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:

    boniver

  • 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?
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Showtime: My Morning Jacket, Fillmore Miami Beach

I’ve become very appreciative of the Fillmore Miami Beach, the new incarnation of the venerable Jackie Gleason Theater. After enjoying a thoroughly brilliant set by Vampire Weekend earlier this year, I had the chance to see what might well be my personal favorite band, My Morning Jacket, in the chandeliered beauty.

From my cellphone (not bad!), a look at the powerful light show at MMJ.
From my cellphone (not bad!), a look at the powerful light show at MMJ.

Of all of the bands I’ve had the chance to see, My Morning Jacket is the only one I’ve traveled more than three hours to follow — I made a 10-hour trip to North Charleston, S.C. to catch the first show of their last tour. So to me, the show at the Fillmore was this year’s golden ticket.

And this show truly was golden, from the word go. As a proper fan, I checked the playlists from the last few shows on MMJ’s tour, and felt confident enough to make a CD package of what I figured to be the band’s set list for Miami for a more neophyte attendee.

Then they go and basically flip it.

And seriously flip it — playing “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream, Pt. 2” right BEFORE Pt. 1 of the same song as the show’s entre. One of the more adventurous songs on MMJ’s new album, Evil Urges, it worked well as a show opener as it allowed the audience to ease in.

Crowd pleasers like “Wordless Chorus”, “Phone Went West” and “The Way That He Sings” followed, surrounding the new album’s title track — which has a lovely dollop of Prince mixed with their usual Southern gothic sound — and the aggressive “Highly Suspicious.” 

Another change from other shows — a slightly more laid back list, with slower-tempoed songs like “It Beats 4 U” and “Knot Comes Loose” interspersed. Songs like that highlight lead singer Jim James’ voice to the fullest. 

The rest of the band’s shining moment comes during the encore, with extremely good, powerful sounds from longtime concert staples “Golden”, “Run Thru” and “One Big Holiday”. Guitarist Carl Broemel and keyboardist Bo Koster both held strong roles, but to me, the stars of these songs were the rhythm section — bassist Two-Tone Tommy and, especially, drummer Patrick Hallahan. 

Hallahan also had a huge visual role, serving as a sort of human timepiece during “Run Thru” in the band’s remarkable light show.

If you’d like to check out a great photo set from the show, check out Margarita Gonzalez’s album at Prefix. Also, enjoy Shaun Flagg’s photos from Skope… and yeah, that’s this entry as the review…

Choice concerts: The best… right now

Kind of an easy choice, and now that I’m awake enough, here it is:

MMJ in New York (courtesy Eric Moore/mymorningjacket.com)
MMJ in New York (courtesy Eric Moore/mymorningjacket.com)

My Morning Jacket, Aug. 29, Fillmore Miami Beach.

I flipped for My Morning Jacket in 2005, when they put out Z. It was right when I had just purchased my XM receiver, and I think it was XMU that was playing “Gideon”. My jaw just dropped.

It never quite recovered. I went to see them in Charleston, S.C., and they were even more brilliant live. Their older songs, which really never caught me in their recorded form, had a lot of resonance in a live setting.

This is the big ticket for this time of year. MMJ is regarded by a lot of folks, including myself, as the best live band going right now. The band is an incredibly tight unit, and frontman Jim James has one of the best voices around.

Currently, MMJ is touring in support of Evil Urges, their first studio album since Z — though they did release the excellent live album Okonokos. A friend recently told me that he was really put off by the new LP’s first two tracks — hey, not everything is for everyone, and even Rolling Stone said Evil Urges has its WTF moments, but I happen to like it. It’s a real stretch for the band, while putting out a more live vibe. Besides, songs like “I’m Amazed”. “Librarian” and “Sec Walkin” are among their very best.

Watch “I’m Amazed” from this year’s Coachella Fest (great sound, you just have to see between everyone else’s heads — just like a real show!!):

Also appearing: A night of rollin’ with ja at Mizner on Saturday: Half Pint, Pepper, Slightly Stoopid and the always remarkable Sly & Robbie. … Thank God It’s Honey includes Ex Norwegians and Noble Rocket at The Lounge in West Palm. … Kill Miss Pretty’s CD release party with The Holy Terrors and Captain Dan & The Scurvy Crew on Saturday at Respectable Street.