Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Macedelic Music Awards – Album of the Year

by Doug MacRostie

I’ve been thinking about my “Top 10’s of the Year” for a while now, and I think I’ll be able to stick with my picks without too many regrets (the only thing a list does is give you the opportunity to forget something). But, I wanted to do more than just a top ten; I wanted to come up with a name for my “award.” I was trying to think of something that expressed what these albums mean to me – how they are more than just good lyrics and melodies, how the songs on these albums can grab you and take you places, give you colors and emotions all in a moment. First I thought of calling them the “F*** Yeah” Awards or the “Right On” Awards, which get the point across about how cool the music is, but isn’t quit what I was looking for. Then it came to me: The Macedelic Music Awards. Tada, simple, yet simple! I will be announcing MN Albums of the Year and MN Songs of the Year coming up later this week. But, to start the show…

The Macedelic Music Award for Album of the Year:

David Byrne & Brian Eno [Everything That Happens Will Happen Today]

Michael Franti & Spearhead [All Rebel Rockers]

Xavier Rudd [Dark Shades of Blue]

John Wilber & Timmy Haus [Road Weary]

The Tisdales [Bakers Dozen]

The Guggenheim Grotto [Happy The Man]

Beck [Modern Guilt]

Yoav [Charmed & Strange]

Ani DiFranco [Red Letter Year]

Belle & Sebastian [The BBC Sessions]

The new David Byrne and Brian Eno is outstanding all the way through! Songs like “Life is Long” and “One Fine Day” have that Talking Heads feel. “I Feel My Stuff” has that spooky sound you hear in some of David’s solo work and “Wanted for Life” is one of those “big” sounding songs. This CD grabs my ear and won’t let it go. Not only is the song writing and playing great, but the production and mixing work is outstanding – it’s truly candy for the ears! Everything that Happens will Happen Today indeed!

All Rebel Rockers from Michael Franti and Spearhead was also an easy pick for album of the year. I saw MF&SH twice over the summer (both times part of my Honeymoon :D), so I got to hear most of the new songs before the CD came out (and while the CD sounds great, he is better live :D). From one end to the other, Franti keeps rockin’ it on, and messages in songs like “Life in the City” and “Hey World (Don’t Give Up Version)” inspire.

Xavier Rudd is outstanding – he’s put out a new CD each of the last 3 years (and more beyond that) and they’ve all been excellent. Dark Shades of Blue brings more moody and edgy undertones to Xaviers work. “Secrets” and “Edge of the Moon” pop to mind as great songs from the CD with “Up In Flames” being one of the more aggressive, and “Home” has that deep and heartfelt feeling that Xavier is so good at.

John Wilber and Timmy Haus put out Road Weary so they would have a CD to sell at the Bayfront Blues Festival in Duluth, MN. This is an outstanding Americana Blues CD. Timmy really shines as a songwriter and singer/musician on “Roots Down Deep,” “What a Time,” and “Down to the River,” and the songs they cover sound great – the highlight being “Talk to Your Daughter.” John brings in a perspective that adds depth to the music and Timmy really brings it to life.

The Tisdales CD Bakers Dozen rocks all the way through. It’s a raw and aggressive, yet fun and catchy piece of work by Rich Mattson and Tony Derrick – they switch back and forth on songs and DAMN – it really just rocks! “Isn’t It Good” and “Box of Wine” have outstanding, cut-loose guitars and songs like “Faces” and “Like a Horse” have melodies you can’t help but hum and sing with (actually, all the songs have cut-loose guitars). The guitars are excellent and intricate, the songwriting outstanding and the sound pure, raw and ready to go.

The Guggenheim Grotto floored me with their debut CD last year, but the new Happy The Man shows the duo evolving and expanding their crafty intricate style. “Sunshine Makes Me High” and “Her Beautiful Ideas” are classic Gugg “love” songs, singing “lets get naked and get under the sheets…now I just can’t seem to get out of bed anymore…”. The emotions throughout the album are expressed in some beautifully arranged music like “The Girl with the Cards” and “Just Not Just.” What can I say, the Guggs write beautiful music, thoughtful songs and have once again presented it in an inviting and exciting way.

When I hear something new from Beck, I expect it to be something that sounds original, different and exciting to listen to as twists and turns (and sudden drops) take you through the music, and Modern Guilt does just that. Still easily recognizable as Beck, the songs come at you from new angles and perspectives, but still have that edgy feel. “Soul of a Man” and “Walls” jumped out at me right away, plus the upbeat “Youthless” and “Think I’m in Love” – all outstanding songs from another outstanding Beck CD.

The first CD that came out in 2008 that really got my attention was Yoav’s “Charmed and Strange.” Yoav opened for Tori when I went down to meet her in Minneapolis and he didn’t even have a CD out in the U.S. yet. It’s 1 person, he plays guitar (and percussion on the guitar) and has a foot-operated loop box and creates beautiful layers and textures in intricate songs that continue to build and expand. Its amazing music and the CD has some great songs like “Adore Adore,” “One By One,” and “Wake Up” being some of my favs.

Ani DiFranco is pretty reliable when it comes to quality CDs, but Red Letter Year stands out, even for her. “Smiling Underneath” might be my fav song on the album, “we could be stuck in a car with quintuplets that are all cutting teeth, and I’d be smiling underneath,” lots of good stuff in that song. “The Atom” is another great song – a nice open feel, layers and textures and things that you need to wear headphones for to fully enjoy. Ani has done it again; Red Letter Year is another outstanding album.

Belle & Sebastain have been through a lot lately, putting out one full length CD after the singer and songwriter Isobel Campbell left the band – this CD shows that B&S still got it, even with out Isobel, and I also like that some of the songs are updated with slight lyric changes (you ever wonder what a writer thinks of a song 10 years later? I do). But beyond that, it’s the great B&S songs, but live recordings from the BBC, it’s so much fun to listen to “new” versions of favorites of old.

So congrats to you winners of the MMA Album of the Year award – you’re songs fill my head with that wonderful feeling that only music can provide; whether happy or sad, fast or slow, loud or quiet, your music inspires and ignites.

BUT, I ended up having to leave myself a safety valve when compiling this top 10 – here are some honorable mentions for the Macedelic Music Award for Album of the Year – they almost made the list, but I had to try to stick to the 10 limit:

Honorable Mentions:

Mason Jennings [In the Ever]

The Cat Empire [So Many Nights]

Ian Ethan Case [Into Open land]

John Mellencamp [Life, Death, Love & Freedom]

The Limns [The Limns]

Death Cab for Cutie [Narrow Stairs]

T Bone Burnett [Tooth of Crime]

Thievery Corporation [Radio Retaliation]

Tom Morello: The Night Watchman [The Fabled City]

Boiled in Lead [Silver]

The Darbuki Kings [Lawrence of Suburbia]

Thanks for reading along, feel free to let me know how you disagree and as always, ROCK ON!


Read more from Doug at www.myspace.com/macedelic.

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