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CHIRP DJ writesDustin Drase’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 Director of Tech and DJ, Dustin Drase.

  1. Pisces – A Lovely Sight (Numero Group) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    The Numero Group’s musical archaeologists hit pay dirt when they stumbled upon the tracks to an unreleased album recorded in the ‘60s by Rockford, Ill., natives Pisces. Primary songwriters Jim Krein & Paul DiVenti showcase a love of baroque psychedelia and studio trickery, but it’s the addition of tracks featuring the mega-talented and mysterious Linda Bruner (not originally included on the album) that really propel this release into outer headspace. It may be 35-plus years late and completely out of context, but these songs still burn with the best of them
  2. Cave – Psychic Psummer (Important) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    The boys in Cave can make one hell of a propulsive racket. Easily one of my favorite bands in the city of Chicago right now.
  3. Mulatu Astatke & the Heliocentrics – Inspiration Information 3 (Strut) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Here we have the pairing of Ehtio-Jazz legend Mulatu Astatke and Stones Throw house band Heliocentrics teaming up for the 3rd volume of Strut’s Inspiration Information series. Where similar concepts series have failed (I’m looking at you In the Fish Tank), the Inspiration Information series has been able to bring together musicians that don’t just fulfill the “what if we got these guys in a room together” fantasy, but rather they stand on their own as impressive and fun albums to listen to.
  4. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (Warp) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    A lot of people are surprised by this record making my best of list, not because it shouldn’t be here, but because it’s something that is being touted everywhere. I’m usually reticent to jump onto any super hyped band, but this record has returned to my decks more than anything else this year, and it’s just an absolutely perfectly crafted album. Hell, even Jay Z likes em “[Grizzly Bear is] an incredible band. The thing I want to say to everyone— I hope this happens because it will push rap, it will push hip-hop to go even further— what the indie rock movement is doing right now is very inspiring.”
  5. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion (Domino) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I’m not sure how they did it, Animal Collective went from being a band that I had a passing interest in and absolutely bored me at their live show to creating this surprisingly incredible album. The fact that Merriweather was released in January, and people are still freaking out about it at the end of the year is pretty impressive indeed. Well crafted, catchy, and outright fun, this record makes me happy.
  6. Death – …For the Whole World To See (Drag City) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Like the Pisces record, is one of those albums that was created but never actually released. Quick and to the point, this sucker is a rager of an album.
  7. Flaming Lips – Embryonic (Warner Bros.) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    It’s been a while since we’ve had a truly great Flaming Lips record, but this one sorta came out of nowhere, and ranks right up there with the Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi or Zaireeka as one of their most inventive and fun albums. The vibe this time around returns to some experimental drum techniques and overall there’s a slight Krautrock vibe that suits me just fine.
  8. C. Joynes – Revenants, Prodigies and the Restless Dead (Bo’ Weavil) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    This record is just absolutely gorgeous.
  9. Thee Oh Sees – Help (In The Red) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    2009 was a great year for garage rock, and it seems as though every time I went into the record store there was a new release by John Dwyer (Thee Oh Sees). “Help” is actually not the best record by Thee Oh Sees, but it is definitely the cream of this year’s crop of garage revivalism (Ty Segal, Smith & Westerns, No Bunny, etc, etc, etc) and as such deserves a spot on the list for being an exceptionally solid example of the genre.
  10. V/A – Light On The South Side (Numero) Amazon / Insound
    I was hesitant to put two Numero Group release in my list of top ten records, but Light On The South Side is such a monumental achievement that I would be remiss to not give it its due. From a pure packaging standpoint, this behemoth 2xlp plus hard cover book set is a beauty to behold. First we have the two LP’s comprising Pepper’s Jukebox, housed in a gatefold jacket with two inner sleeves printed with label scans and track info. When I first heard these tracks would be blues, I was a bit skeptical, but the seventeen tracks contained herein were compiled based on the actual sort of funky Chicago blues that was being played in these clubs, and let me tell you, they are FUNKY! Then we have the 132-page, 12×12, hardcover book itself, which comprises photographs of Chicago’s South Side night clubs taken by Michael Abramson between the years of 1975-1977. Each photo offers a rarely seen glimpse into the mid to late 70s club scene in Chicago and reveal something new each time you peruse them. Overall it’s an epic achievement, and further proof the stellar integrity and attention to detail put into the releases by the folks from Numero.

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year


Carolyn Kassnoff writesCarolyn Kassnoff’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, Carolyn Kassnoff and compiles her favorite songs from 2009.

  1. Death Cab For Cutie “Little Bribes” – The Open Door EP (Atlantic) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    A very accurate depiction of a visit to a casino.
  2. Neko Case “This Tornado Loves You” – Middle Cyclone (Anti) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Her voice is amazing.
  3. Animal Collective “Summertime Clothes” – Merriweather Post Pavillion (Domino) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Who wouldn’t want to go for a summertime walk after hearing this?
  4. Local Natives “World News” – Gorilla Manor (Infectious) Amazon / Insound
    They sound very energized, especially on their cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecilia.”
  5. Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele “You Can’t Force a Dance Party” – The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulelele (Paw Tracks) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    This is a catchy song, and Dent May sounds great live.
  6. Phoenix “Lisztomania” – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glassnote) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Indie Dance Anthem of 2009 #1.
  7. Passion Pit “The Reeling” – Manners (French Kiss) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Indie Dance Anthem of 2009 #2. (I love them both equally.)
  8. Fanfarlo “Luna” – Reservoir (Atantic) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    How many instruments did they use on this album?! Strings make it passionate.
  9. The Decemberists “The Rake’s Song” – The Hazards of Love (Capitol) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Scary! Colin Meloy & Co. do a phenomenal interpretation of the album live.
  10. Thao with the Get Down Stay Down “Know Better Learn Faster” – Know Better Learn Faster (Kill Rock Stars) Amazon / Insound
    Ever since We Brave Bee Stings and All, I’ve loved both her songwriting & her acoustic guitar-based music.


Favorite album cover of the years
Neko Case – Middle Cyclone (Anti)

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year


Nicole Oppenheim: Ear Candy writesMidwestern Housewife: Ho Ho Ho and a Bottle o’ Brass Monkey

Is anyone else sick to death of the holidays already? I was all set to write a column about how my husband and I celebrate this time of year as an interfaith couple with toddlers, but I had to stop in the middle of the second paragraph. Gag! Who wants to read any more articles about how to make sure each tradition is respected and that the kids are exposed to the best of both religions? Besides, neither my husband nor I are what you’d call observant. We bow down to consumerism—patriotic and otherwise—at the end of the day like everyone else, whether you admit it or not. I want a framed print I saw at a gallery and a dress form for Xmas. As long as they’re under the tree, this is a successful holiday in my estimation. Jesus? I like him very much, but he no help with curveball. And candles are pretty, so we light up the menorah, my husband says some Hebrew words that my kids will one day understand (I’m all about phonetics) and we all have a cup of cheer. Then it’s back to watching TV, reading kids’ books, and building forts in the living room. Yay, interfaith holidays.

In my family, I’m famous for saying that I’d rather be put into a medically-induced coma than have to endure the holidays. Put me under right about now and wake me up on December 31st in time for a kick-ass, child-free NYE bash with all my good friends, bottomless champagne flutes, Nirvana as the house band, and Elvis, The King himself, serving up fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches sprinkled with powdered sugar all night long. (What? This is my fantasy. You don’t like it? Dream up your own!)

The holidays are all about indulging in fantasy and I don’t want to be responsible for making sure others’ wishes are fulfilled. Does that make me lazy? Maybe. I like to think it makes me realistic. Making sure everyone in the family gets to live their more-realistic-than-mine holiday fantasy takes work. Hard work. And the thing about holiday fantasies is that they’re damn near impossible to pull off sans flaws. The planets have to be aligned with your family’s collective chakras and there can be no disturbances in the Force. It’s a LOT of pressure and responsibility, which, frankly, I don’t want to take on. As an at-home mom with volunteer duties, a small business in the works, and parent-teacher conferences to attend, I have enough on my plate already.

I think this is why humans invented Santa Claus—to have someone to blame when the kids get upset that they didn’t get that gold-covered PlayStation they begged for or when your in-laws give you a not-so-subtle hint via a gym membership and/or cooking classes. Santa must’ve stopped at the wrong house! Maybe our neighbors got the stuff we wanted. I think humans invented God for a similar reason—the desire to place blame on someone other than themselves when things don’t turn out as planned—but that’s a topic for a separate article. Like I said, I’m not exactly observant.

Anyway, as I sit here typing and thinking, thinking and typing, I can’t help but wonder whether my kids are picking up on Mommy’s jaded attitude toward Xmas. As far as parenting-style goes, I’m much more like Roseanne than I am June Cleaver, so the kids shouldn’t really be surprised that I tend to buck the trends espoused in popular parenting magazines and mawkish talk shows. That said, I don’t want them to have the same hang-ups that I do. If they like this season, I want them to enjoy themselves. And I will willingly don the June Cleaver mask if necessary to make sure they’re happy.

I guess that’s why I dislike this season so strongly. I feel like everyone is being disingenuous just to please others because they feel they have to. But, in a lot of ways, that’s exactly what parenting is and why it’s such a difficult thing to deal with. I’d love to wear the “Nicole” hat, but find that I have to wear the “Mommy” hat all the time—even when kids aren’t involved—because “Mommy” is the one responsible for making sure all of the holiday magic happens. “Nicole” is content to lounge around all day in a Snuggie watching the usual Xmas specials and drinking hot cocoa.

So for those of you who are lucky enough always to have had perfect holiday seasons without a parent going postal, congratulations. Hug your mom and thank her for the effort—then nominate her for beatification. For the rest of us, do the same. Creating holidays out of nothing is one of the things moms do best. Truthfully this statement applies to anyone who is the head of a household. If you were raised by your dad or a grandparent or aunt, etc., give that person a hug, too, and let him or her know how much you appreciate their efforts. Better yet, offer to help them out this year and in the future. Making spirits bright is a tough road to hoe. I know the maxim is that whatever doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger, but I don’t think that’s true. The holidays don’t really kill people, it’s the stress and unrealistic expectations that do. And they don’t really leave us any stronger. They make us grumpy, irascible jerks for most of the season.

So, yes, I’m ready for the holidays to be over. I’m also looking forward to NYE. For me, it’s not a celebration to welcome in the new calendar year. It’s a congratulatory party to honor those of us who created the holiday fantasy for everyone else and didn’t lose our minds in the process. In reality my NYE will not feature a live set by Nirvana and sandwiches by Elvis, but it will feature good friends, good music, and good champagne. And, frankly, that’s enough to keep me going through the end of the month. That, and the promise of Santa delivering my heart’s desire on Xmas Eve. I’m not too old to live the dream.

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Categorized: Midwestern Housewife


Dan Morgridge writesDan Morgridge’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 DJ, Dan Morgridge and compiles his favorite songs of the year.

  1. Animal Collective “Brother Sport” – Merriweather Post Pavillion (Domino) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Animal Collective won 2009 like Usain Bolt – so early they could perform a victory lap before the race was even over. And while “My Girls” or “Summertime Clothes” are on the tips of many new fans, I found my single almost immediately – while a finale gets to shoot off all the fireworks, it’s not usually single material. To the bands credit and to everyone else’s boon, they’ve bucked the trend for this exceptional exception. Running along the repetitive, abrasive, and awesome fringes of Animal Collective’s old forest of freak-folk weirdness, Brother Sport gets tribal, huge, and then blooms with one cry into a poppy twin of its’ former self, like the band sent you a birthday cake and jumped right out of it.There’s nothing else like in the album or this year.
  2. Japandroids “Young Hearts Spark Fire” – Post-Nothing (Polyvinyl) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I was shocked when I saw a five-minute running time for this song, which I’d previously brain-labeled as a sparse punk burner. And while the song could have potentially ended about two minutes in (the lyrics are basically just played twice in a row), the song gives itself a big bridge to ramp itself up with again, and takes off. This could have all been repetitive and grating, but the feedback fuzz, earnest yelps, and heart-on-sleeve lyrics (“Well you can keep tomorrow after tonight we’re not gonna need it…/Background, we’re too drunk to feel it”) catches your ear, plants itself, and waits for your next moment of triumph to blast back to memory as your victory soundtrack.
  3. Micachu and the Shapes “Golden Phone” – Jewellery (Rough Trade) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    While a list boils down to a lot of factors, moods, styles, and other influences, I feel safe saying that Golden Phone is the song I most want to tell someone about at a party, shove headphones in their ears, and then stand there with a stupid grin while I watch them (hopefully) love it. A big hit at CMJ, young brit Mica Levi is a 21 year old who pours out awkwardness in all of her photos. To all of our benefit, her and her band are endlessly more confident in the strange musical world they’ve built – the crowded, cacophonous, and frantic nature of “Golden Phone” does nothing to interrupt it’s pure charm.
  4. Phoenix “1901” – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glassnote) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Phoenix has been putting out bedrock-solid pop for years now, and if you always thought they’d be there for a few good spins, you’d be right. But few expected the Parisian duo to come out with an effort like Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – if they’d been your shy sidekick before, on this album – and 1901 in particular – they took off their glasses, did their hair, and asked you to prom. While the trajectory of the band has probably gotten more experimental than poppier (the inverse of say, Animal Collective’s recent acceptance into the indie-rock elite), it’s only been a small dapple. But it was enough to push a perennial pleaser into a true head-turner.
  5. Big Boi “Shine Blockas” – Sir Luscious Left Foot… Son of Chico Dusty iTunes
    (Note: Sir Luscious Left Foot was supposed to be released this year. It was not. This song has been leaked. So it goes.) The comparisions and contrasts of Andre 3000 vs. Big Boi were inevitable when they made Speakerboxxx/The Love Below – it was basically asking a nation of music nerds to pick their favorite parent. And while the duo claims that Mommy and Daddy still love each other, Big Boi still has to take care of some personal business with a different persona. Borrowing the mournful wails of “I Miss You” from Harold and the Blue Notes (which Jay-Z has already done on “This Can’t Be Life”, if you’re the type to beef on those things), Big Boi nevertheless puts his stamp on it – a xylophone hovers above the fray, string swells fire off everywhere, Melvin is chopped and scratched into anything and Gucci Mane growls out a verse that should turn heads. Until Andre wakes up and makes something new, Big Boi just took the lead.
  6. Girls “Lust For Life” – Girls (True Panther Sounds) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    “oh i wish i had a sun tan/i wish i had a pizza and a bottle of wine” is not the heaviest lyric to ever come out of 2009, but the voice singing it can make you argue pretty hard for it. By now the bizarre cult-escaping millionaire benefactor childhood of singer Christopher Owens is fairly well-known, but even without the backstory, the song works: the notable lack of polish, the beyond-simple lyrics, and heartfelt ache sting true for any listener.
  7. Jona Vark “Gypsy and the Cat”
    The unsigned duo of Xavier Bacash and Lionel Towers may not have a label, an album, or even a website outside of their Myspace page – but they have a hell of a song. The most epic Saturday-morning cartoon theme to have been released this year, the song lets the guitar go rhythm and the Casio lead the way – right into an epic, near-falsetto harmonic wail for the chorus. Elements that could be taken as cheesy are forgiven for the soft-focus vocals and epic buildups – keep an eye on this band.
  8. Beirut “The Concubine” – March of the Zapotec (Pompeii) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    A harmonium, a toy piano, the world-weariest twenty-something voice in the world – if you were playing Taboo:Hipster Edition, you could probably guess Beirut pretty quickly. But while Zach Condon and friends don’t re-invent their wheel on this track, they certainly find magic inside – the infantismally simple harmonium line, the plucky toy piano taking lead, Condon all but building a candlelit pub around you with his voice. Apparently based on the tale of Hadrian and Antinous, Beirut finds stark beauty amongst tragedy yet again.
  9. Thao with the Get Down Stay Down “Know Better Learn Faster” – Know Better Learn Faster (Kill Rock Stars) Amazon / Insound
    There are times when you need to describe a song in detail to really sell it to people, and there are times that you tell someone this is what you’ve sung during your past month’s showers, hummed at the last three bus stops, and whistled on the last walk home. This is one of those times.
  10. Major Lazer “Hold The Line” – Guns Don’t Kill People, Lazers Do (Downtown) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Diplo has done a fine job cementing himself as a musical Don – Mad Decent flourishes, he’s kingmaking new artists left and right, and dropping remixes like candy at a parade. But it’s good to hear the man sit down and make some actual self-inspired work – while many DJs do their best work as a response, Diplo is unfairly forgotten for the work he did on 2004’s Florida. Since collaborating with fidget house innovator Switch, Diplo has been playing the Mark Frost to his David Lynchian oddities, and their aural Twin Peaks is a bizzare and amazing sonic ride.

Honorable Mentions:

Moth – Four Tet and Burial
Dominos – The Big Pink
Don’t Haunt This Place – Rural Alberta Advantage
I Want You To Know – Dinosaur Jr.
Generator ^ Second Floor – Freelance Whales

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year


Caitlin Lavin writesCaitlin Lavin’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 DJ, Caitlin Lavin.

  1. Woods – Songs of Shame (Woodsist) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    If I was making some sort of pseudo-indie flick of nihilism and despair, sitting on my couch w/ the phone of the hook in a lobotomized state – “Military Madness” would be the background music.
  2. Thee Oh Sees – Help (In The Red) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    The best description I’ve seen of Thee Oh Sees is “Mamas and the Papas” in a blender. This record is an amazing, rockin’ romp of tunes. Do you remember that scene in High Fidelity where they put on the Beta Band and someone asked who it was? That was my challenge at the Record Fair w/ “Ruby Go Home” …and it worked
  3. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (Warp) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    A popular artist that I didn’t spend to much time with before, I thought they were too sleepy for me. Strive for perfection is apparent in this album, multiple layers, multiple voices – brilliant. “Two Weeks” is my song of the year – it puts a smile on my face every time I hear it. I especially love the “ooh-wee-ooh” doo-wop throw back vocals at the end.
  4. Fresh & Onlys – Self-Titled (Castle Face) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Colleagues of Thee Oh Sees, on John Dwyer’s label Castle Face. Another super fun garage rock album from San Francisco. “Peacock and Wing” makes me incredibly, blissfully happy. I wish someone would say to me “You should really be my fresh and only – You have a smile on my face that I can always see only…” Way to throw the band name in there, guys.
  5. The Fiery Furnaces – I’m Going Away (Thrill Jockey) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Let me preface this review that before I would never consider myself a Fiery Furnaces fan. Their angular-rock-pop never quite got through to me. So I would never imagine that one of their records would be on my end of year list. Just adding a little more fun, a little more melody and I think a bit of easy going made this record for me. After this record, I want to hang out w/ Charmaine Champagne, Johnny Ramero, and all the other characters mentioned in this album.
  6. Dutchess & The Duke – Sunset/Sunrise (Hardly Art) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Sunset/Sunrise is further testament that the 60’s were an amazing time for music. There is an obvious surge in psychedelic and garage rock revival, but the Dutchess & the Duke leans towards the pop balladry of early Rolling Stones and Velvet Underground. Influenced by the time when these bands were known as musicians and not for their reputations. Their lyrics are simple and straightforward, but not lazy. The sound is all too familiar, but still very new.
  7. Bowerbirds – Upper Air (Dead Oceans) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Quickly became one of my favorites of the year. I liked their last record 2008’s “Hymns for a Dark Horse” – and I thought this was a cult-ish folk family group, because it sounds like there were many singers and performers. I was surprised that the group is a trio, but perhaps they still are a folk family group all their own. This album is a little more subdued and pulled back from the last album, but that hesitation is still excellent. Can’t beat the lovely female vocals over accordion, either.
  8. Sonny and the Sunsets – Tomorrow Is All Right (Soft Abuse) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Is there anything that came out of San Francisco this year that wasn’t awesome? This release, featuring the works of Sonny Smith – is a collective featuring other SF mainstays like Kelly Stoltz, Tim and Shayde from Fresh & Onlys, and sometimes John Dwyer adds to the mix. This release is a little more poppy than the other garage-rock driven SF bands, with comical Jonathan Richman-esque lyrics.
  9. Pisces – A Lovely Sight (Numero Group) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    The Summer of Love took place not in the Haight-Ashbury, or in the East Village, but in Rockford, IL. A never before released psych record from 1968 is one unsettling acid trip. Haunting and imaginative, how come this album was looked over?
  10. Death – …For the Whole World To See (Drag City) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Another fantastic record that was looked over during the time that it was recorded, never before released until this year. Three brothers from Detroit, were playing R&B in the early 1970s, but were inspired by proto-punk bands of the area – the Stooges and MC5. Together they created seven songs that were just as jam kickin’ as their peers. Apparently, they were rejected by the labels because of their name – but let’s be fortunate that the world is not nearly as narrow-minded now a day, so we can all finally “see” this record.

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year


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