The year in music, 2008:
Live, it was a mixed bag. In fact, now that I think about it, 2007 sets up ’08 for a massive dose of failure, but you take what you (and your budgetary and time constraints) can get. Van Halen’s reunion show at Phillips Arena in February was a tremendous disappointment, certainly not remotely worth the $125 price tag. The sound was atrocious from beginning to end, and the show itself just sort of felt — enh. Totally enh. The price of nostalgia, I suppose.
Far better was the Progressive Nation tour. Opeth is amazing live, Three was spectacular as I remembered, and I was finally able to check Dream Theater off of the list of bands I haven’t seen live. Not to mention that they played one of my all time favorites (Voices) in Atlanta. Also good, in the really small list of shows I saw this year: Tom Waits (very glad I paid the $120 for this ticket, if only to say I experienced it — Waits is a phenomenal showman), the Tour de Frank (Dweezil Zappa and Co. playing the music of Frank Zappa), and holy crap was that all the live music I caught this year? I think it was. Wow. Almost kinda sad.
As for albums… well, this is where memory always gets me. If some of these are from late 2007, oops, but I’ll say that i spent a lot of 2008 enjoying that music. Tops this year included In Rainbows by Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts I-VI and The Slip, Meshuggah’s obZen (rhythmic brutality), A Sense of Purpose from In Flames, the self-titled Flight of the Conchords (old music, new recordings, classic laughs), Anthems for the Damned by Filter, Flavors of Entanglement by Alanis Morissette (whodathunk?), Sigur Ros’ Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, Diffusion by 7 for 4, No-Man’s Schoolyard Ghosts, Mygrain’s Signs of Existence, Cynic’s Traced in Air, and The Final Conversation of Kings by The Butterfly Effect.
Album of the year? From memory and judging from the play counts on my iPod, Watershed by Opeth and Steven Wilson’s new Insurgentes. Both absolutely brilliant pieces of work. Followed closely by Experiments in Mass Appeal by new discovery (to me) Frost*. And apologies to Brian May and Co., but Paul Gilbert and Freddie Nelson put out the best posthumous Queen album that we could ever hope for with United States.
I’m totally not counting the best-of compilations from Dream Theater or Strapping Young Lad, though I feel like I should.
Disappointments? Bauhaus’ Go Away White, Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock by Joe Satriani (I want to like his albums, but post-Extremist, they all sound really, really uninspired), Testament’s Formation of Damnation, Extreme’s Saudades de Rock (which surprised me, as Nuno Bettencourt’s post-Extreme catalog is well above average), and Let the Truth be Known by Souls of We.
Metallica’s Death Magnetic and the long awaited Chinese Democracy? Both are better than I expected, but I’m waiting to see in the long run how I feel about them, past expectations and long-wait.
I guess the lesson here is that I’m getting old, but not too old to enjoy the Metal. m/ No, wait… it’s that I need to stop expecting to like new discs by bands I discovered in the ’80s and ’90s, unless they make me wait 5-13 years for a new album. No… no, the lesson is simply to enjoy music new and old, with no preconceived expectations or judgments, and to hope that 2009 has half the quality this year has had.
Or something like that. I’m getting distracted by that new Opeth cover of Would?…