It wasn't exactly a banner year for proprietors of the record-slinging shops. Album sales at in general were down 14 percent nationwide from 2007, and this obviously hit brick-and-mortar retailers where it counts.
But while folks are increasingly more likely to boot-up CD Baby or iTunes to get their music, local indie record shops are still managing to somehow stay afloat (for now, at least). Personally, I prefer spending what little music money I have at stores like Stinkweeds (pictured) or Hoodlums, both of which are within a short distance to my downtown Phoenix pad.
Not only do I get to fulfill my quota of small-business boosterism, I can also pick up magazines and other music-related ephemera in meatspace instead of cyberspace. (We all have to disconnect from the computer sometime, don't we?) I'm not alone in my feelings, as recent media reports have indicated what I've long suspected: many audiophiles will get their music from mom-and-pop shops instead of big-box stores.
There's also the chance to jaw with fellow music fans, or even the record store owners like Revolver Records' T.J. Jordan, who know more about the music industry then I could ever hope to. (If nothing else, we can also discuss how we're both involved with floundering industries).
It's the season for endless Top 10 lists, but I figured y'all would like to see what said shopkeeps have been digging on over the last 12 months. The lists are as diverse as they are, and run the gamut from soul-shaking blues artists like Taj Mahal to sexy indie wonders like Fleet Foxes (who are mentioned not once, but twice).
Hit the link for the lowdown on their personal faves of 2008.
The Seldom Seen Kid
"Singer Guy Garvey sounds a bit like Peter Gabriel, and even though they sound painfully English, Elbow stand apart from all the current pack of British bands (Keane, Coldplay, etc.) simply because they aren't afraid to break molds. This record is bold and creative and flows seamlessly from high highs to low lows. With tiny bits of Polynesian flair, flamenco guitar sounds, strings, and noise, Elbow makes a record like no one else."
2. Bon Iver
For Emma, Forever Ago
Even though singer Justin Vernon released this himself in 2007, I still think it merits a mention here since it was impossible to find until Jagjaguwar picked it up. I first heard about this from a customer who was so excited about it he drove from Flagstaff to pick it up.
3. Fleet Foxes
This record, even though it's going to be on everyone's list, is just so deserving [that] I couldn't help but add it to mine. Who can ignore [five-part] harmonies with big fluffy recordings I haven't heard since the first My Morning Jacket record.
4. Nada Surf
No one playing today writes a better three minute pop song. Period. It's all there, the catchy melodies, the harmonies, the perfect bridges...you can't ignore them, they will creep into your mind and take hold.
5. Crooked Fingers
Eric Bachmann is one of those subtly creative guys that never fails to deliver a good record. Only this time, he invited a ton of friends and released a great record. With horns and strings and big-sounding drum production, Bachman takes his craft to a whole new level.
(* Lanning's choices are excerpted from the Stinkweeds: The Best of 2008 booklet, which you can pick for free at the store.)
Co-owner, Hoodlums Music & Movies
1. Roy Hargrove Quintet
"My favorite jazz CD of the year, and the new release I have played the most at our new store. By the end of track one...someone is asking 'What is this?'"
"You have to love this whole project in general. The original band before the Heartbreakers comes together again and puts together a great album in 10 days. The inscription on the inside of the CD says it all: 'Friends, musicians, and love contribute to the process... and some great music came out.' The live EP is a nice companion piece as well."
3. James Hunter
The Hard Way
"A fantastic follow-up to 2006's People Gonna Talk by singer/guitarist James Hunter. Blue-eyed soul at its finest... this music will keep your toes tappin'."
4. Charlie Hunter
"I've always loved Charlie in all his various groups, and this effort sounds as strong and interesting as ever."
5. Taj Mahal
"While it is impossible to sell a new Taj Mahal to a customer without first selling them Taj Mahal and Natch'l Blues from 1968 - it isn't hard to sell this album to Taj fans. This is a damn good album from the eclectic Blues master...which is a pretty amazing thing forty years later."
Owner, Revolver Records
1. Lindsey Buckingham
Gift of Screws
Great songs, great production, great guitar playing. I can't believe he's 60 and sound this young. Get it on 180 gram vinyl - comes with a free "audiophile" CD!
2. Brian Wilson
That Lucky Old Sun
"Another great album by the Beach Boys legend. This time, it's a concept album ode to California."
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3. Fleet Foxes
"One of the better new bands to come along in recent years. This Baroque-Pop Seattle band had me at "sounds like the Beach Boys."
4. Bob Dylan
Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8
"Even Dylan's throwaways are better than most songwriter's keepers. Need proof? Get this album."
5. Ryan Adams
"How many good songs can this guy write? Another great slice of modern folk-rock."
-- Benjamin Leatherman