Biscuits, Triscuits…

Top albums of 2009
December 31, 2009, 7:25 pm
Filed under: H Magazine Articles, music and musings

I think it’s hard to rate albums of a year. These albums below are just a few that I think were excellent this year and worth listening to, but I know there’s tons more, probably some that I don’t like but others do, and that fine. There’s no ordering, no better or worse. These are just good artists and good records that happened to come out in 2009. That’s all, just some great music to reflect upon as the 2010 is just a day a way. Happy New Years!

City City- City Center

I wrote about this album closer to when it came out in July, and I still think that it is a solidly beautiful album. Each song is distinctly strange and quirky with odd beats and distortion. That style of music has been in a boom, especially in the winter of 2009, but I feel like this album trumps all of them with it’s diversity and the clear emotional input that can be taken from listening to it. Read full review here.

Neon Indian- Psychic Chasms

I wrote about Neon Indian for H Magazine and was pleasantly surprised to find that the Vega artist had some higher ambitions. Vega was catchy and dance-y but had no real stronghold in terms of context.  Neon Indian turns heads and starts dances parties with it’s pop-y experimental keys and electronic blips. It seems to pretty accurately capture the lifestyle, interests, and general aesthetics of what it’s like being in your early/mid-twenties or what one might want it to be. The full album review can be read in H Magazine or here.

Woods- Songs of Shame

Another album that was reviewed on Words For Food earlier this year, Woods Songs of Shame does manage to put a lot of other songs to shame.  When I first saw Woods, in the winter of 2009, it was the only band I’d seen in quite a while that gave me any hope for today’s music. They were this group that always played in low lighting, their set sounded like a dank basement recording and it always smelled like cat pee. This album amazingly reflects that, in the best way possible. The homegrown, organic quality is beautiful and somewhat creepy and I hope they have more great music on the way for 2010. Read the album review here.

Dirty Projectors- Bitte Orca

Dirty Projectors, fronted by Dave Longstreth seems to be one of the only bands from the last couple years who will actually last into the new decade and be remembered as playing a pivotal part in the music scene of it’s time.  Bitte Orca is delightfully airy and distorted, with un-intrusive vocals and constant bursts of energy and instrumentals in both an experimental and extremely post-rock quality. The female vocals are a beautiful, jazz standard-y addition, giving this Dirty Projectors an element of being timeless. It definitely makes me curious as to what Longstreth has up his sleeves for 2010.

Bon Iver- Blood Bank

Justin Vernon’s Bon Iver created probably one of the best albums of 2008 with For Emma, Forever Ago and while he didn’t create a full-length for 2009, Blood Bank is a chillingly beautiful, four song EP that leaves you feeling that wherever you breath, the breath will freeze and collapse in front of you. With his falsetto vocals and experimentations with looping, Vernon’s Blood Bank combines the wistfulness and loneliness of his previous album with a new hope of times to come. It maintains the feeling that got him to where he is, but doesn’t repeat. Definitely worth a listen.


A Year Remembered in Music
December 30, 2009, 7:15 pm
Filed under: music and musings

Music in the year of 2009 went up and down, both new releases and what I personally chose to listen to.  Honestly, there are albums that were definitely great this year, but I didn’t feel the need to go into the ones we all know about.  Also, there are several ways to review a year in music. I choose to do it with a mix cd, 12 songs for the year, representing each month. To download, click 2009: A Year in Review

January-  No Age- “Eraser”

January of 2009 was like a fresh start, a new year, a new president, but we need something to hold it together. So No Age’s “Eraser” is a perfect start to the year. It’s biting just like the New York weather in January, but it contains pieces of 2008 in it, as well as snippets of sounds chasing back to the 70’s. Giving January of 2009 the perfect jump start.

February- The So So Glos- “Island Loops”

The So So Glos music feels like soundtracks to the summer. So in the middle of winter, it’s important to feel like at some point, it will be warm again. This album came out in 2008, but  the ability to dance when it’s freezing is pretty important, so it’s ok that it’s not from 2009. The So So Glos themselves still had an amazing year in 2009, touring Europe twice and opening for some large acts with their throwbacks to the original ideas of punk.“Island Loops” reinforces the Clash influence with Reggae beats, but creates the atmosphere of dancing like crazy in a dim chilly warehouse, lit by Christmas lights. It’s nice to think about, and nice to do.

March- Woods- “Rain On”

Woods started blowing up around this time. “Rain On” helps define the month of March in 2009 with this organic, basement feel that had felt somewhat lost for a while. Most of 2009’s winter was wrapped in subpar lo-fi, shoegaze music that just kept repeating itself. Woods was a secret surprise. Warm and uplifting, completely unassuming and gentle, somewhat of an odd duck at the time, but also fitting in with the surf-y background elements and experimental styles. It also speaks some truth in the song, “Oh how the days will rain on you.” There’s no denying that.

April- Faces On Film- “I’ll Sleep to Protect You”

This song feels like rain, which April often brings. This Boston band’s debut album was not released in 2009, but carries the weight of memories and music that should be heavily present in the following year. Singer/songwriter Mike Fiore sings out, “Car in the Driveway/ Children are fed/ I wish you were home/ You wish I was dead.” The song tries to tell a story with poignant lyrics and jangly instrumentals, reaching and longing, feeling lonely yet uplifting. Another characteristic shared with April of 2009. It wasn’t quite warm yet, bulbs were still trying to find their way to warm soil and water was pouring down, but still there was hope there.

May- Broadcast- “Man is Not a Bird”

Broadcast is not new, but May 2009 was sunny and blooming with hopes of a long, hot happy summer.  “Man is not a Bird” in it’s lo-fi, sing-song-y fashion feels like flowers stretching all around, and warmth over riding your body.  May felt like a happy month with ideas of what the following would feel like, the sun just starting to learn how to burn.

June- City Center- “Bleed Blood”

City Center’s self-titled album did come out in 2009 and represented a fluidity that comes with summer. The ability to go from the hot sun, into cold water but have it flow so easily just because it’s June. “Bleed Blood” reminds us that we do all bleed the same thing. Like children cutting their knees on sand as they run down the beach to getting blood taken for check ups or sitting in the hot sun feeling as your blood flows, boiling through your body. June was full of burn, summer cooking, sprinklers, grass, and the beginning of summer. And like the song says, “And don’t forget to listen to your feelings. Feel it all the time, you’re bleeding, and love always wanting more.”

July- Dirty Projectors- “Two Doves”

July 2009 was a whirlwind of music and movement. With the start of outdoor summer shows, Dirty Projectors recent release became a beautiful summer hit. Much like July, this song is short, beautiful and bittersweet. With plucking guitar and sweet strings, “Two Doves,” rolls through the speakers like sweat in July rolled down our arms and dripped onto the new summer grass.

August- Grizzly Bear- “On a Neck, On a Spit”

August was a little more gritty, the weather was more up in the air, storms rolling through the states. It felt more earthy and in tune with nature than the past couple months that were just upbeat and high energy. August grabs hold of reality, reminding you summer is almost over. “On a Neck, On a Spit” perfectly displays the organic feelings that August of 2009 brought. It’s slightly epic and dramatic, but earth-toned and continually bouncing back with acoustic guitar the sounds of fingers creaking along the guitar strings. August was drawn out and a little bit manic, but it got everything re-aligned to prepare for fall.

September- Lou Reed- “This Magic Moment”

What would be more appropriate to start the Fall with than an old favorite covered by an old favorite. Dark and brooding but twisting the words originally recorded by The Drifters, and drawing them out long and hard to keep the warmth emanating out of the speakers. Lou Reed is a good go to, September is a time to get back into the habit of being regularly, getting back to the norm. This September was fast and hard, it stung with feedback and rolled with crackling drums. It was still warm and surprisingly so. It felt pretty much like this.

October- Neon Indian- “Teriminally Chill”

In last ditch efforts to try to conserve the energy of summer, Neon Indian released his summer-y, airy tunes in October of 2009. The album Psychic Chasms electrified and distilled itself into thin air with fluctuating keys and warm, lo-fi vocals. “Terminally Chill” has just enough edge to it that it’s not only a summer splash, it pulls in the chilliness of the air that started to blow through windows and was breathed in through our nostrils.  The song bounces and bleeds it’s energy all over the dance floor, all over Brooklyn, all over October.

November- Headlights- “Secrets”

In November it finally got cold, and the chilling memories of people you may see for the holidays, or people you may never see again over the holidays begins to infiltrate your mind. Headlights captures perfectly in their new album the ideas of growing up, getting old, and moving forward. It’s not always happy, but it is slightly exciting, with clanging cymbals, and quick paced, rolling vocals. It gets you ready for winter, prepares you for what’s to come, both good and bad.

December- Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros- “Home”

Wrapping up the year with messages of warmth and home are Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros with their home-grown, earthy tune “Home.” Naming a million things that could make one feel home, signifying family and love, this is what December does right? The end of thanksgiving, Christmas, new years, all times you want to be with those you love aka: home, wherever that may be.  Horns splash and a chorus whistles, there’s a spoken interlude that’s all sweet and gushy, but adorable at the same time. It paints a great picture of what we’d all like home to be, what we’d like December to be. We may not get that in 2009, but maybe, maybe we will in 2010.

Thanks for sticking with me from the middle of 2009 til the end. I will try to update more regularly, I will include some good releases from 2009, not just representative songs, and also some album and show reviews that are long overdue.

The Happiness Project @ Bowery Ballroom 11/29/09
December 24, 2009, 12:16 pm
Filed under: music and musings

Sometimes, the progression of music feels stagnant, not because there isn’t great music being made all the time but because it’s not always available and sometimes we just have to wait til something beautiful hits us in the face to become inspired again.So although this is completely late, it is absolutely necessary for me to write about is the show at Bowery Ballroom with three different acts, one that was and the other two consisting of members from Canadian group Do Make Say Think.

The Happiness Project, Years, and Do Make Say Think @ Bowery Ballroom on Sunday 11/29

The Happiness Project was an idea of Charles Spearin. He chose to interview his neighbors about happiness and take snippets of their interviews where they voices sounded like melodies, and build songs off of them.  If one didn’t know what they were, Spearin gave a really amusing recount of it at the beginning of their set and started off with the song “Mrs. Morris,” where he played the interview and then a woman on the saxophone played along with her voice.  Picking up on the  nuances of the person who was speaking, Spearin and the Happiness Project crew, create beautiful songs, especially live.  In fact, two people passed out during their performance, one guy passed out twice. Granted it’s very possible they were on drugs, but lets just say the music moved them…to the ground. The whole set felt like it was getting down to the roots of music; why we do it, why we like it, which is because of people and emotions.

His neighbor Vanessa tells the story of how she was born deaf and then got cochlear implants and said that, “all of a sudden, I felt my body moving inside.” This was music that an audience can’t make small talk during because it would be like missing a conversation. In the story of “Mr. Gowrie,” there is a part where he talks about his family which was made up of fourteen children, all from his mother and father. The words “my mom” then begin to loop and a high, sad violin comes in with little twinkling guitar that is echoed and slow. It builds this feeling of remorse, spinning a story of an old family – almost setting you up for the death of his mom, before the he even continues speaking. These real people’s stories and exchanges make the project as a whole so fresh and bring hope to those who may have been searching for music with meaning. It’s absolutely refreshing.

The night continued with Years,  the music of Ohad Benchentrit, and involved many aspects of the beautiful sounding, rolling, jazzy guitar that can be heard in Do Make Say Think. Sometimes the trumpet would act as bass or carry the melody. Again, looping played a huge part. At times only Benchentrit was on stage, looping his guitar and singing, at others there were many members from DMST backing him. As a whole, the band felt like a progression of actual years, it melded pieces of the whole band into snippets and cut copies of ideas that perhaps couldn’t be fully formed in someone else’s group, but still needed to be acted out. That over time these extra scraps of sound had been burning to get out and Years was the way too do it; creating an outlet for the sounds that couldn’t find their way into Do Make Say Think. It was nice to see a softer side, to sortof outline and show the importance of each individual member and what part they actual play in this huge creation where all the music is muddled beautifully together. Years picked those pieces out and showed exactly what you knew about those musicians, but in a completely different light.

They took another break and came back on as Do Make Say Think. As this group, there is a jangly-er, more puzzle piece quality. With something like nine people on stage, multiple horns, guitars and drums, there were heavy, dirty, muddy movements followed up or backed by an amalgamation of buzzing instruments. They played out each song, lasting for minutes on end, displaying emotions ranging from triumphant to bittersweet. They plodded, trotted along with their multiple layers and gentle vocals (though not often) planting the seeds of sound for the audience as it then burst into a million pieces of rumbling instrumentals. We watched as each member shared their love of their craft with us, each in their own individual way. Banging, plucking, vibrating, strumming, they exercised all aspects of their instruments as they performed for us, for the third time that evening.

So so much
December 13, 2009, 5:51 pm
Filed under: music and musings

I am so sorry for the lack on postings recently. After Christmas things will be better. There will be CD reviews and a list of top music for 2009. I took an excruciatingly long exam yesterday, ending a ridiculous period of stupid studying. So as I said, things will be better soon. To keep you from getting your panties in a twist though, here’s some videos and songs to think about:

Grizzly Bear’s “Cheerleader” remixed by Neon Indian

A Sinbad HBO Special “Son of a Preacher Man”

Modest Mouse songs played with a bluegrass style!

The Happiness Project performing “Vanessa”