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Entries on the topic of “Best Of 2009” 22 results

CHIRP DJ writesCHIRP Radio’s Best of 2009

Throughout the month of December we’ve been posting Best of lists from CHIRP’s volunteers, board members and DJs. Now that the month is over, as is the year, we’ve compiled all of those lists into one, did some maths and ended up with the Top 30 releases of 2009 as determined by CHIRP as a whole. Here’s to more great music in 2010, and to bringing it to you via CHIRPradio, launching Jan. 17th, 2010.

If you missed any of the lists, or just want to see them all again, you can get a full list here.

#1 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.” —Dustin Drase

#2 Neko Case – Middle Cyclone (Anti)

Amazon / Insound / iTunes
“Great vocals, great lyrics, great songs. She just hits the ball out of the park with this album. The singing is so emotive, and the melodies so evocative.” —Tony Breed

#3 Phoenix – 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.” —Dan Morgridge

#4 Pisces – A Lovely Sight (Numero Group)

Amazon / Insound / iTunes
“This is not a reissue, it’s a discovery of unheard 1969 material that was lost and buried in a fascinating story about a perfectionist rock group from Rockford, Illinois, who couldn’t catch a break. Besides earning Pisces a page in Steve Krakow’s Secret History of Chicago Music series, this album (compiled by the Numero crew) is an enjoyable listen start to finish and is essential for any fan of Rockadrome-esque swirly psychedelic fuzz. This album was built like a cathedral; it almost seems appropriate that it took over thirty years to finally see a proper release. Not only is this undisputedly my pick for best album of 2009, I think it will shine for years to come as a truly remarkable achievement both sonically and historically.” — DJ Bylamplight

#5 The Flaming Lips – Embryonic (Warner Bros.)

Amazon / Insound / iTunes
“If not the best record of the year, it was easily the most welcome. After the Technicolor dazzle of The Soft Bulletin and the serene trippiness of Yoshimi, the Lips lost me with 2005’s At War with the Mystics; it was fun, but I worried that the band had given themselves over entirely to cartoonish spectacle and Santa costumes at the cost of the songs. But here we have some spectacular new blood: not quite a return to form, or even a retreat to the olden days. Just a generous burst of the gloriously unpredictable weirdness that we’ve come to expect from Wayne Coyne & co., and it’s their best in 10 years.” —Billy Kalb

#6 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.” —Jenny Lizak

#7 The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (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.” —Shawn Campbell

#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.” —Pete Zimmerman

#9 Andrew Bird – Noble Beast (Fat Possum)

Amazon / Insound / iTunes
“My brother claims he hates Andrew Bird because he feels like he needs a dictionary on hand in order to listen to his albums, but that’s precisely why I love Andrew Bird! That and I’m super envious of his whistlin’ skills.” —Erin Van Ness

#10 Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca (Domino)

Amazon / Insound / iTunes
''‘Cannibal Resource’ was my summer jam, especially that part in the opening guitar riff where the Moogerfooger effect takes over. “BITTE ORCA / ORCA BITTE” was my scream-along lyric of 2009. it was a weird year. pop at its most disjointed and unhinged. lovely.” —Austin Harvey

#11 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.” —Caitlin Lavin

#12 The Antlers – Hospice (French Kiss)

Amazon / Insound / iTunes
“It took me a long time to get into this album because I was being impatient and trying to listen to it on the commute to work, and you just can’t listen to this album in that environment. It’s too quiet and soft. Once I finally gave it a fair listen with a cup of coffee in hand in a moment of peace, it became magical to me.” —Erin Van Ness

#13 Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career (4AD)

Amazon / Insound / iTunes
“This 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.” —David Staples

#14 Madness – The Liberty of Norton Fulgate (Yep Roc)

Amazon / Insound / iTunes
“After bursting onto the scene as a frenetic ska band, Madness put its own stamp on British observational pop, providing a more urban and urbane (but less poetic) variation on the pastoral English paeans of Ray Davies and The Kinks. Years after their heyday, it’s amazing that these elder statesmen have as much to say as they do. The album loosely revolves around the concept of snapshots of London, which suitably inspired the band to whip up a number of songs that rank with their beloved singles from the ‘80s. It is all topped off by the 10 minute title cut, a genre hopping historical journey through a diverse London neighborhood that celebrates immigration as making a great city all the stronger. This great band finally pulls off the great album that was always in them.” —Mike Bennett

#15 Thee Oh Sees – Help (In The Red)

Amazon / Insound / iTunes
“Thee Oh Sees have been a busy band. A couple of albums this year, a half dozen singles, and they have all been consistently good. This is a fine album all the way around. They are a garage band writing pop songs with a hint of psych thrown in and some great male and female vocals. They rip through a dozen songs and by the time you are done you are ready to start the album over again.” —Patrick Seymour

#16 The Noisettes – Wild Young Hearts (Mercury)

Amazon / Insound / iTunes
“I am a sucker for an album that moves through a variety of styles, and here the Noisettes are, pushing all of my buttons. Well‚ it’s more like an overview of Motown, with all the requisit hooks, but a dash of rock thrown in. Downsides: the album is a bit overproduced, particularly for a band known as one of the rowdiest live acts in London. And their disco-inflected hit, Don’t Upset the Rhythm (Go Baby Go), is a bit too slick, repetitive, and under-written for my taste (but I still groove to it every time it’s on, and never get the urge to skip to the next track).” —Tony Breed

#17 Fanfaro – Reservoir (Atantic)

Amazon / Insound / iTunes
“How many instruments did they use on this album?! Strings make it passionate.” —Carolyn Kassnoff

#18 The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love (Capitol)

Amazon / Insound / iTunes
“You know what I love about the Decemberists? As they’ve gotten more popular, and switched to a major label (minor-major, perhaps), they’ve just gotten weirder. the Hazards of Love is not just a concept album, it’s an actual story told in song, like any one of the story-songs from Picaresque elongated into a full album. And it’s brilliant. It’s suffused with prog-rock goodness, and features guest vocals by Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond and Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond. The one flaw? With Colin Meloy singing two roles and narrating, it’s a little hard to follow. Two more guest vocalists would have been welcome. (Ooh! Ooh! The Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt as The Rake; would that not have been great?)” —Tony Breed

#19 M. Ward – Hold Time (Merge)

Amazon / Insound / iTunes
“He pleases me.” —Laurie Viets

#20 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.” —Jenny Lizak

#21 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.” —Shawn Campbell

#22  The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You (Columbia/American)

Amazon / Insound / iTunes
“Their Rick Rubin produced, major label debut may be a lot smoother and more polished than their previous efforts, but maybe the brothers are just growing up. It’s sing-songy and catchy so I don’t mind.” —Erin Van Ness … “I and Love and You and Too” —Pete Zimmerman

#23 Elvis Perkins – 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.” —Andy Weber

#24 Japandroids – 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.” —Dan Morgridge (Re: “Young Hearts Spark Fire”)

#25 Mi Ami – Watersports (Quarterstick)

Amazon / Insound / iTunes
“After a couple excellent EPs these ex-Black Eyes members put out their full length debut. It is a strange mix of forward thinking punk, Afro beat, free jazz and dub. While that makes it seem like they are throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks, it actually works well blending everything together creating a very unique sounding album, strong debut.” —Patrick Seymour

#26 Micachu and the Shapes – Jewellery (Rough Trade)

Amazon / Insound / iTunes
“Just when you thought that the latest crop of post-punk revivalists had squeezed the last drop out of the sounds of the Ghosts of ‘78-‘82 Indie Past, along comes 21 year old Mica Levi to show that there are always new ways to cobble together dissonance and melody. Bits of the early Cure, The Fall, Orange Juice, Wire and others all collide and ping-pong about, while Mica is at turns wistful, cheeky and wise. Adding to the excitement is Mica’s distinctive oddball guitar playing.” —Mike Bennett

#27 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.” —Caitlin Lavin

#28 The Cave Singers – 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.” —Andy Weber

#29 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.” —Mike Gibson

#30 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.” —David Staples

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Topics: best of 2009

Mike Scales writesMike Scales’ 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, Mike Scales.

  1. Baroness – Blue Record (Relapse) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    First in a trilogy of Georgian metal acts on this list, Baroness breathed energetic new life into their signature roar and dizzying riffage on this year’s Blue Record. Fine-tuned, dynamic arrangements and soulful acoustic passages make for an instantly classic and cohesive feel to the work as a whole. I’m beginning to expect nothing but the best from this band.
  2. Blakroc – s/t (V2) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Blues-based, ass shakin’ beats courtesy of the Black Keys with off-the-cuff rap performances by the likes of Wu-Tang’s Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Raekwon & RZA, Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch, Ludacris, Q-Tip, etc. What more could you ask for?
  3. Eyedea & Abilities – By The Throat (Rhymesayers) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    This record from the veteran Rhymesayers Entertainment emcee/DJ duo took me a couple listens to get into. But once the noisy, distorted rock guitars and half-sung songs sunk in, I was hooked. By the Throat is a grand testament to the power of innovative indie hip-hop; can’t wait to hear what these guys do next.
  4. Kylesa – Static Tensions (Prosthetic) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Georgian sludge maidens Kylesa have really come into their own with Static Tensions; their signature co-ed vocals and dual-drummer attack more melodically and structurally sound than ever. And, truth be told, I just can’t get enough of sultry guitarist/vocalist Laura Pleasants. She simply rules.
  5. Mariachi El Bronx – s/t (Swami) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    L.A.’s punk rock scorchers the Bronx strip-down and suit-up for their new project: a traditional, full-blown, honest-a-god Mariachi band! Cowbells, mandolins, horns and all! It is simply awesome! Do yourself a solid and also download their version of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U.” It’s a shame it wasn’t included on the album, might just leave you speechless.
  6. Mastodon – Crack the Skye (Reprise) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    One of the biggest buzz bands of the metal community and beyond this year, Mastodon has proven themselves truly epic and progressive better than any of their prior output. A record inspired by personal tragedy, out-of-body travel through space and time and good ol’ Rasputin, Crack the Skye can and will be studied on many levels by heavy music aficionados for a long time to come.
  7. Mayer Hawthorne – A Strange Arrangement (Stones Throw) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    True old-timey soul revival in its purest form. Well, as pure and true as a 30-year old white dude from Ann Arbor, MI, can get at least. Hawthorne wrote, arranged, produced and played most of the instruments on this heck-of-an album for the Stones Throw label. Listen to “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” now!
  8. Priestess – Prior to the Fire (TeePee) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I simply cannot say enough about Montreal’s hard rock/metal masters Priestess! The band churns out tunes with the kind of wide-open, barnstorming rock riffs and old school metal swagger that will instantly have you singing along and banging your head in delight. Prior to the Fire may just be near-perfect record #2 for these guys.
  9. Serengeti & Polyphonic – Terradactyl (Anticon) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    With his genre-defying funny/strange flows, one of the most unique and prolific unsung heroes of Chicago hip-hop, Serengeti, is an emcee in a world of his own. And yet somehow dude found and equally eccentric producer in Polyphonic to perfectly compliment his style. Their second full-length together, Terradactyl, is also some of the best left-field hip-hop to come out of the Anticon label in years.
  10. Slayer – World Painted Blood (American) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    What can I say? I have to give love in 2009 to thrash titans/Hot Topic whores Slayer for proving once and for all that reuniting with original drummer Dave Lombardo and putting out a beast as badass as 2006’s Christ Illusion was no mere fluke. The righteous riffage of World Painted Blood is as uncompromising as any of Slayer’s last 20 years of work and, lyrically, these old ass dudes are still as pissed off as ever. Hail.
 

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Topics: best of 2009

Austin B. Harvey presents: The Liquid Diet writesAustin Harvey’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, Austin Harvey.

  1. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glassnote) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    A classic example of an album that seems to touch all the bases without trying too hard. Phoenix manage to marry catchy choruses with an inherent dancefloor sensibility, tying the whole thing together with an unmistakably French cool.
  2. Fanfarlo – Reservoir (Atantic) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Picture this: Arcade Fire fronted by a Swedish David Byrne, in London, without electric guitars. Sounds like a noble experiment if anything else, right? Kitchen sink instrumentation and irresistible melodies all come effortlessly on an album that can’t possibly be a debut.
  3. The Antlers – Hospice (French Kiss) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    If 2009 was a complete bummer of a year for you (as it was for me), then maybe a heartbreaking album detailing the protagonist’s struggle – watching a lover die in a cancer ward – brought a little bit of release into our seemingly bleak existence. At once hauntingly intimate and stunningly epic.
  4. Pisces – A Lovely Sight (Numero Group) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    A frequent member of my cohorts’ top 10 lsits, this rediscovered local nugget from the 1960’s serves as a fitting companion to the rest of the decade’s lost gems. Come for the psychedelic freakouts, but stay for “Are You Changing In Your Time”, and “A Flower For All Seasons”, two of the finest ballads from any decade.
  5. Montee – Isle of Now (Strømland) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Combining the danceable bliss of Duran Duran’s Rio with the polyrhythms and musical deftness of Talking Heads’ Remain In Light. This might be the best new wave album made in 25 years, and it’s from a bunch of harmonizing Norwegians who care little for anachronism. Self-assured, yet precocious.
  6. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca (Domino) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    “Cannibal Resource” was my summer jam, especially that part in the opening guitar riff where the Moogerfooger effect takes over. “BITTE ORCA / ORCA BITTE” was my scream-along lyric of 2009. it was a weird year. pop at its most disjointed and unhinged. lovely.
  7. A Sunny Day In Glasgow – Ashes Grammar (Mis Ojos Discos) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    A shoegaze album worth getting excited about? From Philly? Yes. They do it with dream-pop interludes between the longer tracks, and heaps of sonic depth. An added bonus: this album also knows how to dance, check out “Close Chorus”.
  8. Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue (Warp) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Wikipedia’s genre classifications for this album are “Ambient music” and “Jangle Pop”. You could throw in “Alternative Hip-Hop” and “Folk” into the recipe for this incredibly singular and exciting album from Stephen Wilkinson. The VGM-inspired “Sugarette” jumps to the gorgeous folk of “Lovers’ Carvings” without a chance to catch your breath.
  9. Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career (4ad) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Tracyanne Campbell sounds more assured with each record, and with good reason. Her band is peaking on this collection of chamber pop tunes with plenty of blue-eyed soul influence, perhaps even a bit of country. The upbeat songs, though, steal the show with a time-honored mix of heartbroken lyrics and euphoric instrumentation.
  10. The Big Pink – A Brief History of Love (4ad) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Though I’m not the biggest fan of Robbie Furze’s vocal style, I can’t argue with the gigantic hooks on this album. They don’t sound much like The Band, but I hear Screamadelica-era Primal Scream fed through electroclash’s brattiness, or a more hard-rocking version of Cut Copy. Whatever the description, the results are lush and highly rewarding.
 

Reissue of the Year:
The Vaselines – Enter the Vaselines (Sub Pop) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I will admit that I missed the boat on these guys when I was first getting into Nirvana back in middle school. I’ll turn in my indie-rock cool-kid card and write “‘Son Of A Gun’ might be the best song ever written” 50 times on the chalkboard. This is truly ahead of its time, indie pop clatter that’s at once catchy, messy, and irreverent. Perfect.

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Topics: best of 2009

Tony Breed writesTony Breed’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 March Director and DJ, Tony Breed.

They say the album is dead; people are just interested in singles. I say the album will never die. Sure, most CDs these days are just collections of songs written at the same time — not really “albums” at all — so why not just buy the good songs and leave behind the filler? (This is not news; it’s been the case for decades, but it’s only been recently that you can buy any single songs that interests you.)

But there are still people making real albums: collections of songs around a central theme; songs that proceed in order and sound better as a whole than as individuals; or sometimes albums that tell stories, like an opera or a ballet. No less than four of my top ten albums of the 2009 are true albums: The Decemberists, The Flaming Lips, Madness, and Sufjan Stevens. And the rest? Well they are good too.

  1. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love (Capitol) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    You know what I love about the Decemberists? As they’ve gotten more popular, and switched to a major label (minor-major, perhaps), they’ve just gotten weirder. the Hazards of Love is not just a concept album, it’s an actual story told in song, like any one of the story-songs from Picaresque elongated into a full album. And it’s brilliant. It’s suffused with prog-rock goodness, and features guest vocals by Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond and Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond. The one flaw? With Colin Meloy singing two roles and narrating, it’s a little hard to follow. Two more guest vocalists would have been welcome. (Ooh! Ooh! The Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt as The Rake; would that not have been great?)
  2. Flaming Lips – Embryonic (Warner Bros.) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Another album with a dash of prog rock and a good dose of weird. I discovered The Flaming Lips with 2002’s excellent Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, where the sweet, odd and tuneful title track is followed by a wild instrumental breakdown featuring screaming. Embryonic is like that track: it grabs you by the collar, throws you to the ground, demands your attention.
  3. Pomplamoose – Pomplamoose Videosongs (Self-Released) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    And now for something completely different: a fantastically adorable duo who make videos for all their songs and post them to their YouTube page. Perhaps you, like me, saw their amusing cover of Beyoncé‘s Single Ladies when that was being forwarded around. Perhaps you didn’t then go to their video home page and listen to some other songs. If you had, you probably would have fallen in love and bought their album, as I did. Singer Nataly Dawn has a gorgeous voice, and Jack Conte’s instruments and production create perfect confections. Promise me you will check them out.
  4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz (Interscope) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Take note: if you are a band and you want to change styles for an album, this is how it’s done. It’s Blitz’s electro dance sound is reminiscent of Ladytron and CSS, as well as a good chunk of 1983. It certainly helps to have Karen O, who has great presence, vocally (see her collaborations with Har Mar Superstar and The Flaming Lips, and her work on the I’m Not There soundtrack).
  5. The Noisettes – Wild Young Hearts (Mercury) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I am a sucker for an album that moves through a variety of styles, and here the Noisettes are, pushing all of my buttons. Well‚ it’s more like an overview of Motown, with all the requisit hooks, but a dash of rock thrown in. Downsides: the album is a bit overproduced, particularly for a band known as one of the rowdiest live acts in London. And their disco-inflected hit, Don’t Upset the Rhythm (Go Baby Go), is a bit too slick, repetitive, and under-written for my taste (but I still groove to it every time it’s on, and never get the urge to skip to the next track).
  6. Madness – The Liberty of Norton Fulgate (Yep Roc) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    My goodness, is Madness back? And could this be any good? YES. Peppy, cheerful ska, great stuff from start to finish, never repetitive‚ and capped off with an epic 10-minute track incorporating elements of South Asian music, in honor of the Punjabi population now living around Norton Folgate in London.
  7. Sonic Youth – The Eternal (Matador) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    For me, Sonic Youth had always been a band that can cross the line with their dissonance and noise, into something I just don’t want to hear (e.g. the second last few tracks of Goo). The Eternal sees them instead riding that line, never crossing it, always staying close to the edge. It is a whole album that is like their best stuff. It is Sonic Youth sounding like Sonic Youth in the best possible way.
  8. St. Vincent – Actor (4ad) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Oh Annie Clark you are an odd one, with your dark vignettes, sweet vocals, and angular notes. I dub you the inheritor of the Kate Bush/Tori Amos weird-lady singer-songwriter mantle. Keep it up. I look forward to your whole career. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
  9. Sufjan Stevens – The BQE (Asthmatic Kitty) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Yeah, I know, sometimes you just want to smack him. Ambitious, grand projects that get attention: Sufjan Stevens is an artist who knows how to get himself noticed. But at the same time, he’s good. He delivers. If only every artist who was this talented set themselves on projects of this magnitude. What this is, basically, is Stevens trying to make classical music. It’s like Sketches of Spain for 2009 (in fact, it has some real echoes of that great 1960 Miles Davis album), except instead of being about beautiful Spain, it’s about the BQE, the most unloved and unlovely highway in the five boroughs of New York. It features Stevens’ signature arpeggios and flute trills, as well as a funky electronica breakdown in the middle. It also comes with a DVD video (the album being really a soundtrack to the video) featuring a trio of hula-hoopers that I confess I have not yet watched. (Yes, hula-hoopers. You do kind of want to smack him, don’t you?)
  10. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone (Anti) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Great vocals, great lyrics, great songs. She just hits the ball out of the park with this album. The singing is so emotive, and the melodies so evocative.
 

Honorable Mention:
John Vanderslice / Romanian Names
It’s always to hard to whittle my list down to 10. Romanian Names is great for all the same reasons the Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone is great (though the vocal styles are very different). I say, go get both of them.

Song of the year:
“Swing” by Zero 7
You know that song you hear on the radio, stop what you’re doing, and just listen? This year it’s “Swing”, by Zero 7, featuring vocals by Jackie Daniels. There are a number of other good songs on the album, though it didn’t really cohere as an album for me. But this song, this one track… I could listen again and again.

Guest of the year:
Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond as the queen on Hazards of Love is so, so good. Note to self: check out My Brightest Diamond. That’s gotta be good stuff.

Belated 2008 album of note:
Grace Jones / Hurricane
Not released in the US, Hurricane (Jone’s first album released in 19 years) didn’t get any attention here at all. By the time I even found out it existed, 2008 was almost over. Comeback albums can be hit-or-miss, and I didn’t muster the enthusiasm to get myself a copy until a few weeks ago. This album is a hit; great stuff, start to finish — everything I would want it to be, and absolutely worthy of your attention.

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Topics: best of 2009

Billy Kalb writesBilly Kalb’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 Music Director, Billy Kalb.

Woe be to the radio DJ who has to take a sabbatical from radio; my exposure to new music was strictly regulated by my wallet this year. So, if not the best, here’s a list of my favorites.

  1. Flaming Lips – Embryonic (Warner Bros.) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    If not the best record of the year, it was easily the most welcome. After the Technicolor dazzle of The Soft Bulletin and the serene trippiness of Yoshimi, the Lips lost me with 2005’s At War with the Mystics; it was fun, but I worried that the band had given themselves over entirely to cartoonish spectacle and Santa costumes at the cost of the songs. But here we have some spectacular new blood: not quite a return to form, or even a retreat to the olden days. Just a generous burst of the gloriously unpredictable weirdness that we’ve come to expect from Wayne Coyne & co., and it’s their best in 10 years.
  2. Fever Ray – Fever Ray (Rabid) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    The first eight words will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end: “This won’t ever end ‘cause I want more.” Fever Ray’s Karin Dreijer-Andersson is a vampire, a demon, a soulless thing out to drain your life. This much is clear from opener “If I Had a Heart”, where she pitch-shifts and twists her voice until it barely registers as human. As an album, however, Fever Ray ultimately proves the contrary — Dreijer-Andersson is a human with a heart, and her songs here demonstrate an aching vulnerability rarely seen in her work as one-half of The Knife.
  3. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion (Domino) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Damn but I’m glad for Person Pitch. Panda Bear returned to his main gig after his wildly successful 2007 solo adventure with a new sense of purpose. Animal Collective always struck me as a brilliant band tripped up by its own experimental overindulgences, but the focused, well-rounded MPP changed the game: an AC record that your mom could enjoy, yet compromising nothing in the way of derring-do. It felt right on time for 2009.
  4. Sunset Rubdown – Dragonslayer (Jagjaguwar) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    How epic is that? Spencer Krug dials back the strangeness from the indie-prog Renaissance Faire bramblebush that was 2007’s Random Spirit Lover and delivers a record called Dragonslayer? Krug – by far the weirder of the two main dudes in Wolf Parade – has never played it safe, but this is as inviting as his Sunset Rubdown project has ever been. Part of that seems to be due to his having figured out how to make use of the whole band — in particular self-described “Jane-of-all-trades” Camilla Wynne Ingr, who has more vocal duties than ever before — but mostly it’s because the album just kicks effing ass. And wasn’t it always the D&D kids who most wanted to be rock stars?
  5. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast (Fat Possum) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Andrew Bird had the poor luck of releasing his latest on the same day as Animal Collective released theirs, quickly getting lost in the shadow of Merriweather Post Pavilion hype. That’s often the case with Bird, who builds sturdy, well-liked but unflashy albums of elegant indie rock time and again only to be buried in end-of-year lists. For his sake, Noble Beast makes my top 5. Bird continues to find new ways to surprise and engage with little more than a guitar, a violin and some masterfully arranged whistles. Well done, sir. Well done.
  6. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca (Domino) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I’ll readily admit that I don’t think it’s their best work, but no one – not even Animal Collective – was less likely to make a major splash this year, and yet this summer found David Longstreth and his band playing Millennium Park. WTF? This is the closest the Projectors have ever come to an equal balance of challenge and familiarity, a sort of outsized avant-pop for the decade to come. Don’t believe me? Just listen to Solange Knowles’ cover of “Stillness is the Move” – that’s Beyonce’s sister, you know.
  7. El Michels Affair – Enter the 37th Chamber (Fatbeats) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Hypothetically, this shouldn’t have worked. I mean, the RZA’s Wu-Tang productions are already bulletproof. How could you change them without ruining everything? But somehow, taking them back in time by 35 years and reimagining them as a run of killer jazz/funk/soul jams still hit all the right notes. The El Michaels Affair – a loose collective of session players – turns what could have been a lukewarm covers record into a genuinely faithful yet original tribute to the 36 Chambers.
  8. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (Warp) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Arcade Fire, where have you gone? By 2009, the official playbook of indie rock had evolved into a sound so sleek and tuneful that Michael McDonald was taking note: “The punk movement swung towards being as primitive as possible, but now it’s back to where these guys are good musicians,” he told Paste. That’s not to say it’s dad rock, though. (I’m pretty sure my own dad has zero interest, and I even played him the b-side where McDonald does vocals.) It’s just a renewed appreciation for the kind of pop that flourishes within the chamber setting, and the realization that sometimes your song just needs a children’s choir. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.
  9. Dan Deacon – Bromst (Carpark) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Before Bromst, I was sure that Dan Deacon’s music was a fleeting pleasure. He’s wacky and fun and all that, but where’s the staying power? It’s neat, but is it good enough to be high art? Will it stand the test of time? After Bromst… who cares? Deacon’s an oddball savant making his own brilliant Saturday morning cartoon pop with reckless abandon and enviable aplomb. Months on, Bromst still impresses, and listening to a track like “Snookered,” well – wait, what was that? A passing trace of Brian Eno? Ah, I see. High art, indeed.
  10. The Xx – Self-Titled (Young Turks) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    It’s not a complicated formula: spare, spacey boy/girl post-punk duets. Songs about love. Songs about heartbreak. Songs about VCRs. It’s an album that’s considerably more than the sum of its assembled parts, just a dazzling little surprise from a new band no one had heard of before this year. And these kids are how old? 19? Hell yes, consider me ready for that next album.
 

Best album from 2008 that took me until 2009 to fully appreciate:
The Walkmen – You & Me (Gigantic)
What can I say? It’s a grower.

Best song from 2009 that was so good it totally overshadowed the also-good album it came from:
Bill Callahan – “All Thoughts Are Prey to Some Beast”
Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle was great, but this track somehow made the rest of it look less great.

Album I ended up liking a lot even though logically I shouldn’t have:
God Help The Girl – God Help the Girl (Matador)
My brain: “You know, this is basically indie rock showtunes.”
My heart: “Oh, I’m aware. Your point being?
My stomach: “Shut up, you guys. I want a sandwich.”

2009 reissue on my Christmas list that I’m most looking forward to:
Kraftwerk – The Catalog (Astralwerks/Mute) / Various Artists – Can You Dig It? The Music and Politics of Black Action Films 1968-1975 (Soul Jazz)
It’s a tie. I know, they couldn’t be further apart, but I can’t honestly say which one I’m more excited for.

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Topics: best of 2009

DJ Sherbert - Uneasy Listening writesDavid Schermer’s Best of 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: I’ve been traveling all day for the holiday. Sorry this is going up so late. –M.G.

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 list is a bit of a different appraoch to the “top ten” courtesy of CHIRP volunteer David Schermer.

Best Album by a Supergroup Despite Conor Oberst’s Contribution

Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk (Shangri-La) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
What goes better with Jim James’ voice than Jim James’ voice? Fried Chicken? Maybe. The voices of M. Ward and Conor Oberst? Certainly. They put on a 3 hour + show at the Auditorium Theater. What could beat that? Well, on the following night (Halloween), they performed their encore as KISS in full costume and makeup.

Best Non-Comedy Album by a Comedian

Steve Martin – The Crow: New Songs for the Five String Banjo (Rounder) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
The album of all original bluegrass songs isn’t funny. It’s not funny how good it is either. So what if he hasn’t made a decent movie in like forever. He’s made a great album here. Sure he’s backed by some of bluegrass’s best, but he doesn’t need them. Warning: he doesn’t sing on most of the songs.

Best Song About God

Regina Spektor – “Laughing With” Far (Warner Bros.) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
This would probably win this category even if it didn’t compare God to Jiminy Cricket. However, it’s nice that it did.

Best Song Off M. Ward’s Hold Time (Merge Records)

“Stars of Leo” Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Congratulations “Stars of Leo.” After drawing your name from the hat, you’re the lucky winner. Congratulations hat for containing so many great songs.

Best Song in an Off-Broadway Musical of a B-Movie

“Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore” – The Toxic Avenger Musical Original Cast Recording (Time Life Entertainment) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Pulp was known for their full, sumptuous productions (typified by the work the legendary Scott Walker did on We Love Life), so Steve Albini does not come to mind as the obvious choice to record Mr. Cocker. But the team works to perfection. Cocker’s songs are still a mix of Roxy Music-style glam and classic ‘50s and ‘60s rock, though he adds some more rocking sounds to the repertoire this time around. His band tears into it, and Albini makes it sound, in spots, pretty ferocious. Trading in raw for lush makes the music more sensual and sleazy, especially on the songs where Cocker portrays the many different ways a middle aged man can try to get in the pants of a 20-something year old woman.

Best Musical Appearance on Late Show with David Letterman

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – “Home” Up From Below (Vagrant) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I’d never posted a video to Facebook before this one. Figured I had no choice since these guys are really something you have to see for yourself. Nobody commented on it but I’m sure that’s just because its greatness rendered everyone speechless. Sadly their record doesn’t quite accurately capture their contagious energy and optimism. Even more sadly, their show at Lincoln Hall sold out before I got a ticket.

Video:

Best Bob Dylan Christmas Video

Bob Dylan – “Must Be Santa” – Bob Dylan – Christmas in the Heart (Sony) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Watch it. It’s even funnier and more fun than most of the bad reviews this album has received. I love it. Then again, I’m Jewish. But about as Jewish as Bob Dylan.

Video:

Best Musical Discovery I Should Have Made Over 25 Years Ago

Love – “The Red Telephone” Forever Changes (Elektra/Wea) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I know. I know. But I didn’t know. I didn’t know. Thanks to East Village Radio on the internet I now know about the great Arthur Lee and his psychedelic masterpiece. If anyone out there wants to see rainbows without having to attend a gay pride parade or drop acid, listen to this album.

Best Album By an Artist Whom I Can’t Believe Died This Year

Michael Jackson – Thriller (Sony) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Maybe his best musical days were already behind him. Still it’s really sad he’s gone. Mama-se, mama-sa, ma-ma-coo-sa.

Best Album Discovery From Reading a Best of 2009 List

St. Vincent – Actor (4ad) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I always thought that was Miranda July on the album cover. And I like Miranda July, so I don’t know why I never bothered to pick up this album but thanks to everyone for naming it to their ten best and forcing me to pay attention. I myself am laughing with a mouth full of blood after punching myself for not having given it a listen sooner. Laughing of course because of the way I punch.

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Mike Bennett writesMike Bennett’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 Board Member and DJ, Michael Bennett.

  1. Madness – The Liberty of Norton Fulgate (Yep Roc) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    After bursting onto the scene as a frenetic ska band, Madness put its own stamp on British observational pop, providing a more urban and urbane (but less poetic) variation on the pastoral English paeans of Ray Davies and The Kinks. Years after their heyday, it’s amazing that these elder statesmen have as much to say as they do. The album loosely revolves around the concept of snapshots of London, which suitably inspired the band to whip up a number of songs that rank with their beloved singles from the ‘80s. It is all topped off by the 10 minute title cut, a genre hopping historical journey through a diverse London neighborhood that celebrates immigration as making a great city all the stronger. This great band finally pulls off the great album that was always in them.
  2. A.C. Newman – Get Guilty (Matador) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I like this more than the last two New Pornographers records. This may be due in part to the fact that I find Dan Bejar’s New Porno contributions to be inconsistent, but I think it’s more because this just happens to be a particularly strong batch of songs from our pal Carl. This album isn’t as intimate as Newman’s debut solo LP, The Slow Wonder. It’s much more in line with the NP’s, with a lot of top flight talent helping out, from Nicole Atkins on backing vocals to MVP Jon Wurster bashing the skins. Newman’s oddball constructions are especially seamless as the arrangements are skillfully put together, and the hooks unfold more and more with each spin.
  3. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone (Anti) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    It’s hard to believe that when she debuted with The Virginian, Neko was a promising alt-country honky tonk singer. Ever since that first album, she has refined a unique sound that touches on country, folk, gospel and rock, with floating and pastoral atmospherics that her powerful voice soars through. On her latest, she simply refines her approach even more, mixing direct songs (“People Got a Lotta Nerve”) with ruminations on the elements (“This Tornado Loves You” and her splendid cover of Sparks’ “Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth”). She’s never less than compelling, and, at times, breathtaking.
  4. The Noisettes – Wild Young Hearts (Mercury) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Some fans of the much rawer debut by this British trio have cried foul at this foray into pure pop music. I think the trade off is worth it, as Shingai Shoniwa takes a back seat to no one, not even Amy Winehouse, when it comes to modern British R & B vocalists. Moreover, she and bandmates Daniel Smith and Jamie Morrison, along with some collaborators, whip up a varied batch of material, from widescreen ballads, to dumb fun dance songs, to retro new wave gems. And Shoniwa sings the hell out of all of them. This sounds like a greatest hits album.
  5. Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications (Rough Trade) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Pulp was known for their full, sumptuous productions (typified by the work the legendary Scott Walker did on We Love Life), so Steve Albini does not come to mind as the obvious choice to record Mr. Cocker. But the team works to perfection. Cocker’s songs are still a mix of Roxy Music-style glam and classic ‘50s and ‘60s rock, though he adds some more rocking sounds to the repertoire this time around. His band tears into it, and Albini makes it sound, in spots, pretty ferocious. Trading in raw for lush makes the music more sensual and sleazy, especially on the songs where Cocker portrays the many different ways a middle aged man can try to get in the pants of a 20-something year old woman.
  6. The Features – Some Kind of Salvation (429) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Early on, this Murfreesboro, TN band sounded like a collision between Pixies and Roxy Music and Sparks circa 1974, with every song a rollercoaster ride relying heavily on dynamics. Now, at the end of the decade, the band still is capable of exploding, but frontman Matt Pelham has a much bigger bag of tricks, dabbling in Russian folk and dixie fried R & B, along with other styles. No matter how you slice it, it all comes up Features, as Pelham’s commanding warble and the band’s tight playing propels everything to the highest heights.
  7. The Duckworth Lewis Method – The Duckworth Lewis Method (Divine Comedy) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Neil (The Divine Comedy) Hannon and Thomas (Pugwash) Walsh both love British pop music. And they both love cricket. Somehow, they manage to take a sport where a match can last up to five days (NOTE: the band’s name comes from a method for scoring such long matches) sound vital and interesting. The lyrics are witty and the music flits about from the pastoral Kinks to music hall whimsy to Gary Glitter-style stomp. This is silly fun.
  8. Richard Hawley – Truelove’s Gutter (Mute) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    The debonair Bard of Sheffield continues to explore emotionally hued pop songs, often set in his hometown. The sound is again grounded in the dramatic swells of predecessors like Scott Walker and Roy Orbison, but at a bit cooler temperature, due in large part to Hawley’s mellow baritone crooning. On this album, many of the songs feature sparse instrumentation, emphasizing the great command of tone in Hawley’s guitar playing. He also pushes forward with a couple of epic length songs that only serve to make the melancholy and nostalgia resonate all the more.
  9. Micachu and the Shapes “Golden Phone” – Jewellery (Rough Trade) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Just when you thought that the latest crop of post-punk revivalists had squeezed the last drop out of the sounds of the Ghosts of ‘78-‘82 Indie Past, along comes 21 year old Mica Levi to show that there are always new ways to cobble together dissonance and melody. Bits of the early Cure, The Fall, Orange Juice, Wire and others all collide and ping-pong about, while Mica is at turns wistful, cheeky and wise. Adding to the excitement is Mica’s distinctive oddball guitar playing.
  10. Reigning Sound – Love and Curses (In The Red) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    The band’s studio follow up to the incendiary Too Much Guitar is a toned down affair. That doesn’t mean mellow, but instead of probing the band’s inner Springsteen (see Time Bomb High School), or conjuring up The Saints (as on Guitar), Greg Cartwright and company commence to lay down top notch R & B infused rock. Mixing in obscure covers with Cartwright’s sturdy originals, this is a timeless rock ‘n’ roll record. Cartwright writes about the usual stories of loves won and lost, singing them with total commitment, making them sound fresh and relevant.
 

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The next 10: Wilco – Wilco (The Album); The King Khan & BBQ Show – Invisible Girl; Flaming Lips – Embryonic; The Shazam – Meteor; Michael Carpenter – Redemption #39; V.V. Brown – Travelling Like The Light; Chris Hickey — Razzmatazz; Florence & The Machine — Lungs; The Resonars – That Evil Drone; Cheer-Accident — Fear Draws Misfortune.

Best reissue: Hank Williams Revealed (Time-Life)

Disappointing reissue: Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (Capitol): A lot of CDs released in 1989 could use improvement in the mastering department, and this hip-hop essential is no exception. But after playing the original and the reissue back-to-back, I could barely discern any difference. It’s not even much louder. And why this album didn’t get the deluxe treatment, when there are b-sides and remixes that could have been appended, is beyond me. The only plus? The component parts of “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” have been separated into individual tracks. Whoopee.

Best Show: Sparks, Royce Hall UCLA, Los Angeles (performing entire Exotic Creatures Of The Deep and Kimono My House albums)

Best shows in Chicago: Three shows stood out for me:

  1. Raphael Saadiq at Park West in March.
  2. Franz Ferdinand, at the Rivera in May.
  3. The Wrens, Schubas, July.

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Erin Van Ness writesErin Van Ness’ 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 Director of Fundraising, Erin Van Ness.

  1. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion (Domino) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Hands down my favorite album of 2009. Weird. Trippy. Delicious. Not to mention I’m a sucker for great vocal harmonies. I always have to listen to this album with headphones on so that I can capture and dig inside each little blip and bleep of sound.
  2. The Antlers – Hospice (French Kiss) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    It took me a long time to get into this album because I was being impatient and trying to listen to it on the commute to work, and you just can’t listen to this album in that environment. It’s too quiet and soft. Once I finally gave it a fair listen with a cup of coffee in hand in a moment of peace, it became magical to me.
  3. Avett Brothers – I and Love and You (Columbia/American) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Their Rick Rubin produced, major label debut may be a lot smoother and more polished than their previous efforts, but maybe the brothers are just growing up. It’s sing-songy and catchy so I don’t mind.
  4. Balmorhea – All Is Wild, All Is Silent (Western Vinyl) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    A pretty instrumental album that I love putting on when just sitting and watching the sites go by on the train. I imagine it as the soundtrack to a lonely travel scene from a movie.
  5. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast (Fat Possum) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    My brother claims he hates Andrew Bird because he feels like he needs a dictionary on hand in order to listen to his albums, but that’s precisely why I love Andrew Bird! That and I’m super envious of his whistlin’ skills.
  6. Bill Callahan – Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle (Drag City) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I can get completely lost in his dark, rich voice. Swoon.
  7. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone (Anti) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Neko Case always seems to put out an album when I’m in the middle of a break-up, so her albums have become like therapy to me. “I want the pharaohs, but there’s only men.” Exactly.
  8. Dutchess & The Duke – Sunset/Sunrise (Hardly Art) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Some of these songs hit me in the gut with their perfect melancholy. It makes me want to get drunk on whiskey and make out with strangers, and I mean that in the best possible way.
  9. Flaming Lips – Embryonic (Warner Bros.) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    This album reminds me of when I was 16 and listened to a ton of Pink Floyd. It has those moments of weirdness blended with moments of sheer beauty that just make your jaw drop in awe.
  10. Elvis Perkins – Elvis Perkins In Dearland (XL) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I love folk and brass and this is the best of both worlds in one place. I read this described as “New Orleans funeral music” somewhere, and if that’s true, then send me to Louisiana right before I die.
 

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Runners Up

Bowerbirds – Upper Air (Dead Oceans) Melodious folk ballads, some with accordion. Bonus.

Mazes – Mazes (Parasol Records) Pop ditties that make me long for summer days and younger years.

Favorite Reissue

Serge Gainsbourg – L’Histoire de Melody Nelson (Light in the Attic) Because I have to put those years of French lessons to use once in awhile.

Favorite Compilation

Dark Was the Night (4ad Records) So many great artists are represented on this compilation, which benefits the Red Hot Organization.

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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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Topics: best of 2009

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.
 

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

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Topics: best of 2009

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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Topics: best of 2009

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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Topics: best of 2009

'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:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z19zFlPah-o

 

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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Topics: best of 2009

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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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!
 

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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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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”.
 

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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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Topics: best of 2009

DJ Bylamplight writesDJ Bylamplight’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 and programmer extraordinaire, Kumar McMillan, a.k.a. DJ Bylamplight.

  1. Pisces – A Lovely Sight (Numero Group) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    This is not a reissue, it’s a discovery of unheard 1969 material that was lost and buried in a fascinating story about a perfectionist rock group from Rockford, Illinois, who couldn’t catch a break. Besides earning Pisces a page in Steve Krakow’s Secret History of Chicago Music series, this album (compiled by the Numero crew) is an enjoyable listen start to finish and is essential for any fan of Rockadrome-esque swirly psychedelic fuzz. This album was built like a cathedral; it almost seems appropriate that it took over thirty years to finally see a proper release. Not only is this undisputedly my pick for best album of 2009, I think it will shine for years to come as a truly remarkable achievement both sonically and historically.
  2. Exile – Radio (Plug Research) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    The Akai MPC 3000 sampler has revolutionized hip hop and has proven to be one of the most expressive electronic instruments ever invented. Exile has mastered the MPC. He plays samples like instruments — stripping them down to the core and tapping out new melodies and rhythms. But there’s a twist: this album was sampled entirely from FM radio in Los Angeles. Commercials, jingles, call-ins, cheesy smooth jazz, late night battle raps, pop songs, they have all been artfully munged into catchy instrumental hip hop jams and interludes sometimes with a political or spiritual message. FM radio today is a strange corporate beast and this album exploits that beast, leaving no stone unturned. Besides a great work of art, every song keeps my head nodding and it’s been in very heavy rotation ever since I picked it up.
  3. Little Dragon – Machine Dreams (Peace Frog) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    My introduction to this album was a little 7” of Blinking Pigs and the first thing that grabbed me was the majestic vocals and harmonies floating up and down like a Cocteau Twins song. The second thing that grabbed me was the great treatment of the drum sound — the beats bounced around in a really groovy way, hollow yet still “live” and powerful. The rest of the album was even better! From start to finish it has a really fresh, live electronic sound; the songs range from catchy to mellow to dance worthy and each synth sound is deliberate and cleverly placed. It was an instant classic for me but upon each listen it kept growing until Machine Dreams was in my heavy rotation.
  4. Hollows – Self-Titled (Addenda) Insound / Addenda
    Even though I’m involved with operating Addenda Records, I have no shame in admitting that this stunning debut from Chicago’s Hollows is one of the greatest neo-garage albums I’ve ever heard. The first five seconds drop you straight into the action and it doesn’t let up until the epic second-to-last song, Love Will Find You. Often described as a haunting retro 60s or 50s album, the song writing breaks free from the past and takes you on a fast ride with a killer all-girl-except-for-one-guy getup of bass, farfisa-like organ, guitar, and drums. The songwriting is superb and the two minute arrangements are ingeniously concise.
  5. Javelin – Self-Titled (Thrill Jockey) Amazon / Insound / Thrill Jockey
    Supposedly this Brooklyn instrumental hip hop group have been turning quite a few heads at live shows but I never knew about them until the Thrill Jockey 12” subscription sent me a mysterious thrift store record called The World of Boots Randolph with some weird painted shapes over the woman’s face. I later found out that those were actually letters spelling the word Javelin. The 12” labels both had what looked like a B written in sharpie as if to suggest there were two B-sides, how clever. That was all the information I could fetch from it but the tunes were so catchy that the record soon claimed a permanent spot in my stack of heavy rotation. I naturally dug deep into the Net to find out what I was listening to but I didn’t stop there. My obsession with Javelin has since grown to epic proportions — I’ve nabbed their CDR releases, their incredible Lukabop podcasts, basically anything I can get my hands on at this point. Their limited 12” is now sold out (try Ebay) but an MP3 release is available for purchase from Thrill Jockey.
  6. Various Artists – Black Rio Vol. 2 Brazil Soul Power 1968-1981 (Strut) Amazon / iTunes
    DJ Cliffy already put out volume one of similar cuts but I never knew about it. After catching up with that, this compilation is definitely not the out-takes, it’s a brilliant collection of softer hitting, obscure Brazilian soul. As with most Brazilian music, each track enchants you immediately and fills you with that feel good fuzzy happy feeling. And as a compilation it is very well planned out from start to finish by a DJ who obviously knows how to set a deliberate mood. It has just the right amount of energy for any moment of the day, any day of the week, and I can’t seem to get enough of it.
  7. Pax Nicholas and the Nettey Family – Na Teef Know De Road of Teef (Daptone) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Frank from the famous Voodoo Funk record digger blog has organized his first reissue! I’m hoping there will be many more to come. He had discovered a rare Nigerian piece recorded in the 70s then supposedly banished by decree of Fela Kuti himself after its soft rhythms failed to “move” people on the dance floor. Well, it’s arguably a fine dance record but for me it’s one of the most relaxing and charming Afrobeat records I’ve ever heard. I play this time and time again in my living room, usually to help unwind after a day at work.
  8. Black Wyrm Seed – Self-Titled (PlusTapes) PlusTapes
    This is the cassette—yes, cassette—debut of a new Chicago band, Black Wyrm Seed. Despite its heavy doom metal opener, this album grows prettier, softer, and more psychedelic with each song. On myspace they accurately describe their line-up as batterie, bong-rattling bass, electric / acoustic guitars, and vox. I listen to it over and over in my car tape deck and the nuance in every note is inexplicably wonderful. Although a stoner metal blog showcased this release a while back, it still seems to exist as an undiscovered gem.
  9. Dam-Funk – Toeachizown (Stones Throw) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    If “gangster” was a genre of music it would include 70s RnB songs like Does Your Mama Know by Rudy Love & The Love Family and William Devaughn’s Be Thankful For What You Got. Then chronologically it would move on to include Parliament / P-Funk, G-Funk, and finally Dam-Funk. This LA producer has put together a massive release of electronic instrumentals (some with background vocals) in five—count ‘em—five volumes. This is gangster theme music. In fact, it’s done so well that any tongue and cheekiness is overshadowed by the brilliance of nuance in the programmed drums or well placed synth chimes. It feels so smooth and so right and makes me want to drive around LA with my seat real low and pimp like.
  10. Shepherd – Riddle of the Unflocked (Acroplane) Liquid Dilemma
    This is a bass heavy new electronic project by Belgian producer Shepherd (a.k.a. Julien Itterbeek). The style is akin to the sinister breakbeat sound of Scorn or Push Button Objects but hidden beneath its murky swamp of squelchy synth lines are intriguing, alien-like emcee vocals. When listening, sometimes I imagine a b-boy battle on a space station between Martians and Mercurians, each crew doing weird twists and flips. It was released as a free MP3 download on the obscure Acroplane label, so be sure to grab it while you can. This is one evil, mind bending album and it accompanies me very often these days from start to finish.
 

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Some Random Closing Thoughts

Neon Indian made his debut appearance with what I’d call the best song of 2009: Deadbeat Summer. It’s a really catchy tune but more than that the production is beautifully warped and twisted. In fact, it has stirred up enough for some bloggers to coin the genre “chillwave” to describe it. I guess that’s sort of a more blunted and electronic version of shoegaze? I was a bit disappointed by Neon Indian’s full length album, Psychic Chasms, but I think that’s really because every other song on it pales in comparison to Deadbeat Summer.

The Xx put out a really amazing album this year (self titled). It didn’t make my list only because it’s been in light rotation for me, not necessarily heavy rotation. I think they are one to watch and I was especially captivated by this live performance they did on KEXP.

Drag City issued an album by Death called For The Whole World To See. It was originally made in the 70s but was done in the Detroit R&B community so no one paid any attention to it and it never got a proper release. If you listen to it now it sort of sounds like a lot of other metal that came out around the same time but because of where the players were all raised on deep Detroit R&B there’s something very subtle that makes it stand out.

Some other albums that grazed my list this year were Joyce’s Visions Of Dawn (The Paris 1976 Project), ¡¡¡Wau Y Los Arrrghs!!!‘s ¡¡¡Viven!!!, Hudson Mohawke’s Polyfolk Dance, The Fiery Furnaces’ I’m Going Away, Jim O’Rourke’s Visitor, John Zorn’s O’o, and Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest. Wow, 2009 was an amazing year for music!

Joyce: Far Out Recordings
¡¡¡Wau Y Los Arrrghs!!!: Slovenly
Hudson Mohawke: Warp
Fiery Furnaces: Thrill Jockey
Jim O’Rourke: Drag City
John Zorn: Amazon
Grizzly Bear: Warp

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Topics: best of 2009

Patrick Seymour - Dizzy Spells writesPatrick Seymour’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, Patrick Seymour.

  1. Mi Ami – Watersports (Quarterstick) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    After a couple excellent EPs these ex-Black Eyes members put out their full length debut. It is a strange mix of forward thinking punk, Afro beat, free jazz and dub. While that makes it seem like they are throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks, it actually works well blending everything together creating a very unique sounding album, strong debut.
  2. Paper Mice – Paint It Pink (Cassette Deck) Amazon / iTunes
    Another strong debut from this Chicago trio. Combine the manic energy of Deerhoof with the bark and conciseness of Minutemen, throw in some news of the weird inspired lyrics and you have the recipe for success. These boys got some musical chops to boot. The packaging is worth noting, beautifully screened LP jackets.
  3. Abner Jay – True Story of Abner Jay (Mississippi) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Mississippi Records out of Portland have had a hell of a year, well couple actually. They put out a record what seems like every other week and they are all worth hearing. This one is a favorite. Abner Jay plays some great blues songs on electric banjo, accompanied by drums and harmonica. The songs can be heart breaking and funny, often in the same song.
  4. Dog Faced Hermans – Hum of Life (Mississippi) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    OK so it is a reissue, but they are probably my favorite band and this album is a killer. These Scottish punks mix folk, jazz, and Eastern European influences all fronted by an amazing female vocalist who played the trumpet too. They don’t make them like this anymore. The guitarist went on to play with the Ex.
  5. Dead Weather – Horehound (Third Man) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Jack White may be the musician of the decade. He’s had a great run with the White Stripes, the Racontoures, his own recording label and studio; the man doesn’t slow down. His latest project is a fierce dark blues band fronted by certified bad ass Allison Mosshart of the Kills. Check out their video for Treat me like your Mother.
  6. Pterodactyl – Worldwild (Jagjaguwar) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    They toned down a bit of the spazz from their first album, but the energy is not lost. With Worldwide they soak up a bit of influence from contemporaries like Liars and Animal Collective, making their music a bit more blissed out, but it is not completely out of step with their previous work. Their fuzzed screeching guitars and falsetto vocal harmonies are still the selling point of this band.
  7. Zs – Music of Modern White (Social Registry) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Another winner from modernist, chamber, punk, cerebral whatever band that continues to push the boundaries. The album is made up of two songs divided into three suites featuring saxophone skronk, hand clapping, some ambient passages, and some mad guitar playing. If you like experimental music, they are really worth checking out. Even if you weren’t sold on this description, they are one of the more interesting and challenging bands making music today.
  8. Broadcast and the Focus Group – Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age (Warp) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    An odd release from Broadcast, it’s made up of short songs and sound collages that blend into one another taking up each side of the album. There hasn’t been an album in a while that was able to conjure up such a strange atmosphere as this one, part nostalgia of some fantasy world, part Witch Cult (as the title suggests) the perfect fall album.
  9. Thee Oh Sees – Help (In The Red) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Thee Oh Sees have been a busy band. A couple of albums this year, a half dozen singles, and they have all been consistently good. This is a fine album all the way around. They are a garage band writing pop songs with a hint of psych thrown in and some great male and female vocals. They rip through a dozen songs and by the time you are done you are ready to start the album over again.
  10. A Hawk and a Hacksaw – Deliveranse (Leaf) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Gotta give some love to Jeremy Barnes, this band started as a solo post Neutral Milk Hotel project and has, with the addition of the other mainstay violinist Heather Trost, turned into his full time gig. After a couple of albums the two immersed themselves in Eastern European folk music by moving to Romania and have recorded several times there. With each time their western influence has slowly eroded focusing more on traditional Balkan folk music.
 

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5 older albums/artists that crossed my path in ’09

War – The World Is A Ghetto Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I had written them off based on Spill the Wine, but the first time I heard this album I fell in love with it. Fantastic 70’s funk, heavy in percussion, lots of people singing at the same time and the Cisco Kid!

 

Harry Nilsson – Nilsson Sings Newman Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Harry Nilsson singing Randy Newman songs, that’s about all you need to know.

 

The Kinks Amazon / Insound / iTunes
2009 was the year I finally really got into the Kinks. It took me a while but I finally realized that Ray Davies wrote brilliant music and the albums they were making in the late 60’s were certainly on par with their contemporaries.

 

Art Blakey – A Night in Tunisia Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I don’t really listen to a lot of jazz, though I try every now and again. This one really caught my ear, fast paced hard bop. There is a pretty cool video of the title song.

 

The Walkmen Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Another band I was late to the party on. You and Me is a good listen front to back as is A Hundred Miles Off. I don’t listen to a whole lot of straight up rock, but this is one band that is doing it very well.

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Topics: best of 2009

CHIRP DJ writesLaurie Viet’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 and writer of at This is Babble On, Laurie Viets.

  1. Silversun Pickups – Swoon (Dangerbird) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    This is a rarity for me-an album that I can listen to the whole way through!
  2. 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.
  3. 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”.
  4. Ida Maria – Fortress Round My Heart (Mercury) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I find her songs catchy and entertaining.
  5. 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.
  6. Clem Snide – Hungry Bird (429 Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Picked this up off a review and did not regret it. Another good complete album.
  7. M Ward – Hold Time (Merge) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    He pleases me.
  8. Various Artists – War Child Presents Heroes (Astralwerks) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    TV on the Radio doing “Heroes” Nice.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
 

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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.

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Topics: best of 2009

CHIRP DJ writesChris Siuty’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 Sound Doctor, Chris Siuty.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
 

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Topics: best of 2009, lists

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