Best Records We Heard in 2008

19. Nine Inch Nails “The Slip” – Reznor edges onto my list with his free, web-based distribution method and some solid additions to the NIN catalog. -h | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

18. The Republic Tigers “Keep Color” – If you secretly (or unabashedly, like me) love Coldplay, but would like to hear something with a few more surprises in it, hear “Keep Color.” Last year’s OxBlood Records comp included “Made Concrete,” still my favorite song, but I spun the Tigers’ major-label debut in heavy personal rotation for a lot longer than I ever expected to. -h | mp3s via SkreemrArtist page via Wikipedia

17. No Age “Weirdo Rippers” – This is the weirdest record I own.  The production is lower than lo-fi, the vocals are dissonant and buried, and the song arrangements don’t make any sense.  But it’s fun to kick yourself in the face with someone creepy once in a while. -Cory | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

16. The JV All Stars “Take Me Back To Spectre” – JVA is better than your favorite punk band. Following a hiatus I was afraid would become permanent after their domain name expired, the All Stars toured through Kansas City, slept on my friend Jill’s floor, and gave me the smart, poppy, and lyrically specific (God bless ’em) “…Spectre.” It’s like punk-pop swallowed a Mario mushroom; the melodies are more creative, the textures change at breakneck pace, the barbs are sharper and the joy is brighter. -h | JVA on MySpace

15. UUVVWWZ “9 Songs” – These dudes (and gal) are from Lincoln, and they put out one of the coolest, most unique art-rocky records I’ve heard.  There’s nothing too weird about the record, and they don’t use a crumhorn or anything weird like that.  It basically sounds like dirty experimental blues rock with female punk vocals.  “Shark Suit” is my favorite, as well as “Blackberry Can.” -Cory | mp3s via Skreemr

14. TV on the Radio “Dear Science” – TVotR blessed us with an unstoppable rhythmic tour de force this year (and they play C&C drums!). Like some holy alliance of technology and soul, hooks and experimentation, “Dear Science” is a supremely moving and emotional record precisely because of the fractures and contraditions it exposes. They seem to have a reputation as a band it takes time to get into, or may even be “difficult” – myself, I don’t understand whey the public doesn’t move 5 million copies for them and make radio requests 24/7. -h | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

13. Billy Joel’s entire New York discography (1976-1983) – 2008 is The Year of Joel in my book; I enjoyed his “Greatest Hits” so much last December at my folks’ for the holidays, I began tracking down his vinyl during trips to Half-Price Books. Turns out the overwhelming majority of his worthwhile stuff (and it is eminently worthwhile) comes from the time he spent rocking New York, after a stint as a LA-based singer-songwriter and before he sucked* – “Turnstiles,” “The Stranger,” “52nd Street,” “Glass Houses,” “Songs from the Attic,” “The Nylon Curtain,” and “An Innocent Man.” Catchy as hell, tight and limber backing band, unparalleled songwriting; there’s no going wrong here. And it turns out “Greatest Hits” overlooks all the best songs, like “All for Leyna,” “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway),” and “Easy Money.” -h | mp3s via SkreemrArtist page via Wikipedia

*To his immense credit, he knew when he started sucking, and basically stopped making pop music. And there are a few late-period gems, such as “And So It Goes” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

12. Bon Iver, “For Emma, Forever Ago” – This weirdo-folk record is like nothing I’ve ever heard before.  I don’t know how one could dislike “Skinny Love,” for example.  My one complaint is that Justin Vernon has a great chest-voice, but he sings in falsetto basically the entire record, which gets old and makes the songs blend together.  But a great record. -Cory | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

11. “The Musical Tales of…” Pat Bradley – In our biggest coup to date, Mr. Furious Records secured and released Pat’s solo recordings in March. Known around Lincoln for his work with Tangelo and The Amalgamators, Pat possesses an enviable Neil Young-like gift for making simple fingerpickings and melodies sound fresh and beautiful. I’ll admit I took an extra-long time mastering the album and double-checking every last detail on unfinished CD burns as I drove around KC, simply enjoying tracks like “Sunny Farm” and “Two Days in the Valley.” -h | mp3s via Mr. Furious Records

10. Missy Elliott, “The Cookbook” (2005) – I don’t know; you can’t go wrong with this shit.  every track sounds like a major club hit, while simultaneously being totally inventive.  Missy Elliott is a fantastic rapper.  Get the party started. -Cory | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

9. Architects “Vice” – Kansas City’s own Architects are tuffer, deffer, louder, and Boss-er than The Gaslight Anthem, another classic rock/punk hybrid band that a ton of people discovered in ’08. “Vice” is the perfect blend of sin, storytelling, volume, anthem, redemption, and the beefiest snare sound imaginable. For extra pleasure, get it on vinyl. -h | mp3s via SkreemrArtist page via Wikipedia

8. Death Cab for Cutie, “Narrow Stairs” – I think that if I had never heard DCfC, this CD would have totally blown me away.  And it IS good, especially songs like Cath and No Sunlight.  But I keep thinking about records like The Photo Album, and so it’s hard for me to as thrilled about this record.  But if I were 18 and DCfC were foreign to me, I am sure it would change my life, just like The Photo Album did. -Cory | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

7. Subtle “ExitingARM” – I’d been reading about Subtle for a couple years, and remembering Doseone’s standout track “Mannequin Hand Trapdoor I Remember” on Boom Bip’s “Seed to Sun” record, before finally checking out this year’s “ExitingARM.” Reviews built up my expectation for a real mindfuck, and I got it. The backstory – which isn’t necessary to enjoy the album – is that the protagonist of Subtle’s first two records, Hour Hero Yes, has been forced to record pop songs against his will in a world not his own; he survives by slipping subversive, revolutionary messages into the tunes, and the results are compiled on “ExitingARM.” The bottom line is that Subtle have made a collection of incredible music that stands perfectly balanced between abstraction and pop. It’s freaky and memorable; my favorite. -h | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

6. The Hold Steady “Stay Positive” – As with “Boys and Girls in America,” I didn’t get it right away.  Then, after a few listens, I learned to quit nitpicking and just rock out.  An enjoyable, ass-kingingly rock record.  The guitars are huge as always, and if you ever liked listening to songs about getting hammered, buy this record.  Also, if you like songs with lyrics like “Get hammered!” in them, buy this record. -Cory | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

5. The Roots “Rising Down” – It’s strange at first, then exhilarating, and finally, fully awesome to hear a group as established as The Roots sounding as hungry as they do on “Rising Down.” Following their move to Def Jam they’ve released a string of under-appreciated records, and this year’s entry currently stands as the zenith of their later (post-“Things…”) career. In a way they’re doing for hip-hop what Wilco did for alt-country with “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” as noise, samples, and general abstraction bubble beneath the surface of an album full of bangers. -h | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

4. Panic at the Disco “Pretty. Odd.” – Another pop record!  An album of 15 or so songs that are just fantastic.  They manage to make you feel the way you do when you listen to the Beatles and ELO, only it’s new-sounding.  I’m glad they took this direction.  Classic psychadelic pop-rock done immaculately. -Cory | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

3. Botticellis “Old Home Movies” (2007) – There’s a certain feeling that this record is able to sustain throughout.  It’s sort of this dreamy, adorable, jangly, holy, tender pop music.  The melodies and music are very well thought-out and constructed, and it sounds really intricately done to me.  After listening to this record, you’d swear they would sound totally dry and weak live, but they sound just as echoey, huge, and beautiful.  When the lead singer sings, it sounds like a well-produced studio recording. -Cory | mp3s via SkreemrArtist page via Wikipedia

2. Vampire Weekend “Vampire Weekend” – This record revitalized my faith in simple, upbeat pop music.  There are a bunch of Paul Simon comparisons, but I don’t really hear it.  This record isn’t like “OK Computer” in that it pushes the boundaries of music or anything like that.  It’s just the most fun record I’ve heard in many years.  They manage to make a totally interesting record without ever being too emotionally involving.  I could listen to this record 50 times in a row and never get burned out. -Cory | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

1. Fleet Foxes “Fleet Foxes” – Last January, who knew that the secret weapon employed in the year’s best recording would be bearded young men singing in three- and four-part harmony? Fleet Foxes gently sung their way out of the Northwest with a blend of old-timey sounds and surprisingly un-folk, linear arrangements. The best thing about their album; it sounds even better *loud.* -h | mp3s via SkreemrAlbum page via Wikipedia

Catching up & getting into in 2009:

Kings of Leon “Only By the Night” – I have only heard a couple of their songs, but “Use Somebody” and “Sex On Fire” will absolutely not get out of my head. -Cory

The Cool Kids “The Bake Sale EP” – They rocked at Pitchfork in 2007, and I want more. -Cory

No Age “Nouns” – It’s supposed to be more user-friendly than “Weirdo Rippers,” and I can’t imagine that No Age would ever be criticized for being “over-produced.” -Cory

The Walkmen “You & Me” – Their opening set for Spoon was stellar, and I’ve heard that “You & Me” is the Walkmen being their best Walkmen selves, continuing to perfect their unique sound. -h

M83 “Saturdays = Youth”- Everything I’ve heard from M83 is incredible, I just have to get around to picking up my own copy! -h

MR|Review- Blondie, "Parallel Lines"

Blondie’s classic “Parallel Lines” isn’t nearly the tour-de-force I expected after reading Pitchfork’s review of this year’s reissue.

blondie.jpg Must-hear!
Fans only
Skip this
Owww! My ears!

Given a near-perfect 9.7 rating and called the group’s best, “easily,” (Allmusic agrees with a 5/5) I figured it was my time to take the plunge into the group’s work.

Do you have those lists of bands that you know are classic, that you should really get into at some point? I do. Sometimes they’re great: The Clash, Depeche Mode, and Neil Young are all artists I came to intentionally, after those formative high school years, and have come to treasure. I hoped Blondie could be added to the list.

I’ve gotten off track – “Parallel Lines” is a solid pop album that straddles new wave and bubblegum. I’m fully prepared to be raked over the coals by Blondie fans.

But the hooks aren’t any catchier than those of a thousand over new wave bands, and they’re not subversive or tough enough to take the record to the next level. If you’re not into Blondie, put them at the bottom of your get-into-them-someday list, or cherry pick some hits from iTunes.

MR|Review directs readers’ limited attention among works via ratings, and within works via prose, focusing on works where our opinion diverges from critical or popular consensus, or we have significant insight that compliments or challenges readers’ aesthetic experience.

Best Records We Heard in 2007

Thanks for the link, Caretaker!


*They did not necessarily come out in 2007, which is what makes our list unique


Depeche Mode, Songs of Faith and Devotion

Early in 2007, my band Five Star Crush arrived in a place where I knew I needed to understand Depeche Mode. All I knew going in was that Mrs. Stasny, CHS‘ high school art teacher, allowed three kinds of sound in the room while we were working: herself reading “The Hobbit,” Loreena McKennitt, and Violator. I found Songs of Faith and Devotion and Playing the Angel one night at Half-Price Books, and haven’t been the same since. -h

Mastodon, Blood Mountain

Riffs from most every sub-style of metal you’d care to mention, songs about weird creatures and epic battles, superb production; Mastodon may not have broken virgin soil with Blood Mountain, but they mercilessly hit on all twelve cylinders throughout. -h

Ideal Cleaners, Muchacho

A solid second LP from Lincoln, NE indie-grunge heroes. The record is raw, short, and tight. It rocks from start to finish, and is more complex rhythmically and thematically than it lets on. Also, there’s always a caustic sense of humor in IC’s lyrics, especially in “Hey, Foxy Network”, my personal fav. off the album. -Cory

Flobots, Fight With Tools

This is the first LP from Denver, CO hip-hop group. They are comprised of a full band (bass, viola, guitar, drums, trumpet, and 2 MCs) and put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen. They’re pretty political and progressive, and deal with race relations, poverty, foreign policy, and of course, ass-shaking. -Cory

Neil Young, Harvest

It’s just an awesome folk record. “Harvest Moon” is one of the best folk songs ever, it’s just one of many on this record. I just recently got re-into Neil Young (my dad blasted him when I was a kid), so it’s fun rediscovering. -Cory

Band of Horses, Cease To Begin

It’s ambient, reverby, catchy, and the lead singer has the same Neil Young/Doug Martsch/even sort of Tom DeLonge thing going on, but the music is big and epic and great. Think crazy echoey anthems. -Cory

Ha Ha Tonka (formerly Amsterband), Buckle in the Bible Belt

At an end-of-the-year show for Bethany College in tiny Lindsborg, Kansas (Swedes rock), I was treated to a thoroughly enjoyable set of southern-tinged indie rock by these fine young men. Imagine my surprise as they’ve showed up in the pages of SPIN and Paste since! -h

Snowden, Anti-Anti

Snowden’s singer and bassist have a gentle two-step, front-and-back dance move that I found myself emulating about a third of the way through their set at KC’s RecordBar. Dark, chilled dance grooves, subtle hooks, and a pervasive sense of small-scale mystery kept me listening all year. -h

MIA, Kala

When your one Timbaland track is buried in the order, you’ve got a hell of an album on your hands. MIA brought the color, sound, and ambiguity of the developing world into my house and car with a healthy dose of self-awareness and her completely unique beat production. 4/4 stars. -h

Clipse, Hell Hath No Fury

Just a great, great, great hip hop record; it’s got some “gangster” themes (lots of drug-selling rapped about, but it’s autobiographical), but they also touch on other stuff; once in a while they get profound, and the lyrics are always brilliant. Add that to great beats produced by the Neptunes, and wowie! Clipse was also the best act at Pitchfork Music Fest this year! -Cory

The Shins, Wincing The Night Away

A totally different record production-wise from the shins, and the songs aren’t as completely strong and awesome as they are on Chutes Too Narrow, but this is still years better than most other pop being put out. I hope they go back to being more folky, but that’s a selfish thing :) -Cory

Led Zeppelin, IV

I say we take Led Z out and just file it under “records that Cory should have been listening at least 5 years ago but never got around to” because this record is OOOOOOOLD! Classically awesome and I’m glad I was ready for it. -Cory

No way!  If you discovered it this year, it goes on the list!  See # 10! -h

The Hold Steady, Boys And Girls In America

What a refreshing experience to listen to a “hip” band that is as earnest as Bruce Springsteen, as nerdy as Weezer and as rocking as 38 Special! -Cory


10) Elvis Costello, This Year’s Model

Costello’s first record with the Attractions, produced by Nick Lowe, is my paragon of quirky song-pop. There is NO STOPPING “Lipstick Vogue.” I can’t believe I waited until 2007 to find out. -h

9) Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer?

This album is fucking awesome in every way and I am SO GLAD that I bought it. It’s really flamboyant and weird, but it’s also really accessible somehow. I mean, there’s a lot of crazy programming and beeps and boops, but the pop melodies are SO strong! Every song is a hit! And it is one of those great albums that are best listened to whole. -Cory

8) Kanye West, Graduation

I like it better than Late Registration but not as much as College Dropout. I guess every Kanye record is super different, and this one is just different in another way that I really like. It’s slicker, I think, but not in a bad way. -Cory

7) The Good Life, Help Wanted Nights

I like this record the best out of anything Kasher has made, besides probably The Ugly Organ. It’s REALLY bare, and tells the story of a guy who gets trapped in a small town on the way to CA. The songs are somehow really folky but also really pop-catchy (especially “Heartbroke”). -Cory

6) Arcade Fire, Neon Bible

Somehow they bested themselves, even with all of the hype surrounding Funeral.  Neon Bible is just a better pop record, and out of all the bands out there channeling The Boss these days, I think these guys do it the best.  And at the same time, it’s a weird, dark, beautiful record.  It’s epic like Funeral but more to-the-point.  “Ocean Of Noise” is this big drippy reverb-backed ballad monster-piece.  -Cory

5) Radiohead, In Rainbows


4) Feist, The Reminder

I haven’t been this in-love with a record since Common’s Be two years ago. -h

I have been listening to this record over and over and over, and I finally get it; it’s beautiful, but I still have yet to connect with it on a personal level. – Cory

3) Elliott Smith, New Moon

A double-disc collection of b-sides and rarities from my favorite songwriter. The songs on this record are ghosts that remind us of Smith’s genius. The songs are vulnerable, creepy, breathtaking, beautiful, sad, and optimistic. It’s amazing that a b-side collection can be this good all the way throughout. I was a tiny bit bummed on his last official record (From A Basement On A Hill), and this collection of songs completely negates any disappointment I had about Basement and has become one of my favorite Elliott Smith CDs. It’s a shame that most people won’t hear “Angel In The Snow”, because it’s one of my favorite songs ever, and it’s certainly one of Smith’s best. -Cory

2) The Return, The Arsonist Plays The Architect

If Danger Danger Silent Stranger was The Return’s identity statement, fulfilling every promise implied in their earlier work, Arsonist… is a leap into an alternate universe where the rock is harder, the skronk is skronkier, the soul is deeper, and the melodies are even more incisive. Derek & Co. are masters of the monster they’ve created, letting it rampage and reining it in with perfect purpose. -h

What Howie said. Also, I love “Divisionism” SO MUCH. – Cory.

1) Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

It’s Spoon’s perfect pop record. I can’t understand why “The Underdog” or “Finer Feelings” or “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb” didn’t sweep the Grammies. OR THE NATION. -Cory


Sally Ride, It’s A Trap, and Cory Kibler, The Silent Woods. -Cory

Katherine Lindhart, The Humble Antiphon, and The Combine, (Upcoming EP). I love that MFR’s music is getting more diverse, with our first art song and hip-hop releases in late 07 / early 08. -h

MR|Review- Foo Fighters/Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace

echoessilencepatienceandgrace.jpg 4/4. Recommended. Period.
3/4. Recommended for new music heads generally, and people who bring an interest to this album.
2/4. For fans only; less-than-recommended for others.
1/4. Avoid this album.

Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace is a way-better-than-average mainstream rock record.

Criticism has hit the Foo Fighters’ latest from both sides; P4k says it’s not enough like The Colour and the Shape, while the AV Club complained “Dave Grohl and company fail to keep the surprises coming.” Both angles essentially discuss what the record isn’t, avoiding a face-on reckoning. In an atmosphere of such high and incompatible expectations, what’s a Foo to do?

A little something for everyone, including your muse. Radio rock, Dave’s songwriting interests, the band’s back catalog, and artistic progress all make their arguments on Echoes…, and it’s when they synthesize and coexist that the result seems to work, rather than they collide. For example, the contrast between rocker “The Pretender” and the mellow “Stranger Things Have Happened” strikes me better than the mostly-acoustic “But, Honestly” with its tacked-on punk ending.
I’ve tried to get past my own expectations as I’ve carried ESP&G around since it was released last week. To its great credit, nine of the 12 tracks have been stuck in my head for at least part of a day, and “Come Alive” and “Erase/Replace” have each had their own.

The lyrics’ subtle, amorphous, but mature spirituality have also struck me. “The Pretender” hides a radical existential self-affirmation within its FM-owning wrapping. “Erase/Replace” laments the breaking of a promise the singer held sacred. The singer’s “absence of faith” is felt openly and honestly in “Home,” while the darkness of “Come Alive” gives way to a breaking-in of the infinite life of the universe.

I keep hoping the Foos have another four-star album in them. Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace isn’t it. In the meantime, it’s a worthy addition to the discography (reviewed below).
MRreviewtiny.jpgMRreviewtiny.jpgMRreviewtiny.jpgMRreviewtiny.jpg Foo Fighters

MRreviewtiny.jpgMRreviewtiny.jpgMRreviewtiny.jpgMRreviewtiny.jpg The Colour and the Shape

MRreviewtiny.jpgMRreviewtiny.jpgMRreviewtiny.jpgMRreviewtiny.jpg There Is Nothing Left To Lose

MRreviewtiny.jpgMRreviewtiny.jpgMRreview2tiny.jpgMRreview2tiny.jpg One By One

MRreviewtiny.jpgMRreviewtiny.jpgMRreview2tiny.jpgMRreview2tiny.jpg In Your Honor I

MRreviewtiny.jpgMRreviewtiny.jpgMRreviewtiny.jpgMRreview2tiny.jpg In Your Honor II (acoustic)

MRreviewtiny.jpgMRreview2tiny.jpgMRreview2tiny.jpgMRreview2tiny.jpg Skin and Bones