of Maine


The Best Albums of 2008 (top 25)

snail1The suspense has been excrutiating, I know.

A note or two on the list: if there were a #1 in my brain here, it’d either be Bon Iver or Erykah Badu; #1 in my heart, maybe Women. Been kind of “not liking music” lately (this is the reason for the delay), but we’ll try to get things back on track here at of Maine HQ. I’ll either talk about things I do like right now (basically Hauschka and the two other things I’ve listened to in 2009), whine about things I don’t really like that everyone else does (buzz kids of the week The Pains of Being Pure at Heart), or talk about how underwhelming this year’s Best Picture nominees are.

Here I thought I liked winter… Anyway.

Arthur Russell, Love Is Overtaking Me
Beach House, Devotion
Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago
Chad VanGaalen, Soft Airplane
Cut Copy, In Ghost Colours
Dan Friel, Ghost Town
Deerhunter, Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.
Erykah Badu, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)
Fuck Buttons, Street Horrsing
Gang Gang Dance, Saint Dymphna
Grouper, Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill
Hercules & Love Affair, s/t
Los Campesinos!, Hold On Now, Youngster
M83, Saturdays = Youth
Max Tundra, Parallax Error Beheads You
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, s/t
No Age, Nouns
Sam Amidon, All is Well
The Tallest Man on Earth, Shallow Graves
The Walkmen, You & Me
The War on Drugs, Wagonwheel Blues
White Denim, Exposion
Why?, Alopecia
Wolf Parade, At Mount Zoomer
Women, s/t



Sam Amidon and Nat Baldwin in Portland
December 18, 2008, 2:42 pm
Filed under: Hasty Music Reviews, Work | Tags: ,

samamidonHello all. Be alerted that end-of-year listmaking activities are in progress, and will be posted here…next week? Requiring more effort and self-criticism than expected…

But on that note – and to violate a tenet of this blog – I feel a need to urge my local readers to attend a couple of concerts this weekend, featuring a couple of my favorite artists of 2008.

First up, on Friday night, Sam Amidon’s at One Longfellow Square with my dear friend Cerf-Volantes. I’ve written at length about Amidon’s album here, and written more about a song he sang on another album here, but long story short: his latest album, All is Well – a set of revinvented traditional folk songs – is one of the most beautiful and accomplished albums of 2008. You’d be well served to check this bright young talent out Friday.

Best of all, I just found that the old office auction site is selling “buy it now” tickets at half price right now. Bidding ends at 5 pm on Friday, where you’ll have to get by with the also-worthwhile $10 price.

A couple other fine articles on Sam Amidon’s album, from Stylus and Pitchfork.

On Saturday, upright bassist Nat Baldwin – who served time gigging with Department of Eagles this year – is in town for the winter and playing at Field, on India St. That’s an early one – 6:30 pm – and a cozy evening of string music. I’m sort of co-hosting the show, so we’ll be whipping up some hot chocolate or toddies or something for you, and we ask you donate some cash ($5, ideally) for Mr. Baldwin and the other artists. Baldwin’s 2008 album, Most Valuable Player, has also been getting some Best of 2008 love. Read a nice entry (with 5 mp3s) here at the #4 slot, and here‘s my article about the album.

Hope you can make it to one or both. You’ll be glad you did.



TV on the Radio, Babar, Sam Amidon, and more!
September 22, 2008, 9:43 am
Filed under: Hasty Music Reviews, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

– Seriously folks, seeing illustrations of Babar in the Times and the New Yorker these past couple weeks has warmed my pretending-to-be-cynical heart many, many times. Gush. And, as an aside, all of this coverage makes me wish my memories of Babar were not simply being bored by the HBO cartoon as a child.

– Anyway, today’s main topic of discussion was to be TV on the Radio’s new album, Dear Science, (important question the internet hasn’t answered yet: do you put a comma after an album with a comma in the title?), but fortunately for all of us, Chris Dahlen wrote the Pitchfork review, and as usual he nails an extremely complicated album. It’s worth noting that the 9.2 grade seems slightly at odds with Dahlen’s review, but I understand the sentiment: in moments the album is more interesting (and easier) to think about than to just enjoy, but this seems a case where an album’s Symbolic Importance (as genuinely progressive rock music) outweighs its mere likability. And that said, I’m liking it more every time I listen to it. Popmatters also does a better job with it than they usually do.

– Also worth a look is Chris Dahlen’s blog, Save the Robot. (He is, it turns out, a Portsmouth NH resident.) His blog most often focuses on video games, with occasional sidetracks into movies and music, and he’s an immensely levelheaded and appealing writer. (Heed his notice on Max Tundra. And Shugo Tokumaru.)

– Cokemachineglow’s Eric Sams manages to address most of my beef with the new Okkervil River (the sensation, not the album necessarily) and still come out liking it. Here’s hoping.

– At Shake Your Fist, there’s a nice song by Sam Amidon from Awake My Soul, the Sacred Harp documentary mentioned a few weeks back. We mention this mainly because it was recently announced that Amidon’s coming to One Longfellow Square in Portland in December, which has quickly become my second-most anticipated concert of the year (after Andrew Bird, coming up quickly). I will be promoting the shit out of Amidon’s performance in the coming months. Look back to my Nico Muhly post for a little more on him.

– What would the White House look like if it were designed today?

– From the Department of Hilarious Lack of Imagination, The Shawshank Redemption is to be reissued on DVD, and the cover could scarcely look more like that of a Star Wars film.



Nico Muhly, Mothertongue
August 25, 2008, 8:53 am
Filed under: Hasty Music Reviews | Tags: , , , ,

Nico Muhly is 27 years old, and is already a sought-after and increasingly hip modern classical musician. His day job, as of February at least, is as a sort of technical assistant in Phillip Glass’s studio. A recent New Yorker profile portrays him much like one would a modern teenager: he chats on the web while he composes, finds inspiration in Youtube videos and more arcane tchotchkes. He comes off as a voracious and almost indiscriminate consumer of information, a habit he has a bad habit of contextualizing. (He seems more genial in this much shorter interview, so perhaps it was a framing issue.)

His new album, Mothertongue, is in a way a pretty literal take on what seems to be his personality. It’s comprised of three very different suites. The first, the four-track “Mothertongue,” is dominated by a glittering widescreen composition and a soprano vocalist reciting a rapid-fire series of numbers and words that overlap and collide at random. It’s overwhelming in a strange way, easy to dismiss but you’d rather try and dig a little deeper (where you find little but more chaos). Three-part “Wonders” is all bloated horns, classical organ, and a new, more sober voice reciting (I think) an old travel narrative. For the wayward indie fan, it’s “The Only Tune” suite that will suck you in, if you can make it that far. Sam Amidon sings the story of a girl drowning after her sister pushes her into a river, and a man who drags her out of the water and turns her body into a fiddle. A gruesome story given the ache of tragedy, the story is the most explicit rendering of the album’s theme of journeying. “Mothertongue” is a wandering through chaos, “Wonders” through the past, and “The Only Tune” through our bodies and into something else. (Amidon practically births the suite, beginning the story over and over again, adding one word at a time to great effect.)

Ultimately, it’s satisfying that Mothertongue begins with its most “difficult” song and ends with its most pleasant. It’s harder to look at Muhly’s compositions as overstuffed or pretentious when they come to such an evocative, lovely end.

I’ll hopefully have more to say about Muhly soon. Apparently his website offers loads of mp3s of his other works, and there are a couple of other indie/modern classical albums I’ve been meaning to spend more time with (Kingdom Shore’s …and all the dogs to shark and Max Richter’s 24 Postcards in Full Color), so be on the lookout.