Monday, December 14, 2009

The Best CD of the Decade?

The Sheds--"Reflection Of The Sun" (mp3)
The Sheds--"All The Right Things" (mp3)
The Sheds--"Mtn Cat" (mp3)

“Best of” lists are surfacing everywhere right now. In fact, before this week is finished, you’ll also have appraisals of the best CDs and best songs from your friends here at Bottom Of The Glass. But I thought I’d kick things off by biting off a whole lot more than I could possibly chew. So here goes. As this first decade of the 21st century prepares to come to a close, let me deliver the news that the BEST CD of our nearly-done decade is You’ve Got A Light by The Sheds.

No doubt, there are several problems with this proclamation. First, you’ve most likely never heard of the Sheds. Second, the CD was never released, at least not in any tangible way. You could download the songs off of the Internet. Third, the Sheds were an unsigned band, as far as I can tell, and have now forfeited even the rights to the website address where you could download their music, most likely because my detective work tells me that they are no longer together. So what I’m claiming has risen above the Coldplays and Kanyes, the Nellys and the Nickelbacks, is an amateurishly-produced set of recordings by a flash-in-the-pan duo who never earned a dime from it.

To complicate matters even more, I don’t own the CD in question. Oh, I used to have it on a previous Ipod, owned all three the Sheds’ CDs as a matter of fact, but when that Ipod flatlined, I thought ‘No worries, I’ll just download them again” and never got around to it until it was too late. Now they’re gone, though you can hear some of the band’s stuff on their MySpace page. Already, though, they are something of an archeological memory I’m trying to piece together.

So be it.

For a CD to earn this kind of high praise from me, it has to have either reinforced or changed the way I think about music. This one did both. There’s not much to the Shed’s music: acoustic and electric guitars, sometimes bass, drums, and cheap synthesizers. But the best music shows us that we didn’t need more than we got. Though stripped-down, the songs sound polished and complete. To add to the homegrown feel, the songs call on friends from the Cincinnati area to help out on the songs. In fact, the songs often name-check those friends. In fact, “Reflection of the Sun” even builds the participation of those friends into the lyrics of the song:

“Hey, look, here come the Seedy Seeds!
Would youse agree that people need sunlight?”

And then the Seedy Seeds, Uncle Smokin’ Joe, and Matthew Shelton all sing the lyrics written for them.

In my mind’s perfect world, You’ve Got A Light spawned three hit singles. “Reflection Of The Sun,” one of the catchiest sing-a-longs in whoknowswhen, busted onto the charts out of nowhere. Like a clever YouTube video, incredible word of mouth fueled its rise. The band wisely followed up with the toned-down, acoustic “All The Right Things,” another positive song, this time about how things will work out . But it was the release of the third single, “Mtn Cat,” that guaranteed You’ve Got A Light a long run on the charts. A kind of slacker anthem about a bunch of musicians about to get together to jam in a trailer, its call-and-response chorus is a hymn of affirmation and friendship (and good rockin'):

“What we gonna when the boys get here?
When the boys come, we will all rock the trailer.
What we gonna do if the boys don’t rock?
The boys will rock, yes, the boys will rock.
Kind bud, can I have another beer?
There’s a cooler in the front and a cooler in the rear.
Might I sample of your fine mashed potatoes?
Better have some now, there ain’t no later on.”

Seems like silly lyrics, I know. But there is no music from the last decade that has made me feel better about living than the Sheds’. It’s simple. It’s real. It stays with you. That, I promise.The Sheds reflect the changes that have taken place in music. Tangible CDs don’t matter as much. Music companies don’t matter as much. They also remind us how, with the explosion of outlets of information, in the 21st century, it is paradoxically easier for a band to get heard and harder to achieve success.

Who even knows how many Sheds are out there? This was not the greatest decade for popular music, with many major artists either losing their inspiration or spinning their wheels not quite sure how to proceed or putting out enjoyable, but minor, works. It may be time once again for the hometown, homemade music scenes to assert themselves and take us all to some new musical places. Long live the Sheds!


Radiohead’s In Rainbows. Though at first this seemed like the weirdest release by a weird band, the more you listen to it, the more you connect with, and the band’s you-set-the price download scheme forced everyone to rethink the marketing and sale of music, paving the way for Paul Westerberg’s 49:00 and beyond.

Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising. Though its appeal is, by now, time-specific, there was a period of years when this felt to me like the only proper response to 9/11, focusing as it did largely on the human tragedy rather than the politics.

Ryan Adams and The Cardinals’ Cold Roses. The most complete top-to-bottom CD release by a “major” artist this decade, Cold Roses is the mature vision of a songwriter at his peak, finally with the band that allows him to provide the proper musical settings for the songs. Sure, it channels the ghosts of Gram Parsons and the Grateful Dead, but why is that a bad thing?

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s eponymous CD. This one first revealed the powerful influence that the Internet could have on music sales and started a revolution of self-promoting bands and bloggers.

These songs by the Sheds are available here and, most likely, nowhere else..


Goofytakemyhand said...

Sheds live CD from Bear's Place which I'm pretty sure is a bar near IU.

Bob said...

Goofy, are you a Sheds fan or an Internet researcher?

Goofytakemyhand said...

Used to live in Cincinnati. One of the dudes, pre-Sheds played in dive bars in Norwood, OH around Xavier when I lived there.

Just found it extremely odd that a Cincinnati dive-bar electronic-folk band produced the greatest CD of the decade on anyone's list... including these guy's families.

Billy said...

Because your pick is so far off the beaten path, it's almost impossible to debate you, which is sometimes I think the entire point of making lists and naming "Bests."

I was hoping you'd pick an Alan Jackson album.

(BTW, the three songs are indeed pretty darn good. Thanks!)

Thom Anon said...

Nick Cave's "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!" drinks your Sheds' milkshake. Drinks it up. Best record of the decade.

Billy Bob said...

I sampled it, Thom, and I'm sure it's good, but, oddly, it left me wishing that Warren Zevon were still alive. I guess in my choice I was going more for joy than gloom. Paste Magazine's choice of Sufjan's Illinoise, though, yeah, I could go for that. That's a good one, too.

Sean said...

Wondering if there was any more Sheds music out there, I just found and read this post. You're right... simple as that. I agreed with every word, and hell, your ranking, too. A few years ago I downloaded what I could from their site and then proceeded to love the tracks so much that I emailed them, searching for a way to pay them. They thanked me for the offer, but refused payment, which left me helpless to express my admiration. They are, or were, an amazing duo, and it's criminal that they weren't better appreciated.