Listen to BLINDSIDED by Bon Iver.
Listen to WOLVES (SONG OF THE SHEPHERD'S DOG) by Iron & Wine.
Jason dropping in.
Content is increasingly exponential as distribution channels become more prolific. Sometimes its hard to know which is driving the other, or whether they're the mutual product of the entertainment (r)evolution. Its impossible to stay on top of it (I used to think I could). Now, you need a filter.
Let's take TV (in the UK). My ultimate filter is The Guardian (or, as I call it, "Holy Paper"). On Saturdays, they publish "The Guide" which provides all terrestrial and main cable listings. With just 3 recommendations for each of those two conduits per day, they give me enough to programme my Sky+ recorder for the week. Its turned me on to mainstream quality like Lost, Heroes and 24; lesser-mass brilliance like Deadwood, The Wire and Dexter; and the Daddy that rules them all - Battlestar Galactica (4th series not withstanding).
But when it comes to the breadth of quality movie choices, my hard-disk always runs out. So I tried to put another filter on it - IMDB, rated 7.0 or above. But even that is subject to favouritism or manipulation -given that the people that vote are the people that bother (or the "people" that are organised).
And so I turned to another filter.
Metacritic combines reviews from "respected critics" and turns them into an overall grade - a score out out of 100. "Respected" is the (perhaps selectively controversial) key. Not the popular vote, but the discerning views of people who I would want to..... not necessarily agree with.... but absorb.... if i could.
I've only just begun to bring Metacritic into my life... to save time and alert me to things I might have missed. In terms of new music, Q magazine remains my Modus Operandi, but I'm letting this new beast in.
Metacritic's all-time Top 10 albums include Brian Wilson, Led Zeppelin, Outkast, Ali Farka Toure, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits - a good start (although it also contains Loretta Lynn). Scroll through that list and you'll see that the highest-ranking album of 2008 (# 34 all-time) is "For Emma, Forever Ago" by Bon Iver.
Two weeks ago I went to see Bon Iver support Iron & Wine with my music-operating-model-nemesis-friend Tim Smith. I don't remember the last time I saw so many pay attention to a support act. Justin Vernon (aka "Bon Iver") is in the Jose Gonzlaez / Ray LaMontagne mould and his debut is up there.
"Blindsided" is the highlight of the album for me (although I also recommend "Lump Sum", "Skinny Love", and "re:stacks"). Check it out.
Strangely enough, I was more excited a few months ago by Iron & Wine's "The Shepherd's Dog" album. You might know them as part of the excellent "Garden State" soundtrack ("Such Great Heights"). And I wasn't sure which track to choose for this post ("White Tooth Man", "Carousel", "House By The Sea" and "Peace Beneath The City" are fantastic). In the end, "Wolves...." was my choice. Although, in writing this, I've changed it 4 times so far (and counting).
As for Iron & Wine live, it was such a shame. They went for lots of musicians, a lo-fi-AM-radio-stylised sound and a seemingly-Grateful-Dead-like-jam approach to the music. As my learned friend Tim said (and this guy knows his music): "that sound.....the audience is restless......all those musicians....its like when you mix lots of great colours together and get.....brown...."
I couldn't have said it better.
But I'm still putting the Iron & Wine album ahead of Bon Iver's.......even if Metacritic doesn't (a difference of 2 points).
Photo: Taken by Jason Bryant (where was that?).