Tuesday, December 30, 2008

albums that came out this year

i can't really say i bought much music that was released in 2008. did that jens lekman album even come out this year? the new thievery corporation left the least impact, for me, of any album they've released since i started listening. i heard 'the mirror conspiracy' first, but that is such a crucial release it would have been a certain revelation to anyone taken in by their first disc. i did get the privilege of listening to 'the richest man in babylon' when it came out, and being wowed both by the musical developments and the bold expression of the duo's politics. i had 'the cosmic game' pegged as the letdown album, especially with the sorts of collaborators they brought in, but it managed to find new sonic territory while wisely branching into higher energy levels. the guys kept it real by abandoning the transcendentally cool territory they'd layed out so perfectly in 'mirror conspiracy.' other downtempo artists have failed to achieve that first step - finding the art of cool - and my frustration with the genre as a whole helped lead me away from regular listening as 2005 wound to a close. back for a taste of the latest release in 2008, i was impressed by a couple of tracks but found the album to be only a modest pleasure to hear. it might be that i'm more of an americana/folkish listener these days, so cheers to all who got more out of the new disc.

i never bought 'blame it on gravity,' because i take in the old 97s live and almost exclusively live, but from the tour, it seems like there are some decent songs there. i look forward to hearing them when they've been around the block a few dozen times.

i thought jennifer o'connor's latest, 'here with me,' was a total treat, despite her lack of artistic development on this record. for her next release, she may need to branch out a bit more, or figure out a way to do the same thing but make it sound new. at this point in her career, laboring in obscurity, i don't think it matters that the record spins nicely along where her amazing 2006 release left off. there's plenty of room for her to grow her audience just by getting in front of people; i personally would welcome more of the same. that's probably the key - she remains core to my listening fancies, and thus in my book she can get away with repeating herself. after all, when you go to an amazing concert, all you want sometimes is to be able to come back and bask in that exact sound for as long as possible. it's also easier to hold territory that provides a solid grounding. o'connor's emotive edgy storytelling is easier to repeat successfully than the quiet bliss of 'mirror conspiracy.' i think rob and eric of thievery corporation wouldn't have wanted to stay put if they'd had the chance; their globe-trotting musical journey has to be a rush. it might not be as exciting, but i think they'd have something to say, musically, about a trip back to the states and a few long winters of joe pass and bill evans. they could always mix in old friend jobim and find some fascinating new possibilities. maybe even jean-michel jarre; i'm not sure they've really covered his turf either.

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