What struck me in going back through what grabbed me this year was just how many of them came in short bursts. Of course, every year, there are singles that grab you, songs that you love even though you don’t love the record (The Big Pink’s “Dominos” springs immediately to mind). And every year there are a few EPs that stand out. But for me, this year, there were bunches.
1. Superchunk - Leaves in the Gutter EP + Crossed Wires 7” I should have seen this coming, the return of the Mac. Actually, dude has been bringing it for serious the past few years with Portastatic (both 2005’s Bright Ideas and 2006’s Be Still Please were excellent). But what? Is this 1993 again (I was late to the game)? Who’d a thunk my favorite song of the year would be a Superchunk single, available on vinyl only (OK, with an MP3 download). I can listen to this song over and over and over again, and I do. I don’t even put it on mixes because THIS SHIT RIGHT HERE IS T0O PRECIOUS TO SHARE (until now: it’s sitting over there on Pitchfork, take a listen here). What a year for Merge. Twenty years old, god damn.
2. Local Natives - Tour EP These great bunch of guys from the California coast headlined the first Daytrotter Barnstormer. I first caught them in Sean’s backyard the day of the Bix. Kid in tow, friends on the grass, good times. Sunshiny melodies and intricate percussion took me away, and that was before their revelatory cover of Talking Heads “Warning Sign” (a version of which is on the EP). Don’t know whether they were being coy, but they said they had a record but no deal; now their debut album is out in the UK on Rough Trade and hits shelves in the US in February via Frenchkiss. Hold. Your. Breath.
3. Bon Iver - Blood Bank His year was 2008, but this short EP is terrific. It didn’t seem to stick for a lot of folks; the autotuned song freaked other people out, I guess. For me, it’s the song Babys, with it’s motoring piano line, and a theme about, well, making babies, that’s the real stand-out, and probably the one song I’d choose to represent this year for me in the mixtape of my life.
4. TV Torso - Black Mask + Days of Being Wild 7”s OK, so this isn’t an EP. Sue me. Two 7” records released on the same day counts as an EP in my book. I was lucky enough to catch these guys at a small show here in Rock Island, and was blown the fuck away. The swirling blast of guitar fuzz and moody pop had me enthralled. Bought the records straight away, plugged them in when I got home, and hrmph. Where’s the noise? Where’s the power? Took a while to come around, but all that swirling live mayhem was hiding some superlative songwriting, some sparse brooding pop majesties that slowly revealed themselves to me over time. Buy the 7”s even if you don’t have a record player and get the mp3s.
5. Washed Out - Life of Leisure + High Times Enough has been said about this dude elsewhere, but both of these EPs sat at the top of my pile for significant swaths of 2009. This stuff is right-place-right-time goodness, a nice fit in a year populated with a lot of hazy, nostalgic, surfy glo-fi or whateverthefuck. Some of these songs hem a little too close to the original crate digs to justify best-of status on my list, but there is a shit-ton to love in these 15 tracks. Plus, you have got to give some propers to songs this slow and foggy that still manage to make you bop that skull. (High Times was released on like 12 cassette tapes and six player-piano cores, so yeah, this shit was stolen from the internet, and I’m sure you can find it without looking too too hard.)
6. Jesu - Opiate Sun Got turned onto this pretty damn late in the game by my friend Doug, only a week or so ago, actually, but this is a winner. Now, first things first, I’m really not that into this band, or the dude’s other bands, for that matter. I usually find Jesu a bit wanky and way too heavy on atmospherics and the synth stuff leaves me high and dry, but every once in a while he does it right. And this is some nice dark bottom-heavy shoegaze right here, kind of like an older, smarter, more badass My Bloody Valentine.
7. Victoire - Door Into The Dark One of two out of place but stellar EPs from eMusic Selects, this is an adventurous but never obtuse set of modern classical pieces weaved with chirping electronica and found sounds, sort of like The Books meets The Rachels.
8. Altair Nouveau - Dark Energy The other eMusic Selects EP, this is a set of goofy space disco electronica jams that I double dog dare you not to enjoy. I honestly don’t know what else to say about this. I can’t explain it.
9. The Breeders - Fate to Fatal I grabbed this for the Mark Lanegan song, but found myself surprised by how much I dug the other three tracks, especially the first and last songs, which propelled me through this thing many times on constant loop. I never even bothered to check out last year’s full length because I figured it was just some nostalgic bullshit. I guess I better think again.
10. Kurt Vile - The Hunchback Mr. Vile was simply everywhere this year. I first got thrown on his scent last year about this time, and so in the last 12 months I’ve digested three full lengths and this EP. This EP is the loosest of the four, and the easiest to digest, with only one truly fleshed out song in the bunch, which made it onto Childish Prodigy anyway, leaving the rest of the EP as some sort of I-just-moved-up-to-Matador detritus, but I dig it just the same.
My Favorite Music of 2009, Part 1: The Fucking Ridiculously Long Preface
I love year end lists. I love the push and pull of them. The concept itself speaks to the need for consensus, yet there’s something so individualistic about the modern age that it compels every list to be unique and personal.
I both love and hate how the broad rockist music mediascape winds up having preposterously similar top 10s, as if these really are, on some objective measure, the best records of the year. More likely, they’re all looking over each others’ shoulders, trying not to look like assholes for missing the boat, whilst doing their best multicultural multigenre jig to make sure they’re inclusive enough to seem cool. That’s why they always wind up looking like this.
I love lists that surprise me, that score unexpected albums really high, or which include records I’ve never heard of. Doug’s are always great. I’ve found my way to some of my favorite records from year end lists like his.
But my favorite lists are the personal ones, those which make no excuse for their idiosyncrasy, and which say something about the person doing the listening. Like Chris’s. You can see him in that list, and there are a couple of albums I never even heard of that now I’m gonna check out (specifically, Say Hi & Wale). Perfect.
I generally look at my own lists and find they reflect somehow on the year past. I can’t help but associate songs with events, with people, with emotional times. And the past few years have been crazy. In the summer of 2006, I got married. In the summer of 2007, I moved to the midwest. In the summer of 2008, I bought a house. But this year was crazier than the rest, because in the summer of 2009, my wife and I brought a baby boy into this new house in the midwest.
Honestly, though, I’m not sure I see that much that reflects this year in my list of favorite records. I’d expect to find more intensely emotional records, like the new(ish) one from Antony and the Johnsons. Or I’d figure that something like Dan Deacon would reflect my sleepless nights and frantic days.
I like both of those records, but when I look back for my favorites, I find lots of hooks and lots of pop that I loved on first listen, stuff that, I guess, reflects both that I wanted music to pick me up and that these were pretty joyful times. I did little wallowing in the oh niner - creating life gives you some perspective on things.
When I started pulling my list together, I found a lot of things that sort of snuck up on me, stuff that didn’t really work for me on first listen or which I avoided at first, but then which slithered their way up my spine and coiled themselves around my brain. I don’t know what this says, maybe that I was a bit more passive this year, I just kind of went with the flow, or maybe that I simply started to find comfort in repetition. I don’t know.
But more than anything, when I look back, I find a lot of records I was excited to get, listened to a few times, and then stuffed in a drawer somewhere. The new Tortoise? Blech. New Peter Bjorn and John? Godawful. New Art Brut? Forget about it. New Throw Me The Statue? Ho hum. And the new Avett Brothers? Hated it, immediately, and deeply. On first listen, couldn’t make it through a single song. And although I should keep working at this record, given all the great things people say, fuck it. I never saw Titanic and I may never listen to this record all the way through.
Then there were decent records by decent bands that just didn’t do it for me or for which I didn’t have the time or inclination to tough it out. I dug the new Sonic Youth at first; now I can hardly remember it. The new Mountain Goats has its moments, but doesn’t have me coming back for more. The new Califone is alright I guess; the pieces are all there, great musicianship, good arrangements, but other than 1 or 2 songs, there’s nothing to surprise me, to hold my attention. Bought the new Wilco, and, um, so what. I loved the new Yo La Tengo for a few weeks, and I still think it’s their best in a while, it might even be in my top 50, but most days I’d rather listen to something else. After all those great singles, that Jay Reatard record didn’t stick, and Monsters of Folk turned out to be the Monsters of Boring Bland Likeability At The Expense Of Being Interesting.
And The Clientele? Actually, this record’s good, but right now it just feels like more of the same, horns or no horns, and it’s not there for me yet. I have to admit, though: I’ll probably love it come February, after it slithers it’s way inside. I can kind of sense it.
Interestingly, I was going to list Andrew Bird here, too, as another record now collecting dust. But in putting the list together, and listening to it again, I’m finding a lot to like and remembering how much I did like it for a few months back there. Now I think it’s going to make it’s way back into the rotation. See, another reason to love year end lists, the act of reflection can lead to reconnection.
So after all this, what did I like? Well, I guess that’s another story, another fucking ridiculously long ass story…
Music theory nerds, start your salivating: Field Music’s new double album of politely acrobatic post-punk has more sharp left turns and time-signature changes than most bands manage to use in a lifetime. Everyone else: if that sounds like a bracingly joyless series of switchbacks, fear not. These guys earn their demonstrations of technical prowess with a spry British charisma (see: the title track’s Beatles-y strings and XTC-like harmonies). And it’s not always so complex, either—”Something Familiar” even contains the either self-effacing or self-deprecating lyric “It takes nothing at all to be complicated.” “Precious Plans” proves this truism two tracks before: the thing just coasts by with the charm of an old-timey bicycle before hitting a ten-second coda jam that you’ll wish was a song in itself. At the end of the day, it’s just good, clean and inventively arranged fun.
What? New Field Music? How did I miss this news? I don’t know but I’m ridiculously excited now. February 16 can’t get here fast enough.
In comics, there are many instances when we have to suspend our disbelief. Alien planets, superpowers, time travel, radioactive spiders, parallel universes, and the list goes on. Incognito is no exception. In this series, superpowers, monsters, cloning and mind control all play a large role. And I am willing to suspend my disbelief for all of these. Growing a full-grown superhuman capable of intelligent thought in a laboratory? Sure, why not?
Where I draw the line is the flying car.
Awesome blog exploring the collision of comic books and economics.
supposedly, on a fact post, it said that the z in jay-z is zeppidemus. so i was like MUST HAVE.
I was beyond belligerently drunk one night and someone said something to me that pissed me off, so I threatened to kick their ass, proclaiming “I’ll end your life, you can’t stop the wind!”
I was getting ready to play a show and this fuckin scene kid walked up to me. (Hockey pucks in his ears, new era hat and all) he asked me what kind of music I played and I looked him right in the eye and I said “Skull Fuck Music!”
i was boiling bones at the same time as making my tumblr
I moved to the Quad Cities a couple of years ago, and I found the place to be totally the kind of place that springs to mind when you say the word “wad.” Like “I’d like a wad of lard, please” or “Oh my goodness, people, who put this wad of earwax on my desk.” This move to the midwest jerked me onto Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr because all my peoples were back east and I felt the need to communicate, even if it was just pissing in the wind. So my original thought was that this tumblr was going to be reflections of an easterner stuck in this midwestern wad, and not, as it happens, a place for me to share political diatribes and lolzjunk. Plus, with the rhyming.
“A Nov. 26 article in the District edition of Local Living incorrectly said a Public Enemy song declared 9/11 a joke. The song refers to 911, the emergency phone number.”—correction - washingtonpost.com (via @mikemadden)
From their 1992 split w/ The Jesus Lizard, their first release after Nevermind. From its opening lighter clicks to its closing wails, I love the rough and tumble of this song. Listen to them chunky drums! So chunky!
Nice! Local Natives blew me away on this past summer’s Daytrotter Barnstormer, and they were super-decent folks to boot. Their new album is on sale now in Europe via Rough Trade, but at least now it will see a US release in the spring. Frenchkiss is on my shit list ever since I picked up that Cut Off Your Hands record and the mp3 downloads wouldn’t work and nobody from the band, the label, or the online music service would respond to emails, but maybe this redeems them a little bit.