Saturday, December 15, 2007

That Time of Year - Top10Albums

TOP10OF2007 :: Alright here's the deal. The following is a list of my top 10 favorite albums from 2007. I have added a few that released late 2006 but since this is [surprisingly] my first top 10 album list, there were a few that I had to add from yesteryear and it corresponds more appropriately with what I actually listened to in 2007 anyhow. Also, this is a personal top 10 - not an attempt at an objective 'best of' list although with my impeccable taste, perhaps they truly are the TOP10 albums of the year. Another note: the top 5 were definitely my top albums so just know that they hold a special place in my heart maybe a little more so than the distance between spots 5 and 6 might indicate. Enough, have fun.

10. Feist - The Reminder :: This Broken Social Scene spin-off can sing and she brings with her a sound reminiscent of an era that contained a style prior to my birth. I was obsessed this summer and am annoyed that I missed her show this fall but hopefully this isn't a one time side project.

9. Anathallo - Floating World :: Perhaps seeing them live twice had something to do with making the top 10 but none can argue that this is one solid album. They bring the complex sounds via vocals, horns, crazy percussion, and an assortment of other instruments that their large group can provide. As Morgan would tell you, the drum intro on track 6 is delightful. Oh, and they also easily win the best album art award (ask me to see it sometime). (Woah, I just found that this album came out early 2006 ... my bad. I lose 10 credibility points.)

8. Peter Bjorn and John - Writer's Block :: I first heard this album through RELEVANT's tv application. It was their single sometimes referred to as that whistle song. I passed them by as another indie-pop band who made you feel good but didn't really set themselves apart too much. Although they continue to make me feel good, I'm glad I decided to give them some time. The opening track (well, track 2 - Objects of my Affection) makes me love them all over again ... every time.

7. Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter :: This dude has folk. I read a review on this album in which the reviewer commented that most folk music (like Sufjan) was nice and all but just didn't keep him interested - but our man Ritter did. Now I would never blaspheme Sufjan in this way but this Josh Ritter guy sure does bring something interesting to the folk market and I like it. I also feel that although I may have listened to it a number of times, I'm sure to get a lot more listens out of this one.

6. Damien Rice - 9 :: What I first heard about this album was that "Damien has changed and it's not that great" and disappointments about another "single good album artist" seemed inevitable. Thankfully, I checked it myself and am pretty sure I like this go around more than the previous album, O. From the alternating female/male vocals on the opener/single to the more 'stripped down' lyrics of Rootless Tree, I found this album to be a little less commercial friendly and thus, maybe a little more true to his sound.

5. Iron and Wine - The Shepherd's Dog :: So we all know Sam Beam's cover of Such Great Heights is great and we may even know how to play it. We may also know that he has pretty consistently put out great "deep South" (in the Flannery O'Conner sense of 'deep South') guitar picking records. What I was not expecting was for him to expand on this sound to such a large degree. I feel the only way to describe this record is lush. He's been criticized as having abandoned his "roots" and getting carried away varying genres or layering but I find it to be exactly what he needed. I have to admit his last album, although well written and relaxing, occasionally put me to sleep. This was unfortunate because he always found his way to my car stereo. This new record maintains the lyrical prowess while bringing the toe tapping folksy tunes.

4. Radiohead - In Rainbows :: OK, my history with Radiohead has been an interesting one. OK Computer, Radiohead's 1997 record, is commonly referred to as one of the best rock albums of the 90's. A few years back, I tried giving it a try and wasn't finding what all the hoopla was about. Luckily, I discovered Kid A (thanks Ruf) and found a new side of Radiohead in their mixed reviewed, electronically leaning album. When I heard about a new Radiohead album this fall, I was intrigued but wasn't expecting perfection with my mixed enjoyment of their past albums. So with their "pay what you want" download making headlines, I checked it out. Wow. To me, this album has everything I need. I'm not even sure how to explain it. The songs are certainly unique but they find a way to make every song catchy and even listen-able for a broad audience. I give them kudos for being around for such a long time while consistently producing genre-breaking music.

3. Jose Gonzalez - In Our Nature :: Jose's last album, Veneer, was my favorite Sophomore year morning album. The songs on that album instantly put me at ease and in many cases, eased me out of sleep. (Oh, and the Sony Bravia commercial with the bouncy balls and his song Heartbeat is life changing. If you haven't seen it, YouTube it now.) Anyways, I hesitantly came into this album half-assuming for it to be another "mood" album (mood being - I'm tired) for me in which more of the same would prove kind of useless. Not so. He keeps his whispering vocals over classical Spanish guitar sound in tack but manages to infuse almost every song with a catchy feeling that I haven't been able to shake for the last month.

2. Manchester Orchestra - Like a Virgin Losing a Child :: Woah. So this rather unknown band released this rather unknown album sometime last year (I couldn't find exactly when on a quick Wikipedia/MySpace search) although I believe they re-released it sometime this year - so I think it can officially be on the 2007 list. This isn't to say they weren't causing a stir. Rolling Stone Magazine named them one of their "10 to watch" and amongst positive reviews elsewhere (i.e. Paste), were even featured on Conan O'Brien this fall. And if my calculations are correct, the lead man, Andy Hull, is a mere 20 years old. Not bad. I initially heard them through Goodrich and vaguely passed them off as another band that so easily gets lost in the plethora of mediocrity. After seeing them open for Brand New in the Spring, I was impressed and thought to myself, "I should give them another try." It wasn't until a few months later until I listened to the album a few times and found them good. And then it wasn't until this summer when I was able to see them play with Colour Revolt at a small venue in Detroit that I realized just how good this band is. Lyrically - amazing. Musically - they can rock AND Hull can bring it down to a few strings for an equally amazing song. Literally every time I listen to this album, I can't get over how good it is. I just hope they keep it up.

1. Brand New - The Devil and God are Ranging Inside Me :: So this one came out in '06 too!? I don't care. It carried into 2007 just as well as any other record and it still gets its fair shares of spins even though it's been a year since it's release. Now this isn't my typical genre of choice. The whole scenester music genre (Taking Back Sunday, early Straylight Run, etc.) doesn't necessarily turn me off but there's generally nothing that captures my attention. That and they often get reviewed as rather uninspired, musically simplistic emos playing their scene. Anyhow, I enjoyed their previous album, Deja Entendu, decently but it most likely wouldn't have made my top 10 from whatever year it came out. With a little hype from Goodrich, I bought the new record and gave it a listen. Practically every song rocks. And I don't mean in a "they're really cool" way. I mean it in a "if you're not screaming with them, you're either over 30 or don't know how to have fun" way. Honestly, how can you not love this album? Oh, and their live show also "rocks."

OK, thanks for reading while I gushed about my fav bands. Up next are just a few honorable mentionable selections that I'm posting at the top of my head:
David Crowder* Band - Remedy :: Good, not great (like usual).
Wilco - Sky Blue Sky :: Slowly but surely getting into this band. I like the new record.
LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver :: Think of it as indie, club music. Good for dancin'.
Coldplay - New Album :: Oh wait, it's been freaking 2 and a half years and these tools haven't come out with anything new.
Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank :: Critics say they've returned to their old school sound. I didn't really know them then but I like what I hear.

May 2008 provide more great tunes.

Nearing the End

We beached it in Montenita this week (Tuesday-Saturday morning to be precise). Turned out to be 3 solid days at the beach. The trip was suppose to go until Friday ... but then the sun came out Friday morning and since adding another day added about $15 to the overall trip, we decided to go for it. Anyhow, Montenita is a cool little surfer town where lots of backpackers, potheads, surfers, tourists, Taylor University students enjoy visiting. And that we did.

My final days include a couple exams (which we already have the questions for...), farewell dinner which should include a skit by the Gringos, and packing.

I got an email from my Mom saying how they just picked up my sister from the airport - wow, I'm excited to be home.

Oh, I posted some pictures on Facebook - link should be on the side there.

I've probably got 1 or 2 more Ecuador themed blogs in me but I think my blogging rate should be slowing down a little bit. I'm going to try to blog semi-regularly about things that matter but will most likely ease up on the "update" type blogs. You can call/email/visit me if you want into that. My goal is to stop the drivel while maintaining practicing writing.

Friday, December 7, 2007


A couple nights ago I forgot my International Business book in the classroom. Now this little treasure has been my sole teacher for ITB this semester. Our prof enjoys speaking in Spanish and takes every opportunity he can to actually do so ... I understand parts or perhaps the general idea but for the most part, I know general ideas before taking classes. Anyways, most of my learning has come from the book in which I highlight with my pink and yellow highlighters. I kind of aced our last exam and I owe it all to my book so when I realized I left my book in the room, I was upset by the inconvenience of not being able to study my highlighted book.

So I get to the university a few minutes early to check out the classroom to see if it's still there but I'm told to check with the school janitor. He wasn't in his office thing; I decided to wait. Then, Ruf pointed to a lost and found box! What an idea?! A place to put things lost by people dumb enough like me. Anyhow, I did indeed find my book!!

There was a catch though. I forgot to mention that these books are all copies of real books. Ecuador isn't big on copyright laws so they go for it on the copying game. So I find my book alright ... but the spiral binding is not there! My book is strewn about in the box with a bunch of other crap. Thankfully, it was all there and after 5 minutes or so of sorting, I had it all in order.

My question is who needs bindings that much? Surely tearing it from the book was more hassle than it was worth.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ending and Futball


I'm home in 2 and a 1/2 weeks. Curazy. This is the last week of internship and classes (besides a few exams and a paper due). Next week, we have plans to go to a beach for a few days and hostel it. Then the final week will be dinners with the host families, packing, chilling in Cuenca. Oddly enough, it will be weird to not be in Ecuador.

Last weekend we went to a pro soccer game here in Cuenca with our friend, Adrien. We were playing a team based out of Guayaquil. So I bought my $5 Cuenca jersey and tried to act like I was a local ... but still got called "grengo loco" ... I think due to my obsessive picture taking habits. Anyways, it was fun. I was expecting mayhem and near death experiences but I came to the conclusion that it was tamer than TU basketball games. Perhaps that was partly due to being in the nice section. The cheap section was filled with people standing up, jumping, lighting hot air balloon-esque things, throwing toilet paper, and a consistent drumming. We were told that section was dangerous. Boo. The game ended up a 0-0 tie ... boring. There were quite a few close ones including a double-header goal for Cuenca that was called back due to offsides. I was happy with my experience though.

Sidenote: I've linked all my albums from Ecuador on the right side here for easier viewing/access.