2011 releases

Full Album Stream: Chadwick Stokes – Simmerkane II

There are few bands who ever affected me the way Dispatch did. And so, when Dispatch sadly called it quits back around 2004, I followed each of the individual band members’ new musical projects with interest. My love affair with Pete Francis is no secret, and I find Braddigan just so inspiring.

But the only one of the trio that I’ve ever managed to catch live since the split is Chad, and his band State Radio. That night was huge for me, and confirmed that Chad still had it.

Anyway, all this is a pretty convoluted way of saying that I have some major history with these dudes. So, when Chad announced that he was just about to release his debut solo album, Chadwick Stokes: Simmerkane II, on June 28, I was – to put it mildly – excited.
And so it’s with no small amount of pleasure that – a week before its official drop – you can now stream the full thing on Burgo’s Blog.

A note from Chad on the release:

“It’d been 6 years since last meeting up with John Dragonetti (checkout Jack Drag and Submarines) and recording Simmerkane in his attic in Arlington, MA. We’d been talking for a few years about getting back together and I was really excited to meet up with him at Jimmy Parr’s studio on Martha’s Vineyard this fall for round two. I played a bunch of songs – most of them from the last year or so: songs about growing up on the farm, some from the recent trips on the freight trains. As they developed, there seemed a singular story that was unfolding. A story about journeying away to understand what was left behind and trying to come to grips with love, loss, escape and return.. We had such fun making the record and being on the island during the stormy season made for warm days, cold windy nights and good surf… and Jimmy’s studio was made from wide planks of wood from the old schooner the Alabama. Thanks for everyone’s help!

– Chadwick”

It takes a certain type of musician to hop freight trains and barrel across the vastness of North America with his brother and cousin. Especially for an artist who, just years before, sold out Madison Square Garden for three consecutive nights. This album tells the tale of that trip.

So hop on that train, and ride along with Chad below…

Chadwick Stokes – Simmerkane II by nettwerkmusicgroup

artists digital downloads guitar music

Another “Best Albums of the Decade” (2000 – 2009) List…

God. It’s already December the 15th as I write this (not sure when I will get to publish the post) [Ed’s note: only half a month later. Not bad. I’ll just use the excuse that I was waiting until 2009 was over, to give every possible chance to every album in the decade. Yeah, that’s it] and I haven’t even started on my “Best of the Decade” list.

I think part of the reason behind the procrastination is that, in a lot of ways, it’s simply too big. How do you boil a decade down to a single post? Which is why this isn’t the usual “Best Releases of the Noughties” post. Instead, this is just a post about some of my personal favourite albums of the decade, and which ones affected me as a person the most.

Anyway, no more qualifications or justifications, I just wanted to make that clear. Now that that’s out the way, let’s dive in, shall we?

(Side note: you might notice that the below list has 56 albums, instead of the traditional 50. “Why is that?”, you might ask? Well, to be honest, I’m not sure how that happened. Somewhere in drafting this post, I obviously skipped some numbers, and it was only when I got down to the last few I noticed I was heading to negative figures. As I say… no idea how it happened, but there you have it).

cat power free56. Cat Power – You Are Free (2003)
I both love and hate this album. I love it because it honestly is a thing of beauty. But I hate it because nothing Chan Marshall has put out since has ever come close to touching this release.
Must hear: Good Woman
+ Buy From Amazon

basia55. Basia Bulat – Oh, My Darling (2007)
Seriously, as soon as those handclaps started on single “I Was A Daughter”, I fell totally and completely in love with Basia Bulat. Arguably one of the most complete debut albums I had ever heard.
Must hear: I Was A Daughter
+ Buy from Amazon

continuum54. John Mayer – Continuum (2008)
And with this entry, I can hear the closing of windows in disgust from 98% of the other music bloggers who read this blog. But seriously, I’ve never understood the disdain most music bloggers seem to have for Mayer and his releases. And, as a guitarist myself, hearing “Continuum” for the first time was a staggering event, where John Mayer matured right in front of our very eyes. Or ears, as the case may be. The phrasing throughout the album is absolutely impeccable.
Must hear: Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
+ Buy from Amazon

damien53. Damien Rice – O (2003)
Another case where I was torn: which album which make it, Damien’s 2003 debut, “O”, or the 2006 follow up, “9”? “9” nearly won it purely on the strength of opening track “9 Crimes” (which will easily go down as one of my songs of the decade), but in the end, I had to go with “O”. As an album, its raw passion from start to end is impossible to ignore.
Must hear: Cannonball
+ Buy from Amazon

nizlopi52. Nizlopi – Half These Songs Are About You (2004)
It’s only now that I sit down to make this list that I’ve noticed a trend, in that many of these albums of debut efforts. Hmmm, does that say more about me, or more about the artists? That question aside, this release by Nizlopi came at exactly a point in my life where I needed this kind of music; life-affirming, yet introspective, it’s a beautiful album.
Must hear: Wash Away
+ Buy from Amazon

eits51. Explosions in the Sky – The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place (2003)
The second album from Explosions in the Sky, this 5 track masterpiece simply knocked me out when I first heard it. This is the very epitome of music you can lose yourself in. And when you find yourself again, you’re a new person.
Must hear: Your hand in mine
+ Buy from Amazon

phoenix50. Phoenix – Alphabetical (2004)
Most music bloggers seem to be hailing their 2009 release, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” as their best thing ever. Not me. For me, nothing comes close to “Alphabetical”. The thing is pure pop glory. And while “Amadeus…” may have the fantastic tune, “Lisztomania”… well, this is better.
Must hear: Victim of the Crime
+ Buy from Amazon

bastards49. The Damnwells – Bastards of the Beat (2003)
Anyone who has read this blog for any period of time knows my love for The Damnwells. Easily one of the world’s most underrated bands, The Damnwells deserve to be huge. Epically huge. And their 2003 release, Bastards of the Beat, illustrates why perfectly. An album of singalong tune after singalong tune, Bastards of the Beat is one of the Noughties classics.
Must hear: Kiss Catastrophe
+ Buy from Amazon

yeasayer48. Yeasayer – All Hour Cymbals (2007)
Strangely enough, this album took a while to grow on me. But man, once it did, it did. With lead single “2080” being my introduction to the album, I’m not sure how I didn’t lose my shit immediately.
Must hear: 2080
+ Buy from Amazon

athlete47. Athlete – Vehicles and Animals (2003)
Man, it was a tough call for whether “Vehicles and Animals” or “Tourist” would make the cut when it came to this list, but ultimately Athlete’s debut release came out on top. With tracks like “El Salvador”, “Beautiful” and the stunning “You Got the Style”, this album of pop mastery was on rotation for the better part of a year for me. Full of wry observations, humour and genuine tenderness, Vehicle and Animals did it for me.
Must hear: Vehicles and Animals
+ Buy from Amazon

imogen46. Imogen Heap – Speak for yourself (2005)
Textured. Layered. Cinematic. Visionary. No matter how you describe Imogen Heap’s music, one thing we can all agree on is that it is simply wonderful. Just like this album.
Must hear: Hide and Seek
+ Buy from Amazon

joseph45. Joseph Arthur – Come to where I’m from (2000)
It’s no secret that my relationship with Joseph Arthur seems to have its highs and lows. But “Come to where I’m from”, released in 2000, was definitely a high point, and I still view it as one of Arthur’s finest moments. Unapologetically honest, it’s everything that a life-changing album should be.
Must hear: In the sun
+ Buy from Amazon

killers44. The Killers – Sam’s Town (2006)
What? Did I really pick sophomore release “Sam’s Town”, instead of debut “Hot Fuss”?
Well, yes, I did actually.
Sod off if you don’t like it.
Must hear: Read my mind
+ Buy from Amazon

oasis43. Oasis – Heathen Chemistry (2002)
I don’t think I ever saw this on any “Best of ’02” lists, so I doubt I’ll see it on many “Best of the Decades” lists. In fact, chances are, I might be the only music blogger to credit this release with that honour. And sure, maybe by this decade, the best times of Oasis might have been behind them. But c’mon… “Hindu Times”? Noel on “Force of Nature”? “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” and friggin’ “Little by Little”?? For me, this was a great, great album. And, again, Noel picked up the singing for a few tunes. Rock on.
Must hear: Stop Crying Your Heart Out
+ Buy from Amazon

benfolds42. Ben Folds – Rockin’ the Suburbs (2001)
Strangely enough, not many people seemed to like this album. Perhaps it was because “Rockin’ the Suburbs” (apart from its title track) was a more sombre release than Ben Folds had released previously, with Ben Folds Five. Quite frankly though, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass. “Rockin’ the Suburbs” was one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard. “Still Fighting It”, in particular, was a declaration made with such honesty that it still haunts me to this day.
Must hear: Still Fighting It
+ Buy from Amazon

molly41. Flogging Molly – Drunken Lullabies (2002)
The second album from Flogging Molly, “Drunken Lullabies” combined acoustic guitars with punk guitars; violins with whistles, and the kind of lyrics that simply make your body feel more alive than it ever has. And – quite possibly – ever will again. God, this was a cracker of an album.
Must hear: If I ever leave this world alive
+ Buy from Amazon

plans40. Death Cab for Cutie – Plans (2005)
I’m certain to catch some flack for choosing “Plans” as Death Cab’s release of the decade; after all, people rightfully claim that this, their first release on a major label (Atlantic) is too predictably slick, too polished. And that’s true; it is, and certainly doesn’t display the rawness of earlier releases. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s a sodding great record. After all, this is the album with “I will follow you into the dark”, for pete’s sake.
Must hear: Marching Bands of Manhattan
+ Buy from Amazon

joe39. Joe Pug – Nation of Heat EP (2008)
The most impressive debut I think I have ever heard. Complete in every sense, “Nation of Heat” remains one of the most exciting releases of the past 10 years. I still hold out high hopes for Joe.
Must hear: Hymn #101
+ Buy from Amazon

boh38. Band of Horses – Cease to Begin (2007)

Hauntingly beautiful, Band of Horses “Cease to Begin” release was the first real exposure I had had with the band. Sure, I had heard their 2006 debut “Everything All the Time”, but it took this release, and particularly the cracking tune, “No One’s Gonna Love You”, to really pull me in. And man, I’m glad it did.
Must Hear: No One’s Gonna Love You
+ Buy from Amazon

thecon37. Tegan & Sara – The Con (2007)
The only fault I could find in 2007’s “The Con”, was that the damn thing ended too soon. And that’s a fantastic, fantastic fault to have. Tegan and Sara probably haven’t reached these heights again, but I’m ok with that. This was more than enough.
Must hear: Call It Off
+ Buy from Amazon

flobots36. Flobots – Fight with tools (2008)
“Positive change music”. Sounds poncy, doesn’t it? But somehow, the Flobots pull it off with aplomb. I challenge you to listen to this album and not feel that you can change the world. And you know what? With enough of us, maybe we can…
Must hear: Mayday!!!
+ Buy from Amazon

myslovitz35. Myslovitz – Korova Milky Bar (2003)

To this day, I have no idea how Myslovitz didn’t end up being huge. And by huge, I mean huge. When I first heard Korova Milky Bar, it was like it was the album that woke me up from slumber and breathed life into me. How could everyone else not feel the same way? But, alas, it appears they didn’t. Musical taste’s a funny old thing, isn’t it?
Must hear: Sound of Solitude
+ Buy from Amazon

postal34. The Postal Service – Give Up (2003)

You know, I’m still trying to figure out whether it’s a tragedy, or a blessing, that this is the only album the Postal Service have ever released. It’s a tragedy, because Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello, as Postal Service, create such bloody beautiful tunes. But, it’s more likely a blessing, as I don’t think they would ever be able to live up to this, their first (and likely only) album. Give Up was a revelation when I heard it. Back in 2003, I was going through somewhat of a backlash to electronic music. I thought I had heard all it had to offer, and quite frankly, I was bored with the lack of soul. Then Give Up came along, and changed all of that. And man, I’m glad it did.
Must Hear: This place is a prison
+ Buy from Amazon

perez33. Perez – Picture Perfect (2002)
Perez is one of a handful of South African bands to make it onto this list, and for good reason. (Incidentally, before moving on, Just Jinger’s “Here’s To You”, a joyous celebration of a new time in South Africa when hope was on the horizon just missed out on this list as it was released in 1999. But I had to make a reference to it here anyway. Go get it. It’s stunning and captures the feeling in South Africa at the time like no other album ever would). Ahem, as I was saying, “Picture Perfect” makes it on here for good reason. I remember the first time I heard “Wasted Out”, lead single from the album. It was a goddamn awakening. Recorded by guys that we had grown up with (only a few years older than us) who frequented the same places we did for a quick drink? Man, you couldn’t get more rock star than that. The entire reason I got into a band. Point blank.
Must hear: Wasted Out

city32. City and Colour – Bring Me Your Love (2008)
One of those albums that you simply never seem to get tired of, Dallas Green’s (get it? City and Colour!) “Bring Me Your Love” was one of the highlights of 2008 for me. While I always loved his stuff in Alexisonfire, this folksy album from Dallas is by far the best thing he’s ever produced. So far, that is.
Must hear: Confessions
+ Buy from Amazon

razorlight31. Razorlight – Up all Night (2004)
Do you remember the first time you heard Johnny Borrell from Razorlight? God, he was an arrogant little prick, wasn’t he? You could practically hear the swagger in every word he spoke, couldn’t you?
I loved him. Johnny Borrell and Razorlight were going to save friggin’ rock ‘n roll singlehanded. They were the saviours we had all been waiting for. Here were some rockers you could respect.

Ok, so maybe looking back on it, Johnny and Co. might never have lived up to that promise, and ok, maybe that broke my heart. That doesn’t change the fact that every time I listen to “Up All Night”, I feel that optimism all over again. And I live in constant, constant hope, that Razorlight will deliver on this debut.
Must hear: Up all Night
+ Buy from Amazon

once30. Markéta Irglová and Glen Hansard – Once OST (2007)
The first time I heard the soundtrack to Once, I fell in love. Fitting, given its context. I don’t think there has ever been a better soundtrack, and I’d be hard pressed to believe there will be, at least in my lifetime. Listening to Glen and Marketa experience love, and the hardships that go with it, through their songs, was something beautiful. And I will remember the first time I heard “All the way down” for the rest of my life.
Must hear: All the way down
+ Buy from Amazon

brighteyes29. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning (2005)
“I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning” is, in my opinion, the best thing Bright Eyes has ever produced (although Cassadega comes close). Although Conor Oberst had threatened brilliance for years before this album, it was with “I’m Awake…” that it all really seemed to come together. A singer-songwriter country/rock album, it’s the album that Bright Eyes were meant to make.
Must hear: We are nowhere and it’s now
+ Buy from Amazon

mraz28. Jason Mraz – Mr A – Z (2005)
I feel like I constantly have to defend this album to Jason haters. Ok, so it doesn’t have the sheer abandonment of “Waiting for my Rocket To Come”. Yeah, it’s not as polished as subsequent releases. But “Mr A – Z”, Jason’s second album, has always been one of my favourites. There’s something in this album where you can almost hear Jason trying to find his way in his new life. And that honesty draws me in every time. As a side note, I’ve said previously that I think that Jason has one of the purest, most effortless voices I have ever heard, bar none. And this was the album where he showed that off with an opera solo during “Mr Curiosity”. It still gives me a kick whenever someone hears that song, and the opera section takes them completely by surprise. It’s the small things, you know.
Must hear: Song for a Friend
+ Buy from Amazon

animalyears27. Josh Ritter – Animal Years (2006)
How do you pick one album for the decade from an artist such as Josh Ritter? Answer? You don’t. Try as I might, I simply could not just enter one album for Ritter. His music was too special, too important to that decade for me. A lot of fans thought that in this album, “Animal Years”, Josh Ritter began to take himself too seriously. I beg to differ. I think it was an album where he found himself.
Must hear: Thin Blue Flame
+ Buy from Amazon

historical26. Josh Ritter – The historical conquests of Josh Ritter (2007)
And here’s the other Josh Ritter album, released the very next year. I’d go out on a limb here and call this the album of 2007, but we’ve seen how that’s worked out for me in the past. Aah, what the hell… this was the release of 2007.
Must hear: To the Dogs or Whoever
+ Buy from Amazon

nada25. Nada Surf – Let Go (2002)
For me, “Let Go” was the best thing Nada Surf had ever created, and I think it still is. The album was simply brim-full with masterful song writing, with lyrics that felt like they were written specifically for you.
Must hear: Blonde on Blonde
+ Buy from Amazon

streets24. The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come for Free (2004)
“Original Pirate Material”? Sure, that was a great album. But “A Grand Don’t Come for Free” was where it was at for me. Skinner opened up, and let us in. And damned if it wasn’t a damn nice place. I defy any male who has ever had a relationship end on them not to identify with “Dry Your Eyes”. Go on. I dare ya.
Must Hear: Dry Your Eyes
+ Buy from Amazon

rainbows23. Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007)

You know, it’s interesting looking back at my first reactions to this album, and my feelings towards it now. Tellingly, I ended off that post with the lines: “All in all, despite my misgivings, I have the feeling that “In Rainbows” is an album that will grow on the listener after time. And, so often, that has been the case with Radiohead in the past. Pioneers have to deal with strange looks from infidels sometimes.” Despite the clumsy wording of that sentence, the sentiment was right… the more time I spent with this album, the more it grew on me. I still don’t think this was exactly the biggest stretch for the band themselves… but that doesn’t change the fact it’s a great album.
Must hear: House of Cards
+ Buy from Amazon

demo22. Ryan Adams – Demolition (2002)
Fair warning, I couldn’t pick a single Ryan Adams album to include from the decade. So I cut it down as much as I could, but still ended up with four albums. Sue me. “Demolition”, to many, came off as a mixed bag… which makes sense, seeing as the album was ostensibly a “Best Of” compilation of unreleased demos, from the always prolific Ryan Adams. But for me, there was something special about Demolition. And with tracks such as “Chin Up, Cheer Up”, “Dear Chicago”, “Desire” and “Starting to hurt”, Demolition was always going to make it onto this list.
Must hear: Desire
+ Buy from Amazon

silent steeples21. Dispatch – Silent Steeples (2000)
Another band that honestly changed my life, Dispatch’s 2000 release, Silent Steeples was the album of my teenage years (ok, ok, so I just scraped into the teens in 2000 when it came out. Sue me). There is literally not a single song on this album that does not kick ass. Not one. They don’t make them like this anymore.
Must hear: Bridges
+ Buy from Amazon

goats20. The Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree (2005)
The Sunset Tree is a difficult album to listen to, once you realise how autobiographical the work is. For those who haven’t listed to John Darnielle’s work much, let’s just say that the guy did not have the best of childhoods. Lines like “Held under these smothering waves by your strong and thick veined hand, but one of these days I’m going to wriggle up on dry land” give you some kind of indication of what Darnielle experienced growing up. But, despite that, “The Sunset Tree” is an album filled with hope, in the direst of circumstances. And it takes a songwriter as talented as Darnielle to pull off that contrast.
Must hear: This Year
+ Buy from Amazon

andrewbird19. Andrew Bird – The Mysterious Production of Eggs (2005)

This was a hard one. Andrew Bird has released a slew of awesome albums in the past decade (“Armchair Apocrypha” and this year’s “Noble Beast” both narrowly missing out on a place in this list), but ultimately I decided to go with 2005’s “The Mysterious Production of Eggs” (although I’m still in two minds about the decision, almost purely based on the strength of “Noble Beast”’s Anonimal). Can you tell I’m torn? I think “…Eggs” won out in the end because you can lose yourself so completely in the thing. Bird is, without doubt, one of the most interesting artists of the decade, and nowhere is this more evident than in this album.
Must hear: Sovay
+ Buy from Amazon

rabbit18. Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight (2008)
The release of 2008. ‘Nuff said, really. Seriously, I’m not going to waste your time here anymore. Just step away from the computer, go to your local music store, and get this album. You’ll thank me.
Must hear: Good arms vs. Bad arms
+ Buy from Amazon

gaslight17. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound (2008)
God, I hate the fact that I just used the line “The release of 2008” in the previous entry. Because if any other album in 2008 stood up to “The Midnight Organ Fight”, it was The Gaslight Anthem’s “The ’59 Sound”. An album that, it appears, I’ll simply never get tired of, this is one that will stand the test of time. Watch my words.
Must hear: Great Expectations
+ Buy from Amazon

howie16. Howie Day – Australia (2000)
Howie Day is a year older than me, and – in many ways – I’ve grown up with the guy’s music. If any artist on this list has been able to speak for me when I couldn’t find the words, it’s Howie Day. In 2000, when I first heard this album (yes, it was released independently two years before the Epic release) I was 18. And man, did it speak to me. While I’m not sure that Howie has ever quite fulfilled the potential that I still feel he has in him, I’ll forever be grateful to him for this album.
Must hear: Ghost
+ Buy from Amazon

jack15. Jack Johnson – Brushfire Fairytales (2001)
Even though Jack had his music out there previous to this album (via soundtracks and the like) it’s still hard to believe that this album, “Brushfire Fairytales”, was his “proper” debut release. The album is a study in perfection, and I don’t make that statement lightly. A release that simply inspires joy, I’ll never forget the first time I heard it.
Must hear: F-stop Blues
+ Buy from Amazon

lovehell14. Ryan Adams – Love Is Hell (2004)
“Love is Hell” (issued as two EPs) saw a return to Ryan’s top form, and I think excited not only us fans, but Ryan himself too. I say that because when I’ve watched Ryan and The Cardinals perform live, there always seems to be a little extra… sparkle in the set, when they perform “Love Is Hell” tunes. And rightly so. The album was at once tender, and at the same time defiantly aggressive. Getting that mix right, some would say, takes genius.
Must hear: I see Monsters
+ Buy from Amazon

plush13. Plush – All That is Should Be (2004)
Another South African release, I’ve written about Plush before in my South African bands post (band #29), so I’ll let you read that for some more background. Suffice to say, I felt that Plush were going to save South African music. They had everything needed to completely revolutionise how the industry perceived itself, which was always our biggest problem. So when one half of Plush, Chas Smit, was tragically killed in a hit and run car accident in 2005 following a gig, a little piece of all of us died that day. A few years on, and Rory Eliot (the other half of Plush) has picked up the mantle again. I’m holding thumbs for him.
Must hear: Jet Life

mattryan12. Matthew Ryan – Matthew Ryan Vs. Silver State (2008)
You know, I’ve been listening to Matthew Ryan’s stuff for quite some time, so it might seem strange that it’s one of his latest albums, “Matthew Ryan Vs. Silver State” to make it onto this list. But, for all of Ryan’s habits of delving into the darker, more depressing conditions of the human spirit, it was this, his somewhat more optimistic album that stands above the rest for me. I’ve always felt that Matthew Ryan deserves far more recognition, because the dude really does produce music that means something. And that’s saying something.
Must hear: Dulce Et Decorum Est
+ Buy from Amazon

outkast11. Outkast – Stankonia (2000)
The crowning glory of Outkast, without a doubt. Sure, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” might have been a more ambitious undertaking for the duo, but “Stankonia” was their masterpiece. The album had a massive 24 tracks, and yet somehow managed to keep it together for its entirety; no mean undertaking, especially given the fickleness of some of their hip-hop contemporaries at the turn of the new millenium. But that’s just it, really… Outkast had no contemporaries at the time. They were flying on a completely different cloud. And man, was it bad ass.
Must hear: Ms Jackson
+ Buy from Amazon

pete10. Pete Francis – Untold (2003)
There’s something about this album from Pete Francis (one third of the aforementioned “Dispatch”, who had by this stage broken up and moved on to respective new projects). I can’t describe what it is, but I felt that, when I heard this album, I grew up. I don’t know how else to describe it, but before listening to it, I was… different. After listening to it, I was another way. That probably makes no sense to anyone, but there you have it.
Must hear: Untold
+ Buy from Amazon

coldplay9. Coldplay – Parachutes (2000)
Just a great, great album. While Chris Martin seems to be the new Bono in the music bloggers world (ie. it seems remarkably popular to pick on the dude), I’d challenge anyone to disagree that this was a near-perfect album. Track after track, Martin and Co. knocked it out of the park. Reportedly, Chris refers to this album as “terrible music”; I’d disagree… for me, it’s possibly the best thing Coldplay have ever produced.
Must hear: Don’t Panic
+ Buy from Amazon

ben8. Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals – Live from Mars (2001)
Ben Harper (with and without The Innocent Criminals) has been responsible for some of my favourite albums over the last two decades, but I’m not sure anything will ever quite live up to the 2001 live release, “Live from Mars”. “Live from Mars” is, quite possibly, the perfect “live” album; an album that captures – but does not tame – the live sound of a band at its highest point. Listening to this album is an exercise in sheer beauty… I cannot for the life of me listen to it, without wanting to pick up my guitar. And that’s a beautiful gift.
Must hear: Excuse Me, Mr
+ Buy from Amazon

3eb7. Third Eye Blind – Out of the Vein (2003)
Ok, seriously. Music bloggers, I’m putting you all on notice as of right now. Stop with the 3EB hating, k? One of my favourite bands of all time, it was natural that Third Eye Blind would have an album on this list. So thank goodness for “Out of the Vein”, because the only other album released in the decade, “Ursa Major” was quite frankly not up to par. But “Out of the Vein” is another story. Every song catchy, every song full of wry observations… every song full of Third Eye Blind awesomeness.
Must hear: Crystal Baller
+ Buy from Amazon

weaker6. The Weakerthans – Reconstruction Site (2003)
You know, even though The Weakerthans are ostensibly a punk rock/folk rock band, I still find it hard to believe that that’s the same John Samson singing as was once in hardcore punk band Propagandhi. And, even though in my younger years I had brief flirtations with Propagandhi, I’ll say this outright… that outfit never came close to The Weakerthans for me. Reconstruction Site was the band’s third full-length album, and really, it should never have been able to live up to the brilliance that was “Fallow” and “Left and Leaving”. But somehow, it not only lived up to those releases, but completely eclipsed them. Such a great, great album that had a story to tell. Just bloody brilliant.
Must Hear: Reconstruction Site
+ Buy from Amazon

national5. The National – Alligator (2005)
I know most would pick 2007’s “Boxer” as their “National” release from the decade, but there’s something special about “Alligator” for me. Perhaps it’s a selfish impulse, that “Alligator” was where I first “discovered” the band. I’d largely missed out on the hype that was “Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers”, but this album was a revelation when I heard it. And, ultimately, when you get right down to it, Matt Berninger could read out a grocery shopping list and that voice would still captivate you.
Must Hear: All the Wine
+ Buy from Amazon

boniver4. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago (2007)
I’ve written about Bon Iver enough times on this blog, and watching them live last year was one of my concert-going highlights for all time, so it’s no surprise that Justin Vernon and Co. find themselves on this list. This album, “For Emma, Forever Ago” is an album of fragile beauty, weary acceptance, and subtle hope. Simply beautiful, and an album that wasn’t just heard, but experienced.
Must hear: re: Stacks
+ Buy from Amazon

tiger3. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Easy Tiger (2007)
Unquestionably, one of my favourite Ryan Adams releases. Once again backed by the Cardinals, “Easy Tiger” is full of those aching observations that Ryan Adams seems to toss off like dust off his shoes. Probably the most consistent of all Adams’ albums, “Easy Tiger” is an absolute must in your CD collection.
Must Hear: Two
+ Buy from Amazon

johnsons2. Antony and The Johnsons – I Am a Bird Now (2005)
You know, I distinctly remember this album came out right at the beginning of 2005, and yet, somehow, all of us knew without a doubt that it would be in our “Best of ’05” lists. “I am a Bird Now” is one of those albums that – if you’re lucky – comes along once in your lifetime. I’ve noticed that if I have videos playing of Antony Hegarty performing, a lot of people do a double-take; sometimes with notable discomfort on their face. It’s hard to blame them… if you’ve ever seen Antony and The Johnsons perform live, you’ll know the raw and painful emotion Antony puts into his performance. And that voice is just so damn fragile, and vulnerable, it sounds like it could break into a million shards at any time. It really is, at times, uncomfortable. Bloody worth it though.
Must hear: My Lady Story
+ Buy from Amazon

heartbreaker1. Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker (2000)
Could it really be that this was Ryan Adam’s debut solo album, post-Whiskeytown? Surely he sounds… older, and wiser here? But it was, and in a lot of ways many of Ryan’s subsequent releases seemed to be running away from Heartbreaker, in a sense. It was like “Heartbreaker” had Ryan at his rawest and most emotionally open, and for a long time everything after that was running and hiding; until, at least, Love Is Hell in 2004. Heartbreaker is perhaps Ryan Adam’s finest moment. And I’ll thank him for this album for the rest of my life.
Must hear: Come Pick Me Up
+ Buy from Amazon

Inspirational thoughts Uncategorized

Zimbabwe’s Song… it needs your voice.

Aah… why not? I’ve already turned this blog into a charity plea by this post earlier today, highlighting the Love Light & Melody Organisation. So, I thought… why the hell not? Let’s make today a humanitarian day here on Burgo’s Blog, and highlight some other causes that I try to support in my own little way. Granted, this usually only amounts to buying merchandise that they have on offer… but still, I like to think every little bit helps. And maybe… just maybe… this blog might be able to play its own part in that “little bit”.
Unsurprisingly, some other organisations that I support were both set up by the boys from Dispatch: namely, the Elias Fund and the Dispatch Foundation.

The Elias Fund – a grassroots-oriented nonprofit organization that provides educational scholarships to the youth of Zimbabwe – came about as a result of Chad Urmston’s time in Zimbabwe in 1994. While there, he befriended a gardener named Elias (who would one day be the inspiration for one of Dispatch’s most successful songs, titled – appropriately – “Elias”). Elias had a dream: that one day, his sons Manuel and Honest would be able to a higher education than that that had been afforded to him. And, from this dream – and Chad’s friendship with the family – the Elias Fund was born.

About the Elias Fund:

The Elias Fund is a 501 c(3) non-profit organization that provides hope and opportunity to Zimbabwean youth through education and community development. We believe there is great strength in active community and education and the combination of the two creates positive effects in people’s lives. Through community centers in Zimbabwe consisting of school tutoring, medical aid, sports activities, general life skills, and nutritional aspects we work with primary through secondary level students and identify potential university level scholarship recipients through our programs.

There is a dualistic approach to our work though. We interact with middle school through college age people from across the United States and several other areas of the world to raise awareness and support. Through volunteering, college internships, individual fundraisers, and our high school and college Elias Clubs, our Elias “reps” as we call them work within their local communities to raise support and awareness about our work in Zimbabwe. By empowering the youth of the world who have many opportunities and resources to walk along side those who do not have the same opportunities and resources we not only enable those in need but also give ownership to the “reps” doing the work.

Ostensibly an extension of the Elias Fund, the boys also then formed the Dispatch Foundation. The Dispatch Foundation is, ultimately, about improving life in Zimbabwe.

Their vision:

We envision a vibrant Zimbabwe built on strong, sustainable communities. We support organizations that work to improve health and education. We want to empower people.

Communities build leaders. Strong communities teach lessons, alleviate poverty, stop hunger and eradicate disease. We are idealists. We are entrepreneurs, musicians, students and moms.

We can’t all be rock stars. But, we can all help. Go get involved locally. Find a soup kitchen. Tutor on the weekend.

Everyone should have a song in their lives.

Please… watch this video, which was filmed prior to Zimbabwe’s runoff election, and features the members of Dispatch:

Join Zimbabwe’s Song from Dispatch Foundation on Vimeo.

As someone who was born and raised in South Africa (Zim’s southern neighbour), I had many friends and family in Zimbabwe. These days, I have less.
Although the two political parties have entered into talks recently, trust me when I tell you that all is not yet right in Zimbabwe. Violence is still prevalent, with opposition supporters being threatened with violence, and, occasionally, silenced. Indefinitely.

From the Dispatch Foundation’s last newsletter (which you can sign up for here):

The Latest News From Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwean government has lifted a ban on International Aid Agencies. The Red Cross estimates that there will be 5 million people requiring food aid by January 2009.

The medical system is in disarray. There are no protective gloves, X-Ray materials, antibiotics or plaster for casts. Here is a recent article detailing the crisis

Talks continue on power sharing between the opposition and ruling parties. The opposition has refused to sign a deal that would leave power with the ruling party. Most recent reports say that the talks are breaking down again and that there is a growing lack of cooperation between the two parties

Parliament has opened. The President was heckled during his speech and the opposition won both the Speaker and Deputy positions. The defeat was the first in 28 years; the ruling party has promised “vengeance”

And, from one of the many first hand accounts online: “Food supplies are lower than they’ve ever been. One morning this week in my hometown, four of the five main supermarkets were simply shut – doors closed, bars up, gates padlocked: no notice, no apology, nothing. One supermarket was open. A 250-gram bag of salt cost 150 dollars; a small tin of jam was priced at 250 dollars. A junior school teacher I met this week told me she currently earns 200 dollars a month”

Zimbabwe’s Song is still needed. They need more voices. I don’t often turn this blog to personal/political/humanitarian messages.

But, I hope that you’ll listen to this one. I want to help, and I hope that you do to. So, what can you do? Speak up. Tell one friend. It’s a start.

Inspirational thoughts

The world needs you. Yes. You.

I’ll be blunt here… I’m not usually a huge fan of Daughtry‘s music. But, in my opinion, anything that references Brad Corrigan‘s “Love, Light & Melody” organisation (see a short appearance around 1:52 below) deserves to be spread around. So, below… the video for Daughtry’s “What About Now?

Brad Corrigan (who long-time readers of this blog would recognise from past posts as a member of one of my all-time favourite bands, Dispatch) founded the Love, Light and Melody organisation in 2007, after playing a benefit concert in in Managua, Nicaragua in 2005. While on this trip, he was introduced to the severe poverty that exists in the city of Managua. The city’s trash dump is not just a mountain of garbage: it is literally home to hundreds of people who depend on the trash for their livelihood, their food, and their shelter.

As the Love Light and Melody site says:

Love Light & Melody embraces Brad’s powerfully simple concept: “When you walk with someone you’re saying to them, ‘I am with you.’ We can walk in hell and not have fear.” Each year, the organization invites friends, family, and college students to join them for Dia de Luz, to celebrate a profound love conquering hate, a beautiful light overcoming darkness, and a resounding melody breaking silence.

If you can help support this cause, in any way… I urge you to do so. Love Light and Melody’s “Donate” page is here (donations are tax-deductible up to 50% of adjusted gross income… and they accept PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, or eCheck; so it really couldn’t be easier); you can learn more about them here; and you can see the trailer for their new documentary film “Dia de Luz” – scheduled for release in Fall 2008 – “which chronicles this epic celebration of life in the trash dump” – here.

Finally, their homepage, with haunting images, is here.

Please. Do something.

artists digital downloads guitar Live Music Friday live songs music

Live Music Friday – Pete Francis, live at The Woodstock Opera House

So by now, if you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you would know my love affair with the band Dispatch. Dispatch was, I think, probably the first band that I really obsessed over. Ultimately, they were everything that I wanted to be in the music world; they were the epitome of my romanticised view of a world where bands played for the fans and for the music… not for the adulation or the money.
While my forays into the music world somewhat destroyed that dream, Dispatch were always the band that reminded me that, somewhere out there, the dream was alive. Even when they broke up, that dream lived on. As Pete said, in the “Last Dispatch” DVD, regarding their reunion concert in Boston:

If you believe in the drama, then you might say sadness; or you might believe in the immediacy of something ending. But I don’t believe in endings. You know, it’s like the magician doesn’t stop doing tricks. So it will be what it is, a proud and happy team to be here.

All of this is a somewhat convoluted preamble to introduce today’s Live Music Friday; an evening spent with Pete Francis at the Woodstock Opera House.

Live Music Friday - Pete Francis Live at The Woodstock Opera House

Pete Francis Heimbold, aka Pete Francis, was one of the three members that made up Dispatch. When they broke up, it was no surprise that I followed his solo efforts with extreme interest. While my musical tastes have changed in the last few years, at the time of their break-up, circa 2002, I seemed to identify most with Pete’s style of music.His song, “Untold”, still ranks in my top 10 list of favourite songs of all time. His surreal symbolism, and themes that revolved around emotions – love, regret, you name it – spoke to me in a way that few other artists did.

While State Radio – led by Chad Stokes – certainly seems to have been the band that has gained the most widespread attention – and deservedly so – in the post-Dispatch days , I feel like Pete Francis (and Braddigan, as well), have a lot to offer the music world that seems destined to fly somewhat below the radar. Perhaps that will change now that Pete’s new album, “Iron Sea & The Calvary”, is out; but, in the meantime, I thought I would try change that by posting this show.

This set took place in 2005 – when Pete performed at the Woodstock Opera House, alongside guitarist Bill Foster – and contains many Pete Francis favourites, such as “Burning the River“, “Father Rose“, “Carry You“, “Sandcastle City” and “Untold“. I hope you enjoy.

Listen. Love. Support.

Pete Francis & Bill Foster, Live at the Woodstock Opera House, 20/8/2005

1.) Town On Top Of Town
2.) Ride A Tear
3.) Burning The River (Intro)
4.) Burning The River
5.) Low Sun
6.) Stars Over The Country (Intro)
7.) Stars Over The Country
8.) Stones
9.) Julie (Intro)
10.) Julie
11.) Blueberries (Intro)
12.) Blueberries
13.) Carry You
14.) Coal Miner (Intro)
15.) Coal Miner
16.) Case Of Bad Love (Intro)
17.) Case Of Bad Love
18.) Two Coins
19.) All Eyes Look In
20.) Father Rose
21.) Sandcastle City (Intro)
22.) Sandcastle City
23.) Untold (Intro)
24.) Untold
25.) Hudson Dream (Intro)
26.) Hudson Dream

artists artists to watch for in 2008 concerts digital downloads guitar music rock gods

State Radio, Roger That & The Beautiful Girls at the Tivoli.

On Friday night, I achieved one of my life’s goals (dramatic, perhaps… but nonetheless true), and saw State Radio perform live, at the Tivoli in Brisbane.
I almost cried, I was so happy.

Some background: Perhaps my favourite band of all time, was (and is) Dispatch. Darlings of the indie scene, who never caved to pressure, and always stayed true to their principles. They never signed to a major label, but despite (or, sometimes, I think because of this) their music reached around the globe and touched hundreds of thousands of people.
I won’t go into too much detail here; if you’re after more of a story regarding the trio of Pete Francis, Braddigan and Chad, AKA “Dispatch”, then I strongly recommend you take a look at the DVD, “Last Dispatch“. It’s a tale of the band performing their last show, at the Hatch Shell in Boston on July 31, 2004. “The Last Dispatch,” as it was called, is said to be the largest concert in independent music history, drawing fans in their droves… up to 110,000 of them. This came after announcing an indefinite hiatus in 2002. To most, The Last Dispatch was seen as their way of saying goodbye to the past.

There are some regrets that you could not have done anything to prevent; some people regret that they were born too late to see Hendrix live. One of my regrets, was that I was never able to see Dispatch perform live. And, when they broke up, I thought that I had lost my chance forever. The chance to see Chad Urmston play live, with State Radio, was something of a reprieve for that terrible regret.

Enough background, let’s talk about the show in question.

Roger That

Roger That
Roger That

The night was opened by a band from the Gold Coast of Australia, called “Roger That“. I was surprised I hadn’t heard of these guys before, seeing as I used to live on the GC. Turns out I was certainly missing something. Roger That describe themselves as a “reggae/psychedelia/rock influenced band”, and there’s definitely something about them. A few times during their set, I was reminded of Red Hot Chili Peppers during their bloodsugarsexmagik days.
Listening to their recorded stuff, there is an amazing energy that they display on stage that is unfortunately not really captured on their tracks… so if you get a chance to see these guys live, grab it with both hands. You’ll be impressed.
That said, here’s one of those recorded tracks:

Listen: Roger That – Jefferson Lane

State Radio

State Radio
State Radio (photo: Laura Barisonzi)

After Roger That, it was on to the second opening act (but the obvious highlight for me), State Radio.
State Radio came on, and blew me away. I wish I could give you a track by track breakdown, but I think I entered this entirely new state of bliss from their first chords. At the end of it, I was exhausted, deliriously happy, and finding myself thinking, “What the hell just happened?“.
However, what I can tell you is that Chad and the boys performed like gods up there that night. From their (extremely) fast and energetic version of “People to People“, to their hard-hitting rendition of Camilo, I think they shocked everyone in the audience. I say this, because unfortunately I think a lot of people there weren’t aware of State Radio (or perhaps even Dispatch) before that night; however, after the second song the boys were getting appreciative screams after every song.
It would be impossible for me to pick highlights from the set; State Radio played pretty much every song I wished they had that night (with the unfortunate exceptions of “Right Me Up“, and “Keepsake“), but if I had to choose my favourite performances of the night, it would have to be “Riddle in Londontown“, “Waitress“, or “Man in the Hall” (which was performed with far more anger than I have heard out of Chad in a long time).

If you’re after State Radio Material, I would probably suggest checking out their “Us Against the Crown” album, or their latest album, “Year of the Crow“.

All in all? Possibly the best live set I have ever seen, tied with Ryan Adams & The Cardinals. One day I hope to get to explain to the lads what they did for me that night.

Listen. Love. Support.

Listen: State Radio – Gunship Politico

The Beautiful Girls

The Beautiful Girls

After State Radio, it was on to the main act for the night, The Beautiful Girls. The Beautiful Girls came on to the loudest cheer I’d heard all night, and opened up their set with the beautiful “Learn Yourself“. Unfortunately you’ll have to visit another blog to get a full write-up of the Beautiful Girls set. I was still riding on a high from the State Radio set, and can’t relate too much of their set here. I can tell you though that they killed it that night, the horns and sax enticing everyone, and the reggaed-up version of “Music” going down extremely well with the reggae-loving Brisbane Crowd.
Their latest album, “Ziggurats“, is available through Amazon.

Listen: The Beautiful Girls – Learn Yourself


Update: It’s just occured to me that this will be my last post until after Christmas. So, best wishes to you and yours over the festive season. Keep on keepin’ on, and catch you on the other side.

concerts music

State Radio come to Australia. In other news, I’m like a giggling schoolgirl.


State Radio

Holy. Crap.
State Radio are coming out to Australia.

Some of you may know my… well… slight obsession with the band Dispatch. Seeing as I wasn’t able to make it to their “reunion” Zimbabwe benefit-gig, I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I would have to travel State-side to see either Pete Francis, Braddigan, or Chad play in their new projects; but, on a whim today, I was cruising around the State Radio site and noticed the news.
State Radio will be supporting Australia’s “The Beautiful Girls” on their “Under a Southern Sky” tour.

I’m glowing. I’m such a fanboy. But to see Chad live, after all these years… man, it’s going to be awesome.

Here’s a little taster…

State Radio – Camilo


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