Monday, December 29, 2008

Best Albums of 2008- Part 1

While I was compiling this Best Albums of 2008 list, it became painfully obvious to me that I wasn't fully prepared for the task at hand. Since the majority of music I listened to this year was culled from the massive archives of the sharity blogs, I haven't paid much attention to current trends in music. After sifting through an ocean of new records released in 2008, I had so many melodies and chord progressions floating through my brain matter that the notes were spilling out of my ears.

The method to my madness was simple, or so it would seem. I proceeded to gather every "Best Albums of 2008" list that I could find to make myself aware of releases that had slipped through the cracks of my listening repertoire. Then, I compiled a comprehensive list that represents the diversity of the music released throughout the year. Today I am posting the first part of this list starting with #11-20. I hope you enjoy this list and discover some new music.

11) Juana Molina- Un Dia and Quien(suite)
From: Un Dia [Domino, 2008]

I'm not real familiar with her earlier records but this one instantly grabbed my attention with its intoxicating mix of multi-layered vocals laid over complex polyrhythms. The first time I heard the opening track "Un dia", my jaw instantly hit the floor and I was in a state of euphoria. As the undulating bass rhythms interweave with Juana's seductive vocals, the listener is taken to a higher plane of consiousness. Every time I listen to this album I hear something fresh and exciting.

12) Au- Verbs- Are Animals and rr vs. d
From: Verbs [Aagoo Records, 2008]

My first exposure to AU was at MusicFest NW this year, and Mark Kaylor from Hammer Of Hathor was lending a hand on drumming duties. It was a fantastic feast for the ears, as the one-man-band stylings of Luke Wyland were captured in a live context. As I listen to the second track on the record, "Are Animals", I can't get over the pristine sound of the instruments and voices. It's as if Luke and his compadres plugged their microphones and amplifiers directly into the cilia of my ear to achieve a seamless symphony of sound. Au manage to retain the whimsical nature of Animal Collective while still forging its own path within the freak-folk tribe.

13) Ponytail- Beg Waves and G Shock
From: Ice Cream Spiritual [WE ARE FREE, 2008]

Ponytail were on a lot of the experimental blogs, and they were even on the Pitchfork Top 50, so I had no idea what to expect. The lead singer coos, howls, screams and shrieks at the top of her lungs while the rest of the band plays with a reckless abandon that sounds like a band falling down the stairs while standing up straight. Check out the first two tracks on the record if that description didn't make any sense.

14)Capillary Action- Badlands and Self Released
From: So Embarrassing [Pangaea Recordings, 2008]

I've already raved about this band being one of the best progressive avant-metal tropicalia bands out there, so what else do you need to know? Oh yeah! They rock with crazy time signatures that would make Damon Che from Don Caballero consider retiring his drumsticks.

15)Cicada Omega- Last Night and Ring Like Gold
From: These Bones [Self-released, 2008]

I featured an in-depth history of Cicada Omega back in June when their first full length album These Bones was released. Even though it was recorded using an Apple Computer program, the sounds on These Bones come across as live and vibrant, perfectly capturing Cicada's gritty, gut-bucket blues sound. Standouts include the opener "Four Horsemen" where lead singer Reverend Barry D. Winfield channels the fiery spirit of a preacher walking on hot coals and the audacious interpretation of John Lee Hooker's Boogie Chillen' entitled "The Boogie". Cicada Omega is taking the world by storm and will make you get up out ya chair to boogie like you don't care.

16) Bonnie Prince Billy-
For Every Field There's a Mole and Lie Down In the Light
Lie Down In the Light [Drag City, 2008]

I honestly haven't heard this album yet, but I've liked almost every record from Bonnie Prince Billy aside from the collaboration they did with Tortoise a couple years back. So, I am adding this to the list based on his excellent track record. If I am wrong about this one, you can hold me personally responsible. For those of you looking for other recommendations, you should check out Master and Everyone, I See a Darkness and Superwolf.

17) No Age- Impossible Bouquet and Ripped Knees
Nouns [Sub Pop, 2008]

One of the Sub Pop bands that continues to live up to the hype that surrounds them. This duo cranks up the noise quotient on the majority of the record but has the sense to mellow things out with ambient white-noise instrumentals that evoke classic Music For Airports-era BrianEno. If you like Nouns, make sure to pick up their first record Wierdo Rippers. You will not be disappointed!

18) Matmos- Rainbow Flag and Mister Mouth
From: Supreme Balloon [Matador, 2008]

I remember first hearing Matmos's A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure playing on the overhead speakers at Music Millennium. I didn't really know what I was hearing at the time, but the resident electronic music guru informed me that Matmos took field recordings of sounds from hospital operating rooms and juxtaposed them with electronic beats and rhythms. Supreme Balloon retains the adventurous spirit of this record while moving forward with an innovative sound that can most aptly be described as electro-prog. One listen to the prog-funk groove of the opening track "Rainbow Flag" is all it will take to keep you coming back for more.

19) Holly Golightly Bottom Below and Indeed You Do
From: Dirt Don't Hurt [Transdreamer, 2008]

Holly Golightly's latest record cements her reputation as a spunky femme fatale who could drink her man and his cronies under the table while taking their money in a high-stakes game of Texas hold-em poker. What I mean by this is that she takes no prisoners. The smoky backwoods noir country sound of past records is present, but there is definitely more of a gritty rockabilly sound on here that is tastefully infused with country blues and jump blues. After a few introductory spins, this one was put into heavy rotation in my CD changer.

20) Times New Viking- Mean God
and End of All Things
From: Rip It Off [Matador, 2008]

This year there has been an undeniable resurgence of lo-fi bands recalling the heyday of the ever prolific Guided By Voices, Sebadoh and Beat Happening. Times New Viking are the progenitors of the current lo-fi movement along with Eat Skull, Sic Alps and No Age. At first listen the sound is very abrasive, but tucked nicely underneath the sheets of noise are tuneful, hummable melodies. Every time I hear someone say that this is just noise, I tell them to listen closer. So, listen closer, and then let me know what you think.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I Hear a New World- Christmas Podcast

The eighth episode of I Hear a New World is finally ready to be downloaded at:

This is a special two-hour Christmas edition of I Hear a New World that I have been compiling over the past few weeks. It includes a wide range of styles including blues, folk, old-timey, jazz, easy listening, rock, rockabilly and many more. Artists include Lightnin' Hopkins, Arthur Lyman, 5, 6, 7, 8's, Red Red Meat, Cottontop Mountain Sanctified Singers and Loretta Lynn. I have to give a huge shout out to the various Christmas blogs because this Christmas podcast would not have been the same without the songs I downloaded from their blogs. Thanks goes out to A Christmas Yuleblog, Ernie Not Bert, Big Rock Candy Mountain, Christmas A Go Go, 77 Santas and Dartman's World of Wonder. I hope you guys enjoy this special edition of I Hear a New World. For those of you who would like a tracklist, please let me know in the comments.

Be on the lookout for my Best Albums of 2008 list and podcast before the new year.

Have a Merry Christmas everybody!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

White Christmas Cookin' Under a Blue Yule

To my utter amazement, the streets of Portland were completely covered with snow before I stumbled out of bed this morning. According to my calculations, it has snowed about three or four times every winter that I have lived here, so it caught me off guard.

My girlfriend Verity was born and raised in Oregon so it is an exciting thing for her whenever it snows in Portland. Since I am from the chilly midwest (Peoria, IL to be exact) I don't get nearly as excited as she does about the magical white powder that falls from the skies. Nevertheless, we ventured outside to experience a winter wonderland filled with youngsters snowboarding and sledding down the steep hills of our neighborhood park. I thought that I was well prepared for the treacherously cold weather, but I could have used a face mask to block the cold wind that was slapping me in my face. Apparently, temperatures are expected to remain cold throughout the week with a high likelihood of more snowfall by Wednesday. Damn, I just can't escape the cold weather.

But the timing of this weather couldn't have been more perfect. We were able to get our Christmas tree on Saturday afternoon before the really cold weather arrived. Later that day, we decorated the tree while listening to Pandora's holiday music station. We felt fortunate to score such a great deal on our tree, and we celebrated by cracking open a bottle of sparkling wine that really hit the spot. What a fantastic way to get into the Christmas spirit!

[Polygram, 1964]

Today, I am sharing a couple Christmas gems from the archives of Eclectic Grooves. These were first featured on here in Christmas of 2006.

First off, Christmas Cookin' is an amazing Christmas album from the hammond organist, Jimmy Smith. Christmas Cookin' is indeed an appropriate title for this barnburner of an album, as Jimmy's upbeat organ runs plug you into the joys of celebrating the Christmas season with your family and friends.

From the dynamic opening to "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" the listener knows that they are in for an exciting ride filled with Jimmy's spirited hammond organ peppered with orchestral flourishes. Sometimes while listening to this record, I completely forget that it is a Christmas record, especially during the long organ solos during "Santa Claus in Coming to Town" and "The Christmas Song". This is not a bad thing at all, especially when you have grown weary of hearing Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" spin on your hi-fi for the kajillionth time. It is definitely a staple in my Christmas listening, and it should serve as a perfect companion for you while cooking Christmas dinner or enjoying a glass of eggnog in front of your fireplace. I checked on the internet and it appears that this record is out of print, so download it and enjoy listening to the "Magnificent Jimmy Smith" in all his glory.

[Rhino Records, 1991]

I first featured this stellar compilation of Christmas blues tunes on Eclectic Grooves in Christmas of 2006. While I was working at Music Millennium, this was one of the staffs' favorite records to spin during the holiday season. It was a sure-fire winner because it featured a diverse selection of jazz and blues artists playing original Christmas tunes. There is no "Jingle Bell Rock" or "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" to be found on here. Instead, you will find an eclectic mix of styles including down-and-dirty swamp blues, slow-burn blues, jump-blues, ballads and jazzy instrumentals. Highlights include "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year" by the delta blues master Lightnin' Hopkin's, the classic R&B sound of "Santa Claus Baby" by the Voices and Sonny Boy Williamson's gritty swamp blues song "Santa Claus". It doesn't matter what you find under the Christmas tree when the music you are listening to is this good. I will be back soon with a Best of 2008 podcast, a Christmas podcast as well as more downloads to fill your Christmas stocking.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

I Hear a New World- Podcast #7

The seventh episode of I Hear a New World is available to be downloaded at:

This podcast was originally intended to be broadcast on Portland's local independent radio station- KBOO. Unfortunately, I was only able to play a couple songs that night, so I decided to post this mix on my podcast. It features an eclectic blend of artists including Joe Meek, Chrissy Zebby Tembo, The Monks, Reeks and the Wrecks and Del Jones. I hope you guys enjoy the first part of this two-part podcast.

Here is the tracklist:

I Hear a New World Podcast #7- KBOO Podcast

1. Joe Meek- I Hear a New World
2. Scuffle and Dustcough- Gimlet
3. Reeks and the Wrecks- Nutsack Cadillac
4. Group Inerane- Awal September
5. Idris Ackamoor- Mogho Naba
6. People- Urban Fable 1- The Accidental Ruin of a Romantic Populist
7. Natural Dreamers- Diamond Mines
8. The Monks- Monk Time
9. Del Jones- Cold Turkey
10. Chrissy Zebby Tembo- My Ancestors

Total Time: 59:34

It's Been a Long Time

It's been a long time since, well... since I've posted something new on here. During October I was pretty prolific with the posts, but I had a feeling that the frequency of posts would go down after I began two new jobs in the middle of November. Since I received a few negative comments on the last post, I have decided to put the kebash on anonymous posting. I thought long and hard before coming to this decision, but I ultimately felt that it was the best thing to do.

Once again it is that time of the year where I gather together a comprehensive list of my favorite albums for the year. This year's list promises to be one of the most eclectic lists since the inception of Eclectic Grooves. I haven't figured out the logistics yet, but I plan on featuring this list before Christmas this year.

Also, I have some re-ups including Jimmy Smith Christmas Cookin' and a stellar compilation of blues christmas tunes called Blue Yule, in addition to a few other new Christmas goodies. I hope to post things here more often over the next couple weeks, so I hope you guys keep checking back. Best wishes to all of you this Christmas season.

From: Singing Saw at Christmastime [Merge, 2008]

Here's a little something to get you in the Christmas mood this year. I was surfing the web when I accidentally stumbled upon the latest record by Julian Koster from Neutral Milk Hotel and Hawk and a Hacksaw entitled The Singing Saw at Christmastime. It is a non-traditional album of traditional Christmas songs performed entirely with the hypnotic sounds of the singing saw accompanied by minimal percussion. There is something calming and strangely beguiling about this album that I can't quite put my finger on. Think of this as a Christmas record for experimental enthusiasts who have always yearned to hear Clara Rockmore crank out an inspired set of traditional Christmas songs. While Clara Rockmore was famous for employing the unconventional sound of the theremin in her work, the sound of the theremin is strangely close to that of the singing saw. For those of you are who are already familiar with the sound of the singing saw, you will find plenty of things to enjoy about this album. As for the uninitiated listeners out there, I'm sure it won't take you very long to fall under the spell of this record. Just give it a chance!