Tuesday, December 23, 2008

ONA Year In Review: 2008


That's the first word that comes to mind when looking back on this year.

I often wondered about the fate of One Note Ahead, thinking it might simply fall by the wayside as more pressing obligations took up time that I would have otherwise spent blogging. I needn't have worried. True, the posts on ONA became less frequent and, until September, fewer in number. But in the process, the quality improved. I stopped writing whatever I could think to write just for the sake of having something new here, and I never had to remove anything I posted in 2008.

2008 was also the year in which One Note Ahead finally started to receive the respect I always thought it deserved. Artists who'd gotten plenty of press elsewhere told me how thrilled they were to be reviewed favorably here. People in radio complimented my writings and record executives sought out and expressed appreciation for my services as a reviewer. My circle of frequent readers grew to include some extremely discriminating music connoisseurs! There's a definite sense that this blog is making a difference just by existing, and that makes it all worthwhile.

On the minus side, I've had less time to devote to interviews, works of history, and the quirky opinion pieces that used to add more diversity to One Note Ahead. But the review-dominated format of 2008 was simply an accident of fate, not a deliberate attempt at a makeover. In other words, One Note Ahead remains open to whatever I deem suitable.

And now, a few of 2008's ups and downs.

Words I must never use in 2009: "wonderful," "energy," "intriguing," and unless absolutely necessary, "rock" and "roll." Of course, I'll continue to overuse all of those words anyway.

My favorite ONA lines from 2008:

But in person, the four-man outfit in the tight-fitting clothes played an exciting fusion style combining the aggressiveness of rock with the feel-good energy of roll. Or, as I told the band’s product manager and their street team leader after the show, “The Redwalls are amazing!!!!” (from The Music Breathing Dragon)

This was the day when I started thinking I didn't have the easygoing disposition necessary for a festival of this type and magnitude, and I seriously wondered whether I'd actually make it through all four days. But this was also the day that one of the food vendors told me I looked "chill." I am most definitely NOT a "chill" person, but this was such a "chill" festival that the, um, chills must have been rubbing off on me. (about Day Two of the XPN Festival, from XPoNential Value)

"She's basically Roy Orbison as a Jersey Girl, so I have no choice but to love her." That's how I described the fabulous Nicole Atkins to friends who were not familiar with her. I also told people that if I went to this festival and missed Nicole, I would not forgive myself. Even the most ardent advocates of forgiveness would have understood my sentiments if they'd seen Nicole and her band The Sea at the XPoNential Fest. (about Day Three of the XPN Festival, also from XPoNential Value)

I didn't dare go to the meet and greet line because that thing was long enough to extend all the way to hell and back. (about Back Door Slam on Day Four of the XPN Festival, also from XPoNential Value)

Oh, the joys of being a music industry insider! One Note Ahead favorite Matt Duke’s second album won’t be released to the general public until September 23rd, but my fellow insiders have been giving me their opinions of it for nearly four-and-a-half months! (from Album Review: A Duke And His Kingdom)

Give me a Jersey Girl who lists Gene Pitney among her influences and dedicates her most sarcastic material to Paris Hilton, and I might forget to check whether she has any actual talent before declaring myself her biggest fan. Well, singer/songwriter/guitarist April Smith is a Jersey Girl. She lists Gene Pitney among her influences. She dedicates her most sarcastic material to Paris Hilton. Oh, I hope she has talent......(he listens closely to her music)......yes! She has talent! (from EP Review: April All Year Long)

In a more electrified vein, "Get It Over With" is actually a simple pop song at heart, frosted, drizzled, and sprinkled with a bewildering series of stops and starts and impenetrable layers of solid sound. In its own strange way, it's one of the best tracks on the album. (from Album Review: Lipke, Volume Three)

One thing I love about Ingrid is her sense of humor. Another is her down-to-earth charm. In these performances of her hit "The Way I Am," both qualities just pour out of her like water out of a.....thing that you carry water around in and that thing got a hole in it and the water started pouring out. (from ONA Live: Ingrid Michaelson)

If it ain't one thing, it's another: About Gillian Grassie's only full-length album to date, I wrote that "
choosing the 'worst song' on Serpentine makes as much sense as picking out the 'fattest woman' in a room full of Victoria’s Secret models." I got in trouble for that line, of course, but I still stand by it. Come on, a room full of Victoria's Secret models? The "fattest woman" in that bunch would still be skinny, just as the "worst song" on Serpentine would still be good. Sheesh. (See the infamous piece, which Gillian actually liked, here and also here.)

Must-Hear Track of the Year: "Get It Over With" by Andrew Lipke. I'd heard the song live many times, but the recording took me by surprise. The juxtaposition of alt-rock motifs with classical elements, the free-flowing execution of such a rigidly constructed song and arrangement, and the daring length all make this track a truly surreal experience in the best way possible. And not to slight anyone else involved in this recording, but it would be nowhere near as memorable without Krista Nielsen's otherwordly cello and Dave Perrin's fancy drumming.

Breakout Star of the Year: Jake Snider. When I was in high school, I was making crude lo-fi DIY recordings and singing in front of my classmates in the school auditorium. But in the same stage of his life, Jake Snider has already made a professional EP and played proper gigs at major venues in the Philadelphia area. And why the hell not? He is an accomplished singer, songwriter, and keyboardist who posesses more raw talent and professionalism than an embarrassingly large percentage of today's hottest chart-toppers. And in the mere eight months since I discovered him, he's just gotten better! This guy's got what it takes to go all the way. Read my review of his EP here (and here, for that matter).

Overall, I'm quite pleased with the way One Note Ahead has evolved in 2008 and I am extremely happy about the music and musicians featured on the blog! I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported One Note Ahead in some way. I'm ready for 2009, and I can only imagine what will be in store for ONA in the coming year. Until then, I hope you enjoy whatever holidays you may be celebrating this time of the year, and stay tuned! I don't plan on going anywhere yet....

Copyright © 2008 S.J. Dibai. All rights reserved.