Browsing Tag: Music


    My Favorite Albums of 2009

    January 2, 2010

    With each passing year I realize that the album is a dying product. Years ago, I’d buy a new album and play it non-stop until I knew all the songs and could sing half the lyrics. Now, I buy an album and listen to it once, maybe 2-3 times, and then go back to the “shuffle” option on iTunes and listen to whatever songs from my 2,000+ songs it chooses. Now, I have to make a conscious effort to listen to an album enough to get to know it. So choosing favorite albums is much different now than it would’ve been, say, 10 years ago.

    With that in mind, here are my choices for my favorite albums from 2009. I’m not even sure all of these were released in 2009, but they were new to me this past year and that’s what counts.

    noline1.) No Line On The Horizon, U2

    This one did come out in 2009, and you could’ve guessed it would be high on my list, if not at the top. I do love this album, but still don’t know where it fits among U2’s greatest albums. As I said in my @U2 review, it doesn’t really matter if this is better than Achtung Baby or The Joshua Tree. What matters is that this album speaks to me for the place I’m at in my life — just like those earlier great albums spoke to a younger me.

    boxer_union2.) Union, The Boxer Rebellion

    I had this and the number three album switched a couple times. But I’ll leave this at #2 because it’s still so intriguing to me. These are songs that don’t let you easily wrap yourself around them … at least not me. I couldn’t even name half the songs on the album, and can sing even fewer, but more often than not, when I decide I don’t want to put iTunes on shuffle and would rather listen to an album, this is where I start. So, on that basis, it gets the number two slot.

    collective-soul-rabbit3.) Collective Soul (Rabbit), Collective Soul

    My winner for worst album cover of the year! But it’s got some pretty darn good songs on it, too, so the album is well deserving of a spot in the year’s best albums. “You,” “Staring Down,” and “Welcome” are some of my faves at the moment. I heard a bunch of these songs when I saw Collective Soul back in June; of course, the album was still two months from being released, so I didn’t know any of them. Would like to hear them again in concert now that I have the album.

    vibgyor4.) We Are Not An Island, Vib Gyor

    This is the first official release from Vib Gyor, a band that’s been around a long time. I saw them in a tiny Seattle club back in 2007, and a lot of the songs they played then are on this album — just newer versions that were re-recorded. “Fallen” is a great, great song … but the album version isn’t as good as some of its previous incarnations. But what do I know? The album version was named “Best Alternative Single of 2009” when iTunes released its Best of 2009 lists a month ago.

    muse5.) The Resistance, Muse

    Despite only being #5 on this list, Muse was easily my biggest musical discovery of 2009. I had one of their songs in my iTunes collection for a year or two, but didn’t like it; I only knew I was supposed to like Muse. It wasn’t until I saw them open up for U2 twice at Giants Stadium in September that I actually did start to like them. They put on a great show, full of swagger and bombast — the Queen kind of stuff you don’t expect bands to be doing these days. Sean bought this album shortly after we saw them live, and since then he’s bought (or received as a gift) two other Muse albums, and I bought another one online. So I’ll be listening to new Muse for a while to come yet.

    Honorable Mentions

    • Backspacer by Pearl Jam — just got this one for Christmas, so it’s too new to make the list. I do like what I’ve heard, but need more time to get familiar with it.
    • The Script by The Script — catchy pop songs by an Irish group
    • Thriving Ivory by Thriving Ivory — more catchy pop songs, but not an Irish group as far as I know. In fact, I think this one may have been one of those iTunes recommendations … “if you like The Script, try Thriving Ivory.” And so I did.
    • LeftRightLeftRightLeft by Coldplay — this is the free live album that Coldplay gave out during its tour. Good stuff, but pretty basic and straightforward.

    What were some of your favorite albums and songs from 2009?


    Remembering Something Happens

    January 1, 2010

    My friend Jeannie sent me a link to some recently posted YouTube videos. Here’s one of them:

    Back in the day, pretty much any and every band that formed in Dublin was called “the next U2.” After U2 hit it big, record labels had people scouting out the Dublin scene — and all over Ireland, I would think — trying to find the next big thing.

    Something Happens was one of the bands that formed and grew in the late ’80s, and Jeannie introduced them to me … in the mid ’90s, I think. The only thing they really had in common with U2 was that they were a 4-piece and hailed from Dublin. Something Happens didn’t write huge, sweeping epics; they wrote the catchiest, most perfect little pop/rock songs you’d ever hear, with the most clever and witty lyrics you could imagine. I loved them. Still do.

    They put out maybe a handful of albums, but were beset by poor production to some degree. They were very popular in Ireland and had a modicum of success elsewhere in Europe, as I recall. They tried and tried to crack the U.S., but never could. In … I think it was 1994? maybe ’95? … they toured the U.S. by bus with Warren Zevon. They were both the opening act and Zevon’s backing band during his set.

    Cari and I drove to Portland to see them play with Zevon. Jeannie had sent us some Irish chocolate bars to give to them, so we found their bus a couple hours before the show and were able to meet them and chat for a few minutes. Super nice guys. I got to meet Tom Dunne, the lead singer, again in 1996 (I think) when Cari and I made our first visit to Dublin. Here’s a pic of me and Tom at the Virgin Megastore:

    Tom Dunne and me

    (That’s when I still had my TV sportscaster hair.)

    But the Happens never really hit it big, and after a while it became obvious that the band members could make more money doing other things. Their last album came out in 1997. Tom has gone on to be one of the top radio personalities in Ireland, winning awards left and right over the last decade. (He also provided the narration for U2’s Elevation Tour documentary that appears on the Live from Boston DVD.)

    In 1998, a panel of Irish music experts picked their second album, Stuck Together With God’s Glue, as one of the 10 best Irish rock albums ever — in the same league with The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, Astral Weeks, and others. Here’s the article. (And yes, Bono flat-out stole that title for a lyric in U2’s song, “Staring at the Sun.”)

    They only get together once a year now to play one gig in Dublin. The video above is from Wednesday night, in a little club called Whelan’s. The song is “Hello Hello Hello Hello Hello (Petrol),” which isn’t one of my big favorites, but a good song, nonetheless.

    You can find their first 3 albums on iTunes. Bedlam-A-Go-Go is the roughest/loudest and is my least favorite of the three, but has two of the best Happens songs: “Daisyhead” and “Beautiful Country.” The latter song is probably one of the best songs ever about the Irish Troubles, and, to be frank, puts U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” to shame. The former is Tom writing about the death of his father:

    Now there’s daisies growing in your head
    The only flowers to have found a bed
    Where only stones you’d expect to find
    Inside that scenic but dated mind
    Take it from me. That it’s raining on you.


    Tell me, baby, how the world fell apart at its seams
    Tell the world now why you’re better off covered in green
    You won’t get up
    You can’t come back again

    It’s a picturesque but lonely little place where you’re lying now
    It’s past the time for you, you can’t hear the crying now
    But what the hell’s new except the daisies that grow in you
    In your daisyhead

    “Room 29” and “Devil In Miss Jones” are great songs, too. The latter is Tom’s ode to porn star Traci Lords. Srsly. Shame that iTunes doesn’t have Planet Fabulous, which has always been my favorite Happens album — but it does have one of the songs, “Momentary Thing,” which was apparently used on the TV show, Veronica Mars. Great, great song — maybe the best 99 cents you’ll spend on iTunes. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

    As for me, I’ll just hope they keep playing those once-a-year gigs in Dublin … and that I can get over there someday to see one.


    Technology is amazing

    June 30, 2009

    It’s 11:03 pm PDT, and I’ve spent the last 90 minutes listening to a U2 concert that ended about eight hours ago: fan-taped, uploaded, and posted online. U2 is cool with this. The audio is on Kevin’s site. He has lots of bandwidth.

    I don’t normally listen to bootlegs but this is the opening concert of the tour. Right now, I’m wrapping up a 14-hour day that I spent updating two web sites, posting the setlist live as it happened on Twitter, digging through YouTube, Flickr, Twitpic, Yfrog, and any other source possible for photos and video, sending out emails to U2 fan mailing lists, and so forth. You can see the results on and @U2 (scroll down through “Bits & Bytes” updates). And I’m not tooting my own horn; I’m tooting my friends and co-workers horns — the @U2/ crew was amazing today — posting the setlist in @U2’s forum, spreading the word on Twitter, sending me stuff they found first, and so much more.

    All of this made possible by technology that, if I stop to think about it, is mind-blowing. This was my humble setup today:


    Probably hard to see, but on the main monitor there I have Tweetie open and a web browser. On the web browser I’m watching live / almost-live concert video streamed by fans via Srsly. There were four fans (that I know of) sending video right from Barcelona to my office. That’s frakkin’ crazy. And then I take what I saw and heard and post it on Twitter and on, and Lisa Z. (from @U2) posts it in the @U2 forum … and tens of thousands of U2 fans know what’s going on immediately. Bono says something, it’s online a minute later (if that). At the same time, I’m watching Twitter and dozens, maybe hundreds of fans inside the stadium are also posting updates. Retweet that stuff, and the world knows.

    In 1997, my first “online U2 tour,” we would rush to the hotel room or our house after the show and post the setlist on the web and send it to the U2 fan mailing lists. You’d get the news within a couple hours after the show, maybe the next morning in the worst case scenario. It was amazing.

    In 2001, friends inside the arenas would call and you’d get to listen to a few minutes of the show (and the audio was terrible, frankly), then they’d call again on the way out of the arena and recite the setlist. Fans would know what happened within 15-30 minutes of the end of the show. It was amazing.

    In 2005, friends inside the arena called and you could listen to the whole show, and the audio was actually listenable. On opening night, three friends at the show called me, Michael, and Scott separately so we could hear. Then the three of us not at the show hopped on AIM together and chatted together about what we heard over the three separate phone lines. It was amazing – one of the most fun nights of my U2 fan life. You could pretty much post the setlist as it happened — literally within seconds of a song starting, it was on But you had to wait until the next day for audio and/or video.

    And today, live video (and audio) from inside the stadium as the show is going on. Photos all over Twitter and Flickr during the show. Thousands of fans giving and getting the scoop on every detail. The setlist posted as it happened, and broadcast to tens of thousands of fans around the world.

    During the concert today, Sean pulled up a chair and sat next to me so he could watch everything — the videos, the pix, the live updates. I know I was more amazed by what was going on because I remember what it was like years ago. I hope I explained it well enough that he could appreciate it, too. I imagine someday, 10 years from now perhaps, he’ll be updating some web site (will they still exist then?) with links to every fan’s personal video/audio/photo web channel (we’ll all have them for our daily lifestreaming) and maybe he’ll look back and remember what it was like “in the old days” when he sat next to his dad to experience a U2 concert that was happening 5,407 miles away, but seemed like it was right in our hometown.

    Technology is amazing.


    Fix Yourself

    May 17, 2009

    You’ve probably heard the Coldplay song, “Fix You.” Great song. It’s a relationship song, and Chris Martin is presumably singing to his wife about how he’ll take care of her and make things better when they’re bad. Thus, the title of the song.

    Now, Chris Martin’s not the world’s best lyricist, but there’s a line in this song that never fails to make me gulp:

    Tears stream down your face
    When you lose something you cannot replace
    Tears stream down your face
    And I….

    Tears stream down your face
    I promise you I will look for my mistakes

    That line in bold kills me. Shivers every time I hear it. Sometimes tears. Because sometimes you have to fix yourself before you can fix anyone else.

    I think the world would be a helluva lot better place if more people looked for their own mistakes rather than looking for someone else’s.


    My Favorite Albums of 2008

    December 29, 2008

    I can’t say this was the best year for new music, especially since some new albums were pushed into 2009. But I did get a chance to listen to a bunch of new albums in the last month or two of the year, and thought I’d put together a list of my favorite new music from 2008.

    Mind you … some of these albums are not new. But they were new to me in 2008, so they deserve a shot at being listed.

    Viva La Vida1. Viva La Vida, by Coldplay

    I was a bit leery before this album came out. The previous release had some great songs, but the album was not better than the sum of its parts. I was glad to see they were working with Brian Eno on Viva La Vida, and wasn’t disappointed with the results. I just listened to this one again over the weekend, and it’s as good as I recall. And Prospekt’s March, the new EP, is also pretty good.

    Day & Age2. Day and Age, by The Killers

    This is one of the CDs I just got for Christmas, and the one I’ve been listening to the most. It’s a great bounce-back after Sam’s Town, which was good enough … but nothing special. I’ve listened to Day and Age 5-6 times now, and each time a new song jumps out at me. This is the album I want to listen to each day when I first fire up iTunes.

    Great Big Sea3. The Great Big Sea, by Beat Radio

    I don’t even know how to describe this album or band. The vibe I get from them is a group of guys playing together in a garage, or maybe in a small club with 30 people watching. It’s small music, and I mean that in the best way. Some of the songs are kinda strange. Quirky, even, in a good way. It’s very unique pop music. I hate to compare, but I suppose these guys are in the same neighborhood as Death Cab For Cutie. “Ancient as the Stars” is one of my favorites; I have three different versions of it — demo, regular, and alternate. You can download a bunch of their songs for free, even.

    Poison Kiss4. Poison Kiss, by The Last Goodnight

    You probably remember the song “Pictures Of You,” which was used in a commercial for … HP printers, I think. (?) Very catchy pop tune, and the whole album is pretty much like that. Some of the tracks are on the sappy side, but I like “This Is The Sound” and “Stay Beautiful” a lot.

    Streets of New York 5. Streets Of New York, by Willie Nile

    Really couldn’t decide what should go at No. 5 here, but this album kinda stayed with me for most of the year. I don’t know much about Willie Nile, but he’s a pretty clever songwriter and these are catchy pop tunes. (Much like the last two albums I’ve listed.) “Cell Phones Ringing (In the Pockets of the Dead)” is a typical song title.

    Honorable Mentions

    • A Hundred Million Suns, by Snow Patrol — Got this one right when it came out, but it’s never been a must-listen. I don’t think it’s as strong as their previous album.
    • David Cook, by David Cook — Don’t laugh, this is pretty darn good. Sean got it for Christmas, and I’ve been listening to it, too. If it wasn’t so new, this one might end up at No. 5 above.
    • Eleven Songs, by Luka Bloom — Another one that I haven’t owned long enough, but Luka’s albums are always good. “Don’t Be Afraid Of The Light That Shines Within You” is the standout song for me.

    What were some of your favorite albums that discovered in 2008?