Overlooked Music of 2008

1322062-1213147-thumbnail.jpgBecause Bob covers music with some regularity, both in my appearances and in the interviews he conducts with musicians, this list reflects some of the best music released in 2008 that was not featured on the show. This is intended to broaden even further the possibilities for fun listening among our audience. The songs are listed in no particular order, other than the order in which we discussed them. Enjoy!

- Anthony DeCurtis (contributing editor for Rolling Stone)

 

“I Got Mine” by The Black Keys - track 2 from Attack and Release (4/1/2008)

The guitar-and-drums duo from Akron, Ohio, often draws comparisons to the White Stripes, though the Black Keys have never attained the popularity that has come to the Stripes. Part of the reason for that is that the Keys’ sound has remained raw and uncompromising. The fierce blues-rock attack that first brought the band attention remains, as “I Got Mine” attests. Producer Danger Mouse (one half of Gnarls Barkley) only makes the Keys sound stranger, and, if possible, scarier.


“Herringbone” by Department of Eagles - track 6 from In Ear Park (10/7/2008)

Department of Eagles can be thought of as a spin-off of Grizzly Bear, another group that garnered a huge critical reputation in recent years. Singer, guitarist and songwriter Daniel Rossen actually formed DoE before he joined Grizzly Bear, and now he has reunited with Fred Nicolaus, his DoE partner, to record this haunting memorial to his father, who died in 2007. The music floats and drifts – yet finds its mark deep inside your emotions.


“Drunken Poet’s Dream” by Hayes Carll - track 1 from Trouble in Mind (4/8/2008)

From Houston, Hayes Carll is an inheritor of the Texas songwriting tradition that includes Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle. He’s highly romantic and highly literary – and, sometimes, it seems, just plain high. But he lives up to his lofty antecedents – singing in a drawl that’s as sexy as it is smart, and writing songs that are as charmingly self-deprecating as they are self-mythologizing.

 

“Real Love” by Lucinda Williams - track 1 from Little Honey (10/14/2008)

This has been called Lucinda Williams’ “happy” album, and fair enough. “Real Love,” the opening track of Little Honey, captures the exuberance of feeling that you’ve finally find the one. But there’s enough of an emotional undertow on the album – the tug of fear that things might suddenly collapse – to complicate the untrammeled joy. Still, the joy is palpable, and, as the song title suggests, “real.”

 

“Home” by David Byrne and Brian Eno - track 1 from Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (8/18/2008)

Byrne and Eno were rhythm fanatics back in the days when they transformed Talking Heads into a ferocious funk juggernaut, and collaborated on that stunning African journey, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. The rhythms still percolate here, but these two experimentalists seem far more relaxed on Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. Rhythm was always a means of accessing a world of spirits for these two brainiacs, and without sacrificing IQ points, they still manage to transcend their formidable intellects and take us somewhere mysterious and beautiful.

 

“Sausalito” by Conor Oberst - track 2 from Conor Oberst (8/5/2008)

ConorOberst has been recording under the name Bright Eyes, which sort of like Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails, is a rubric he finds useful to do pretty much anything he wants. To that extent, recording this album under his own name, and using that name as its title, is a symbolic gesture as much as anything else. The album is not as weirdly idiosyncratic as his past work has often been, which seems to mean that Oberst is simply clearer about what he wants to say and more confident about saying it straight.

 

“Shout Me Out” by TV on the Radio - track 9 from Dear Science (9/23/2008)

This Brooklyn quintet comes as close as anyone does to being a consensus choice on critics’ best lists this year. The band manages to sound bracingly contemporary while echoing predecessors like David Bowie and Talking Heads. Its music is simultaneously rhythmic and psychedelic – and it rocks.

 

“Stay Positive” by The Hold Steady - track 8 from Stay Positive (7/14/2008)

Admit it, this album’s title has got to be the message for the end of a year that – the election aside – has been apocalyptic. Another Brooklyn outfit – though with roots in Minnesota – the Hold Steady acknowledges that the center is barely holding, but, like the band’s primary influence, the early Bruce Springsteen, the group manages to make optimism seem not only the morally correct choice, but credible.

 

“This Time” by John Legend - track 8 from Evolver (10/28/2008)

“Green Light” is the hit from this splendid R&B outing by John Legend, who isn’t a superstar yet for no reason that I can discern. But “This Time” is simply a perfect soul ballad, one that sounds fresh and movingly familiar. That’s true of all of Evolver – the third studio album by a singer, songwriter and musician who is vying to be the Stevie Wonder of his generation.

 

“I’m Amazed” by My Morning Jacket - track 4 from Evil Urges (6/10/2008)

My Morning Jacket hails from Bob's hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Evil Urges continues the evolution of Jim James and his band's process of bringing psychedelic Southern rock into the 21st century. “I’m Amazed” finds the band’s toughness and lyricism at a high point.