Friday, April 21, 2017

A Post About The Barenaked Ladies

I wrote a blog about The Barenaked Ladies, my former favorite band, over 2 years ago. I redeemed my childhood love for them and redeemed their reputation as a great band. BnL has popped up a lot in my life this past week, so I needed to reiterate a few things.
Today, I cut the heavy reading and give you some lists with my straight-forward opinions attached below. None of the lists include music from post-Steven Page BnL, because I don't care.
Enjoy.

BRIEF DISCOGRAPHY OVERVIEW 

  • Gordon 1992 "THE REALLY FREAKING GOOD ONE"
  • Maybe You Should Drive 1994  "THE SOPHOMORE SLUMP"
  • Born On A Pirate Ship 1996 "AT THEIR MOST POLARIZED"
  • Rock Spectacle 1996 "SECRETLY THE MOST ENTERTAINING LIVE BAND EVER"
  • Stunt 1998 "DECENT ALT-ROCK ALBUM"
  • Maroon 2000 "LET'S MAKE STEVE DO ALL THE WORK"
  • Everything To Everyone 2003 "HOLY BALLS THIS ALBUM SUCKS"
  • Barenaked For The Holidays 2004 "ACCIDENTALLY MAKING THE GREATEST HOLIDAY ALBUM OF ALL TIME"
  • Are Me 2006 "THE MATURE ONE"
  • Are Men 2007 "YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH YOU'RE GONNA MISS STEVE"

You may notice Are Me doesn't have any songs on my "BEST SONGS" list below, nor does it have any on the "WORST SONGS" list further below. A pretty safe album for newcomer fans. I believe the second quarter of Born On A Pirate Ship is pure gold, but it takes a true fan to survive the rest. Maybe You Should Drive really isn't that bad, it just comes off as a run-of-the-mill sequel to the lovable Canadian folk music singalong behemoth that was Gordon.
________________________________________________________________________________

THE 25 BEST BARENAKED LADIES SONGS

25 Helicopters 
24 Jane
23 Enid
22 Pinch Me
21 Off The Hook
20 War On Drugs 
19 Hello City
18 Straw Hat And Old Dirty Hank
17 Light Up My Room
16 Shoe Box
15 Testing 1, 2, 3
14 The Flag
13 Break Your Heart
12 Lovers In A Dangerous Time
11 Falling For The First Time
10 When I Fall
9 Wrap Your Arms Around Me
8 The Old Apartment
7 God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings (w/ Sarah McLachlan) 
6 Serendipity
5 Call And Answer
4 What A Good Boy
3 Too Little Too Late
2 If I Had $1,000,000
1 Brian Wilson

BnL always had the ability to tell an attention-grabbing story with plenty of instrumental variation. Musically, they never stuck with one sound, which is a compliment coming from an arrogant hipster like myself. All the songs listed above are great and have stood the test of time, in my book.
________________________________________________________________________________

THE 10 WORST BARENAKED LADIES SONGS

10 These Apples
9 Celebrity
8 Stomach v. Heart
7 Never Is Enough
6 (4-way tie) Everything To Everyone Tracks 10-13
5 Sell, Sell, Sell
4 Spider In My Room
3 Shopping (w/ The Blue Man Group)
2 What A Letdown
1 Another Postcard

"Another Postcard" was the freaking lead single for Everything To Everyone. It is also the closing credits song for the terrible 2016 animated film "Space Chimps." A sadly fitting stab to the throat representing its legacy. They didn't play it when we saw them live in 2006. I'm sure they want to forget this track as much as their fans do.
As for the rest of this list, I've never liked "Shopping." Tracks 10-13 of Eveything To Everyone is basically just a string of forgettable filler. I'm sure but a few of you have heard "Spider In My Room," and let me tell you... it's... about the most "WTF" song the band ever decided to record. "These Apples" has some cool instrumental performance chops, but for what purpose?
Anyways... long live these guys.



Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Art Of The Back Catalog


Kendrick Lamar has made some of the most memorable music of the modern era, particular his work on his gargantuan good kid, m.A.A.d city and To Pimp A Butterfly albums. While young music junkies of the future may only cite these two albums as the shelf-keepers in his discography, those who lived to experience his career in action will remember his run of artistic persistence.
In other words: Kendrick Lamar now has one of the greatest back-catalogs of all time. 


Kendrick released his newest album DAMN a couple days ago, and it's been as hard to comprehend as it has been to avoid listening to it. It's a hot album, rich with life and personality. And yet, it's far from his best work. 
I only say this because his levels of ambition have been so high in the past. It's near impossible to beat the sprawling soundscapes of his past work. However, DAMN is a great album within its own right. If a rapper like Drake or even perhaps Vince Staples released something like this, we'd be considering it their magnum opus. For Kendrick, this is simply trying something new. And he aced the test-- as always-- in his own weird, human way.

Keep in mind that he's released 3 great albums within the last 25 months:
To Pimp A Butterfly (March 2015)
untitled unmastered (Jan 2016)
DAMN (April 2017)
Artists don't do this anymore. While Future and Young Thug may be releasing new music on a monthly basis, it's always a hit-or-miss experiment (I thought JEFFERY was really good, by the way). But my growing up in the Blogosphere era of music, I've become depressingly used to great artist releasing monumental albums on a 3-to-4-year basis like clockwork. Back in the day, the most popular and critically acclaimed artists were just supplying their fans like wildfire. Extreme examples of this include The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan. Imagine an artist just dropping a classic every year. 
While I can't call DAMN a classic, it suffices anything Kendrick needed to solidify his spot as an all-time great; an artist with a consistently satisfying career.
I've talked about how good kid, m.A.A.d city (2012) and To Pimp A Butterfly (2015) are already acclaimed as two of this decade's best albums and conceptual masterpieces. But lest we forget, they came from the same guy who made solid albums like Section.80 (2011), untitled unmastered (2016), and DAMN (2017). The same freaking guy. Say what you want about ranking all these albums, but Kendrick Lamar is undeniably on a roll.

I know I'm a sucker for the Blogosphere list-making world and praising the same artists that have received non-coincidental acclaim from the internet media... but I'm here to do it again!
Kendrick now joins the league of other artists who have released a winning streak of unique albums. Radiohead, The Pixies, Pink Floyd, Talking Heads to name a few. Of course I can't be as boastful a Millennial spirit to call him as great as these big-name artists from 40+ years ago who changed music forever. But from these last few years, he is, to me, obviously the best we got right now. 
On that note, U2 is a guest artist on one of his new songs. 
U2's music has been (respectively) immortalized by many. And if not plated in gold, their discography is definitely at least appreciated by all. On the new Kendrick track "XXX," Bono's vocal performance is not used as this world-conquering machine for sappiness, as it is simply a firm voice delivering an important message. It kinda naturally comes off like a dose of early-80s U2. 
I don't see acts like Kendrick or U2 as "perfect." But they don't make mistakes.

So yeah. You ask people what their favorite Pink Floyd album is, and you're gonna get a few different answers. Some of them might even say Meddle or Atom Heart Mother. Same thing goes for hardcore Zeppelin fans or The Smiths faithful. Joni Mitchell, Pavement, Prince... acts like these prove that sometimes your 5th best album is just as important as your best. Because your full catalog can be proof of your range of artistic ability. With DAMN, Kendrick Lamar shows us that he has nothing to prove, but he's still a busy guy anyway. 

Everything I do is to embrace y'all
Everything I write is a damn eight ball
Everything I touch is a damn gold mine
Everything I say is from an angel
-Kendrick Lamar, "GOD"

This is the only I've ever felt an emotional sentiment from hearing a rapper brag about themselves. Because I don't think Kendrick is bragging here. He's talking about himself, just as much as he's talking about you and me. He is merely an example of our individual power, influence and creativity. And I find that rather touching.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Every Album I Own From 2007

Some of my favorite albums are turning 10 this year! Looking back at 2007, there were some dominant albums and singles released that have stayed in my rotation ever since. Probably my favorite singular year in music thus far from the new Millennium.
In correlation, my own music taste changed throughout this year. I was always checking the Billboard Alternative Rock Chart and reading Rolling Stone album reviews to find recommendations on new music. I've gotten into much different genre paths over the years, but oddly enough, my favorites still come from the 2007 catalog. Over the last 10 years, I have apparently collected 15 freaking albums that were released in 2007!
Of course I don't own all the greats (no Panda Bear, Of Montreal, or The National here), but looking at this list, you get a sense for both my old music taste and the taste I've developed.
And of course I ranked them.


15 Queens of the Stone Age Era Vulgaris
Not that this is a bad album, but looking back at QOTSA's full discography, this was probably their dumbest album. I mean, dat album cover tho...









14 Bruce Springsteen Magic
"Your Own Worst Enemy," "Girls In Their Summer Clothes," and "Long Walk Home" have kinda stuck with me. But this is pretty standard "old-man's-Grammy-music"-era Bruce.









13 Against Me! New Wave
Looking back at Against Me!'s full discography, I can't believe this was their sole album I ripped from my buddy Wyatt. "Thrash Unreal" is still the band's most single-sounding single, respectively.









12 Wilco Sky Blue Sky
This might be Wilco's worst album, but it was the first Wilco album I ever owned. I'm glad they don't always stick with the Grateful Dead thing, but "Impossible Germany" still stands as one of my all-time favorite guitar solos.








11 Modest Mouse We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
I've listened to every nook & cranny of early Modest Mouse demos while in my adult years. In the process, I've forgotten that they were actually one of my favorite "new" bands as a teenager. My little brother bought this album years after I was surfing "Dashboard" and "Missed The Boat" on my parent's desktop via YouTube.






10 White Stripes Icky Thump
Jack & Meg left us with their zaniest album, and I still like it! Jack tried to go for the zaniness shtick on his Lazaretto album, but I think a lot of us stopped caring about his vinyl-coated butt by then. My little brother bought this on CD years after I was discovering its album tracks via YouTube.







9 Iron & Wine The Shepherd's Dog
An album densely layered by beautiful instrumentation, full of summer night stories about being chased by dogs, stealing cars, smoking pot and getting lost at the county fair. The last we'd expect from the minimalist folk crooner.








8 Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
This is my personal favorite Spoon album. Some dark-tinted space rock tracks ("The Ghost Of You Lingers, "Eddie's Ragga") as well as a personal side we usually don't hear from Brit ("You Got Yr Cherry Bomb," "Finer Feelings").







7 Jens Lekman Night Falls Over Kortedala
Never got into Jens until my adulthood, but I don't think I could have been emotional prepared for this until my adulthood. The peppy beats and classical samples on this album will always sound hip, but its his sincere, neurotic take on relationships that wins me over.







6 Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago
Guys, "Skinny Love" has 181 million plays on Spotify. Some guy recorded this song in a cabin in Medford WS over 10 years ago. This is legitimate zeitgeist. This album always reminds me of the smell of fresh mountain air infused with alcohol. What gives this album life is Justin Vernon's soulful voice and advanced English vocabulary.






5 Animal Collective Strawberry Jam
This album was recorded within the 1 year of Avey Tare's life when he was married. Listening closely to his lyrics, this is his ultimate "Oh shoot, I'm a married  responsible adult" anxiety attack. This is accompanied by the band's most glitchy instrumentals yet. It's like in an attempt to sound inhuman, they sound more human than ever.






4 Burial Untrue
This album was a brilliant idea. I have a hard to listening to "beats" albums, but Burial kicks this off with a thematic soundscape leaving me wanting to hear how it ends. There are faint voices throughout, and it's up to us to decode their plot as the music twists and turns. And to think... this is what "dubstep" was supposed to sound like...






3 MIA Kala
MIA will always be described as a "rapper." I think MIA's purpose as a rapper is not to give us word-heavy bars, but present her swagger in its natural state. She has an obvious influence from world music (name a country, she's got it covered), a sense for world economic issues, and Kala produces it all big enough for the whole world to hear. She puts people on the map who ain't never seen a map.





2 Radiohead In Rainbows
Thom Yorke doesn't need to mumble randomly assorted depressing words into a vocoder to sound alien. Heck, looking back at The Bends, the ladies were always kind of a big deal to him. Now his band is old, they've made some of the most avant garde music ever. How could they go back and move forward all at once? Johnny Greenwood's warm pedal tones (he had been secretly hiding from us) and his knack for string arrangements needed time to shine. And boy, they do. Also: What the heck it going on in the percussion part for "Reckoner"?



1 LCD Soundsystem Sound Of Silver
LCD was already a major part of the decade's indie scene; their string of singles boosting themselves and Pitchfork Media simultaneously into popularity (things were different then). Little did we know, LCD's music would only get better by not sounding like it was recorded in a garage. All their influences come to life here, like the great producers of the 70s are reborn sonically reborn. And as a songwriter, James Murphy shows an unexpected emotional side, tied in with his self-conscious humor. The back-to-back of "Someone Great" and "All My Friends" is possibly the greatest song combo of my lifetime. A lovable album that covers existentialism, party-poopers, drugs, and New York.

Monday, February 13, 2017

10 Best 'Album of the Year' Grammy Winners

I make some complaint about the Grammy Awards every year as though I give a crap. This is because they get it right sometimes. Or at least stick to some calculated formula. But more often than not, they just come heartbreakingly close to our expectations.
I complained about Beyonce's Lemonade losing Album of the Year this year because it was the only album nominated that kinda balanced between critical acclaim and commercial success. But of course, her name isn't Adele, and was born to lose.
For the record, Adele's 25 is not a bad album, and is far from the worst album to win the Album of the Year Grammy Award. There have been multiple winners in Grammy history that are honestly just glorified novelty acts (ex: Tony Bennett's MTV Unplugged won 1995, I kid thee not). Adele is a talented modern artist making dramatic modern music; good on her. The fact that the Grammy Academy tries to show that they care about "the album" is why I'll always be interested. And some great albums have won in the past that truly have lived up to their legacy.
Here is my list of the 10 best albums to ever win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year!
-I was gonna make an Honorable Mention list, but it got long.
-Ranking this list was basically comparing tomatoes/tomatos. All great. #1 was obvious.

10 Simon & Garfunkel Bridge over Troubled Water 
This was probably S&G's most accessible album while also using the most diverse influences. Paul Simon would continue this delicate balance on his own. Art Garfunkel said "so long..."













9 Bee Gees / Various Artists Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Sound Track 
If we truly live in a world where cocaine is the only thing that matters, this album should be #1. The artists made these songs in exchange for cocaine, recorded them on cocaine, created bright disco dance floors with colors inspired by cocaine, and we got "How Deep Is Your Love."













8 Carole King Tapestry 
I cannot think of the Grammy's without thinking about this album. We get the base rock instruments cleanly edited to a tee, fronted by the woman who wrote singalong songs for the ages.












7 Paul Simon Graceland 
16 years after his AOTY Grammy for Troubled Water and 11 years after his award for Still Crazy After All These Years, he had to do something completely different. Post-divorce with Carrie Fisher, his mid-life crisis drove him to make the most universally lovable Afro-pop album ever.













6 U2 The Joshua Tree 
I think my two favorite album openers of the 80s have to be "Where The Streets Have No Name" by U2 and "Teen Age Riot" by Sonic Youth. Needless to say, the Grammy Academy definitely prefers one over the other...













5 Michael Jackson Thriller 
All the young dudes reading this will think this album is ranked too low. I highly recommend reading the rest of this list. It's a good list.













4 Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life 
This was the 3rd Album of the Year award Stevie Wonder won within a span of 4 years. A double-LP with an EP attached (that's a 3-disc release, count 'em!), 130 musicians and producers were involved in the recording process, paving the way for ambitious R&B artists to come.













3 Fleetwood Mac Rumours 
Unlike the entire "Saturday Night Fever" experience, Rumours makes drug culture seem a lot less ridiculous. You sleep with your bandmates, you break up with your bandmates, but you stay in the band. You stay synchronized, you keep looking forward, but you keep your visions to yourself.













2 Stevie Wonder Innervisions 
Much like Michael Jackson, the world watched little Stevie grow up. The boy who used to shout "Baby! Everything is alright!" was suddenly making sonically bonkers songs about America's drug habits, inner-city racism, and President Nixon. When little Stevie stopped 5 minutes into "Living for the City" to play a spoken-word skit about cops sending a "nigger" to prison, I'm pretty sure the world got their reality check.













1 The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 
Do you know who won AOTY the year before this album? Frank Sinatra. The year before that? Frank Sinatra again. The crooning hero of the 50's was winning Grammy's in freaking 1967. This had to change. So not only did the Grammy Academy pick a popular album by a modern band, they picked the zaniest, most futuristic, neurotically stimulating album possible. I watch the Grammy's because it's fun to see if they pick the sound of the future... or some old fogey.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

This Blogpost Was Made To Torture Any Given English Or U.S. History Teacher


"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job."
"FREDERICK DOUGLASS
is an example of somebody who
HAS DONE AN AMAZING JOB."

--Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States (2017)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Women In My Life (kinda)

Some music reminds me of people I know. Some people's personalities remind me of artists I listen to. I think we've all experienced this a little bit. Everybody has their jam that reminds them of their very selves (or at least how they perceive themselves, like this one guy I was in the MTC with who associated himself with "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief," a song about Jesus). I too have personal anthems written by people who have never even met me. An odd habit I have when I hear music for the first time is that before I find personal connection with the song, I heavily critique it as an art. I feel like I have a bad habit of also doing this with actual people.
Here's a quote that kinda confirms this theory.

"How we interact with art is a microcosm of the way we interact with the world" 
--Carl Wilson

So there you go, folks! I'm just a big jerk. Before I try to relate to you, I'm probably just incessantly judging you within. But continuing with this art/real world theory, I think I'm on to something. I listen to a lot of music, but have no one favorite band. I have a lot of friends, but no best friend. I'm always comfortable with this fact until I get reminded by (all) my favorite compatible couples: 
"I married my best friend!"
I'm out, man.
Anyways, once in a while people will ask me what I'm looking for in a girl. And I still haven't actually answered that question. I don't really need to. Simply, if you were to ask me what I'm looking for in an album, my answer is always, basically, personality.
Now, everybody has personalities. And although I don't have a specific favorite artist, there are some I like more than others; artists whom I, Scott E Hall, connect with. Despite my habit to judge, I have a sense of my own interpersonal relationships. It would be stupidly impolite of me to go over the relationships I have with actual individual women I know. And it would be just stupid if I went over my critical relationships with women whose music I listen to. But that-- that second example-- is what I'm gonna do today! Here are five girls I've been interested in lately.
The women in my life.


COURTNEY BARNETT 
Courtney is the girl I want to like, but I always find myself falling short of emotional interest. Courtney has a lovably dry sense of humor and has a similar socioeconomic background to mine. She sings about relate-able topics in stream-of-conscious rambling. But every time I think I'm interested, I start listening to her, and I can never add anything to this list. I have this great short list of reasons to like her, but those are the only reasons I have. I wish I could find more, but my ideal falls short by just a couple dynamics. Courtney is always my "almost-girlfriend."
And yes, for the record, she has beautiful blue eyes.


JULIA HOLTER  
Julia is the girl who's out of my league. I am legitimately intimidated by her world. She has all these complex arrangements and ridiculously studied-out themes. Her voice is so elegant, but too wise to be considered fragile. Not only can she do everything she wants, she actually does everything she wants. She's incredibly smart and I freaking love it. She's just so much obviously more mature than I am. I'd ask her out if I didn't think myself so incompetent in contrast to her.
I kinda feel the same way about Joanna Newsom.

ANGEL OLSEN 
I have a crush on Angel Olsen. I freaking love her voice. Her songs remind me of 60s garage rock, but are also kinda pan-fried... I don't know. It's a cool. And it's weird, because I knew her 2 years ago and I wasn't interested at all! She is somebody totally different! And so am I! We're only human! I just need to know more about her. I know she used to sing with Will Oldham and made some creepy, minimalist country album. Then she got into some iffy lo-fi lounge rock stuff. But she kinda just exploded into my life this year like a missile of passion come down to earth, and I need more.
And yes, okay, she is absolutely gorgeous! How could you not be attracted to this woman? She's only 3 years older than I am, so I'd like to think there's hope for me.

SOLANGE KNOWLES  
I still remember the first time I heard Solange. I watched her perform "Sandcastle Disco" on Letterman in 2008. It was funky, she had an afro, I loved it. A Seat At The Table is an individualistic statement that proves her independence. She has this righteously outspoken political opinion, and yet as much as she demands to be heard, she can bring me to tears all the same. Solange is the girl who creeps back into my life every couple of years, but can disappear to a new country with a new hairstyle and a new guy any time she wants. (sigh) She's the girl I fall for too easily.

VICTORIA LEGRAND  
Victoria has a "guy." Unlike the artists listed above, Victoria isn't a solo artist. She's the lead singer of the two-piece dream pop band Beach House. They are one of my favorite bands, and of course the other band member is a dude. They're not dating and they've never dated, but they're always together and I'm jealous. He's practically the perfect guy, but he's an idiot for not making a move on her. I listen to Victoria all the time, and yet, it's like I don't know anything about her. Her life always sounds so mystical and intriguing to me, but her persona comes with a darkness and a distance (must be all the reverb). Some think she distances herself, but to me, Victoria is the mystery I long to solve.

You know, after writing this, I don't think I want to get married. But I'll keep listening to new artists and meeting new people anyway.
That was a really cheesy ending.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Boy-Turned Music Snob Listens to Coldplay Album for First Time in 8 Years

In 2008, I was a teenager. It was the ultimate year for my shifting music taste. My favorite albums from that year came from TV on the Radio and Fleet Foxes... yet I also owned new releases by Nine Inch Nails and Beck... as well as The Killers and Coldplay.
Now I'm in college, and I realize that all my friends are all fans of all these bands. We now live in an era (and I am now at an age) where all this just kinda sounds the same to all alt-rock fans in general. But as a teenager in Jerome ID in 2008, this felt like 3 separate worlds to me! I had my indie friends, my alt-rock chart friends, my adult contemporary chart friends... I eventually enveloped myself in the world of critically acclaimed, kinda-sorta-underground music, and Coldplay quickly faded out of my life. But at the tail-end of 2008, crammed between listens to new Hot Chip and Deerhunter, I enjoyed Coldplay's Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends.


I've been known as both a cynic and connoisseur of modern music these days. Yet this morning, I witnessed the first snow of the winter, and I was brought back to the winter of 2008. For the first time since then, I wanted to listen to Viva La Vida.
Don't get me wrong, I've been know to re-visit Coldplay tracks; particularly songs from this album. In all Coldplay conversation, I call this my favorite Coldplay album. I almost stopped listening to them by 2008, but they released a surprising album! Yet my praise has been kinda just based on memory and taken with a grain of salt. Today was my first actual listen for the sake of listening to it... in nearly 8 years. So here's my up-to-date review!

The Brian Eno Strategy
This album still sounds pretty darn great! The production hasn't aged a bit. Who produced this thing? Arguably the greatest producer of all time, Brian Eno. I always knew this, but I used to not know what that meant. Brian Eno is arguably the greatest producer of all time. He still works on some complex ambient albums and collaborates with underground artists. He has also spent some of the 2000s riding his past successes with radio-friendly faux-existentialist bands, like, um, Coldplay. But I think he and Coldplay needed each other in 2008. X&Y proved that the band was at least willing to make some fan-shifting changes. And Eno hadn't produced a #1 hit in about 20 years. So I mean, what the hey, right?
From the album's very beginning, you can spot traces of Eno all over this thing. The patience of this album's opener is what got me intrigued enough to keep listening to the whole thing. Also, a truly sparkling opening 40 seconds to "Violet Hill" where we hear nothing but ambience. A couple tracks on here were co-produced by Jon Hopkins, who would later go on to make one of my favorite electronica albums of this decade. The weaker moments are when songs feel kinda rushed. The closing hidden track "The Escapist" sounds cool, but jumps in way too soon behind the grandeur of "Death and All fo His Friends." With Eno, the perfect mixing of every instrument is a given. Art like this requires space.


The Less Chris Martin Says, The Better
Nobody should have to care about anything Chris Martin says. Coldplay's first hit was "Yellow," where he literally spends the whole song calling stuff yellow. But here's the deal: It's a GREAT song!
The best songs on this albums have lyrical simplicity. Even with few words, Chris Martin's voice is strong enough to speak for itself. "Lost!" and "Strawberry Swing" are my favorite tracks on the album. Coldplay is essentially a pop band. Part of their purpose is to romanticize the basic. The most repeated phrase on "Lost!": "I'm just waiting 'til the shine wears off." A pretty basic phrase, almost generic, but can be taken in Coldplay's superstardom context behind the song's hefty organ lead and interesting percussion parts. "Strawberry Swing" is, like, legitimately gorgeous. There's a Nico level of senitmentalism behind lines like "I remember," "could be blue," and "it's such a perfect day." And of course, just like "Lost!" there's a some world-influenced percussion and a cool organ backing the song. I like organs.
The album opener "Life In Technicolor" also sounds amazing! It's like a modernized version of Peter Gabriel's "pop" work. How many words does Martin say in this song? ZERO. And the vocalized sequel to this song released in 2009 was pretty good too. You can't even tell what he's saying on hidden track "Chinese Sleep Chant," other than you can tell it's Martin's voice, and it fits the song just fine. Thank you for doing your job, Chris.

God, Only God Knows They're Trying Their Best
The worst song on this album is "Yes." It just kinda exists for the sake of existing. There's all this random middle-Eastern instrumentation that doesn't do anything to it s nature. What is this song about again? Chris Martin feeling lonely? Struggling to get girls? Even if it was about something deeper, it's awkwardly cheeky. Like, Billy Joel cheeky. It's a pretty lame 4 minutes that coulda been cut from the album. You should really read the lyrics to the chorus. It's... not exactly poetry. Martin could have reduced that to a few words.
And what the heck is Chris Martin singing about on "42"? "Cemetaries of London"? Ghosts? Curses? Who cares? I know Coldplay has this whole deal where their songs have even deeper conceptual meaning, but that actually just makes songs like these seem more ridiculous and corny. If anything, the production on these two tracks is pretty cool. Particularly the guitars.

Jonny Buckland Is Underrated 
There used to be this huge cist on Coldplay's shoulders about how they were just lite-weight Radiohead rip-offs for families. The earliest Coldplay tracks are like bare-bones, studio-safe tracks from The Bends and OK Computer. Martin sounded a lot like Thom Yorke and guitarist Jonny Buckland sounded a lot like Jonny Greenwood (he even has the same freaking name). By the band's electronic stage of X&Y, Buckland was criticized like The Edge. But on Viva La Vida, he sounds like Jonny Buckland.
The most enjoyable moments from Buckland are when you hear the raw crunch of his guitar. Aside from this album's lush mega-hit recording, it's rather refreshing. He's the true star on "Violet Hill" with his play-along solo in the middle. The beautiful, kinda South African riff to "Strawberry Swing" is something you don't hear often from radio pop/rock bands. I also love his little memorable fills throughout "Death and All of His Friends," even that 10-second "funk" portion of the song. As mentioned earlier, he saves "42" and "Cemetaries of London" from sounding like uninteresting Chris Martin death-themed jargon to something more like: "Hey, we're a rock band having fun!" In addition to his raw crunchiness, he's conscious about his pedals. There's some interesting stuff on the back of "Lovers In Japan." His solo on "Lost!" is what arena-expanding pop should sound like. His work on "Chinese Sleep Chant" can classify as legitimate shoegaze.

And OK, I Guess It's Kinda "Cool" 
I remember hearing "Viva La Vida" for the first time. I didn't think it'd be popular at all. I did not expect it would be the band's only song to be a Billboard #1 hit. People, this isn't the weirdest song in the world. But it was a huge radio standout in 2008! And yeah, the instrumentation is rather unique. It was a #1 single crammed between Lil Wayne's sell-out hit "Lollipop" and Katy Perry's moderate-climate entry to the radio world "I Kissed A Girl." "Viva La Vida" may not be weird song in itself, but I will always consider it an extremely weird hit!
I know Coldplay have spent their entire career trying to sound weird, like so many bands in alternative rock history. But I admit this album is a pretty unique experience. There's Brian Eno's accompanied aesthetic. There's the album's 3 hidden tracks that actually outshine some songs on the actual tracklisting. There's some expansive genre influences. Maybe it stole from U2, Radiohead, and even (what was then "new") epic-indie-handclap-rock from Arcade Fire... if I had a penny for every time I heard artists imitating these bands...  but it most importantly covers all the bases Coldplay can gather from their entire career. Viva La Vida is their catalog; their greatest hits condensed. Pieces of all their previous and future work can all be found here. If I was a 26 year-old music snob in 2008, I would probably still like this album.
When it comes to all the category of extremely popular rock/pop bands from the new millennium, Coldplay is the best I can recall. My buddy Austin saw them live in SLC on my 18th birthday and was kind enough to buy me a key chain with this picture (below) on it. Ya know, over-serious demeanor aside, we can some times relate to these guys.