25 Albums

I wrote this for facebook, but since it took forever I think I’ll share it here too…


If I understand this right, we’re supposed to list the 25 most important albums in our life, whether or not we are totally embarrassed by them? All right, here goes…in humbling chronological order. (This list is totally predictable, I know!) albums

1. Anne Murray – This was probably a greatest hits album or something, I don’t remember, but I remember loving the song “Even though we ain’t got money, I’m still in love with you honey…” There was a house in my friend’s neighborhood whose mailbox said “Murray” and every time we went by I thought of Anne Murray. About 15 years later I would become friends with one of the Murray girls who lived in that house, and she confirmed that there was, in fact, no relation to Anne.

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2008 – My Musical Year in Review (but not like a musical revue).

Hey, I agreed that Bon Iver recorded a good album, but I don’t know if I agree with the way that everyone has been gushing about it.  Just about every music blog that I read has to mention him somewhere in their Best of 2008 posts.  If recording something in the middle of a bitter Wisconsin winter is all it takes (because that is the one consistent point that all reviewers bring up) then I’ll plug the mic in tonight – it’s well below zero degrees – and you can tell me where to get in line.  But instead of being a grump about it and taking out a long, frustrating day on poor Bon Iver (it really is a good album) I’m going to make my own Best of 2008 list.  This is based on my very limited exposure to pop and indie culture (compared to the real music bloggers, anyway) and is really just reflective of my own personal experience with music this year. So if that kind of thing interests you, read on!

Deep breath, here goes (in order remembered, no special hierarchy). 

1. Jenny Lewis at Epiphany Church | Chicago, Illinois | September 19, 2008 – This show was partly great because of the adventure that surrounded it, but it was mostly great because Jenny Lewis is great.  I’ll say this item on the list also includes the release of Acid Tongue, but we heard the live versions of all the songs first and the album was a tiny bit pale in comparison (just a tiny bit).  This show also gave my my first taste of new favorite drummer, Barbara Gruska.     …stay for the breakdown!


2. Tegan and Sara at State Theater | Minneapolis, Minnesota | October 11, 2008 – Half the fun of this show, as I said in my original “review” was how funny these girls are!  The grow-to-love-it Twin-Rock was pretty great too, I mean, that’s the thing that gets you there.  Lots of songs from The Con which I love.  

3. The Art Table Reunion Show at The Eagles Club | Green Bay, Wisconsin | September 20, 2008 


– A year in the making, The Art Table finally got together to make gentle the masses still quaking with mourning. This was a fun show, if a bit rough (my crash cymbal stand was stripped and just about useless) and we played a few new songs inluding Door Mat and Break Up River which will possibly someday be recorded.  There is some video from this show that I almost forgot about, which I will put up when I get a chance. 

 The piggy-back to this item is The Art Table mini-show, when Holly and I played a couple songs at Kristin and Nathan’s wedding at The Train Museum.  We both had shiny happy fits of rage…

4. The return of purchasing CDs (forget you, iTunes!  I want album art!) Some of my buys in 2008 included: Jeff Hanson – Madame Owl | Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs | Bon Iver – For Emma Forever Ago | Nedelle – From the Lion’s Mouth |Dear Nora – 3 States | The Welcome Wagon – Welcome to the Welcome Wagon | Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue.  I would recommend all of them (although I haven’t actually received the Dear Nora discs yet, I pre-recommend them.)  This can also include my list of albums on backorder, The Dears – Missiles | TV on the Radio – Dear Science | She & Him – Volume One | Nicole Atkins – Neptune City.

5. Discovery of old Elliott Smith bootleg.  Increasing love for Quasi.

6. Growing bored of Mates of State, Tilly and the Wall, and Rilo Kiley.  I think this is a significant corner being turned in my musical taste, personally.  Of course it could turn right back just as easily (I’ve been known to fall in and out of love) but for right now the power-pop is a little more grating than it is fun.  Performances like this do not help their case:

Granted I never picked up MoS or TatW’s new albums, and only “acquired” Rilo Kiley’s disappointing Under the Black Light, but the point isn’t that they aren’t still good bands, just that I have started losing interest in them.  It’s not you, it’s me.  Speaking of, check out Milwaukee’s own, our friend Mike Mangione! (I think we saw him at The Cup at some point  in 2008, so he can legitimately be on this list)

7. Threatening to grow bored of Sufjan Stevens… (also here) Of course I will never really give up on Sufjan Stevens, but we had been getting a little antsy for some sign of life.  This was before I knew anything of The Welcome Wagon, though, whose debut Sufjan was busy producing.  Yay, Sufjan!

8. The Welcome Wagon – Welcome to the Welcome Wagon – I really do love this.  I’ve posted enough links to this band by now, but since this IS my exhaustive year-end list I’ll post it just once more.  It’s gospel music!

9. Seeing a free Ra Ra Riot show at The Union | Madison, Wisconsin | I don’t even remember the date.  This just kind of fell into our laps, we had never heard of the band, it was before their ship had taken sail, or at least before The Rhumb Line was released.  It was awesome.  It was totals fun.  The Virgins opened.  

 10. Handel’s Messiah at Christ Presbyterian | Madison, Wisconsin | December 14, 2008.  NOT just because I needed to find a number 10, this really was great!  I’ve always loved the music at this church, and this performance came at a time when I really needed an angel choir to shout praises in my ear.  It’s Advent, y’all!  But ah, I didn’t bring my video camera, so watch some other folks perform it!

Oh, there is one other thing that will make this list (I guess at top 11) but it’s not ready to go up here yet.  Stay tuned.

Pays ta…

My mom has these catch phrases that we have heard so many times growing up they feel like age-old proverbs, even though I’m pretty sure she was the one to invent them.  One of these catch phrases was interactive; she would say it when we were doing chores and something of personal value turned up: a toy that we had lost ages ago and considered gone forever, an important homework assignment we had resigned ourselves to redoing; a favorite article of clothing that had been missing since laundry day.  It would happen on chore day, or perhaps just an isolated, inspired moment of cleaning.  The lost item would turn up, maybe we found it, maybe it was our mom, and we would cry out for joy.  Mom, never missing a beat, would smile knowingly and say, “Pays to…” and we, the kids, would have to admit, “…clean.”

Mom: “Pays ta…”

Kids: “…clean.”


I wish that written words had the capacity to convey the nuances of voice inflection in this beautifully familiar phrase, but alas, this is oral history.  You have to have lived it or heard it passed on to truly understand.

So speaking of oral history, the other day I was cleaning (wouldn’t mama be proud?) and came across a CD which I had long since forgotten about.

“Pays ta clean.”

It was an old bootleg concert recording from October 10, 1998.  Elliott Smith singing at the 400 Bar in Minneapolis.  At the time I received the recording I didn’t know him well enough to appreciate it, so I let it get lost among all of my other things.  Finding it this past weekend, I was ready to love it.  Backing Elliott in this recording are Sam Coomes on bass and Janet Weiss on drums (you know, Quasi),another element I wouldn’t have appreciated at age 16.  It’s great.  I want to share some of it with you:

(right click and “save link as” to download)

Bled White

Happiness/The Gondola Man

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