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Music

The Best Albums Of 2008

There was a lot of music released in 2008. I didn’t listen to most of it because I was too busy listening to the following albums to listen to much of anything else. I don’t expect to see any of these albums honored at the Grammys, but I still love them like my own hypothetical children. So here are the five albums that had me rapt in 2008.

copleand_yams-296x3001. You Are My Sunshine by Copeland

I didn’t think Copeland could top their 2006 release Eat, Sleep, Repeat-one of my all-time favorites-but sure enough, with a change of labels and general disposition, they drop You Are My Sunshine, their sunniest project yet. It’s rife with glorious choruses, delectable pop rock invention, though-provoking lyrics and angelic falsetto from lead singer/guitarist/pianist Aaron Marsh. Marsh has iterated that the band has no agenda for their music other than art. In this, they pass with flying colors. —– Standout track: “On the Safest Ledge”

61mljyjsk5l_sl500_aa240_2. Canopy Glow by Anathallo

This Chicago-based octet has been making music for awhile now, but Canopy Glow is their crowning achievement. It’s a Monet in musical form-full of nuance and lush color with a huge canvas of tools in use from the concert bass drum to hand bells. It’s also much more focused than previous works; no track runs longer than six minutes and, in spite of unconventional song structures and jarring time signatures, the album as a whole is far more accessible. The complex storytelling and musical technique leaves much to be discovered in Canopy Glow. —– Standout track: “All the First Pages”

51qrwqxpurl_sl500_aa240_3. Volume One by She & Him

Normally, I’d say stay the hell away from a CD made by an actress or non-musical celebrity (case in point: Paris Hilton). But for Volume One, Elf actress Zooey Deschanel teams up with alt-folk rocker M. Ward and actually creates something good. Something really good, actually. Deschanel’s voice, nasally but sexy, is the cornerstone of this folksy album-a mixture of sultry ballads, string-fueled anthems, and straight-up bubblegum pop. It’s pop music with gravitas and I’m loving every minute of it. —– Standout track: “Sentimental Heart”

611o6extubl_sl500_aa240_4. Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends by Coldplay

I know I’m just another hitchhiker on the “Coldplay is good now!” bandwagon that revved up after the release of their latest album Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, but I can’t help it; it’s just a great album from what was once a tolerable band. I like it when bands who get stuck in a boring funk decide to spice things up and take some chances-Chris Martin and Co. have done just that and have a beautiful epic to show for it. The title track may have been overplayed on the radio, but it’s still the best track of the year, hands down. —– Standout track: “Viva la Vida”

512fqtv0d8l_sl500_aa240_5. That Lucky Old Sun by Brian Wilson

For a long time I appreciated the Beach Boys just as much as the other guy, but it wasn’t until I dug into Brian Wilson’s solo stuff when I realized his musical genius. There isn’t a better melody writer out there than Wilson, and his newest album That Lucky Old Sun gives a familiar yet welcome taste of classic surf rock in the form of a narrative ode to his native southern California. This album will fit snugly beside the immortal Beach Boys tracks of old, but it still deserves its own love. —– Standout track: “Live Let Live”

Honorable Mentions:

Harps and Angels by Randy Newman; Stop Heartbeat by The Foxglove Hunt; Be OK by Ingrid Michaelson

Categories
Etc. God Life Music

Doing Unspeakable Acts To E.T.

I stopped by Half-Price Books the other day hoping to get lucky. After perusing the record collection as usual, I ventured into the clearance section. I’m a bad book buyer because I’m so indecisive and there are so many classics I have yet to read that I eventually get overwhelmed and end up not buying anything. But this time I managed to cross the bridge and buy some books.

I picked up Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies and a collection of Langston Hughes poetry. I’ve been on the lookout for a cheap Hughes collection ever since I read him in an American Literature class and fell in love with him. But Lamott’s book was a surprise and a bit of an impulse buy for me because I rarely buy anything without researching it before hand to avoid being disappointed and regretting departing with my cash.

I’d heard of Anne Lamott before. I think she visited my school to speak but I couldn’t go. But I decided to take a chance on her 1999 memoir because I heard that she was a liberal Christian. You don’t hear from them often.

I loved Traveling Mercies. I cruised through it, and I don’t do that often. Even though I’m an English major I have to really try to finish books. Most of the time I don’t even finish the assigned readings for my lit classes unless they catch me. But I clung to Lamott’s humor and sincerity and no-bullshit view on life. I can only hope to see the good in every part of life she does in spite of (and because of) the suffering she’s endured.

I loved how she can be so freaking funny in moments of complete confusion or distress. She describes the feeling of hitting your child: “It’s so awful, attacking your child. It is the worst thing I know, to shout loudly at this fifty-pound being with his huge trusting brown eyes. It;s like bitch-slapping E.T.”

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been reading at camp, which is over this week. To make a big life lesson so very concise: I’ve learned a lot about humility and patience.

I’ve got the new Coldplay album on steady rotation. Check it out. Also the song “You’ll Always Be My Best Friend” by Relient K off their new EP/B-sides record The Bird and the Bee Sides.

On a less happy note, what’s the deal with Favre? Notice I blame him and not the Packers for this soap opera. I’m starting to wish he never retired, despite what I wrote shortly after he did so. Oh, well. Rodgers is our man. Get used to it Cheeseheads.