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CoS Year-End Report: The Leftovers

on December 19, 2008, 9:00am

We all hate leftovers, but for some reason we still keep ’em. Deep in the fridge, you’re likely to find that ol’ paper box container from Wang Chung’s Chinese Take Out or maybe the mystery meat in the smelly aluminum foil. Whatever the case, we thought it was a good name for all the goodies left out of our other Year-End spectacles.

So, what’s left? Well, we still haven’t touched upon the thing we clamor for most: live performances. That’s just one aspect of all the other madness from 2008 that deserves some time under the spotlight. Having said that, let’s put on the rubber gloves, grab the Windex, and clean up some, eh?

To quote the Joker, another rewarding attribute of the year, “And here… we… go.”

Top Live Act:
Nine Inch Nails

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Some might disqualify a contender who insists upon being the best, but then again, that never stopped Kanye West from winning a Grammy, an MTV Video Award, or… a chart topping career. So, we’ll let Trent Reznor’s recent rant slide some. After all, he does have a point. His performance at just about every summer festival, not to mention his own tour, was one of the most talked about events on the internet this year. Between the eye popping light show to the rage induced set lists, Nine Inch Nails didn’t just gnaw at every stage they came across, they dessimated it. Oh, what’s the matter? You didn’t catch ’em once this year? Spent all that dough on repeated Radiohead shows? Maybe these quotes will do you in, or just back up this argument some…

Drew Litowitz wrote back in November, after witnessing the Manchester show: “As the show continued, I found myself continually asking if what I was experiencing was indeed real or just a figment of my imagination. After one mind-bending visual element came to a close, it was immediately topped by the next. It became so crazy that I at one point turned to my friend and stated, ‘I don’t know how much more of this I can take.'”

E.N. May summarized the show’s highlights at this year’s Virgin Fest in Baltimore: “Trent Reznor and his gang of four were given two hours, and in that time they ran through everything from their early nineties songs, to tracks off their latest three records, the Ghosts series, The Slip, and 2005’s With Teeth. ‘Closer’ came on early and brought on the night’s endless industrial beating as an impressive light display enhanced the experience. The light show at one point in the night became interactive as Reznor could wave lights on and off from his LCD curtain.”

And Michael Roffman had “another hard on”, this time for the industrial rockers’ weekend closing set at Lolla: “It must be said that if Radiohead’s lightshow was beautiful, balmy, and advantageous to the band’s hypnotic melodies, then Reznor’s light brigade was energetic, frantic, and well, innovative. We’re big into keywords this weekend, so let’s just say this entire show was ‘innovative.’ There was nothing that felt tired or generic; instead, most fans were too busy picking up their jaws off the ground. With three separate screens, all of which sectioned the stage, an ocean of background lights, and an arsenal of instruments, there was never a bored moment. Something was always happening and it was miles ahead of what one might possibly expect.”

Text doesn’t really do much for argument in this category, it’s really all “seeing is believing”, but hopefully these words do some walking for you. Some may argue, and mostly the itchy Radiohead fans, but the truth is, Reznor and co. went all out this time, and the only downside is that we won’t have an IMAX film counterpart to go with it all.

Honorable Mentions: Radiohead; Okkervil River; Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band; Hot Chip; Foo Fighters

Top Live Album:
The Clash – Live at Shea Stadium

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The Clash? At Shea Stadium? For CoS Publisher Alex Young, the image of the world’s great punk band playing in the home of the world’s great baseball team is the closest thing to heaven. For everyone else, it serves as one hell of a live album. Taken from The Clash’s October 13, 1982 performance in support of The Who, Live at Shea Stadium captures Joe Strummer and company at their best: the punk ruckus of “Tommy Gun”, the experimentation of “Armagideon Time”, and the colorful banter of Strummer, “If you don’t know what’s goin’ on, just ask the person standing next to you,” are the first things to come to mind. Oh ya, and “London Calling” in all its Mick Jones guitar solo, Strummer howling glory? Seriously, what is better than that?

Honorable Mentions: Babyshambles – Oh What a Lovely Tour

Top News Story:
Kanye West Mania!

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Between the Grammy Appearance with Daft Punk, the Bonnaroo episode, the arrest(s), and 808s & Heartbreaks, the man better known as Kanye West made quite a stir in 2008. In fact, so much so, that we probably wrote about him 54, now 55 times, over the last 365 days. So though his latest album may have only hit #92 on our Top 100 Albums of 2008, the Chicago rapper does takes home the honors of “Top News Story” or “Newsmaker” for this past year. And fortunately, based on the plans – ie., album #5 may be on the way – Kanye should continue of his domination of the news well into 2009.

Honorable Mentions: Led Zeppelin; Chinese Democracy is finally released; Jack Johnson takes the music festival by storm

Most Controversial Review:
The Offspring – Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace

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While it didn’t make our Top 100 Albums of 2008, The Offspring’s latest effort, Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace, definitely proved noteworthy, at least when it came to the reaction resulting from Michael Roffman’s review of the album. 72 comments followed Roffman’s critique of the band’s eighth studio album, in which he gave a 2.5/5 and concluded, “On the whole, there’s enough here to keep the fans busy and patient, that is until Holland decides he wants to grow up musically, too.” “This is almost better than Maxim’s review of ‘Warpaint.’ What an ass,” wrote a commenter named Michael, while Matthew added, “This review is an atrocity. ‘Rise and Fall’ has some of the best material these guys have written in nearly a decade.” And those are the G-rated ones.

Honorable Mentions: Coldplay – Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends; Disturbed – Indestructible

Biggest Letdown:
Barack Obama at Lollapalooza ’08? Not!

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Ok, so sure we’re all happy about Barack and hopefully this country starts kicking ass again now that he’s in charge. But the President-elect’s Lollapalooza appearance, or lack there of, is definitely our biggest letdown of the year. To summarize, in the weeks leading up to the Chicago based festival, rumors started to fly that Obama would be making a stop at Grant Park for a quick campaign event/guest appearance, where he’d be introducing Nine Inch Nails, Wilco, or even…Kanye West. Barack introducing Kanye? What if he misspoke? Or didn’t give Kanye the props Kanye thought were do? Would Kanye refuse to come on stage, thus altering the entire outcome of the election? Oh, the possibilities were endless. Unfortunately, neither a Barack Obama appearance, nor Kanye meltdown transpired.

Honorable Mentions: Led Zeppelin; Kanye West at Bonnaroo ’08; The Killers – Day & Age

Top Reunion:
Ben Folds Five

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“Reunion” certainly proved to be the hot word in 2008. But for all the talk and possibilities that filled our imaginations this year – hell, even DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince discussed a comeback – few actually transpired, and of the ones that did, there was easily one clear cut winner. In what was their first concert in nearly eight years, the Ben Folds Five reunited for a special one-off performance on September 18, 2008 at UNC Memorial Hall. The trio of Folds, Robert Sledge, Darren Jessee used the MySpace sponsored concert to tackle their classic album, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, in its entirety before offering “Jackson Cannery”, “Selfless, Cold & Composed”, and a few others for an encore. The whole thing seemed a bit magical, a sentiment backed up by David Menconi when he called the performance “supernatural” in his review and in the numerous videos documenting the event that now circulate the web.

Honorable Mentions: The Get Up Kids; Jane’s Addiction; Phish

Top Music Festival:
ATP New York 2008

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Our biggest blunder of the year? Not dishing out the cash to head up to Monticello, New York for the inaugural ATP New York music festival. Alright, so to be fair, by September, all the other of country’s great music festival had zapped most of our funds, but still. One look at last year’s lineup still makes us salivate. Yo La Tengo, Built To Spill, Thurston Moore, ….And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Dinosaur Jr.? And that’s even without mentioning My Bloody Valentine! Let’s just say, the 2009 edition of ATP NY is on our “To Do List.”

Honorable Mentions: Sasquatch! Music Festival; Lollapalooza; Outside Lands Music Festival

Best On-Stage Guest Appearance:
Tom Morello w/ Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

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Any show featuring the Boss is enough to make our jaws drop. But when Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello joined Bruce & the E Street Band for a guest spot on “The Ghost of Tom Joad” during a concert in Anaheim this past April, the performance that transpired made for a once in a lifetime moment. With Bruce looking on in wonderment, Morello and his mind-numbing guitar solo essentially turned the stark Nebraska classic into a full-fledged rock masterpiece. And that’s without even mentioning the inane climax about seven minutes in, but words alone don’t give that justice. All in all, the nine minute performance proved one of the bigger highlights of the Magic tour. Plus, it sure as hell made up for Conor Obert’s not so good guest appearance on “Thunder Road”.

Honorable Mentions: Ezra Koenig  w/ Fucked Up; Slash w/ Perry Farrell; Jeff Magnum w/ Elephant 6

Most Ambitious Release:
Paul Westerberg – 49:00

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It’s a crime to have this entire Year-End report without one mention of Minneapolis legend, Paul Westerberg. Of course, there’s a reason. We’re not that impulsive, where we feel the need to include him just for shits and giggles. No, 2008 has been one hell of a year for the rough skinned troublemaker. On one hand, given the Replacements re-issues, the Rock Band inclusion of “Alex Chilton”, and the popularity bleeding over from last year’s excellent biography, All Over But The Shouting, we could peg Westie as the Breakout Artist of the Year. Congrats Paul, you’ve gone mainstream after nearly thirty years. But no, amidst all that ‘Mats madness, Westerberg managed to squeeze out a ton of MB’s.

In other words, the elusive songwriter delivered a digital album. Now, in light of today’s market, that might seem like a no brainer, but when was the last time an artist put out an album in just one long, forty-three minute MP3? Not too many. Titled 49:00, the one track album was pulled weeks later from Amazon.com, where it was being sold, due to legal mumbo jumbo regarding some “obscure covers” toward the end, but that didn’t stop the internet from loving it, or Michael Roffman from writing a review. In the end, Westerberg took some big financial hits with such a perverse method of release, and therefore it makes sense to give him this textual “pat on the back.” Oh, and the music’s pretty snazzy too.

Top Late Night Performance:
Radiohead on Conan O’Brien

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So Radiohead’s In Rainbows didn’t come out this year, thus making Thom Yorke and Co. ineligible for most of our lists (blasphemy!), but their “Send-In” performance of “House of Cards” on Late Night With Conan O’Brien on April 23rd allowed them to sneak on for our leftovers. The reasoning? The whole thing was just too cool for Broadcast TV. Conan introduces the band by explaining that they were the show’s first musical guests back in ’93, explains that In Rainbows, you know…kicks ass, and then states that they are one of the most environmentally conscious bands before a video of the band in the studio begins.  Whereas most huge rock bands might just go right into the song, Thom begins by explaining why the five didn’t hop across the pond for a performance, joking around “recycle your shopping bags, Conan,” and making a backhanded comment about “that twat who walked away from the Kyoto agreement.” If there’s one  thing to say about Radiohead, it’s that they’re funny as hell. Sure, the performance was sent in and previously recorded, but Conan isn’t live anyways. Plus, it was for environmental awareness. Don’t you feel like an asshole now?

Honorable Mentions: The Cardinals on Letterman; Grizzly Bear on Letterman; My Morning Jacket on Saturday Night Live

Worst Lyric:
The Killers – “Human”

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Are we human?/Or are we dancer?/My sign is vital/My hands are cold/And I’m on my knees/Looking for the answer/Are we human?/Or are we dancer?

We’re gonna have to agree with the fine folks at the Village Voice on this one. The Killers’ Day & Age was a disappointment for so many different reasons, but when Brandon flowers offered this little ditty on the album’s second track, well, let’s just say, we’re not even sure if he knew what he was singing.

Honorable Mentions: See: The Worst Lyrics of 2008: NCAA-Style Showdown

Just STFU Already:
Jack Johnson

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See: Coachella ’08, Bonnaroo ’08, Outside Lands ’08, Virgin Mobile Festival ’08, Kokua Festival ’08, All Points West 08, etc.

Honorable Mentions: Brandon Flowers and his feather coat; Kanye West; Noel Gallagher