Monday, December 17, 2007

38. Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond

It just occurred to me that, among this year's top 40, Dinosaur Jr. is the artist I've been a fan of the longest. But, you can read about that here. As I've said before, I've always been a much bigger fan of the post-Lou Barlow Dinosaur Jr. of the early 90's than the more critically acclaimed earlier material. Well, Barlow returns, following the band's 10 year hiatus, on Beyond, and he fails to screw it up. Don't get me wrong, it's still J Mascis who gets most of the credit, but Lou's contributions aren't so bad.

While the album lacks a killer song, a la Where You Been's "Get Me" or the consistency from start to finish of Green Mind, there are still some killer tracks here, including "Almost Ready", "Pick Me Up" and "This is All I Came to Do". Overall, this is a pretty strong effort thats hearken back to the heyday...or, at least my opinion of their heyday.

37. Aqueduct - Or Give Me Death

My relationship with the music of Aqueduct could be described as a tenuous one. When I first heard 2005's I Sold Gold, I really took to it. Then, after repeated listens...maybe a few too many, in wore on me, and when it came time to elminate a few contenders from the year end list, it wasn't difficult to leave off.

The thing of it is, this is one of those bands where the vocals can really get to even a self-proclaimed lover of annoying singers, such as myself. Then, I heard Or Give Me Death early this year and I thought it was vastly superior to the last record. There was no way I was going to grow tired of this one. But, in going back to it later this year, I discovered I had. I bumped it down in the rankings from a lock to make the list to just a contender, and one that I really thought was going to miss the cut again.

Then, realizing I just wasn't in the mood for it the last few times I'd listened, I gave it another chance, and realized there is something special about this collection of quirky indie pop. There really are quite a few standouts here, including "Living a Lie", "Keep it Together", and "With Friends Like These", and it really would've been a shame to leave it out of the top 40. That's not to say, though, that I couldn't change my mind in a few months.

36. Levon Helm - Dirt Farmer

As I peruse the entire list, I notice that there are certainly a number of bands who were recommended to me at one point or another by a friend or acquaintance. But this is the only album of the 40 that was a specific recommendation by someone this year. Of course, I didn't need my friend Macee to tell me about Levon Helm, the only American member of the mostly Canadian roots rock progenitors, The Band. I knew of the album, and might have sought it out on my own, but it wasn't until she mentioned that it sounded like a really good Americana album that I decided to check it out.

I was not disappointed. The album is a collection of his interpretations of old folk and country standards, as well as a few written by more modern artists, including Steve Earle's "The Mountain" and Buddy & Julie Miller's "Wide River to Cross". Other highlights include "False Hearted Lover Blues", "Dirt Farmer" and "Got Me a Woman". All culled together these songs could represent a look back at Helm's Southern roots, but to me they're just a pure slice of Americana.

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