Anthony Braxton Diamond Curtain Wall Trio/Quartet - It's fun to watch Anthony Braxton reinvent his group sound with such assurance. And - oh yeah - he continues to inspire a much younger generation of musicians to be relentless.
Mary Halvorson Trio - Dragon's Head (Firehouse 12) / Mary Halvorson & Weasel Walter - Opulence (ugExplode) - As Peter Evans did last year, Mary Halvorson reaffirmed my abiding love of music by soaking decades of jazz in buckets of paint. Her tough and nimble guitar playing and the warped sense of lyricism in her tunes are totally dazzling. Charlie Christian and Sonny Sharrock are hi-fiving somewhere.
Zola Jesus - Poor Sons 7" (Die Stasi) / Soeur Sewer 7" (Sacred Bones) / Tsar Bomba EP (Troubleman) - This type of downer, synth-flecked darkwave is normally not my thing, but ZJ came out of nowhere to become one of my favorite new artists. This stuff just oozes charisma.
Tom Carter & Christian Kiefer - From the Great American Songbook (Preservation) - The single most played thing on my show in '08, it's a sublime reinterpretation of public domain tunes done in an abstract drifting drone-space and also a major guitar record.
Vetiver - Thing of the Past (Gnomonsong) - I think my favorite year in music is 1971. This album is the 2008 version of the audio version of the year 1971.
Charlie Parker - Bird In Time 1940-1947 (ESP-Disk) - Serious props to Michael D. Anderson (aka WFMU's The Good Doctor) for putting together a Charlie Parker set the New Yorker called "nearly Schaap-in-a-box" -- except without the bitter medicinal taste! A treasure of interviews and obscure tracks that collectively draw Bird out of history and into THE NOW. Bonus: it flows like freeform radio.
Year of the 7": OK, so maybe I wasn't paying attention in previous years but for me 2008 was the year of the 7" with labels like S-S, Die Stasi, Sacred Bones, Columbus Discount and Almost Ready releasing some of the most exciting music I heard in tiny batches that disappear before you can say "Ebay auction". Über tracklist: Leper Print "Dead Flowers", Dead Luke "Jumpin' Jack Flash Drive", World's Lousy with Ideas, Vol. 6 (all), Mudboy "Mudmux Vol. 1", XYX "Sistema De Terminacion Sexual ", Titmachine "1989", Little Claw "Race to the Bottom", Unholy Two "Kutter" & "Porkys", Sick Llama "Nightly Melting", Mayyors "Airplanes", The Pink Noise "Soda Jerk", Om "Gebel Barkal (version)", Blue Sabbath Black Cheer "No Escape", Vivian Girls, "Wild Eyes", Deaf Center, "Vintage Well", Wooden Shjips/The Heads tour split (both sides).
The live music on The Long Rally in 2008 was a huge honor and treat. A special enormous thanks to Nate Wooley, The Shamblers, Peter Evans/Tom Blancarte/Brandon Seabrook, Uninhabitable Mansions, Tatsuya Nakatani, Jeremiah Cymerman, Takka Takka, Mary Halvorson Trio, Lucky Dragons and Zola Jesus. Also, thanks to engineers Trent Wolbe, Mark Triant and Glenn Luttman.
WFMU and it's listeners: I feel totally humbled by my fellow DJs, tireless staff, volunteers, and the listening community. Such an amazing group of people/music freaks who continue to turn me on to new stuff and help me push my own boundaries. Thank you!
Valerio Cosi - Heavy Electronic Pacific Rock (Digitalis) - Young Italian saxophone player and composer who traverses the vast experimental music landscape with ridiculous ease recalling Terry Riley and Neu! in places.
ESP-Disk and Hatology: Two old/new labels taking things seriously with some killer new jazz. ESP-Disk with Totem, Stephen Rush/Tom Abbs/Geoff Mann, and Barnacled bring a new-millenium specialist-in-all- styles flavor and doing the legacy proud. Hatology releasing stuff like tenor blaster Michael Adkins, Taylor Ho Bynum's masterful sextet (Asphalt Flowers Forking Paths), Pandelis Karyorgis's Sun Ra via Monk (or is it Monk via Sun Ra?), and Daniel Levin's Blurry, which sparkles like Dolphy.
Radiohead, Live at Liberty State Park: Despite the clusterfuck that was the All Points West Festival (I wish pain and heartache on the dude who invented the "beer pen"), on a beautiful summer night Radiohead proved to me again why they're the best band on the planet.
Speaking of Radiohead, here's another look at one of the coolest audio artifacts of '08. Radiohead "Nude" remix video, "Big Ideas (don't get any)" by James Houston.