My list: The Top 5 albums of the year…

As I am officially not a music critic anymore but a wannabe (has-been? Wanna-not-be?), I don’t feel the compulsion to share my top 10 albums of the year with you, in carefully decided order.

As a person with a massive ego, however, I would like to give you my top five in no order, plus a mess of honorable mention… ready, here goes:

My Top 5 Albums of 2008:


  • For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver: Like a lot of top 10 critical favorites this year, the album by Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver, has been passed from publication to publication, blog to blog, as writers search for words like soulful, impassioned, etc. In this case, it’s well-deserved.
  • m83Saturdays=Youth, M83: A beautiful throwback album, not so much the music but the feeling. A joyous collection – and I can’t get Kim & Jessie out of my head right now.
  • standinsThe Stand-Ins, Okkervil River: Can Will Sheff make a misstep right now? Not musically anyway. I can’t speak for any other facet of his life.
  • saadiqThe Way I See It, Raphael Saadiq: Brilliant on so many levels, mostly as a celebration of what makes good soul music great.
  • dearscienceDear Science, TV On The Radio: People call My Morning Jacket America’s Radiohead. Wrong. MMJ is America’s U2 (Unforgettable Fire-style). TVOTR is America’s Radiohead – they make the most experimental stuff sound amazing.

Honorable Mention:

  • Attack & Release, Black Keys
  • In Ghost Colours, Cut Copy
  • Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, Drive-By Truckers
  • Feed The Animals, Girl Talk
  • Stay Positive, The Hold Steady
  • Asking For Flowers, Kathleen Edwards
  • Only By The Night, Kings Of Leon
  • Hold on Now, Youngster, Los Campesinos!
  • Oracular Spectacular, MGMT
  • Evil Urges, My Morning Jacket
  • Consolers of the Lonely, The Raconteurs
  • Parallel Play, Sloan
  • Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
  • You and Me, The Walkmen
  • The Week That Was, The Week That Was
  • Alopecia, Why?

Choice concerts: Of obscure ’80s albums

299px-ivan_neville_photo1I look back on my college years when I was voracious with my love of music, picking out interesting choices. Many times these were acts never heard from again.

Or albums that never quite made their mark. Such is the story of If My Ancestors Could See Me Now by Ivan Neville.

ivan_ancestors2The son of Aaron Neville and longtime associate to both the Neville Brothers and the Rolling Stones, Ivan was trying to establish his footprint, mixing in a lot of different influences — funk, African, New Orleans, straight-ahead rock. With a very different voice than his father’s — a rough-hewn vocal rather than the ultra-smooth wonder that is Aaron Neville’s instrument — Ivan, at least in my mind, built a wonderful sound for himself. (I can still hear the album’s final song, “Sun”, and its keyboard flourishes. Damn, that song makes me happy.)

Of course, Ivan’s done pretty well for himself, mostly working with others. However, he’s always had time for his own music — he’s done three other solo LPs and has done a lot of stuff with his band, Dumpstafunk. Sunday, he’ll take a break from Dumpstafunk for Jackie’s 40th Jam at Delray’s City Limits, alongside cousin Ian Neville and Nick Daniels, Ray Weber and Tony Hall. Expect an excellent time. Don’t expect anything from that 1988 album. (Although, I’d lose my damn mind if he did play something from it.)

Here’s Ivan from a past jam with Hall, Weber and others at the Culture Room, performing James Brown’s “Superbad”:

South Florida’s best show: If you can get out to see the masked wonders that are the Aquabats at Culture Room on Friday night, do so. They can only help you.

If money’s no object: Because they’re not heading to Florida this tour, board the Learjet and head up to Boston for one of a two-show set with Kings of Leon at the awesome Orpheum on Wednesday and Thursday. Or just stay up there for both shows, get a great Italian meal in the North End and fly back for the Aquabats on Friday and Ivan Neville’s jam on Sunday.

Also appearing this week, sometime Dave Matthews compatriot Tim Reynolds heads to City Limits with TR3 on Thursday… A Black Crowes show is always a cool slab of Southern Rock — they play the Fillmore Miami Beach on Wednesday… I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Cobra Starship’s show at Revolution on Wednesday as well… Steppin’ out tonight? Joe Jackson’s at the Fillmore on Saturday.

Showtime!: Kings of Leon/BRMC/The Features @ Revolution, Ft. Lauderdale

First of all, I hate when they don’t allow cameras at a show. I don’t know whether it was in one of these bands’ riders or it’s a standing rule at Revolution, but I never saw what sense it made.

Hence, no photos from this show.

The good news is that this show — which was outside, while Thursday’s show was indoors — was blessed by some of the best weather South Florida’s had in months. And that made it easier to endure a three-band bill.

Now, these were three bands I happen to like, but I don’t care if R.E.M. shows up with Radiohead and Guster, I’m going to be suffering if it’s in a club. I’m not exactly a kid.

That said, I can’t say there was necessarily a bad moment during the show. Headliner Kings of Leon — and there was more than a little shock among the group I went with that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club was opening for the Kings — showed they earned that status by getting the crowd whipped into a frenzy with a good mix of songs from their three albums.

However, this is what I was expecting:

Kings of Leon

Long hair, right? (note Caleb Followill, the band’s lead singer, second from right)

This is what I saw:

Kings — short hair


They still sounded as if they had the long hair associated with their modern-but-Southern sound. Most of the songs had quick tempos — and boom, mosh pit! — but still had Caleb’s growly twang, unmistakably Southern.

The Followills — brothers Caleb, Jared (bass) and Nathan (drums), and cousin Matthew (guitar) — are as tight as a duck’s ass, though Caleb clearly wasn’t happy with something on stage: “Are you guys havin’ fun tonight? (cheer!!) Well, I’m not! But I am getting drunk, so that’s something!”

If drink fueled the Kings’ performance, antipathy seemed to do the same for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. It appeared the three men in the band — guitarist Peter Hayes, bassist Robert Levon Been and drummer Nick Jago — had little interest in talking with one another, focusing instead on delivering a blistering set.


Most of the set came from the band’s latest album, Baby 81, generally considered the least of BRMC’s four LPs. But its original-BRMC-sound-meets-Love-and-Rockets vibe did seem to work well for the most part. I thought “666 Conducer” was a high point of the show — but I also rather enjoyed hearing “Ain’t No Easy Way Out”, their only nod to Howl, their shocking (and, in my opinion, very successful) shift into an Americana band. I only wish they would’ve broken out  “Shuffle Your Feet”, but I gather they’re trying to move away from that sound, as Jago, who didn’t play on the Howl sessions, has a fuller role in BRMC again.

It was very exciting for me to see The Features, a band from Tennessee that I figured I might not get the chance to see. Despite having one of the best albums from 2004, Exhibit A, Universal Music dropped the band.


But the band persevered, even when their original keyboardist left. They picked up a new keyboardist — and considering the huge role keyboard instruments play in The Features’ sound, it was a big-time move — released the Contrast EP on their own dime and starting to build their audience on the road.

The Features’ set was all too brief, hitting high points from both discs. Not everyone gets into lead singer Matt Pelham’s quavering vocal, but I think it works with their songs full of what feels like nervous energy. (Plus Matt seems like a hell of a nice guy, as I chatted with him afterwards while buying a T-shirt.)