Freedom Rock

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J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 23, 2008; 2:00 PM

Washington Post music critic J. Freedom du Lac is online every Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET to talk about the latest on the music scene: alternative, country, alt-country, pop, hyphy, harp-rock, reggae, reggaeton, R and B and whatever it is that Nicole Scherzinger does.

The transcript follows.

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J. Freedom du Lac: Twas the night before (the night before) Christmas when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even Josh Rouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that Nicholas Payton soon would be there;

The Kidz in the Hall were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of a Sugarhill Gang reunion danced in their heads;

And Lil Mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled down to spin "My President is Black"

When out in the blogosphere there arose such a clatter, I dashed like a Fleet Fox to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like DJ Flash, Tore open the shutters and threw on the Baby Bash.

Tom Moon's "1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die" on the new-fallen Ne-Yo

Gave the lustre of MIDI to the "Santa's Coming Over" 7-inch by Low;

When, what to my Bright Eyes should I happen to see, But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny Deerhoof CDs;

With Minnie Driver, singing so lively and slick, I knew in a moment it must not be the Bad Seeds frontman, the gloomy St. Nic
k

More rapid than the country-fied Eagles his coursers they came, And he whistled like Peter, Bjorn and John and called them by name;

"Now, Weezy! now, Axl! now, Tunde and Wale the rapper! On, Thao! on Girl Talk! on, Ashton and Blitzen Trapper!"

....

Okay, then, where were we? Oh, right: Chat time.

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Herndon, Va.: Man....that baby is going to make you soft...instead of covering the obscure music scene, you're going to be reviewing Disney on Ice...whatever...

j/k - congrats!!

J. Freedom du Lac: What are you talking about? I'm already soft. Why else would I have included Ne-Yo's girly-music soul set on my Top 10 list?

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Norfolk, Va.: Have you heard of Gaslight Anthem? I'm a bit surprised they haven't ended up on more "Best of 2008" lists. "The '59 Sound" was one of the few complete albums I bought this year. Got to see them live in VA Beach a few weeks ago, they reminded me of the sound and energy of young Springsteen. Cheers!

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, a very fine Springsteen placeholder. Our Singles File columnist Allison Stewart loves 'em and put one the title track in her Top 10, which we'll publish on Sunday.

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Snowbound Chicago: What, you don't have the juice to be off two days before Christmas?

That said, have you bought Baby-to-be Freedom his/her first iPod?

J. Freedom du Lac: Can't afford to take time off right now - too busy getting year-end interviews done for the blog. Producer David published one yesterday with War on Drugs, who released his No. 1 album this year. I had an interview up today with Jamey Johnson, whose "That Lonesome Song" is at No. 4 on my list. More interviews TK over the next couple of weeks, including one tomorrow with the only artist to make both of our lists: Thao Nguyen.

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Donrockwell.com: Enough about music, all anyone's playing is Xmas stuff this week.

Since you outed yourself as a foodie last week, tell us your fave places to eat.

J. Freedom du Lac: You mean besides the Strathmore lobby and at one of them tables at the Birchmere?

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St. Paul, Minn.: I actually happen to like "Chinese Democracy" ... what would that make me then?

J. Freedom du Lac: Axl Rose, or maybe Sebastian Bach?

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Fairfax, Va.: Anthony Hamilton's "The Point of It All" is probably going to be one of my favorite albums of the year. How do you think it stacks up to other new R&B/Soul releases (Musiq, Brandy, etc.)?

J. Freedom du Lac: It's very, very good, though there are at least four soul albums that I prefer from 2008: Kanye's "808s and Heartbreak," Ne-Yo's "Year of the Gentleman," Erykah Badu's "New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War" and Raphael Saadiq's "The Way I See It." But, Hamilton's rekkid is better than the other R&B releases you mentioned, for sure.

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Oasis: They make a good festival band, on stage for 45 minutes and done.

J. Freedom du Lac: Oasis: Possibly more fun to talk about than listen to these days, even though Leafblower Kyle would violently disagree with me. His Google Talk status update at this very moment? "I have 262 Oasis songs in my iTunes." I told him he needed help. He agreed, saying: "i know - I need more."

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Conyers, Ga.: Country Second!

Actually, I think the Wapo coverage is pretty good. Fer instance, today's insightful blog post of Jamey Johnson's 2007 release "This Lonesome Song"! Actually , to be fair, I first read about it in Pareles year end list on the weekend. I've only given it a cursory listen, but I think it's gonna grow on me.

As for other notables this year to this pair of ears: Rodney Crowell's "Sex and Gasoline" is right up there. George Jones "Burn Your Playhouse Down" is pretty damn good, even though most of the tracks go back 15 and 20 years. His daughter sure can sing, too.

Jim Lauderdale's "Honey Songs" is mighty fine. "Daughters of the Majestic Sage" is damn near psychedelic and "Molly's Got a Chain" is some real fine hurtin' music.

But Hayes Carll wins Redneck Song of the year for "She left Me for Jesus" off of "Trouble in Mind." It's a hoot.

J. Freedom du Lac: Spend some time with "That Lonesome Song." It's a great winter album. Perfectly gloomy and whatnot.

Though my favorite country album of the year - my favorite album of the year, period - is Ashton Shepherd's "Sounds So Good." It displaced James McMurtry's album atop my Top 10 at the 11th hour, after a final listening session.

That George Jones album is worth hearing, for sure. I was playing that one during the drive from Nashville to his subdivision-within-a-subdivision, near Franklin. Love that "Tavern Choir" song he did with Lauderdale. The duet with his daughter is a heartbreaker, too.

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RE: liking Chinese Democracy: I bet if you could ask Axl (and if you could get an honest answer out of him) he would express disappointment in "Chinese Democracy" because he was forced to finally adhere to someone else's timetable and release it before it was finally done.

J. Freedom du Lac: He may or may not have addressed that in the open letter he issued earlier this month, but I stopped reading after about 20,000 words.

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Washington, D.C.: Here's my Top 10. There were a lot of great records this year, but these are the ones I keep going back to.

The Hold Steady - Stay Postive

Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs

TV On The Radio - Dear Science

Sun Kil Moon - April

Metallica - Death Magnetic

Earth - The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull

Old 97s - Blame It On Gravity

Murry Hammond - I Don't Know Where I Am But I Know Where I've Been

James Blackshaw - Litany of Echoes

Panic At The Disco - Pretty. Odd

J. Freedom du Lac: I still have a TV on the Radio blind spot. I like the sound of "Dear Science," and I like the idea of the album, too. But the songs don't do much for me. Producer David summed it up perfectly when he referred to it as "faux catharsis." But, I think I understand why other people like them/it, in the same way that I get why people dig the Decemberists, even though I'm not a fan. (Might not stop us from doing a "Please Explain To Me..." post on the blog, though.)

Anyway, my own 2008 Top 10:

10. Thao Nguyen with the Get Down Stay Down, "We Brave Bee Stings And All
"

9. Calle 13, "Los de Atras Vienen Conmigo"

8. Rhymefest/Mark Ronson, "Man in the Mirror"

7. Fleet Foxes, "Fleet Foxes"

6. Erykah Badu, "New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War)"

5. Ne-Yo, "Year of the Gentleman"

4. Jamey Johnson, "That Lonesome Song"

3. Kanye West, "808s and Heartbreak"

2. James McMurtry, "Just Us Kids"

1. Ashton Shepherd, "Sounds So Good"

(Still working on a singles list for Pazz & Jop.)

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Washington, D.C.: Hi J. Free,

I am too lazy to look up your top 10 list. Can you link to it?

J. Freedom du Lac: (See above.)

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Oasis: "I have 262 Oasis songs in my iTunes."

If all these songs are Whatever, I will happily father Kyle's children. If any of them are Little James, I will recommend that he be neutered.

J. Freedom du Lac: Poor Kyle.

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Sterling, Va.: Tell Don to leave you alone and go find those lost posts. Since we seem to be on a Britpop kick, what's your take on the upcoming Blur reunion, and have you heard any rumors of a US tour?

J. Freedom du Lac: Yeah, Don - where's the beef (braised in Michael Mina's clarified butter and then seared over high heat)?

Blur! There's no way they don't tour the US, is there? I just read yesterday that they're playing Glastonbury with Springsteen and Neil Young. That might not be bad at all.

Speaking of Britpop, I just had to include the James song "Hey Ma" on my Top 10 singles list. A protest anthem with horns! Fantastic.

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Woodbridge, Va.: You know I've been listening to that Fleet Foxes CD, and it just grows better with each listen.

J. Freedom du Lac: Sounds even better during the winter, when you're actually -supposed- to wear those ski caps that the Fleet Foxes dudes are always sporting onstage.

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Neckware, Va.: How does it feel to be competing with Tucker Carlson over there on that there yonder Politics chat? Are you sitting next to each other, competing as to who can type the fastest?

J. Freedom du Lac: He wears bowties. I can totally take him. It's Ana Marie Cox that I'm worried about.

Ask them what their Top 10 albums are this year. Or maybe I should. I'll be posting Top 5s from some of my colleagues next week on the blog. You'll love the "list" from sports columnist Mike Wise.

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Washington, D.C.: I was at that Oasis show (out of curiosity more than anything) and they were about as good in terms of stage presence as a wet noodle. I mean, I pay to see the music, but at least jump around or say something in between songs that's intelligible. Even seeing Van Halen with David Lee Roth this year as old as they are, they put on a more entertaining show. Dance, jump around, do something...sheesh!

J. Freedom du Lac: Not all wet noodles are created equal. Give me noodles submerged in a great bowl of pho, for instance, and you've got the perfect meal. But yeah, they're snoozy. Best Oasis performance of the year? Jay-Z doing "Wonderwall" at Glastonbury. Fantastic.

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Kanye West: You knock him down on the list any after the SNL fiasco?

J. Freedom du Lac: Not at all. Live shows don't factor into my decision-making process one bit. If they did, I might have dinged Miranda Lambert last year after seeing her deliver a somewhat wobbly vocal on "The View."

As for Kanye onstage --- as bad as his vocal performances were on SNL, he flat-out killed it at both Nissan and Virgin Mobile Fest. So he's actually in the plus column this year.

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Fleet Foxes: I liked that album until I saw that my local Starbucks had it as their featured album. Then I spent several months in hospital with uncontrollable vomiting. I emerged a better and wiser man.

J. Freedom du Lac: Hell, even Sonic Youth has been featured in Starbucks. Doesn't really bother me. But your mileage may vary, obvi.

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Washington, D.C.: I wasn't crazy about TV on the Radio either (nor Vampire Weekend, and both seem to show up on EVERY critics' top 10 lists). What are you looking forward to in early '09? I'm excited about the new Lily Allen and Franz Ferdinand albums.

J. Freedom du Lac: I like some of those Vampire Weekend singles/songs quite a bit. Was fascinated to see how quickly the world turn on them, though. The half-life of a blogsophere-approved buzz band, etc.

Early '09? I'm looking forward to putting that "I Crawl the Line" onesie on my baby boy. Okay, and also to new albums by the fabulous Ruthie Foster (a real revelation for me when I saw her at Jazz Fest), the Bird and the Bee (gotta get my twee on), Dierks Bentley (whose advance is sitting on my desk, begging to be heard), Keri Hilson (does Timbaland still have the touch? and will this album ever come out, or is it doomed to a lifetime of delays, like Mya's latest?) and the new Buddy & Julie Miller album (Buddy = genius). Lily and Franz should be inneresting, too. Or so I hope.

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Glover Park, Washington, D.C.: Hello -- Entertainment Weekly's critics ranked Duffy's album "Rockferry" as one of the year's worst. Of the new breed of Dusty Springfield blue-eyed British soul, I think she's the most authentic and found the album really listenable and melodic, as opposed to Winehouse and Adele. Your thoughts?

J. Freedom du Lac: Ah, my kind of year-end rip. I am not a believer in Duffy. At all. I liked the album okay, and then I saw her on stage at Virgin Festival and became convinced that she's a fraud.

I think Adele has real skillz. Wonderful voice and a terrific feel for that kind of music. I think her songwriting will catch up, too. Hope so, anyway.

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Starbucks Youth: That is the man selling it back to us man. Don't tolerate that s--- man.

J. Freedom du Lac: ME: Let's talk about commerce. Some of your fans went ballistic when news came out that Sonic Youth was doing a Starbucks compilation, "Hits Are for Squares." Not very indie of you, etc., never mind that you recorded for Universal Music. Explain, please.

THURSTON: I was basically looking for different avenues of distribution. The reality is that nobody's going to record stores anymore - but they're going to Starbucks to buy teas and coffees and donuts. It's just another store for God's sake. I know a lot of people apply a lot of issues to Starbucks and say they have some kind of nefarious business. I don't know anything about it; I'm sure there are some young radicals who can set me straight on that. But I kind of like the absurdity of it, the [expletive] you of it. I appreciate that people are watching us, but whatever.

We put together this compilation of our songs chosen by people in the public eye who we knew were fans - actors, writers, musicians, artists. And it came out pretty well. Our original cover idea was a picture a friend of ours took in a Starbucks in New York. A homeless guy had his head down on stained copy of the New York Times, and there were some college kids in the picture, which looked like a bombed out Starbucks waiting room. We sent that in and they said: "No!" (Laughs.) Even though it's the interior of a real Starbucks. Our friend then took a picture of a yuppie wearing white headphones, which we used. And it's kind of subversive really.

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As for Kanye onstage --- as bad as his vocal performances were on SNL: As long as he didn't go off into a square dance jig.

J. Freedom du Lac: Well, he certainly was doing some sort of interpretive dance on that stage. But I don't think it was one of them square dance jig types of deals.

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Radford, Va.: Even though it was "technically" released in December 07 was Lupe Fiasco's "The Cool" considered? Unappreciated album if you ask me, despite the solid sales.

J. Freedom du Lac: Since I do my list later than most, I could've considered it last year. But it didn't rise to that level for me.

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Washington, D.C.: I wasn't impressed with Oasis, there should be a rule where if a band can drop songs from their best selling album from the setlist and still can carry off an entertaining concert then they should be able to headline. As for Liam and Noel, I wish the ghost of John Lennon would visit and give them a piece of his acid tongue. They also need a swing at the head of Keith Richard's guitar.

J. Freedom du Lac: Take THAT, Kyle!

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Washington, D.C.: I think I am the female, Blur-loving equivalent of Kyle. I wore a Blur shirt to the Oasis show, thinking I was making some dramatic statement. I was all, "Guess who didn't get AIDS and die, guys??" Sadly Liam didn't see me and have me thrown out of the building.

I am so psyched for the Blur reunion! They MUST tour the U.S., right? I'm debating shelling out money for Glastonbury. Or just living in England for a few months.

J. Freedom du Lac: And THAT!

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262 Oasis songs : Oasis doesn't even have that many songs.

J. Freedom du Lac: Alternate takes? Live versions? Kyle singing karaoke?

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ArtMovieLover, Va.: Over at Paul Farhi's discussion, the chatters are debating the merits of "Speed Racer." Paul is con. At least one of his readers is con. But at least one other is very pro on the film.

We turn to J. Freedom for the final verdict.

J. Freedom du Lac: Sorry to report that I haven't seen the movie.There's no way it's better than the one Emile Hirsch film that I did see this year, though, in "Milk."

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"Starbucks Youth," Indeed: Actually, I like them even better now that I know the story. Gettin' pretty tired of musicians and pseudo-musicians trying to tell me what kind of coffee I can't drink.

J. Freedom du Lac: Thou shall not doubt Thurston.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm curious why you thought Duffy was a fraud after seeing her live. I happen to really like Rockferry a lot, but I've never seen her perform.

J. Freedom du Lac: Click here.

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Arlington, Va.: Kanye was clearly doing the Charlie Brown dance on SNL.

J. Freedom du Lac: It was more like Kanye channeling Michael Flatley's "Feet of Flames."

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Frederick, Md.: Ho Ho, J. Freedom. You got any organs (lungs, eyes, etc.) you can donate to Michael Jackson? Do you think he could have topped Elvis if he didn't become so, um, bizarre?

J. Freedom du Lac: No, but I do have some extra clementines here that he can have. All I do is give.

I don't think he could've surpassed Elvis, mostly because Michael stopped giving serious considering to new musical trends on or about Dec. 23, 1988. Can't rule the pop world if you're stuck in the past.

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Chattanooga, Tenn.: Do you have to be nekkid to enjoy a rekkid?

J. Freedom du Lac: Possibly - which would explain why the folks behind "Chinese Democracy" are so excited about the possibilities now that the rekkid has been, um, serviced to folks on the strip-club circuit.

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23112: This has been a good year for new music for me. Sara Bareilles, the Gabe Dixon Band, the Weepies, Sara Valenzuela, Josh Hoge (OK, he wasn't a surprise...), Peter Bradley Adams, Brook Fraser, Asobi Seksu...all new (to me) discoveries that I just love. There's more, but those are the top-of-the-head ones.

J. Freedom du Lac: I heard one Sara Valenzuela track and thought I was in a Hotel W lobby, or maybe at Buddha Bar.

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We left one out: last week when we were talking about great Christmas music - "Jingle Cats"

J. Freedom du Lac: If you say so. I personally won't consider any new Christmas music unless it's on Klimek's annual holiday compilation - or, it's a Sufjan Stevens or Yeah Yeah Yeahs tune.

Thanks for stopping by folks. Happy holidays to all. Even you out there in Arizona Bay. No chat next week, so until 2009 . . .

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