Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sonic Parthenon's The Year In Music 2008: Part 6

A spectacular live show at the Music Hall in February and the continued strength of "Waiting on the Stairs" really brought home the notion that Pela is one of the seriously good bands out there.

Jack Peñate
"Second, Minute, or Hour" and "Spit at Stars" were just two of the reasons that Jack Peñate was one of the good surprises of 2008 but they were all he needed. Insatiably catchy, Mr. Peñate's music should be a hit not just in his native England but here in the States as well. He ought to be bigger.

Ra Ra Riot
Without question one of the best albums of the year, The Rhumb Line showcased that the only thing more dramatic than Ra Ra Riot's story is their music. Picking up where Arcade Fire left off, these Syracuse cohorts may be even better than that generally considered Indie Pop Band of the Decade. So far, they've established a perfect record, nailing each and every one of their songs with the right texture, density, and pacing. Being one of the few genuine highlights of the Siren Festival this year certainly helped make their case.

Ray LaMontagne
"Meg White" was more creepy than good, but the soul-drenched "You Are The Best Thing" was one of the great stand-outs of the year.

"Supernatural Super Serious" was evidence that R.E.M. was coming back in a solid way and their show at Madison Square Garden proved it. One of the all time great live bands and one of the few who can tame big, bad, hollow, MSG.

Raphael Saadiq
His 2008 record, The Way I See It, is a wonderful romp through vintage 60's soul and R&B. "Love That Girl" is not just the standout, it's the best Soul song of the year and frankly, of the decade. Vintage and retro sounds may be growing tired to some, but no one can deny the power, spirit, and execution exerted by Saadiq.

She & Him
Few had a year quite like Zooey Deschanel, and by extension Matt Ward. Actually, it's a safe bet that no one else did. Their meeting on the set of The Go-Getter led to the birth of She & Him and the exceptional Volume One LP. Crass cynicism dictated Zooey would be weak and Matt would suffer for it. It turned out that Zooey has a tasteful devotion to quality American music, and a knack for how to write it and sing it herself, aided by the surefire hand of Mr. Ward. They put on a couple of more-than-decent live shows to boot, at Webster Hall and Terminal 5 respectively.
If that wasn't enough, The Go-Getter is still the best movie I've seen all year, fueled in part by filmmaker Martin Hymes' excellent soundtrack (that included artists like the Black Keys in addition to Ward), to say nothing of Zooey's sharp performance (arguably her best work). Hell, she even made Jim Carrey's weak-looking Yes Man movie appear halfway decent with the jokey 80's pop novelties that were released in advance of the film. Now if only she hadn't also starred in the Worst Movie Ever Made that also happened to come out this year (The Happening) and her 2008 would have been perfect.
Late breaking gossip news: Apparently, Zooey is now to be hitched to Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie who this year put out their first batch of music that did not put me instantly to sleep. It does seem now that with the exception of M. Night Shyamalan, Zooey indeed has the Midas touch.

Sons & Daughters
The great Scots came to NYC with some excellent shows in support of This Gift, and while "Rebel With the Ghost" was enough to keep people interested, it was "Gilt Complex" that cemented Sons & Daughters in our minds.

"You & Me & The Bourgeois" from Honeysuckle Weeks was a track to remember and their live show at the Merc was one of the sweeter nights of a roller coaster year. Seriously, what a single though.

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