Saturday, December 27, 2008

Neon Hustle's Totally Subjective and Woefully Incomplete Guide to the Best Music of 2008, Part 1

This is part 1 of an ongoing, year-end series from your buddies at NH.

Entries are presented in no particular order. Each author's parts were crafted independently of one another, and should pretty much never be taken as representative of an opinion/endorsement by the collective. Except when they are. But that'll probably be for totally different reasons anyway.

Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight

Let's call a spade a spade here, shall we? Emo generally sucks. Beyond the monotonic soundscape and whiny upper-middle class perspective lies a wasteland of lyrics so vast
ly insipid that Lou Pearlman has to be ROFLing in his prison cell.

With the bar set so low, then, it shouldn't be hard to make a "good" emo record, and The Midnight Organ Fight is certainly that. It's also one of the best albums of the year. It's caustic and funny and genuine -- you have to be legitimately scarred to write lines l
ike "You won't find love in a hole / It takes more than fucking someone / You don't know to keep warm". And the music itself is strikingly affecting alt-folk, not the same upbeat pop-punk tune we've heard scores of times from the likes of Panic! At the Disco or their unfortunate clone, My Chemical Romance.


Ezra Furman and the Harpoons - Inside the Human Body

There's something of a rarity that exists today, in a world about to see the release of the first 10 disc CD/Blu-Ray volley of the "Neil Young Archives" box sets and which welcomed the 8th (eighth!) installment of Dylan's long-running Bootleg series in 2008. That rare
thing to which I refer is the opposite of those retrospective-obsessed dinosaurs: the young, unestablished artist whose output isn't yet outpaced by their creative productivity. That might sound like a backhanded compliment, but sometimes it can mean you've just been lucky enough to stumble in on a musician documenting the process of writing good songs and throwing them together to make an honest to goodness long-player. And if you're lucky and it turns out that his records don't suck, that's pretty sepcial, right?

Ezra Furman is still basically a kid, his Harpoons having been formed in 2006 after playing parties at Tufts, this year saw their 3rd album, Inside the Human Body released on Minty Fresh. Furman spends 45 minutes careening between imitations of influences and contemporaries alike, and at times you'll swear Furman's vocals are channeling Alec Ounsworth, Gordon Gano, Spencer Krug, and/or Robert Smith, even as his band plays in
die rock, folk-punk, or Modern Lovers-styled decosntructo-pop. You can call it amatuerish and derrivitive, or you can step back and wonder at how anybody writes a track as monolithic as "Take Off Your Sunglasses."


Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

Bon Iver's debut dropped in February, which means it's been talked about as a potential record of the year for so long that the "it's overrated" backlash has begun.

It's all flimshaw.

There's something timeless about a lot of the songs on For Emma, or maybe anachronistic. It's easy enough to imagine "Skinny Love" being sung around a campfire on the American frontier, or "The Wolves" being the keystone to a movie soundtrack 100 years from now. And in the here and now, there's an austere intimacy to each track that provides a nice antidote to the in-your-face spectacles that defined 2008.


David Byne and Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

Old people would have you believe that Everything that Happens could never be as good as the first Byrne/Eno record, 1981's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. I know they are old people, because they probably care about the influence of samples and world music on types of borderline popular music that nobody actually listens to today.

Despite the reported influences of gospel and soul having been filtered through Byrne's hermit-like prickishness or Brian Eno's eventual and complete tanshumanist merge of consciousness into a downloadable iPhone application, Everything that Happens is good because it's made up of songs. Real, catchy, pretty songs, songs better than anything either has released in quite a while. And if it sometimes sounds like a lost hit from 1988, well, that's probably all for the better then, isn't it?


1 comment:

Hava said...

Steven's Lou Perlman comment made me laugh.

I really dug the Frightened Rabbit album, I enjoyed the two Bon Iver songs I've heard, and I still need to listen to the other two. Looking forward to Part dos.