Results for 2008

interviews

She & Him

This week's guests are She & Him. The“she”is actress Zooey Deschanel and the“him”is musician Matt Ward, known to fans as M. Ward. The two met during the making of the movie“The Go-Getter,”and quickly learned they were successful collaborators. They visited the show in 2008 after the release of their first album Volume One. The record is a collection of songs written by Zooey, as well as a couple of covers. Zooey explains that she's most influenced by classic pop songwriting, much of which pre-dates rock ‘n’ roll. You can hear the country, doo-wop and Brill Building influence on the duo's music as they perform their songs "Take It Back" and "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" as well as two bonus tracks.

Go to episode 196
specials

SXSW 2008

Every year Jim and Greg return from SXSW with a list of“freshman”bands they recommend listeners check out. You can read Jim and Greg's complete SXSW reports here. And check out last year's picks to see where they are now. Here's the 2008 class:

Go to episode 121
reviews
UnbreakableUnbreakable available on iTunes

Janet Jackson Unbreakable

For the first time in seven years, Janet Jackson has released a new album called Unbreakable. At the beginning of her career, she faced the challenge of stepping out of the shadow of her older brothers, which she did with the help of Minnesota songwriters and producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. They worked together creating her signature rhythmic pop sound on many of Janet's most famous albums, including Control and Rhythm Nation 1814, and teamed up again for Unbreakable. Greg thinks Jackson's last record, 2008's Discipline, was probably her worst ever but she rebounded with a solid mid-career album. He appreciated that Janet stopped wasting her time with weak and overtly sexual material, and instead made music that is more true to her authentic self. Greg especially enjoyed the track "BURNITUP!," featuring one of his all-time favorite artists, Missy Elliott. He gives the record a Buy It. Jim agrees and highlights the strengths of Jam and Lewis' electronic, modernized sound. He thinks Janet is as confident and talented as ever. It's a double Buy It for Unbreakable.

JimGreg
Go to episode 515
KindredKindred available on iTunes

Passion Pit Kindred

Frontman Michael Angelakos of the indietronica act Passion Pit has come a long way since "Sleepyhead" became a MySpace hit in 2008. He's now returned with a third album of shimmery electronic pop, Kindred. Jim is amazed by how Angelakos, who suffers from bipolar disorder, finds catharsis in making irresistible dance pop. Although he addresses his pain in Kindred, Angelakos never mopes but rather celebrates life. Electronic Dance Music rarely has real soul like this. Greg is also pleased to find this record more optimistic than the previous release, Gossamer. Angelakos has a knack for making commercial music that avoids pop cliches through his brilliant symphonic keyboard arrangements. According to Greg, it's a great pop record with finely honed songs from beginning to end. Both critics give Kindred a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 494
99 Cents99¢ available on iTunes

Santigold 99¢

Santigold was known as Santogold when she released her debut album in 2008, a combo of reggae and new wave that established her as an artist. On her third and most recent album, 99¢, she worked with TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Vampire Weekend, Cathy Dennis, and Patrik Berger. Santigold named the album 99¢ because that's how much she thinks it's worth, and Jim concedes he would pay at least double that for it. But it's not a stellar album from start to finish. The middle of the album is weighed down by a few sluggish tracks, especially the duet with ILoveMakonnen, but combine that with the handful of fun dance pop punk songs, and it's a Try It album for Jim. Greg has always loved Santigold's ability to put smart lyrics inside catchy packages. And on this album, there are a few tracks that do just that. Banshee is one of Greg's favorites. It juxtaposes the darkness of drug addiction against an up-tempo, celebratory sound. Not every track is as successful though, and Greg is ultimately a little let down. 99¢ is a Try It for Greg as well.

JimGreg
Go to episode 536
Universal Mind ControlUniversal Mind Control available on iTunes

Common Universal Mind Control

One of the big new releases this month is from rapper Common. Universal Mind Control was initially supposed to be released over the summer, and Jim and Greg wonder if the party atmosphere would have been better suited for the warmer months. But, even the sunshine can't improve this disappointing album. Both Jim and Greg have lauded the Chicago native for years, so it breaks their hearts to see him reduced to what Jim describes as a“horrible, sexist, derogatory empty”album. With 2008 being such a landmark year, particularly for African-Americans, Greg thinks Universal Mind Control was a missed opportunity for the usually thoughtful rapper. Both critics give Common's record a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 162
Contra (Bonus Track Version)Contra available on iTunes

Vampire Weekend Contra

The first review of the new year goes to Vampire Weekend. Their album Contra is the follow-up to their 2008 debut—one that Greg explains had a backlash even before its release. The Brooklyn certainly seems to polarize. In fact, Jim absolutely hated the debut. But do they deserve such passionate hatred or praise? With Contra, they are trying to be more ambitious musically. There are elements of reggae, dub and even autotune. But, Greg still hears a perfectly nice pop band—nothing more, nothing less. He gives the record a Burn It. Jim admits Vampire Weekend has a terrific drummer and undeniable hooks, but he can't get past the preppy yacht schtick. He wishes they were more critical and thoughtful in their lyrics and gives Contra a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 215
lists

Best Albums of 2008

Jim and Greg listened to hundreds of albums this year. Which ones soared to the top? Check out their lists for the Best Albums of 2008 below. You can also see what albums made the cut in years past in our Lists section.

Go to episode 159
news

Music News

After making fans wait two decades, Pink Floyd has announced it will be releasing an album of new (mostly instrumental) material in November. The Endless River will be a tribute to Rick Wright, the band's keyboardist who died in 2008, and will be primarly made up of music that Wright, guitarist David Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason put together during a session in 1993, leading to the last studio album, 1994's The Division Bell. One name you won't hear uttered…Roger Waters, who departed in the 1980's.

While digital music is taking the rest of the world by storm, CD's are…big in Japan. In fact, digital sales are plummeting in the Asian nation. We discussed this curiosity during our Japanese World Tour last year. And now the New York Times is diving further into this music industry head-scratcher. To be sure, CD sales are are falling worldwide, including in Japan. But they still account for 85% of sales in the country, compared with as little as 20% in fellow World Tour stop Sweden. Jim and Greg discuss the reasons for this including a Japanese desire to“own stuff,”and stalled efforts to bring streaming services there. they still account for about 85 percent of sales here, compared with as little as 20 percent in some countries, like Sweden, where online streaming is dominant.

yaremchuk Having had a tumultuous year, Ukraine has decided not to participate in next year's Eurovision contest. The Eastern European nation came in 6th at the 2014 songwriting competition, which is not too shabby, Greg notes. But the state broadcaster NTU, which finances the entry, said they don't have enough money to do something well.

Go to episode 461

Music News

A glance at the numbers coming out of the traditional music industry institutions don't paint a pretty picture. But, as Jim and Greg explain, for everyone outside the major labels and distributors, 2008 hasn't actually been such a bad year. Apple is reporting a 34% increase in sales. This includes iTunes downloads as well as players and accessories, but compare these stats with the 20% dip the record companies are reporting, and you get even more proof that the old model needs tweaking.

There's another surprising news item coming out of the digital music realm. If you had asked Jim and Greg years ago to bet on what artist would dominate digital music sales today, they would never have guessed Journey. The power balladeers' 1981 hit "Don't Stop Believin" just became top selling catalog track in iTunes history with over 2 million downloads. How did this song eclipse heavy hitters like "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Bohemian Rhapsody?" Greg attributes the song's late blooming success to 3 things: its association with the Chicago White Sox, its use in the Sopranos' finale, and its use during Kanye West's most recent tour. Jim would prefer to never have to hear from Journey again, but Greg will defend the song's catchiness, particularly that unforgettable keyboard riff.

In sadder news, South African singer Miriam Makeba died last week at the age of 76. Greg says that Makeba is to South Africa what Edith Piaf, Mahalia Jackson and Celia Cruz are to their home countries. Her passion for South Africa and for all of the continent mirrored her voice and her music, and in the case of her recording contract, jeopardized it. Makeba is best remembered through the conviction you can hear in songs, so Jim and Greg play the updated version of "Pata Pata" from her 2000 album Homeland.

Go to episode 155

Music News

2008 has come to a close, and the numbers are in. According to Nielsen SoundScan's end-of-year report, Taylor Swift was the top-selling artist of 2008. Lil Wayne and Coldplay also had good years, but overall album sales were down a whopping 14%. It's not all bad news for the music industry, however. While physical sales for complete albums continue to plummet, music sales overall are up; more than 1 billion digital tracks were sold. And, profits from concert sales are up 8%. This figure is the result of fewer tickets being sold for more money, and Jim and Greg wonder if consumers will be able to keep up with rising ticket prices in this failing economy.

It looks like digital music sales will only continue to increase. Steve Jobs of Apple has made it even easier for music fans to purchase and download music from the iTunes store by removing all Digital Rights Management software from its files. But, accessibility comes at a price—$1.29 to be exact. Amazon and other online stores have been selling DRM-free files for almost a year, but iTunes was the last to hold out with the labels' demands. So if both Apple and the music industry are winners, where does that leave the consumer?

Pioneering punk guitarist Ron Asheton of the Stooges died this week at the age of 60. While he died at young age, Asheton lived long enough to experience a Stooges reunion and revived fan interest. He is best remembered through his music, in albums like Fun House. And you can listen to Asheton's 2006 interview with Jim and Greg during this Sound Opinions episode.

Go to episode 163

Music News

Greg recently returned from the Future of Music Policy Summit in Washington D.C. Two of the central themes of the summit were how people will get more access to the internet and how artists will get paid. Senator Al Franken and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski both spoke about these issues and passionately expressed support for net neutrality. But Franken and Genachowski also stressed that any internet activity that violates artist copyright could not be tolerated. Because it's difficult to tell if p2p activity is legal or illegal, the question remains: how do you reconcile these two ideals?

Call her vain, but Carly Simon needs a little more tender, loving care. She is suing Starbucks, saying that the coffee company's now-defunct music label, Hear Music, didn't adequately promote her 2008 album This Kind of Love. Jim and Greg see this is as the final piece in the Hear Music tale. At first it was seen as a great, alternative way for musicians like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell to market their music, and a way for the coffee company to morph into a tastemaking brand. Now, only a couple of years later, everyone agrees Starbucks should stick to lattes.

Go to episode 203

Music News

The Grammys may be the most well-known music awards, but the Village Voice Pazz & Jop Critics Poll is perhaps the best barometer of what was good in the world of music. The ballots are in for 2008, and among the almost 600 critics surveyed, TV on the Radio's Dear Science came out on top. As Jim explains, the critics often do it better, but the poll is not perfect, especially since the departure of longtime Pazz & Jop“Dean”Robert Christgau. Usually the Village Voice list is vastly different from the list of Grammy nominations, but this year there are some crossovers, especially in terms of singles. M.I.A's "Paper Planes" and Estelle's "American Boy" got top marks in Pazz & Jop, as well as a number of Grammy noms.

On January 20, President Barack Obama not only inherited 2 wars and a failing economy. He also inherited a pretty kick-ass record collection. According to a recent story in Rolling Stone, there are several hundred LP's in the White House basement, including Led Zeppelin IV, Let it Bleed and Rocket to Russia, all provided by the RIAA and marked with the presidential seal. The list of records was not always so cool though. During the Nixon administration, album artists included Pat Boone and John Denver. So, Jim and Greg want to volunteer their own services to make sure that the collection thrives in the year to come. They say: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country's record collection."

Go to episode 166