Swear I'm not Paul: 07/12/2008

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Album Cover and News: Bruce Springsteen - Working on a Dream

Bruce Springsteen - Working on a Dream album cover art

Personally I prefer the single cover art, but maybe that's just me. They should switch them around.

And some news from Billboard:
"Leadoff track “Outlaw Pete” clocks in at eight minutes, making it Bruce’s longest studio song since The River’s “Drive All Night” back in 1980. (It’s safe to assume Springsteen will not be performing “Outlaw Pete” at this year’s Super Bowl halftime show.) Other tracks on Working include “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “Queen of the Supermarket” and the previously released “My Lucky Day” and “Working On a Dream.” It was also revealed that E Street Band organist Danny Federici, who died in April 2008 from melanoma, and his son Jason Federici will also feature on the album. Working will be available January 27th on vinyl as well as a deluxe edition that will contain a DVD with 38 minutes of behind-the-scenes studio footage."

Album Cover: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit - Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit

Jason Isbell 400 Unit - Self-titled album cover art

Here it is, the extraordinary cover for 2009's extraordinary album. You can thank me later for the recommendation. Just like how I told you about the Gaslight Anthem months ago.

Best Albums of 2008: RTE Guide's Top 8

The RTE Guide has been around as long as TV has in Ireland. But is it still relevant? Kathryn Thomas looks bizarre on the front of the festive edition, Pat Shortt looks like an overgrown child, and Ryan Tubridy is...well, skinny.

This year they did a top 8 from '08 album list, in no order:
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Randy Newman - Harps and Angels
MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Kings of Leon - Only by the Night
Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree
Portishead - Third

So really a lot of the talked-about stuff and Randy Newman. I suppose it's pretty relevant, and not the worst list I've seen.

Best of 2008: Irish Blogs & Publications, update 2

Like LargeHeartedBoy's worldwide list, I intend to make a list of every Irish best of I see. Email me at swearimnotpaul@gmail.com or leave a comment if you want yours added!

Alan Whelan's Top 50 Albums
IndieLimerick's Top 10 Albums
Irish Times' The Ticket Best Albums & Gigs
Jim Carroll's Top 20 Albums
MP3 Hugger's Top 42 Songs
RTE Guide's Top 8 from '08
State Magazine Top 25 Albums
Swear I'm Not Paul (this blog, click on a section:) 60-51 50-41 40-31 30-21 20-11 10-01
UCD University Observer Top 3 Albums

Best Albums of 2008: Countdown 10-01


10. Jamie Lidell - Jim
White soul is not the stuff Amy Winehouse does. That's not really soul. Nor is Duffy. And Adele is just woeful on every level. Jamie Lidell is the white soul pioneer of our times. He's probably the soul pioneer of our times. The only soul album to come close this year was Al Green, and the race wasn't even close.

09. Laura Marling – Alas, I Cannot Swim
The Noah and the Whale album may have been quite good, but it wasn't the best folk album to come out of the UK this year. Laura Marling, who lends her vocals to the previous record, made a stunning debut of her own, which was the most charming albums of recent times. Her live show is thrilling, and she looks set to be a major star in years to come.

08. The Gaslight Anthem – The '59 Sound
The only band to out-Hold Steady the Hold Steady this year was the Gaslight Anthem, not only did they release one of the EPs of the year (more on that later), but they also gave us this stellar debut. Rock in the Springsteen mould, with a polite nod to Counting Crows - back when they were good!

07. Hayden – In Field and Town
My favourite discovery of the year was an artist that's been around a while. 2008 was the year where I finally embraced Hayden, and hugged him to death. This album is a joy to behold, and luckily for the rest of the world, got released outside Canada just last month. I urge you to get a copy.

06. Silver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
Yes, you are right, that is everyone's favourite regal elephant, Babar, on the cover. The music contained within is just as glorious. In addition, this was the year that David Berman came out of isolation and toured the world. He hurt his hand in Ireland, but that didn't stop these songs from coming to life live. This album may even be the one to match Tanglewood Numbers. yes, it's that good.

05. TV on the Radio – Dear Science,
<The one album that seems to be in everyone's list, and rightly so. The bastard love child of Prince and Bowie is TVotR's most cohesive statement yet. It's verging on a masterpiece, but some of the songs aren't quite there yet. However, that masterpiece record is imminent...

04. Fight Like Apes – ...And the Mystery of the Golden Medallion
It could be the best Irish album since Mic Christopher's Skylarkin. It's an astounding follo-on from their EPs, which were great but lacked sheen. Here however, the songs really come together and are much more perfect than every imagined. The best Irish album of the year. By sixteen country miles.

03. Destroyer – Trouble in Dreams
At the beginning of they year, there was no album that got more listens to than this. Every morning on the way to work I would listen to it. If it wasn't for the fact that it sometimes reminds me of that dreaded commute, I'd probably rank it higher. Maybe even #1. It's not quite as good as Rubies, but it's still a five-star record. Also that album art is horrible too.

02. Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation's Dark
Jason Isbell leaving the Drive-By Truckers could possibly be one of the best things to ever happen to rock music. Not only do we get Jason solo records (his second next year will be amazing), but Drive-By Truckers are re-invigorated, and Shona Tucker gets a chance to shine on her own steam. Fantastic. Plus '3 Dimes Down' is one of the songs of the year. "Rock n Roll means well".

01. Okkervil River – The Stand-Ins
The second part of a proposed double album, which definitely would've been one of the best doubles of all time. The first hald, The Stage Names was fantastic, but here Okkervil River really outshone themselves. It's hypnotically brilliant, and each listen brings out something new, something brilliant. The best album of 2008. Bar none.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Best Albums of 2008: Countdown 20-11

The penultimate installment!

20. Chris Mills - Living in the Aftermath
Chris Mills' Living in the Aftermath is one of those records that immediately draws you in. They're much easier to praise than those records which take a few listens. Whereas other records take longer to love, this one will leave you lusting after it from the very first listen.

19. The Constantines – Kensington Heights
Another rocker of a record. And another one where this was my first real exposure to a band. After listening to this, I had to go back and get their earlier work. And now I see their earlier albums are great (even better than this), I still have a certain fondness for Kensington Heights, and a lot to thank it for.

18. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
What can I say about the Hold Steady taht hasn't already been said? By me in fact. This blog is full of countless posts about me waxing lyrical about the Hold Steady. This may not be their greatest album, but it does have some of their finest songs, and with 'Two Handed Handshake', the B-Side of the year!

17. Gramercy Arms – Gramercy Arms
For some reason BBC have this in the rap section on their website. That's very very inaccurate. In fact, it's one of the best pop albums of the year. And by pop I mean in the vein of Matthew Sweet - the kind of pop to cher you up, not bang the radio off the wall!

16. Centro-matic/South San Gabriel – Dual Hawks
Dual Hawks is one half of a fantastic album, and one half of a decent one. Because the Centro-Matic side is just so good, I don't think I'm capable of listening to South San Gabriel. I listen to that and just think "I'm listening to the wrong disc." So are you right now, unless you're listening to this.

15. The Dutchess and the Duke – She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke
<Forget about the dodgy spelling for a minute, this album is certified spirited gold. Initially disregarded by me, but on further listens I relaised the Dylanesque brilliance within. And I mean the 1960s folk-rock legend, not that stuffy old poet.

14. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
Bon Iver would've been high on this list only for that album was released in 2007. As a result, Fleet Foxes are the band I've installed here as the one that everyone feels they embraced pre-hype. I'm definitely of that camp, as I even have the ridiculous boxes for the coverart on my iPod. Oh and the album is glorious, by the way.

13. The Guggenheim Grotto – Happy the Man
I hate getting new albums when I've already made my list. Wait that's a lie, I love it. But I always have problems fitting some of them in! That's definitely the case with the Guggenheim Grotto. If I had have gotten this album weeks ago, it'd probably be in the top ten. A fantastic new Irish band.

12. The Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride
Yet another brilliant album from the Mountain Goats, who never seem to get the love they deserve. Released at the start of the year, so perhaps forgotten by some people already, this album is a triumph, not least the excellently-titled 'Marduk T-Shirt Men's Room Incident'.

11. The Tallest Man on Earth – Shallow Grave
Folk at its finest. His voice may not be to everyone's tastes, but Johnny cash wasn't the best singer, nor is our own Bono. So don't let that stand in its way. This album is incredibly rewarding, and was unlucky to just miss out on my top ten. One of the best debuts of the year

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Best Albums of 2008: Countdown 30-21

I'll be taking tomorrow off for some work-related commitments (read: nonsense), so expect the last two instalments on Thursday and Friday!

30. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
Cut Copy's In Ghost Colours was the album I was listening to when everyone else was raving about Hercules & Love Affair with Antony. Well, this and Neon Neon. And I think I got the better result. Because while that record was loved immediately, it's fallen off a lot of radars, while this one keeps getting better and better.

29. The Dexateens – Lost and Found
The Dexateens' Lost and Found kind of followed the Radiohead approach, but instead was a totally free download (still is). In one way a great idea, as it would have gained them loads of new followers. In another, a dreadful decision, because if I was to pay for any album this year, it'd definitely be this one. Priceless.

Get it in full here:

28. Punch Brothers – Punch
Everything Chris Thile does turns to gold. Whether it's his own solo records, his work with Edgar Meyer, or that old band he used to be in, it's always amazing. He's probably the most consistent artist in the music business. This, his new adventure, is no different.It's a great album, with the best bluegrass suite I have ever heard. (That said, it's probably the only bluegrass suite I've ever heard!)


27. She & Him – Volume One
Not bad for an actress. I doubt Joaquin Phoenix's album will be this good. Partly down to M. Ward's brilliance, and partly down to Zooey's soothing voice and beautiful lyrics, this is one of the most gloriously uplifting records of the year.

26. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
Everything I've written about them this year started with the line "Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?", until this. One of my favourite lyrics of the year, from an artist almost as educated as myself. Don't I sound like a snob now? Well, these guys are snobbish, and bookish, but it never for one second takes from their mass appeal.


25. John Hiatt – Same Old Man
<John Hiatt's Same Old Man is a great country-rock record. It's a great driving record. It's perfect for having the windows down on a breezy day, with nothing better to do than listen to an old man (the same old man) talk about his experiences. A highly overlooked record, which is a massive shame.

24. Taylor Swift – Fearless
The album that brings about the big girl in me. It's no Carrie Underwood, but it sure comes close. Forget about the nonsense about her in Us magazine and all that jazz. Who cares about her personal life with some chaste idiot? This music is wonderful, touching, sweet, and oh-so-feel-good, it's like watching Bosco all over again!

23. Shearwater – Rook
What a rock album. From the very first note of this album you know you're onto something special. Powerful yet understated, this is the album AC/DC or Metallica buyers should have been buying and sending straight to the top. One album I actually agree with Pitchfork on!

22. Jon Brion – Synecdoche, NY
This would have been the best instrumental album of the year, if there weren't two vocal tracks tacked on at the end. But even with them, Jon Brion has made yet another magnificent score. The film itself isn't quite so good, but this record more than makes up for it. If only he'd make a Meaningless 2!

21. Tift Merritt – Another Country
Yet another female singer-songwriter country artist on my list! I just can't get enough of them. Tift Merritt's fourth album was her best since 2002's Bramble Rose. It was her return to the sparkling form of yesteryear, and is an album that should be adored by Lisa Hannigan fans!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Best Albums of 2008: Countdown 40-31

Sunday is a day of rest, so it continues today...

40. Neil Diamond - Home Before Dark
Everyone balked at me a few years back when I said I couldn’t wait for the new Neil Diamond album. I was confused, I must have meant Neil Young, they claimed. But no, after seeing what Rick Rubin had done with Johnny Cash, I knew that he could do something similar with Neil. But whereas Johnny reworked other people’s songs, Neil reworked himself, and this, the follow-up to the delectable 12 Songs gave him his first ever UK #1 record.

39. Jay Reatard – Matador Singles Collection ‘08
For me, Jay Reatard came from nowhere. I’m not well-up on the punk scene, nor the singles scene. I’ve thousands of albums, but barely over a hundred singles. Thus it wasn’t until he released this collection of everything he released this year that Mr. Reatard caught my attention. He did not just catch it, however, he shook me, assaulted me, turned me upside down and emptied the change from my pockets. Oh, and left me breathless.

38. Kaki King – Dreaming of Revenge
Kaki King is another artist where I arrived late to the party. I could appreciate the beautiful guitar-work on her earlier records, but they were never this accessible. The instrumental songs never overstay their welcome, and the remainder shows that she has a pretty voice to go with that astounding guitar playing.

37. Randy Newman – Harps & Angels
Yes, Randy Newman is that guy from the ‘Da Bomb’ episode of Family Guy (yes I know the names of the episodes, what else was there to do in college when Countdown wasn’t on?). He’s also that guy from Disney soundtracks. But as anyone who has listened to his pre-Soundtrack era can attest, he makes the blackest comedy of music. Forget your Steven Colbert albums, this is the funniest record you’ll hear this year.

36. Sigur Ros – Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
The “one with the bums” was Sigur Rós’s most commercial album to date. It’s not that they sold out, but instead they just moved to widescreen, and embraced the public adoration. ‘Gobbledigook’ (which borrows from Dave Matthews Band’s ‘Grey Street’) was their most out-and-out pop song ever, and set them on a course to fill bigger fields and tents throughout Europe. Oh and have you seen the Heima DVD from last winter? Incredible.

35. Neon Neon – Stainless Style
<As a kid growing up, the DeLorean DMC was (strangely enough) an important part of my life. From watching it travel through time in both the Back to the Future films as well as the cartoon series, to the fact that my Dad’s company was responsible for creating the panels that made up the car, the myth of John DeLorean always loomed somewhere in the background. Now Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip have made not just a concept album about the concept car designer, but a brilliant dance (technically synth pop) record at the same time.

34. Cloud Cult – Feel Good Ghosts
Everything about Feel Good Ghosts just draws you further in. The album cover draws you in to the music. The music draws you in to really listen to the lyrics, and then the lyrics draw you in to yourself, where you can’t leave the house without listening to this record beforehand. Well not quite, but after typing that first line, I wasn’t sure where to go next. That said, music and lyrics are fantastic. But what the hell is going on in that album cover?

33. Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew
Lisa Hannigan’s debut album showed us something that some of us thought but were afraid to say: Lisa was the talented one on O and 9. It was her haunting voice that gave those albums their poetry. 9 especially, where she was missing on some of the tracks, and they suffered as a result. This album, on the other hand, did not suffer one bit from a lack of Damien Rice. In fact, it was all the better for it.

32. The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely
On their second album, The Raconteurs became more than a mere side-project. They became a fully-fledged band in their own right. The music was much more cohesive, and Brendan Benson really got a chance to shine, much like he does on his solo records. And I’m not forgetting Jack White, this was the album where he wrote the song of the year: ‘Carolina Drama’. It’s like Cormac McCarthy through song. Incredible.

31. Rachael Yamagata – Elephants...Teeth Sinking Into Heart
Most double albums have one good side and then another that’s so-so. This is not one of those albums. The first half is more of the same from Yamagata, which is definitely not a bad thing, as anyone who loved her debut Happenstance can testify. The second half is heavier, perhaps indicating where she’ll go next. And it really shows her power as an artist when she can have two versions of the same song (one with lyrics, one without), and make them both beautiful and interesting, without having to resort to strange punctuation.