Greetings and welcome to another journey through my discovery of this year’s music trials, tribulations, struggles, and triumphs. I hope the pleasure you received from new music this year was more enjoyable that years gone by. Finding new music has become a full time job. And finding free time has been almost as challenging as finding good new music. The more music I heard that I liked; the more I realized that there were actually identifiable pockets where great music is being made. I guess it reminded me of a time when you knew a band was good based on where it came from, the cover art or its label. That said, here’s a look at this year’s music and their respective hot spots. Who knows, maybe the future of the music business will be smaller collectives and not these behemoth, faceless monsters we have come to accept. Oh yeah, and a special shout out to God’s greatest musical gift to mankind, Rhapsody. From now on we will refer to years in the form of BR or AR, as in Before Rhapsody and After Rhapsody:

For great Thai food there is Joya on Court St. and for great American cuisine there is Blue Ribbon on 5th Avenue. For great music, don’t forget the new venues like Galapagos, Pete’s Candy Story, Northsix or Southpaw. There you could find any member of these great new bands hanging out: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (David Byrne for the new millennium), Hold Steady – Separation Sunday (man, he sure knows how to cram a lot of words into a small space),or Nada Surf – The Weight Is A Gift (most mature sound yet).

A bit further south on the turnpike we have the classic Philly Cheesesteak. Dripping cheese wiz, or an abundance of heartburn inducing onions and peppers are worth the trek alone, but when you can hear great pop music oozing out of the clubs from the likes of Dr. Dog – Easy Beat (if Daniel Johnston fronted Sloan) or Marah – If You Didn’t Laugh You’d Cry (solid rock), it makes the drive through New Jersey that much more tolerable.

Yes, there is music in Detroit that is not Eminem. I can’t deny grooving to The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan, their most diverse LP to date or Brendan Benson – The Alternative To Love. It’s no Lapalco, but it’s solid and cleaner sounding.

Unfortunately, all too often these days I do find myself in the middle of the country with nothing to do but watch the blue grass grow. My only salvation when landlocked is My Morning Jacket – Z, sort of a Pink Floyd for the new generation.

As a pizza lovin’ guy, I have to admit that the Chicago pan pizza is as good as promised. So is Kayne West – Late Registration. Smooth hooks, great beats. And on the other side of town we have my little buddy from The Sea & Cake, Sam Prekop – Who’s Your New Professor playing sincere pop music with his friends.

Until I can make the SXSW trek, I’ll continue to live vicariously through television and Austin City Limits. Unfortunately, some of my favorite music to come from there I do not expect to be seeing on that show anytime soon. And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead - Worlds Apart, their most rockin’ album to date and Spoon – Gimme Fiction, of which I was never really a big fan, that is, until now.

Is this east coast centric? Or maybe I just could not find enough good scenes to speak of. Either way, there were a few good west coast releases that require mentioning: DJ Z-Trip – Shifting Gears (turntablist master); Death Cab For Cutie – Plans (if Built To Spill played short, pop songs), Sun Kil Moon – Tiny Cities (classic cover album, better than the originals?), and Jack Johnson – In Between Dreams (call him soft, I prefer to see him as laid back as they come, and his music takes on a hypnotic feel).

Let us not forget that there are a few good bands outside of our glorious country that deserve props: The New Pornographers – Twin Cinemas from Canada (another pop gem), Monade – Wash And Dance from France who gave me my new Stereolab fix, and from across the pond there are: Super Furry Animals – Love Kraft, and The Magic Numbers – The Magic Numbers (bothers and sisters playing nice together).

Box Sets, Reissues, Live Recordings …or as they sung on the Island in the early episodes… And the rest …

  1. Wilco – Kicking Television
    Gotta love everything they do. Nels Cline was a great addition to this band. He can really deconstruct and recreate Jeff’s masterpieces.
  2. Yo La Tengo – Prisoners of Love
    Not only is the unreleased material excellent, but getting all of the “hits” in one place is a lazy man’s dream come true.
  3. Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run
    Besides including the title track, the greatest song of all time (wink, wink, my love), the DVD proves that Bruce was a great entertainer.
  4. Bob Dylan – No Direction Home
    Always good to hear unreleased Bob. It may not be my favorite of his phases, but it paints a good picture of the early years.
  5. Cardinal – Cardinal
    An overlooked pop gem, which will probably be overlooked again.
  6. Sonic Youth – Goo
    Remastered with bonus tracks, I forgot how solid their major label debut was the first time around.
  7. The Band – A Musical History
    All The Band anyone could ever want in one neat package.
  8. Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall
    Two geniuses at work. It’s amazing and a crime that this went undiscovered for so long.
  9. John Lennon – Working Class Hero
    Excellent collection of Lennon’s greatest hits.
  10. Deftones – B Sides and Rarities
    Great cover of the Jawbox classic Savory.

Cheers, hugs, smiles, and all the love I can muster go to my personal editor and wife, for putting up with my travels, cranky moods, and downright overall sour attitude. I have a feeling that even better things are to come in the future. Trust Me.

Eric Fine New York/Kansas/Virginia