorite is, “So I’ll meet you at the bottom if there really is one, they always told me when you hit it you know it, but I’ve been falling so long it’s like gravity’s gone and I’m just floating.” The real standouts on the album, though, are Jason Isbell’s two songs, “Easy on Yourself” and “Daylight.” He has quietly become my favorite of the three songwriter in DBT, which is no mean feat. The songs are lean and tight, with more melodic sensibility than most of the other tracks and just as much punch. A Blessing and a Curse shows just how great DBT is. They might just be the best rock band in the country right now.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

#15 through #11

15. Califone - Roots & Crowns
Califone’s newest record starts out modestly enough. A steady drum beat keeps rhythm while Tim Rutili sings his typically surreal lyrics. It becomes quickly apparent, however, that there’s something much more profound going on this time around. There’s an undercurrent of darkness running through this music, not just lyrically but musically as well. The band adds these mechanical flourishes that unsettle the listener so subtly that the music seems both hopeful and despairing, both a throwback and distinctly modern. Something about the way Rutili writes his songs make them sound a hundred years old, and hearing these odd whirrs and hisses in the background roots the music in a postmodern landscape that seems itself to be a manifestation of that older time and place. The album raises questions about time and place without even raising a finger. This is an album to listen to while driving through the wasteland that was and will be Louisiana, or while exploring a place as scarred by its own history as Berlin. It demands that sort of magnitude.

14. Calexico - Garden Ruin
Calexico has to be the most criminally underrated band on this list. They have released album after album of wonderful, literate pop, only to be ignored by the vast majority of indie rock listeners. Garden Ruin made them impossible to ignore any longer. It’s nothing too fancy. In fact, nearly every song starts in the same way: an acoustic guitar that introduces the musical theme around which each song will revolve. Each opening, however, bristles with originality. The guitar never becomes cumbersome or over-present. In fact, the songs on the album really show why the guitar is the instrument that it is in pop music. It can serve as the melodic backbone of the song (as in “Yours and Mine”), a percussive element (as in the exquisite “Bisbee Blue”), or as a way to start down the road to musical catharsis (as in “All Systems Red,” the most ambitious song yet in their oeuvre). Calexico has never gotten the respect that they deserve, and it makes me want to stand up and cheer that they have made an album this good.

13. Band of Horses - Everything All the Time
My first thought upon hearing Band of Horses was something about how much they sounded like My Morning Jacket. Which is by no means a bad thing. But like most comparisons of that sort, it does a disservice to both bands. Truth be told, you can find any number of bands in the songs on Everything All the Time. Chris Bell’s ghost haunts “First Song.” “Wicked Gil” could be the best song the Flaming Lips never recorded. I hear elements of “Sloop John B” all over “The Great Salt Lake,” and “St. Augustine” smacks of Neil Young’s best work. Their influences are all over this record. And I love them for it. Too often bands are scared of wearing their influences on their sleeves. A good friend of mine hates Ryan Adams for this very reason. I think it’s an incredibly endearing quality for an artist to have. It makes for reverential and extremely heartfelt music. That almost always rocks.

12. Josh Ritter - The Animal Years
Josh Ritter’s second album, Golden Age of Radio, has always had a special place in my record collection. It’s one of those albums, like Josh Rouse’s 1972 or Patty Griffin’s Flaming Red, that you love giving to people because you know that they are about to discovering something they will love. They’re fucking great albums, start to finish. The Animal Years is a bit of a different beast. While it doesn’t have the consistency, the easy-flowing grace of The Golden Age of Radio, it makes you realize just how talented this guy really is. I’ve become more and more cynical about what I listen to as I have moved into my late twenties. I don’t listen to albums like Blue and Pet Sounds as much as I used to. They kind of make me uncomfortable, I think because they express things that are so pure and naïve. I’ve lost touch with that sort of music lately. Right from the opening notes of “Girl in the War,” you know this is going to be one of those albums. Josh Ritter is a hopeless romantic, and he has released an album that reawakened some of that in me. When an album moves something inside of you, when it makes you remember what you had forgotten, it’s something special.

11. Joanna Newsom - Ys
Oh God. Here we go. Another asshole who’s putting this album on his “Best of 2006” list when he hasn’t even been able to make it through the album yet. It’s true that I have a hard time listening to more than one of the songs on Ys in one sitting. Part of this is the length, of course. The shortest song on the album is just over seven minutes long, and the longest is nearly seventeen minutes long. Long songs have never bothered me too much though. The real reason is much harder for me to put my finger on. Yes, her warbling, elfish voice can be pretty jarring at first. Yes, there are only strings on the album, and very few of them are percussive. Yes, her lyrics can be precious and hard to identify with. The songs on Ys are brilliant though. Not brilliant in a listenable sort of way, but brilliant in a Phillip Glass sort of way. I have never really liked listening to Phillip Glass. He is too much an artist of his own head for my liking. And he’s depressing. Newsom falls into that same category, except medieval rather than depressing. But by God, I love the fact that Phillip Glass and Joanna Newsom are out there making music. Artists like them elevate the game. They don’t back down from insanely ambitious projects. They make music that is impossible to put in the background, music that must be studied with intense concentration in order to be rewarding. They put work out into the world that they know will be mocked, ridiculed, and panned. They simply do not give a damn. I will never fault anyone for having that kind of courage. And once I got past my own snobbish assumptions about her music, the album took me to a fantastic place. No matter what you think about her voice, these songs are amazingly beautiful. The kind of beautiful that hurts sometimes.

Sorry it took me so long to continue this list. I promise the rest will come in a more timely fashion. Also, Tara has posted her top fifteen albums of the year over at her blog. It's remarkably similar to mine, but I've still got a few tricks up my sleeve. Stay tuned.