Saturday, December 26, 2009
I just need to note that I am not cool or hip and this list would NEVER fly in any magazine/blog/zine you read as a best of the decade. Rather these are the records that shaped my decade. Like you care right…well I guess you sorta do care, because you are reading The DP’s blog and my skinny ass can show whenever I want. So here you go…the top twenty records that changed/ shaped/ challenged/ amazed/ reverted me to the person I am and more importantly the one I want to become.
1. Bright Eyes—Lifted, or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground (2002)
2. Bright Eyes—Digital Ash in Digital Urn (2005)
3. Okkervil River—The Stage Names (2007)
4. Stars—Set Yourself on Fire (2004)
5. Arcade Fire—Funeral (2005)
6. Jay Z—The Blueprint (2001)
7. Pela—Anytown Graffiti (2007)
8. The National—Boxer (2007)
9. Band of Horses—Everything All the Time (2006)
10. My Morning Jacket—At Dawn (2001)
11. Death Cab For Cutie—The Photo Album (2001)
12. Avett Brothers—I and Love and You (2009)
13. The Decemberists—Her Majesty, The Decemberists (2003)
14. Bon Iver—For Emma, Forever Ago (2008)
15. Bright Eyes—I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning (2005)
16. Tokyo Police Club—Elephant Shell (2008)
17. The Postal Service—Give Up (2003)
18. Fleet Foxes—Fleet Foxes (2008)
19. Maria Taylor—11:11 (2005)
20. Kanye West—The College Dropout (2004)
Because I’m a math guy…here are the stats by year
Friday, December 25, 2009
These French dance nerds have been making awesome music for a decade.
And here we are in 2009 (or 2010 cos I suck at posting), dancing to this album.
Yes you've heard their songs everywhere. And 1901 should make you want to buy a Cadillac.
Buy this album now. You don't want your kids to know you were lame in 2009.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
So let's keep this brief and professional, like an office hookup.
Harlem Shakes put out an album that on first blanch is Vampire Weekend without the douchy-ness.
But Technicolor Health is the album FOR 2009. It is full of blips and falsettos and sounds befitting a video game. It has such a good energy that you'd be dead to not dance. These Brooklyn-ites get hipsterism without being dicks. And we appreciate them for it.
Strictly Game, Unhurried Hearts, Niagra Falls. These are the songs that more accomplished bands wish they could write.
This band make me happy and makes me dance each time I hear them. Asham they're maybe over.
More booze please...
Monday, December 21, 2009
The truth though is that this album will never compare with the Blueprint I (I'm not even going to talk Reasonable Doubt or The Black Album, which combined form a hip hop trinity that ensures Jigga is bigger and better than Biggie or Pac).
But by itself, in 2009, it is one of the best. Jigga does what he always does: wrangles the best producers, invites the hottest guests, and churns out bangers that even your moms likes. Every old ass cute with a Coogie was singing Empire State of Mind.
But the formula falters sometimes. You invite Kanye to rap, and the Louis Vuitton Don, a notoriously weak rhymer, outshines you on Run This Town. Drake (WTF?) holds his own. The best part of Young Forever is Mr Hudson's crooning. I bought a Jigga album and got singles from seven other people.
But there is no one bringing wordplay, flow, rhyme, swagger and logic so effortlessly like the CEO. Each verse requires a double take. Yes that is him telling you the exact location of where he hid is dope.
This isn't a classic like The Blueprint, but it's still a contender in 2009.
Probably not. I mean, five songs? Really? Kinda of lazy on the selector's part right?
But this EP makes up for the steaming pile that the future Mr. Deschanel put out in 2008.
Five absolutely perfect DCFC songs. The country twangyness of Little Bribes, the best song about Las Vegas since Elvis shimmied his way through his Viva version. The Talking Bird redo, better than the version on Narrow Stairs.
But it's the masterful songwriting of a Diamond and a Tether that hooks you. Yes Virginia, it is still possible for Ben Gibbard to write a great song.
I figure most albums only have five good songs. Seems this EP just cut out the crap you wouldn't listen to anyways.
Friday, December 18, 2009
So here is my top ten this year...it was an AMAZING year...both musically and personally.
1. The Avett Brothers, I and Love and You—This record grabbed me from the start. It is one of those times in your life where you think to yourself…does these guys get exactly where I am? This is a solid record from start to finish. CLEARLY my favorite record of the year…hands down. And I didn’t even know this band existed at the end of the year last year. UNREAL. Key Lyric, “grab your bags and grab your coat…tell the ones who need to know, we are headed north.”
2. Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix—Another very solid record…and if you would have asked me in August my record of the year…this would have been it. Phoenix have some of the most solid songwriting I have heard in years…and the songs just make you want to dance but at the same time listen so intently to the lyrics because you just don’t know what they are going to drop on you. Key Lyric, “Darling I’m down and lonely, When with the fortunate only, I’ve been looking for something else”
3. Harlem Shakes, Technicolor Health—What a fun record…seriously, these guys totally changed how I reel about pop music this year. Another dance your pants off while rocking out record (very similar in my mind to the Phoenix record) but pay attention, these guys drop some serious shit lyrically on you when you are least expecting it. Key Lyric, “I’m sick of holding on to nothing, when I just want to hold your hand.”
4. Jay Z, The Blueprint 3—I don’t even know what to say about Jay….he came through with this record. He delivered a solid strike and at age 40…seriously…we should all take note that Jay is the king of hip hop. Period. No one does it better. Key Lyric, “without a wrinkle in today, cause there’s no tomorrow, just some picture perfect day to last a whole lifetime, and it never ends cause all we have to do is hit rewind.”
5. Cymbals Eat Guitars, Why Are There Mountains—This record came way out of left field for me…like the Titus Andronicus record from last year. A great debut from a band with such potential. When I listen to this record, I can’t figure out if it is too hard of a listen for folks or too easy. Sometimes I just don’t get it….and then I do. Amazing. Key Lyric, “I've never loved you more than when you said I'm so scared”
6. Telekinesis, Telekinesis—How can you NOT love this record. An amazing debut that is the music Death Cab should be making right now. I really love the feel the structure and the context of this record. It is such an easy listen and you can’t not tap your toes as you listen. Key Lyric, “Woke up in another lifetime, it’s a shame it’s just not right now, dreaming of the coast of Carolina, dreaming all the ways that will make you smile now.”
7. Bon Iver, Blood Bank EP--Alright I know I need to do some explaining here. First off on principal alone, I would reem anyone who put an EP on their best records of the year list. Especially one with only 4 tracks on it and one of those songs is a strange digitally modified version of Justin Vernon. BUT, in my defense (keep reading DP), I did not hear For Emma, Forever Ago until after the year was over last year. And it should have been a top 3 record from last year. So this shows up on my list NOT only because the EP is amazing...but also because I totally missed out on him last year. So here it is...purists go ahead and rip me apart. Key Lyric, "The secret that we know, that we don't know how to tell, I'm in love with your honor, I'm in love with your cheeks."
8. Monsters of Folk, Monsters of Folk--First and foremost…this record could have been WAY BETTER! My expectations were WAY too high. So for a while I wouldn’t listen to this record. I mean you put Jim James, Conor Oberst, M. Ward, and Mike Mogis together and I am expecting the fucking world to change. But unfortunately it didn’t with this record. But if you can step back from the expectation (You should always have NO EXPECTATIONS!) and just listen…this is a wonderfully crafted record that we will all look back on someday and say…damn that is a good record. Key Lyric, “I needed you like you needed me . . .”
9. Old Canes, Feral Harmonic—Another record that totally took me by surprise! I just found this band because of the Saddle Creek connection and once I heard the record and saw the amazing limited edition packaging…these guys had me at hello. Sorry for the really overrated movie quote. Key Lyric, “There’s no you and there’s no me, everything is change, everything is working toward one end.”
10. TIE: Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Outer South--Conor deserves number 10. He really does. There are just really some lackluster tracks on this record...specifically the ones he didn't write or sing. Conor lets the boys from the Mystic Valley Band write and sing some songs on this record and we all suffer. If you take out those songs and listen to just the Conor tracks, it's as good as his self-titled debut from last year. Key Lyric, "It makes everyone believe that there is nothing impossible when I'm with and you're with me.
10. TIE: Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon, End of the Day—I just wanted to be able to say to the DP that I have two hip hop records on my list. Kid Cudi can be a bit stoner at times…but for a hip hop artist he is shaping the game right now. He is like a young Andre 3000 but can rap like Jay or Kanye. Key Lyric, “I've got some issues that nobody can see, and all of these emotions are pouring outta me, I bring them to the light for you”
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I picked up The Big Pink's record "A Brief History of Love" after reading all the buzz about them, including mentions on Best of 2009 lists. As with most new records, I put it on while I was in the kitchen.
When "Dominos" (track 3) hit, I was hooked. These guys aren't playing around. A huge Bonham-esque backbeat, fuzzed out shoegaze guitars and a FULL CHORUS directly following the 8-bar intro.
Not a half-chorus to tempt you.
Not a full chorus with the lyrics missing.
The full, unadulterated, you'll-hear-it-again-in-30-seconds chorus. By the minute and a half mark, you've heard it TWICE.
And, well, I gotta admit... it's a brilliant chorus. The spirit of Berry Gordy lives on...
You are getting to relatively geeky white dudes (Rostam Batmanglij and Wes Miles) who in their own right make arguably very popular indie rock/pop (Vampire Weekend and Ra Ra Riot respectively), making synth and autotuned soaked R&B.
Further, layer that effort with appaling lyrics, like "Every text I get from you is so so serious. And I'm sitting at home drinking my miso."
Yeah, no good right? No chance.
This album was my summer go to JAM. It was my nighttime driving music.
The lyric above, from the song "Orange Shirt" is just as good as anything you'd hear on your local urban top 40 station (which you don't listen to. Don't lie). It's heavy with a thumping bass line and sketchy images of Tokyo. The boys get all Sonic the Hedgehog with reinvented video game sounds in Osaka Loop Line, Carby, and It's not my Fault, blipping and blooping, skittering and scattering.
The covers of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" and the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" cement this album's R&B creds.
As side projects go, you could not ask for anything more different or more satisfying.
Monday, December 14, 2009
He's just a lot fucking happier.
For as much as Slim (nee Sean Scolnick) would like to fancy himself as a folk singer, he's essentially trodding down the alt-country, gospel tinged road laid by Adams with Whiskeytown and his solo albums Heartbreaker and Gold. The vocals aren't as strong, but somehow that makes them more evocative.
But the real difference is in the songwriting. Where Adams got off at some point and started sucking and becoming self-indulgent (only to occassionally flirt back with greatness), Slim keeps writing about love, sex, girls he should've had, and girls who'll never have him.
He rollicks and romps through "Cinderella" and "Say Yes" and shines on the slower, more thoughtful ballads "Sunday By The Sea" and "I Love You, But Goodbye." But my favorite is "Land of Dreams," with his baragaining lyric: "Take me tonight I'm yours/for as long as I can be."
On his Twitter profile, Slim writes "I'm not sure there's any other kind, but the songs I write are love songs." Damn right they are. Let's hope Slim can keep it up. This album is pure gold.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
My Favorite 10 Albums of 2009
1. White Rabbits - It's Frightening.
Like I said, I'm a drummer, so I suppose I'm predictably drawn to a band with two drummers. But that's not the only thing that kept me coming back to this album all year -- there's also wonderful piano thronks, flanged out acoustic guitars, and snippets of studio talkback throughout (thanks to Spoon's Britt Daniel, who was behind the boards). The choice of instrumentation and mix allow each musical voice the space to breathe -- on its own, as well as be part of the larger whole. Leadoff track "Percussion Gun" is instantly likeable due to its insistent drumbeat and spare minor piano chords, but it's the subtle thrill of songs like "Lionesse" that put the icing on the cake. The song is completely unpredictable, owing to its unstructured, likely spur-of-the-moment jamminess, and if you listen on headphones, you can hear one of the musicians mutter at the end, "I hope that got on tape." (Thanks to Britt, it did).
2. Dodos - Time to Die
This one took a while to grow on me, but once it did, I couldn't stop playing it. Dodos added a vibraphone to their spartan drums/guitar duo, but like with the White Rabbits album, there's still plenty of space for the music to breathe. This is a tight band that plays with finesse and never shows off. The guitar strums occasionally, but is usually a jumbled melody of picked notes, while the drummer lets his floor tom do the talking and wisely keeps away from his cymbals. My favorite track, "Fables" rides on a drumbeat that switches from a reggaeton shuffle to a West African sway and is probably the only song I spontaneously sang along with this year, EVERY TIME: "I don't want to go in the fire / I just want to stay in my home."
3. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
Back in the day (Feb. 2008), Master Shake and I went to see No Kids open for Dirty Projectors at the Black Cat. At the time, Dirty Projectors were bashing their way through their recently-released Black Flag covers album, and despite us (ok, me) digging the art-geek idea of covering an entire album from memory, something just didn't sit right with either of us. We left after three songs. Cut to this summmer, when I found out the Projectors were opening for TV on the Radio, one of my favorites. I went in with an open mind, and I'm glad I did. The bashing was still there, courtesy of their drummer, whose style is at once heavy handed and syncopated, like John Stanier from Battles. But it's what floats on top that makes this band special: squiggly guitar lines, (dare I say it?) funky basslines, a dash of keyboard, a flannel shirt, cutoffs, a couple of scrunchies, and four, count 'em, four vocalists, whose voices and vocal parts mesh together excellently. "Stillness Is the Move" is one of the best songs of the year.
4. Future of the Left - Travels with Myself and Another
Future of the Left's last album, 2007's Curses, was so fantastic that I wondered how they could possibly follow it up. Travels With Myself and Another finds FOTL writing a leaner, edgier album with fewer quiet-time tracks (there's nothing approaching "The Contrarian" or "The Big Wide O," for example). David Malitz of the Washington Post sums the album up better than I can (for the record, I had written some blather about "weapons grade songs"... seems this band inspires combat metaphors): "Guitars like knives, lyrics like daggers and a rhythm section that pounds with the ferocity and speed of a rapidfire machine gun. The Welsh trio is at once terrifying and hilarious; no other band is this loud, clever and catchy." 2 Tru! Standout tracks: "Arming Eritrea," "You Need Satan More Than He Needs You," "Drink Nike."
5. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
I don't care how many movies and cars and diapers these songs hawked in 2009, or how popular this band and this album became. I only care that "Lisztomania" and "1901" were the best one-two album-opening punch I heard all year. Well, I also care to say that I love how so many of these songs end without a downbeat to finish them off, they just vanish into thin air, making me want to put them on repeat. FYI, in some countries, it is a crime not to own Phoenix's previous album, 2007's It's Never Been Like That.
6. Japandroids - Post-Nothing
To write a good song, do you need to write complicated guitar parts with more than three chords? Do you need to nail all your drum fills? Do you need to sing well? No, no, and no. You just need to play and sing like your life depends on it. And a garage and some gear, but that's beside the point. Japandroids give it their all on every song. The result is a supremely fun album. Top track: "Young Hearts Spark Fire." I like to think that when the duo plays it live, they hit all the starts and stops without looking at each other, ESP-style.
7. Bat for Lashes - Two Suns
Initially, it was hard for me to get through this album because the opening track, "Glass," is that good. I put it on repeat maybe 10 times before letting the rest of the album unfold. Welcome to her Otherworld.
8. Basement Jaxx - Scars
Quoth Master Shake: "Basement Jaxx?!?!?! You mean WHERRRRRRRE'S YOURRRRR HEADDDD ATTTT Basement Jaxx???" Yes, that Basement Jaxx. I've never really been a fan of these guys, but I checked out this album on a whim and was pleasantly surprised. All the guest appearances flow so well together, it's kind of unbelievable. The first half of the record is all hits, spanning multiple musical genres, sometimes within one song.
9. Cex - Bataille Royale
I almost slept on this one too since I hadn't looked Cex up since 2003 or so. On this album, Cex dropped the rapping and focused on what he does best: program ridiculously good beats. This is Baltimore Club. As played by robots. On the moon. Also, the robots are having sex.
10. Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs
I have been guilty of sleeping on YLT in the past, and was shown up for it by their last album, 2006's fantastic I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass. Here, Yo La Tengo are comfortable and having a blast. They're playing around with you. When I first listened to this album, sometime during the third song, I wondered, "Do Yo La Tengo still write those fast, buzzy songs like "Sugarcube" and "Cherry Chapstick"?" Track 4, you betcha ("Nothing to Hide"). The opening to "If It's True" is so unabashedly identical to "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch" that you realize, they're not calling it Popular Songs for nothing.
Just Missed the Cut
Neko Case - Middle Cyclones
Oh, Neko. You're always there for me with your fantastic voice, your crazy-good backing band, and your nature worship.
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
The tag everyone likes to hang on these guys is "boring." And even though my attention wavered during the middle of this album, second track "Two Weeks" and album closer "Foreground" were two of my favorite songs of the year.
Mount Eerie - Wind's Poem
A wonderful nature poem set to music ranging from black metal ("Wind's Dark Poem") to quotes from the Twin Peaks theme ("Between Two Mysteries").
Tim Hecker - An Imaginary Country
I'm Pretty Sure These Albums Would Be On My Best-of List If I Spent Some More Time With Them
xx - xx
Wye Oak - The Knot
Great Songs of 2009 from Other Albums
Riceboy Sleeps - "Happiness"
Ty Segall - "Die Tonight"
Metric - "Help I'm Alive"
Animal Collective - "My Girls"
Thom Yorke - "Hearing Damage"
Telekinesis! - "Coast of Carolina"
Fuck Buttons - "Surf Solar"
Lily Allen - "The Fear (Son of Vader Nitemair Remix)"
The National - "So Far Around the Bend"
Kevin Drew - "Love vs. Porn"
The Big Pink - "Dominos"
Atlas Sound - "Walkabout"
Cut Off Your Hands - "Turn Cold"
Mount Kimbie - "Maybes"
Best Live Shows I Attended in 2009
Run for Cover @ Black Cat (August 1)
Glenn Kotche (of Wilco) with Bang on a Can All Stars @ University of Maryland (March 29)
T.V. on the Radio & Dirty Projectors @ 9:30 Club (June 8)
Wye Oak @ The Black Cat (December 27)
Future of the Left @ Rock N Roll Hotel (October 29)
Des Ark & Trophy Wife @ DC Mini Gallery (June 18)
Space Tigers @ Velvet Lounge (June 14)
Sonic Youth @ 9:30 Club (July 6)
Best Book About Music I Read This Year
Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records by John Cook, Mac McCaughan, and Laura Ballance
-- When I read it, I felt like I was catching up with old friends. And they made me a scrapbook with pictures, torn setlists, and broken guitar picks. In other words, a cool scrapbook.
Best Band, Album, or Music Book from the Past That I Discovered This Year
Low - "Violent Past"
-- via my brother from another mother, Dennis.
Robert Fripp and Brian Eno - No Pussyfooting.
-- Remastered, slo-mo'ed, reversed, chopped, screwed, and what have you. Headphones are your friend. This was like the year of Brian Eno for me.
Robert Wyatt - Comicopera
The Undertones - "Teenage Kicks"
-- I have John Peel to thank for these two. RIP big guy.
Lipstick Traces by Greil Marcus
-- on the back of the book, Malcolm McLaren claims it is "crazy, wild, at times almost inarticulate." And he's right. But Mr. Marcus' enthusiasm and ambition in weaving together a mixtape of his favorite music, art, and political movements from the 20th century is plenty enough to win me over.
Friday, December 11, 2009
We need to reward genre hopping more. Like right now.
What is fun.? Is it gospel? Is it folk? Is it carnival music? Is it Queen?
There's horns, violins, boy girl harmonies, and the soaring vocals of former Format lead singer Nate Ruess. It's cheesy and very senior year drama high school musical to be sure. But hey, you like Glee right?
Ruess doesn't hold back, with the first four songs on the album kinda grabbing you and shaking you down for spare change. Be calm, he skitters and scatters. He channels Freddie Mercury often (All the Pretty Girls) and it's nice when he does (not like Adam Lambert, who you kinda wish would just shut the fuck up).
The sweetest song is the piano recital-esque The Gambler. It dips into treacle at points, but again, you still eat Apple Jacks and watch Glee.
Not all pop has to be serious, or studied. Sometimes it only needs to be fun.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
But the hype surrounding this album is real. I've never found myself so strangely hypnotized by shoegazey noise pop. Fuzzed out guitars, sweet boy-girl vocals, evocations of Black Tambourine, The Arrogants, or Cranberries (that's right, I said it). It's young and it makes me feel young listening to it.
But these John Hughes soundtracked songs are, like John Hughes movies, about teens and their problems. That means mostly sex. Come Saturday, Tenure Itch, This Love is Fucking Right... all teen twee sex songs (dirty sex songs to boot). Hopefully you'll be adding Young Adult Friction to your mixtapes. Nothing says love like doing it on a stack of moldy books in the library. It has my vote for best song of the year
But the other songs are just as sweet. A Teenager in Love bops in with that ridiculous drum and you can't help but dancing. Contender bottles up that loser feeling and makes you feel good.
Next time you watch Pretty in Pink, turn off the sound and play this album. Imagine yourself dancing with Molly Ringwald. All will be alright.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
With Hold Time, M. Ward is giving us his own thesis on American rock n'roll, in what the entire time has been his own personal master class on the subject.
There's the dreamy cover of Buddy Holly's Rave On (again, the furture Mrs. Gibbard singing backup). But why ape when you can create your own? He channels Jerry Lee Lewis with To Save Me, with frenetic piano playing, but still there is Ward, crooning - "Save from sailing over the edge" and doo doo dooing in the background.
There's the ghost of The Man in Black hanging over Fisher of Men (complete with not so oblique biblical references). And Phil Spector's Wall of Sound is there always, asking if this could be any louder (seriously, is he just banging stuff on his chords on the last song?).
But when he somehow melds them all together, it works. Stars of Leo, Never Had Nobody Like You, Jailbird - these are the real true keepers you'll find yourself going to again and again.
M. Ward hits magic twice on this album. He makes all the songs hang together. And he makes me kinda sort of look forward to She & Him Volume 2.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
For the past few weeks, I've been selecting, shuffling and discarding my favorite albums of the 2009. And what a hard and delightful task it was. There were some really stellar releases, way more than 10.
Which leaves us here... the honorable mention pile.
Maybe pile is not the right word. Glorious heap?
Anyway, we're gonna start from the bottom. Today Honorable Mentions. Tomorrow No 10.
Without further adieu...
"Outer South" by Conor and Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
The former Saddle Creek CEO, Bright Eyes-er has finally given up that tortured ghost and completes 2008's self-titled album with a bookend featuring his chums all touching their inner alt-Mexican country music (or something... he's defying and embracing genre). It's a good album when he sings (Cabbage Town), better at points when his mates do it (Air Mattress), and great when they all pitch in (Ten Women). But it's missing something. It feels slapdash too jaunty, but maybe that makes it better.
"Dark Was The Night" by Various Artists
Every indie artists worth his/her salt in 2009 shows up on this AIDS benefit compilation album. Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver, Conor, Spoon, Dirty Projectors, My Morning Jacket, et cetera, et cetera. It's almost too much. And for every five songs I like (So Far Around The Bend has made me love The National), there's one I don't. But eh. I'd rather have a finally curated tasting menu by one chef than parade by a thousand.
"The Knot" by Wye Oak
Good things are coming out of Baltimore. Probably the best is Wye Oak. The Knot is confounding. Is it shoegaze? Is it noisepop? I have no idea. It's gorgeous is what it is. That loud quiet sound has been rocking my ears for 20 years.
"Adult Nights" by Wild Light
You like Arcade Fire but find wanna turn the pop meter waaaaay up? Yeah, you'll like this. What's not to love about that catchy and profane "California on my Mind"? Or the jangly guitars and synth of "Canyon City"? Did I mention they sound like Arcade Fire?
"Cutting Ties" by We Were Pirates
Listen up. If you're not rocking DC bands, you should be. We like We Were Pirates. My kid likes We Were Pirates. You should like this. You like indie pop about girls and love? You'll dig this.