Born Ruffians

The year’s not over yet, but now is as good a time as any to look back on the past 12 11 months of music and highlight the stuff that shone the brightest for me this year. After a huge star-power filled 2007 that brought out releases from some of my favourite bands like Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Spoon, and Interpol, 2008 was largely a blank slate for me. Outside of the new Death Cab for Cutie album, I wasn’t particularly anticipating anything, so the void was filled with a variety of releases from bands both new and old I discovered throughout the year. Mind you, I’ve likely missed out on a lot so far, so consider this list fairly fluid. Without further ado, the best of what I’ve heard in ’08.

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— , December 2, 2008    4 Comments

Chad VanGaalen

Since the summer of dial-up has long ended, I’ve managed to catch up on the music I’ve missed. The following is a series of scatter-shot thoughts on the things I’ve been listening to lately.

Chad Vangaalen has a new album out called Soft Airplane; it is rather excellent. I remember seeing him sometime last year. I walked out of the show somewhat unsatisfied, not due to a lack of a good performance, moreso because I wasn’t ready for it to be over. Plus some dude had a seizure, which may have cast a pall over the whole event. We got a wicked Gameboy solo though. A lot of the songs played that night seem to have made it onto this album, which explains the lack of familiarity then.

Chad VanGaalen – Willow Tree

For whatever reason, my only prior exposure to Tegan and Sara has been to Monday, Monday, Monday, as well as Walking With A Ghost, famously covered by the White Stripes. I don’t exactly remember the circumstances, but somehow I ended up getting their last three albums, which have made up most of my listening in the past 48 hours. Back In Your Head in particular has been monopolizing my iPod. I feel bad for skipping out on their London show last year.

Tegan and Sara – Back In Your Head

Mates of State’s Re-Arrange Us is as reliable as ever, but I’m sure you knew that. Perhaps a little slower than previous albums, and with piano this time around. Help Help and Now are getting a lot of play from me.

Mates of State – Now

Brendan Canning’s Something for All of Us… has managed to get a substantial bit of attention from me, far more than Kevin Drew’s album, which I found terribly boring. Love is New is my choice track.

Brendan Canning – Love is New

As predicted, The Stills have redeemed themselves. While not surpassing Logic, Oceans Will Rise has brightly outshone Without Feathers and can be considered a return to form, at least by me. And hey, Tim’s back on lead vocals! I’m seeing them in a week, hopefully they continue to impress.

The Stills – Snow in California

Bloc Party sprung Intimacy on us a couple of weeks ago. After hearing it, I responded with a resounding meh. Maybe they’ve been overexposed in the last little while, as I’m having trouble telling songs apart. To be fair, that problem also existed with the last half of A Weekend in the City. I keep reading about the innovation on this album, and if that means the electro-glitch which is Mercury, which I still contend is terrible, or adding a choir as on Zephyrus, I could do without it. Perhaps like AWITC, this is a grower, but right now I’m just turned off. At least Talons is pretty OK.

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— , September 17, 2008    3 Comments

Mates of State

Mates of State have always been my favourite two piece. They’ve done a lot with just an organ and some drums. None of their records have sounded too much like the last, they’ve always kept it fresh. On their new album, Re-Arrange Us, they decide to throw some more instruments to the mix. Out is the organ, and in comes a grand piano, and synthesizers. They flesh out their sound with strings and guitars, and even some guest backup singers. On their first couple of records, I always felt their singing felt very DIY, but their harmonies were so perfect and charming it didn’t matter. But on this album Kori’s voice has never sounded better.

All the aspects that make me love Mates of State are still there, the back and forth singing, the harmonies, and that charm that just radiates through them. This album sounds like Mates of State growing up. With 2 kids now, I guess they kinda are. Or they’re just getting better.

Mates of State – Get Better
Mates of State – My Only Offer

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— , June 17, 2008    1 Comment