Staying power

It is coming to the end of the year, and that means ever blogger under the sun will be constructing a year end list. Readers will scan the list to:
• See if the writers are cool enough to have the hippest of hipster records in the top 5 list
• Justify their own coolness by saying the like or hate the appropriate records being listed on blog after blog

This year, I’m not going to create a list of the best records of the year. Instead, I’m creating a list of my Peter North records. I am concerned with records with staying power.

Every year, people get swept up in whatever music is super trendy, but as soon as the music changes that album becomes nothing more than a seat filler at the awards show that is your CD collection. If more interested in finding out what records I’ll still be into in two years. Jebus, I’m looking for CDs that I am still into when they are finally released (yes, I occasionally download music- sorry). I am not so concerned with albums that I know are hot for a few months, and will fade away like Michael Jordan on an eighteen footer (Killers – I’m looking at you). Albums like that are the musical equivalent of a flock of seagulls haircut, or the blazer/thin tie combo. Much like the acid wash jeans, you know these albums were cool at the time, you were super into them, but you aren't going to try to bring them back now.

Maybe the fact I think like this makes me a huge music nerd, but it is true. There are albums that I’ve been into for years, and still get excited when I put them in the stereo. Examples? Easy – Postal Service: Give Up. Ted Leo: Tyranny of Distance. Jimmy Eat World: Clarity. Iron & Wine: The Creek Drank the Cradle. Jawbreaker: Dear You. These are just a few albums that still get regular rotation, and I still search out on my shelf when I am looking for something to put on when people come over.

Are these albums classic? No. Very few albums are, and for the majority of the time, no one really ever listens to the classic albums. Everyone owns them, but no one really sits down and wants to hear Nevermind start to finish. My favorite band is the Beatles, but I rarely throw on Revolver and just enjoy it. I don’t get excited when I hear those songs, but if Timorous Me pumps out of my speakers, I am instantly in a better mood. I guess the easiest way to describe this principle is as follows: No one will deny that Radiohead’s OK Computer changed music, and is definitely one of the most important records of our generation, but people don’t sing along when Paranoid Android comes on like they do for Fake Plastic Trees or High and Dry. OK Computer is a far superior album, but as far as replay value, the Bends ranks higher on the list.

There are tones of great records that were released in 2005. I love the Go!Team (US release) album, but I know in a few months, it won’t be an album I throw into the mix. The New Porns album is fantastic, so is Descended by Vultures by Rogue Wave. I just don’t know if they will be ones I jump back to in years to come. The In the Reins EP that Iron & Wine/Calexico released is another great one. The collaboration of Sam’s emotion and lyrics with Calexico’s multi-instrumental jazz/jam styling is perfect, but when I need a Sam fix, I will return to one of his older albums.

So I tried to determine what albums came out this year that I will still be listening to next year, or the year after.

So without further ado, like Slick Rick said, “Here We Go”:

• The Mountain Goats: The Sunset Tree – John Darnielle is a great story teller. I kind of think of his albums as a short story book –on-tape, but with much catchier hooks. This album is the first that he claims are written about his own life, and the resulting emotion on this album is all over the place. Drug use, death, jail, broken homes, underage drinking and much, much more. Couple that with the fact John Vanderslice added some great production to his songs, and this album is one I constantly listen to. As much as I enjoyed the old four-track, DIY recordings that used to represent the MG sound, I love the fact the band takes the time to produce the work, and add layers and textures to the mix. This is a must own.
• Death Cab for Cutie: Plans – This is an easy choice to disregard. Major label debut, much more production and a change in lyrical content for Ben. All these things are true, but the songs the band produced are some of the most catchy songs ever released by the band. If they hadn’t become the poster child band for emo/the OC, hipsters would be singing the praises of this album.

• Andrew Bird: The Mysterious Production of Eggs – This album is not everyone’s cup of tea. Jazzy pop with strings, intricate lyrics and constantly changing parts instead of a heavy hook and a repeating chorus you can sing along to usually makes it hard to attract new fans. That is a shame because Andrew Bird is a talented musician.

When this first game out, I was a little put off by the Birdman. At a show, he claimed he only played what he wanted, and didn’t care about requests or entertaining the fans. I wanted to hate this album, but I quickly realized he can play what he wants, and the new material is so damn good. From the simple finger-picked riff of Savoy, to the closing Another Birthday Song, this album takes risks and dares to be different. The material Bird produces is what I have wanted to hear each time I listen to every Rufus Wainright album since Poses.

• Martime: We, the Vehicles – This record hasn’t been released, and might not sneak in under the cutoff date of Dec. 31, but the leak is out and these days that is almost all that matters. Davey Van B is the former front man from the Promise Ring. You remember the Promise Ring? The band that indie kids love to hate. No record was ever good enough, and the fans always wanted a return to the old stuff (that they still claimed to hate). Well I was always a PR fan, so any new material from Davey was good news to me.

After the Wood/Water record, Davey and Promise Ring separated. Davey grabbed PR drummer Dave Didier and added Dismemberment Plan’s former bassist (Eric Axelson) and started Maritime. While the first EP, and the subsequent LP had some great songs, people complained about the filler, the lack of rock, too acoustic-y, and basically anything else they could think of. I’m not sure why people love to hate on Davey B, but they do. They released a new record to the mob, and I think (to quote MF Doom) it will make them “shut the fawk up like Silent Bob”. This record combines the driving rhythm of early Promise Ring records, with thick bass fills and Davey’s much improved vocal style. The album is jammed back with upbeat numbers, not allowing the pace to slow down. Balancing the acoustic and electric guitars, subtle computer tricks, a harmonica and some strings all add to this masterpiece.

The term “super group” is so played out, especially when the members of the band come from struggling, semi popular indie projects (as Carl Newman of the New Porn is quick to point out) but this three piece has grown, play to their strengths and have created one of my favorite albums of the year. Songs like Parade of Punk Rock t-shirts and German Engineering are addictive. I’ve had this album for about three weeks, and find it being repeated two or three times a day while I’m working.

So there they are. I’m sure if anyone reads this they will disagree, or have other choices. If so, let us hear ‘em. Two records that I thought would end up here but didn’t: Ted Leo’s new one, and Double J’s latest. Jack Johnson usually gets high replay from me, but for some reason, even as good as the album is, it has already gone the way of my Stereolab collection.

@ 4:40 PM, amanda kicked the following game:

the maritime cd is amazing. i often find myself listening to it numerous times a day also.


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