31 December 2009

So, let's talk about the Aughts

What follows is my excessively long list of the best albums and otherwise from the decade that began with 2-0-0. I will spare you the links and the pictures. Let's start with not quite ringing in the millenium in the Year Two Kay. (I danced naked around a bonfire. What did you do?)

IMHO, the best albums of 2000 were as follows:
05/02/00 clem snide - your favorite music
09/05/00 ryan adams - heartbreaker
12/05/00 the "o brother, where art thou?" soundtrack

Not too long thereafter, I went through the most painful break-up of my adult life. I remember waking up every morning in my slummy studio apartment on Collins Avenue in South Beach, from which I could just barely see the ocean, and turning on the television, probably to VH1, (this was right before I discovered Buffy on FX), and listening to the hit singles of that summer, e.g., Nelly Furtado's "Like a Bird," but the song that stuck with me the longest was Coldplay's "Yellow." Their first album, along with the others listed below, helped me make it through that year. Dashboard deserves a special shout-out. Nothing allows you laugh at your own pain so much as a caricature of it, and "The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most" is easily the most amusing album of the decade, in that regard.

anatomy of a breakup:
11/07/00 coldplay - parachutes
03/20/01 dashboard confessional - the places you have come to fear the most
06/19/01 gorillaz - s/t
09/11/01 ben folds - rockin' the suburbs

In rolls 2001, and with it, another Clem Snide gem and a brilliant little piece from Mark Linkous' Sparklehorse. Not to mention the breaking out of a something-something red-and-white-and-black-all-over team called the White Stripes. I could post pictures of my Meg White Halloween costume from that year, but they're really far too embarassing.

06/19/01 clem snide - the ghost of fashion
07/03/01 sparklehorse - it's a wonderful life
07/03/01 the white stripes - white blood cells

And then there were my single-and-loving-it days. I bought myself a used 1995 Saab 900S convertible for $10,000 - best car ever, RIP Saab - and commenced to painting the town red.

music for driving around south beach in a convertible:
08/01/00 the glands - s/t
06/19/01 the shins - oh inverted world
03/05/02 ben kweller – sha sha
05/06/03 the long winters - when i pretend to fall
06/03/03 dean & britta – l’avventura
06/10/03 fountains of wayne - welcome interstate managers
- The first three tracks on this album, strung together, are classics.

In rolls 2002. These albums are the ones I judge to be the best from it, but I hadn't quite discovered them yet. Miami being what it is, although I had immersed myself in the alternative night dance scene thanks to Poplife, I didn't get back to music until I discovered Spinner in 2003.

01/22/02 okkervil river - don't fall in love with everyone you see
05/21/02 the decemberists - castaways and cutouts
09/24/02 iron & wine – the creek drank the cradle

And with the discovery of Spinner, came the Mountain Goats. What a revelation songs like "No Children" and "Source Decay" were to one such as me, so broken, and in so much pain (yes, still). Although I had rocked out on a Somerville balcony in 1998-1999 to a dear friend's acoustic rendition of "Cubs in Five," I didn't really discover the Mountain Goats until I heard them/him on Spinner in 2003-2004. And the rest is history.

on this blog, the mountain goats get their own category, part 1:
02/19/02 - all hail west texas
11/05/02 - tallahassee

So here I was, back into music, just in time to pick up Sun Kil Moon's "Ghosts of the Great Highway" and Clem Snide's "Soft Spot" at the Coral Gables Barnes & Noble.

07/01/03 sufjan stevens - greetings from michigan: the great lakes state
11/04/03 sun kil moon - ghosts of the great highway

And then, luck being a lady and all, I met my husband (where else?) on the internets, back in the glory days, when the personals were free, and the people on them still interesting.

falling in love again:
02/18/03 the postal service - give up
06/17/03 clem snide - soft spot
10/07/03 death cab for cutie - transatlantacism
- Don't think we don't all remember seeing that poster on your wall, Seth Cohen! And don't forget the group sing-a-long to "Transatlantacism" on Six Feet Under. Claire needs you so much closer.

Although meeting The Resident Photographer heralded an era of new mergers and births, there were of course deaths to follow. The best albums of 2004 kicked off that sadness beautifully.

03/23/04 iron & wine – our endless numbered days
09/14/04 arcade fire – funeral

Not to mention a few more amazing entries from John Darnielle & Co.

on this blog, the mountain goats get their own category, part 2:
02/03/04 - we shall all be healed
04/26/05 - the sunset tree

The world and I got more raucous in 2005. I remember hearing the dulcet tones of the Hold Steady's Craig Finn for the first time, streaming out of Newbury Comics on Newbury Street in Boston. I knew then that I liked it, but I wasn't quite sure if I was *allowed,* but of course I was. And who could ignore the band-room beauty of Sufjan Stevens?

05/03/05 the hold steady - separation sunday
07/05/05 sufjan stevens – illinoise

And then there was my dive into "social networking" on the internets. One thing that comes with the pod life, i.e., being married with children, is a limited social scene. Lucky(?) for us, we have the internets. And the internets are willing to share.

things i learned to love on the internets:
05/03/05 mike doughty - haughty melodic
09/27/05 ludo - broken bride

It was in the latter half of this decade that things started getting really big, so big that I couldn't hardly keep up or keep track anymore. F'r'instance, everytime a TV on the Radio tune happens onto my iPod, I think, "Who *is* this? This is really good!" And, every time, it's TV on the Radio.

07/03/06 tv on the radio - return to cookie mountain
10/03/06 the hold steady - boys & girls in america

In 2007, my best friend died. That same week, I was introduced to "Emotionalism."

Andrew Bird came later.

03/15/07 the avett brothers - emotionalism
03/20/07 andrew bird - armchair apocrypha

2007 was also a fantastic year for soundtracks. I'm sure my love for musicals has not gone unnoticed here, but the soundtracks of 2007 are worthy contenders in their own regard.

notable soundtracks:
05/22/07 once
09/14/07 across the universe
12/25/07 juno

It was in 2008 that I was invited to join this venerable blog. Although my favorite albums from that year didn't really wear in until this year, I continue to believe that they are genius.

03/03/08 nick cave - dig lazarus dig
05/20/08 islands - arm's way
- This took on special meaning for me when I was diagnosed with a melanoma on my left forearm this year. The recision scar, it's HOT.

And these are my (non-musical) favorites from 2009. "Merriweather Post Pavilion" is Animal Collective's genius at its most distilled and palatable, and "My Maudlin Career" is just delicious.

01/20/09 animal collective - merriweather post pavilion
04/21/09 camera obscura - my maudlin career

So what were your favorites of the Aughts, O readers?

Play '09 off, Keyboard Cat.

An apt farewell for the last year of the Naughts.

See you in 2010!

30 December 2009

Top albums & songs of 2009 (June edition)

Here's a rundown on my year in music:

Best/favorite albums:

Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come

Philippians 3:20-21.mp3

A.C. Newman - Get Guilty

Falling Over.mp3

Andrew Bird - Noble Beast/Useless Creatures (Deluxe Edition)

You Woke Me Up!.mp3

Flaming Lips - Embryonic

The Sparrow Looks Up At The Machine.mp3

Various Artists - Weezer: The 8-bit Album

OxygenStar - In the Garage.mp3

Islands - Vapours

Disarming the Car Bomb.mp3

Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster


Morrissey - Years of Refusal

Morrissey - I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris.mp3

Sufjan Stevens - The BQE


The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Higher Than The Stars EP


Perhaps no surprises here, but it's been such a busy year for me that I've barely had time for my ears to catch much more than this.

Contestants for the Annual "Sincey" Award:
Jeremih - Birthday Sex.m4a
Lily Allen - 22.mp3
Soulja Boy - Gucci Bandanna.mp3
Shakira - Loba.mp3
Spanish versions are ALWAYS better than the English versions.

"Party in the U.S.A." will instead be represented in the category of "best mash-ups of 2009":
Hathbanger - Party and Bullshit (In the USA) (Notorious B.I.G. vs. Miley Cyrus).mp3
Tor - I Like The Tallest Man (Grad Puba vs. Sufjan Stevens).mp3

Excited for upcoming:
Peter Peter Hughes' "Fangio, Juan Fangio" album
Sufjan's new album to be out "early next year." (Nope, not a state album!)
Whatever Jens Lekman can do with two turntables and a microphone

28 December 2009

I love Wayne's hair!

This is a real jewel. Here's a 40 minute-long video interview with a 26 year old Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips from 1988. I was 3 years old then and as cool a toddler as I was, I was too busy with Big Bird to care about the Lips. Whodathunk that 21 years later this band is STILL chugging along just as vital as ever and releasing epic, highly relevant albums. Enjoy!

Wayne Coyne Interview 1988 from Chris Buly on Vimeo.

23 December 2009

He not like other guys, he coming from the sky

Keyboard Cat was probably the most viral video of 2009, but before we let him play the year off, let me share one more music video for your consideration:

Now that my love of Kanye has fallen through, I only hope that Bangs will be in attendance for next year's Grammy's. Now if only there was a mash-up of this song and "Gucci Bandana" by Soulja Boy/Shawty-Lo and I will be in 2009 rap heaven.

22 December 2009

Did your holiday party have a Neutral Milk Hotel cake??

So as you may or may not know, Julian Koster (of Neutral Milk Hotel(!!!!) and The Music Tapes fame) is gracious enough to perform Christmas carols in random strangers home across the country with his magical saw. And magical it is. Along with two of his bandmates and a set of plastic nutcrackers, illuminated sheep and strands of holiday lights, they play the classics (sing-along fave Jingles Bells, the majestic O Tannenbaum) along with a couple of originals. With an ethereal hum, the saws, all of which have names mind you, sung their little hearts out (Believe me these saws have hearts, just as much as they have teeth). As you might imagine, seeing an indie-pop legend in the comfy confines of your friend's living room is a pretty awesome intimate experience. Especially given the old-school decorations and endearing holiday stories. (Julian's imitation of his grandfather spinning a yarn about an old man eating his hat was downright adorable).

Get a sense of the magic with this video taken at a caroling event last year:

And honestly the Elephant 6 collective makes a much better party theme than ugly sweaters. I mean did your holiday bash have an In the Aeroplane Over the Sea cake?! Or King of Carrot cake cupcakes? I think not.
Special thanks to Tom Williams at Radio Exile for hosting. All photos by Sarah Mulligan. Check out even more at her flickr page.

A competition! Oh ho! (Win Death Cab swag plus a mix!)

Oh hi there readers! So here's the skinny: Way back in October for my birthday my awesome real life buddy Inez bought me, among other cool gifts, Death Cab For Cutie's 'open door' ep. But! Disaster! I already had a copy of that particular ep, which I loved very much. If two copies could double the loved I'd be set, but sadly it doesn't work that way. Which mean I appear to have an extra copy of this ep, just sitting there and not getting to fufill its destiny of being played.

So I though we'd hold a little competition, and the winner could get Death Cab's 'open door' and, even cooler, a custom made mix cd! (I haven't actually checked that Inez is cool with me giving away her gift, so, uh, if you're reading this nez and thinking, 'oh my god, megan is such a bitch I hate her,' then just remember who keeps you stocked up with might angus burgers and mcflurrys, alright? Also, Inez, you could totally enter and try to win your gift back, wouldn't that be delightfully postmodern? Or something?)

Anyway! To win all you have to do is download the 2:20min-ish clip I made and identify the songs you hear within. Long term listeners will remember we did something like this a while ago, and it seemed to work pretty well. There's 19 songs to be identified, whoever gets the most wins! You can either e-mail us (volume.knob@hotmail.com) your answers, or you can answer in the comments (I won't make them visable till the contest is over).

You have until, ummm, let's say saturday Australia time (which is friday for most of you living in the past dudes and dudettes) to get your answers in. Remember, if you win, you have to be cool with letting me know your address. I promise not to stalk you. Much.

Ok, go!

19 track totally awesome clip thing for competition winningness (remember, only sad pancake hating fart heads google for answers. although good luck googling la la la la).

21 December 2009

I feel I should go and buy a natty vest in celebration

"Fangio, Juan Fangio" paper cut-out art by Trystan Nielsen

From the ever awesome Fayettenam Records website:

"Some exciting news: early in 2010 Fayettenam will be releasing FANGIO, a new album by Peter Peter Hughes. You may know Peter Peter (minus one "Peter") as bass player for the Mountain Goats and Nothing Painted Blue, or as the frontman of the late, great DiskothiQ. FANGIO is pretty different from anything by those bands. It's an LP-length electro-pop paean to deceased Formula One champion Juan Manuel Fangio. Yes it is. It's also smart, catchy, novelistic in its detail and really great.

FANGIO will be out on LP and digital download, and will be preceded by a 7" single. More details soon..."

I can remember playing the lo-fi masterpiece 'the one hundred thousand songs of peter peter hughes' (which, fyi you can download for free from PPH's website, so go do so now) on repeat as I took the bus back and forth from uni when I first moved out of home. To this day the sound of those songs brings instantly to mind the memory of traffic lights blurred by rain splattered bus windows, and the heavy weight of homesickness in my belly. I am so excited for this new album, its not even funny.

20 December 2009

Working Up To It: Twofer Also-Ran's of the Aughts

I've compiled a largely personal, largely random, and mostly just large list of the albums that I consider to be the best of the aughts. And this isn't it! Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of solid candidates that didn't quite make the final cut, so, by way of practice, I offer them up to you here, my five also-ran's of the last ten years, in loose chronological order.


Jack Johnson's "Brushfire Fairytales" & "On & On," released on January 29, 2002, and May 6, 2003, respectively, are a pair of lovely, ramshackle albums crafted from Mr. Johnson's presumably low-key, pre-fame life in Hawaii. They are thematically surfer/hippie, anti-progress, anti-consumerist. "Symbol in my Driveway" rivals Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz" for best snap! on those who live and die by status symbols, and "Flake" is an unqualified classic.

Flake - Jack Johnson - Brushfire Fairytales
Symbol in my Driveway - Jack Johnson - On & On


Released a scant two weeks after "Brushfire Fairytales," Rufus Wainwright's "Poses" is very nearly its antithesis. Overproduced, metropolitan and glorious, "Poses" is a fantastic rumination on the many facets of an eminently talented man. "Want One," which followed a year and a half later, pushes the theatre envelope even further. With tracks like "Oh What a World" and "My Phone's On Vibrate For You," "Want One" is self-referential and fun to the extreme.

The Consort - Rufus Wainwright - Poses
Oh What a World - Rufus Wainwright - Want One


Kathleen Edwards owned a little piece of my heart in the mid-Aughts. With "Failer," released in January of 2003, and "Back to Me," which followed in March of 2005, this alt-country Canadienne explored the timeless territory of love & loneliness, breakups and other-womanhood, with just the right amounts of strength and sadness mixed in.

One More Song the Radio Won't Like - Kathleen Edwards - Failer
Somewhere Else - Kathleen Edwards - Back to Me


Although I didn't discover them until the September 2007 release of "Reunion Tour," The Weakerthans had of course been in action for years before then. John K. Samson pushes all my buttons, male singer/songwriter wise, and, though I usually prefer the earlier works of any given artist, 2003's "Reconstruction Site" and 2007's "Reunion Tour" both contain enough gems to keep me convinced I'll never have to look backwards for this band's best work. "Civil Twilight," in particular, has become something of a personal anthem for me, and would definitely make my top tracks of the decade list, should I ever decide to make one.

One Great City! - The Weakerthans - Reconstruction Site
Civil Twilight - The Weakerthans - Reunion Tour


I can't quite figure out how Why? got bumped off my Best of the Aughts list. "Elephant Eyelash" and "Alopecia" are two of the strongest, most unique records I've heard this decade, but here we are just the same. We've twice trekked to see the brothers Wolf, and have yet to be disappointed by same, although "Alopecia" and the "Eskimo Snow" produced two very different shows. Yoni Wolf in particular is starting to look a bit like a first term president, as though the pressures of success are wearing on him. I'm just happy they're still producing.

Gemini (Birthday Song) - Why? - Elephant Eyelash
These Few Presidents - Why? - Alopecia

19 December 2009

Best Of Oh Nine: Megan Edition

Do you guys realise it's been ten years since every time you turned on the radio that 'we're gonna party like it's 1999' song was playing? I can not tell you how thankful I am that no 80s rockstar decided to write a song about '09. Could you just imagine the Bon Jovi ballad, 'it's already 09 and we still don't know what to call this crazy decade?'

In the absense of that smash hit, let me share with you now my favourite music of the year that I had to make do with:

5. The Love Language - The Love Language
I blogged about this one already, a few months back, and it's continued to grow on me ever since then. This has got to be one of the most underrated, or at least underexposed, albums of the year. Listening to this album is like catching a sonic glimpse of another time. Not the past, neccessarily, these melodic, fuzzy little tunes could just as easily be coming from a future where waltzing is back in vogue. (Oh, wouldn't that be lovely?)
Night Dogs

4. Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk
Most pleasantly surprising album of 09, for me anyway. The obbssevive completionist who dwells in my soul insisted that I buy this album on account of Conor Oberst's presense in it, despite the fact that I wasn't hugely impressed with his past two non Bright Eyes releases. (Not that they were bad, they just left me all... eh). But this! Such a beautifully crafted meloncholy buy stubbornly hopeful little album! From the obvious single 'Say Please' to the classicly Oberstian 'Man Named Truth,' I loved every second of it. Having such big solo personalities (M. Ward and Jim James or Yim Yames or Y. Diddy or whoever he is now being the other two, well and Mike Mogis but outside of Bright Eyes I don't think he's so well known) could easily have ended in an ego-copalypse. It's a credit to all of them that this thing turned out so well.
His Masters Voice

3. The Killers - Live at Albert Hall
I have loved me some Killers this year. I'd have put Day & Age on the list, but that came out at the end of 08, even though I didn't come to really appriciate it this year. And in case it wasn't until I saw the Killers live at V Fest in April that I shifted from 'oh, yeah the Killers, they're pretty ok,' to 'wow, the Killers, yeah those guys are awesome.' See, I'm used to indie music, where the music is delicate and often restrained. All the bobbastic synth of Killers distracted me from the fact that, woah, Brandon Flowers can actually sing. He did this accoustic version of Sam's Town at the festival and I was just blown away. Plus, he has a southern accent and you know how I am with accents.
For Reasons Unknown (live at the Albert Hall)

2. The Mountain Goats - The Life of the World in Flux
No, I've not made an embarresing error and got the name of The Life of the World to Come wrong. The Life of the World in Flux is the bonus album that you got if you ordered the album from London's Rough Trade store. (See, when the new mountain goats album gets released two days before your birthday you can ask to have it expensively shipped across the glove to you!) With every album the goats get a little more polished, which isn't neccessarily a bad thing. But sometimes I miss the crackle and yowl of ye olde mountain goats, you know? Which it is why the demo and outtakes version of the new album has made my list in place of the album proper. Just Mr. JD and his voice and his guitar and his genius.
Psalms 40-2

1. The Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer
I simply can not say enough good things about this album. I am baffled, BAFFLED, as to why not everyone is raving about it at every chance they get. I love every song, from the first note to the last. I'm not kidding, there is not one moment of this album that I don't wholeheartedly love. You know how many other albums I can say that about? Two: Aoeroplane Over the Sea and The Sunset Tree. Seriously. I LOVE this album. I love that each song seems to almost tell the part of a larger epic narrative that I can almost but not quite grasp. I love the imagary, the atmosphere, the sweeping epic moments and the quiter ones, the recurring images and themes, everything everything everything. Seriously people. You know what, you should go elsewhere for information about this album, because you not going to hear anything other than 'buy it! it's awesome! why haven't you bought it yet!'
You Go On Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)

16 December 2009

Owning Up, 2009

I've spent a fair portion of my free time in the past few months working on my Best of 2009 list for publication on this 'ere blog. From a semi-finalists list of about thirty, few of which would probably come as a surprise to you, I've underlined, struck through, italicized, put in bold, categorized and recategorized those albums that I perceived to be this year's contenders. I've listened and relistened to them, both critically and distractedly. And I strongly suspect that I spent more money on music in 2009 than in all of the previous years combined.

But Jess's list, below, is either just as good or better than the list I would have come up with, anyway, and what struck me most about her list was that she based it, not on best, but on most played. And it occurred to me that "most played" is as good an indicator of best as any other metric. And the bottom line truth of the matter is, when it comes to most played albums, in 2009, by me, they are as follows:


What can I say about these albums that hasn't already been said? Who knows? I have very little idea what's been said about them. I don't really want to know. I can't imagine that it's very good. I recognize that I'm a bit of a diehard true believer when it come to this show and the associated albums, but I just can't help it. Glee seems to me like such a special phenomenon. It's like the pop music back catalog has finally gotten big enough, and is finally meaningful enough to a large enough percentage of the population, to make this show, and the associated albums, more than the sum of its parts. Which is not to say that its parts aren't pretty fantastic in their own right. Lea Michele's voice is as clear as a bell, and Jane Lynch, I mean, COME ON. Jane Lynch! That being said, I'm not going to try to persuade you if you're not already there. Glee is like Moulin Rouge. You either like it, or you don't. And, In 2009, I liked it waaaaay more than was strictly healthy.


Something about this Tony-award winning musical must have struck a chord with me, because I spent most of the summer driving around with it on repeat. Again, I'm not going to prosthelytize it to the non-believers, but it touches on a lot of different issues that have really moved to the forefront in this generation, e.g., modern family, mental health, medication, and of course all the usual good stuff like love and loss. If you're in New York City, do me a favor and go see it, because I'm afraid I won't get there in time. And, if not, and you don't totally abhor all things Broadway, give it a listen sometime and enjoy.

Superboy and the Invisible Girl - Next to Normal OBCR

15 December 2009

Don't forget to give your mom some pie

Just because Volume Knob is run by a bunch of shiksha's doesn't mean we've forgotten about our Jewish friends. Here is the Mountain Goat's lovely ditty "Hanukkah". Yes, way before he was writing songs titled after Bible verses he burst out a little hava nagila. Enjoy

Hanukkah - the Mountain Goats

12 December 2009

Top Albums of 2009 and epic year end wrap up (Jess edition)

By "Top" I mean most frequently played by yours truly. This is what I like and have continued to like for the past 12 months. Songs for download from each album follow:

15. 'Em Are I - Jeffrey Lewis
Ok so this is a very top-heavy album, but I'll be damned if the first four songs on this album weren't among my most played of the year.
Broken Broken Broken Heart

14. Actor - St. Vincent
I finally fell for Annie's angelic voice, plus Those syrupy strings juxtaposed with jarring angular guitar makes for some of some of the most fractured yet melodic pop of the year.
Black Rainbow

13. Romanian Names - John Vanderslice
Underrated, underrated, underrated. Light acoustic guitar, piano and elliptical synths mingle in an elegant and foreboding way.
Too Much Time

12. I and Love and You - The Avett Brothers

Slick and sincere Americana
I and Love and You

11. Self-Titled - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Fuzzy pop goodness. Nuff said.
This Love is Fucking Right!

10. Those Darlins - Those Darlins

This trio of Tennessee gals rip it up country-style. It's old timey twang with a dash of rollicking DIY-punk spirit, which make for one of the most charming debuts of the year. Darling indeed.
Wild One

9. The Law of the Playground - The Boy Least Likely To
Just like their debut, this long-awaited follow-up contains the most twee-ly upbeat songs about scary downbeat things. In other words it's some of the most precious pop ever made about slaying dragons and the onset of adulthood.
Every Goliath Has its David

8. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - Phoenix
This is pop of not only the catchiest variety, but of the most Populist order ("1901" proved inescapable with those ubiquitous Cadillac commercials) In other words, this is Pop the way it should be.

7. The Warm Heart of Africa - The Very Best

Truly global music - British producers and Malawi singers meld indigenous instrumentation with elements of electronica, hip-hop, gospel and afro-pop for a grandly original sound only possible in 2009.
Kada Manja

6. XX - The xx
I haven't heard anything this seductive in ages. Boy-girl vocals, sparse yet soulful synths. Swooooon.

5. Veckatimest - Grizzly Bear
Given the devastatingly intricate nature of this album, these boys must have slaved away putting all the strings and guitars and pianos parts together. And yet the all the layers work in perfect, fractured harmony. With this neo-classical masterpiece the Grizz succeed in the once unheard of island of Veckatimest on the map.
Two Weeks

4. The Life of the World to Come - the Mountain Goats
Sure all the songs are titled after Bible verses, but really this album is about more than God. It's about more than death, it's about more than our impending mortality. It's about the way faith heals and fails us. And like every song John Darnielle has ever written, it's about all of us. Just listen closely, the devil's in the novelistic details.
Matthew 25:21

3. My Maudlin Career - Camera Obscura
Camera Obscura contines to do what they do best: make romance sound giddy, girly, swirly and dreamy and make heartbreak sound heartbreaky and also dreamy. It basically makes for their most cohesive and consistent album to date.
Honey in the Sun

2. Vs. Children - Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
The painfully underrated songwriter Owen Ashworth soundtracks stories of one-night stands, abortion and crime sprees with lo-fi synths and choral organ drones. The prospect of adulthood (and having kids) never sounded so ominous, not to mention catchy.
Harsh the Herald Angels Sing

1. Album - Girls

Nothing released in the past 365 days has the visceral emotionalism of this record. Declarations of youthful frustration, like wanting love, pizza and wine never sounded so pure, raw or honest. From the Beach Boys party pop of "Lust for Life" to the hangover haze of "Hellhole Ratrace" this is easily the greatest documentation of angst that never sounds angsty. To quote "Ghostmouth", "I knew it when I heard the first time. I knew it when I heard it the last time, nothing compares to you."
Lust for Life
Hellhole Ratrace

Honorable Mentions and other notes:
Morrissey, Wilco and especially Yo La Tengo and the Flaming Lips all put out respectable efforts this year. Perhaps you've heard of them? We bet these kids are going places.

Also everyone seems to be creaming their pants over Animal Collective and the Dirty Projectors. Now, while I certainly dig "My Girls" and "Stillness is the Move" from a purely subjective standpoint these are "small doses" bands for me. Doesn't mean you shouldn't check 'em out though.

The Decemberists, Andrew Bird and Neko Case are all artists I'm normally enamored with, yet this year they left me hanging dry. Not that I was completely disappointed (Hazards of Love works MUCH better live) I just found myself wanting something different, something fuzzy, something like Girls.

Most productive band that didn't release an album in 09 but worked harder than most bands who did: The National
Whether it was contributing an original song to Dark Was the Night (which was curated by the members of the band as well, Go Dessner Brothers!) or providing cover songs to various other compilations like that one Merge put out and charity project Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs of Mark Mulcahy these boys sounded great. Plus they toured their butts off and even debuted a couple of new songs while on the road. It all bodes well for a productive 2010!

Speaking of which, what 2010 albums are you most psyched for? The Magnetic Fields, Los Campesinos!, Spoon, She & Him, Frightened Rabbit, The Arcade Fire? And will Peter Peter Hughes brilliant Fangio album finally see the light of day?

11 December 2009

Personal musical moments of 2009 (Jess editon)

Yes, all of these happened this year and if you told me so last year, I would have done a spit-take:

-I called Nikki Sixx on the phone (as part of a temp job?!?!).

-My cat was featured on Pitchfork. My cat is a hipster.

-I bought a Lady Gaga album.

-I was published! In a book! Cassette from My Ex is in stores now. I hear it makes a lovely holiday gift. /shameless self-promotion.

-While waiting in line outside the Housing Works Bookstore, John Darnielle put his hand on my shoulder and said "HEY I KNOW YOU", even though he doesn't. I guess that's what happens when you go to a double-digit amount of Mountain Goats shows.

-I was in the same room as JEFF MANGUM!!!!!

And there you have it. Anything interesting happen to you?

Stay tuned for my top album of the year list, I know you're waiting with baited breath.

09 December 2009

Your christmas tree isn't complete without a fetus

Deck your tree with this silver trembling fetus. A christmas-sweatered Wanye impores you in the video below.
Can the lips please host a holiday special with confetti canons and dudes dressed as rabbits? On Mars of course.

Silver Trembling Hands - The Flaming Lips

08 December 2009

Ear-worm warning

I just rediscovered my favorite way to discover music - mixes. Especially when you don't even glance at the tracklist before listening, because sometimes just the sight of a certain band name or even a word, say "crystal-bear-and/or-wolf" can give way to a whole set of pre-conceived associations, some of which are bad. I like my listening to be as devoid of context as possible, which is usually why Bejeweled covers up the iTunes player on my screen (well that and I just had to beat Aunt Marsha's high score). Basically this is just a really long-winded way of saying I heard these two songs by the same band on the same mix and really, REALLY liked them.

After all that exposition I'm hesitant to even tell you the band's name given everything I just said. But despite what past lovers might tell you, I'm not cold or withholding. The band is Oberhofer, which really is just one dude named Brad, uh Oberhofer. And his music is freakishly catchy and compelling, kinda like the aural equivalent of watching a hypnotist's pocket watch being swayed in front of your eyes. I almost expect to see Twilight Zone-esque black and white spirals appear from the ether, when listening to it. Imagine if your favorite pop/indie/folk/electronic song was recorded underwater. It would still be poppy and accessible, but would have a little subversive twist and quirk in its production. I should probably stop typing now and let you just listen for yourself.

Away FRMU - Oberhofer
I Could Go - Oberhofer

Sadly for us, the guy only has a few demos posted on his MySpace. Here's hoping for an album, or at least an EP by next year.

04 December 2009

Mountain Goats Tour Recap: Now with bare feet!

So there's this band called the Mountain Goats that we've seen, oh well over a dozen times and tend to obsess over a lot. Their latest tour just wrapped up this week at Brooklyn's insanely intimate Bell House. If you failed to see them, well then you truly failed. Here's what you missed:

1. Bare feet! Sometimes musicians like Final Fantasy or Andrew Bird play in their socks, mostly because they have to twiddle lots of knobs and looping pedals with their toes. But John Darnielle deals solely with a guitar making this new development in lack of footwear inexplicably awesome. I read a supposed explanation that it's because Amy Grant does the same thing and JD totally digs her. So that settles that: the freer the feet, the closer to God,

2.An extra member! Perry Wright (of The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers) plays additional guitar adding more bombast than ever before. No word on how permanent his addition to the band will be, but he sure rocked out. Hard.

3. Piano! It's no surprise really given the pretty piano-heavy arrangements of their latest and 17(!) album The Life of the World to Come. And this is no crappy Casio either. It's like for real. And was actually purchased by....

4. Owen Pallett. Mr. Final Fantasy himself couldn't bear to hear the Mountain Goats play on instruments unworthy of their music. What a guy. Oh and he even played violin on certain tracks. His plucky rendition of "Going to Bristol" is brilliant, brilliant I say. Sadly he injured his finger (disassembling said piano the night before the last show of the tour) and thus couldn't play violin for that one concert. I saw his finger up close. It was all icky and purply looking. Here's hoping it heals soon. (The video quality is iffy but the sound is that matters here)

5. Owen Pallett's hair. That boy has locks of wonder. Whether its gelled back or naturally swooping forward, it is always perfectly coiffed. I'd love to have a sleepover with him where we could give each other braids and guacamole facials. After his hand heals of course.

Download the WHOLE Webster Hall show here, courtesy NYCTaper.

03 December 2009

Inappropriate Christmas Mix

Here some tunes to play while you hoist the Festivus pole!

Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis - Tom Waits
You should know this one by now. If not, shame on you.

Cold White Christmas - Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
Sad song about spending Christmas alone in St. Paul. Dude, what is up with all these songs taking place in Minnesota? Remind me not to spend the holidays there, k thanks.

Depressed Christmas - Culturcide
Sung to the tune of "White Christmas" except with lower-than-lo-fi production. Oh and it's about suicide, no really it is!

Papa Ain't No Santa Claus (And Mama Ain't No Christmas Tree) - Butterbeans and Susie
This song was recorded in like the 1930's and it is HILARIOUS. The title kinda says it all

I Don't Love Anyone - Belle & Sebastian


Christmas in Jail, Ain't that a Pain - Leroy Carr

Yes, yes it is. Another Depression-era classic

Did I Make You Cry on Christmas (Well You Deserved It!) - Sufjan Stevens
Ouch Suf, that stings. I thought we were friends.

I Hate Christmas - Oscar the Grouch

Every December my family gathers around and watches that 80's Sesame Street special where Oscar tells Big Bird it's impossible for Santa to climb down chimneys. Which prompts Big Bird to wait on the rooftop all Christmas Eve night for the big man's arrival. He then freezes his giblets off. Classic.