Browsing all 39 posts in Best of Lists.
April 19, 2011
This was my seventh Coachella in some capacity. I had to miss most of the first day this year and I didn’t really get into the swing of things until Saturday night.
Every Coachella is a reset button. I get away from work, transport myself to a strange land, and stimulate my brain with all kinds of different loud sounds and bright colors. It never ceases to inspire.
February 21, 2011
You may divine for yourself what this list describes. It is informed by live performances and constrained by my limited experience. Comment away.
- “Monumental Life” – The Movies (R.I.P.)
- “Sometime Around Midnight” – The Airborne Toxic Event
- “Lazy Eye” – Silversun Pickups
- “Hang Me Up To Dry” – Cold War Kids
- “Working Part Time” – The Henry Clay People
- “Eucalyptus” – The Deadly Syndrome
- “Run to Your Grave” – The Mae Shi (R.I.P.)
- “Say Yes” – Shadow Shadow Shade (originally as Afternoons)
- “Lieutenant” – The Happy Hollows
- “Old Man Jude” – Red Cortez (originally as The Weather Underground)
- “Bloody Bunnies” – Gram Rabbit
- “Take This Away” – The Sweet Hurt
- “This Is Goodbye” – The Monolators
- “Victoria” – Radars to the Sky
- “Snow Globe” – The Mezzanine Owls (R.I.P.)
December 16, 2010
Even though I liked 2010′s new music more than the last couple years, my new music libido took a serious hit. To me, 2010 sounds like Guided by Voices, old Superchunk, Pavement, Lifter Puller, and early career Thermals.
December 30, 2009
Funny… I’m always going on about how “indie rock” is what people should listen to, but three of my top five records don’t even qualify for the label. Typical of me to be so contradictory, I know. I want to repeat the disclaimer:
The first thing you should know, should alreadyknow, is that I probably have bad taste. Party because, though indie rocker’s rock is what speaks to me the deepest, I like a wide range of songs. Everyone I know hates a different half of the music I like.
This is not an intellectual “best of 00′s” list. This list has no narrative. It is both rational and irrational. This list is me having to admit to myself what I reallylistened to, what music really mattered to me. It was a painful process to make this list. I promised myself that it would be embarrassing, that it would have to be embarrassing if it was going to be truthful. Oh believe you me, it is embarrassing.
You know what bands don’t make a single appearance on my list? Radiohead, Wilco, and The Flaming Lips. The sad truth is, I just didn’t care about those bands. I admire them (well, the last two) but they never spoke to me like they did everyone else. If I were to make an all-time 00′s list, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robotswould be on here.
But this list is about the stuff I sang along to on midnight drives when nobody else was listening. Abandon hope all ye who enter here…
49. Norah Jones – Come Away With Me
48. RJD2 – Since We Last Spoke
47. The Hives – Veni Vidi Vicious – At some point The Hives got written-off as too gimmicky, or too mainstream, or too silly. That’s too bad because in many ways they were more appropriate saviors of rock n’ roll than the White Stripes or The Strokes.
46. The Go! Team – Thunder, Lightning, Strike!
45. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – The Pains of Being Pure At Heart
44. Dashboard Confessional – The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most – Most Dashboard deserves scorn, but I think this record was sincere in its sadness.
43. The Killers – Sam’s Town – I love this record more than anyone I know except for my ex-boss at Entertainment Tonight. I maintain that the songwriting on Sam’s Town is outstanding.
42. Ozma – Spending Time on the Borderline
41. Dan the Automator – Wanna Buy a Monkey?
40. The Mudkids – Upward
39. The White Stripes – Icky Thump
38. The Movies – Based on a True Story
37. The Natural Disasters – Last Night In LA – One of the Great Overlooked LA Records since I started blogging. It’s so gutty, so emotional, and so very much about the same world that I see through my own eyes; every second of the record rings true.
36. Craft Club – Craft Club
35. William Shatner – Has Been – A work of fucking art. What Ben Folds and William Shatner accomplished on Has Been was a more thorough, more enlightening, more interesting deconstruction of pop than anything Pitchfork has ever praised. (Jarvis Cocker, Aimee Man, Henry Rollins, and Nick Hornby all appear on the album) On “I Can’t Get Behind That,” when Shatner exclaimed in contempt “The Colonel is breakdancing!” I realized that Folds and Shatner may have understood 21st century America in that moment better than anyone.
34. Coheed & Cambria – In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 – I’m a sucker for concept albums, especially concept albums with science fiction themes. I fall into the “Likes Geddy Lee’s Voice” column. I like it when bands rock out. That’s a perfect recipe for an album I listened to way more than it probably deserved.
33. The Mae Shi – Heartbeeps – This was the first Mae Shi album I owned. I think it’s a great starter. “I was born in a magazine” is one of my all-time favorite lyrics.
32. Film School – Hideout
31. Eskimohunter – The Fast-Trak Holy Symphony
30. Flogging Molly – Swagger
29. The Mae Shi – HLLLYH
28. Ben Folds – Rockin’ the Suburbs
27. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – Hearts of Oak
26. The Royal Tennenbaums – Soundtrack – My all-time favorite soundtrack. The contrast between the punk rock and Mark Mothersbaugh’s whimsical-but-pained score is inspired.
25. The Airborne Toxic Event – The Airborne Toxic Event – A few tracks on this album don’t age as well as I thought they might, and it’s hard for anyone to feel as moved by “Sometime Around Midnight” as much as they were moved before they heard it 10,000 times. But I will always go to bat for this one as a terrific “epic indie rock” record. It was the soundtrack of some of the best times of my life thus far, too.
24. Taking Back Sunday – Tell All Your Friends – That’s right! Taking Back Sunday in my Top 25! Whatchagonnadoaboutit?! I stumbled on this record in the brief period when I was taking Pro Tools classes and thought I might be a sound engineer; I first listened to it through a pair of AKG studio cans. I am prepared to call Tell All Your Friends the best produced album of the decade. I sounds incredible, still. I also found this record when I was in my Ozma phase, so I had a soft spot for dual-vocalist bands. Lastly, I’ve talked to tons of locals who secretly profess fondness for this record. So I don’t feel so bad about including it.
23. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – Shake the Sheets – I’m oft told I’m wrong for liking Shake the Sheets more than Hearts of Oak. I get sick of Leo’s voice on Hearts of Oak. Not so here. “Counting Down the Hours” is my favorite Leo song, and “Me and Mia” is in my top 5.
22. Tenacious D – Tenacious D – Jack Black gives an incredible performance on this album. Most the time he’s singing nonsense, but the songs still swell with emotion. It’s a “joke” record, but there are some very serious rock songs contained within.
21. Weezer – Maladroit – Of all the post-Pinkerton Weezer, Maladroit ages the best. Probably because, save for a couple radio singles, it is the third and last ROCK album that Weezer made. Rivers Cuomo invented his Faux Rock God persona on this album and I wish he’d stuck with that instead of the Sensitive Pop Star identity he’s had for the last three records.
20. The Underground Railroad to Candyland – Bird Roughs – A masterpiece of San Pedro punk. This record is leaking liquid energy at the seams and is over before you know it. It’s lyrically strong, musically interesting. I wish I could list it higher.
19. The Mae Shi – Terrorbird – My favorite Mae Shi album. I can’t really compare Jon Gray and Ezra Buchla, but I was introduced to the band when Buchla held the mic and his weird, near-suicidal bent on music — those angular and unsettling punk songs — are how I best remember the band. (Regardless of which vocalist was singing them) “Takoma the Dolphin is AWOL” is one of my all-time favorite songs.
18. Rademacher – Stunts – Heartbreakingly gorgeous.
17. The Mezzanine Owls – Slingshot Echoes – Also heartbreakingly gorgeous.
16. The Henry Clay People – For Cheap or For Free – What I Hope Rock Sounds Like In 2010.
15. Gorillaz – Gorillaz – I don’t like Demon Days and that’s because Danger Mouse is for fucking plebes. Dan the Automator is what makes Gorillaz work for me. When this record came out there was nothing else out there that sounded quite like it.
14. Atmosphere – Sad Clown Bad Dub II – I first discovered Slug through friends in the late 90′s. We used to listen to Atmosphere in my basement while we shot pool in high school. In late 2000 / early 2001 I went down to Bloomington to see them live and it was one of the best shows of my life. The Sad Clown Bad Dub series discs are homemade comps that the band would make and sell for gas money on tour, and I bought this one. One of 500 made. It is lyrically sublime. And by the way, all the “kids” and “hoodrats” The Hold Steady sings about are the people who were at Atmosphere and Rhymesayers shows in Minneapolis.
13. Modest Mouse – Good News for People Who Like Bad News – I like all the “wrong” Modest Mouse records. Never mind the hipster snobs, this is one of the great mainstream break-out albums of the decade. Think of it this way: the people buying Owl City today were buying Modest Mouse five years ago. Don’t you miss those days?
12. The White Stripes – White Blood Cells – Other White Stripes albums are smarter and more challenging, but this one is the last time Jack White’s emotional expression was unquestionably sincere. “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known” is a long way from “Rag and Bone”.
11. Flogging Molly – Drunken Lullabies – I got into Flogging Molly before Hot Topic did; I had a friend who was in drum corps and knew the band’s drummer was in the same corps he’d been in. He turned me onto the band for the drumming. (And being of Irish descent myself made me an easy target.) I didn’t have a lot of drunken nights in college, but almost every one ended with a roomful of dorks singing along to the first seven tracks on this album.
10. Silversun Pickups – Carnavas – This probably doesn’t need explaining. I don’t usually like nonsensical or “poetic imagery” lyrics, but Aubert makes them have concrete emotional meaning. “Common Reactor” picks me up more than any other song.
9. The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow – Another “wrong album” entry, I know, but I find this record much more accessible than Oh Inverted World. If you called “Saint Simon” the Best Song of the Decade I would have no rebuttal argument prepared.
8. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – The Tyranny of Distance – It’s an indie rock masterpiece. When I want to measure how wayward indie music has gone, I listen to this album to calibrate. It’s sincere, it’s furious, it’s beautiful, it’s noisy. Ted Leo’s catalog after this point is worthy, but it’s never so pure.
7. The White Stripes – Elephant – Honestly, I think a case can be made for every single White Stripes album as being their best. “Ball and a Biscuit” is my favorite White Stripes song though, which is what pushes this one over White Blood Cells for me. It’s just so fucking cool. And that’s why I think The White Stripes are the Rock Band of the Decade. The Strokes might be hip for a time period, but the White Stripes make eternally cool music.
6. The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday – My greatest music sin of the decade was resisting The Hold Steady for so long. They have a stupid band name and when ten people in the course of a month tell me I “just have to listen” to a stupidly named band, I almost always shut them out entirely. Local music manager and publicist Dane Sundseth finally forced the pill down my throat and I am forever grateful. Usually rock n’ roll ceases to be such once it becomes “cinematic”. (At which point it becomes prog or pop) But Separation Sunday is cinematic rock n’ roll. No small feat.
5. The Strokes – Is This It? – On my “Best” albums of the decade list, this would be #1. I wish the credit could be given to people who aren’t douchebags, but the fact is that Is This It? pulled rock music out of the mud in the minds of all the people (like me) who never should have stopped listening to rock music. And eight and a half years later, it still sounds just as fresh and exciting as the first time I listened to it. Sometimes when you listen to certain records you recall various sensations. Me, I see / hear / smell / taste / touch everything about the year this record came out every time I hear it.
4. Deltron 3030 – Deltron 3030 – With appologies to Raekwon and the GZA, Deltron 3030 is the most cinematic concept hip-hop album I’ve listened to. That’s it’s a science-fiction concept album makes it all the more suited for me. Any time somebody asks me “What’s happening?” my instinctive response is always “I keep my dreadlocks in a napkin ring, I rap and sing.” This record is so rich and dense with sounds of all manner and kind, I still find new things to hear nine years later.
3. Beck – Sea Change -The best break-up album of all time. I can only listen to it if I need to cry my eyes out. Otherwise, it ruins my day.
2. The Arcade Fire – Funeral – I’ve noticed it’s been chic to downgrade Funeral, but I think we have to judge albums in part on how we felt when we first heard them. When I heard Funeral, I foresaw a bright future in music. I’m not sure if what followed The Arcade Fire lived-up to the promise. But Funeral remains a beautifully expressed album. Its sound and structure mirror its place in music history; the background vocals on “Wake Up” sound like the whole indie music world coming out of a tunnel and seeing the light. Remember when The Arcade Fire opened their Coachella set with that song? My knees buckled and my eyes streamed tears.
1. Grandaddy – Sumday – For my money, Sophtware Slump is too mechanical and it goes without saying I don’t share Jason Lytle’s take on technology and society. But Sumday, oof. When I lay alone at night and stare at the ceiling, when I fear what all men fear, that I’ll be revealed to the world as a total fraud, I hear the songs from this record in the black space between my two ears. Sumday is hospice care for the soul. You’re going to die, but at least somebody is going to hold your hand and walk you down to the river.
December 23, 2009
The first thing you should know, should already know, is that I probably have bad taste. Party because, though indie rocker’s rock is what speaks to me the deepest, I like a wide range of songs. Everyone I know hates a different half of the music I like.
This is not an intellectual “best of 00′s” list. This list has no narrative. It is both rational and irrational. This list is me having to admit to myself what I really listened to, what music really mattered to me. It was a painful process to make this list. I promised myself that it would be embarrassing, that it would have to be embarrassing if it was going to be truthful. Oh believe you me, it is embarrassing.
You know what bands don’t make a single appearance on my list? Radiohead, Wilco, and The Flaming Lips. The sad truth is, I just didn’t care about those bands. I admire them (well, the last two) but they never spoke to me like they did everyone else. If I were to make an all-time 00′s list, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots would be on here.
But this list is about the stuff I sang along to on midnight drives when nobody else was listening. Abandon hope all ye who enter here…
100. Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere
99. The Black Keys – Rubber Factory
98. Editors – The Back Room
97. Gogol Bordello – Super Taranta!
96. Darker My Love – 2
95. Nick Cave – Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!
94. Double Dagger – More
93. Klaxons – Myths of the Near Future – Lots of people loved this record when it came out, then backed-off when it became clear what the “typical Klaxon fan” was like. It’s still a pretty impressive… thing.
92. Nada Surf – The Weight Is A Gift – Everyone forgets about this record. It was great when it came out.
91. Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank – I’m a terrible Modest Mouse fan because I like the sell-out radio friendly version of the band better than the influential indie version.
90. Light FM – This is the Beginning of My Golden Age
89. Muse – Absolution
88. M83 – Saturdays = Youth
87. The Ataris – So Long, Astoria – One thing you have to know about me is that I am about four years behind my peers, emotionally. If I had been 17 when this record came out, it’d be forgivable. Sadly, I was almost 21. But the truth is that I listened to this album a lot and I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t put it on here. Their version of “Girls of Summer” is better than Don Henley’s, though. That’s right, I said it.
86. Divisadero – Lefty
85. The Happy Hollows – Imaginary EP
84. Gram Rabbit – Radio Angel and the Robot Beat
83. Muse – Black Holes and Revelations
82. Batboy the Musical – Soundtrack – “Another dead cow and the rent is overdue…”
81. The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
80. Further Seems Forever – The Moon is Down – Look, I was a really depressed early 20-something. I’m sorry. This might be the last “emo” record that actually sounded like real emo, though. If you can look past the sad bastard lyrical content, it’s still a pretty listen.
79. Johnny Cash – American IV: When the Man Comes Around
78. No Age – Nouns
77. Green Day – American Idiot – I think every end of decade list needs to have this album. I don’t care who you are or what you like, American Idiot was one of the great popular records of the decade. It was Capital-I Important. Everybody under the age of 30 who wasn’t a hipster snob bought it. I still like it, almost exclusively because I like Broadway musicals.
76. Ben Folds – Songs for Silverman
75. Ben Folds – Sunny 16 EP
74. Jimmy Eat World – Futures
73. Manhattan Murder Mystery – Skull EP
72. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell
71. Fountains of Wayne – Welcome Interstate Managers – Like Weezer, Fountains of Wayne were stollen from the geeks. For the everyman or hipster, “Stacy’s Mom” come to mind. (Followed by vomit) But for the nerdy rock kids, this was a triumphant return of an underdog 90′s alt rock band. (That Fountains of Wayne self-titled disc is on my all-time favorite list) What’s really impressive about this album is the diverse range of sounds it covers.
70. Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
69. The Hives – Tyrannosaurus Hives
68. Great Northern – Trading Twilight for Daylight – Newer Great Northern releases are too pretentious for me. This was such a pretty record. I miss this version of the band something terrible.
67. Silversun Pickups – Swoon
66. The Thermals – Now We Can See
65. Radars to the Sky – Big Bang EP
64. Pizza! – Pizza!
63. No Age – Weirdo Rippers
62. The Health Club – Rarities and Outtakes
61. Girls – Album
60. Gogol Bordello – Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike - “Dogs Were Barking” alone puts this album on my list. It’s a song about the best fucking wedding ever. I’m such a sucker for “insert-ethnicity punk”.
59. Death to Anders – Fictitious Business – If I were asked “What’s the most under-appreciated LA local record?” this would be my answer.
58. Kanye West - Graduation – This is the “wrong” Kanye record to have on my list, but it’s my favorite one.
57. Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope
56. Thailand – The Remote Controller…
55. The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan
54. Vivian Girls – Vivian Girls
53. The Happy Hollows – Spells
52. The Mezzanine Owls – Mezzanine Owls EP
51. Something Corporate – Leaving Through the Window – Ugh. Of all the embarassing picks on my list, this was the hardest one to leave on. I tried to listen to it again earlier this year — probably the first time in five years — and I almost killed myself. It’s a terrible record.
Of all the awful post-emo kiddie bands that came out in the 00′s, at least Something Corporate could hide behind the “piano rock” genre. As a lifelong Ben Folds fan, that’s the hook that got me listening. I also found this record the week of a rather emotionally traumatizing event. It was bitter, bitter cold outside. I was weak. I regret it. In the interest of a historical record of my decade of music, I’m leaving it on. Commenters, unleash yourselves.
December 11, 2009
Favorite “New” Bands
“New” in this sense means “new to the blog.” These aren’t all rookie bands. Some are just bands I’d not noticed or written about before. (Like the Grammys!) No disrespect intended for veteran musicians.
Favorite Underdog Local Bands in 2009
These great bands can’t get no respect. All they do is write great songs and play great shows.
Top 10 Local Bands of 2009
I’m ruling-out Silversun Pickups and The Airborne Toxic Event because the list is intended to represent what you might have had reasonable access to any given month on the local circuit in 2009. I’m also ruling-out currently inactive bands that were active at the start of the year (The Mae Shi, The Movies). All of these bands are worth paying to see.
December 10, 2009
Usual disclaimers… again, I did not seek out local music as well as I used to. I feel guilty for not spending more time panning through the mud at The Smell, Echo Curio, and Pehrspace.
I want to invite all readers to mention their favorite local releases in the comments section. Get the word out for the music you think demanded attention this year.
Favorite EPs from LA-Based Bands in 2009
- Amateurs - If We Dare Win (Listen on Lala) – This record makes me tworny. Twang with horns. It is eight songs too short.
- Blue Jungle – Demos – I have a collection of Blue Jungle demos I got from a show at The Smell. I don’t know if there is a better collection of Blue Jungle demos or a more official release, but these six tracks are better than any fuzzzy-buzzy girl group music I heard this year. Of course, Blue Jungle has more in common with The Misfits than Black Tambourine.
- The Henry Clay People – Hear Ya live session (Download Here) - Not technically an official release, but this collection of studio live tracks may as well be a live EP. It is, in my opinion, a better set of recordings than any official HCP album. These tracks sound like a show. It’s free for download, too.
- Manhattan Murder Mystery – Skull EP ***Los Angeles EP of the Year*** – The Skull EP is Manhattan Murder Mystery’s first legitimate release. It is no less than a textbook “first EP,” detailing exactly who Manhattan Murder Mystery are and why you should care. The post-punk label gets tossed around a lot these days, but this collection of six songs is truly deserving of the designation. This EP is judiciously not overproduced with added effects or background instrumentation; Skull is haunting in the spaces in between sounds. It’s also a faithful reproduction of Manhattan Murder Mystery’s sound. Good lyrics. “Your Mother’s Neck” is a candidate for song of the year.
- The Monolators – Ruby I’m Changing My Number – Elvis Costello would be proud. Maybe my favorite collection of Monolators recordings.
- The Parson Redheads – Orangufang – I’m not supposed to like bands like The Parson Redheads, but they are so infectious as to make this tech-obsessed digital kid throw-open the window and sip some tea. This EP is outstanding.
- Nightmare Air – EP#1 – (Listen on Lala) An end of year gift from 2/5 of Film School + 1. It’s a sick and twisted carnival ride of heavier dream rock, the Mr. Hyde to SSPU’s Dr. Jekyll, maybe?
Favorite Full-Length Records from LA-Based Bands in 2009
- Avi Buffalo – Dr. Cornejo – Technically a Long Beach band. Avi Buffalo made several variations of demos available at their shows and through their friends. The version I have is called Dr. Cornejo. I think this version was quickly jettisoned for a different one, but I’m not sure. I just know that I would have paid ten dollars for this outstanding collection of authentic bedroom pop. I suspect many of these songs will be rerecorded for the Sub Pop full length due this year. I suspect they’ll be even better then.
- Correatown – Spark. Burn. Fade. (Listen on Lala) - For the most part I don’t have much use for sultry singing girl records because I already have some great Over the Rhine. But Angela Correa is different. Loved this one.
- The Happy Hollows – Spells ***Los Angeles Album of the Year*** (Listen on Lala) – Energetic, toothy, original, catchy, impossible to put down… Spells is everything a great indie rock record should be. It was almost my overall Album of the Year, too, but I think it’s two songs too long. But everyone I’ve talked to who agrees would drop two different tracks. Read my review, it says it all. (review)
- Letting Up Despite Great Faults – self titled – Letting Up Despite Great Faults makes The Postal Service sound like Owl City. I know, that’s a terrible way to pitch a record. What I’m trying to say is that electronic, dreamy indie rock can be for grown-ups, too. This record was proof positive.
- Leslie and the Badgers - Roomful of Smoke (Listen on Lala) – Country that isn’t too hip country or too rock radio country. Mostly though, the songwriting is just good.
- Light FM – Let There Be Light FM – Probably a record for engineers and sound nerds more than anything, but I don’t think a meatier album was released all year. My ears are always exhausted by the end of it. The synthrock on this album is dense, too dense and sugar sweet for many. But it suits my tastes and I think Let There Be Light FM is one of the most complete local albums of the year. Light FMier than Light FM.
- The Littlest Viking – Labor and Lust – It’s like a jazz album with noodly indie rock guitars instead of a horn. This record also has some of the best song titles of the year. (“I’m Queer for James Iha” and “Dr. Patch Adams, You Saved My Life!” are favorites.)
- One Trick Pony – Full of Life (Listen on Lala) – Absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful voice, beutiful lyrics, beutiful instrumentation. If I put it on it instantly changes my mood.
- Silversun Pickups – Swoon (Listen on Lala) – This was my first Album of the Year candidate. The ‘Pickups sound has clearly been shifted a little towards mainstream consumption, but it’s a good shift. This record earned the band a Best New Artist Grammy nomination, which says more about the Grammy’s expanded reach than it does about who SSPU have become. It’s still a Top 5 2009 album for me. (review)
- The Spires – A Way of Seeing (Listen on Lala) – The Spires are a shifty band whose influence changes song to song, though Velvet Underground comparisons are most apt. A Way of Seeing displays The Spires’ music history scholarship, but the album is still strikingly cohesive. This one sneaks-up on you with how good it is; it wasn’t until halfway my first listen I thought “Huh, there’s not going to be a bad track on this thing.” A Way of Seeing is a sexy, romantic listen; a hipper substitute for situations where your friends made fun of you for playing Is This It? again.
My Top 15 Songs From Los Angeles-Based Bands in 2009
- Silversun Pickups – “The Royal We”
- The Broken Remotes – “Boxer’s Arm”
- Avi Buffalo – “What’s In It For Me?”
- Parson Redheads – “You Can Leave It”
- Nightmare Air – “Shock of the New”
- The Henry Clay People – “Randy Where’s the Rest of Me?” (live)
- Manhattan Murder “Mystery – “Your Mother’s Neck”
- The Happy Hollows – “Faces”
- Downtown / Union – “Wake Up Call From The Nexus of Me and You”
- One Trick Pony – “Phonebook”
- Warpaint – “Billie Holiday”
- The Spires – Lowercase
- Castledoor – “Shouting at the Mountains”
- Correatown – “Green Cotton Dress”
- The Monolators – “French TV”
December 9, 2009
The same disclaimer applies: I just didn’t listen to everything I was “supposed” to and much of what everyone else liked, I just didn’t care for. (Grizzly Bear, I’m snoring in your direction.)
Favorite EPs by Non-Los Angeles Bands
- The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Higher than the Stars (Listen on LaLa) – You know what I like about this record? The Pains of Being Pure at Heart flaunt their pop credentials in very intelligent ways. This nifty EP really expanded my expectations for the band. The near-disco beat on “Falling Over” had me sold. It’s kind of like when The Replacements covered Paul Stanley.
- Superchunk – Leaves in the Gutter (Listen on LaLa) – Everyone ignored this. Pearls before swine.
- Victorian Halls – Victorian Halls EP – A truly, truly awful sounding record. I credit Victorian Halls for discovering everything there is to hate about sound and packaging it in a ruthlessly efficient way. For those who feel compelled to respect the insane. It’s so bad it’s good.
Favorite Full-Length Albums by Non-Los Angeles Bands
- Double Dagger – More - This Baltimore-based post-hardcore band put out a record worthy of Fugazi fans and people who lament the rock radio screamo route that DC hardcore eventually took.
- Girls – Album (Listen on LaLa) - At first I derided this record. It eventually grew to be a serious contender for my Album of the Year, but it’s just too self-centered, too decadent, to warrant the honor. But the story behind the album is great. The songs are terrific. And the expression is sincere, which is more than what can be said for 99% of all blogpop. This is one album the Pitchfork crowd got right.
- Micachu and the Shapes – Jewellery (Listen on LaLa) – Yes, minimalism is over rated. Yes, scrappy little DIY kids are over rated. Yes, Stump was better and more interesting twenty five years ago. But as far as all that goes, Jewellery is as good as it gets. A mine full of mixtape gold.
- Muse – The Resistance (Listen on LaLa) – It’s a guilty pleasure. Queen gone cyberpunk. They better try something new on the next one, though.
- Pains of Being Pure at Heart - self titled ***Album of the Year*** (Listen on LaLa) – Believe me, I’d rather proclaim an indie rock record the best album released in 2009, but this is the only release I heard that was perfect from start to finish. Not a song too long, not a song too short. It’s infectious and, while poppy, multiple listens leave plenty to be discovered. Time will tell if this record will “matter” (I don’t think it will) but for 2009, in 2009, it was the best I heard.
- Sonic Youth – The Eternal (Listen on LaLa) – All Sonic Youth did in 2009 was release a perfectly great album that was absolutely worthy of their legacy. Is it a seminal record? Nah. But none of Sonic Youth’s peers have released anything so good so late in their career.
- The Thermals – Now We Can See - This was an Album of the Year also-ran for me. Every single sunny morning I have to make the decision “Do I want to listen to Now We Can See… again?” The Thermals are exactly what indie rock should strive to be. We should be pushing pop down and raising this stuff up.
Top 5 Songs By Non-Los Angeles Bands
- The Thermals – “When I Died”
- Girls – “Hellhole Ratrace”
- The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – “Come Saturday”
- Double Dagger – “The Lie / The Truth”
- Superchunk – “Learned to Swim”
“Hellhole Ratrace” is the trendy song of the year. “When I Died” is in many ways about the same thing. You know why I picked “When I Died”? Because the singer takes action.
In “Hellhole Ratrace” the singer laments his languishing life and beggs for salvation from another. In “When I Died” the singer explains how he survived just such a life: He didn’t seek refuge in an infatuation, he sought refuge in himself. That’s a singer I want to get behind.
December 8, 2009
Favorite Pre-Show / Post-Show Food
Bacon-wrapped Street Dog from vendors (Echoplex)
Carnitas Burrito at Burrito King (The Echo)
Three Carne Asada Tacos and a Coke at Tacos Ariza (The Echo)
Chicken Green Curry at Leila Thai (Spaceland)
Chicken Tamale from The Tamale Man (Spaceland)
The Best Beer for Your Buck?
The large mug of Franziskaner dunkelweissen at Spaceland.
Spaceland Brian, of course.
Most Pleasant Doorman Experience
Grant, Echo Curio
Honorable mention: The Spaceland crew
Most Adventurous Billing?
Safest Bet for Cheap Weekend Fun on Any Given Night?
Favorite Music Venues
The Nokia Theatre
I’ll go to bat for our local art gallery venues to the grave. (I suppose it helps that both have let me throw shows.) Going to The Smell used to be a chore for me, but I’ve got the routine down and that DIY venue never ceases to inspire. Spaceland is still my favorite place to make memories.
Club Nokia surprised me though. It’s expensive to attend, but I’d prefer a show there over the Fonda, Greek, Wiltern, or any other major/mid-tier venue any day of the week. Bands look great and sound great.
Noticeably absent? The Echo. I know, blasphemy! The honest truth is that it’s not as enjoyable to go there as it used to be: the drinks are pricier, new meters in the area make parking harder, the stone floor hurts my feet, there’s virtually nowhere to sit down between bands, and the bills there have captured my attention less and less.I love the folks who run the place, but its just not my favorite spot for bands these days.
Favorite Non-Local / Touring Shows of 2009
I feel like I’m forgetting a few.
- Bob Mould Band @ Coachella 04-17-09 (review)
- Echo and the Bunnymen @ The Nokia Theatre 10-24-09 (review)
- Leonard Cohen @ Coachella 04-16-09 (review)
- The Hold Steady @ Coachella 04-16-09 (review)
- Paul McCartney @ Coachella 04-16-09 (review)
- M.I.A. @ Coachella 04-17-09 (review)
- My Bloody Valentine @ The El Rey Theatre 04-16-09 (review)
- Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head @ Spaceland 07-13-09
- Superchunk @ Coachella 04-17-09 (review)
- The Raveonettes w/ The Soft Pack @ The Henry Fonda Theatre 01-24-09 (photos)
- Ted Leo & The Pharmacists w/ Davila 666 @ The Smell 08-30-09 (review)
Favorite LA Residencies 2009
I was not nearly as diligent about checking out all the residencies as I have been in years past. This is by no means an solid list. For example, I only made it to one night of the Le Switch residency and under-attended the Light FM residency. Also, Mere Mortals plays Spaceland this month and could very well join the list.
Best Songs to Hear Live in LA
This list seems not quite complete and, for my blog, incredibly obvious. There’s plenty of repeats from previous years. Oh well. If I could have a DVD of the best songs to hear in LA, these would be the song performances I’d want.
- “Boiling Point” – Casxio
- “Don’t Dance” – The Monolators
- “Green Cotton Dress” – Correatown
- “In the Parking Lot” – Manhattan Murder Mystery
- “Salvation” – Leslie and the Badgers
- “Lieutenant” – The Happy Hollows
- (On any given night, Red Cortez will hit a different song out of the park. I refuse to pick one but had to leave them on the list.)
- “Run to Your Grave” – The Mae Shi
- “Sunday Morning” – Le Switch
- “Warning Signs” (Talking Heads cover) – Local Natives
- “We’re #1″ – The World Record
- “Working Part Time” – The Henry Clay People
Favorite LA Local Shows 2009
I know, it’s a long list. I am sure this list is missing a couple Mae Shi and Manhattan Murder Mystery shows. There’s a lot of Henry Clay People, Happy Hollows, and Local Natives on this list.
- NYE (The Henry Clay People, The Pity Party, The Happy Hollows) @ Spaceland 12-31-08 / 01-01-09 (review)
- My Birthday Party (The Mae Shi, Manhattan Murder Mystery, The Besties) @ Pehrspace 03-13-09 (review)
- The Buzz Bands Anniversary Show (Voxhaul Broadcast, Samuel Stewart, Radio Freq., Eastern Conference Champions) @ The Echo 09-30-09 (thoughts)’
- The Airborne Toxic Event, The Henry Clay People, and Rademacher @ The Henry Fonda Theatre 02-12-09 (review)
- Autolux @ The Henry Fonda Theatre 01-17-09 (review)
- Dum Dum Girls w/ The Tartans @ Spaceland – 11-28-09 (review)
- The Happy Hollows w/ Widow Babies, Casxio, and The Soft Hands @ Spaceland 11-09-09
- The Happy Hollows @ The Eagle Rock Music Festival 10-03-09
- The Henry Clay People, Mike Watt and the Missingmen, Thee Mighty Angels and Ready the Jet @ Spaceland 04-06-09 (review)
- Local Natives w/ Dusty Rhodes and the River Band @ Silverlake Lounge 02-09-09 (review)
- Local Natives w/ Fun! and The Henry Clay People @ Spaceland 08-31-09
- Local Natives w/ Red Cortez and Rademacher @ Spaceland 08-10-09
- The Monolators @ Echo Curio 05-04-09 (review)
- The Parson Redheads @ The Echoplex 04-28-09 (review)
- Silversun Pickups @ Coachella 04-16-09 (review)
Mike Watt and The Missingmen played the single best set I saw all year.
The best Happy Hollows show I’ve ever seen was at the Eagle Rock Music Fest this year. I don’t know if The Henry Clay People have ever been as good as they were on New Years Eve at the beginning of the year. Silversun Pickups‘ Coachella set elevated the band to the level of magnificent spectacle that their music demands.
The Henry Clay People are still the best live band in LA. Local Natives, I think, are second.
December 7, 2009
Time for end of the year lists. I HATE that any end of the year list runs before January 1st. I think they should all run January 30th, a month after the year has passed. That said, I want to participate in the ongoing discussion, so here we go.
Monday – Minutiae
Tuesday – LA Live Experience
Wednesday – Favorite Non-LA Recordings
Thursday – Favorite LA-Local Recordings
Friday – LA Bands
Disclaimer: I don’t know enough about anything to claim “best” with much confidence. Most everything on the CGT lists are unranked favorites.
Let’s face it: 2009 kind of sucked. I don’t like the pop route indie music has taken. Everything is too electro, too acoustic, or too disposable. It was uncool to like rock music in 2009, unless your idea of rock music is to stare at shoelaces all night. Maybe, maybe four records this year entered my all-time playlist. I spent most of the year listening to old Ted Leo and Superchunk records.
CGT went on tour with the Henry Clay People, which was a lot of fun. We got famous for taking cheap shots at the Jonas Brothers. On the blog we reviewed fewer records, put-on fewer shows, stopped live reviews on a regular basis, and did some writing for Web In Front, Fuel, and Radio Free Silverlake. CGT was always intended as a destination for my voice as a writer, not as a music blog competing for notoriety, and that’s largely what it was this year.
I most regret not seeking-out new music with the same enthusiasm I have in years past. I got pretty comfortable going to see the same bands I already liked and a part of me feels like I did readers a disservice by not unearthing new stuff.
Favorite Colts Players in 2009
I always list my favorite Colts players for the regular season. It’s never Manning or Reggie Wayne or the stars, but the lunchpail guys who deserve recognition:
- Melvin Bullit
- Donald Brown
- Austin Collie
- Pierre Garçon
- Jacob Lacey
- Clint Sessions
- Jerraud Powers
Brown puts some power back in the run game. Rookie receiver Austin “The Stormin’ Mormon” Collie and virtual redshirt receiver Garçon have made Marvin Harrison a distant memory. (“Peter Waiter” is a future stud.) I’ve got to love the rookie corners playing most of this entire season better than the injured vets played the last two seasons. Sessions is the new difference maker now that Bobzilla is on the IR. Sanders’ replacement, Melvin Bullitt, is equally valuable.
Favorite Movies in 2009
This year was pretty disappointing. There was no brilliant Marvel property film like Iron Man or X2. I’ve barely seen any Oscar calibre movies yet because so few of them seem interesting. (Up in the Air, Precious, and Brothers are on the eventual to do list.) I’ll happily proclaim 2009 the worst year in movies since 1997.
- District 9
- The Fantastic Mr. Fox
- Funny People
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- I Love You, Man
- Inglorious Basterds
- The Road
- Star Trek
- Terminator: Salvation
- Where the Wild Things Are
Star Trek, The Road, District 9, and Inglorious Basterds are the only “great” movies I saw. I thought Where the Wild Things Are, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Watchmen were successful and appropriate (but obviously imperfect) adaptations of beloved properties. Funny People and The Terminator sequel were pleasant surprises, and the new Potter flick was surprisingly fresh and engaging.
Biggest Disappointments in 2009
Favorite Music Blogging
Last year I bookmarked all the blogging I liked during the year. This year I forgot to do that. This is a half complete list.
WLFY isn’t actually a new blog, but they are new to me and I love their cranky, elitist writing voice.
Joe Fielder left LA and left Radio Free Silverlake in the hands of a diverse range of scenesters (full disclosure: including yours truly!) RFS’s Let’s Independent! shows used to be the center of the scene (to me, anyway), and the spirit of those shows lives on with the new site. I wish for more online magazines like that one.
Surfing on Steam is an odd choice for CGT’s Blog of the Year. An Aquarium Drunkard and Buzz Bands would be obvious choices based on expertise alone. And in terms of the music SOS covers, I only like so much shoegaze and SOS dislikes / doesn’t care for most all of my favorite bands.
But Scott McDonald’s blog is fiercely consistent, it takes a stance on “what music should be,” is unapologetic, covers everything from local to national / known to unkown, and (perhaps most importantly) is always short and to the point. Every post tells you the who, what, and why you should care in about thirty seconds. That’s “what blogging should be” going into the year 2010 and SOS was most consistently worth my time more than any other site in 2009.