Ken Beck Poop 08

Three of my top ten are of the reissue variety. And one is a compilation of folk guitar instrumentals from 1966 through 1981. That leaves a paltry six releases over the course of twelve months that inspired me enough to pick my head up and take notice. What should I make of this? Well, 2008 wasn’t the easiest year for pretty much anyone I’ve talked to and I’m sure the same can be said for you folks here. So I’ll cut the artists and labels some slack. Let’s all hope we all see a little light by the end of 2009 and please, let’s be patient with President Obama. He’s got one helluva mess to clean up after!

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1. Dennis Wilson – Pacific Ocean Blue/Bambu (reissue) [Legacy]
Temptation is great to spend both sides of this paper waxing poetic about this sublime lost-classic and not bother with any wordage on the other favorites of this past year. This album takes such an enormously heavy toll on me that I swear it feels as if that my body ages a full week in one listen. Legacy really did an outstanding job resurrecting this slice of 70s Californian decadence. Your heart really goes out to Dennis and the pain he must have been enduring. For once, let’s give the drummer some and all of our undivided attention.

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2. Neil Young – Sugar Mountain (Live at Canterbury House 1968) [Reprise]
It took me no longer than two listens to slot this in for this year’s poop. Honestly, they could have released this album with the banter alone and I’d still have bought it. Getting to hear all of these songs in this stripped-down, low-fi affair is once again revelatory and only further leaves me wanting more.

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3. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Real Emotional Trash [Matador]
After 2005’s somewhat-forgettable “Face The Truth”, Stephen kicks it back into gear with this doozy. Guitar heroics are front and center especially with the title cut but overall a real cohesive and inspiring release from this former slacker who really knows how to work it.

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4. The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely [Warner Brothers]
This may come of really sophomoric, but plain and simple, this album kicks ass. All of the right components are here again with White, Benson, et al… ampin’ it up! What put it over the top for me was hearing their inspired version of Terry Reid’s “Rich Kid Blues” with a seamless transition into of their own gems “These Stones Will Shout”.

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5. Department of Eagles – In Ear Park [4AD]
This album continues to unfold before my ears like seeking a perfectly formed, red tomato on the vine in a city-block-wide garden. I know one day soon all will be revealed, but as of this writing, I’m still savoring every moment this Pink Floyd by-way-of Brooklyn bedroom band unfolds. Good things come to those who wait. Right? RIGHT?!?

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6. Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping [PolyVinyl]
Kevin Barnes is back and he’s still not cured of all that psychologically ails him. Thank goodness for that. I don’t think I could handle a chemically balanced album from him. This time around everything hinges around multiple personalities and his sexual identity. Add to that the musical inspirations of Brian Eno, Prince, Outkast, Bowie and My Bloody Valentine and you have yourself one hell of a complicated album. And get a load of these song titles: “Triphallus, To Punctuate!” and “Beware Our Nubile Miscreants.”

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7. Various Artists – Wayfaring Strangers: Guitar Soli [The Numero Group]
Oh how I wish I could play ANY of these songs on my dusty guitar in the basement. A bit of an out-of-left-field album for me, but it was the perfect antidote to a hectic and unsettling time in my storied career. It also helped in opening my ears to John Fahey. I can see an album like this inspiring a rabid search for some of the artist’s full-length albums. But not so with me; this’ll do just fine thank you. Though one day I may want to find out more about this Jim Ohlschmidt fella and his “Delta Freeze” (this guy is one bad-ass mutha of a slide player.) Makes me want to wear comfy wallabees, throw some wood on the fire (if I had a fireplace), pack a pipe with some apple-spice (though the other stuff wouldn’t be a bad match either) and watch the wind blow tall trees branches to and fro. Don’t worry, I snapped out of it and got all sorts of bitter again.

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8. School of Language – Sea From Shore [Thrill Jockey]
Not much of a surprise here given my past affinity for Field Music and the fact that they’ve been on my lists for each consecutive release. A much more bombastic affair here and far more satisfying than the other dude’s project, The Week That Was.

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9. Lambchop – OH (Ohio) [Merge]
I got a last minute invite to see one of Yo La Tengo’s annual Hannukah shows at Maxwells and was treated to these guys as the surprise, opening act. Last time I saw them was easily a decade or more ago as a behemoth twelve piece act complete with a horn/sax section. It was a memorable show, but not nearly as memorable as this incarnation as a stripped down five piece. For those in love with heavy lyric gun-slinging mixed with a soulful yet indie-rock vibe (think Sea & Cake fronted by a sub-par, white Al Green, if Al worked in a bookstore and drank Pabst Blue Ribbon).

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10. Nick Lowe – Jesus of Cool (reissue) [Yep Roc]
An already perfect thirty year old album, made all the more perfect by slappin’ on another nine great tracks and sprucing up the packaging in a simple but oh so apt fashion. One of those bonus tracks, “I Love My Label” may go down as the only positive song about an artist’s keeper. I presume from the median age of the contributors to this list, I don’t need to go into any further detail as most must have the original of this on vinyl and cherish it dearly.

Ken Beck, Cranford, NJ

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