Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Second Quarter

Part II of four part series, documenting the some of the high/lowlights of the year in music, like basketball, on a quarter-by-quarter basis. Part I can be found here.

First, let's take a quick look back at the standouts from the First Quarter, meaning music that survived its own hype. Revisiting my initial comments with some perspective, quickly:

  • Jason Isbell- Apparently I was most likely to buy neither this nor the DBT's because I didn't.
  • Bon Iver EP- I stand by the momentum theory here. It wasn't just fluff, but it wasn't as top-to-bottom killer as I'd hoped.
  • Gary Louris/Mark Olson- I couldn't imagine how it wouldn't be great? I wonder if I could've imagined that I still wouldn't own it. Like many people, there was a buying freeze for me.
  • M. Ward- My trepidation was warranted. A few listens turned it into my least favorite of his records.
  • Great Lake Swimmers/Felice Brothers- My anticipation of these records ruined then for me. I'll revisit both in the third quarter, but neither did what I'd hoped. Which isn't their fault. No album is obligated to read my fickle mind.
  • Sarah Sample/Laura Gibson- I still listen to both in spurts.
  • Springsteen/Beirut- Never bought 'em.
  • Andrew Bird- Charlie tried.
  • Animal Collective- I'm still on the outside looking quizzically in.
  • Other albums that stood out in Q1: Rural Alberta Advantage, Harlem Shakes (did this come out in Q1 or was I just really, really late to the show?), Neko Case, Heartless Bastards, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and one of my favorites: Sara Watkins' solo debut.
So, Q1, in the end, had maybe 3 albums that I'd currently put in contention for my Best of 09 list (Watkins, Gibson, Sample) and a few that need some more eartime (Bird, Felice, Isbell, Louris/Olson, etc).

Now Q2? Some big names: Green Day, Bob Dylan (ummm), Dave Matthews, Sonic Youth,... Some names that we expect great things from: Regina Spektor, Dinosaur Jr, Iron & Wine, Pete Yorn (who needs an Album Naming consultant), Doves, Rhett Miller, Metric, exes Conor Oberst and Maria Taylor. Some relative newcomers: Ryan Bingham, Alexi Murdoch, Dirty Projectors, Passion Pit, White Rabbits. We'll write about a few and save the rest for our Third Quarter retraction.

Cracker- Sunrise In The Land of Milk And Honey :: Is David Lowery one of the most unjustly overlooked songwriters of his generation? Is Cracker one of the coolest roots rock/alt country/alt rock/whatever bands around that just never seemed to fit in? All I know is that their last two albums have trumped a lot of the hyped, buzzed releases of the same year. They just keep making good, solid records, that's all.

Steve Earle- Townes :: Earle's tribute to hero and friend Townes Van Zandt would make ol' Townes proud. Great versions of even greater songs. The only misstep, in my opinion, is the ridiculously out-of-place Rage-y Tom Morello solo. This will be on my Best of 09 list and I'll stand on Robert Christgau's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say so.

Camera Obscura- My Maudlin Career :: This album sounded (and made me feel) like I wanted She & Him to.

Elvis Costello- Secret, Profane, & Sugarcane :: I got to see these songs performed with Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Jim Lauderdale, Emmylou Harris, and Jenny Lewis at Telluride this year, so pardon me if I'm a little partial.

Wilco- Wilco (the album)
:: Yes. Any semi-regular reader of this blog will know that it's impossible for me or Charlie to be very objective about The Wilcoes. The real question here is where it sits in the hierarchy of their catalog.

Phoenix- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix/Grizzly Bear- Veckatimest :: Which will be Q2's hypey Merriweather Post Pavilion? Which will be better?

Moby- Wait For Me :: Is this really the comeback album from the guy who gave us Play (oversaturated but still good. yes. good)? Are we completely irrelevant for even mentioning it?

Levon Helm- Electric Dirt :: Paging Robbie Robertson, that's two solid albums in a row. Not to mention holding his own little Last Waltz in his barn.

There are more. But these are a start. So far, the second quarter is looking pretty strong. But we're just days into Q3 and we've already got Son Volt, Bowerbirds, and we're looking down the raoad at Jay-Z, Modest Mouse, Megafaun, Magnolia Electric Co., Joe Henry (wow), and more.

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