Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Listmas From NQL: Best of 2009

A little later than usual, but here we present NQL’s annual best-of music compilation for 2009 from contributors and a few guests. I, for one, am ready for a new year. When I think of 2009, disappointment comes to mind: M. Ward’s snoozer Hold Time following 2006’s excellent Post-War, the sneaky-terrible Where the While Things Are movie following that amazing trailer, and the couple that crashed the state dinner following my belief that people who wanted to be famous did it the old-fashioned way, such as launching a runaway hot-air balloon from their backyard. Wilco jumped on the “disappointment” bandwagon and released Wilco (The Album) which received mostly positive reviews but I have no idea why. I guess the album was slightly better than Sky Blue Sky. But if Paramount was to come out with a Godfather IV and it was a tad more enjoyable than Godfather III, would that necessarily make Godfather IV a good movie? Of course not. (Oddly enough, I would still shell out a decent amount of cash to take in a Wilco show if they were to come to town anytime soon. Their live shows never get old.)

Bands like jj were cute for about five seconds and then I realized they were called “jj” and their novelty would not survive through next year. Honestly, is anyone going to be playing that jj album come this time next year? (Oh, and don’t think I forgot about you, xx.) I almost felt the same way about the Passion Pit album Manners but I kept playing it and playing it and it never really got old. And it sort of reminded me of last year’s Oracular Spectacular by MGMT. Looking back, Oracular Spectacular was a fascinating album. It had all the making of a one-hit wonder, a flash in the pan, two guys who would never to be heard from again until they resurfaced five years later broke and with major drug problems. But nearly two years later, you go to a club, a baseball game, or turn on your television and you’re bound to hear that album. And that’s because it’s a good album, with good songs! I could see the same thing potentially happening with Manners. (Though it should be noted, I talked with a guy who played a show with Passion Pit and he said they were extremely nice guys who could hardly play their own instruments, culminating in the drummer one time becoming frustrated and throwing his drumsticks to the ground. But that’s okay, we’re not counting down the top ten live or talented performers here.) So there you go, Manners was a good album that was released in 2009. Combine that with the amazing video from Bob Dylan for his song “Must Be Santa” and maybe the year wasn’t half-bad. And what better way to find out than with a bunch of lists.

Best Songs of 2009

10. “Little Secrets” – Passion Pit

9. “People Got A Lot Of Nerve” – Neko Case

8. “1901” – Phoenix

6. “Hysteric” – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

6. “Daylight” – Matt & Kim

5. “Great Defector” – Bell X1

4. “There Maybe Ten Or Twelve…” – AC Newman

3. “Cannibal Resource” – Dirty Projectors

2. “My Girls” – Animal Collective

1. “Wet Hair” – Japandroids

“Wet Hair” is comprised of three nonsensical and non sequitur lyrics. They are sung four times and then the next time around the guitar is sped up and the same lyrics are sung faster. It’s that simple. It’s that awesome. And it also contains the best lyric written in years: “These girls are raw! Bikini kill! We need a ride to bikini island!”

Honorable Mention: “My Body’s a Zombie For You” – Dead Man’s Bones; “Shampoo” – Elvis Perkins in Dearland; “Now We Can See” – The Thermals

Best Albums of 2009

10. The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir - …And the Horse You Rode In On

Favorite Track: “Something’s Happening”

9. Cass McCombs - Catacombs

Favorite Track: “Don’t Vote”

8. Built to Spill – There is No Enemy

Favorite Track: “Life’s A Dream”

7. The Antlers – Hospice

Favorite Track: “Two”

6. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Favorite Track: “1901”

5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz

Favorite Track: “Hysteric”

4. Japandroids – Post-Nothing

Favorite Track: “Wet Hair”

3. The Thermals – Now We Can See

Favorite Track – “Now We Can See”

2. Double Dagger – More

Favorite Track: “Vivre Sans Temp Mort”

1. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

Favorite Track: “My Girls”

When Merriweather Post Pavilion leaked early in 2009 and the blogosphere morphed into Lord of the Flies, and everyone was running around waving torches, losing their collective shit, and blowing each other, I wanted to dislike it on general principal. But it’s just too damn good. At the 2:30 mark of first track “In the Flowers” the album kicks into high gear and doesn’t let up until closer “Brother Sport” is completing the victory lap. This is a summer album, an album to listen to while cleaning your kitchen, a “road trip” album, or any other “fill-in-the-blank” album you can come up with. And it was my favorite album of 2009.

Honorable Mention: AC Newman – Get Guilty; Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca; Discovery – LP; Passion Pit - Manners



Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion/Fall Be Kind & "Summertime Clothes"/"What Would I Want? Sky". No measly words of mine could further the discourse surrounding these two (four?) slabs of amazing.

Baroness - Blue Record

Big Boi - "Shine Blockas". Just release the dadburn album already.

The Big Pink - "Dominos"

Black Dice - Repo. Supposedly their "pop" album (whatever that means); if this is the state of pop music, something is right (or very wrong) in the universe.

Burial & Four Tet - Moth 12". Each producer's aesthetic is apparent, but neither outshines/overwhelms the other, rendering it impossible to tell which is the "Burial" song and which is the "Four Tet" song, which I suppose is the purpose of collaboration.

Circulatory System - Signal Morning. Welcome back, and please don't go away again.

The Clientele - Bonfires on the Heath. Another excellent outing from a consistently excellent band--and for this reason I think critics undersold Bonfires a bit. If Bonfires does end up being the final Clientele album (I hope it doesn't), what a bow.

Converge - Axe to Fall melted my face right off my head.

Delorean - "Seasun". Song of the year.

Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca. This and Girls and AnCo and Baroness and xx are neck-and-neck-and-neck-and-neck-and-neck for AoTY, but if I were forced to pick one best, it would be Bitte Orca by a blowhole.

DOOM - Born Like This. Universal beatdown!

Girls - Album. Inspirational lyric: "You've been a bitch. / I've been an ass."

Isis - Wavering Radiant

jj - jj no 2. Inspirational lyric: "The thought that you found takes you to town / Smashes your face, burns out your heart / then you go home and turn it into art."

Kraftwerk reissues, especially Trans Europe Express--or, in German, Trans Europa Express.

Lindstrom & Prins Thomas - II. My dog actually gets the proper amount of exercise when we walk to this album.

Pelican - What We All Come to Need

Pissed Jeans - King of Jeans

Shackleton - Three EPs. "Mountains of Ashes" blows my mind every time. "Asha in the Tabernacle" too.

Stone Roses s/t reissue. I always knew there was a great-sounding album somewhere in there.

Super Furry Animals - Dark Days/Light Years. Bananas. More people should love these dudes than probably do.

Wild Beasts - Two Dancers. I like Two Dancers just fine, but next time, please, a little more lyrical honesty.

xx - xx. Sounds so huge yet there's almost nothing here.

YACHT - See Mystery Lights. Inspirational lyric: "Protect your eyes / Read the comments and protect your eyes."

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz

Anticipating: Goodie Mob reunion album; Big Boi's and Dre's solo albums; Magnetic Fields album (and concert in March); Spoon album; xx/jj concert in April

"Discoveries": Franklin Bruno/Nothing Painted Blue; Jimmy Cliff, ska/rocksteady in general; D'Angelo; the Go-Betweens; Inspiral Carpets - Life (quite possibly the third-best Madchester/Baggy album, no big deal); Little White Earbuds; Nick Lowe; Resident Advisor (and its podcast); Scritti Politti; Yaz

Realization: I have no idea what's actually, commercially popular. In my universe, Animal Collective (for instance) is king. In the real universe, king is, apparently, Daughtry. Or maybe Shinedown. Guys: there's a band called Shinedown and they make platinum-selling albums.

Should've Listened to More/At All but Didn't: Fuck Buttons (at all), Grizzly Bear (at all); Raekwon (at all); A Sunny Day in Glasgow (more)

Statement: The ultra-lo-fi trend should just go to bed already, because it's bedtime. Overcoming self-imposed limitations seems to be the point of this movement/moment, but it is a stupid and annoying point, and you should make a different point. Neon Indian sounds like a locally produced commercial for a dentist's office. "Two-for-one crowns before December 31. Act now! Beep bloop deedle doo."


(1) Not much rap music this year (I love rap music). My tastes haven't changed, but this year I guess I mostly listened to older rap music, e.g., Goodie Mob (thx 4 reuniting btw), Run-D.M.C., Ghost/Rae/GZA, Nas, Hov.
(2) Lots of metal this year. But this year has been kind of a shitty year, personally, and metal made me feel good.
(3) How good the new Cornershop album is. FYI, Cornershop released an album this year and it's really good.

--Brian Herrmann

The Best Albums of 2009

After much internal debate, I have come to this conclusion: 2009 sucked music-wise. Initially, I believed that it may just be a symptom of age, priorities changing, getting engaged, preferring the company of my pets over strangers at concerts or bars, that I just was not enjoying music as much as I used to. I maybe attended three concerts this year, the best of which took place during the dawning hours of the new year. In the car, I listened to NPR and sports talk radio more often than music. I could hardly think of a music related article to contribute to this blog.

But occasionally something would happen that would rekindle the love. More often or not it was hearing an album or song from years past. I still loved that music, and a track from TV On the Radio’s Return to Cookie Mountain, or discovering the brilliance of Abbey Road’s “lesser” tracks through the Remastered edition, or finding the perfect moment to listen to last year’s still excellent You & Me by The Walkmen, brought the love back.

This helped me realize my relationship with music was not on its final legs. No, it was just that underwhelming tramp that was 2009 who was playing home-wrecker to my relationship with music. When compiling my top ten of 2009, I myself including many albums that I merely liked, and only a few that I loved. That said, the following albums are all very good albums, but the overwhelming enthusiasm I had for my Top Ten in years past is just not present here (as my descriptions would probably suggest).

10. Manners by Passion Pit

Kinda gay, but really good.

9. World Painted Blood by Slayer

A bit less falsetto than Passion Pit, but awesome nevertheless.

8. xx by The xx

Bravo to The xx for making it nearly impossible to find this album on a file-sharing site. I look forward to their follow-up, “Hot Girl on Girl”.

7. Travels With Myself and Another by Future of the Left

Andy Falkous continues using his bully pulpit of fronting a band to berate some unfortunate dude, known only to the listener by a first name. This time “Rick” bears the brunt of Falkous’s vitriol. I was a bit disappointed in the relative simplicity of FOTL’s output this time out, but a disappointing effort by FOTL is still one that got more plays from me than nearly any other release this year.

6. Two Dancers by Wild Beasts

You know those brilliant Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World commercials? For some reason I think of those commercials when I listen to this album. (In other words, it’s a very interesting album and I just wanted to come up with a convoluted way to say as much.)

5. Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear

In a year where Puscifer releases an album entitled “C" Is for (Please Insert Sophomoric Genitalia Reference HERE)”, Grizzly Bear still manages to have the worst album title of the year. “Two Weeks” and “While You Wait For the Others” are both outstanding tracks, and the album on the whole is extremely impressive. Would be higher if it was not so….what’s the word…oh yeah, boring.

4. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix by Phoenix

I really wanted to hate this album. I really did. I failed.

3. Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective

MPP’s high placement on this list is likely due to my experience the first time I listened to this album. To be more precise, the first time hearing “My Girls” was a revelation. The excitement from the moment of the initial “wooo” likely influenced my feelings for the rest of the album, glossing over some of the later tracks’ shortcomings. Though not their best output, a great album nonetheless. Also, the excellence of their late-in-the-year EP only bolsters the thought that much more interesting work is still to come from this collective of animals in the future.

2. There Is No Enemy by Built to Spill

An album that was perfect for the time it was released (early fall). It is rare to hear a good straight-forward and gimmick-free rock album these days, let alone a great one. This coherent collection of mid-tempo guitar rock is one of the few albums I truly loved this year and honestly see myself coming back to in the years to come.

1. Embryonic by The Flaming Lips


This album succeeds on a number of levels. First, when it appeared the Lips might be heading toward the land of Coldplay, U2, and Moby, they release this single-free album. A bold move in and of itself. I can guarantee you that “Gemini Syringes” or “I Can Be a Frog” will not be used to sell you a laptop.

However the lack of singles and/or mainstream appeal is the least impressive of the impressive things about this album. Like The Walkmen did with my favorite album of last year, Embryonic captures a mood and sound and perfectly adheres to this aesthetic for a full [A]lbum. Here, the Lips have produced an album that from start to finish is everything a “psychedelic” album should be. I’m not talking “The Byrds” psychedelic, but Pink Floyd A Saucerful of Secrets psychedelic. To wit, you can practically see the acid-trip images of volcanoes erupting while listening to “Witch Mountain”.

Lastly, this album succeeds because it is, in a word: awesome. Headphones on/off, on the home stereo, in the car, on vinyl, on a boat with a goat, it is awesome. If only there had been more albums like Embryonic, I would not have had to question my relationship with music.

Again, wow.

Songs of the Year

This list was actually tough to put together because despite being 2009 being underwhelming on the whole, there were a lot of excellent songs this year. Here’s the best of the best

10. “Combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bell” – Das Racist & Wallpaper

9. “The Czar” – Mastodon

8. “Ecstasy” – jj

7. “Woods” – Bon Iver

6. “Hall of the Dead” - Isis

5. “Two Weeks” – Grizzly Bear

4. “Arming Eritrea” – Future of the Left

3. “Listomania/1901” – Phoenix

2. “Things Fall Apart” – Built to Spill

1. “My Girls” – Animal Collective

--Travis Newman

Best Albums of 2009

1. Franz Ferdinand - Tonight
I don't think Tonight was necessarily the best album of the past year, nor do I think it was the most ambitious, daring, or surprising. But when I look at all of the albums that were released in 2009, Tonight is my favorite. Usually a band goes down one of two paths with it's third album. The first path is for the band to be ambitious and to cause someone familiar with it to have a bit of a "WTF" moment on first listen. This is commonly referred to as the "difficult third album" and can either be either hugely successful (OK Computer) or a disaster (Our Love to Admire). The other path is for the band to simply build on and sharpen what came before. This way, while a little boring, is almost always successful for naturally good bands (Wincing the Night Away, Urban Hymns, White Blood Cells).

With Tonight, Franz Ferdinand has accomplished the rare feat of trying to make the "difficult third album," but ending up with the perfect combination of the band's basic strengths with the right amount of experimentation. From the subtle charm of "Katherine Kiss Me" to the batshit crazy three minute laser outro of "Lucid Dreams," everything about this album just works. You get traditional Franz crowd-pleasing singles like "No You Girls" and "Ulysses," you get momentum-fests like "Bite Hard" and "Send Him Away," and you get tender little ballads like "Katherine Kiss Me." And while some of it may indulge in distorted bass, keyboards, and the influence of world music (all hallmarks of the "difficult third album"), it is always unmistakeably Franz Ferdinand and quite clearly my favorite album of 2009.

2. Wild Beasts - Two Dancers
Wild Beasts are the most promising new band I have heard in a long time. Last year's great debut, Limbo, Panto (#4 on my best of '08 list), hinted at the band's potential. With Two Dancers, Wild Beasts realized that potential and somehow created some sort of new additional potential that I can't wait to see them meet, because I'm certain they will. If Jay Bilas described Wild Beasts as an NBA draft prospect, he'd say they had "tremendous upside potential potential." Then he'd probably say that putting these slight Brits on an NBA basketball court would cost a coach his job.

The thing I love about Wild Beasts is that they are unique. So many new bands nowadays can be easily described by saying that they sound like X, but with a bit more/less Y, but Wild Beasts don't really sound like anyone else. They have two excellent singers, one with a gorgeous baritone (Tom Fleming) and another who can change from his signature falsetto to a deep growl on a dime (Hayden Thorpe). Their drummer beats away on various wood blocks and bongos (yes, bongos) with impressive precision, and their lead guitarist never really plays below the 15th fret. Combine all of this and you get standout tracks like "The Fun Powder Plot" and "This Is Our Lot," both high points of Two Dancers. The album is a gigantic leap forward for a band that already leaped once.

If you can handle falsetto (and I understand if you can't) and like music, you owe it to yourself to give Two Dancers a listen. And if Wild Beasts come to your town, make time to see them because their live show is excellent. I saw them at the Mercury Lounge in New York earlier this year and it was the best show I've seen in some time. I really, really can't wait to see what they do next.

3. The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
I have a feeling that, a year from now, Embryonic will be my favorite album from 2009. I read reviews before I listened to it, so I expected a bit of a departure from Soft Bulletin-and-later Lips, but I did not expect Embryonic to be as raw and dirty and acid-rock-y as it is. It's initially shocking and a little unwieldy, but after a few listens, the structures reveals themselves and a listener can start to focus on more of the details, like the persistent, ominous bass line in "Powerless" or Karen O's awesome bit in "I Can Be A Frog." Embryonic isn't really a comeback album because the Lips never went anywhere and it's not a return to form album because it's not really standard Lips "form," but it's definitely different, and whatever it is, its ballsy, difficult, and, ultimately, very rewarding.

4. The xx - xx
This was my favorite debut of the year. The xx employs a very simple formula: bordering on spoken word lyrics over a drum machine, some guitar and bass, and a keyboard effect here and there. But the xx have two things going for them that plenty of other bands do not. First, the co-lead "singers" have badass voices. It doesn't hurt that they're British, which just sounds better. Can you imagine this music with American singers? I cannot. The second thing the xx has in spades is the gift of intelligent and complex song construction. They take their simple formula and put together short songs that feature multiple parts and little bits that make you smile, like a perfectly placed hand clap or the reprise later in a song of a riff from the beginning. I love those details. It's also difficult to switch between two leads in the same song and have it sound natural, but listen to "Crystalised" and "Islands" and tell me that the xx doesn't pull it off to sometimes thrilling results.

5. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
How can someone not like this album? That's not a rhetorical question. I would actually like to know. "Lisztomania" and "1901" are perfect pop songs and "Love Like a Sunset" is the kind of unexpected, daring track that turns a good album into a great one. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix reminds me of Vampire Weekend's debut last year or basically any Spoon album in that there is no fat on any of the songs and it's just really nice and fun to listen to.

6. Morrissey - Years of Refusal
Hands down his best album since Vauxhall and I, and with a few songs that count among his solo best ("Black Cloud," "Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed"). It feels like he's been building to this for a few albums now. Hopefully he can keep his current momentum because Morrissey putting out good music is always welcome.

7. Bat for Lashes - Two Suns
I don't really know how to describe this album, and I think that's why I like it so much. It's easy to name-check Bjork and Portishead, maybe M83 and a little bit of the Knife, but dig a little deeper and it also sounds like it could be right at home as the soundtrack to a 1980's fantasy movie. It's also one of those albums that reveals something new upon each listen. I have a feeling that, in the future, I might listen to this album more than most of the others on this list.

8. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains
This album really reminds me of late 1990s Modest Mouse. And because late-1990s Modest Mouse is one of my favorite band time periods (or something), I really like Why There Are Mountains. Hopefully, their next album will sound more like early 2010s Cymbals Eat Guitars and will be just as good.

9. Built to Spill - There Is No Enemy
I agree with most of the music press that, "Goin' Against Your Mind" aside, You in Reverse wasn't very good, but I don't agree that Ancient Melodies of the Future was a disappointment. I mention this because There Is No Enemy has been labeled as Built to Spill's best since Keep it Like a Secret. I don't necessarily agree with that, but it is a solid Built to Spill effort, and a marked improvement over You in Reverse. But a solid Built to Spill album is usually excellent, and this one is no exception. I think it's a little mushy and indulgent, but the highlights are there: "Life's a Dream" and "Aisle 13" are both outstanding and this new stuff comes across live as good as their older, classic-period material. For my money, they're still one of the two best live bands on the planet (The Futureheads being the other).

10. The Antlers - Hospice
I saw these guys open for the Walkmen earlier this year before I heard this album and they came off as a pretty standard, solid, rock three piece. When I heard the album, I was surprised to hear what sounded like a completely different, and much more complex band. I like that - when a band's live show is very different from the album (this is different from when a band changes a lyric or two live (i.e. Morrissey) to try to switch it up a bit, which comes across as a little desperate). Anyway, that's neither here nor there. Hospice is a very good, very devastating album. Kind of an I See A Darkness for the 00s in that I realize how great it is, but I never want to listen to it.

Best Songs of 2009

"My Girls" - Animal Collective

"Arming Eritrea" and "Lapsed Catholics" - Future of the Left

"1901" - Phoenix

"Two Weeks" - Grizzly Bear

"Daniel" - Bat for Lashes

"Happy As Can Be" - Cut Off Your Hands

"Out of the Blue" - Julian Casablancas

"Can't Get Over You" - Vivian Girls

Best Albums of 10 Years Ago (1999)

1. Blur - 13
Their greatest album, and one of the decade's best.

2. Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin
It was a big shock for 20-year-old me to hear this album from those guys who made that stupid Vaseline song. It's the high point of that late-1990s Dave Fridmann sound.

3. Fiona Apple - When the Pawn...
A pretty much perfect album and a career high point that I don't think she'll top.

4. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - I See a Darkness
It doesn't take many listens to realize how good this album is. I know this because I've only listened to it about 5 times before realizing that curling up into a ball and crying kind of sucks.

5. Built to Spill - Keep it like a Secret
Top to bottom excellent.

6. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada
Quiet quiet quiet LOUD LOUD LOUD. Good formula.

7. The Roots - Things Fall Apart
For my money, the only popular hip hop band worth a shit outside of Outkast. Yes, I am white.

8. Underworld - Beaucoup Fish
"Moaner" is awesome.

9. Gomez - Liquid Skin
Gomez' unfortunate new stuff casts their old stuff in a poor light. I loved Liquid Skin when it came out, but like it less each time I hear it. I stopped listening to it before it dropped out of this list though.

10. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication
A perfect mainstream rock record.

--Jim Powers

Best Albums of 2009

1. Baroness - Blue Record
2. Built to Spill - There is No Enemy
3. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
4. Pelican - What We All Come to Need
5. Red Fang - Red Fang
6. Passion Pit - Manners
7. Wolfmother - Cosmic Egg
8. Om - God is Good
9. The Thermals - Now We Can See
10. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

Honorable Mention:

Code - Resplendent Grotesque
Girls - Girls
Discovery – LP

--Matthew Schuhmann

Favorite albums of 2009

1. Veckatimest, Grizzly Bear

2. Merriweather Post Pavillion, Animal Collective

3. Born on Flag Day, Deer Tick

4. My Maudlin Career, Camera Obscura

5. Middle Cyclone, Neko Case

6. Elvis Perkins in Dearland

7. Bonfires on the Heath, The Clientele

Favorite Shows of 2009

1. Dan Auerbach @ Mean Eyed Cat, Austin TX March 21. Hungover from Friday night, this daytime show was poorly attended. Auerbach wore shades to hide his bloodshot eyes and looked like he was fighting off urges to puke. Free beer and BBQ was handed to us. We were under a majestic 300 year-old tree at a bad ass joint in Austin.

2. Nina Nastasia @ Hideout, Chicago July 26. She had complete ownership of the stage and the dead silent, transfixed audience during this recorded show.

3. The Walkmen @ Lincoln Hall, Chicago November 12. Hamilton Leithauser still poured every last ounce of his body into his songs in spite of a ho-hum audience. They dredged up some old goodies including “Another One Goes By” and “Thinking of a Dream I Had.”

4. Avett Brothers @ Calvin Theater, Northampton, MA. August 2.

5. The Decemberists @ George Wein’s Folk Festival, Newport RI. August 1. I’m not really a fan of this band, but really, who can sound bad when you are drunk and watching million-dollar yachts and sailboats float into the sunset?

6. Jeff Tweedy @ Beacon High School, NY March 28

7. Destroyer (solo) @ Empty Bottle, Chicago May 17. Dan Bejar’s strange songwriting sounded even cooler playing solo.

8. Band of Horses @ Lollapalooza, August 9. Lou Reed went too long on the main stage which meant B of H came on late, which meant they only got about twenty minutes to play before Lolla big daddy Perry Farrell and his Jane’s Addiction came on. In a thumb-biting gesture to Jane’s, Band of Horses continued to play after Jane’s started. Ben Bridwell yelled “Fuck it, let’s keep on playing!” The crowd went wild and they played on until kicked off stage.

9. Neko Case @ Riverside Theater, Milwaukee, WI April 25.

10. Don’t know yet, but the Black Keys @ The Riviera on New Year’s Eve are probably going to be awesome to an expletive degree.

Biggest Disappointments of 2009 (at the risk of sounding like a negative nancy….):

1. Flaming Lips @ Pitchfork Music Festival. I had never seen FL live and was really excited. The highlight was when they entered the stage emerging from an enormous digital, swirling rainbow vagina. The rest was downhill and I’m not even a lesbian. Wayne Coyne talked too much and his slow-dance version of “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” sucked.

2. Wilco the Album. I heard a caller on NPR’s Sound Opinions compare it to listening to a jackhammer, except that a jackhammer is more interesting. Ouch. But not untrue.

3. Myself, for being too lazy to attend a few shows for which I had already bought tickets: St. Vincent @ the Metro, Atlas Sound @ Bottom Lounge.

4. This should fall under “Performed As Expected” rather than being a true disappointment, but Conor Oberst (a.k.a. Bright Eyes) did himself a disservice playing alongside Jim James and M. Ward in Monsters of Folk. Mr. Eyes doesn’t bring much to the table. His voice is sallow and sounds like he’s been whipped. He has made a bazillion records. My sister and I have a longstanding joke where we clap really slowly for nominal accomplishments. Conor Oberst, my special applause goes out to you.

5. I don’t understand what Andrew Bird is talking about in Noble Beast. I once loved his clever word play but Mr. Smarty Pants has gone too far and now it’s over my head.

Favorite Tracks of 2009

1. “Sleepyhead” by Passion Pit

2. “Daylight” by Matt & Kim

3. “Fables” by the Dodos

4. “While You Wait for the Others” by Grizzly Bear

5. “Walkabout” by Atlas Sound

6. “Smith Hill” by Deer Tick

7. “Bluish” by Animal Collective

8. “Magpie to the Morning” by Neko Case

9 “We Own the Sky” by M83

10. “Actor Out of Work” by St. Vincent

11. “Crystalised” by the xx

12. Ukrainian Polka band cover of Kate Perry’s “Hot N Cold.” You will love this.

--Audrey Wen


Anonymous said...

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Thomas said...

Happy Birthday Alex! A day late, yes, but consider it retaliation for your infrequent posts here.

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