Top Albums of 2009

Just like last year, I wanted to write a short post about my favorite music from 2009.   And of course just like last year, this is entirely subjective.  I again found it quite difficult to go down the list.  In fact, after the top 3, I couldn’t pick the next few in order, so I am only going to give a top 3 and then some honorable mentions.

Top 3 Albums of 2009

1.  Avett Brothers, I and Love and You

The Avett Brothers have become my favorite band, and we were lucky enough to see them in Charlotte on August 8th, their home turf.  This is an incredible album.  While musically it is different from their early roots, I am a big fan of bands pushing themselves and growing.  I love the song “Slight Figure of Speech,” which takes a jab at the fans that are complaining about the “New Avett Brothers…”  Lyrically this album is one of the most complete albums I have listened to.

2. Switchfoot, Hello Hurricane

Jon Foreman said they poured their heart and soul into this album, and that they wanted each song to feel like it could be their last, and that they would be proud.  Those sentiments show.  The albums is fantastic musically and lyrically.

3.  Needtobreathe, The Outsiders

One tweet from a pastor I follow said this band was amazing, so I went out and listened to their latest album, and quickly fell in love.  For a long time I thought this might be my number one album for the year, but in the end my two favorite bands released excellent albums that just beat it out.

Honorable Mentions for 2009

In no particular oder:

Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Night Castle:

An album that many of us thought might not ever see the light of day…  Only their 2nd non-Christmas album.  I have not gotten into this album as much as I did with Beethoven’s Last Night, but it often takes me quite a while to get into Rock Opera.  TSO again blends “classical rifts” with Rock, along with an in depth story that is impossible to follow from the music alone.  You have to read the story they provide with the music to understand.

U2, No Line on the Horizon

Their best work in awhile… I just don’t get into them as much as I used to.  When we saw them in concert this year, many people said it was an amazing show.  I thought it was an ok show, but not nearly as good as a few shows we have seen in the past (Elevation, Zooropa, Pop-mart).

Wilco, Wilco: good catchy music

Andrew Bird, Noble Beast: at first I thought Bird was trying too hard with his words… but it grew on me, and I now consider him a poet set to music

Pearl Jam, Backspacer: I find it hard to get into the heavier music these days, but this takes Pearl Jam back to their glory days

Top albums added to my library in 2009 that were not released in 2009

Some albums that came out in 2008 that I missed last year:

Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes

Blitzen Trapper, Furr

Welcome Wagon, Welcome to the Welcome Wagaon

My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges

Old Classics Added this Year

The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper — had many of the songs in my library, but not the entire album.  I tried to teach the kids the concept of an album using this one, and they just started saying “Play ‘The Album’ Daddy anytime they wanted to hear it.  🙂

The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds

Top Artists all time

I thought the Avett Brothers might catch Switchfoot, but it didn’t happen…  Some of these play counts include Kelly, and she loves Switchfoot.  🙂

Music Monday: TSO’s Night Castle finally released…


Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s long awaited Night Castle is finally out!  TSO is one of my favorite bands — they #4 in my “top played artist” lists on iTunes over the past 5+ years.  Considering 3 of their 4 albums are Christmas stories, that is pretty impressive.  If you like Rock Opera, go get it today, for $3.99 at amazon (today only at that price).

Music Monday: Needtobreathe

I am really digging the new album by Needtobreathe, “The Outsiders.”  I had never heard of them until I happened to see a tweet mention that they were really good.  So I poked around all the normal places I go to listen to new music (spotify, lala, myspace) and I knew I would like this album.  I’ve listened to it a ton the past week, and it is still growing on me.

Check out this video of the title track:

Music Monday: Avett Brothers in concert recap


On Saturday August 8th, I finally got to see the Avett Brothers live.  Over the past couple years, they have quickly become one of my favorites.  Something about their music is just right for me — combining excellent lyrics (raw, honest, intelligent), with music that you can’t really categorize — blue grass infused with country, rock, pop, folk, etc.  And there is so much energy!

We saw them in Charlotte, which is their hometown, and I think that helped make their live show even more special and more energetic.  There was a great combination of old and new, fast and slow.  I was really surprised by a couple of these — like Left on Laura, Left on Lisa…  I would have loved to see them play my all-time favorite — The Gift for Melody Anne.   But I certainly can’t complain.  This is a long set list (~ 2.5 hours) and it was a great show.


Kelly took a few movies with our point and shoot camera, which I uploaded to youtube:

Here are a few more photo’s:




I Dreamed a Dream

One of my favorite songs from one of my all time favorite musicals, and one of my favorite (top 5) all time books…  After watching this I had to share it here:

There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame

He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came

And still I dream he’ll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I\’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

Music Monday 2-9-2009

First, I noticed that embedded videos from Vimeo and sometimes Youtube are not showing up in various readers like Google Reader, or when my blog posts are cross posted to Facebook notes.  If you want to see the videos, you are going to have to click through to get to my real blog site.

Kelly and I got to see one of my all time favorites, Dar Williams at the Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill a couple of weeks ago.  I had never been to the Cat’s Cradle, even though it is pretty famous, and it was a great atmosphere for Dar — very small and intimate.   Jesse Harris opened, and then Dar had a “double bill” with Joshua Radin.  He played first and thought he was pretty good, but have yet to check out any of his music after the show even though we plan to.

Here is the song I most remember — Vegetable Car:

Now here are two videos we took of Dar with a little point and shoot camera:

Great show!

Music Monday January 19th 2009

I tried a couple “Music Monday” posts last year, but was not consistent at all.  I am not promising to have a music post every monday, but I will at least try to have a few more.

Today’s music is music that I missed last year — music that showed up on a few “best of 2008” lists that I saw in late December — that I have really gotten into the past few weeks.

The first band is Fleet Foxes, which has a very unique, fresh sound in today’s music world.  Check out this claymation video for one of my favorite songs off their album:

The second band is Blitzen Trapper, and their album Furr.  Almost every song on this album sounds different from the others songs, almost a unique genre for each!  Here is an album of their song “Furr” which Riley has been requesting constantly (“play the song where the boy turns into a wolf!”).

And a much darker song:

Top Albums 2008

It seems like everyone else is doing top Albums of 2008, and it also looks like I don’t have many (or any!) of those albums.  I guess I’m just not with it music-wise anymore.  :-/ But I thought it would be fun to do my own list, so here are my top albums of 2008.

  1. These are albums added to my Library in 2008, not that were released in 2008, so my list will of course look much different than most others.
  2. I used both objective and subjective criteria to rate these.  Objective criteria are my play counts.  Subjective criteria are my ratings and just thinking about where the album should be in the list.
  3. This was much harder than I thought!  While these are definitely my favorite albums of the year, it was not easy to pick a clear winner and there is often not much differentiation between the rankings.

1.  Trans-siberian Orchestra, Beethoven’s Last Night.  (2000)

This may seem like a quirky pick, but I love TSO, which is evident as they are my number 3 top played artist according to my playlist counts on ilike.  That’s incredible since 3 of their 4 albums are Christmas albums (and I typically don’t play them year round!).  Beethoven’s Last Night is a fascinating rock opera, and if you go for that kind of thing, this album MUST be in your library.  The story line is great, and all the “riffs” of Beethoven’s classics (and Mozart too!) and how they are interwoven into the music are fantastic.

2. John Foreman Winter/Summer/Spring EPs.  (2008)

Part of a larger group of 4 EP’s, the other one was released in 2007 (and added to my library in 2007).  All 4 EP’s are fantastic, though my favorites are Summer and Fall.  Foreman is a prolific writer, and all of his songs tend to strike a chord with me lyrically.  This EP set is a nice break from Switchfoot (which is still one of my favorite bands) and allows Foreman to explore different sounds that don’t really fit the Switchfoot image.

3. Future of Forestry. Self titled EP and Twilight.  (2006 and 2007)

I’m including both the EP and the album, but Twilight has all the songs of the EP and more.  All of these songs are excellent, and this may be the “rockiest” sounding of all the albums in this list.

4.  The Avett Brothers, Four Thieves Gone.  (2006)

Home of my #1 played song in 2008 — “Left on Laura Left on Lisa.”  The Avett Brothers are nothing if not quirky, but they have quickly become one of my favorite bands.  Their sound defies categorization.  While their early work could possibly fit under bluegrass, their later work doesn’t fit anywhere.  But as singer/songwriters, they are awesome.

5.  Okkervil River, The Stand Ins. (2008)

Great singer/songwriters… Each song is its own story, often fun, sometimes serious, always engaging.  One review I read compared them to The Counting Crows, but I am not so sure I agree with that.  CC are definitely darker, and mostly seem more personal/related to Adam Duritz, whereas Okkervil River seems more like stories written about others (though often sung in 1st person).

6.  Mark Knopfler and Emmy Lou Harris, All the Roadrunning.  (2006)

If you take the (somewhat) “soft rock” sound of Dire Straights, countrify it a little, and add a fantastic female vocal, you have this album.  Great sound, great songs.

7.  The Avett Brothers, The Gleam II.  (2008)

One of my top 3 songs of the year, “Murder in the City,” is on this EP.  These songs are somewhat more subdued than most other Avett Brothers Albums, but they continue to grow on me.

8.  Radiohead.  In Rainbows.  (2007)

I guess I’m a little late, as this was #1, or at least top 5, in many top album lists last year.  This is really the odd ball out in my list musically (partially because it is popular, but also because of the sound), but the music is good and often quite innovative, in my opinion.

9.  Bon Iver. Forever Emma, Forever Ago.  (2007)

This has one of the strangest sounds of all, and I have listened to it a ton, but still have not really explored the lyrics like I normally do with my favorite music.  Sometimes that comes with time, as I hear the sounds over and over, and eventually am more drawn into the lyrics.  I don’t know if that will happen here or not, but I still like the sounds.

10.  Sera Cahoone.   Only as the Day is Long.  (2008)

This is another along the lines of Bon Iver at #11 above…  I’ve heard this many times, but have not really listened (dug into) it… But the sound is soothing and relaxing, and maybe I’ll get into the lyrics when the time is right.

11.  August Rush.  (2007)

Great movie, and there is enough decent music on the album to make it onto this list.

Honorable Mention:  Led Zeppelin.  Mothership.  (2007).

Somewhat of a sentimental pick… I got this for $4.99 on Amazon, even though I already have all of their music.  But since they once dominated my listening, back in late high school and most of college, I am putting this in as an “honorable mention.

And here are my top played songs for those songs added in 2008:

And top played artists (all-time):

(this will be interesting to compare against next year…)

The Ghosts of Christmas Eve. 1999.

I am a huge Trans-Siberian Orchestra fan.  They are 4th on my most played artist list according to ilike, which is pretty amazing since three of their four albums are Christmas albums, and I tend to not listen to them except in December!  (I do love their one non-Christmas album “Beethoven’s Last Night,” and I have been planning on a blog entry for it at some point.)

October is definitely early to watch a Christmas movie, but TSO is coming here in November, and I wanted to have Riley watch the movie to see if she would be interested in going to the concert.  Turns out she loved the movie part, but said she thought she might be bored at the concert if it was just music and not a movie!  😦

If you are a TSO fan, you will probably like this short movie (45 min.), and if you are not a TSO fan, you may like it.  I still can’t decide, after just one viewing, if it really captured TSO’s music and the emotion it can pull.  The story in the movie is much different from the three Christmas albums, and while the music was tied in pretty well, most of the music is from the stories of the albums and not the story of the movie.  I also can’t compare to a live show since I have yet to see them, but I still want to!