Matthew Ryan’s City Life in Portland, OR

When the topic of favorite music comes up and I mention Matthew Ryan, most people ask who he is.  Sometimes I just explain politely that he’s an independent artist, other times I tell an anecdote about how my friend Riche found him on World Cafe or Mountain Stage or something like that years ago and introduced me to his music.  Either way, I usually go on to explain that he’s one of the most underrated singer songwriters of our generation.

Paste Magazine recently had an issue exploring the idea of Indie music.  Much like the film industry, the indie label has become just that; a label not a definition.  Record companies like movie studios create or buy smaller subsidiaries to operate as their independent machine.  Matthew Ryan has a record label, a publicist, a booking agent, etc.  But he writes, records, performs, and produces his music himself in his Nashville home.  He interacts with his loyal fans through Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter.  I recently said that Matthew Ryan is unique in that instead of building fans on Facebook he’s building friends.  He’s responsive on Twitter not just to mentions of himself, but often interjects himself into a question I throw out to the masses or make a comment on a Bon Jovi joke or classic rock moment of realization.  The independent artist has an incredibly loyal fan base, and Matthew Ryan is no different with his social engineering with friends around the world.

A number of coinciding events had me in Portland last weekend.  Matthew Ryan’s West Coast swing of his tour supporting Dear Lover was in town.  He was playing Berbati’s Pan and a pre-show in-store at Music Millennium on Burnside.  Of course I jumped at the chance to see him play at both places.  Pulling up to Music Millennium, I’d been listening to Dear Lover and specifically “City Life” as I drove down Burnside past the maxed out homeless shelters, commuters, and the lyrics seem to fit right in with Portland.  As I turned the corner of 32nd Avenue, mind you listening to Matthew Ryan, there he was standing on the sidewalk.  He was inside by the time I parked and made my way to the store.  He played a few songs off of Dear Lover, even pausing mid title track because he was sensitive to there being children in the store and the song called for some strong language.

Between the Music Millennium set and the main show at Berbati’s I met up with my friend Jamie.  She had me tell several anecdotes about Matthew Ryan while we walked the few blocks from her work to Berbati’s.  By the time we got in the door, Kasey Anderson was already well into his set.  Instead of hanging out “backstage” or off in the shadows, Matthew Ryan was standing right near the entrance to the venue greeting his fans, remember, he’s been building the loyalty capital for years and while I seem like a fanatic, I assure you there are plenty of people with just as much enthusiasm as me across the world, including Portland.  We shook hands again (we briefly greeted each other at Music Millennium) and I introduced her to my friend Jamie.  Jamie said it seemed like I was introducing her to an old friend and that he was very gracious and down to earth.  We settled in with a few beers to watch the last few songs of Kasey Anderson’s set.  Jamie and I watched Matthew Ryan meet and greet others as warmly as he’d greeted us, and in no time it was time for him to take the stage.

Despite having the support of dozens of friends in the crowd, it’s still hard for a singer-songwriter to command the attention of a venue known much more as a bar that happens to have live music than a hall built for music.  No band for back up, just you your guitar and your voice.  It was Thursday night and people were out after work to have some drinks not to sit quietly and listen to a musician, whether he deserved their respect or not.  Rushed because of two more bands to take the stage that night, Matthew Ryan jumped right into his set and when he couldn’t hear himself over the din of chatter from around the bar, he jumped off the stage and into the crowd to share the rest of his set with the people who were there to enjoy it.

Into the crowd has become a common theme for Matthew Ryan’s performances.  It shows the pain and difficulty of being an independent artist, but also that when you surround yourself (literally) with like minded people who love and appreciate your music, magic moments happen.  He continued through his songs often getting the whole crowd to sing right along with him, even echoing him where he sang his own background vocals on the studio track.  It seemed like he was rushed, and he was, but it felt like he was truly playing for his friends.  A few songs that stood out from his performance in the round were “Jane, I Still Feel the Same”, “It Could’ve Been Worse” and closed the show singing U2’s “Running to Stand Still” with a little bit of a Neil Diamond flair to it.

After he’d finished and was packing up his guitar, Jamie and I approached him on stage and invited him to go outside for a cigarette (I don’t smoke).  When we got out there, he explained that it isn’t anyone’s fault that the venue didn’t work out.  We discussed music, songwriting, Echo and the Bunnymen and cigarette smokes habit of targeting non-smokers.  We stood in line to buy some merch from him.  I bought a CD I’ve now bought 4 times (but that’s how you support an independent musician, pay them for their music) and with each CD purchase he was giving a poster he would autograph.  Jamie bought Matthew Ryan vs. The Silver State and he wrote “Jamie, here’s to beauty and the future.” I bought Dear Lover and he wrote “Matt, genuinely thank you for what you’re doing” on my poster.  I assume he’s not talking about telecom product management, but rather doing my part to tell people about his incredible independent music.

Matthew Ryan’s music is available in the iTunes Music Store, AmazonMP3, eMusic, and available in record stores all over the place (if you have one in your town).

Vanity Fair Article
USA Today review

“City Life” video with fan/friend participation

Matthew Ryan on Twitter.

500 Words About Foursquare

Foursquare opened itself up recently.  It’s been around for a while, but was limited to large or strategic tech/hipster cities.  It’s a service that allows users to check-in at places and share those places with friends. Along with checking in, there are stats around how often you check-in at particular places and other ways to score points.  In my circle of Twitter friends, there have been discussions of etiquette and rules that have gotten me to think through how I see it. Aside from there not being a BlackBerry app for Foursquare, I think it’s a pretty interesting service.

The Question of Twitter & Facebook
Foursquare gives you the options to have your check-ins, and other scoring events posted automatically to your Twitter feed or your Facebook status update.  If you are on either of those social networks, you may have seen messages that say something like “Johnny Lawrence just became mayor of the Cobra Kai Dojo”.  Much like Twitter and Facebook, there are no written rules to Twitter or Facebook, it’s clear there are some unwritten rules, or in the least, things that can quickly make your follower list deplete. I’ve never been a fan of people that cross post between Facebook and Twitter or other services like Twitterfeed that take actions on another network and blast your Twitter followers with likely impersonal information.  While I have friends in common between Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, 8tracks, etc., I think of them as separate social networks.  I think we all know how annoying Facebook can be when a particular application catches on and gets used and becomes noise like an alarm clock too early in the day. However unlike Facebook, where you have the option to block a particular application from mucking up your experience, in Twitter your only option is to unfollow people who pollute your feed with robotic, impersonal posts. But unfollowing isn’t a very good remedy because you might get good content from that person 80% of the time.  Until Twitter allows followers to block tweets from a particular user using a particular application, I will not post my Foursquare activity to anything but Foursquare.

The Question of Public & Private Places
Foursquare is the Wild West when it comes to Anchorage destinations.  I’m sure the same goes for the “cool” cities in the beginnings.  There is not one word from Foursquare about what qualifies as a “place.”  I’ve seen private residences, workplaces, grocery stores, malls, etc. go by in people’s check-ins.  Seeing as this is a social tool, my usage will be limited to social places (restaurants, coffee shops, bars, music venues, etc.).  I’m sure this will not prove an effective strategy for dominating the Anchorage leaderboard, but that’s not of value to me.

When it comes down to it, all of these online social networking things are pretty silly, but they are a way of life now and a way to communicate. The more we use these things and talk about how to use these things the better, especially when there are no written rules. The bottom line comes from the often quoted rules of comedy, it’s always important to know your audience.

My Favorite Movies of the Decade

Much like the Albums of the Decade, I ranked the top ten and then listed the other 40 in no particular order.  Surprisingly a movie I just saw the other night made it into the top 50 of the decade.

Top 10 Movies of the Decade

1.  Almost Famous (2000)

2.  Royal Tannenbaums (2001)

3.  O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000)

4.  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

5.  High Fidelity (2000)

6.  Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

7.  Moulin Rouge (2001)

Moulin Rouge

8.  Juno (2007)

9.  Shaun of the Dead (2004)

10. Mystic River (2003)

Also:

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
Gladiator (2000)
Garden State (2004)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
The Perfect Storm (2000)
Once (2007)
Batman Begins/The Dark Knight (2005/2008)
Old School (2003)
Superbad (2007)
Stranger than Fiction (2006)
Rachel Getting Married (2008)
Wonder Boys (2000)
Everything is Illuminated (2005)
Anchorman (2004)
Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003)
Black Hawk Down (2001)
Punch Drunk Love (2002)
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Sunshine Cleaning (2009)
Sideways (2004)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
Orange County (2002)
Michael Clayton (2007)
Walk the Line (2005)
Dodge Ball (2004)
Adaptation (2002)
Chocolat (2000)
The 25th Hour (2002)
Funny People (2009)
Walk the Line (2005)
Amelie (2001)
Up in the Air (2009)
The Departed (2006)
Into the Wild (2007)
Laurel Canyon (2002)
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Away We Go (2009)
The Queen (2006)
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

The Everyday Albums of the Decade Currently Referred to as the 2000s

The past decade has been an interesting one for the music industry.  We rolled into the decade with both artists and record companies fearing the internet and electronic distribution.  Now buying music that is digitally delivered to your computer has become the norm.

In my previous life as a blogger, I had a series called Everyday Albums. These are albums that can be listened to everyday without tiring of them.  I used the same approach to ranking these albums.  I expanded on the top 10 but also listed an honorable 40 albums.

The Top 10

10.  Pete Yorn – Musicforthemorningafter (2001)

Pete Yorn’s name had managed to get passed around quite a bit prior to me ever hearing anything from him.  What I’d heard: young musical genius plays all his instruments bridging genres with Jersey swagger.  What was clear when I finally got my hands on Musicforthemorningafter was that it was real.  It was fresh and new with a raw feeling.  Even today, there’s a genuine quality that keeps it fresh nearly a decade after release.

“Stories and cigarettes ruined lives of lesser girls”

9.   Mates of State – Bring it Back (2006)

I didn’t know anything about Mates of State when I saw them listed on the 2005 Austin City Limits Festival lineup.  On the ACL Fest site, there were samples and bios from most of the artists.  When I listened to their samples, I put them on the must-see list for the festival.  Despite it being upwards of 1000 degrees and no shade in site, I managed to sit through their set and knew I had found a new favorite.  Their sound is unique and 2006’s Bring it Back is packed with honest, fun music.

“And you will surely find this news pleasing to your ears”

8.  Matthew Ryan – Regret Over the Wires (2003)

Matthew Ryan has become a favorite of mine in this decade.  A true independent artist, with a unique voice both in sound and from the fresh songwriting perspective.  He’s certainly not alone in creating amazing music without fanfare, but it seems as though anyone I introduce to his music comes away a fan.

“Am I talking too much about a girl from nowhere?”

7. Travis – The Invisible Band (2001)

In the summer of 2001, I drove a truck from Chicago to Portland, OR.  I did this alone and somehow ended up without any CDs for the 2200 mile trip.  It wasn’t until Minneapolis that I got tired of jumping from station to station on rural (probably because I was wrapped up in an Art Bell show about monsters).  I walked into one of the original Target stores and bought three CDs.  Unapologetically, I bought Bon Jovi’s Crossroads, Weezer’s self-titled green album, and The Invisible Band from Travis.  I rotated the 3 albums all day for 3 straight days.  I have nothing but fond memories of that trip and that Travis album.

“The grass is always greener on the other side, and the neighbor’s got a new car that you want to drive”

6. Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)

This is one of a handful of CDs that got me through my first Alaskan winter.  I moved to Alaska in the late summer of 2002, and while the fall lasted unusually long, once winter hit I needed all I could get to keep me going through it.  This album is a perfect companion for cold, dark days.  I still consider this a near flawless album.

“And the truth is I miss you”

5. Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)

I’ll admit it, the first I heard of Arcade Fire was when “Wake Up” filled the San Diego Sports Arena on March 28th, 2005 as the house lights dropped on the opening night of U2’s Vertigo tour.  The intro music would have been an appropriate time for many in the crowd to whip out their smartphones and fire up Shazam to find out who it was.  I remember it was much like the scene in High Fidelity when John Cusack puts on The Beta Band and gets everyone to listen.  I had no insight into their existence before that moment. I was not cool enough to know who they were before Bono and the boys introduced me to them.  A few months later they were on every hipster’s radar at the Austin City Limits festival drawing one of the bigger crowds of the festival.  Funeral and their follow up, Neon Bible made a mark on the decade both in hype and substance.

“And since there’s no one else around, we let our hair grow long, and forget all we used to know”

4. U2 – How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004)

I still remember sitting at my cubical with a coworker and lighting up U2.com while they were streaming their album in its entirety.  Something done quite frequently now, but at the time it was pretty rare.  Songs like “City of Blinding Light” and “Original of the Species” still amaze me at the way they were crafted.

“Of science and the human heart, there is no limit”

3. Josh Ritter – The Animal Years (2006)

The first time I heard this album it blew my mind.  I’d known about Josh Ritter and heard his name mentioned in different circles, but assumed that because the only song I knew from him seemed to be a bar sing along song (Kathleen).  The first song I heard on Animal Years was “Girl in the War” and it has become not only one of my favorite songs, but also an anthem for this decade of war against two countries and a concept.

“I got a girl in the war, Paul, the only thing I know to do is turn up the music and pray that she makes it through”

2. Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker (2000)

When I first heard Heartbreaker, I was headed out to the Wilson River in the Oregon Coast Range for some summer fishing.  The shade of the tall fir trees wasn’t the only relief I got that day.  The songwriting is incredible and the production is clean and pure.  I debated whether to include Gold or Heartbreaker in my top 10 and gave the nod to Heartbreaker strictly based on the power of “Oh My Sweet Carolina” and “Come Pick Me Up.”

“I ain’t never been to Vegas, but I’ve gambled all my life”

1. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

What haven’t I said about this album?  It’s Wilco’s Achtung Baby, their OK Computer, their Abbey Road.  The production and story of distribution redefined what being an independent artist mean for this decade.

“All my lies are always wishes”

The Honorable 40

(Secret: I started out putting these in ranked order, but quit halfway through and it kind of deferred to alphabetical order)

Damien Rice – O – 2002
Ryan Adams – Gold – 2001
U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind – 2000
The National – Boxer – 2007
Keane – Hopes and Fears – 2004
The Jayhawks – Smile – 2000
Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera – 2001
Coldplay – Parachutes – 2000
Band of Horses – Everything All The Time – 2006
Dixie Chicks – Taking The Long Way – 2006
Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism – 2003
Counting Crows – Hard Candy – 2002
She & Him – Volume One – 2008
U2 – No Line On The Horizon – 2009
Wilco – A Ghost Is Born – 2004
Damien Rice – 9 – 2006
The Swell Season – The Swell Season – 2006
Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter – 2007
The Killers – Hot Fuss – 2004
Mates Of State – Re-arrange Us – 2008
Matthew Ryan – East Autumn Grin – 2000
The Red Hot Chili Peppers – By the Way – 2002
Feist – The Reminder – 2007
Athlete – Tourist – 2005
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago – 2006
Death Cab for Cutie – Plans – 2005
Doves – The Last Broadcast – 2002
The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America – 2006
K.T. Tunstall – Eye to the Telescope – 2005
Kings of Leon – Because of the Times – 2007
Ray LaMontagne – Trouble – 2004
The Shins – Oh, Inverted World – 2001
The Shins – Wincing the Night Away – 2007
Snow Patrol – Final Straw – 2004
Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga – 2007
The Strokes – Room On Fire – 2003
Sufjan Stevens – Illinois – 2005
Weezer – Weezer (Green Album) – 2001
Wilco – Sky Blue Sky – 2007

MKinMotion, blogger

It’s been so long since I regularly posted blog entries, not only have I forgotten how to do it, but most people I know don’t know that I ever did it.  2010 is going to be the year of the blog for me.  My main outlet over the last few years has been Twitter where I can spit out ideas with staccato, but 140 characters limits the ability to explain much.

Two resolutions for 2010 are to take more photos and expand to more than 140 characters with thoughts. So stay tuned for more about music, Alaska, and life in my world…it’ll be like 2004 all over again!

No Line on the Horizon: Anatomy of an Album Review



I went to great lengths to not hear U2’s No Line on the Horizon until it was officially released on March 3. Believe it or not, I resisted temptation and my first listen was at about 9pm on March 2 (it was already March 3 on the East Coast and the album was available on AmazonMP3). The first listen was at a low volume and all I did was sit and listen…no notes, no real analysis at all. The next day I listened to it pretty much non-stop. That night I got home from work and listened to it with notepad open with the intention of writing a review. I started with rough notes. I kept listening and listening and listening. I went back and forth on how to review the album. Upon first listen I would have rated it 4 stars (out of 5 if I believed in stars). That next day I started to digest it a little more. I started to hear themes and patterns. I recognized that the song structures were similar to what I’d observed in How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and “Window in the Skies”. It started to feel like U2 had created an album for me…or for fanatics. There seem to be lots of hints to other work they’d done going all the way back to Boy. I’m now confident giving it a 5 star review. Here’s a quote from The Mad Fishicist [posted without permission]:



“the melodies of unforgettable fire,

the guitars of achtung baby,

the rhythm of pop,

and the sentiment of how to dismantle an atomic bomb got together one night for a few beers,

but got so drunk they couldn’t find their keys.

no line on the horizon had them the whole time.”

And as a treat, to you few readers who still tune in, I’m including the first notepad text I jotted down on day 2.

1. No Line on the Horizon

wow great opening, feels like a preface to the journey

Verse: my favorite Bono voice register

Chorus – Simplicity

Verse: time is irrelevant…



2. Magnificent

Intro: that’s a meaty chord

Euro dance

Great riff

This will be the live song of the tour!

Very “Until the End of the World”

Edge and Larry rockin us into the chorus

Only Love – Can make such a mark, can heal such a scar

Adam’s challenging himself

I’m air guitaring…I can’t help it in this bridge/solo

I want a djembe a la The Visitor



3. Moment of Surrender

Neat little intro very Achtung Baby

Part “Love is Blindness”, part “So Cruel”

Feels like “N + S of the River”, might be trying to be the “So Cruel” wherein the drug is the lover.

Bono’s not cheating on the vocals, he’s selling it.

Very theatric

It’s not if I believe in love, if love believes in me…oh believe in me.

Kinda Pink Floyd -> momentary lapse of reason

Understated little solo with piano and Edge taunting us

There’s the Edge…lots of compression, just what the song needs.



4. Unknown Caller

Intro – Feels like “Walk On”, birds chirping

Wow, sounds like vocals off of
War

Verse – Back to Achtung Baby

Bridge – Go Shout it Out, Rise Up

Chorus 2 – Restart and Reboot Yourself, nice

French Horn transitioning to Solo – Edge making guitar sing

5. I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight

Larry nice beat

Cheesy lyrics? Bono, falsetto trying to do the New Radicals thing?

Chorus kicks – great melody, Edge ripping

Answer to cheesy lyrics “The right to be ridiculous is something I hold dear” ironic lyrics?

Background melody in chorus

Strings?

BABY BABY BABY Bridge (Ultraviolet)

Another solo with Pridesqe sounds including the arena sing along anthem.

Adam winding down.



6. Get On Your Boots

Syncronous bass/guitar…bass pulls through

Ah, “The Fly” of 2009.

You don’t know how beautiful you are (You don’t know octave)

Reminds me of CoBL “Oh you look so beautiful tonight, in the city of blinding lights”

1988 sound

Larry working it.

Let me in the Sound…awesome!

Get on your boots, not get your boots on or put on your boots…interesting



7. Stand Up Comedy

DMB rhythm

Two towers

Fall down, stand up

Lyrics had to have come last

Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady

Historical references…do some research

Small man with big ideas, ha!

Humming into the bridge

Solo in the bridge

They think it’s hardcore, with a few changes it would be.



8. FEZ – Being Born

FEZ- great contrast – Let me in the sound…sounds like Great Expectations sndtrk song…look that up. [edit: “Siren” Tori Amos]

Being Born- driving intro…we’re gonna go somewhere in this song.

Layer 2- Holy… elevated (who’s playing piano?)

Verse – brought it back down, but Larry’s still driving us

Adam – nice

African sun

Chorus? Is this a chorus or a bridge? Is there a chorus? Well crafted structured. Here’s a bridge.

10 bucks says Bono wanted to have some anthemic chorus at one point but simplified it.

How would this look live?

Transistions to drop down for next song.



9. White As Snow

This takes me to Ireland or Sarajevo.

Sounds like Sinead could sing this

Good bridge (?) Lanois on steel string?

There’s Bono’s voice.



10. Breathe

Rhythm intro…

Edge + piano

Rough scratch

John Lennon sounding

3 things 3

These days are better than that

Loose electricity

Strong chorus

Can see this being incredible live

Strings

Solo pulls us into a bridge

Chorus is the simple U2 chords we’re used to.



11. Cedars of Lebanon

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s “Love is Blindness”

Intro dissolves

Great percussion

It’s a talkie

Interesting little chorus with the harmony

Return the call to home

Very Eno/Lanois sounding with strings and keys

Abrupt end, brilliant

Feels like “Promenade”, but much darker

Josh Ritter and Dawn Landes in Anchorage

I spent the week leading up to 1/31 trying to convince everyone I know to show up at UAA’s Wendy Williamson Auditorium on Saturday night for Josh Ritter’s show (mostly through Twitter). This was the third time I’ve seen Josh Ritter live. Once in a solo capacity like Saturday’s show and once with his band; so I knew to expect an intimacy between him and the audience.
I also spent some time leading up to the show getting familiar with Dawn Landes, who was opening the night. Her albums are rather eclectic mixing some blue grass, folk and even some rock. In her performance she immediately won the crowd over with her charm and anecdotes about her Alaska experience. She seemed to thrive in the solo acoustic format, and really seemed to be enjoying herself. Her music is great and I added her catalog to my library via AmazonMP3 and emusic.
Back in October of 2007, I saw Josh Ritter play in Seattle. I’ve blogged this story before, but it’s relevant… ReckenRoll and I were eating across the street from the venue and while I was juggling excitement to see Josh Ritter and excitement that the Red Sox were winning game 7 of the ALCS against the Indians (after trailing 3-1; they went on to win the World Series). I looked up at one point, probably in angst for a server to deliver food, and saw Josh Ritter wandering through the restaurant with a pitcher of beer looking for someone. I flagged him down, mentioned seeing him in San Francisco and being from Alaska. He mentioned that Alaska is on his short list of places he was dying to get back to. I told him, Anchorage supports musicians who are willing to make the trip and it would be a perfect opportunity for a solo show. I’m not saying he followed my advice, but Anchorage did show up and packed the auditorium. He looked happy to have made the trip and led the audience through a trip that only an Idahoan singer songwriter could pull off. There are plenty of Idahoans in Alaska, and they were very excitable at any reference he made to the potato mafia or Miss Junior Idaho. Fittingly he started the show with the song titled “Idaho.” He played a few new songs, one that he said was the first time he played it. The audience was very forgiving of him stopping mid song and starting over, because after all his charm and energy it seemed to work for him. I had a great time, my friends had a great time, people on Twitter had a great time. For all his talent, Josh Ritter is very down to earth and his stage presence (which really seems to just be his presence) gives the audience the idea that he’s a friend of theirs. After an encore that included a duet with Dawn Landes, he closed the show with an accapella version of “The Parting Glass.”
After the show both Josh and Dawn hung around in the lobby of the theater signing autographs and posing for pictures. I walked over to get my picture taken with Josh, and noticed a group of people giving me dirty looks as I sauntered over to him. Turns out there was a line and I was cutting. I walked towards the back of the line, and then decided against standing in line. I regretted it the second I got home (especially since Dawn Landes has quickly become a favorite in iTunes and she didn’t have a line), but not as much regret as those people who didn’t get to experience the show.

Breaking Blog Silence: 2008 Albums

Rather than including some diatribe about why this place went silent in July or why the silence is being broken, I’m just going to jump in and start writing again.

Ten albums I couldn’t stop listening to that were released in 2008.

Mates of State – Re-Arrange Us

Smiley happy music is what I’ve gotten used to from Mates of State as I’ve written about them quite a bit since I first learned about them and saw them play in 2005. Re-Arrange Us doesn’t depart from the happy hooks but shows another level. Some have described it as a maturity, but I think it’s a depth to the indie pop. Quite a fun album!

Matthew Ryan – Matthew Ryan Vs. The Silver State

Despite still not getting the attention his talent deserves, Matthew Ryan quietly released a solid album. Many of the songs ring true to the times with a slumping economy and a election based on hope. While I continue to feel like Bruce Springsteen is willing to release music (Magic) that doesn’t stand up to his best material, Matthew Ryan is unintentionally willing to pick up that torch of Nebraska or The Ghost of Tom Joad and voice those ideals in song.

Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

Most ‘best of 2008’ lists include the Bon Iver album and for good reason. It’s a solid clean quiet album that works for driving or for background music in the office. The production is done well to capture the songs in what feels very organic or raw, which compliments the tone of the album.

She & Him – Volume One

I’ve been a fan of Zooey Deschanel as an actress since Almost Famous, but also enjoyed her in Winter Passing, The Good Girl, Bridge to Terabithia, but you could see the star quality when she busted out in song in Elf. Fast forward a few years and she teams up with M.Ward to release an album of great songs. She has a great voice, but the rawness of the production comes across like a girl that “just loves to sing” and it’s very refreshing.

The Hold Steady – Stay Positive

I’m still hooked on 2006’s Boys and Girls in America, but Stay Positive was a great follow-up. If you have any doubt that rock and roll can’t survive in today’s music world, The Hold Steady are a great piece of evidence that it’s alive and well. Both albums make me think of Springsteen circa Born to Run or Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Cat Power – Jukebox

Solid collection of covers from Cat Power. Any year Chan Marshall releases an album, it makes my list. But the real question is: when is an album considered a covers album and when is it simply an artist interpreting standards? I’ve read complaints that this album didn’t contain the “Space Oddity” cover that was used in a commercial, but apparently that will be on a future album.

Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight

I wasn’t sure what to think of Frightened Rabbit when I first heard them…in fact, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to like them or if they kind of qualify as a guilty pleasure like Third Eye Blind, Matchbox 20 or Dashboard Confessional. The album is solid and I have enjoyed letting the images surround me. Much of the angst doesn’t apply to my life today, but it definitely takes me back through times in my life.

MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

This is a fun album. I’m sure there’s some substance to the songs, but I’m still enthralled by the multilayer sounds and beats. I’m not the biggest fan of electronic music, but 2008 seemed to be my year of listening to it. MGMT do it pretty uniquely.

Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

This is an unapologetically fun album. This album and the band got a lot of hype prior to it being officially released, but with the upbeat songs with clean production and a world music vibe, it’s a great album to get through a long day.

Blitzen Trapper – Furr

I’m a sucker for Portland music, but this album is a solid well crafted effort. A little country a little rock and roll, this album has them both covered. Plenty of sounds packed into this album to keep your ears busy.

Honorable Mentions: Or albums I listened to quite a bit, but that didn’t live up to my hopes for them.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked these albums, but they didn’t quite reach my expectations.

Coldplay – Viva La Vida

Counting Crows – Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings

Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy

My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges

Ryan Adams – Cardinology

Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs

Remember To Remember Me: Wilco Plays Anchorage’s Moose’s Tooth

There’s something to be said for a band that can make the opening line of a concert “I dreamed of killing you again last night, and it felt alright to me” sound beautiful. That’s the opening line of “Via Chicago”, which Wilco used to open their Anchorage show Saturday night. Anchorage did well filling the parking lot of Moose’s Tooth despite the rain. It rained all day and all night Saturday, but it didn’t stop people from showing up and showing Wilco much deserved love. Jeff Tweedy made several references to the weather and the hardcore Alaskans who refused to let it affect us. The set was flush with popular tunes with a few new songs mixed in. One of the new songs was ironically “Sunny Feeling.” The crowd was into it and stuck it out despite the weather. The mix of beautiful folk based songs overlayed by loud and rowdy bursts from Nels Cline and Glenn Kotche were perfectly executed. Overall, it was pretty surreal to see Wilco playing Anchorage. Local guys The Whipsaws (who’ve gotten plenty of pub on this blog) opened the show with a high quality set any band in the states would be proud of.

Anchorage Daily News Review (set list is in the comments of the ADN article)