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'O Celestial Golfball That Rules The Night... writesDavid Staples’ Best of 2009

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, David Staples.

  1. National Skyline – Bliss & Death (Self-Released) Amazon / iTunes
    National Skyline grew from the broken pieces of Hum. Only available through download, Bliss & Death is an epic and emotional roller coaster, and by far my personal favorite release from Nat. Skyline. It’s a shoegaze wall of sound flavored with layered guitar harmony. I can’t say enough. Ok… I’ll go ahead and say it: This is the best album I’ve heard in years.
  2. Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career (4ad) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    his album breaks my heart every time I hear it. Tracyanne Campbell’s voice is simply arresting. Of the eleven songs on the album, I called nine of them my favorite of the bunch at one time or another during the period that I spent steeping and soaking and immersing myself in this outstanding release.
  3. Engineers – Three Facts Fader (K Scope) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    My Shoegaze appreciation indicator needle redlined and then snapped with a rifle sound when I first heard this. This is just the kind of trancey Shoegaze bliss that a fella could get lost in (..could also make you drive faster than you’d intended, or maybe miss your train stop). These guys have been around for awhile, but this is only their second release in the past 5 years.
  4. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast (Fat Possum) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    This was my first exposure to Andrew Bird which makes it harder to compare it to his earlier releases, but I’ll say this: If you’re into masterful violin, lyric and whistling that’s waaay better than the temp in the cubicle next to you.. then you’re in the right place, kiddo. This album is full of songs that patiently build & grow to fill your room or headphones. Shut your eyes and smile.
  5. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone (Anti) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    The first track, “This Tornado Loves You” grabbed me by the throat immediately. I listened to it over and over so many times that it took me days to come to the realization that the rest of the album was just as perfect. Neko Case’s vocals are what makes it so great. Piercing and sharp enough to shake down a brick building, warm enough to warp your record collection.. (if you leave it too close to the speakers)
  6. Isis – Wavering Radiant (Ipecac) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I’m definitely not a fan of “cookie monster” vocals. I’m normally put off by it, but Isis uses them as ‘another tool in the box’ rather than as a foundation of the sound that makes up Isis. In this context it’s not only tolerable, but completely at home and quite essential. I don’t know how to categorize Isis, but if i were pressed, I’d probably end up calling it “odyssey metal”. There are layers and layers, and songs within songs here, and the whole thing feels the soundtrack to a Homerian or Tolkenian epic. (am I being mellow-dramatic?)
  7. Dinosaur Jr. – Farm (Jagjaguwar) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    The ninth full album from Dinasour Jr since they began in the mid-80’s, Farm took me by surprise. I thought “how can these guys keep making great music? aren’t they just milking the whole reunion tour thing?”. But no, despite my lack of expectations it won me over instantly. (I should know better, I suppose). Farm features twelve songs of great guitar work from J. Mascis, and those who followed Lou Barlow to Sebadoh and Folk Implosion will be able to hear his influence throughout the album. I especially enjoy the songs Lou Barlow wrote and sings, such as “Imagination Blind” and “your weather”.
  8. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Self-Titled (Slumberland) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    The Pains of Being Pure At Heart are a noisy and upbeat indie rock band from New York City. This ten song Debut full length album of theirs wants to be played loudly. This stuff brightens your mood and quickens your pulse (its good music to clean your apartment to. You’ll be done in half the time!) A couple of the songs on this album remind me of pre-Lovless My Bloody Valentine. I guess it’s just that same kind of happy distortion that I associate between the two.
  9. Metric – Fantasies (Metric Music Intl.) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Sexy indie-stadium pop from Canada. Here’s another one that dominated my playlist for weeks when I first got it. Fantasies is solid, catchy and high energy album. Any of the first twelve songs could stand on their own in a mix CD for your new girlfriend or boyfriend. <3 wink
  10. It Hugs Back – Inside Your Guitar (4ad) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    This album came out of nowhere for me. I still don’t remember where I first heard it, but who cares?
    It’s all a dose of blissfull dream pop wholesomeness. Soft vocals and warm melodies are plenty. This is one of those albums that I found myself playing back in my head as I wandered through the grocery store or at work. I love it when that happens because it simmers and brews in my head all day and I have something to look forward to as soon as I get my hands on my little electric jukebox.

Short list of best albums not from 2009 that I only just now discovered:

Torche – Meanderthal (from 2008) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Torche is currently a three piece outfit from Miami Florida. Fast and heavy sludge metal, Meanderthal is a solid album from top to bottom and the songs fit together nicely. One notable example is the way “Healer” runs into “Across The Sheilds” (songs 6 and 7). This album charges me up and just flat-out blows my mind. There should be an Interview with lead guitar & vocalist Steve Brooks on The Apparatus quite soon.


Witchcraft – The Alchemist (from 2007) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Black Sabbath-esque doom metal from Sweden. These guys sound like they stepped out of the 70s with their vintage sound. The lyrics are mostly in English, but a bit of Swedish (I assume) too. Great stuff… very listenable.


Band of Horses – Cease to Begin (2007) & Everything All the Time (2006) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
As Neko Case is the Female Vocalist whose voice can pierce through 2 inches of military grade steel, Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell is the Male counterpart. I’m late on the bandwagon, they’ve been pretty well exposed before I ended up hearing them for the first time in a freestyle street bike video:


Very, very short list of albums that I’ve only heard once as of the writing of this list, and therefore didn’t deem it fair to include them (it) on the list despite the fact that it’s awesome:

  1. Them Crooked Vultures – Self-Titled (Columbia) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, and a little bassist known the world over as John Paul Jones. (!) Supergroups often don’t live up to expectations to say the least. However, when I listened to this album at a friend’s house, my skeptical ear did not find one single half-baked or hokey moment throughout. TCV has my attention, and I’m going out to buy it right… nowwww… P.S. you can clearly hear the John Paul Jones signature in the basslines, and that’s awesome.

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2009

Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday Brenda Lee Edition

After four years in retail, I developed Christmas Music Aversion. An overload of festive cheer generally has made me a Scrooge when it comes to the holiday tunes. But a few songs are so good, they break down my resistance. One of those songs is from Little Miss Dynamite, the classic “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee. So I thought it would be a great idea to honor Miss Lee on her birthday, for making this season a little more tolerable. If everyone could grab his or her iPod/MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 tunes that come up, maybe there really could be peace on earth and good will to men, in a new old fashioned way.

  1. Eggstone — The Dog (Somersault): An amazing modern power pop track from this Swedish band. A lot of ’90s power pop showed some influence from Husker Du (loud melodic guitars) and Pixies (dynamics). That’s evident on this song, which mixes chirpy verses with explosive guitar fueled choruses, and then moves on to a whimsical sing-song middle eight, a killer twang guitar solo and then a pretty instrumental coda to bring it to a close. Of course, they never equaled this on either of their albums.
  2. John Lee Hooker — Tease Me (The Legendary Modern Recordings): Boy, my iPod is in love with this John Lee Hooker compilation. I won’t complain about that.
  3. Buck Owens — Nobody’s Fool But Yours (The Buck Owens Collection): This was not a major Buck Owens hit, but it is sure cut from the same cloth. Yep, maybe some of Buck’s honky-tonk songs were forumulaic, but his expressive voice that is sunny on top, wtih heartbreak underneath, and Don Rich’s pithy lead guitar parts and perfect harmony vocals always sound great.
  4. The Wonder Stuff — Unbearable (Eight Legged Groove Machine): In the late ’80s, The Wonder Stuff were an aggressive Brit pop band with an ultra-sarcastic lyrical stance:* “I didn’t like you very much when I met you/and now I like you even less.” Lead singer Miles Hunt could really craft a hook and the band was really tight and this debut album holds up pretty well today.
  5. The Negro Problem — Father Popcorn (Welcome Back): There was a great L.A. pop scene in the mid-‘90s, featuring creative bands like The Wondermints, Cockeyed Ghost and The Negro Problem. This band was led by Stew, who went on to win a Tony Award for his semi-autobiographical musical Passing Strange. Stew’s music encompassed a lot of territory, from classic songwriters like Burt Bacharach and Jimmy Webb, to some of Love’s hippier stuff, with just the right amount of muscle. This song showcases Stew’s expressive voice, which is a bit gruff but more than able to handle his fantastic melodies.
  6. The Shangri-Las — Right Now And Not Later (The Best Of The Shangri-Las): I love the classic ’60s girl group sound and The Shangri-Las were to the girl group sound what The Sonics were to garage rock. With Mary Weiss on lead vocals, they were the baddest girls on the block. This is a proto-feminist song with Weiss demanding that her guy commit to her, and if not, she’s finding someone else.
  7. Yello — Swing (You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess): Unfairly pigeonholed as a novelty act due to the ubiquity of “Oh Yeah” (featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and many other movies, subsequently), Yello started off as a really bizarre synth-rock act on Ralph Records, and graduated to being a quirky synth-pop act on a major label. I’d give 2-1 odds that The Cure’s Robert Smith listened to this song before penning “Love Cats”, as there are some foundational similarities. This is a cool faux-jazz head bopper with a debonair vocal by the always debonair Dieter Meier.
  8. Happy Hate Me Nots — When I Die (The Good Thats…): Dale Gardner introduced me to this smoking Aussie punk band. They put their own twist on the R & B fueled punk sounds of The Saints, developing a distinctive sound. The Happy Hate Me Nots simply explode out of the speakers, the urgency and passion of their music evident with every note.
  9. Uncle Tupelo — Postcard (Still Feel Gone): The evolution of Uncle Tupelo from a rocking band with some rootsy influences into alt-country standard bearers is a great story. But I wish they could have stayed in their rock phase for an album or two longer. This Jay Farrar song does a great job balancing aggressive guitars with quieter country moments. Although the band’s identity morphed a great deal, there was never a point where they weren’t distinctive, and part of that is due to Farrar’s great voice (and that Tweedy fellow wasn’t too bad either, as I recall).
  10. Jethro Tull — Locomotive Breath (Aqualung): I became a Jethro Tull fan when a friend of mine was able to get me some stray promos of some of the band’s older albums. I had no real opinion on Tull one way or another before then, that I recall. Listening to these scattered albums, I was struck by how whatever Ian Anderson did, he was usually working with basic English folk song structures, in a way I found appealing. On Aqualung, these motifs are married to some terrific guitar riffs, while Anderson, when he’s not rocking the flute, rants about the evils of organized religion. This is second tier classic rock staple and Anderson’s anger and disgust is palpable.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: ipod

Jenny Lizak writesJenny Lizak’s Best of 2009

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 Vice President and Legislative Wonder Woman, Jenny Lizak.

  1. St. Vincent – Actor (4ad) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Annie Clark’s saintly voice and beautifully crafted songs have made this onetime backup gal to Sufjan Stevens’ someone to watch this year, and in the future.
  2. Them Crooked Vultures – Self-Titled (Columbia) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Most rock supergroups have a tendency towards train wrecks, but Them Crooked Vultures breaks the mold – probably because Dave Grohl and Josh Homme are themselves still so worshipful of Jean Paul Jones. It’s rare to see a band that seems to be having this much fun together, and that joy brings an all out exuberance to their never-gonna-stop rock. I saw them live, they blew my mind.
  3. Tegan and Sara – Sainthood (Sire Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    The sisters are back with their sixth album, and they continue to be a delight. What’s not delightful is their attempts to write together – a failed New Orleans experiment was totally scrapped, and on this album the pair continues to alternate songwriting duties. Hey, anyone who has tried to work with their sibling knows, Sainthood ain’t easy.
  4. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone (Anti) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    After three years, Neko returns with a solo album that is, I think, her best yet. With a naturalistic (possibly biographical/confessional) theme and chock full of guest appearances by folks like M Ward, Sara Harmer and her bandmates in The New Pornographers, it’s apparent why this album took so long to be birthed, and why it was worth the wait.
  5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz (Interscope) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I loved this album, but I never thought that the Grammy folks would agree with anything I think – to my surprise, It’s Blitz was just nominated for Best Alternative Music Album this month.
  6. Metric – Fantasies (Metric Music Intl.) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    While I’ve stopped fantasizing about moving to Canada and assimilating myself via my love of the Montreal music scene, it’s clear to me now that my love of Canadian indie rock will never go away, perhaps the only pleasant side effect of the Bush years. Metric returns with another album that I can’t stop playing from start to finish – and, they did it on their own album. Oh Canada… swoon!
  7. Swell Season – Strict Joy (Anti) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I’ve been a fan of Glen Hansard from his days with the Frames, so I was worried when Swell Season (and the movie “Once”) became overnight hits last year that his down to earth simply beautiful songs would change. Silly doubter. Not even his romantic breakup with the other half of Swell Season, Marketa Irglova, could affect Glen’s dignified devotional storytelling that often seems more at home in a church than in a rock club. Let’s hope that these two really are still “very good friends” and keep recording and playing together.
  8. Imogen Heap – Ellipse (Megaphonic) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Imogen’s DIY ethics in the writing, producing and recording of her albums are such that when this one was leaked and put on eBay, she and her fans bid over $20 million to prevent its sale. Now that’s a perfectionist. The wait was worth it, as Ellipse delivers with sparkling pop songs perfect for these cold winter days.
  9. Silversun Pickups – Swoon (Dangerbird) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Yep, I thought it was a new Smashing Pumpkins song the first time I heard the Silversun Pickups. But my reluctance to investigate them further was worn down when I remembered, hey, I really liked the Pumpkins. The second chance I gave them was worth it, and I’ve been nothing but pleased.
  10. Scotland Yard Gospel Choir – And The Horse You Rode In On (Bloodshot) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    This album was one of my favorites from the year, as SYGC displays their increased maturity and depth in the new songs, and an overall feeling of the band coming together as one unit finally, after some years of rotating members. This feeling on the album perhaps foretold the response in darkest hour in the band’s life as they were in a serious car accident this fall while touring. All signs are that the band has indeed pulled together to heal, look forward, and count their blessings – let’s hope to see them playing songs from this album soon.

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2009

Andy Weber writesAndy Weber’s Best of 2009

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, Andy Weber.

OK my list consists of my top 10 songs along with a few other honorable mentions…  I chose to do songs for a few reasons.  The main one is that it most closely represents my listening habits. I am not a full album guy anymore.  I lost all of my CD’s in a flood in ’07 and I turned to Rhapsody to take me out of my doldrums.  I actually feel guilty about that but it is the reality of my life.  The problem is now I feel a bit like a music poser!  I feel like the kid who only bought 45’s and not the LP’s back in the day.  But my life is more nuts these days so I end up being the guy with playlist after playlist of new stuff from various artists but I don’t have that much time to dedicate to listening to a full length over and over to fall in love with it like I did in 1990 with the Stone Roses debut.   So with that being said here are my songs…

  1. The Cave Singers “Leap” – Welcome Joy (Matador) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    This is the second album from this Seattle band. They have a driving folk sound with some outstanding blues harp interludes throughout a number of their tracks. I am a lover of songs that build the whole way. Which is very evident to me when I look at this list. This is a song that I would listen to and back it up and listen to it again. In this day and age of music access that is something I rarely do so for that reason alone it sits a top my list.
  2. Elvis Perkins “I Heard A Voice In Dresden” – Elvis Perkins In Dearland (XL) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    How creepy would it be being the son of Anthony Perkins? At what age was he allowed to see Psycho? Talk about scaring! It scared me and Norman Bates was not my dad! Well it did not effect him in his musical development. His voice does have a hauntingly beautiful quality.
  3. Throw Me The Statue “Waving at the Shore” – Creaturesque (Secretly Canadian) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Is it 1991? More Seattle bands on my list. This is off of their second full length release which was released in early August. It has such a poppy feel good hop throughout. There is a definite 80’s influence with the synth breaks. Almost Cure-like. This song is “good mood” waiting to happen.
  4. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart “Come Saturday” – Self-Titled (Slumberland) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I am not looking for controversy but I am with Shawn Campbell and Co. when it comes to TPOBPAH. I am a sucker for a great pop song as well and I think these guys can do one as well as anyone out there.
  5. Rural Alberta Advantage “Four Night Rider” – Hometowns (Saddle Creek) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Weighing in at 1 minute and 54 seconds this Canadian trio really blows out a great little track full of energy on their debut LP.
  6. The Harlem Shakes “Sunlight” – Technicolor Health (Gigantic) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Yet another LP debut brings us this happy tune tune that does a fine job of pairing vocals with melody. These guys also played Rib Fest in North Center this summer. The very same neighborhood that is home to the luxurious new CHIRP Studios.
  7. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson “The Sound” – Summer of Fear (Saddle Creek) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    What a great duo! WAIT! Where is the &? Oh wait that is just one, 4 word, name. But he is from the music hot bed of Brooklyn. WAIT! Brooklyn, Oregon! This 27 year old has some talent. Check him out.
  8. Stellastarr “Graffiti Eyes” – Civilized (Self-Released) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    OK I have a soft spot for outright party rock. To me the energy of this track cannot be avoided. I struggled to put this on my list but it just has a “live music, summer evening, feel good quality” to it that I could not ignore.
  9. The Vaselines “Son of a Gun” – Enter the Vaselines (Sub Pop) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    OK, OK, I know it is not a NEW song. The re-release of The Vaselines – Enter The Vaselines really turned my head this year. I always knew of them as a Kurt Cobain influence and thus I never gave them the time of day. WOW thank you for the re-release. This band should not be ignored and Son Of A Gun really leads the way.
  10. We Were Promised Jetpacks “Keeping Warm” – These Four Walls (Fat Cat) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    This song makes my list as service to my fellow CHIRP DJ’s clocking in at 8 minutes 12 seconds it is a great track to play when you need to run downstairs and open the door for the next shift. Bathroom breaks galore! Enjoy. Also…. Holy cow do these guys sound Scottish!


Honorable Mentions

Matt and Kim “Daylight”
Thank you Bacardi for ruining this song!

Summer Cats “June”
My 4 year old daughter LOVES this song. She loves most female vocalists. Unfortunately Miley Cyrus included. She does not nessasrily understand what I am saying but I keeping telling her “Less Hannah more Neko!”

The Heavy “How You Like Me Now”
This is one of those songs and bands that when I hear it I think to myself “Oh they must be really popular” Not yet.

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2009

Peter Zimmerman writesPete Zimmerman’s Best of 2009

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, Pete Zimmerman.

  1. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone (Anti) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I was on the 22 Clark street bus when another rider asked me to stop singing so loudly.  I was listening to “People Gotta Lotta Nerve“ from this album. I wasn’t embarrassed, but looking back on it, I do wish I wasn’t singing, “I’m a man man man man man maneater.”
  2. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca (Domino) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Seeing them play at Millenium Park was one of the highlights of the summer of my unemployment. A great experience despite having to look at the building I used to go to every day for 13 years.
  3. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glassnote) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    They were everywhere this year and it was well deserved. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them peform “1901” on an upcoming episode of CSI. I’d watch that.
  4. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion (Domino) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    A band that I’ve always wanted to like, but never did until this came out. Both weird and accesible, I look forward to what they do next.
  5. Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career (4ad) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    During my youth I was a Sarah Records completist and this record reminds me of spending hours and hours in record stores searching for the next great 7”. A cherished memory.
  6. Antony and the Johnsons – The Crying Light (Secretly Canadian) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Antony Hegarty has one of the most distinctive voices in music today. It’s fun trying to sing like him. Do it.
  7. Girls – Album (True Panther Sounds) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    In a year with a lot of great debut records, this one stands out.
  8. St. Vincent – Actor (4ad) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Another artist that I saw play at Millenium Park this summer. It was fun watching parents dancing with their children to “Actor out of Work”. My parents took me to see The Osmonds so you can blame them if you don’t like this list.
  9. Avett Brothers – I and Love and You (Columbia/American) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I and Love and You and Too
  10. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Self-Titled (Slumberland) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    See #5 and replace “Sarah” with “Slumberland”.


And 5 others that I also enjoyed, just not quite as much

Flaming Lips – Embryonic (Warner Bros.) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
The record I hoped they would make after Yoshimi. Better late than never.


Japandroids – Post-Nothing (Polyvinyl) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
This is the record that I played the loudest this year.


M. Ward – Hold Time (Merge) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I’ll buy anything that he’s associated with… including Budwesier.


Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz (Interscope) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
uy the deluxe edition for great acoustic versions of some of the best songs on the record.


Matt and Kim – Grand (Fader Label) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Their energy at Pitchfork this summer was infectious. At one point everybody in the audience was smiling.

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2009

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