School of Language, Now Enrolling K-12

I mentioned School of Language last week and I thought it fitting to do a little followup. This is one band/album that somehow never breached my ears in 2008, despite being the logical progression of one of my favorite bands of 2007 (Field Music) and coming out in early February. SoL is basically FM's leader David Brewis' solo incarnation, launched after he felt Field Music had come to its fitting conclusion. This could have been a sad thing.

The fortunate thing is that Sea from Shore could have been a side-step (or even a step back) from '07s Tones of the Town, and instead is a leap forwards. This attempt is weirder, in best ways, spinning off-kilter like a juggled saucer while somehow maintaining the stranglehold on impeccable pop taste at which Brewis has always excelled. Where linesthroughlines' fave Aloha has fallen off, SoL has happily donned the indestructible cape of melodic (and, in this case, meticulously arranged) odd-rock. It's bookended with four masterful "Rockist" tracks, the final reprise of which attains the heights only hinted at in the first. It feels like summiting K2 at daybreak, the world unfolded like a magazine under a glowing, gauzy haze of clouds. Like the most beautiful morning of your life.

Sometimes a sad thing turns into a happy thing. Sometimes something strange hits your ears and you just want to forget everything you knew previous to that moment. And if I could re-do my Best Albums of 2008 list, this would be top 5 with ease.

Marine Life
Extended Holiday
[from Sea From Shore|buy]


Ho Ho Ho

Zer are two orders of business on zis fine day. Ze first one is slightly overdue because I, for one, am over listening to Christmas music for another 10 months owing to basic holiday exhaustion and ze fact zat it's been 60 frickin' degrees outside since ze 26th.

But ze short of it is zat a friend (Lindsay Anderson aka: Said the Lion) and I sat down a few times before Christmas and hammered out a small Christmas EP to give away to friends and family. Oddly enough, we didn't end up with any of ze songs we'd originally discussed and/or started tracking (Christmastime Is Here, Last Christmas, Baby (It's Cold Out Side)), and instead were simply led to learn and record zese three songs in three seperate sessions.

So I'm giving it to you, ze faithful few who still check ze site occasionally in zis time of transition.

Silent Night [mp3]
White Christmas [mp3]
Santa Baby [mp3]

Hope your Christmas/Hannakuh/Kwanzaa/Festivus was rollicking!



Listening Assignments 12.26.08

It's an odd thing, not doing the thing you've always done. Due to the timing of this instance, it's been nice to spend time doing all the things everyone else is doing. The hustle and the bustle, the joy and the aftermath. I'm cleaning up shreds of paper and tape, putting things back together again, and listening to these songs. I thought it was fitting to share them in the interim between here and there, wherever "there" may be. Consider no post "the last post" until I say it is. Take that, winter!

1. School of Language - Rockist Pt. 1 - Let's practice our vowels. A. E. I. O. U. Repeat. Y gets no mention and I never considered it a vowel either, so screw it. Now stomp your feet and stand up in your chair and raise your hands above your head and chant and chant like some spirit-filled evangelist and break your face with the force of your smile. There's a reason I'm excited. This is what Field Music has become. [from Sea From Shore|buy]

2. Kyte - Eyes Lose Their Fire - I want something to build inside of me. I want that thing to matter and resonate outwardly like shrapnel. I want to fly, to fall, to sink, to swim, to drown, to be reborn. I'd like this song to manifest itself. [from Two Sparks, Two Stars|buy]

3. Arizona - The Glowing Bird - There is nothing weird about this song, except perhaps that it is awesome, while myriad other songs are not. The dynamics and pacing are inspiring, the song itself beautiful. And when the guitars come in, glowing like phosphorus, at 2:48...wow. [from Glowing Bird|buy]

4. White Denim - Sitting - This song is more than a little like love. Immediate chemistry, inseperability (what a word!), welcome weirdness, bouncy rubber roses and chocolates, and saxophone. But then it starts to fade, often at the least expected time. And you think it's done for good, and you wonder why it's come to this, so soon. And then it starts to come back into view, just around the corner. You're like magnets, pulling closer together, tearing through the walls between you. And now you're back, baby, and it made sense all along. [from Eleven Songs (Explosion)|buy]


Over It.

Well, everyone, I'm over it.

I'm writing this now because I've reached critical mass in my frustration with Blogger (specifically) and the music business (more generally). If you've been paying attention, below this post you'll find a 3rd (and final) reposting of my top 60 songs of 2008. It was first posted a few days ago, then mysteriously deleted without notice or explanation by Blogger. I re-posted the list, removing nearly every mp3 preview on it (leaving only two songs that I had express permission to use), but today the post was deleted again, this time with an e-mail notifying me that a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notice had been issued for the new post in question. I was informed that I had the option to file a counter-notice, by fax or snail-mail only, which I proceded to file. In doing so, I've opened myself up to potential legal ramifications for the post, but I am so sure that I'm in the legal right that I submitted it anyway. So Blogger may be forced to re-post the entry, but not before the damage has been done.

It's a sad state of affairs when I can't even post a list of my favorite songs of the year and include a scant few tracks that have already been posted here and elsewhere numerous times in promotion and to the advantage of the musical acts involved. It's even sadder that a post that took me two days to complete and is effectively one of the most important of the entire calendar year could be deleted without notice or legal backing and potentially lost forever. Sad for the bands on the list that need every ounce of exposure possible, bands that deserve that mention and submitted music to me for sharing.

It's obvious that things have changed in the blogosphere. Maybe it's Blogger, bloated with Google-fied omnipotence, but I have a feeling that it's a lot bigger than that. It's unfortunate that music lawyers and executives can't make the simple distinction between a music-minded blogger like myself (trying to help bands, most who appreciate every mention) and some entire album/catalog posting blogger giving away entire collections of pirated and leaked material. I simply can't spend the exorbitant amounts of time required to make this site work and know that at any point, the entire thing could be deleted without notice. This is a reality.

Therefore, I'll be taking a short break and exploring a new destination. I can't not write about bands I love. I can't not share them to listeners with desperate ears. But Blogger has become the very thing I stand against and I can't afford to pin my efforts on a sinking ship.

I'll keep you posted. Regardless of where it is, linesthroughlines.com will still forward you there and the blog name will not change. I'll be sacrificing a lot of what I've worked for 2.5 year to achieve, but I see no other recourse. I hope you follow me into the unknown. Thank you for the passion you've shown for music and the support you've given me for as long as I've been doing this.

I'll be back...


The Top 30 (or 41) Albums of 2008

#31-41 in random order: The New Frontiers - Mending, The Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride, Lovedrug - The Sucker Punch Show, Kaki King - Dreaming of Revenge, The Helio Sequence - Keep Your Eyes Ahead, Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping, The Dodos - Visiter, The Dears - Missiles, Coldplay - Viva La Vida..., Cloud Cult - Feel Good Ghosts, Brooke Waggoner - Heal for the Honey

30. Nada Surf - Lucky
29. Elbow - The Seldom-Seen Kid
28. Domingo - s/t
27. Ben Sollee - Learning to Bend
26. Mark Kozalek - Finally
25. Annuals - Fun
24. Department of Eagles - In Ear Park
23. MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
22. Sam Sparro - s/t
21. +/- - Xs On Your Eyes
20. French Kicks - Swimming
19. The Hush Sound - Goodbye Blues
18. Beck - Modern Guilt
17. Fleet Foxes - s/t
16. Ray LaMontagne - Gossip in the Grain
15. Mates of State - Re-Arrange Us
14. Margot & the Nuclear So and So's - Animal!/Not Animal
13. Tokyo Police Club - Elephant Shell
12. Flight of the Conchords - s/t
11. Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs
10. The Streets - Everything Is Borrowed

"It's as if all of life has become new again...beautiful enough to bring tears, if you're in the right place, and it might just be enough to save us all." [10.7]
(best tracks: On the Edge of a Cliff, On the Flip of a Coin, Everything is Borrowed [mp3])

9. Chris Merritt - Pixie and the Bear

"making a double-album takes balls. A double-album is an auditory finger to anyone who was even thinking about taking just a cursory listen. At the same time, it's an artistic risk on par with the dreaded "concept album". If you can't deliver the goods, you're going down like the Hindenburg. Chris Merritt knows these things and he probably doesn't care. He knows he's got it. He knows he's going to lead off both discs with five-fingered-fists-of-melodic-fury and you'll be on the ropes. TKO, baby." [6.21]
(best tracks: The Long Road, Show Me What You're Made Of, Dr. Jerk)

8. Kings of Leon - Only By the Night

"...absolute mastery of the mid-tempo emotional rock song" [9.23]
(best tracks: Manhatten, Use Somebody, Notion)

7. Ra Ra Riot - The Rhumb Line

"Not that The Rhumb Line is another tired '80s rehash. Nay, this record is hip enough for the hipsters, but fresher than a head of lettuce. This is a band unspoiled by lavishing blogs and music mags, young and full of rosy-cheeked optimism." [11.7]
(best tracks: Too Too Fast, Run My Mouth, Can You Tell)

6. Copeland - You Are My Sunshine

..."as uplifting as a fizzy lifting drink, a needed shot of warmth in this early Fall season when the chill sometimes whisps in through the cracks in the windows and floors." [10.15]
(best tracks: Should You Return, The Day I Lost My Voice (Suitcase Song), Chin Up [mp3])

5. Empire of the Sun - s/t

"...make the '80s sound new again, despite the era being walked on by countless bands for the last 10 years. This is infinitely cooler than the Madonna-on-acid album the Killers just made. It's synthy without being annoying. The basslines are alive. They dress up like Michael Jackson and Snarf from Thundercats. The first five tracks are going to knock you on your ass." [11.23]
(best tracks: Walking on a Dream, We Are The People, Half Mast)

4. Q-Tip - the Renaissance

"...notice served on a genre that loses more luster every year removed from the golden days of old-school. With Kanye pursuing his auto-tune dreams, Kamaal the Abstract (a.k.a. Q-Tip) is dropping piano hooks like they are steaming hot, laying beats like asphalt, and bringing the old-school back to the new-school. Class is now in session. There will be a test." [11.7]
(best tracks: Gettin' Up, Johnny Is Dead, Official)

3. Jamie Lidell - Jim

"Soul is back, baby, but it ain't nothin' like it used to be...the ultimate example of blending the old with the new. Twisting staleness into freshy-freshness. Jamie owes a lot to Stevie, Al, Sam, and Marvin for this record, but I'm guessing they're just happy to be in the conversation again. In this one, your feet will do all the talking." [4.30]
(best tracks: Wait For Me, Green Light, Figured Me Out)

2. Shearwater - Rook

"Both band and album named after different birds, this recording has wings like few could ever hope to possess. It glides along on the updrafts effortlessly before diving thousands of feet towards earth, cutting off at the last moment, just because." [6.5]
(best tracks: Leviathan Bound, Rooks, The Snow Leopard)

1. Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight

"This is a record for the lost, the found, the dead, and the born again. The broken, the lonely, the human, the thirsty, the tired and trampled. This is your golden crown." [5.18]
(best tracks: The Modern Leper, Heads Roll Off, Keep Yourself Warm [mp3])

See Also:
Top Songs of 2008, 2007 and 2006.
Top Albums of 2007 and 2006

The Top 50 (or 60) Songs of 2008

I like to make lists. I wouldn't say I'm a compulsive list-maker, but I do enjoy the feeling of putting down a litany of items onto a piece of paper, physical or virtual. I like to look at my lists and hold them in my thoughts, much like I might hold an after-dinner mint in my mouth, letting the particles slowly dissolve to mush in order to more greatly appreciate the sum of their parts. As a sports-fan, I live for a few times of the year (CFB Bowl Season (Hokies in the Orange Bowl!), March Madness, Super Bowl weekend), but as a music-lover, I live for December when I finally get to sit down with this elephant that's been hiding in the corner for all of 2008 and systematically begin to pick his brain. It's always fun, always difficult (like picking a favorite child) and rarely a unanimous decision between the hemispheres of my head, but this list will always remain intact as a snapshot of 2008, seen through my eyes this day, the 12th of December. I hope you enjoyed 2008 and its bounty of music as much as I did. Thanks for reading...

Disclaimer #1: I don't like having multiple songs on the list by the same band, there's just too much great music out there to recognize and it's so obviously biased towards favorite bands to pick multiples of their songs. Therefore, I just pick my favorite song off the album and toss it in here.

Disclaimer #2: As stated previous years, the "calendar year" release structure is a sometimes-fuzzy concept. Often records are independently released one year, then picked up for national (or international) release the next year. I'm honestly fine with counting the album amongst either year, but never on both years. Thusly, Bon Iver (a near universal top 10 pick of magazines and bloggers everywhere this year) will not appear here because he was in my top picks of 2007 (God, what an amazing album though). Also, MGMT's "Kids" was released first on Jan 1, 2005, then again digitally last October and then finally on physical CD this January. It's amazing how old "one of 2008's best songs" is, isn't it? But I digress...

These 10 songs just missed the cut and I thought you might be curious who was on the bubble...
60. The Helio Sequence - Can't Say No
59. Ida - Lover's Prayer
58. Mas y Mas - Hi - [mp3]
57. These United States - First Sight
56. Elbow - The Bones of You
55. Ben Sollee - Change is Gonna Come
54. Ben Folds - Effington - *
53. The Virgins - Rich Girls
52. Inara George & Van Dyke Parks - Duet
51. Annuals - Confessor

The Top 50
50. Winterpills - Beesting
49. Y'all Is Fantasy Island - With Handclaps
48. The Rosebuds - Life Like
47. Young Coyotes - When I Was In the Fire
46. Flight of the Conchords - Ladies of the World
45. Surrounded - Safe Tomorrow Sun
44. Sunny Day Sets Fire - Smallest Heart on Earth
43. Samamidon - Sugar Baby
42. Kaki King - Life Being What it Is
41. The Do - Stay (Just a Little Bit More)
40. Death Cab for Cutie - Grapevine Fires - *
39. The Broken West - Perfect Games
38. David Karsten Daniels - That Knot Unties?
37. Port O'Brien - I Woke Up Today
36. Supergrass - When I Needed You
35. Francis and the Lights - A Modern Promise
34. Tingsek - Let It Shine
33. Chris Bathgate - Yes, I'm Cold
32. Chris Walla - Sing Again
31. Fleet Foxes - Blue Ridge Mountains
30. Kings of Leon - Manhatten
29. Chris Merritt - The Long Road - [mp3]
28. The Weepies - Can't Go Back Now
27. Vetiver - The Swimming Song
26. What Made Milwaukee Famous - Sultan
25. Colour Revolt - What Will Become of Us? - Georgia rockers got mad love from the Paste Top 50 (#35)
24. The Dodos - Fools
23. Vampire Weekend - Bryn - Hype can be a dangerous thing, as these hipsters can attest. They dial down the afro-pop to acceptable (and downright enjoyable) levels for this one track.
22. Guillemots - Get Over It
21. Tokyo Police Club - In a Cave
20. The Streets - On the Edge of a Cliff - * - the "profoundly simple story of your seredipitous existence" [10.7]
19. The Morning Benders - Patient Patient
18. Thao Nguyen & the Get Down Stay Down - Swimming Pools - "disarming, adorably fragile" [1.11]
17. Margot & the Nuclear So-and-So's - As Tall As Cliffs
16. Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin - Modern Mystery - * - immaculately crafted indie-pop.
15. Mates of State - Get Better
14. Nada Surf - I Like What You Say
13. Passion Pit - Sleepyhead
12. Adele - Hometown Glory
11. Ra Ra Riot - Too Too Fast - *
10. Copeland - Should You Return
9. Department of Eagles - In Ear Park
8. Ray LaMontagne - Let It Be Me - With a deep sigh at the outset, Ray LaMontagne is again the voice of longing and timeless love.
7. Frightened Rabbit - Heads Roll Off
6. MGMT - Electric Feel - "hip-stuttering synth-glam gem" [4.14]
5. Sam Sparro - Too Many Questions - * - Help, somebody, the dance floor is on fire.
4. Q-Tip - Gettin' Up - The former Tribe Called Quest frontman picks up sticks like it's still 1988.
3. Jamie Lidell - Wait For Me - * - Mr. Lidell is not getting the cred he deserves elsewhere, but I'll make up for it here. This kind of soul is in short supply.
2. Empire of the Sun - Walking on a Dream - "infinitely cool" [9.15]
1. Shearwater - Leviathan Bound - * - Everything about this song, from the tack-struck piano wires to Jonathan Meiburg's floating falsetto, has reverent weight. The pacing is impeccable, the restraint impressive, and the result palpable. Feel the texture of an angel's sleeve, people.

See Also:
The Top Albums of 2008, 2007 and 2006
The Top Songs of 2007 and 2006

*Since Blogger decided to delete the first posting of this list, without reason or announcement, I removed almost all of the mp3s (all of which had been posted here before and can be found on a number of other blogs whose posts are not deleted). And if you happen to work for Blogger and are reading these words: Go f*ck yourself. Thank you for stealing all the joy out of something I've worked so hard on for the last 2.5 years.


Listening Assignments 12.8.08

1. Friendly Fires - Paris - "Best of" lists are a lot of fun around this time of year, though by January they'll all blend together. E-mag lists are pretty predictable, almost like a template: Whatever the blogs loved this year, a few mainstream tracks (hip-hop/rap if at all possible), and a random song or two no one heard this year because "Europe is eating this up right now" and it hasn't yet reached our shores. This song by Friendly Fires is one of the latter, found on the first top 50 list I read this year, and it's a gorgeous and frenetic dream overdose. [from Friendly Fires|buy]

2. John Davis - Lamentation vs. Laughter - The former Superdrag frontman has gone solo and picked up a bible to thump, but he's still cranking out jet-fueled guitar riffs and driving power pop like he's sleepwalking. Stop-and-go rockers are always something I can get behind, especially when they evoke The Grays and Foo Fighters. [from Arigato!|buy]

3. Bon Iver - Beach Baby - Justin Vernon's project has gotten a lot of pub this year, and deservedly so. For Emma, Forever Ago was a tweener, self-released last year and re-released this year, allowing for "Best of" entries on both calendars. He was on my '07 list, so I couldn't mention him again without newness, found here in the form of a much-anticipated EP that does nothing but continue to build up the aura of impeccable, beautiful emotion Justin has perfected at every step. [from Blood Bank EP out 1.20|pre-order]

4. Matt Pond PA - Hearts and Minds - Somehow, for some reason, Matt Pond stopped being cool or something. I saw him play at the NorVA to 800 people on the Several Arrows Later tour, then two years later he played to 200 (maybe less). Pond will always remind me of a time where I was young and green and desperate to hear something real, which he readily provided. This EP is free, hence the name, and is better than last year's Last Light, in my opinion. Two damn good reasons to get clicking. [from the freeep|download free]


12.1.08 Listening Assignments

1. Mae - This Time Is the Last Time - In honor of the 5-year anniversary of Mae's first record (one of the albums that changed my life), they just put out a choose-your-own-adventure-style DVD packed full of song-by-song commentary. It occasionally edges on self-serving, but the majority is a fascinating look on how the songs were written and recorded and a few charming vignettes on how the band came to be. It's a must have if you're a fan. [from Destination:Beautiful|buy|buy DVD]

2. Prabir & The Substitutes - The Kiss - Took in this unassuming and completely cool band @ the Taphouse in Norfolk last Saturday. 5-part harmonies, dueling hollowbodies, and tambourine tossing ruled the night. Very Elvis Costello, very garage-pop savvy. [from Five Little Pieces|buy]

3. Emil & Friends - Fire Flower - I got an e-mail the other day from the "Emile Hirsch", moviestar extraordinaire and apparent karaoke enthusiast. I was directed to this EP and myspace, which I clicked with equal parts curiosity and fear. And I was rewarded for my efforts with an out-of-nowhere thoroughly impressive lo-fi collection of beautiful weirdpop. It's clearly not the real Emile, but the PR tactic was one of the more clever I've encountered and managed to fool at least one other blogger. I could have posted 4 of the 5 songs here, it's that good. [from Downed Economy EP|myspace|e-mail him for a free copy]

4.Rubies - The Truth and the Lies - There are days where this song is all I need. This song is swaddled in silk, it coos in ears, soft and warm as baby's breath. [from Explode from the Center|buy]