Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Grizzly Life's Best Albums of 2008

#10. Zach Hill - Astrological Straits

Hill's first solo endeavor was a good one, but it had some holes in it. I found myself listening to several tracks off the album and loving them to death (almost playing them out), but others just weren't doing it for me. he employed some heavy hitters to accompany him on his journey through all that is weird and technical and challenging to listen to (in a good, inspiring way) and that's why it finds its way on to my list. 

#9. Parenthetical Girls - Entanglements

The (((GRRRLS))) were never on my radar until this year, and I'm certainly glad that I've caught on, but I can't say the same for everyone else. I have seen mixed reactions to this album, and I can imagine why. It challenges a certain sector of things that are beautiful and pushes them to a place that almost ends up ugly, but ends up redeeming itself time and time again. Entanglements can be frustrating to listen to, but the walls of sound the Girls throw at you are beautiful and orchestrated in a way that demands attention and isn't like anything else that came out this year. 

#8. The Dodos - Visiter 

The Dodos worked hard this year, touring their asses off all across the United States and Europe, but a lot of bands did that. I had to tip my hat to the band when I saw their schedule for SXSW, where they played a show practically every day of the festival and even two on several days. They also worked pretty hard to ramp up their music and that's completely evident when listening to their last effort, Beware of the Maniacs, and their latest, Visiter. Their sound is tighter and more precise and Meric Long's writing has matured. 

#7. Marnie Stern - This Is It...

From the jump on This Is It... you might think this album will be just like the next, with the chanting, cryptic lyrics, but this one is so much better than the last. She has taken her music to a new level and it sounds better than last time. She still has the chanting and cryptic lyrics, but the music goes right along with them and they don't overpower the album this time. Zach Hill's drumming is spot on and Marnie Stern's finger tapping is just as good as she has lead us to believe from her past works. 

#6. Department of Eagles - In Ear Park

When I first turned on this album, I felt like it would just be a lesser Grizzly Bear album, feeling like some of the parts of the band were missing. It doesn't feel like that at all upon further listening. The album really comes off, in the end, as a compilation of Daniel Rossen's home recordings. Parts of the album are brilliant, and others I could do without, but the parts that shine, really shine. 

#5. No Age - Nouns

It is such a shame that Nouns already feels played out and over-rated, but it does. Those flaws aside, Nouns is a bright, original album that plays great all the way through. The way they blend everything that came before them and everything they are making up on their own is uncanny. The ambience is never too much and almost welcomed in between the other sharp, biting songs. 

#4. High Places - High Places

High Places should win the award for the most underrated band of 2008. I can't believe they haven't blown up, but in a year full of copy-cat musicians, I guess people aren't ready for these electronic hippie jams. High Places' self-titled debut (not counting the compilation of their previously released material that came out last year) is incredibly refreshing in a world of grey music. 

#3. Beach House - Devotion

Music that can be seen as beautiful in that ethereal, flowing kind of way was in short supply this year, but I guess that's why we have Beach House. Devotion takes what they did on their self-titled debut and expands on their lo-fi sound, turning not into an overproduced mess, but a beautiful piece of work. Putting Baltimore on the indie-map, along with bands like The Death Set and Dan Deacon, they seem to be having a positive impact on the localization of music, while at the same time expanding their lull over the better part of the country. 

#2. Xiu Xiu - Women As Lovers

Jamie Stewart and crew keep finding ways to expand their ever growing sound and Women As Lovers does just that. Their catalogue is already packed full of some of the most original songs of our time, and this album adds to the list. I feel like I might be swayed in their direction a little too much, but this is all about taste right? Stewart's lyrics, partially borrowed from Austrian author and playwright Elfriede Jelinek on one song, continue to push forward, where other bands would have fallen off by now. THe band's sound is also as tight as it has been, making the cohesive bond between the individual members feel more like a band and less like Stewart with a baking group (although it is still very much his). 

#1. Deerhoof - Offend Maggie

Less art and more pop can sum up Offend Maggie when looking at Deerhoof retrospectively, but that's not all the the album s about. It certainly does have another dynamic to it, while dropping some of what has made the band such a hit with the arts-ier crowd, and adding to their sound with throwback riffs and a groovy vibe while still retaining their wackier side. The band as a whole has progressed so much over time that this seems like the logical place for them to be. With thousands of miles logged and tons of songs penned, Offend Maggie feels comfortable, while still challenging the listener. It is something to be said that this album did not get the critical acclaim that I am giving it, but I feel that it certainly is due. It feels like the tightest album of the year and I don't think the band has fallen off a bit. 

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Notes on 2008: Personally, I feel that this year was a weak one for musical releases. This list is comprised of the releases from this year that I listened to the most and I am not excluding anything. These ten records were it, and then I put them in order of how strongly I felt about them and how good they were as albums, from start to finish. Other years, I have had definite #1's and had to keep some off to have a list of ten, but this year just felt weak. Don't let that come off as me saying these aren't good. They are excellent, but I'm just not feeling this year too much as far as releases go though. I just wanted more to pick from. 

That being said, I would like to mention that titles like The Death Set's Worldwide and Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago would have found their ways onto the list, but I excluded them for different reasons. For one, The Death Set had an excellent group of songs on the album, but the ones I enjoyed were ones they had previously released and I was familiar with long before the album was released. The newer material just didn't hit tome with me and that's why it isn't on this list. Also, in the case of Bon Iver, I felt that I couldn't overlook the fact that the material was technically and legitimately available last year (he released the vinyl for the album last year on his own accord), which is a technicality I couldn't bring myself to overlook. if you find in on another list this year, they felt differently about it than I. 

Let's hope 2009 can keep some wonderful music from getting over-hyped. It happens too often and I feel like it might happen next year for several projects I am really looking forward to, but I just don't want to see legitimately good material played out for all the wrong reasons. Keep the hype down in '09 people. Please. 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Morrissey Plans a Date for Austin


That's right people! Morrissey is finally making his way back around to our fair city. The Moz's new album Years of Refusal is set for a February 17, 2009 release here in the states, and he will find himself out on the road for the better part of the year following its release. Thinking ahead, as we often like to do, we thought we would let you know that he will be playing UT's Bass Concert Hall on April 12 of next year.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Animal Collective to Release Merriweather Post Pavilion Vinyl Early!

Here's the news from the press release:
Animal Collective’s 9th full-length album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, will be released early on deluxe 2xLP 180-gram gatefold vinyl with full album download card (WAV or MP3) January 6th 2009, on Domino Records in North America.  The CD & digital release date will remain January 20th (Jan. 12 UK/Europe). To coincide with the early vinyl release will be a series of release/listening parties across the country in conjunction with Terrorbird Media, Domino, record stores, blogs and college radio stations. The release parties will take place at record stores or venues the week of the vinyl release and will feature pre-orders, Animal Collective listing party exclusive goodies including giant posters and download cards, ticket giveaways and grand prize giveaways of ‘The Domino Years’ prize packs. Every party will be a little different, and information on the specifics of each party will be available on the host’s website. An up-to-date list of confirmed parties will be available at www.dominodecordco.us.
The parties will be taking place in cities across the country and Austin is one of the lucky ones to get one! It will be hosted at one of Austin's best record stores, End of an Ear, on January 3rd @ 6 p.m. Sounds like things are going to be fun, and you can count on us to be there. 


My Girls (live at Coachella 2008)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Parenthetical Girls Video : A Song for Ellie Greenwich

If you aren't familiar with Parenthetical Girls, I suggest you get familiar with their work, especially this year's release by the band entitled Entanglements. It is certainly one of this year's most overlooked releases and with a few more listens it may end up on my year-end 'Best of 2008' list. Here's the video for the beautifully orchestrated track "A Song for Ellie Greenwich". Hopefully we will see a lot more from the (((GRRRLS))). 

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Listen to Animal Collective's My Girls


It feels like the weekend in my head, and this song isn't helping me realize that its only Tuesday. Anyway, another Animal Collective song from their forthcoming album Merriweather Post Pavilion has found the light of day somehow, and this time its the gloriously upbeat and melodic song "My Girls". They were playing this on tour last year when we saw it and we knew it then at Material Things, but this new title lends more to the song and it sounds just as we thought it would. Give it a listen

Thanks to GVB for the tip. 

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

We Will Return Soon (Next Week)!


We have a lot going on in our personal lives, and unless some bomb ass stuff comes up, we won't be doing any reporting here on The Grizzly Life for the next few days. In the mean time, we will be compiling our lists of Best Albums, Best Shows, and the like. There will also be a huge Year In Review photo post coming soon, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Tonight : Deerhunter and Times New Viking @ Emo's

Roll 3 - 10

How could we forget?! Curse us if you will, but we won't act like you didn't already know about this show! Anyway, Deerhunter, lead by Bradford Cox and all his weirdness, will be bringing their own brand of eerie indie to Emo's. They will be preceded by Times New Viking, whose grunge/garage inspired sounds will surely brighten up your December (...or maybe not). The thing I like about Deerhunter is that they are one of those buzz bands who actually has what it takes to rise above that and be good even after the buzz has died down. Anyway, its one of the only shows Austin is getting for a while, do you'd better get out there! The show is taking place on the outside stage at Emo's and things kick off at 10 p.m. with doors at 9 p.m. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Review & Photos : Zach Hill @ Mohawk

After a lot of shows there's often this buzz of sweet little adjectives and smiles but after Zach Hill ripped apart Mohawk with his 30+ minute performance of "Necromancer", there wasn't quite that sweet sentimentality in the crowd. There was more of a sense of "Oh my god. What the hell was that?". If anyone present at last night's performance ever sees another solo drum performance that tops that one, please let us know because we'd like to hear about it and compare notes.

Hill's performance was so intense that he would at times have to hop up a little bit off his seat to keep up with the pace he was setting for himself, and when he lurched forward it felt as if he was going to be in the crowd at any second. At one point, his feet were pounding the bass drum so fast, they could have easily been confused with his hands. He played to the backing track of Necromancer off his iPod with a little bit of Marnie Stern in there, and he played the song to match the iPod (with varying bits of improvisation here and there I'm sure). The thing that makes this one so special, besides the fact that he's one of the best drummers of our time, is that we don't often get to see someone performing their speciality on their own. Sure, Hill is just as good when he's playing with someone else, but when he's paying by himself, you just get him. The true testament to how hard he played, besides how technically outstanding it was, fell on the amount of perspiration the guy had during his performance. He literally looked like he had just stepped out a swimming pool when he stood up at the end of the performance. (On another note: Hill is such a nice guy. He's intense onstage, but he really is a nice guy)


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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tonight : Zach Hill @ Mohawk

This is another one of those shows that we have been gearing up for since we first heard about it. Zach Hill is right in the middle of tonight's bill, in between openers Truckasauras and headliners Subtle, but he's the main act in our hearts (aw!). When he's not drumming for Hella, Marnie Stern, or any of the other millions of bands he's in, he's touring on his own, playing one 30 minute song, "Necromancer", and leaving destruction in his wake! We just learned that the show has been moved inside, and that's probably for the best. Doors open at 8 p.m. so this one wont be too late tonight! Oh, and the poster also has The Clouds are Ghosts opening the show, but the site doesn't have Truckasauras playing, so we shall see!

Here's the video for Zach Hill's "Dark Art" from his solo album Astrological Straits:

Friday, November 21, 2008

First Batch of SXSW Bands Is Here!


So we can honestly say that we're excited about a couple of these bands, and maybe you are excited for more than we are, but here they are! SXSW has just given us their early batch of SXSW music performers in a blog post entitled '9 More Reasons to Attend SXSW Music 2009'. Here's the list so you don't have to click on over:
  • Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele
  • St. Vincent
  • Beach House
  • Anni Rossi
  • Future of the Left
  • White Lies
  • Passion Pit
  • B.O.B
  • Sage Francis
Since we're working out of Austin now, we will be posting more and more updates of those confirmed and unconfirmed bands, because speculation is half the fun, right? Anyway, any time we get wind of some new acts, we will post them here so you can do some first-hand speculation of your own. 

Tonight : Gang Gang Dance @ Mohawk

Tonight's show that we're endorsing: Gang Gang Dance @ Mohawk. Things should be fun! Its an early show, with doors at 8 p.m. and a cheap one as well, with tickets at a measly $8.

Review & Photos : Marnie Stern @ Mohawk and Waterloo Records

The facts are simple, Marnie Stern is damn good at what she does, and her live show proves just that. Stern is nearly completely accurate on her guitar playing (when comparing her live performance to the recorded material), and I added the word nearly because I'm sure that there was some slip up in there somewhere, although I couldn't say for sure. Her micro-residency in Austin, which consisted of three shows, two of which we covered but were not able to make it to her surprise Beauty Bar performance, was a needed burst of talent in this city.

At first, I was a little hesitant as to how the show would sound on the inside stage at Mohawk, but the room was a perfect housing for her big sound. It would have been lost outside (and it was too cold) when each note of her guitar playing is as precise as it is. Stern's show at Waterloo Records was probably one of the noisiest they have had and it stopped nearly every casual shopper and forced them to join the actual fans in their head bobbing and smily praises.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Beach House Video : Used to Be

On their newest single, "Used to Be", Beach House finds themselves in familiar territory with their "dreamy" pop music buzzing around your head, but their video for the song is an ultra-polished (the filming not the setting) compliment to the song. The video finds the Baltimore pair brooding in their abandoned hotel accommodations, strolling through the desert, and conversing over a meal, before finally sailing off into the sunset in their convertible. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Broken Social Scene to Play Bass Concert Hall @ UT


Broken Social Scene, that large-numbered troupe of musicality that hasn't been back to the state since 2006, is finally making their way back around to our parts to play Bass Concert Hall at the University of Texas. The show won't be taking place until Saturday, January 31, 2009, but you can start purchasing tickets on Friday, November 21 at noon, so start thinking ahead, because I would venture a guess that this one is going to sell out. 

Tonight : Marnie Stern @ Mohawk (inside)


Marnie Stern is gracing the ATX with her presence for the first time since SXSW 2007 (correct me if I'm wrong) with not one, but two shows on consecutive days. That doesn't happen often but we are welcoming her micro-residency here in Austin with wide open arms. Ms. Stern will be headlining tonight's indoor festivities at Mohawk, with doors opening at 10-10:30 p.m. (I've seen conflicting times) and the show at 11 p.m. tonight, so it will be a late one! 

Tomorrow, she will be taking to that awkward little stage inside the trendiest record store in town, Waterloo Records, around 5 p.m., so you have ample opportunity to get your dosage of Marnie Stern this week. 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ian MacKaye @ St. Edwards

There are those seldom moments in what we do here that are truly unique and could not easily be duplicated. This was one of them. The chance to see someone as prolific as Ian MacKaye, the driving force behind iconic bands like Minor Threat, Teen Idles, Fugazi and founder of Dischord Records, does not come along often and in hindsight, is such a gift.

MacKaye took about two hours to field questions from the crowd of over 400 people in Mabee Ballroom on campus at St. Edwards. He is taking time away from Dischord and The Evens to tour the country speaking at these Q & A sessions to let fans have a "public interview" as he stated. In the days leading up to the engagement, we were a bit weary as to how this thing might actually go. There are always people out there who feel the need to ask questions like "When is such and such band getting back together", but the apprehensions we had were laid to rest when people actually started asking MacKaye questions and he fielded them quite elaborately and with the storytelling prowess of an expert and the openness of a friend.

MacKaye spoke on a range of topics from Straight Edge, the impossibility of a Minor Threat reunion, the internet-based rumor that he had been killed in a car accident, his family's support of his musical career, growing up in D.C. with Henry Rollins, and a number of other things.

Here are just a few of the best things he said or mentioned, from my four and a half pages of notes:
  • On the prospect of a Minor Threat reunion, MacKaye said "Why would you ever want that to happen?" He said that the music they were making at the time was a reflection of the times themselves and it just wouldn't be right to bring it back.
  • He said that he could tell where people were from in the early days of his touring life based on the way they danced and how they dressed, but the advent of MTV really hurt the regionalization of music.
  • His thoughts on file sharing via the internet, "I made music to be heard. Anybody who tries to limit that is wrong."
  • He told the funniest story about a kid who told him caffeine was a drug when he saw MacKaye drinking a Lipton un-sweetened ice tea. He said to the kid, "Fuck yooooou!"
  • He's a big Jimi Hendrix fan and he met someone who saw him play live once and when he asked the guy what it was like he told MacKaye that he couldn't remember because he had taken acid. At that point he said "I never want to forget anything," which is kind of the basis behind his choice to abstain from booze, drugs, and conquest-like sex practices.
  • He spoke the words to Minor Threat's Out of Step like someone would recite poetry and I have to say, it was beautiful.
  • He's never had a contract for any of the bands on Dischord, he's never had a lawyer, and he donated the money he received from Nike as their apology for their Major Threat ad for their skate team's tour to a free concert series in D.C., a senior citizens group, and a rock and roll girl's camp.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Tonight : Ian MacKaye Speaking @ St. Edwards


If you have been waiting to get your ticket to tonight's Ian MacKaye Q&A session at St. Edwards, you've waited too long. We were two of the lucky last 10 to grab tickets this week and they officially ran out of tickets around Wednesday or Thursday. If you weren't able to grab some in time, there will be some limited standing-room for those unfortunate ones. The doors at the Mabee Ballroom in the Robert & Pearle Ragsdale Center at 6:15 p.m. tonight and things are set to start off at 7 p.m., so come early and come with your questions!