Monday, December 29, 2008

Football Redux

I would just like to take a moment to say fuck favre and fuck the Jets.

Go Iggles, I guess.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from Complete Control

Remember kids, Jesus Batman is the reason for the season:


Happy Holidays all.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

2008 Music Year in Review, Conclusions and Best of the Best

2008 Year in Review Best of the Best (4.5 and Up)

Conclusion:

Okay, well, looking through this list how did 2008 shape up? For my money, I’d reckon it was a lot like the last few years: pretty solid albums scattered throughout the year, but the best music to be made in 2008 tended to be throwbacks to older musical trends and, as this list shows, by far the best music of 2008 quantity-wise belonged to the world of reissues. Which says something, I guess. In any case, this is a list of the best of the best for those who don’t wanna sift through my mammoth lists below. It starts with the album of the year, the album so awesome it broke the Van Cleef scale entirely and then the albums proceed to be listed in descending order.

The Best Album of 2008:

HANK III/DAMN RIGHT, REBEL PROUD – CD/Vinyl – VAN CLEEF SAYS FUCK YOU – FUCK YES. PUNCH FIGHT FUCK. ALBUM OF THE FUCKING YEAR!

Off the Van Cleef Scale:

David Bowie/Live in Santa Monica ’72 – CD – 9 Van Cleefs – Get this album. If you don’t: fuck you. It is rad.

Bob Dylan/The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs – CD + Vinyl – 7 Van Cleefs – That’s right, 7 motherfuckers and the rating system only goes to 5. I got the super deluxe edition of this release and it’s 3 cds and a 7 inch single of pure awesome latter day Dylan. I love his recent output and this fills in gaps and tells more of the story of his worth from the late 80s through today. If you like Bob, get some form of this album.

Beck/Odelay [Deluxe Edition] – CD – 6 Van Cleefs – His best album expanded with even more awesomeness. 5 Cleefs just for the original damned album and a bonus Cleef for the bonus tracks. Great liner notes too. An essential reissue.

The Rest of the Best:

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club/Cipher – CD/Vinyl – 5 Van Cleefs – I love this band like I love sex. Except this album doesn’t end after five minutes and I don’t have to do unspeakable things with it. Also, I can actually get and listen to this record whenever I want… anyways, enough about my problems. Slim and the Club basically get better with every damned album and this is no exception. Some favorite live songs get committed to record here and the whole damned album is written in a cipher. Gothic country and the epitome of the Denver Sound, love em!

Air France/No Way Down EP – CD – 5 Van Cleefs – I LOVE LOVE LOVE this album. Very well crafted sunny Indie music.  Their MySpace describes their sound as “Socialist Rooftop Music” and that seems right. Dig it.

Black Mountain/In the Future – CD – 5 Van Cleefs – These guys rock and they rock hard. People who complain about limp contemporary music, get thee this album. Do eeeeeeet!

Gerken, J. Matthew; Christian Kiefer; Jefferson Pitcher/Of Great and Mortal Men – CD – 5 Van Cleefs – This fucker gets a 5 for balls. A three disc album about U.S. presidents (encased in very attractive packaging) takes guts, and this album has the benefit of also being pleasant indie folk music.

Various/Electro: The Ultimate Boxed Set – Data CD – 5 Van Cleefs – The music in this collection that collects the entire Electro series from the 80s and early 90s ranges from, like, 1 to 5 but the scope of this damned thing deserves a solid 5 from me. Includes a DVD of music videos too. When I talk about kickin’ it old school, I usually mean this old school.

Bo Diddley/Road Runner: The Chess Masters 1959-1960 – CD – 5 Van Cleefs – Essential Rock n Roll. I’d rate this beyond the max 5 score except that it’s probably already out of print and that’s a crime against music.

Elvis Costello/This Year’s Model [Deluxe Edition] – CD – 5 Van Cleefs – This is like the 90th reissue of the Costello catalog in the last 3 months, but since I didn’t have this on CD (just vinyl) I took the opportunity to get this expanded reissue. A fantastic album, probably Costello’s best, there are some nice bonus tracks tacked onto the end of disc 1 and then an entire live performance to round out disc 2. Very kick ass.

Johnny Cash/At Folsom Prison (Legacy Edition) – CD + DVD – 5 Van Cleefs – Folsom Prison gets the same treatment as San Quentin did a year ago, expanded out to 2 discs with complete performances from Cash and his supporting acts. A great experience to listen to, although I never thought Folsom was quite as good as San Quentin. Still, there is pure awesomeness to be had here. Also included is a solid dvd with documentary and whatnot. Tremendous, just tremendous.

Mission of Burma/Signals, Calls & Marches [Definitive Edition] – CD + DVD – 5 Van Cleefs – One of the greatest punk albums of all times gets even greater with this wonderful reissue. The sound is super and the live footage on the dvd is spectacular.

Mission of Burma/Vs. [Definitive Edition] – CD + DVD – 5 Van Cleefs – See above. Ditto and so forth.

Otis Redding/Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul [Collector's Edition] – CD – 5 Van Cleefs – Otis is one of, if not the, greatest singers of all time and he’s probably at his best here. This 2-disc set it chock full of extras, stereo and mono mixes, great liner notes and just wonderful, wonderful Otis. If you need one album, skip a greatest hits collection and get this.

Replacements/Let it Be [Expanded Edition] – CD – 5 Van Cleefs – You know this is essential.

Replacements/Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take out the Trash [Expanded Edition] – CD – 5 Van Cleefs – Ditto.

U2/Under a Blood Red Sky [Deluxe Edition] – CD + DVD – 5 Van Cleefs – I used to think of this as a slight entry in the U2 catalog, but the more I listen the more I love it. This edition doesn’t tack on bonus tracks but the remaster is wonderful and the live DVD is great too. U2 has been treating their back catalog very well and I hope to see more releases like these in the future.

Dennis Wilson/Pacific Ocean Blue [Deluxe Edition] – CD – 4.9 Van Cleefs – This is basically a reissue of everything from Dennis Wilson’s tragically short solo career. This is really, really good sun baked rock n roll. I mean, c’mon, it’s from a Beach Boy and it might be the best solo effort from one of them you can pick up.

U2/War [Deluxe Edition] – CD – 4.9 Van Cleefs – The album proper is great here, I’d give it a 5 except the bonus material here is so damned repetitive it sort of detracts from the whole experience. Too bad, for some folks this is U2 at their peak.

Autechre/Quaristice – Vinyl – 4.8 Van Cleefs – Autechre is always weird and cool to me, as I don’t really “get it” but it’s still pretty compelling stuff. This album feels, weirdly, more accessible than some others. No idea why, but I love listening to it.

Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis/Two Men with the Blues – CD – 4.8 Van Cleefs – This combo seems like it probably shouldn’t work, but it pretty much does. Very loose run-throughs of classic covers and standards, both Willie and Wynton are in better shape on here than some of their other recent efforts. A very good time is to be had on this album.

Mighty Mighty Bosstones/Don’t Worry Desmond Dekker – Vinyl – 4.8 Van Cleefs – The single from the rarities & new tracks album the ‘Tones released last year, the title track is one of the band’s finest efforts. The flip side is a great demo take of Another Drinkin’ Song with originally appeared a couple albums ago. The artwork for this single is peachy keen.

Those Poor Bastards/Satan is Watching – CD/Vinyl – 4.7 Van Cleefs – This is great Gothic/Death Country. A searing cover of I Walk the Line and great tracks like Crooked Man make the pain and suffering a good thing.

Miles Davis/Muted Miles – CD – 4.7 Van Cleefs – A Miles Davis that focuses on his mellower offerings. Obviously not an album for every occasion, but this cd really hits the spot sometimes.

Raconteurs/Consolers of the Lonely – CD/Vinyl – 4.6 Van Cleefs – Okay, so I have some man love for Jack White, no lie. This album is like all of the promise of the Raconteurs first album delivered. It’s Jack White and friends cutting loose, playing some sloppy Rock n Roll with a sense of history. This is great stuff.

Osaka Popstar/Rock’Em O-Sock’Em Live! – CD – 4.6 Van Cleefs – So this is sort of a supergroup with members of the Misfits, Ramones, Voidoids and… maybe one more? Very cheesy nerdtastic punky rock n Roll. Some solid covers of classic punk songs. A fun effort, if somewhat slight.

Mudhoney/Superfuzz Bigmuff [Deluxe Edition] – CD – 4.6 Van Cleefs – Okay, let me start by saying that I like Mudhoney but I’m not, like, gay for them or anything. There music I mean. Where was I? Oh right. So, this early EP has been re-released in full length format with early singles before but it sounds way better now and the track order has been corrected. There is also now a second disc of early live performances, and those are pretty anarchic and cool. These guys were some of the best of the “grunge” crop because they stayed interesting sounding and never forgot their roots (Dicks cover, anyone?)

U2/Boy [Deluxe Edition] – CD – 4.6 Van Cleefs – U2’s epic first album, remastered and expanded. The album proper is still the best thing here, but early singles and demos and whatnot help paint a picture of the early U2. Good liner notes and solid packaging make this a nice product.

Gnarls Barkley/The Odd Couple – CD – 4.5 Van Cleefs – As good as or better than their first album. Love it.

Vampire Weekend/Vampire Weekend – CD – 4.5 Van Cleefs – Okay, when people are all splooging over Indie Rock and I’m like “okay, but lots of this is boring” this is the kind of album that makes me realize that when done well, straight up Indie Rock can be good stuff. Very catchy and enjoyable music here.

Carbon/Silicon/Why do Men Fight? Single – CD/Vinyl – 4.5 Van Cleefs – My favorite C/S track in single form! Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Various/Soulsville, USA: Stax Classics – CD – 4.5 Van Cleefs – Ummm… with a name like this how can it not be scraping the top of the rating scale? Wonderful music, it loses half a Cleef only because more extensive collections exist.

Music Tapes/Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes – CD – 1 or 4.5 Van Cleefs – I won’t lie, I’m torn on this album. This album was recorded all with old timey equipment and designed to sound vintage. Also, the singer is not what we would traditionally call “good.” Sometimes I put this on and I am like “what the fuck am I listening to?”  But then other times I put it on and I say the same thing but I mean it in a good way. So, I dunno.

To Be Added at a Later Date: Any 2008 albums I recieve by the end of the year.

2008 Music Year in Review, Reissues & Best Ofs

Reissues/Best ofs:

Al Green/What Makes the World Go ‘Round? – CD – 4 Van Cleefs – Just a basic Al Green greatest hits comp, I might rank it higher if it were a proper album or a seminal collection. As it is, it’s solid but better options are out there. The music, of course, demands 4 Van Cleefs.

Beck/Odelay [Deluxe Edition] – CD – 6 Van Cleefs – His best album expanded with even more awesomeness. 5 Cleefs just for the original damned album and a bonus Cleef for the bonus tracks. Great liner notes too. An essential reissue.

Bo Diddley/Road Runner: The Chess Masters 1959-1960 – CD – 5 Van Cleefs – Essential Rock n Roll. I’d rate this beyond the max 5 score except that it’s probably already out of print and that’s a crime against music.

Chemical Brothers/Brotherhood – CD – 3 Van Cleefs – This something most folks may not know about me, but I think the Chemical Brothers have some pretty decent singles. Disc 1 of this 2-disc set are those singles and it’s solid. Disc 2 are some white label rare tracks, and they’re cool too if not totally something to write home about. This is the one CB release in my collection, and it pretty much fits my needs for them.

David Bowie/iSelect – CD – 4 Van Cleefs – A compilation put together by David Bowie where he selects tracks from his career personally meaningful to him. Some really good stuff, and not the typical Best-of fodder. Even if you have all the music, it’s probably worth picking up for the Bowie-penned liner notes.

David Bowie/Live in Santa Monica ’72 – CD – 9 Van Cleefs – Get this album. If you don’t: fuck you. It is rad.

Dennis Wilson/Pacific Ocean Blue [Deluxe Edition] – CD – 4.9 Van Cleefs – This is basically a reissue of everything from Dennis Wilson’s tragically short solo career. This is really, really good sun baked rock n roll. I mean, c’mon, it’s from a Beach Boy and it might be the best solo effort from one of them you can pick up.

Dropkick Murphys/Meanest of Times [Deluxe Edition] – CD – 3.7 Van Cleefs – I have this on both the deluxe cd version and on the 2007-issued vinyl, with different bonus tracks on each. It’s good stuff, although it won’t convert skeptics. It was a bit of a grower, but I adore the album now.

Elvis Costello/This Year’s Model [Deluxe Edition] – CD – 5 Van Cleefs – This is like the 90th reissue of the Costello catalog in the last 3 months, but since I didn’t have this on CD (just vinyl) I took the opportunity to get this expanded reissue. A fantastic album, probably Costello’s best, there are some nice bonus tracks tacked onto the end of disc 1 and then an entire live performance to round out disc 2. Very kick ass.

James Brown/Soul Brother No. 1 – CD – 4 Van Cleefs – Ditto this album as my review for Al Green. Wonderful source material (hence 4 Cleefs), but can be totally supplanted by better collections.

Johnny Cash/At Folsom Prison (Legacy Edition) – CD + DVD – 5 Van Cleefs – Folsom Prison gets the same treatment as San Quentin did a year ago, expanded out to 2 discs with complete performances from Cash and his supporting acts. A great experience to listen to, although I never thought Folsom was quite as good as San Quentin. Still, there is pure awesomeness to be had here. Also included is a solid dvd with documentary and whatnot. Tremendous, just tremendous.

Johnny Cash/Johnny Cash’s America – CD + DVD – 3.5 Van Cleefs – A solid compilation that serves as a soundtrack for the included documentary that I have admittedly not watched yet. An unreleased track is collector bait.

Miles Davis/Muted Miles – CD – 4.7 Van Cleefs – A Miles Davis that focuses on his mellower offerings. Obviously not an album for every occasion, but this cd really hits the spot sometimes.

Mission of Burma/Signals, Calls & Marches [Definitive Edition] – CD + DVD – 5 Van Cleefs – One of the greatest punk albums of all times gets even greater with this wonderful reissue. The sound is super and the live footage on the dvd is spectacular.

Mission of Burma/Vs. [Definitive Edition] – CD + DVD – 5 Van Cleefs – See above. Ditto and so forth.

Mission of Burma/The Horrible Truth About Burma [Definitive Edition] – CD + DVD + 4 Van Cleefs – Mostly see above, except I should note that this live album isn’t quite as good as the two albums above. Still, it’s fucking Burma yo.

Mudhoney/Superfuzz Bigmuff [Deluxe Edition] – CD – 4.6 Van Cleefs – Okay, let me start by saying that I like Mudhoney but I’m not, like, gay for them or anything. There music I mean. Where was I? Oh right. So, this early EP has been re-released in full length format with early singles before but it sounds way better now and the track order has been corrected. There is also now a second disc of early live performances, and those are pretty anarchic and cool. These guys were some of the best of the “grunge” crop because they stayed interesting sounding and never forgot their roots (Dicks cover, anyone?)

Otis Redding/Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul [Collector's Edition] – CD – 5 Van Cleefs – Otis is one of, if not the, greatest singers of all time and he’s probably at his best here. This 2-disc set it chock full of extras, stereo and mono mixes, great liner notes and just wonderful, wonderful Otis. If you need one album, skip a greatest hits collection and get this.

Replacements/Let it Be [Expanded Edition] – CD – 5 Van Cleefs – You know this is essential.

Replacements/Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take out the Trash [Expanded Edition] – CD – 5 Van Cleefs – Ditto.

U2/Boy [Deluxe Edition] – CD – 4.6 Van Cleefs – U2’s epic first album, remastered and expanded. The album proper is still the best thing here, but early singles and demos and whatnot help paint a picture of the early U2. Good liner notes and solid packaging make this a nice product.

U2/October [Deluxe Edition] – CD – 3.8 Van Cleefs – I think this album isn’t as good as Boy, and the extras here didn’t do it for me quite as much, but this is still solid early U2 and shouldn’t be passed up. The remastering makes the album sound great, too.

U2/War [Deluxe Edition] – CD – 4.9 Van Cleefs – The album proper is great here, I’d give it a 5 except the bonus material here is so damned repetitive it sort of detracts from the whole experience. Too bad, for some folks this is U2 at their peak.

U2/Under a Blood Red Sky [Deluxe Edition] – CD + DVD – 5 Van Cleefs – I used to think of this as a slight entry in the U2 catalog, but the more I listen the more I love it. This edition doesn’t tack on bonus tracks but the remaster is wonderful and the live DVD is great too. U2 has been treating their back catalog very well and I hope to see more releases like these in the future.

Liz Phair/Exile in Guysville [Deluxe Edition] CD – 3.5 Van Cleefs – Probably this would get a 5 if I were a chick. Kidding! Sort of. It’s pretty good but I don’t think I’m totally the target audience to appreciate it. Still, nice addition to the liberry.

Next Up: The Best of the Best & Closing Thoughts

2008 Music Year in Review, Compilations

Compilations:

Various/Glam Revolution – CD – 3 Van Cleefs – The usual suspects of Glam Rock (Bowie, Queen, T. Rex, etc), this compilation doesn’t exactly get bonus points for originality but it does get a 3 rating because the usual suspects of Glam Rock kick ass.

Various/Doomed – Digital – 2.5 Van Cleefs – A free interwebs mix tape. Decent hip-hop. Can’t say much more, if you like this sort of thing this is the sort of thing you’ll like.

Various/Mojo - Rebel Music: Songs of Protest & Insurrection – CD – 4 Van Cleefs – This is that CD that came with the Clash Mojo issue this year. So sue me, I really like these songs. That is all.

Various/Upright, Grand and All Right – CD – 2.5 Van Cleefs – Very lovely jazz piano.

Various/Soulsville, USA: Stax Classics – CD – 4.5 Van Cleefs – Ummm… with a name like this how can it not be scraping the top of the rating scale? Wonderful music, it loses half a Cleef only because more extensive collections exist.

Various/A Tribute to Che Guevara – CD – 3.5 Van Cleefs – Some great music from Central and South America. All in a language I understand very little of, but the music seems sincere. Mostly fairly regional fare, there isn’t a lot of Americanized rock n roll on here or anything. A little different listen than what is in the rest of my collection, this is a solid disc.

Various/Living Bridge – CD – 3 Van Cleefs – A pretty solid indie rock compilation. Some standout tracks, such as the song by the Silver Jews the album gets its name from, and some forgettable bits. Not a bad sampler by any means.

Various/Northern Songs (Canada’s Best and Brightest) – CD – 1 Van Cleef – This album is about as exciting as the title would suggest. Even when songs on the album come up that I like, I feel sort of sad and bored.

Various/Dylan Artist’s Choice – CD – 2.5 Van Cleefs – This is part of that series where different artists pick music that was inspirational to them and make a compilation out of it. I rank this a little low only because there aren’t any major revelations here. Country, blues, folk. I would have liked to see Dylan throw on some Public Enemy or Kraftwerk or something, you know he listens to that stuff.

Various/Jump Up’s Caribbean Memories – CD – 3 Van Cleefs – This is a freebie sampler from Jump Up Records a ska/reggae label. They have good ska music and the cd was free. That warrants a 3.

Various/One Step Beyond – CD – 3 Van Cleefs – 2-Tone music collection. Good stuff on here, but this is just a repackaging of the same stuff I have replicated probably 20 times apiece. Shows how much I like this music that this gets 3 Cleefs.

Various/The Political Party at Ground Zero – Digital – 3 Van Cleefs – Okay, this is a free internet comp I downloaded really because Mitch Clem’s band (of NN2S fame) is on it. It’s fun pop-punk type stuff. Go find it and download it. Why not, right?

Various/A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All – Digital – 3 Van Cleefs – The soundtrack to the Christmas special of same name, I think these songs are both funny and well made. Performances from Elvis Costello, Willie Nelson, Feist, Toby Keith and John Legend make it a hard album to dislike.

Various/Electro: The Ultimate Boxed Set – Data CD – 5 Van Cleefs – The music in this collection that collects the entire Electro series from the 80s and early 90s ranges from, like, 1 to 5 but the scope of this damned thing deserves a solid 5 from me. Includes a DVD of music videos too. When I talk about kickin’ it old school, I usually mean this old school.

Next Up: Reissues & Best Ofs

2008 Music Year in Review, Singles & EPs

Singles/EPs:

Air France/No Way Down EP – CD – 5 Van Cleefs – I LOVE LOVE LOVE this album. Very well crafted sunny Indie music.  Their MySpace describes their sound as “Socialist Rooftop Music” and that seems right. Dig it.

Asteroids Galaxy Tour/Around the Bend EP – Digital – 3.5 Van Cleefs – Okay, now before you immediately hate me let me just cut you off and admit this is that song from one of the iPod commercials. So sue me, it’s catchy. And when I studied up on the band more I realized that not only was the little snippet off the commercial catchy but the band was damned talented. They’re sort of a funky CocoRosie, which is awesome.

Asteroids Galaxy Tour/Around the Bend Single – Digital – 3 Van Cleefs – Okay, I got the single before I got the EP. Nice song, half a point off just because, well, it’s just the one song.

Asteroids Galaxy Tour/The Sun Ain’t Shining No More EP – Digital – 4 Van Cleefs – I actually think the title track from this EP is the best song the band has at the moment. Really good stuff. This EP also includes the title track’s music video and the lead singer is spicy.

Belong/Colorless Record – Digital – 2.5 Van Cleefs – I don’t remember how exactly I came across this little tidbit, but it’s a decent Indie band and album. I think “lush” describes it fairly well, so take that as you will.

Carbon/Silicon/Maybe That’s the Meaning of Life Single – Digital – 2 Van Cleefs – Eh. Again, sorry.

Carbon/Silicon/Why do Men Fight? Single – CD/Vinyl – 4.5 Van Cleefs – My favorite C/S track in single form! Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Clash/Live at Shea Stadium Single – Vinyl – 2.5 Van Cleefs – Two selections off the Shea disc, this is basically the same but at least this has the cool Newbury Comics tooth image on it. So that’s cool.

CocoRosie/God Has a Voice, She Speaks Through Me – Vinyl – 3.7 Van Cleefs – This is CocoRosie still in second album form with more production technique and electronic flourishes, which is what I prefer. A good song, I look forward to a new album from this duo.

Flogging Molly/Complete Control Sessions – Digital – 3.4 Van Cleefs – Very good run-throughs of various songs by the band. What more to say?

Gang of Four/Second Life Single – Digital/Vinyl – 3.5 Van Cleefs – Super solid single from Go4. Man, why can’t all bands be this awesome when they’re old? The digital version of the single includes extra remixes and whatnot.

Growing/All the Way EP – Digital – 3.1 Van Cleefs – Electronica. Good. Good Electronica. Sweet.

Mighty Mighty Bosstones/Don’t Worry Desmond Dekker – Vinyl – 4.8 Van Cleefs – The single from the rarities & new tracks album the ‘Tones released last year, the title track is one of the band’s finest efforts. The flip side is a great demo take of Another Drinkin’ Song with originally appeared a couple albums ago. The artwork for this single is peachy keen.

Mountain Goats/Satanic Messiah EP – Digital – 3 Van Cleefs – This is a free EP from the Mountain Goats, so the price is right and the music ain’t bad either. Indie Rock, but pretty solid. Great album name!

One Day as a Lion/One Day as a Lion EP – CD – 3.5 Van Cleefs – Zach De la Rocha is back! After being stuck with that Audioslave bullshit for too many years, Zach is back and the sound is definitely loud and angry. Just the ways I likes it.

Osaka Popstar/Rock’Em O-Sock’Em Live! – CD – 4.6 Van Cleefs – So this is sort of a supergroup with members of the Misfits, Ramones, Voidoids and… maybe one more? Very cheesy nerdtastic punky rock n Roll. Some solid covers of classic punk songs. A fun effort, if somewhat slight.

Public Access/Hindsight EP – Digital – 3 Van Cleefs – Free download. Good ska. Free + Good = 3.

Rum Shebeen/Lock a Monkey Up – Vinyl – 4 Van Cleefs – A great single from an up and coming band, this is a (sort of) ska-tinged (definitely) rockin’ slice of awesome. Get ye the single.

Scarlett Johansson/Live Session (iTunes Exclusive) – Digital – 2.5 Van Cleefs – A little better renditions of songs from the album proper, but nothing revelatory.

These New Puritans/Elvis EP – Digital – 3.7 Van Cleefs – I like this band.

These New Puritans/Swords of Truth EP – Digital – 3.7 Van Cleefs – I still like this band.

Wire/Daytrotter Session EP – Digital – 3.4 Van Cleefs – It’s good, solid Wire. Let some real nerd-Wire fan do a real write up.

Next Up: Compilations

2008 Music Year in Review, Full Length Albums

Full Lengths:

Abe Vigoda/Skeleton – CD – 3.5 Van Cleefs – Very serviceable Indie Noise Rock type stuff. The music is worth 3 Van Cleefs but they get a bonus half Cleef for the awesome band name. what can I say? I’m a generous dude.

AC/DC/Black Ice – CD – 2 Van Cleefs – Latter day AC/DC is sort of like picking a scab: you know it doesn’t do any good and is probably actually harmful, but when you got your fingernails dug in it feels so damned good. That’s sort of like listening to pretty much every post-Back in Black AC/DC album.

Amanda Palmer/Who Killed Amanda Palmer? – CD/Digital – 3.5 Van Cleefs – Solo concept album from the creative half of The Dresden Dolls. Not a radical departure from the Punk Cabaret sound, but Palmer does stretch out musically a bit. Kind of an interesting “plot” that goes along with the album too. Bonus nerd points for liner notes written by Neil Gaiman and the digital album has a rather hilarious bonus track penned by Gaiman as well.

Anti-Flag/The Bright Lights of America – CD – 2 Van Cleefs – Very thoroughly “meh.” Same old story with A-F here. One or two modest attempts to branch out musically don’t really go anywhere but I guess one could do worse with contemporary punk.

Apples in Stereo/Electronic Projects for Musicians – Vinyl – 3.3 Van Cleefs – Some indie pop odds and sods in this collection of rarities and whatnot from the Apples. I rather like the uneven nature of the album, my only real complaint is that my “digital download coupon” said it was expired. Bummer!

Autechre/Quaristice – Vinyl – 4.8 Van Cleefs – Autechre is always weird and cool to me, as I don’t really “get it” but it’s still pretty compelling stuff. This album feels, weirdly, more accessible than some others. No idea why, but I love listening to it.

Diplo & Santogold/Top Ranking – Digital – 3 Van Cleefs – Very well executed mix album, includes some Clash connections. Recommended.

Baseball Project/The Baseball Project, Vol. 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails – CD – 2.5 or 4 Van Cleefs – For the non baseball fan, this is competent R.E.M. style rock with some decent tracks and a fair bit of filler. For baseball fans, you better like this album or I will stab you in the brain.

Bauhaus/Go Away White – Digital - .5 Van Cleefs – No.

Beck/Modern Guilt – CD – 3.5 Van Cleefs – Okay, I really like this one. Beck loosens up a bit from the electronic direction he had been trending towards. A more organic feel here but with some dark lyrics that don’t always match, which is appealing sometimes. Good stuff, pick this up if you’re a Beck fan.

Black Keys/Attack & Release – CD/Vinyl – 3 Van Cleefs – When I first got this, I would have probably ranked it a 4 but I’ve cooled on the album a bit.  The Black Keys move further away from their Blues Punk sound, which isn’t necessarily bad, but they could have used a couple extra hooks. Still, a good album to enjoy from start to finish, just not loaded with singles.

Black Mountain/In the Future – CD – 5 Van Cleefs – These guys rock and they rock hard. People who complain about limp contemporary music, get thee this album. Do eeeeeeet!

Bloc Party/Intimacy – CD/Digital – 3.5 Van Cleefs – You know, I’ve always bought/acquired Bloc Party albums because they’re a band I was supposed to like, and I thought their stuff was okay but this album has actually grabbed me. If you’re gonna pick up one album by the band, it might as well be this one.

Blood on the Wall/Liferz – CD – 2.7 Van Cleefs – A solid contemporary Indie/Punk rock effort. I got no qualms with the album, but it hasn’t ingratiated itself into my cold, robotic heart either.

Bob Dylan/The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs – CD + Vinyl – 7 Van Cleefs – That’s right, 7 motherfuckers and the rating system only goes to 5. I got the super deluxe edition of this release and it’s 3 cds and a 7 inch single of pure awesome latter day Dylan. I love his recent output and this fills in gaps and tells more of the story of his worth from the late 80s through today. If you like Bob, get some form of this album.

Bob Mould/District Line – CD – 3 Van Cleefs – Mould is interesting again! Yay! I never really did follow Mould’s post-Du career too closely, but nothing I heard really grabbed me. Maybe switching it up to the Anti- label helped him, but this album hooks me in. It’s a good mix of some of the various forms of rock and electronic music Mould has delved into over the years.

The Bug/London Zoo – CD – 2.9 Van Cleefs – Just a little shy of a solid 3, this is some pretty good electronic music out of the whimsical land of Britain. Not an instant classic with me, but a good pick up. Sort of that reggae/techno stuff all the kids are into today.

Carbon/Silicon/Carbon Casino – CD – 2 Van Cleefs – I hate to be an asshole about this, but this live album was kinda boring. Maybe you had to be there, but that doesn’t make for a great disc. Sorry guys.

Chairlift/Does You Inspire You – Digital – 2.5 Van Cleefs – Okay, an ipod song. Fuck you too. This is decent stuff, although the track used for the commercial is the best thing on the album I think. So it goes.

Chumbawamba/The Boy Bands Have Won – CD – 3.5 Van Cleefs – A) The album title is great, B) The new folk iteration of Chumbawamba has been releasing some great music and this is no different. Stuff like this makes me feel sort of okay with being human.

Clash/Live at Shea Stadium – CD – 2.5 Van Cleefs – The music is fine, whatever. I think I’ve listened to this twice, tops. I’m still waiting to hear a live Clash release as good as the boots. Wake me when that happens. Also, the artwork is complete shit.

CSS/Donkey – CD – 3 Van Cleefs – Solid Indie-Dance type stuff. I like it.

Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip/Angles – Digital – 2-ish Van Cleefs – Okay, this is sort of like a Streets derivative album right? It’s not… totally awful. The gimmick has its charm but it’s hard to sit through a whole album. I hope they release a 5 disc concept album next.

Deal’s Gone Bad/Welcome to the Vault – CD – 4 Van Cleefs – This is the first three DGB albums in one box set. A great pickup. Solid Ska!

Deerhoof/Offend Maggie – CD – 3.7 Van Cleefs – I really like Deerhoof. Quality Indie Rock with endearing vocals. This is a little poppier effort from the band, and that’s not a bad thing. Good times.

Deerhunter/Microcastle – Digital – 3 Van Cleefs – New rule: bands that start with “deer” are good and should be listened to.

Del tha Funkee Homosapien/Eleventh Hour – CD/Vinyl – 2 Van Cleefs – It pains me to give Del only 2 Cleefs, but there it is. His skills are intact, but the lyrics are pretty forgettable. Also, we really should have seen some of the DefJux crew’s fingerprints on this. Hopefully that will be rectified next time out.

Devotchka /A Mad & Faithful Telling – CD – 3 Van Cleefs – Colorado represent! This is more quality Gothic Americana from the heart of the Denver scene. Get it, yo.

DJ BC vs. Big D & The Kids Table/Strictly Mixed and Mashed – Vinyl – 3.5 Van Cleefs – This is basically exactly what it sounds like: dubbed up and remixed versions of Big D songs (off of Strictly Rude). Big D has been playing with dubs and stuff for a bit now, so it’s not shocking, but damned it sounds good.

Don Segundo/Censura – CD – 3 Van Cleefs – Tasty ska that presents itself in a language that scares and confuses me.

Dresden Dolls/No, Virginia… - CD – 3.5 Van Cleefs – Outtakes from the Yes, Virginia… album, this stuff is as good as anything on that album and that album is the best effort the Dolls have done yet. Do the math.

Elvis Costello/Momofuku – CD – 4 Van Cleefs – I guess this was a soundtrack to a play or some shit? Who cares, this is Costello on top form. Get it.

Everybody Out!/Everybody Out! – CD/Vinyl – 3 Van Cleefs – Former DKM members and other ne’er-do-wells put out some fine street punk which sounds like the east coast sound but with a few more west coast flavors entering in. I have no idea what I am writing.

Fleet Foxes/Fleet Foxes – CD – 3 Van Cleefs – You could more or less copy/paste my Black Keys review for this. Pretty high on the album when I got it, but my feelings have been tempered a bit. Still good stuff, but where’s the hooks at dawg?

Flogging Molly/Float – CD – 2.8 Van Cleefs – There’s nothing wrong with this album per se, it’s lively and I enjoy it. But for some ethereal reason it hasn’t grabbed me as much as, say, Within a Mile of Home or Swagger. Still, not bad.

Free Kitten/Inherit – CD – 2 Van Cleefs – And the 2 might be a touch generous. Don’t totally know what I was thinking of when I got this. Kim Gordon is one of the masterminds behind this band, but it’s just not as interesting as it should be. Eh, maybe it’s a grower.

Friendly Fires/Friendly Fires – Digital - ? Van Cleefs – I… don’t remember this at all. But I probably like it?

Fuck Buttons/Street Horrrsing – CD – 4.2 Van Cleefs – Fuck you, I like this album. Electronic Noise type stuff. It actually grabs ya though, check it out.

Gerken, J. Matthew; Christian Kiefer; Jefferson Pitcher/Of Great and Mortal Men – CD – 5 Van Cleefs – This fucker gets a 5 for balls. A three disc album about U.S. presidents (encased in very attractive packaging) takes guts, and this album has the benefit of also being pleasant indie folk music.

Gnarls Barkley/The Odd Couple – CD – 4.5 Van Cleefs – As good as or better than their first album. Love it.

HANK III/DAMN RIGHT, REBEL PROUD – CD/Vinyl – VAN CLEEF SAYS FUCK YOU – FUCK YES. PUNCH FIGHT FUCK. ALBUM OF THE FUCKING YEAR!

Health/Health//Disco – CD – 3.8 Van Cleefs – This is a remix disc of Health songs. I think it’s catchy as fuck. I probably like it more than the source material, actually.

Hood Internet/Hood Internet vs. Chicago – Digital – 3 Van Cleefs – The Hood Internet is an outfit that releases free mashup albums on the interwebs. They pick really good source material and the execution is well crafted. Check their stuff out.

Hood Internet/ The Hood Internet vs Lykke Li – Digital – 3 Van Cleefs – See above.

Hood Internet/ The Hood Internet vs Tobacco & Aesop Rock – Digital – 3 Van Cleefs – See above above.

Hood Internet/ The Mixtape Volume Three – Digital – 3 Van Cleefs – See above above above.

Lady Ann/ Bad Gyal Inna Dance – CD – 3.1 Van Cleefs – Very pleasing contemporary reggae. Lady Ann has a great voice and the musical arrangements are tasty. Not much more to say, just a really solid effort.

Legendary Pink Dots/Plutonium Blonde – CD – 3.6 Van Cleefs – I have no idea how I’d never heard this venerable old band before, but this is a great album. Sort of a combination of early PiL post-punk and Syd Barrett “folk” music. A bit of a freak out, but in a good way.

Less Than Jake/GNV FLA – CD – 3.3 Van Cleefs – Who says Ska is dead? Well, lots of people. But LTJ is still kicking out the ska sounds, and doing a solid job of it. I dunno if anything will beat Losing Streak for me, but this is a great addition to their catalog.

Los Guanabana/Heartbeats – CD – 3 Van Cleefs – Solid instrumental Latin Ska. As I’m going through this list I’ve realized some really great ska was released this year.

Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, John Zorn/Stone: Issue 3 – CD – 4.4 Van Cleefs – Finally, the collaboration we’ve all been waiting for, Reed and Zorn (and Anderson)!! This live performance works really well I think, and it just gets better as the performance continues. If you’re a fan of Reed or Zorn (or both), do yourself a favor and pick this up.

Man Man/Rabbit Habits – CD – 3.6 Van Cleefs – Damn, I can’t believe I almost forgot about this album. This is some great rock with hints of whimsy and craziness and just a dash of Tom Waits to keep shit spicy.

Marcy Playground/MP3 – CD – 2.3 Van Cleefs – Okay, okay. So here’s the thing. I adore the Playground’s first two albums (well, mostly the first). When I got this I KNEW it was going to be mediocre, but I didn’t care. And I still don’t. There are a small handful of good tracks on here, but only hardcore fans of the band (and there are, like, a lot of us right?) should bother here. Also, this might be a reissue. I’m not totally sure/don’t care too much.

MC Frontalot/Final Boss – Digital/CD – 4.2 Van Cleefs – Nerdcore hiphop! Another solid effort by Frontalot, gotta love rap songs about the land of Canadia, Dungeons & Dragons, and “doing the Margaret Thatcher.”

Me First and Gimme Gimmes/Have Another Ball! – CD – 3 Van Cleefs – Giving out a 3 score is pretty typical, huh? That’s because the 3 score signifies a solid effort that no one who is into the genre/style would be disappointed having in their collection. For fans of punk rock cover bands, this is an album you should have.

Millencolin/Machine 15 – CD – 2.2 Van Cleefs – Catchy title track, but the rest of the album sounds flat to my ears. I guess I still don’t really like these guys.

Monkey/Journey to the West – CD – 2.7 Van Cleefs – A Damon Albarn side project, this is an orchestral score for a Japanese play or something. It’s, you know, pretty well done but it’s a score. Thus, it is hard to hold my interest.

Mr. T-Bone and the Young Lions/Heroes – CD – 3.3 Van Cleefs – More great, wonderful Ska. Ska is great, so suck it if you ain’t down. This is pretty straight ahead stuff, not much punk guitar here or anything.

Mudhoney/The Lucky Ones – CD/Vinyl – 3.5 Van Cleefs – An above average Mudhoney effort, not quite up to their best stuff but definitely a good album. The vinyl copy I picked up also included a neat 7 inch single with it, so maybe you can get that with the album too.

Music Tapes/Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes – CD – 1 or 4.5 Van Cleefs – I won’t lie, I’m torn on this album. This album was recorded all with old timey equipment and designed to sound vintage. Also, the singer is not what we would traditionally call “good.” Sometimes I put this on and I am like “what the fuck am I listening to?”  But then other times I put it on and I say the same thing but I mean it in a good way. So, I dunno.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds/Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! – CD – 4 Van Cleefs – One of Cave’s best outings in recent memory (discounting the excellent Grinderman output), the sleaze is back baby!

Nine Inch Nails/Ghosts I-IV – CD – 2 Van Cleefs – I appreciate what Reznor is doing here, offering sketches and instrumentals and whatnot. It’s interesting but not especially compelling. I like these tracks to pop up on shuffle though. The version of this I have is just the regular retail and not any of the fancy online versions sold at the NiN website.

Nine Inch nails/The Slip – Digital – 4 Van Cleefs – This is more like it. Released online for free (a retail hard copy eventually showed up, but I don’t have that), this continues Reznor’s trend of releasing actual good music, something he hadn’t done from the time after he released The Downward Spiral until that Hand that Feeds shit finally got out of his system.

No Age/Nouns – CD – 3 Van Cleefs – More noisy indie rock. I like it, you can play it loud and it’s not too long so it doesn’t get old. Some people think this is the best album of the year but those people are probably too scared and/or too fucking stupid to buy Hank III albums.

No Use for Name/the Feel Good Record of the Year – CD – 1.7 Van Cleefs – Boring. Another band I still don’t like.

Old Crow Medicine Show/Tennessee Pusher – CD – 2.8 Van Cleefs – This album feels a little more subdued than OCMS’ previous two efforts and that is a bad thing. These guys essentially trade on a reputation of being a Country/Americana band with post-grunge sensibilities and this album is starting to play it straight. Do more drugs, fellahs… or less. I’m not totally sure how it works with you creative types.

Paavoharju/Laulu Laakson Kukista – CD – 3.4 Van Cleefs – Okay, this was a total “well, that sounds interesting” pick-up. I have no clue what they’re singing about or anything, but the cover art is creepy and the music is quality electronica-tinged indie rock.

Pennywise/Reason to Believe – CD/Vinyl – 1.5 Van Cleefs – Okay, screw you guys, I know I should have known better. But I had some friends who like these guys and I wanted to like them. But I just can’t do it. There is one kinda catchy song on here, but it’s still sorta retarded. Good job Pennywise, that’s the best I can say on your behalf.

Portishead/Third – CD – 4 Van Cleefs – Portishead is great trip-hop and this album is as good as anything they’ve released. I know their style isn’t really “the scene” anymore but I still like it.

Quiet Village/Silent Movie – CD – 3.5 Van Cleefs – This is more of that electronica-indie stuff that I apparently like. I really like the cover of this album.

Raconteurs/Consolers of the Lonely – CD/Vinyl – 4.6 Van Cleefs – Okay, so I have some man love for Jack White, no lie. This album is like all of the promise of the Raconteurs first album delivered. It’s Jack White and friends cutting loose, playing some sloppy Rock n Roll with a sense of history. This is great stuff.

Scarlett Johansson/Anywhere I Lay My Head – CD – 2.5 Van Cleefs – This is that cover album of Tom Waits songs that hot actress did. They’re actually not bad, and some are really quite good. I don’t blame any of those involved or anything, it’s just hard to keep interest sustained over the entire album.

Silver Jews/Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea – 3.9 Van Cleefs – This is another one of those bands which have been floating around for a while but I hadn’t heard much of. I really like this album tho. It’s sort of folkie rock or rockin folk or something. Anyways, it’s fun and, dare I say, lighthearted? Sure, why not!

Skapone/The Black & White Album – CD – 3 Van Cleefs – More solid ska! At least this time I can add that the lyrics are sometimes a little politically stupid (in the conservative vein), but hey, it’s catchy and mostly about fun and noble stuff like drinking!

Slackers/Self Medication – CD – 3.2 Van Cleefs – A great effort from the Slackers, I’ll tick this up a couple pointlets above the rest of the “solid Ska” of the year, this is a good album.

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club/Cipher – CD/Vinyl – 5 Van Cleefs – I love this band like I love sex. Except this album doesn’t end after five minutes and I don’t have to do unspeakable things with it. Also, I can actually get and listen to this record whenever I want… anyways, enough about my problems. Slim and the Club basically get better with every damned album and this is no exception. Some favorite live songs get committed to record here and the whole damned album is written in a cipher. Gothic country and the epitome of the Denver Sound, love em!

Snoop Dogg /Ego Trippin’ – Digital – 1.7 Van Cleefs – YAWN. Decent single, not much else.

The Soulsteppers/The Return of… - CD – 3 Van Cleefs – Ska, solid, instrumental, etc.

Street Dogs/State of Grace – CD – 2.9 Van Cleefs – This is a good album but I fear suffers the same syndrome that the new Flogging Molly album does. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about then you haven’t been reading this entry in order. For shame.

Tapes ‘n Tapes/Walk it Off – CD/Vinyl – 2 Van Cleefs – THIS WAS MORE BORING THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE

These New Puritans/Beat Pyramid – Digital – 3.7 Van Cleefs – Inder, of If Music Could Talk Fame, likes these guys so that means you should too. Truth.

Those Poor Bastards/Satan is Watching – CD/Vinyl – 4.7 Van Cleefs – This is great Gothic/Death Country. A searing cover of I Walk the Line and great tracks like Crooked Man make the pain and suffering a good thing.

Those Poor Bastards/The Plague – CD – 4 Van Cleefs – TPB were busy this year. This was actually released before Satan is Watching but, apparently, recorded after that album. This is a solid disc, but maybe too bleak. It’s hard to say.

Tim Fite/Fair Ain’t Fair – CD – 1 Van Cleef – This shit pretty much sucks donkey jizz.

Tokyo Police Club/Elephant Shell – CD – 3 Van Cleefs – Very serviceable Rock n Roll in an Indie vein. This release kindly includes a decent remixes disc with it. A solid album.

TV on the Radio/Dear Science – CD – 4 Van Cleefs – I really like these guys. Funky, tight Rock n Roll. Some good craftsmanship went into the album, and it remains entertaining.

Vampire Weekend/Vampire Weekend – CD – 4.5 Van Cleefs – Okay, when people are all splooging over Indie Rock and I’m like “okay, but lots of this is boring” this is the kind of album that makes me realize that when done well, straight up Indie Rock can be good stuff. Very catchy and enjoyable music here.

Weezer/Weezer (Red Album) – CD – Between 2.3 and 3.2 Van Cleefs – I wanted to like this album more, but it’s just too uneven. Some songs are tasty, but others are awkward and stupid (sometimes songs are both at the same time). We just need to accept that the Weezer of Blue Album and Pinkteron is gone and come to terms with this new, decent but lesser, band. On a mostly useless note, I have the deluxe edition and the extra songs on the end flesh out the album a bit so I’d recommend this version.

Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis/Two Men with the Blues – CD – 4.8 Van Cleefs – This combo seems like it probably shouldn’t work, but it pretty much does. Very loose run-throughs of classic covers and standards, both Willie and Wynton are in better shape on here than some of their other recent efforts. A very good time is to be had on this album.

Wire/Object 47 – CD – 3.6 Van Cleefs – Not Wire at their best, but I like playing this album loud and proud (amiright, folks?!?!)

Wolf Parade/At Mount Zoomer – CD – 3 Van Cleefs – A decent 3 but everyone act like this is a 5 and fuck it’s not. Also, I would ZOOM down if I found a PARADE of WOLVES on a MOUNTAIN. RIGHT?!

Next up: Singles & EPs

2008 Music Year in Review, Introduction

Editor's Note: I have decided to split my "2008 Music Year in Review into multiple posts to make it easier to read. I've also gone ahead and fixed most of the typos and whatnot that I've found. Some may still exist, but on the whole this should be an improvement.

Introduction:

For some reason or another, in 2008 I committed myself to exploring more contemporary music – both in the form of new albums by older bands and trying to learn about emerging bands (sorry kids, this meant reading a lot of Stereogum, Pitchfork, et al) as well as keeping somewhat up to date on reissues of albums I love and so forth. I was fortunate enough to be able to explore this much music by committing what little free time I had this year to working in a record store for trade, as well as picking up promos and so forth. This is my 2008 albums years in review. This list is likely incomplete, as I am just going based off of what my mp3 library says I tagged as a 2008 release plus whatever reissues or vinyl I remember picking up. I’ll try and add as I find/remember what else I bought/acquired this year.

A note on the rating system:

My album ratings and reviews are based on the “Van Cleef” rating system where 0 Van Cleefs = The Eagles and 5 Van Cleefs = Lee Van Cleef. Each album entry will be thusly formatted: Artist/Album – format I have the album on* – Rating – Review. Reviews will typically be one or two mostly useless and occasionally acerbic sentences. For albums that really turned my crank or ground my gears, I’ll go into more detail. I am certainly not attempting to be fair or provide a balanced picture of what’s on the album. This is just a lark. Keep in mind, I tended to do research before buying/acquiring each album so I cut down on music I really hated. Still, they can’t all be winners can they? The ratings aren’t graded on a bell curve, because those are for nerds.

*Note: this is not the available formats of the album, but just how I acquired it. With all cds, it can be assumed I ripped my own digital copy but if I somehow bought/acquired a digital version independent of that, I note it.

Next up: Full length albums.