The way I see it, this is the last year before the "modern era" of me. The last year before we bought our house. The last full year of working in a kitchen, before I started the job I have now. Musically, the changes aren't as stark, but you can't expect a whole lot more "hard shifts" of taste by the time you get to be 23.
Any new styles and tastes were coming from my co-workers at the Blossoming Lotus. There was a computer upstairs in the prep kitchen with iTunes, and a ton of people had brought in cds to add to it so that it was a super eclectic mix of everyone's tastes. Off the top of my head- Black Sabbath, LOTS of Ween, the Hedwig soundtrack, Paul Simon, Jenny Lewis, Wilco, Old Crow Medicine Show, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams III, the Killers, and David Byrne.
This was my second period of Talking Heads fandom- and in this one I already knew a lot of the singles and had a chance to get into "the early stuff". And also, the "late" stuff- I hadn't heard any of David Byrne's post-Heads stuff, and fell in love with the operatic and mellow "Grown Backwards".
A perfect early morning at work (when I would open and be the only one there from 6 - 7), would be to make myself a cup of green tea, toast with avocado, and start setting up the prep list for the day while listening to this song.
Later in the year, he would release "Everything that Happens Will Happen Today" with Brian Eno, which found that perfect mix of pop and pleasing that caused it to soundtrack parties at our house for a few months. I sought out other solo albums, but these two are my favorite.
I also got into Paul Simon's Graceland followup, "The Rhythm of the Saints", primarily due to the awesome grooves of the opening song, The Obvious Child. Listen to the drums in this song!
In February, Emily and I moved out of Noah's house into an apartment in NW Portland. It was awesome. We were walking distance from a ton of great stuff, most importantly my new favorite haunt- the used rack of the Everyday Music on Burnside. I had been pirating music since it was technically possible, and never really invested a ton of money in records. This was sort of me meeting the record industry half way- though in a way that didn't benefit them at all. Over the next year, I probably spent $200 or so on used cds, sort of building the collection I should have always been rather than downloading and burning. The bands didn't see any more money, but I like to think that the record store makes enough off of used cds to help keep them around a little longer. It was kind of a cop-out, but it felt a little better to be physically purchasing some ACTUAL releases.
Before summer, two pretty major albums came out that I couldn't avoid. The first was the debut of some NYC kids called "Vampire Weekend". A lot of people gave them crap for writing songs that sounded like they could have been on Graceland, or at least that was the running joke. I don't see that as criticism, and have loved everything that they've released. If you can't enjoy some upbeat well-crafted pop music with interesting lyrics, then god help you.
The second was the first real "studio" album from the Black Keys, and my introduction to them. I was hooked from the start, and dug backwards to their more "raw" stuff, but definitely appreciate this album for what it is. I'm no longer jumping at every new album, and I've felt like they've sort of rehashed the same thoughts and sounds a bit lately, but it was refreshing to have something so stripped down making it's way into popular consciousness after what seemed like a decade of music that I couldn't relate to. Both bands have become HUGE in any respect since that spring, for better or for worse, but I'll argue there's a lot worse stuff that could be making the big bucks nowadays.
I probably deserve some ragging on, but despite Attack and Release being my introduction to the Black Keys, of course my favorite songs came out before then. Here's a great one:
This was also the spring of the return to form / first album of the "modern" incarnation of the Mountain Goats, with Heretic Pride. The first album with Jon Wurster and Peter Hughes as an official 3 piece, with drums and bass both taking on a more prominent role. It rocks a little harder at times, and is more mature, but still has everything that I've always wanted from a Mountain Goats album.
Here's a cool "lyric" video for Sax Rohmer 1, by acclaimed director Rian Johnson:
In June, Sigur Ros released the bubbly heart swell that is "Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust" (with a buzzing in our ears we play endlessly), and we absorbed it whole. From the clap-along drive of "Gobbledigook" to the building piano of "Fljotavik", this album is Sigur Ros at pop perfection. This song, (and video performance) should do it for you.
The upbeat trend carried on- I was getting into the Killers about 3 years too late, and the Gaslight Anthem released their biggest release thus far "The '59 sound". Lots of great driving music on the iPod this summer. We were also expanding our love of Old Crow Medicine Show, and I was deep in the throes of an Electric Light Orchestra revolution. ELO is one of those bands that has some big hits, but has about twice as many really great songs as you think. Basically the whole first disc of their two disc greatest hits is pure gold. I had this song as my ringtone right about now:
In August, I got to see the RX Bandits play at the Hawthorne theater. It was the first show of theirs I had seen in 3 or 4 years, and was really great, if only for nostalgia reasons. They didn't have any new music out, but as far as I was concerned, that was fine. I only wanted to hear the old stuff anyway.
Over Labor Day, we made our triumphant return to Strawberry Music Festival. Highlights were Mavis Staples, another face-melting set from Sam Bush, and my introduction to Chris Thile and the Punch Brothers. Thile is probably most famous for being the mandolin player in Nickel Creek, which started when he was 12 years old. Since then, he's gone on to be an accomplished composer, and put on one of the most captivating sets I've seen at Strawberry. Even without his Radiohead and Strokes covers, it was a fantastic piece of bluegrass with a great stage presence, and still something I think about from time to time to this day. Here's a favorite:
While it was a great performance, it didn't hold a candle to what would come in October.
Sigur Ros had announced their US Tour dates, and I bought tickets the second they went on sale for their stop at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Unbeknownst to me, Emily then CANCELLED those tickets, and got us even BETTER seats for the show. We were probably in the first 10 rows of this amazing seated venue, for my favorite bands of all time.
This show was probably one of the few things in my life that truly lived up to some very very high expectations. The set list was fantastic, the performance was dynamic, the crowd was silent when they were supposed to be silent and invested when they should be. I remember lying in bed for months afterwards, still just thinking about the show and how great it was. Later, I found a live audio recording direct from the soundboard, which I listen to from time to time to get lost in a sea of memory.
I wrote this whole post and then had to come back and add a little more here. I think this is really my favorite show of all time, and I've been to a lot of shows and enjoyed a lot of shows. Their music just so fits a live performance space, and to be able to pull of alternating moods of both heart-swelling ecstasy (see clip) and what I refer to as "demon summoning music" in some songs and have it all make sense and be enjoyable is a really really incredible thing.
Here's my absolute favorite. It's a recording from OUR show, and it destroys me every time I see it.
This was wrapping up our first full year in Portland, and this is when we started to realize the pattern that bands follow: really every April and October fill up entirely with shows. The same bands tend to come through at the same time every year (or two), and at least this year, we decided to see as much as possible. That same month, we also saw Against Me and Ted Leo at the Roseland, and The Mountain Goats and Kaki King at the Wonder. I find this appropriate, because I neglected to mention both Leo and King in my post from 2003, in which they both had some pretty heavy play.
Ted Leo most importantly- The Tyranny of Distance is a near flawless first album.
That October, Ween released what would be their final full album, La Cucaracha. The Blossoming Lotus crew was into it, and as a result, I finally became fully invested in their back catalog. I can't stand behind every track they've written, but there are 4 or 5 songs on every album that really get me grooving. La Cucaracha is kind of insane and great, but sort of past their prime and maybe a little over the top. Some of my favorites come from 2003's "Quebec".
The final Blossoming Lotus musical memory I need to add for this year was my introduction to B. Fleischmann, thanks to this guy Eric who was baking there at the time. He had a few records that he impressed upon me were worth checking out, most likely Pop Loops for Breakfast or Welcome Tourist. I thought what I heard was interesting enough, so I got home and downloaded a few albums. One of those albums happened to be 2006's "The Humbucking Coil", which has since landed a spot on my shortlist of favorite records ever.
It's electronic, it's organic, its instrumental, it's soothing and energizing. It has everything I love in an album and nothing I don't. On a rainy day or a late night drive, you really can't do much better.
Somewhere in the discussed few months here (I think in the late spring), Emily had been laid off from her job. Unemployment was happening, and she was looking hard, and we weren't too stressed but starting to get a little stressed. I think it was mid fall when she got hired on to be a designer / calendar manager for the Jewish Review, a weekly newspaper. Once that was secure and things were solid again, we started looking for houses to buy.
Because it isn't that musically relevant: we found a house, put in an offer, and signed papers on it in late November. It took another month to get everything sorted out, such that the official papers went through the day before Christmas when we flew down to California to be with Emily's family. When we came back, we were homeowners, and we moved in on New Years Day. But that's next year...