As always, it is a battle to get all of the new (2008) music listened to and on my stream before year end. And as always, I never quite make it. But I am going to get a bit closer with this batch of music.
Natalia Zuckerman - Brand New Frame (2008)
I really enjoy folk meets, well, just about anything. With Natalia, it is folk with jazzy vocals. There is a smoky sound to her vocals that can make most any song thrilling. This is one of my favorite indie/small label releases this year. Tastefully produced by Willie Porter, you can feel the grit, when there is grit and the fancy when it wants to be light and breezy. Please listen to her on The Promise or check her out on the web: http://www.nataliazukerman.com/
Eliza Gilkyson - Beautiful World (2008)
I have been playing the hell out of this CD in my car and just can't get enough. This is easily my favorite Eliza CD so far. The folk side has great melodies and always interesting themes. The rockers are solid and fun. She opens the CD with "Emerald Street" singing, "All because I'm in Love". If this is in any way autobiographical and if that is what it takes for her to put out such a steller CD, she should fall in love more often.
Lucinda Williams - Little Honey (2008)
Speaking of being in love, it sure feels like Lucinda is there too. So what is interesting is that the woman with the voice that could make a deaf man cry (that's a good thing by the way) now is singing about somewhat happier things; and it works. No matter how happy the song, you are left wondering if maybe this is just an illusion and that pain is right around the corner. And finally, she has released "Jailhouse Tears". I heard her do this a few years ago and have been waiting and wondering who she would duet with. Turns out it was the country star Elvis Costello. :-) And what a wonderful choice! Another really good CD from Lucinda.
Lili Haydn - Place Between Places (2008)
I'm a sucker for a woman with a violin. I believe I've told you that before. Some 10 years ago, I saw Lili playing with the Wild Colonials and just fell in love with her and her music. She has a light whispery voice, which may put some off, but I think it fits her music just fine. Her last CD was a shot at pop and an attempt to shed the dark goth image she had somehow acquired. I didn't really like it. This CD is somewhere in between, with the pop sounds not so overly produced and some dark images creeping back in. It is still a heavily produced CD, which is something I usually don't jump at. But, with her beautiful violin all over the place I found myself constantly smiling as I listened. The closer is a hidden track which is so 70's prog like that if you were there back in the day, it will make you smile. Oh, and Eric, if you're reading this, sorry about faking you out.Colin Meloy - Sings Live! (2008)
It's the leader of the Decemberists doing the solo bit. If there is any doubt as to who runs the show, this CD makes it obvious. Missing only the full arrangements, Colin creates a world that pulls you in and makes you want to learn strange yet magnetic lyrics. This fun CD is a sign that there is still plenty to come from one of the key indie bands in the U.S.
Mike Doughty - Golden Delicious (2008)
I was listening to a Loft Session on XM and heard Mike and just had to hear more. I picked up this CD and was not disappointed. And, considering that it is on ATO, one shouldn't be surprised. Hmmm, wouldn't it be fun to hear Mike open for Patty Griffin some time? The CD opens with "Fort Hood" which samples "Let the Sun Shine In". All that energy doesn't stop there as he moves into one upbeat song after another. Anyone who said that singer/songwriters had to be mellow hasn't seen the state of the art lately. There are getting to be too many favorites for 2008, but this has to be on that list.
Calexico - Carried To Dust (2008)
There is a genre of movies (actually it is a term used in paintings and writing as well) called Magical Realism. It has been used to describe movies from Latin Americans where a realistic movie is laced with magical elements. That is the way I see this wonderful CD from Calexico. You almost feel like you are in a hallucinogenic dream state and the flowing rhythms are suddenly interrupted by trumpets that seem other-worldly. This needs to be heard to be understood. A brilliant CD.
Peter Bradley Adams - Leavetaking (2008)
If there was any doubt that Eastmountainsouth was Peter's CD, this should end that discussion. These nine songs continue the dreamlike beauty that was Eastmountainsouth. So, it goes without saying, if you loved Peter then, you will love his new CD. It is one of the most beautiful CDs released this year. You can buy the CD here: http://tinyurl.com/Leavetaking-Amazon-Music-Store
Pretenders - Break Up the Concrete (2008)
It has always been about Chrissie and then the band, which has been endlessly changing since the early 80s. This is one hot band with Jim Keltner on Drums and Eric Heywood on steel guitar. Break Up the Concrete is a good rocking CD and it has one of my favorite lines of the year: "and by the way, you look fantastic, in your boots of Chinese plastic". Maybe only Chrissie Hynde can get away with a line like that.
Los Lonely Boys - Forgiven (2008)
This doesn't have the energy of their first CD and it doesn't have the excitement that comes with change that the second CD had. But the Garza brothers can sure play and when those moments occur, it is pure rock and roll, uhmmm, heaven.
Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue (2008)
The lyrics on this excellent CD don't feel as personal as they were on her first solo CD. This CD is more storytelling. Now maybe her first one was really just storytelling, but it sure felt like it was about her. Still, there is nothing to knock here. I love the stories and I love the risks that Jenny continues to take.