Links and Notes for 01/04/09

* The two people you see pictured above are actress/musician Zooey Deschanel from the duo She & Him and Ben Gibbard from the band Death Cab for Cutie. They got engaged last week. Normally I don’t really care about celeb gossip, but Deschanel was largely responsible for one of my favorite releases of 2008, and Gibbard fronts one of my favorite bands.

I just hope that this happy news will lead to Gibbard actually writing some music in the new year that doesn’t make me want to kill myself. I love Death Cab for Cutie, but their music ranks among the most depressing I have ever heard. It stands in stark contrast with the sweet sounds of She & Him. Here’s wishing these two kids the best.

* In case you don’t trust my judgement, a twelve member panel of Austin music critics has named Alejandro Escovedo’s Real Animal as the Album of the Year for 2008. Escovedo also was tabbed as Best Live Act, and “Sister Lost Soul” and “Always a Friend” tied for Song of the Year honors. Earlier this week, I pegged Real Animal as my favorite release of ’08.

Author Stephen King, always a vocal advocate for Americana artists, also placed Alejandro in his best of list for the year. James McMurtry is in there as well.

* You may have caught this link in the post dealing with Tift Merritt as one my Top 10 posts… but I’m going to throw it up again. The Americana Music Association has released its list of The Top 100 Albums of 2008. The list is based on radio airplay from November 19, 2007 to November 10, 2008 (albums did not have to be released in . Each week several reporting radio stations, specialty shows and internet and satellite radio stations from all over the country report their playlists to the AMA.

This list is unique because it tracks album airplay instead of singles airplay. Anytime a song (any song) is played from an album, it counts as one spin. The AMA tallies the spins each week and posts the chart on their website at It’s a great way to keep up with new and current Americana releases.

This year’s Top 10 Albums for radio airplay according to the AMA Chart:
10. Real Animal by Alejandro Escovedo
09. Dirt Farmerby Levon Helm
08. Band of Heathens by Band of Heathens
07. Same Old Man by John Hiatt
06. Mescalito by Ryan Bingham
05. Another Country by Tift Merritt
04. Washington Square Serenade by Steve Earle
03. Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
02. Just Us Kids by James McMurtry
01. Trouble in Mind by Hayes Carll

* Some good stuff went on over at Star Maker Machine this past week. The theme was “In Memoriam,” and we posted music from artists who passed away in 2008. I posted on LeRoi Moore of The Dave Matthews Band and Chris Gaffney of The Hacienda Brothers.

* Anyone who reads this space regularly knows that I love two things… R.E.M. and birthday posts. Today I get to combine the two again and wish a very happy birthday to Michael Stipe of R.E.M. who turns 49 today.

Stipe began his career as the shy, unassuming singer who mumbled his lyrics and hid his face behind his long hair. He eventually embraced his fame, and now, Michael Stipe is the face of R.E.M., the face of any number of political and social movements, and the face of American Alternative Rock music for an entire generation. Hard to believe he’s been at it for over 25 years now.

Here are a few R.E.M. b-sides for your listening pleasure… links go to R.E.M. web store.

R.E.M.: Dark Globe (Buy Album)
R.E.M.: Fretless (Buy Album)

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