Monday, December 29, 2008

Sonic Parthenon's The Year In Music 2008: Part 4

The Hard Lessons
A couple of quality gigs and toying around with some new tunes, and - even with the loss of the Anvil - Koko and Augie just refuse to surrender rock n' roll to the forces of evil.


This very low-key band from Illinois has the potential for very big things if they churn out well-crafted shows like the one in May at the Mercury Lounge.

The Hold Steady
What more can be said on this blog about the Hold Steady? Stay Positive was not perfect, in fact, there were at least 4 better records out this year, but what did work works better than just about anything else out there right now ("Constructive Summer" is without question the best song of 2008). Combine that with a continued excellence on the touring circuit and this band that refused to go away, whose infectious devotion to irony-free vintage rock proved to be too much to scoff at, is just impervious to negativity.
As we enter 2009, it is quite clear that in the review-of-the-decade-to-come, Craig Finn and the boys are going to be right at the top, sharing the spotlight with only a few other bands at most, and if they own 2009 like they did 2008, 2007, (and in hindsight, 2006 and 2005), they could make the case for being number 1 without any sharing.

Hot Chip
Hot Chip do not challenge you to like them like a lot of other bands but they are also not the most easily digestible. Made in the Dark was equal parts friendly and uninviting. But it all came together, and Alexis is leading an outfit that taps into a wellspring of creativity, making techno-nerd-rock groove in all the right places. "Ready for the Floor" and "One Pure Thought" prove that.

Joan as Police Woman
To Survive was Joan Wasser's contribution to 2008 and it was a sterling one. Though she's been working at it for years, it was only in 2008 that people seemed to finally get something that's not hard to figure out: soul music is invincible, and Joan's take on it - smoothed, seductive, sedate, and infused with a kink of folk - is ripe for perfection. And see her live to really get it.

Jukebox the Ghost
"Hold It In" was a quality cut of 2008 and this band's sensible live show is charming.

Langhorne Slim
Langhorne Slim finally broke into the big time this year with his solid self-titled LP, well deserving after years of toiling in the NYC-based muck. From all over NPR to David Letterman, everyone was finally getting a taste of what only a select few knew before. With a couple of dandy War Eagles backing him up, the only question one had to ask was "what took everyone so long?" And it always feels good when a sincerely nice person does well in this crazy world. Truly, 2008 was the year of the well-meaning slim, whether in presidential elections or country-fried rock n' roll.

Jenny Lewis
The title track of Acid Tongue and her collab with Costello on "Carpetbagger" alone were enough to remind us Jenny Lewis is probably better off without Rilo Kiley. Though now the debate will rage whether she is better off without the Watson Twins and that is a little harder to answer (actually it isn't - keep reading).

It was a quiet second half of the year for Looker but the first was pretty snazzy, what with a good Saturday night gig at the now gone Luna Lounge and one of the singles of the year with "Gates of the Old City".

Long Blondes
It was all going great, and then it was over. Of all of this year's sudden band-break-ups this one hurts the most. It's a damn shame. But before they closed up shop, the Long Blondes left us with a decent final record, including the stellar "Here Comes The Serious Bit", and a successful live tour that included a terrific stop at the Bowery Ballroom.

Lykke Li
"Tonight" and "Dance, Dance, Dance" were the two top tracks from this very divisive bit o' pixie dust.

Shwa Losben
Brooklyn girls may not be from Brooklyn and neither is Shwa but he's allowed to live here because his pop music is so damn catchy and he knows how to put on a show.

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