The CHIRP Blog
Throughout the month of December we’ll be posting lists of the best music of the year as determined by the volunteers that make CHIRP what it is. Today’s is from CHIRP Volunteer and writer of at This is Babble On, Laurie Viets.
Silversun Pickups – Swoon (Dangerbird) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
This is a rarity for me-an album that I can listen to the whole way through!
Bob Mould – Life and Times (Anti) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I was disappointed in the album and first and actually took it off my IPod. Then I gave it a second chance and really enjoyed it.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz (Interscope) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I love it when you hear a song on the radio and you just fall in love-that’s how I felt when I first heard “Skeletons”.
Ida Maria – Fortress Round My Heart (Mercury) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I find her songs catchy and entertaining.
The Airborne Toxic Event – Self-Titled (Island) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
OK. I think this was originally released in 2007 but no one heard it until they sent it out again in 2009. I heard “Sometime Around Midnight” and had to get the whole album. Even watched their tv special in a hotel somewhere. Love em. Right now they are filling the hole left by The Killers crappy last album.
Clem Snide – Hungry Bird (429 Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Picked this up off a review and did not regret it. Another good complete album.
M Ward – Hold Time (Merge) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
He pleases me.
Various Artists – War Child Presents Heroes (Astralwerks) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
TV on the Radio doing “Heroes” Nice.
Various Artists – Dark Was The Night (4ad Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
So many of my favorite bands in one place-The Decemberists, Beirut, Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket, Andrew Bird-it’s a great album.
Mike Doughty – Sad Man Happy Man (ATO Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I have never fully recovered from the loss of Soul Coughing. Thank you Mike Doughty for keeping the dream alive.
The album I couldn’t live without that was from 2008
Cloud Cult – Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes) (Rebel Group) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
It got me through being laid off, the birth of my son, sleepless nights with baby-it means the world to me and will always be in my Top 10.
Throughout the month of December we’ll be posting lists of the best music of the year as determined by the volunteers that make CHIRP what it is. Today’s is from CHIRP’s Sound Doctor, Chris Siuty.
Dear Landlord – Dream Homes (No Idea) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Made up of Midwest punk veterans from such bands as Rivethead and the Copyrights, Dear Landlord’s first release annihilates rest of my list. This is probably the best pop punk record to come out in the last ten years. Either they’re too good at it and aren’t pulling any punches, or this was a total fluke. This record should be on everyone’s shelf. Not even kidding. If they stay a band and not call it quits, as this appears to be a “side project,” they will be the most important pop punk band of the next ten years.
Canadian Rifle – Visibility Zero (Residue Records) Interpunk
Straight forward, blunt and unapologetic. Dark, yet catchy and melodic. Canadian Rifle cuts through all the B.S. and puts together a collection of some of the best songs to come out of Chicago. Gruff vocals reminiscent of Jawbreaker, on top of urgent melodic punk songs. If this was exclusively a Chicago list, this record would be tops. Ex-members of Ambition Mission, (Lone) Wolf and Cub and many many others.
Nothington – Roads, Bridges and Ruins (BYO Records) Amazon / iTunes
San Fransisco natives Nothington manage to combine the gruff vocals and song structure of Hot Water Music with the melodies and drunken wit of the Replacements, creating a sound that is more recognizably Gainsville or Minneapolis than the Bay Area. This record is one heart-string jerk after another. If you get a chance to see them live, it’s well worth your time.
No Slogan – Aversion Therapy (Residue Records) Residue
If anything, 2009 was the year of Residue Records. Three releases hit my top ten and I’m looking forward to future releases from Jordan Pedestrian and company. This release, coming in at number 4, is the most “Chicago” sounding release on my list. No Slogan are long time staples of the Chicago DIY punk scene and constant favorites of mine. They manage to channel classic Chicago bands such as the Bhopal Stiffs, the Effigies and Pegboy, while maintaining a sound that is far from derivative of any of these bands. This is easily the best thing this band has done. Looking forward to more quality releases.
Star Fucking Hipsters – Never Rest in Peace (Alternative Tentacles) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Admittedly, I sometimes feel a little goofy liking the output Leftover Crack and their crew release, because there’s ska parts and their politics are so unbelievably black and white. But, aside from that, these NYC crusties really can write good, interesting songs. They combine a lot of different influences, from street punk to death metal, ska to 80’s hardcore. If you can put down your hang ups and listen to this album without judgement, you’ll find a lot of quality within the grooves of this record.
Banner Pilot – Collapser (Fat Wreck Chords) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
The only thing that can possibly make an adult who still listens to punk rock with the enthusiasm of a teenager feel more awkward than ska parts is admitting that Fat Wreck has put out something you like. Well, every year, there’s at least one album. Last year it was the Dillinger Four. This year, it’s D4’s fellow Minneapolis natives, Banner Pilot. The crazy thing is, there’s two Fat Wreck releases on the list this year. Banner Pilot are bound make anyone still lamenting the break up of Jawbreaker feel a little bit better about themselves. Emotionally tinged punk, driven by honest lyricism and engaging song structure echoes the passion and energy that draws people to punk rock. If you haven’t listened to a punk record since you stopped going to the Fireside in the mid 90’s, it’s probably time you revisit an old friend. This would probably be a good place to start.
Daylight Robbery – Red Light EP (Residue Records) Residue
This Chicago group take equal parts influence from early L.A. punk bands such as the Weirdos and X, as well as modern garage rock. Daylight Robbery have put out yet another fantastic 7” driven by female and male vocals exchanged in the urgent crust punk tradition layered over a west coast punk influence and a core rooted in midwestern lo-fi honesty.
MK Ultra – Discography (Youth Attack Records) Interpunk
Chicago by way of Dekalb veterans finally released a comprehensive discography. If you weren’t there, or you’d like to have all of your records in one handy place, this collection does all the foot work for you. Someone should do a commercial for this, in the style of those “Hits of the 70’s” collections. Brutal, socially conscious hardcore. It doesn’t get any better than this. This ends up towards the bottom of the list, only because it’s a collection. It doesn’t speak of the quality of the songs at all. Besides, this edges out a lot of records that came out this year that I really liked.
Teenage Bottlerocket – They Came From The Shadows (Fat Wreck Chords) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Every time I think “this is probably the last Teenage Bottlerocket album I’ll ever buy, because I don’t think their next one will be as good,” I’m proven wrong. I know what you’re thinking: “how many bands that sound like a cross between the Ramones and Screeching Weasel can there possibly be and how can they be any good?” Well, I’d probably agree with you, but Bottlerocket continues to be the exception to the rule. They manage to continue to take a painfully derivative genre and reinvent it in interesting ways over and over again. If I were to pick a top ten fun albums of ’09, this would be number one.
The Ergs! – That’s It… Bye! (Don Giovanni Records) Interpunk
So the Ergs! called it quits in 2008, but released their final three songs in 2009. These are the final three songs they ever wrote, closing the book on the best pop punk band of the 2000’s. The Ergs! will be seen as this generation’s Screeching Weasel or Descendents and I can guarantee you that their influence will be seen in bands to come, no doubt. Just to make sure I say something about this record other than the facts, one of the best songs they ever wrote, “Anthem for a New Amanda” is on this record. Do yourselves a favor and check out their discography. You won’t be disappointed.
The intersection of webcomics and music got a little richer this week with Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie telling a story centered around The Shaggs.
The Shaggs are… hard to describe. They couldn’t really play their instruments, but they don’t have any kind of punk or garage aesthetic. They go a step beyond that DIY sound. As musicians, it’s not just that they can’t play; it sounds like they’re not even in the same room as each other. And yet they have a real winsome quality; an earnestness.
Here; just do this. First, go read the story at Octopus Pie then give them a listen on YouTube.
Octopus Pie tells the story of two young roommates in Brooklyn navigating the world of relationships and hipsters.
(And speaking of hipsters! My favorite assessment of hipsters remains “Everyone’s seen a hipster but nobody is one” — but I also suggest you check out Kate Beaton’s take on hipsters through the ages: part one and part two.)
Throughout the month of December we’ll be posting lists of the best music of the year as determined by the volunteers that make CHIRP what it is. Today’s is from CHIRP’s President, Shawn Campbell.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Self-Titled (Slumberland) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I love a pop song. Make it a nice, fuzzy, lyrically-nasty-but-sweet-sounding pop song with male-female vocals, and that’s even better. The best C86 record since, if not 1986, at least the last Velocity Girl album.
Phoenix – Wolfgang AMadeus Phoenix (Glass Note) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Proof that, at least occasionally, what’s good and what’s popular can collide. When I first heard them years ago, I never would’ve tagged this French band as a future Next Big Thing, but with bigger production and a strong set of songs, WAP is impossible to deny, whether you’re a giddy Twilight fan or a jaded indie rocker.
C. Joynes – Revenants, Prodigies and the Restless Dead (Bo’ Weavil) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
A step outside my usual realm for this gorgeous, pastoral instrumental album from a young guitar player often compared to John Fahey. Perfect rainy day, time-to-think music.
Kurt Vile – Childish Prodigy EP (Matador) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
From the moment I heard his name (and later, when I learned it was his REAL name), there was no way I was not going to like Kurt Vile. The fact that he’s got a bit of a lo-fi Springsteen thing going on doesn’t hurt either, what with my previous Springsteen guy, Craig Finn, letting me down by using the exact same “this means so much to me” stage patter for the last several years – but that’s a whole different story. Undeniable songs about going places and standing still.
Rose Melberg – Homemade Ship (K Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
The onetime Tiger Trap and Softies frontwoman delivers another album full of quiet, lovely, wistful songs. No worse for it being exactly what we’ve come to expect from her. A good book, a warm afghan, a cup of hot chocolate.
Hidden Cameras – Orphan (Arts & Crafts) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Another band whose sweet vocals and general twee sensibility run head on into some very, shall we say “mature,” lyrics, their self-identification as “gay church folk” is surprisingly on the money. With great big production that finally lives up to the band’s legendary live shows, this feels like the album Hidden Cameras have always wanted to make.
St. Vincent – Actor (Matador) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Annie Clark is a mysterious creature, with her lovely voice, disturbing lyrics, mean guitar playing…sometimes seemingly detached, other times, on the verge of a complete breakdown. Some say “quirky,” but there’s too much darkness here for that label to fit. You find something new every time you listen to this record.
Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You (Capitol) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Yeah, it’s glossy and got played on the Mix, but the songs are clever and hilarious, and the whole thing is a tremendous amount of fun.
Passion Pit – Manners (Frenchkiss) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Another album that got a lot of exposure this year, and I liked it from the first time I heard it. Hey, I like to dance. I like to sing in a falsetto. What’s not to love?
Cymbals Eat Guitars – Why There Are Mountains (Sister’s Den) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Yes, along with twee indie pop, I also like grand, sweeping guitar rock, and this debut from four young Staten Islanders offered up several, alongside plenty of shorter, more exuberant pop songs. Couldn’t really pull it off live in the middle of the afternoon at Pitchfork, but the record is solid and enjoyable, if not groundbreaking.
Favorite boxed set
Big Star – Keep an Eye on the Sky (Rhino) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
The easy pick this year is the Beatles’ Mono Box, but this long-awaited Big Star set has gotten less press, and holds plenty of treasures. Early glimpses of Chris Bell, songs that have been floating around the Big Star collector world for ages, an entire previously-unreleased live set…far more rewarding to discover “new” Big Star tracks this way, than to live under the threat that the current incarnation of the band will decide to record another album.
Various Artists – This LP Crashes Hard Drives (Numero Group)
The Numero Group can do no wrong, and the Record Store Day comp that they curated (actually consisting of one track from each of ten great specialist labels) was no exception. Not only is every track a standout (raising the question, can every track BE a standout?), but the packaging is top-notch as well, with a gatefold sleeve that holds posters, stickers, zines, and more goodies.
Very Truly Yours – Reminders (Self-Released) MySpace
Local indie popsters opened for The Pains of Being Pure at Heart at Schuba’s this past spring, and garnered some positive attention following that show. This EP is full of charming, catchy songs featuring sweet boy-girl vocals. As you can see by now, it’s the kind of thing I am completely powerless against.
Throughout the month of December we’ll be posting lists of the best music of the year as determined by the volunteers that make CHIRP what it is. First up is Mike Gibson, CHIRP’s Director of Online Media.
Windmill – Epcot Starfields (Friendly Fire Recordings) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Windmill’s sophomore album bridges the narrow gap between an optimistic future and a disappointing past. Science and technology create a majestic backdrop for tales we can all relate to; Tales of loss and disappointing everyone that is important to you. This delicate balance plays out perfectly in each song’s fragile composition. Simply put, I haven’t heard an album with this much depth in quite some time, and it quickly became the soundtrack of my summer commutes.
Lemuria – Get Better (Asian Man Records) Amazon / iTunes
It’s no secret that I’m both a huge fan of well executed pop-punk and band’s that can help redefine a genre in 30 minutes or less. Lemuria does that, and more, creating one of the most intimate and heartfelt listens of the year.
Future of the Left – Travels With Myself and Another (4ad Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
If I were asked to sum up Future of the Left’s second album in just a word, it’d be explosive. One of the best live acts around (and one we were lucky enough to get not once, but twice this year here in Chicago) has done the volume and fury of their live show justice on Travels With Myself and Another.
Ume – Sunshower EP (Sonablast Records) Amazon / iTunes
This Austin-based trio has been putting out some of the loudest, most well thought out and perfectly executed rock this side of the Y2K scare. Lauren, Eric and Jeff may cringe when I say this, but if you’re looking for a snap judgment description for that sound Ume just clubbed your ears with, start with Kim-fronted Sonic Youth, turn the volume up a few notches, beef up the sound spectrum and you’re in the right zone. Here’s to hoping they get things together for their next full-length in 2010.
Good Luck – Into Lake Griffy (No Idea Records) Amazon / iTunes
Great songwriters don’t write in verse. They tell stories that weave their way through the rhythm and chords that surround them. Ginger Alford and Matty Pop Chart solidify their spots amongst the greatest with the debut album from their new band, Good Luck. Wordplay that’d make John K. Samson jealous with some of the catchiest, smile inducing melodies I heard all year.
Converge – Axe To Fall (Epitaph Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Just before they went out on the road leaving the country speechless in an opening spot on the Dethklok tour, Converge put out what is arguably their most progressive and intense album album of the band’s career. There’s just no one out there in the metal/hardcore communities doing anything remotely resembling what these guys are doing. This, along with the band’s seminal Jane Doe will still be at the forefront of the genre a decade from now.
Busdriver – Jhelli Beam (Anti Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
With it’s opening indictment of “conscious rap”, Busdriver puts it all on the table, and when the dust clears we’re left with the most groundbreaking hip-hop album of the year. With his speedy delivery, pounding bass, freeform jazz drums and one of the best samples of the year (think third grade piano lessons), no influence was left unscathed, leaving me simply speechless by the end.
Amazon / iTunes
Remember when you were a kid, spending your summers in the basement playing Nintendo all day with your friends? If you were anything like me, you used to make up your own words to the soundtracks that filled the day: Contra, Super Mario Bros., Gradius. Well, :( took it one step further by making a band out of it 20 years later. 8-bit pop-punk at it’s best.
Strike Anywhere – Iron Front (Bridge 9 Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
People that say punk rock as a genre has become irrelevant haven’t listened to Strike Anywhere. More blast beat, sing-along, fists-in-the-air anthems that the band has been churning out now for the better part of a decade, but this time with a passion that hasn’t been seen since those first few albums. This one reminded me why i fell in love with the band all those years back.
Tegan and Sara – Sainthood (Sire Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
This was a late edition to the list, but I’m an absolute sucker for crunchy synths, heartfelt lyrics and a great voice.
Favorite album of the year that ACTUALLY came out in 2008
Fight Like Apes – And The Mystery of the Golden Medallion (Self-Released) Amazon / iTunes
Had this album come out in 2009, it’d have been the top of my list, for sure. Few albums combine melody, spazziness, restraint, poppiness, and crunch into something so fun and accessible. Now I just have to keep wishing they make their way to the US sometime next year.
Best result of a band reuniting in 2009
Coalesce – Ox (Relapse Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I was stunned when I heard that the marble-mouthed marauders would be reuniting in 2009. I was even more floored when I actually heard the result of the band’s time in the studio. Not to mentioned the follow-up Ox EP that just hit the streets a couple weeks ago.
Best “Anniversary” re-issue of 2009
Sunny Day Real Estate – Diary (Sub Pop Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
The 10th anniversary of “emo’s finest moment” saw the remaster/reissue of this classic with a fuller sound/bonus tracks and a nationwide tour proving that the band hasn’t missed a beat. (We’ll of course ignore those final couple of albums, sigh…)
Most pleasant surprise of 2009
Weezer – Raditude (Geffen Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Listen, I’m just as shocked as you are. From the piss-poor post-Pinkerton track record to the half-assed cover art and absolutely ridiculous song titles (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To I Want You To? Really? That’s what you’ve got for us Rivers?) this album had failure written all over it. But you know what? I can’t stop listening to it. While the album will never match the Matt Sharp era output, it gets back to what Weezer does best, which is taking all the formulas and clichés of modern pop music and turning them on their head. Give it a chance. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Best album from a fake band that is better than most real bands
Dethklok – The Dethalbum II (WIlliams Street) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Who’d have thought that a cliché metal band created as the subject of a late-night cartoon would not only release one of the most crushing albums of the year, but also that they’d be the headliners for hands down the best show of 2009. If you got a chance to catch Dethklok as they toured the US this summer with Mastadon, High on Fire and Converge then you too would know that Brendan Small and Gene Holgan have more than enough chops to stand out in front of the novelty and crush your skulls in the process.