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Sad music for sad times

For reasons I won’t go into this year’s holiday season sucked.  The sucking had nothing to do with the generosity or thoughtfulness of my family and friends who blessed me with gift cards to itunes and amazon.com, where I’ve been making most of my music purchases lately.  I used a good portion of the gift balances to purchase albums I’ve wanted to buy but passed over in favor of new albums, and to purchase albums that I had downloaded when I was in college but never paid for.  In reviewing the albums I noticed that I bought mostly sad music made by white people for white people.  In place of the usual short reviews I write about albums, I’m going to create a few superlative categories and pick from my newly purchased albums to fill them. The nominess, in no particular order, are:

   

Sufjan Stevens: Seven Swans || The National: Boxer || Fleet Foxes: Sun Giant EP || Jars of Clay: Closer EP || Beck: Mellow Gold; Modern Guilt; Midnite Vultures; The Information; Sea Change || Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago; Blood Bank EP || The Black Crowes: Warpaint || Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot || Iron & Wine: The Sheperd’s Dog || Rufus Wainwright: Poses; Rufus Wainwright

Album I’ve Listened to the Most

For Emma, Forever Ago

I can’t quite put my finger on what makes this album so good.  It drew me in with its quiet, emotional, stirring lyrics and delicate harmonies.  One day in the middle of three weeks off work I listened to it three times straight through and enjoyed every second.  One thing I liked about the one-man band was that I had not heard anything about it before I previewed its album and bought it from amazon.com’s list of 50 top sellers.

Favorite new to me Beck Album

Sea Change

The saddest, most depressing album was always the front-runner for this category due to my temperament.  The depth of the introspective lyrics and Beck’s crafty delivery and arrangements made for good music to be bummed to.

Best Depressing Song

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart

Way to put it all on the table dude.  Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is the first Wilco album I’ve listened to; I like it.  It’s still growing on me.  This song was my favorite.

Best Semi-Depressing Song

For Emma

A very catchy Bon Iver song that is good to hum along to without ever understanding the lyrics beyond knowing someone is getting broken up with.

Best Upbeat Depressing Song

Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk

Rufus Wainwright wails about his cravings casually, comically and tragically.  I can relate to some parts (Everything it seems I like is a little bit sweeter, a little bit fatter, a little bit harmful for me); others not so much (I’m just a little bit heiress, a little bit Irish, a little bit tower of Pisa).

Worst Decision

Warpaint

I go hot and cold with The Black Crowes.  Sometimes I’ll listen to the greatest hits album and think they really are awesome; other times I can’t even get through one song.  I thought I’d like Warpaint because I don’t change the radio station when “Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution” comes on.  Perhaps I can’t get into this album because it is a little too country and I just don’t respect Chris Robinson as much since he separated from Kate Hudson.

Album that Sounded Just Like I Thought It Would

The Shepherd’s Dog

With the purchase of my first Iron & Wine album I began to grow tired of the whispery Indie rock sound which is a shame because the album itself is solid.   The sound falls somewhere between Sufjan Stevens and Ray LaMontagne.  I’m sure I’ll grow to appreciate it more in a few months.

Album I Did Not Think I’d Like But Do (a lot)

Boxer

I love the matter-of-fact delivery and the lyrical style of this album.  It is probably the album I’ve listened to most since Christmas behind For Emma, Forever Ago.  If understated catchiness is possible, The National achieves it here.

Album(s) I’m Still on the Fence With

Sun Giant EP (and the self-titled debut purchased earlier this year)

The songs on these albums are pretty good, but too often remind me of a poor man’s Arcade Fire.

Worst Song/T.I. Impersonation

Woods

Listening to this song on the Bon Iver Blood Bank EP for the first time was surreal.  It is as bad as Kanye West’s new album.  It’s synthetic, awkward and just plain bad.   12/13 Bon Iver songs are winners so I won’t dwell on the hideousness of this song.

Best EP that has me Excited for the to-be-released Full Length Album

Closer EP

I could listen to Jars of Clay all day.  A new single “Closer” was packaged with new versions of “Love Song for a Savior” and “Flood”as well as new songs “Safe to Land” and “Prisoner of Hope” in a precursor to a spring album.

Album Most Like Another Album I Like

Seven Swans

I bought this album because I liked, Illinoise, the album that came out the year after it so muchSufjan didn’t mix it up too much, which is ok.  I’m more likely to tire of both albums sooner, but having two good, similar albums is better than one good, one bad.   

Albums that Deserve More Attention in this Post Because of their Awesomeness

Modern Guilt, The Information, Mellow Gold, Midnite Vultures

What can be said about Beck?  He is an enigma wrapped in a pig in a blanket.  His albums vary widely in their sound but not their greatness.  Many days I spend only listening to Beck.  And they are good days at least as far as the music is concerned.   

katie said,

January 31, 2009 @ 9:57 am

yay! music reviews (i’ve yet to post my “best of 08” list).
great choices, all.
..and introspective and sad, as you say.

I’ve been holding on off Bon Iver..missed the boat on the Amazon sale, but I think we still have an iTunes card laying around. You may have convinced me.

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