Crosby & Nash

Crosby & Nash: Graham Nash / David Crosby (1972)

There have been many musicians that I have taken for granted, only to blithely stumble into their catalog and realize I had been missing out. A recent example is Crosby & Nash, famously 2/3rds (or ½) of CSN and sometimes Y. I would not have known that they recorded as a duo if I had not read Shakey, the notoriously controversial biography of Neil Young. Neil’s involvement with CSN provides some of the most hilarious material in the book. Noting the outrageous circumstances of David Crosby’s life, it’s amusing that he comes out looking pretty good by the end of the book in comparison to Stephen Stills, who, it must be said, refused to be interviewed for the book. Along the same lines, Graham Nash, often derided for the saccharine nature of his songs, is revealed to be quite a mensch, for lack of a better word, never afraid to criticize Young, though I laughed when he recounted being at a meeting with the group and not being able to protest one of Young’s many attempts to manipulate CSN in order to further his own career (see for example the “Living with War” tour) because he was too high on acid and couldn’t say anything.

Anyway, reading the book led me to look up more information about CSN, and while stumbling around in Wikipedia I discovered that the two recorded as a duo. After searching my, ahem, resources, I obtained a copy, and was quite impressed with what I heard.

The record starts off with “Southbound Train”, which bears a strong resemblance to the sound of Neil’s Harvest, a smash hit just a few months earlier in ’72. This is a Nash composition, and while lyrically it borders on nonsense, it’s a pleasant slice of laconic Laurel Canyon country rock. Immediately afterwards is Crosby’s “Whole Cloth”, providing a dramatic contrast to the opening number.

At this point I think it’s appropriate to discuss what’s become for me a mild obsession with David Crosby. Before reading Shakey, my knowledge of him was about the same as the typical classic rock listener: I knew he was the first letter of CSN, that he had been a Byrd, and that he was a prodigious drug user in his time; I vaguely recall watching MTV and seeing that he had been arrested by the Feds, most likely on one of his yachts, and that like Keith Richards, the mere fact that he still breathed in spite of his lifestyle was quite an accomplishment. In other words, he was a living classic-rock punch line. The reputation, though earned, is hardly fair. Crosby’s cadre of heavy friends – Young; Joni Mitchell; and Bob Dylan, who recounts bringing Crosby along to accept an honorary doctorate in his first edition of Chronicles (Crosby wore his cape, and consoled Dylan afterwards saying, essentially, “fuck ‘em”) – can be credited more to the fact that Crosby was in fact a phenomenal musician than the fact that he was, admittedly, the life of the party.

For those doubting that appraisal of Crosby, “Whole Cloth” provides an excellent rebuttal. To call the song minimal would be an understatement. It is the pop song equivalent of poetic blank verse: no chorus or bridge, hardly any chord changes, sparse, almost jazz-inflected instrumental backing. If you listen to this song in the context of the half-known Crosby described above, “Whole Cloth” comes off as pretentious lite jazz; remove that context, and it’s really remarkable. First off, Crosby really has an amazing voice. It is a soulful near-baritone, and he is skilled in using it to make even the simplest notes sound virtuosic. He was never the guitarist that Young or Stills were, yet, true to his folk roots, he does just enough with the instrument to carry along the simple acrobatics he performs vocally. Even though he barely plays any chords in the song, the chords he does play sound to my ears quite complicated, as though he stretched his fingers to the point that he found the melodically dissonant chords possible. The lyrics are elliptical, but to me, it sounds as though he’s looking back on the musical era he and his friends helped develop – the “Summer of Love” was just some 5 years past, and CSN’s high-water-mark Déjà Vu was a mere 3 years old. Seen this way, “Whole Cloth” can be interpreted as another self-important baby boomer looking on his past glories with undue admiration, but with lyrics like the following, there’s definitely more to appreciate than what can be scraped off the surface:

Old man, can you make a mirror for me?
It's got to be clearer than air for me
'Cause you see I can't see me, no
And I always thought that I meant what I said
But you know that lately I've read - We were lying
All of us lying, Just makin' 'it up, yeah
Cuttin' it out of whole cloth, yeah

The next track, “Blacknotes”, finds Nash abandoning his pop-rock tendencies and getting in on the elliptical tone-poem game. At a shade over 50 seconds, it presents a simple recipe for creating a song: just put your fingers on the black keys, sing some words, and that’s it. Nash’s “Stranger’s Room” is more like him: the same Harvest-esque lope as “Southbound Train”, but this time with the kind of show-stopping chorus Crosby & Nash made famous in their better-known jobs. One gets another chance to appreciate how appealing their combined voices sound in Crosby’s “Where Will I Be?”, just as introspective and simple lyrically as “Whole Cloth,” but this time featuring virtuosic humming in place of where one would normally expect a bridge or a chorus. Listening to the record recently, Crosby’s compositions reminded me of Cat Power’s Moon Pix, with its game-like wordplay and jazzy, almost meter-less inflection.

“Page 43” acts more like a pop song than Crosby’s previous numbers, ending with the kind of hippie-friendly message he would later be derided for:

Pass it 'round one more time
I think I'll have a swallow of wine
Life is fine
Even with the ups and downs
And you should have a sip of it
Else you'll find
It's passed you by

“Frozen Smiles”, a Nash composition, seems to contradict the libertine message of the previous song, and prefigures Nash’s role as a sober, admonishing critic of the excesses he saw lay waste to his colleagues later in life:

So my advice to you is not to take advice
From the dealers who are handing out the cards
Take your life into your own hand
Just have faith in who you are
And all your goodness that I'm forced to disregard
Because you make it much to hard.

“Games” and “Girl to be On My Mind” are both agreeable songs that I want to skip over in order to start talking about Crosby’s final show-stopper, “The Wall Song”. First off, it ably demonstrates Crosby’s skill in adapting the most mundane image and turning it into an excavation of his own fractured worldview. It bears an interesting resemblance to an earlier Crosby composition: “Mind Gardens”, from the Byrds’ Younger than Yesterday, though not as instrumentally adventurous (it does, however, feature backing from Grateful Dead mainstays Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, and Bill Kreutzmann), Like "Mind Gardens," it seems to travel a psychic landscape, arriving at the metaphorical wall of consciousness, and ending with a riddle:

You are walking
You’ve always been walking
Stumbling half-blinded
And dry as the wind
That strafes you and leaves you
To lie in the sand
And the wall stretches endless beside you to nowhere
This wall that you've been trying to cross for years
This fence made of fears
No one hears

You see a door
Ah, such a great open door
You know that your eyes tellin' lies
Still you chance
A shambling run, a ridiculous dance
Like a scarecrow that's hung up to dry on a fencepole
And there's a space like vacuum waiting inside you
For you to get through
To the blue

You scent the water
Fresh clean grass, food and water
Your breath is scraping your brain into dust
Your rusty old engine is ready to bust
You cannot believe it that they would not trust you
The door is wavering
Is that your eyes?
Are they still telling lies?
What are lies?

Heavy stuff.

The album ends with Nash’s finest contribution, and its most successful in terms of revenue: “Immigration Man”, which peaked at #36 on the Billboard chart. Here Nash does what he did best in CSN: creates a huge, singalong-worthy chorus. I especially the sarcasm in the lines “Here I am with my immigration form, / it's big enough to keep me warm / when a cold wind's coming,” as well as the rhythm that seems to mimic the image of running from overzealous immigration agents – running, of course, while high on grass through some sun-dappled field in Laurel Canyon.

In sum, I think Crosby & Nash’s Graham Nash/David Crosby is an unjustly forgotten gem, much like the two men themselves: overshadowed by their more well-regarded friends. The Rolling Stone review at the time tends towards praise with faint damnation:
“Neither David Crosby, another original Byrd, nor Graham Nash has ever gotten anywhere near as offensive as Stills at his worst. But then, neither Crosby nor Nash has the capacity to catch fire, as Stills is always threatening to do. These two guys are expert harmony singers, but they swing toward the sweet, light side, and a little sugar generally goes a long way….Without Stills or Young along, the problem should be even more obvious, but it's just not. The Nash-Crosby LP is no milestone, but it is something more than merely pleasant in several places.”

I believe it serves as a sturdy document of the psychedelic afterglow of the early-seventies Laurel Canyon scene, and provides a roadmap for the soft-rock decade to come. Though the pop world may have forgotten them, they still soldier on: Crosby & Nash still tour as a duo, and they even have a website (http://www.crosbynash.com/) where one finds that they performed a get-out-the-vote concert with the likes of Tenacious D and the Beastie Boys.

From Graham Nash/David Crosby, Atlantic, 1972



As I write this, the bailout plan has failed in the House, and the Dow immediately took a nosedive. If certain sources are to believed, a great deal of Republican representatives voted "Nay" at the last minute simply because they took issue with Nancy Pelosi's speech. Who said five-year-olds couldn't serve in Congress?

There's a part of me that wants to believe that the doom forecasted if a bailout isn't reached is nothing more than a scare tactic. At the same time, I sure as hell don't want to lose my job, my house, etc. if they turn out to be right. I'm not much of a post-Keynesian economist, but at the same time, no one else I know is either (well, I did meet one guy in a bar who was, in fact, a post-Keynesian economist, but at any rate). So I'm getting a little worried about the fact that "popular sentiment" seems to be the sole reason why it has been so hard to reach some kind of agreement on a solution.

Look, I'm as wary of "Wall Street" (I use the dread quotes because at this point, Wall Street has become as much of a straw man as "The Terrorists", "The Jews", "The Man", etc) as the next guy. Certainly, the idea that such monumental stupidity can simply be wiped away by the Government strikes me as more than a little unfair. The question is: what happens if we do nothing, to say little of doing the wrong thing? Even the Treasury isn't sure if this thing is really going to work.

As I have followed the happenings of the crisis, I have come to the conclusion that a number of (*cough* Republican *cough*) congressmen decided that, in the wake of an election season that many have predicted will see a number of them lose their seats to Democrats, the only way to survive the blue tide was to strap on their everyman-waders and oppose "handouts to the fat-cats on Wall Street". No doubt a great number of these politicians' constituents have called them and told them they expect just such a stance from their elected officials, but it strikes me as more than a little ironic. I mean, doesn't it blow your mind that when you turn on the news you see Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Barney Frank bending over backwards to hand in legislation that the Bush Administration is practically begging for, veto-proof majority or none? What neat symmetry that suddenly an army of grey-faced old GOP hacks can suddenly align themselves against the one man who single-handedly torpedoed their job security in a way no other politician ever could and at the same time claim that it's the damned democrats who are trying to give away the farm to those "fat-cats on Wall Street", many of whom could be solidly counted on to vote "deregulate or die" GOP every other November? The mind reels from the vertigo of it all.

Let's not forget the recent timeline for this particular clusterfuck: noted former POW John McCain took a bold stance and "suspended his campaign" to, ahem, help solve the economic crisis", the attention devoted to which would mean he would be unable to debate Barack Obama. So during that suspension, in which he still ran ads, spoke at a major forum, gave interviews to all major networks, and allowed his band of flacks to continue spreading their disinformation campaign wherever anyone cared to hear it, a bailout was tentatively agreed to by both parties in the Senate, the House Dems, and somewhat begrudgingly, the House GOP. Apparently, McCain said little more than "know that I'm with you" to the House GOP, and here we are today, another agreement supposedly reached, the subsequent vote failed, and if you believe in nosediving line graphs, total economic armageddon that much closer to reality.

I really know next to nothing about the economy, but being a big fan of analogies, I see the bailout this way: Say you were a doctor, and you had a patient who smoked 3 packs a day his entire life. Unsurprisingly, he has near-terminal cancer. As a doctor, do you say "fuck off Joe Camel, you should have known those things would kill you", or do you operate and try to save his life, knowing that if you do, he's probably going to go right back to smoking?

Doctors have to take an oath swearing to "first do no harm". What oaths must our elected officials follow?


Did you hear about Barack Obama?

Disclaimer: the following is intended to be a work of satire, which is a form of fiction, and a branch of comedy, so it's supposed to be funny, and none of it is true.* However, since I know that someone will find this page by Googling some kind of ridiculous nonsense, may I humbly direct the incredulous to http://www.fightthesmears.com. Thank you.

Hey man.


Did you hear?


Did you hear about Barack Obama?

You mean Barack Hussein Obama?


What? About the fact that he was born in a missile silo in Iran?


About the fact that he is Saddam Hussein's 3rd cousin?


About the fact that his wife is the illegitimate love child of Louis Farrakhan and Oprah?

No, not that. That's totally true by the way.

Hmm. Is it that he's a brainwashed sleeper cell agent programmed to convert the United States to Islam?

No, but I haven't heard him deny that.

Is he an android?


A zombie?

I don't think so.

Well what? What about Barack Obama?

You're not gonna believe this, dude.


For real.

I'm listening, what?

OK, get this. Barack Obama...he's from CHICAGO.

Wait, what?

Barack Obama is from Chicago.


Totally, dude.

How do you know that? Did Hannity and Combs say that?

No dude, it was the top headline of the Chicago Tribune for like an entire day.

No way.

Way, dude.


Total way.

That blows my mind. Whoa.

Yeah, I know. Can you believe it?


Yeah. This is big.

I'll say. Chicago?

Yeah. Well, he says he was born in Hawaii, but he works as a politician in Chicago. You know who's from Chicago?


Al Capone.

Whoa, really?

You know who else?


Rod Blagojevich.


And Richard Daley.

Oh, wow.

And George Ryan.

Whoa, George Ryan is in jail. Was he a democrat?

Well, no, he was a republican.


You know what else about Chicago? They have a machine there. A POLITICAL machine.

Wow. This is big, right?

Hell yeah it's big. Bigger than Jeremiah Wright.

Hey, he's from Chicago too, right?

Hell yeah he was.

Just like Barack Hussein Obama.


Man. Has anyone ever been elected president from Chicago?

No. The closest was Adlai Stevenson, who was from Bloomington, which is between Chicago and Springfield, which is totally as bad if not worse than Chicago. But Stevenson had the misfortune of running against Dwight Eisenhower. Twice.

I heard that.

That and the fact that the last democrat to serve as president was Harry Truman, and Truman was one of the least popular presidents ever, and is regarded as one of the worst presidents ever, like in history.

Oh. Has there ever been a president less popular and perceived as more of a failure than Truman?

Well, um, there's George W. Bush.

Oh yeah, right.


Hey, wasn't Abraham Lincoln from Illinois?

Uh, yeah. Well, he was born in Kentucky, but he spent most of his life in Illinois.

And wasn't he a lawyer?


And a state representative?


And wasn't he a congressman before he became president?

Yeah. Well, in the House, anyway.





Is this the best we've got?

Until someone comes out with a video of Obama performing some voodoo blood ceremony, I'm afraid it is.

Wow. John McCain is totally screwed, right?

Afraid so, dude. Afraid so.


Did you hear that John McCain called his wife a cunt in public once?

No way.

Way, dude, way.

*Except for the fact that Barack Obama is from Illinois, as was Adlai Stevenson and Abraham Lincoln, and the fact that John McCain called his wife a cunt.


The Fog that Ate Chicago

Thank goodness it spared the Art Institute:


A Poem for Memorial Day

Drummer Hodge

They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
Uncoffined -- just as found:
His landmark is a kopje-crest
That breaks the veldt around:
And foreign constellations west
Each night above his mound.

Young Hodge the drummer never knew --
Fresh from his Wessex home --
The meaning of the broad Karoo,
The Bush, the dusty loam,
And why uprose to nightly view
Strange stars amid the gloam.

Yet portion of that unknown plain
Will Hodge for ever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
Grow to some Southern tree,
And strange-eyed constellations reign
His stars eternally.

--Thomas Hardy



heh heh heh, heh...

"President Bush is well aware that the banner should have been much more specific and said 'mission accomplished' for these sailors who are on this ship on their mission," White House press secretary Dana Perino told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Heh heh heh, heh heh, heh.

Heh heh heh heh.

Ha ha ha.

Ha HA ha!


pfffthaa haa haa!






Why can't an atheist be President?

Full disclosure: I'm for Obama. 100%. I voted for him in my state's primary. I almost--almost--cried when I watched the "Yes We Can" video, and I cry approximately once every five years. So keep that in mind if you care to read the rest of this post. If you're looking for fair and balanced political analysis, look elsewhere. (And if you ever find it, be sure to let the rest of the world know about it.)

At the beginning of this week, I was extremely agitated about the fact that Barack Obama's candidacy was in danger of ruin because of remarks made by the pastor of his church. As the week progressed, I got a lot less agitated thanks to the man delivering a truly monumental speech, but I'm still worried, and still a little agitated.

It has been said (though I'm not sure where, when, or by whom) that an atheist could never be elected President of the United States. Why is that? I have no idea. But as long as this country has elected presidents, there have always been three steadfast requirements to fill the position: one must be white, male, and Christian. In this election, the country has a one-in-three chance of gaining a president who is not white, and similar odds for one who is not male, but no matter who wins, the probability that the country's 220-year streak of electing a Christian Commander-In-Chief stands at 100%.

I don't have a problem with anyone labeling themselves Christian. There certainly are worse or more ridiculous belief systems with which one could align themselves. My problem is with the importance that is placed on a candidate's belief system in relation to their fitness to serve as president, and more specifically, how the beliefs expressed by one person in Barack Obama's church have been turned around on Obama himself as evidence that he is unfit to be President.

It's not necessary to rehash the comments made by Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright. The ever-diligent media, perhaps fearing in the wake of the writer's strike the significant loss of ratings and thus ad dollars they would face were the democratic primary season to fold prematurely, have been very helpful in parsing down the thousands of hours of sermonizing and public speaking that Wright has engaged in over his decades-long career to the most incendiary 3-second soundbites they could find. And my are they incendiary.

But what does that have to do with the fitness of Barack Obama to serve as the President of the United States? If you believe even the most even-keeled pundits who have predicted the demise of Obama in '08 due to Wright's statements, it has everything to do with it.

As I mentioned before, until this election cycle began, the presumptive qualities one must have possessed to become President have been whiteness, maleness, and Christianity--but not every type of Christian need apply. Until John F. Kennedy was elected President, it was believed that a Catholic could never win the job. Obama's church is protestant, but it seems that his pastor was an expert practitioner of Black Liberation Theology, something a solid majority of non-black people had never heard of until a few weeks ago, but now they've heard it, and if those 3-second bites of Wright are to be seen as typical, they have discovered that Black Liberation Theology is very angry, and, well, very black.

Again, what does this have to do with Obama? Well, I have to theorize here because truthfully I know next to nothing about it, but apparently what you hear in church on Sunday has a lot to do with how you function the rest of the week: what kind of person you are, how you relate to others, what you believe. The traditional definition of pastor is "shepherd", as in a leader of sheep, one who tends a flock. They say "the lord is my shepherd," and the pastor is the mouthpiece of the lord's word, the commandments of which are taken as gospel by the flock. So when Obama's pastor declares "God Damn America," the reasoning is that Obama then takes those words as his gospel.

Forgive me if all of this seems tedious to you, but I'm treading as lightly as I can here, because I don't want to appear intolerant to Christians, as many people who are very close to me are Christian. But for the life of me, I cannot understand how anyone can hear what has been said by Jeremiah Wright and believe that Barack Obama believes anything close to the same thing. Seriously: the controversy over these statements could hardly be as vicious if there were video of Obama himself uttering them. But this is the problem: because those things were said by his pastor, it opens up the window for people to turn those statements on Obama and force him to answer for them.

So finally I return to my opening question: why can't an atheist run for president? Why is it so important for the leader of our country to believe the same things, and believe those things in the same way, as has nearly every man who has served as President before him or her? The reason I began to wonder this week is obvious: if there were no Jeremiah Wright in Obama's life, none of this would have been a problem. Of course, if there were no Jeremiah Wright, there would likely be no Obama, or at least he wouldn't be the same man we know today--I realize that, and I realize that many people's lives have been affected the same way by Christianity...I don't take issue with that. To each their own. But I ask these things in all sincerity. Why does it matter?

If anyone were to ask me, I would say that the President only needed to believe in the Constitution, in the history and latent "goodness" of our country, in all of the third-grade civics class lessons that have turned into tarnished cliches in the waning days of the second Bush administration. Do I think he needs to believe in Jesus, or Moses, or Noah's ark, or Genesis, or Job, or Satan, or Heaven, or Adam, Eve, Cain & Abel, or anything else like that? If you're asking me--no. But if you ask five other people anywhere near me the same thing, you can bet four out of five of them are going to say yes. Would they say they'd vote for a Jew? I don't know, but I think most would say no. A Muslim? I think a pretty wide margin would say no. A Hindu? Half of the people in this country probably couldn't even say what a Hindu was, even though the same percentage of people probably live or work next to one every day. And how about an Atheist? Again I generalize, but I would hazard a guess that unless you asked an atheist whether one would be fit to serve as president, the answer you'd get would be a resounding "No."

But why not? And what good has it done the country that all of its Presidents have uttered many of the same prayers and same hymns as long as there have been Presidents? Our outgoing President once confessed that he talked to God on a regular basis, and felt that he could hear God talking to him, and it was hearing God's word directly in his ear that led him to embark this country in a war now five years old with trillions upon trillions of dollars wasted, thousands of American lives lost, untold numbers of Iraqi lives lost, and no end in sight. In the meantime, the people who elected him into office are losing their houses, losing their jobs, losing their life's savings, while the President continues to thunder that the war was just, the economy is sound, and God is on his side.

Good God, what a load of bullshit.

Thankfully, thankfully, oh so thankfully, Barack Obama spoke out about the controversy that Wright's statements had incited. But he didn't just speak out about the soundbites. He did what he's been doing all this time: He led. He inspired. He was honest. He was nuanced. He made it more than about him. He confirmed all the qualities that made those who support him think the man was born to be a leader.

I've done a terribly poor job of addressing the central question that started this post. I have no clue why an atheist couldn't be president. In my mind, being an atheist would be a benefit for anyone seeking to become President. No one could question from where their beliefs were derived. They would never have to answer to a power higher than the people who elected him or her to office. If they made a mistake, they would only have their electorate to ask for forgiveness, and their penitence would come on November 4th.

That's how I live my life. I don't expect anyone else to gain any insight on their own condition based on the way I live. And I don't feel the need to evangelize my position. I am the way I am--I don't belong to any atheist "religion"; to me, that would be a little like being a member of a group that doesn't believe in groups. I just don't believe. Simple as that. I'm not a spiritual person. When I'm in a forest, or feel a breeze, or enjoy a ray of sunshine, or rejoice in the goodness of my fellow man, I don't chalk it up to a higher power, I appreciate it for what it is, and nothing else.

So tell me: would you want a person like me to be your President?

How about your Mayor?





Not Safe for Work...

...if you happen to work in a place that frowns upon one weeping from laughter and spitting out muffin pieces due to hilarity:


And the Best Album of 2007 Is...

Part 1 ~ Part 2 ~ Part 3 ~ Part 4

I'm tired. Bedheaded Jr. is a finicky sleeper. He usually goes for a couple hours, and then has to burp or something, and then gets upset because he's awake, and one of us has to go in to his room and rock him to sleep, because unfortunately no one told us that if you put a baby to sleep that way, then that's the only way they'll go to sleep until you straighten it out. There are lots of little lessons like that about babies that no one really sits you down and tells you about. Fortunately, one of the best decisions we made before he was born was to forgo buying one of those ridiculously rickety glider/rockers you see lined up at a typical Babies-R-Us and instead purchased an overstuffed faux-leather La-Z-Boy and put it in his room, so that when he wakes up, all we end up doing is pick him up, get him cradled in the arm, and kick back on the recliner, and usually end up sleeping that way for the rest of the night, or until he gets hot or burps again. Seriously, if anyone ever asked me for advice before becoming a parent, that's the best I could give them. Those stupid gliders are overpriced death traps; your 300 bucks are better spent getting a big fat recliner you can pass out on without worrying about the baby falling out of your arms or the whole thing tipping over sideways. Whoever gave me that advice, thank you.

Where was I? Oh yeah, I was going to finally finish up this list of the best albums of 2007. Man what a mess this turned into. Maybe I should have just picked five. I don't think that would have been possible, so we move on.

Before I name the toppermost of the poppermost, indulge me as I bore you with two worthy runners-up to the title....

Patton Oswalt - Werewolves and Lollipops
Sub Pop

To be honest with you, I probably listened to this album more times in a row than any other record this year. The first time I tried listening to it, I was driving on the Eisenhower, which was a bad idea, so I'd recommend not trying to listen to this while driving unless you've heard it about twenty times or you can drive with tears in your eyes and your face contorted in a rictus of laughter. The first bit, where he riffs on KFC's "famous bowls," pretty much finished me before the thing even got halfway started. Stay tuned while he compares Bush and Cheney to Bo and Luke Duke, meets Brian Dennehy, deconstructs why Episodes 1 through 3 sucked, and tells the story of Death Bed: the Bed That Eats People.

VietNam - VietNam
Kemado Records

If you could criticize this band for any reason, the main one is that their name makes Googling them or finding them on YouTube something of a chore. That's about the only criticism I can think of; this is a great old-fashioned rock record and a solid debut. Their lead singer has a memorably whiskey-stained voice, and their sound is all kinds of swampy blue psychedelia done just right. I remember about ten years ago reading a whole lot of crap about how guitar bands were going the way of disco; the harbinger of that sound's doom was none other than Marilyn Manson, who declared "Rock Is Dead," for some mysterious reason doing so at the end of The Matrix, a film I recall engaging in little by way of a debate about the viability of the rock music genre in its preceding hour and a half. Well luckily, folks, it looks like Marilyn was wrong, not least about this point, and rock is here to stay, thanks to bands like VietNam, Dungen, Sonic Youth, Gravenhurst, Brief Candles, man the list goes on and on.

Without further ado, I present to you:

The Best Album of 2007

Picture: http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/feature/37709-pitchfork-music-festival-2006

Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala
Secretly Canadian

I may be prone to hyperbole, but I think I can safely say that Gothenburg, Sweden's Jens Lekman is poised for international superstardom. OK, maybe it won't be that easy; how successful can a skinny, lovelorn troubadour cut from the cloth of Jonathan Richman and Stephen Merritt expect to be in a world where the biggest pop stars are churned out of the rancid karaoke freakshow that is American Idol? Thing is, Jens Lekman makes it look so goddamn easy. This is a man that constructed a memorable hook out of the couplet "She said it was-all make believe / but I thought she said maple leaves." Lekman's songs are full of great, memorable lines, and damned catchy and hummable at that thanks to his Morrissey-by-way-of-Stockholm croon and ace, dreamy samples from the likes of The Left Banke. I count "If You Ever Need a Stranger (To Sing At Your Wedding)", one of the songs off of his first album, When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog, among the most perfect ever written ("I know every song, you name it / by Bacharach or David / Every stupid love song that ever touched your heart / Every power ballad that ever climbed the charts"). There's an irresistible irony between the hangdog image of himself he paints in songs like "A Postcard to Nina," where he recounts having to act as a beard for a lesbian friend, and the tympani-laden bombast of album opener "And I Remember Every Kiss," while the album cover depicts him getting a heavenly haircut by hands emanating from above..not to mention him gazing longingly over some mountain sunset before getting in a red and white Cessna and taking to the sky. Yeah. This guy's got everything figured out. If you've seen him play live with his band of Swedish girls in skirts, you'd think the same damn thing.

Jens Lekman - "And I Remember Every Kiss"
Jens Lekman - "A Postcard to Nina"
From Night Falls Over Kortedala

Jens Lekman - "Maple Leaves (7" Version)"
From Oh You're So Silent Jens

Jens Lekman - "If You Ever Need a Stranger (To Sing At Your Wedding)"
From When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog

Buy Jens Lekman Albums Here

(Mmm, Swedish girls...)

As we drool over Jens Lekman's band, I want to take this time to thank you for bothering to slog through this nonsense. You're awesome. I'd also like to list all (or all that I can remember at the moment) of the other records that I enjoyed this year; this is the Honorable Mention section, and this Honorable Mention means a lot more than when you'd win an honorable mention for getting eliminated first in your grade school chess tournament, trust me.

~ Honorable Mention ~

Air - Pocket Symphony
Amiina - Kurr
Bat for Lashes - Fur and Gold
Battles - Mirrored
Black Sabbath - The Dio Years
Blitzen Trapper - Wild Mountain Nation
Blonde Redhead - 23
Boris with Michio Kurihara - Rainbow
Burial - Untrue
Caribou - Andorra
Castanets - In the Vines
Cass McCombs - Dropping the Writ
The Cinematic Orchestra - Ma Fleur
Deerhunter - Cryptograms
Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond
Dr. Dog - We All Belong
Earth - Hibernaculum
El-P - I'll Sleep When You're Dead
Field Music - Tones of Town
John Fogerty - Revival
Gravenhurst - The Western Lands
Menomena - Friend and Foe
My Brightest Diamond - Bring Me the Workhorse
The National - Boxer
Neil Young - Chrome Dreams II; Live at Massey Hall 1971
The Occupants of Six Across - Holding Hands with Prince Vacuum (which you can download absolutely free right here)
Scout Niblett - This Fool Can Die Now
Steven Wright - I Still Have a Pony
Queens of the Stone Age - Era Vulgaris
Wolves in the Throne Room - Two Hunters
Wooden Wand - James and the Quiet