Top Nine Records

It’s been a while and I almost don’t even feel like coming back, but the night is cold and my writing time has been sparse at best lately, so I guess I should get back to it. The past few days have been really, really nice though. No computer, no Internet, no iPod, not too much talking, seasons 1-4 of The Office thanks to On Demand and not much else. I don’t know about most of you out there, but if you spend as much time on the computer as me, once a year 10-day breaks from the computer and the Internet are kinda awesome. I should actually put this on hold till later in the week when I have to be on the computer doing other things, but oh well.

Anyway, since everyone else and their mother is doing year-end best of 2008 record lists, I figured I’d do the same. I only have nine from 2008 though. They are as follows, with links when applicable, and some words where it’s not.

Joan of Arc Boo Human (Polyvinyl Records) According to iTunes, I played this record 55 times in 2008. It arrived in early spring, and its emotionally bare, surrendered content animated the arrival of more sunlight, warmer days and greener trees. It’s a bit of a juxtaposition to the content of the record (depicting the linear break down of a relationship, from betrayal to acceptance to finally moving on), but this record continues to keep me pretty warm on cold days. And it demonstrates that contradictions aren’t always a bad thing. That’s all I’ll say. www.myspace.com/joanfrc for some songs.

These Arms Are Snakes Tail Swallower and Dove (Suicide Squeeze Records) TAAS don’t just espouse upon a topic or offer commentary; they jump headfirst into the rigors of life and anthropologize from the inside out. To the listener, it could be either cathartic or therapeutic. And I think that’s the great strength of These Arms Are Snakes. They might not realize it, but they’ve got some of life’s real answers cryptically hidden in their music. This is their third and possibly best album to date. www.myspace.com/thesearmsaresnakes for the goods

Make Believe Going To The Bone Church (Flameshovel Records)- This album almost didn’t happen due to the band almost breaking up. And the emotional ride that encompassed the band’s hiatus becomes evidenced through the band’s new willingness to take turns, step out of the way and compliment each other. In simpler terms, the almost break-up of the band has allowed for the collective members to appreciate each other’s artistic input. And however eclectic each member’s input might be, Make Believe finds a technically dense, abstract and challenging way to make it work. It’s not that much unlike a functional relationship. Problems arise and people figure out a way to move past them. In the end, the problem is solved and everyone learns a little more understanding about each other. www.myspace.com/makebelieve

Paint It Black New Lexicon (Jade Tree)- Clocking in at just under thirty minutes, it’s a thunderous and confrontational expedition through the grips of faith; questioning authority in all of its subtle forms, cast over a painstaking array of bass and drum heavy hardcore thrash. But this isn’t your everyday hardcore record. New Lexicon takes to task the very subculture it arose from, examining ritual, meaning and tradition. And through this process, Paint It Black has created a document of music that defies the abstract and challenges the absolute. www.myspace.com/paintitblack

Young Widows Old Wounds (Temporary Residence Ltd.)- Combining the darkest moments of Nirvana’s In Utero, PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me, Fugazi’s Red Medicine and The Jesus Lizard’s Goat, Young Widows has created a menacing blend of hypnotic, pummeling rock. Now I know that combination sounds as unlikely as one could imagine, but Young Widows makes it work while also laying claim to loudest release of 2008. Actually, loud would be an understatement; Young Widows instead destroys. With rhythms that could wake the dead, the Albini-esque brand of sludge created within might just be the chaotic stepchild of Big Black’s Atomizer. www.myspace.com/youngwidows

Capillary Action So Embarrassing (Pangaea Recordings)- The most, fucked up, frantically weird but awesome record I’ve heard all year. Crazy time signatures, screaming plus harmonizing, unexpected turns at every false corner, total chaos in an off Broadway meets Daughters kinda way. And of the places this music could come from, it’s Philadelphia, which is the only thing that makes sense about Capillary Action. www.myspace.com/capillaryaction

Russian Circles Station (Suicide Squeeze Records)- Russian Circles has learned to balance tension with ease, ushering their songs in and out of an unknown instrumental middle ground between haunting beauty and crushing metal. They’re not Explosions in the Sky. And they’re not Pelican either. But they’re ALSO not a hybrid of the two. Station, at times, is angry, cathartic without being formulaic, beguiling and serene. I guess the best thing I could say about Russian Circles is that they aren’t going to be making the jump into soundtrack land anytime soon. They’re too busy challenging conjecture to ever get stuck on one emotion (or note) for too long. www.myspace.com/russiancircles

Titles Up With The Sun (Welcome Home Records)- Up With The Sun almost starts on an upbeat note, but through the right amount of depressive themes and pedal steel, quickly gets down to the heart of the matter in a Centro-Matic meets Westerberg kinda way. Lead guitarist/vocalist Brad Amorosino’s simple but shuddered delivery pulls the listener in, baring the humble and honest skeleton of a life that’s been let down more than a few times, strengthened only by the band’s innate ability to balance a jangly melody with both uncertain discord and promising endnotes. More simply put, Up With The Sun animates an honest human experience. www.myspace.com/titles

Dianogah Qhnnnl (Southern Records)- I actually just got this in December and it’s a late arrival to the list, but it’s awesome. I actually rode to Dianogah covering a Big Black song in an old Props flatland video, and hadn’t heard much of them in a long time. But they’re still at it, still with two bass players and no guitar (well, maybe a little thrown in there.) I’m a slow listener and I still need time with this record to write more in depth about it, but I love what I know of it so far. www.myspace.com/dianogahband

And that about does it. I listened to a lot more than just these nine records in 2008. I guess that’s a given though. There were some Psychedelic Furs days, there were some old Cave In days, and there was even one Pink Floyd day. Anyways, happy new year and all that…

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