Monday, December 29, 2008

Sonic Parthenon's The Year In Music 2008: Part 5

Magnetic Fields
"Nun's Littany" and "California Girls" - two examples of Stephen Merritt channeling the Jesus and Mary Chain and running away with it. Remember when the Raveonettes sounded like this? I wish they still did.

Maps of Norway
One song - "The Runout" and not much more is known about this Minnesota band. Just one compelling song, recalling the best of Blondie, New Wave, and the early 2000's revival. A beautiful female voice leading a crackerjack band. Thanks to MPR's Song of the Day for this.

Metric technically put out nothing in 2008 but that mattered none. With a late 2007 release of their Live at Metropolis DVD, and working on their new record for most of this year, the band didn't lose a step. The August concert at the Highline Ballroom may have been the show of the year for its consistency, for its absolute perfection. A month later, Emily and Jimmy showed up at Union Pool to play an acoustic set of the upcoming record, sans the much loved "Stadium Love". Late in the year, they gave Canadian radio "Help I'm Alive", a hopeful signature of a stellar album to come. If 2009 isn't going to be dominated by Metric, I'll be very surprised.

Murder by Death
With the stunningly good Red of Tooth & Claw, Bloomington's Murder by Death ended its long New York drought with a killer show at the Bowery Ballroom. They returned with an opening slot for Gogol Bordello at McCarren Park, and they'll be back again soon, making up for all the lost time. Considering how great Red of Tooth & Claw is, it should keep them going for a good couple of years.

MGMT owned 2008 in both the mainstream and Indie circles. And though their shows are impossible to get into their music is not. "Time to Pretend" became a real hit in 2008, while "Kids" backed it up with an even catchier melody. "Electric Feel" had both of those songs beat plus the rest of the record and most of the music of the year. In fact, one of the best songs of the decade and one of the best party songs of all time.

My Teenage Stride
On the strength of the exceptional "To Live & Die in the Airport Lounge", one of the great local bands kept the spirit of pop alive. Their show at Don Hill's was fun and they promise to keep making good music but it will be hard to top that instant classic.

The National
Unlike most years, in which a Best Album of the Year loses its title to something from the same year heard in the ensuing 12-24 months, the National are looking good to hold onto 2007's title with Boxer. They didn't need to do much in 2008 so they put out The Virginia EP, a pleasant collection of Boxer excess plus some other tidbits. Ignoring the pretentious and poorly-directed documentary made about them, and considering their exquisite show at the BAM Opera House, as well as their fine opening for R.E.M., the National are heading into 2009 with the signature of a band with one foot in the door of all time greatness.

Like a grimy snowball, the O'Death boys took their 2007 shenanigans and turned it into a full-on scuzzy hoedown in 2008, with extremely good opening slots for Murder by Death and Flogging Molly. And now they have the money to buy shirts so they have no excuses.

He may not play an instrument, he may not be able to sing, but Barack Obama either was part of or inspired a church of music that energized and emboldened a couple of generations to get together and elect the man President. With Stevie Wonder's "Sign, Sealed, Delivered" leading the charge, with Jay-Z and Will.I.Am keeping the youth involved and Will in particular making poetry of the man's words, with a couple of fellows named Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel playing TOGETHER for him, and a host of DIY tunes in the man's name spanning genres and continents, music never played such a big role in an election. Best moment: The use of U2's "City of Blinding Light" for his stage entrance at the Convention, capturing a slice of American history we will never forget and inspiring a re-evaluation of a forgotten gem from the band's last record.

The Okmoniks
Sexy, sexy, sexy. Oh and rock n' roll.

The Orion Experience
From their Luna Lounge performance early in the year to their CMJ jamboree at Public Assembly, the Orion Experience essentially introduced themselves in 2008 and aim to be sticking around. The band's album is a bevy of sexually charged bubblegum delight, led by "Sexy Dynamite", "The Queen of White Lies", and "Obsessed with You".

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