The Top Ten Albums of 2008

Originally posted 2009-07-28 14:08:51. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

For the 2008 “Yes, No, or Maybe So” one-sentence reviews, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

At long last, here it is…

My top ten list of the best albums of 2008.

Top Ten Albums of 2008

1.  Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings – The Counting Crows
2.  That Lucky Old Sun – Brian Wilson
3.  Viva La Vida – Coldplay
4.  Accelerate – R.E.M.
5.  Modern Guilt – Beck
6.  Snacktime – Barenaked Ladies
7.  A Hundred Million Suns – Snow Patrol
8.  Consolers of the Lonely – The Raconteurs
9.  The Red Album – Weezer
10. Loyalty to Loyalty – Cold War Kids

Honorable Mention:

Liverpool 8 – Ringo Starr
Momofuku – Elvis Costello

“Modern Guilt” (Beck Cover)

Originally posted 2008-08-08 03:37:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to yet another quality edition of the Laptop Sessions music blog, dedicated to bringing you the best cover songs on the web today!

Today’s acoustic cover is Beck’s “Modern Guilt” off his 2008 album of the same name. I have to admit that I wasn’t sure how I would like the album, which came highly recommended from one of my students. But, being in an experimental mood and curious to try it out, I went out and picked it up. Beck works with Danger Mouse on this CD, and it is the latter’s drum beats that really propel the album as a whole. I’m usually not a fan of artificial drum sounds, but I think that they really work for some of these songs. In fact, the reason why I think I’m okay with the drum sounds is that they sounded so much like real drums to me until I read the liner notes in the booklet. Now, granted, I’m not the best judge of sounds in albums, so it may be really obvious that these are fake drums…

For my tastes, the first third of the album is good, the middle third is excellent, and the final section is okay. “Modern Guilt” is track four and the first of my three favorite songs (tracks 4-6). Probably the most enjoyable part of playing this as an acoustic cover song is its beat and how it is fun to play in a staccato fashion with the strumming. Another fun aspect of playing this song as an acoustic version was that I really learned the words — I’d have to say one of my biggest criticisms of the album is that it has great lyrics… that I have a really difficult time understanding. It’s not that I don’t understand the lyrics themselves; in fact, I really like what these songs are about and how he has worded them. But, whether through his singing or the way the album was mixed, I have a difficult time hearing what he is saying.

Well, that’s enough about new rock music for today. I’m going to echo Jim’s post from yesterday and urge you to keep checking back as Jim and I begin to post our collaborative videos; he, Becky, and I sat down last week and recorded several group sessions that are certain to impress.

For now, you can tide yourself over by tuning in tomorrow for another excellent, all-new acoustic rock cover song from our very own Jeff Copperthite…

See you next session!


Yes, No, or Maybe So: One-Sentence Reviews of 2008 Albums

Originally posted 2009-07-31 10:50:48. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

(Arranged in alphabetical order by band)

With so many albums being released every week, what are they all like?  Which are worth your time?  These one-sentence reviews are the answers to those questions!

Snacktime (Barenaked Ladies) – MAYBE SO

Review:  Fun and even educational for kids, yet substantive and musically interesting for adults – don’t let this be the one Barenaked Ladies album missing from your shelf!

Top Two Tracks:  “7 8 9” – “Pollywog in a Bog”

Modern Guilt (Beck) – MAYBE SO

Review:  Beck’s unique voice is the anchor of this rock album that successfully integrates both loops and modern effects with the simplest acoustic, electric guitar, and keyboard sounds front and center in the mix.

Top Two Tracks:  “Gamma Ray” – “Modern Guilt”

Way To Normal (Ben Folds) – MAYBE NOT

Review:  While this is a great breakup album with some typically provocative Ben Folds lyrics and strong instrumental work, there are simply too many disposable tracks and a general feeling throughout much of the album that we’ve been here before.

Top Two Tracks:  “Bitch Went Nuts” – “Brainwascht”

That Lucky Old Sun (Brian Wilson) – YES

Review:  This is Wilson’s modern masterpiece for the summer months, offering more punch than a fresh cup of coffee (“Morning Beat”), piano ballads for the ages (“Forever She’ll Be My Surfer Girl” and “Midnight’s Another Day”), and spoken word transition tracks (lyrics by SMiLE collaborator Van Dyke Parks) that won’t disappoint, all in a thoughtfully ordered and nicely blended track listing.

Top Two Tracks:  “Forever She’ll Be My Surfer Girl” – “Live Let Live”

11 (Bryan Adams) – MAYBE NOT

Review:  This is pretty much what you would expect, which doesn’t mean it can’t be great fun – clichéd, cheesy lines notwithstanding.

Top Two Tracks:  “I Ain’t Losin’ the Fight” – “Oxygen”

Loyalty to Loyalty (Cold War Kids) – MAYBE SO

Review:  The Cold War Kids’ breakthrough album (#21 on the Billboard 200) further establishes their strong, unique sound – Willett’s vocals and Russell’s guitar work being their strongest assets, set against the driving force of Maust’s bass and Aveiro’s drums – aside from perhaps a couple disposable tracks, the album is a stand out.

Top Two Tracks:  “Against Privacy” – “Mexican Dogs”

Prospekt’s March EP (Coldplay) – NO

Review:  Okay, Coldplay, it’s time to step up to the plate a la Wilco: release these tracks (only 3 or 4 are really worth the listen, anyway) on the next reissue of Viva La Vida AND offer them as a free download to anyone who has already bought the album; none of this shameful EP garbage for one of the most wildly successful bands in the world!

Top Two Tracks:  “Life in Technicolor II” – “Glass of Water”

Viva La Vida (Coldplay) – YES

Review:  Coldplay has finally hit an album-worthy home run, complete with beautiful instrumental bookends, richly explored thematic elements, big pop-radio worthy singles, and multi-movement tracks; this is the album that will help them begin living up to the hype that has surrounded the band for years.

Top Two Tracks:  “42” – “Violet Hill”

Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings (Counting Crows) – YES

Review:  The concept album of the year, Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings’ songs are aptly split between those that address the primal side of human nature, making decisions by instinct and engaging in debauchery, and the more reflective side of the psyche, reconsidering past decisions, experiences, and even dream images in the early light of Sunday morning.

Top Two Tracks:  “Insignificant” – “You Can’t Count On Me”

Momofuku (Elvis Costello) – MAYBE SO

Review:  Named for the inventor of instant ramen noodles, Momofuku may have been recorded at a breakneck pace, but there are some quality songs here: interesting arrangements, heartfelt performances, and of course, clever and poetic lyrics.

Top Two Tracks:  “American Gangster Time” – “Flutter and Wow”

Electric Argument (The Fireman) – NO

Review:  The guise of the Fireman may allow Paul McCartney the opportunity to relax, experiment, and otherwise stretch out, but a fully realized album that lives up to his vastly impressive recent work this is not.

Top Two Tracks:  “Sing the Changes” – “Dance ‘Til We’re High”

Sleep Through the Static (Jack Johnson) – NO

Review:  Filled with peaceful songs recorded in very clear sound quality… that will most likely put you to sleep – not even close to what you would expect from the follow-up to In Between Dreams.

Top Two Tracks:  “What You Thought You Need” – “Go On”

The Glass Passenger (Jack’s Mannequin) – MAYBE NOT

Review:  With their most recent release, Jack’s Mannequin has cracked the top ten of the Billboard 200 and found a bright, clean, and upbeat sound while addressing a number of serious topics; if some of the songs didn’t sound so similar and if McMahon’s vocals didn’t strain and reverberate oddly at times, this would be a great album.

Top Two Tracks:  “Crashin’” – “Bloodshot”

Seeing Things (Jakob Dylan) – MAYBE SO

Review:  Jakob Dylan finds some soothing and rootsy acoustic sounds on his debut solo album… now, let’s just hope he uses it to return with more force and feeling to a full band next time!

Top Two Tracks:  “Valley of the Low Sun” – “War is Kind”

Greenlight (Jeff Copperthite) – MAYBE SO

Review:  The first solo album from one half of the late nineties rock band Quilt, Greenlight is all you could hope for from a debut release – a range of songs that demonstrate Copperthite’s considerable instrumental abilities, including a couple standouts that will make listeners look forward to the next solo release.

Top Two Tracks:  “Home” – “Aware”

Perfectly Clear (Jewel) – MAYBE NOT

Review:  The latest phase for this folk singer turned dance/big band star turned country artist, Perfectly Clear is a well executed country album – nothing less, but not much more.

Top Two Tracks:  “Love is a Garden” – “Till It Feels Like Cheating”

Insides Out (Jordan Zevon) – MAYBE NOT

Review:  Bitingly witty at times, helplessly romantic at others, and always in-your-face realistic, Jordan Zevon’s debut release boasts finely crafted – if predictable – vocals and strong – although standard – instrumentation; he’s on his way to a great album, but hasn’t quite made it this time.

Top Two Tracks:  “The Joke’s On Me” – “Payday”

Mudcrutch (Mudcrutch) – MAYBE SO

Review:  An instantly likeable album with a classic sound that is somehow still unique and infectious, the power of Mudcrutch’s debut release – much like the faded face on its cover – tends to dissipate over time; as with many releases this year, it’s not bad for a start and is perhaps the best debut album (and one of the best new bands) of 2008.

Top Two Tracks:  “Orphan of the Storm” – “Lover of the Bayou”

Home Before Dark (Neil Diamond) – NO

Review:  An album of enjoyable three minute songs… that drag on redundantly for six minutes.

Top Two Tracks:  “Pretty Amazing Grace” – “The Power of Two”

The Slip (Nine Inch Nails) – MAYBE SO

Review:  The landscape of The Slip is that of violence and corruption, but even more acutely of the impact upon and influence of the individual in a society that is taking turns for the worse – add in Trent Reznor’s supplying this album for free online, taking intricate care to provide track (not just album) artwork and typed-in lyrics, and you’ve got a strong release.

Top Two Tracks:  “1,000,000” – “Discipline”

Break Up the Concrete (The Pretenders) – MAYBE NOT

Review:  While there’s nothing particularly remarkable here, Break Up the Concrete is a surprisingly strong release from Chrissie Hynde and company, nicely blending acoustic and electric rock with a rockabilly sensibility peeking through intermittently.

Top Two Tracks:  “Love’s A Mystery” – “The Last Ride”

Accelerate (R.E.M.) – YES

Review:  From the first notes of distorted electric guitar to the final “yeah” voiced by frontman Michael Stipe, Accelerate is a non-stop rock’n roll joy ride punctuated by numerous standout tracks, instrumental moments, and some of the strongest lyrics from Stipe in years; this R.E.M. album more than lives up to what its title implies about the pacing.

Top Two Tracks:  “Living Well is the Best Revenge” – “Supernatural Superserious”

Consolers of the Lonely (The Raconteurs) – MAYBE SO

Review:  For anyone who claims there are no new bands making great rock music, here come the tremendous Raconteurs to tell stories with urgent vocals, infectious guitar licks, plenty of distortion while maintaining a healthy respect for the acoustic guitar, horns, and so much more as traces of classic rock and modern rock are inseparably mixed.

Top Two Tracks:  “Top Yourself” – “Many Shades of Black”

The Bird and the Bee Sides (Relient K) – MAYBE SO

Review:  In and of itself, The Nashville Tennis EP is a generally middle of the road affair with a handful of standout tracks and several disposable songs; however, when combined with The Bird and the Bee Sides, it boasts new material as well as enough rare tracks to fill the gaps in any Relient K fan’s collection – never mind that 13 songs add up to a generous “EP,” clocking in for a total of 26 songs on this single disc release.

Top Two Tracks (“The Bird”):  “At Least We Made It This Far” – “I Just Want You To Know”

Top Two Tracks (“The Bee Sides”):  “Up and Up (Acoustic)” – “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been (Acoustic)”

Liverpool 8 (Ringo Starr) – MAYBE SO

Review:  Even though Starr split with longtime collaborator Mark Hudson during the making of Liverpool 8, this album is a worthy addition to his recent catalog, and although it may not be the strongest of the Roundhead records, it’s a must-hear for Ringo and rock fans alike.

Top Two Tracks:  “Liverpool 8” – “If It’s Love That You Want”

Detours (Sheryl Crow) – MAYBE NOT

Review:  This album is a bit of a mess, as some songs (“God Bless This Mess,” “Love is All There Is”) are heartfelt standouts and others (“Love is Free,” “Peace Be Upon Us”) seem phoned-in and generally distract from the great material this album has to offer.

Top Two Tracks:  “Shine Over Babylon” – “Detours”

A Hundred Million Suns (Snow Patrol) – MAYBE SO

Review:  Don’t let the inferior first single “Take Back the City” fool you: A Hundred Million Suns is the long-awaited next step in Snow Patrol’s evolution, offering up much to enjoy hearing and feeling and even more to interpret – and, thankfully, AHMS is a vast improvement over Eyes Open, and a worthy follow-up to Final Straw.

Top Two Tracks:  “Crack the Shutters” – “The Planets Bend Between Us”

The Red Album (Weezer) – MAYBE SO

Review:  The Red Album is something of an enigma – several tracks (“The Greatest Man That Ever Lived,” “Everybody Get Dangerous”) are among the quirkiest, most original and inventive work ever to grace a Weezer release, yet the album gets sidetracked in material that is easy on the ear, but overly simplistic (think “Heart Songs” and “Dreamin’”) – but it’s an interesting one; it is difficult to determine whether the first ever contributions from the other band members provides an exciting boost or simply more confusion to the album.  (And why no “Miss Sweeney” on the main album release?)

Top Two Tracks:  “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” – “Thought I Knew”

“Canceled Check” (Beck Cover)

Originally posted 2009-11-10 01:09:03. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

For Beck chords & lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to another all-new week of cover song music videos at the Laptop Sessions!  This promises to be a good week, because not only will there be new Monday and Tuesday videos, but I will also be publishing my review of the new Weezer album.

And, trust me, that one will be a doozie…

For now, though, let’s focus on the present.  Tonight’s video is a song that I came across quite randomly on my iTunes, intending to listen to it only to test out a theory I have about how the “skip count” works on the software.  From the first few moments of the song, I was immediately interested in it.  As the song continued to play out, I picked up my guitar and began working the chords out.  Then, after listening to it a dozen times this weekend, I was ready to record my session tonight.

The song I am referring to is Beck’s “Canceled Check,” the fourth track from his 1998 album Mutations.  I suppose you could say that this was dumb luck that I stumbled across this song, but I truly knew within the first thirty seconds of hearing this song for the first time that it would make a fun cover song music video.  The album as a whole is actually very enjoyable, blending strong acoustic guitar and harmonica elements with more experimental sounds, such as the confusion that closes this track.  For my session, I enlisted a little help and am excited to present an “experimental” ending of my own.  (I hope you enjoy it!)

This music video also has the virtue of being one of the very few, if not the ONLY, Laptop Sessions that I’ve completed in one recorded take.  Granted, I spent a good deal of time practicing, but still…

In other personal music news, I recently sent a reply email to the Fruit Bats, commenting about their excellent performance on the Craig Ferguson show (the Fruit Bats mailing sent out the link to view it) and their excellent album.  I wrote, “I’ve been listening since “Spelled in Bones,” but the new album has me spellbound and officially a BIG fan. Again, thank you for what is easily one of the top 5 best albums of the year!!! (and I’ve bought almost 30 new albums this year already, so I feel like I have some perspective!)”

The reply?  Well, I wasn’t so much expecting a reply as I was just simply compelled to write this feedback.  I write so many music reviews here, and particularly for a band as under the radar as the Fruit Bats, I just had to try sending my words out to them.

I did get a reply, and I’m grateful to whoever decided to send it.  However, it made me feel like I was in high school again.  The response read, “Wow — thanks Chris!”

And, yup, this suddenly reminded me of the reply of several girls to whom I confessed my affection for.  It’s kind of like that moment when someone says “I love you” to someone else, and that person replies by thanking them.

Anyway, I really was happy to get a reply.  Most bands that I listen to wouldn’t take the time to do even that.  Coming from someone who has been in a band that worked overtime for not so much return, though, I would have been compelled to say something more in reply…

Still love their album. :-)

Without further ado, I hope that you enjoy my take on “Canceled Check.”  I certainly enjoyed recording it — in fact, I had more fun learning and recording this song than I have had in a good long time.  Of course, don’t forget to hurry back for more great posts tomorrow and later this week!

See you next session!