WMSE Picks of 2009
POSTED:: December 31, 2009
FILED UNDER:: Top Airplay
Yup. 2009 is pretty much come and gone. What else is there for music geeks to do but compile their lists of favorites and anxiously await the next year in music? Not too much, and the DJs and staff at WMSE have done that and then some. Take a peek at what’s been freaking us out (in a good way) in an exciting year of audio delights as we all look forward to 2010 and spinning our new favorites that are sure to be released. Happy New Music Year!
Jules: Thursdays, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
The Black Seeds: Solid Ground (bonus tracks) / East Star Records
The Crystal Method: Divided by Night / Tiny E Records
Iggy Pop: Preliminaires / Astralwerks
The Eels: Hombre Lobo / Sony
T.H. White: Company Book / Sky Council
The Juan MacLean: The Future Will Come / DFA Records
Shopkeeper Ken: Thursdays, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Volcano Choir: Unmap / Jagjaguwar
Rameses III: I Could Not Love You More
James Blackshaw: The Glass Bead Game
Yo La Tengo: Popular Songs / Matador
Hush Arbors: Yankee Reality
Bill Callahan: Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle
Six Organs of Admittance: Luminous Night
Steven R. Smith: Cities
Jonathan Kane: Jet Ear Party
Them Crooked Vultures
Eric Von Munz: Tuesdays, 3 a.m. – 6 a.m.
Them Crooked Vultures: S/T
Hotly anticipated mashup of Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones! They don’t reinvent rock and roll, but sounds like they had a blast making this album. The Queens of the Stone Age take a ride on a Led Zepplin. I’m hooked.
The Spits: School’s Out
Ahhh. Punk Rawk!! This band rules. The record is over way too fast. Some of the cleanest lyrics out of any Spits release.
The Dead Weather: Horehound
Mix Jack White with anyone and you’ll get a great record. This one is no exception.
Reigning Sound: Love and Curses
Greg Cartwright and co. does it again. Countrified punk songs about love and loss. Yeah, Greg, I’ll stick up for you anytime.
The King Khan & BBQ Show: Invisible Girl
Punk, funk and doo-wop all rolled into one, concise record. The best cut is “Tastebuds”, but you’ll never heart it on WMSE (waaaaaaay too dirty)!
Eagles of Death Metal: Heart On
Bootyshaking goodness from Baby Duck and J. Devil. The LP came with a bonus 7″ with two extra cuts (eat that, iTunes!)!
Jail: There’s No Sky (Oh My My)
Although they have been together “forever” (which for a Milwaukee band is anything over a year…), I just caught them live at the PBR Street Fest in October. After the set, I literally ran over to them in hopes of a slice of vinyl. My hopes were realized and this platter rules. Smart lyrics. Solid music craftsmanship.
Japanther: Tut Tut, Now Shake Yer Butt
Been smitten with these gents from NYC since I caught them at an after-race party in Queens. Spoken word by Penny Rimbaud from Crass?! Lyrics encouraging the destruction of Clear Channel billboards?! Sold.
What can I say? Good electronica, and I ‘m a sucker for the vocals. Great live show, too…
Peaches: I Feel Cream
Infectious beats with rated XXX lyrics. Sonically closer to Teaches of Peaches thanImpeach My Bush. It’s fun. Loosen up.
Scott H Biram
John Newhauser, volunteer DJ sub extraordinaire: various shows
Scott H Biram: Something’s Wrong/Lost Forever
Ryan Bingham: Roadhouse Sun
Son Volt; American Central Dust
Willie Heath Neal: Out of Highway
Wrinkle Neck Mules: Let the Lead Fly
The Maldives: Listen to the Thunder
Justin Townes Earle: Midnight at the Movies
The Band of Heathens: One Foot in the Ether
Those Darlins, S/T
Lucero: 1372 Overton Park
Sons of Bill: One Town Away
Grant: Mondays, 6 a.m. – 9 a.m.
Neko Case: Middle Cyclone, / Anti-
Mountain Goats: Life of the World to Come / 4AD
A.C. Newman: Get Guilty / Matador
Eels: Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire / Vagrant
Regina Spektor: Far / Sire
Wilco: Wilco: the album / Nonesuch
Camera Obscura: My Maudlin Career / 4AD
Terrior Bute: Realm Dwellers / Vicious Pop
Paul Cebar: One Little Light On / Groovesburg Joys
Antony and the Johnsons: The Crying Light / Secretly Canadian
Silversun Pickups: Swoon / Dangerbird
Singles of the Year: “Prizefighter” by Eels (national) and “Power of the Stars” by Terrior Bute (local)
Live Cover Song of the Year: Antony and the Johnsons performing Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” at the Pabst Theatre (February 15, 2009)
Album Artwork of the Year: Wilco, Wilco: the album. Featuring photos of a camel, a birthday cake and the roof of Milwaukee’s own Mader’s restaurant.
Jerry Glocka: Fridays, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Booker T: Potato Hole
Sixties soul-organ player, producer &, arranger – Booker T. Jones invites the Drive by Truckers and Neil Young to join him for some original and cover songs. Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn are missed but these guys add some raw energy and funk that makes this material rock rather than swing.
Chuck Prophet: Let Freedom Ring
Recorded in Mexico City last summer. This batch of stripped down original songs, recorded in a 50’s-era studio, rock with swagger and toughness . Guitars, bass & drums combine with some fine lyrical imagery and everyman perspective. Prophet’s ninth solo effort (since leaving Green on Red) speaks of characters on the margins, trying to cope with life in today’s world.
Bob Dylan: Together Through Life
Once again, Bob continues to amaze. This latest batch of songs sprung from a request to do a song for a film. Once “Life is Hard” was done, more songs followed and a full album was born. Themes of love and it’s consequences seem to dominate the lyrics but as always, we’re not sure if Bob is just putting us on. His road band, augmented by David Hidalgo on accordion, lay down some smoldering tex-mex grooves.
Levon Helm: Electric Dirt
Levon’s second release since recovering from throat cancer finds him and his band in fine form. More of a full band sound with horns and amplified instruments, this collection resurrects some obscure tunes from the likes of the Grateful Dead, Muddy Waters, Randy Newman and Happy Traum. While his voice shows some weariness it’s amazing that he still can front a band and deliver that authentic Americana drawl he made famous with The Band. Recorded in his barn up in Woodstock, arranger and guitarist Larry Campbell has assembled a talented group of players and singers that compliment Levon’s singing and drumming and contribute some fine original material as well.
John Fogerty: Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again
Reprising the concept of his 1973 solo project, John Fogerty, along with some excellent sidemen and guest stars, revive some country and early rock classics. Chestnuts from the Everly Brothers, Delany & Bonnie, John Prine, Buck Owens and Jumpin’ Gene Simmons (Haunted House) get updates. Pedal steel and fiddle are balanced nicely with Fogerty’s superb guitar and vocals.
REM: Live at the Olympia: 39 Songs
Recorded in Dublin in 2007 and intended as working rehearsals for Accelerate, REM finally delivers the live album fans have been waiting for. The band is tight, focused and clearly intent upon making this an inspired, non-greatest hits affair. While a good deal of the Accelerate material is included (some of it as work-in-progress) it is the generous, deep dive into the back catalog that makes this such a thrilling ride. “So. Central Rain”, “Harbour Coat”, “Maps and Legends”, “Cuyahoga”, “Pretty Persuasion”, most of “Chronic Town” and tons more – are all performed with the raw intensity and gusto of their youth. This is fully-realized REM in all of its jangly, joyful glory.
Tom Waits: Glitter & Doom
Just released in December, this live outing (his 3rd official live release) features Tom at his howling and croaking best. These days, Tom’s voice is still very much an acquired taste. But the tales he tells, continue to captivate and entertain. Most of what’s here is his more recent material from the 90’s and 00’s recorded at various locales from his brief 2008 world tour. His excellent road band revs up the songs and pulls the crowd along for a ride into the Waits-ian netherworld. Songs flow from one to next. A second disc called “Tom Tales” contains the between-song banter and stories normally told at his shows.
King Crimson: In the Court of the Crimson King (40th anniversary re-issue)
Their 1969 debut has been given reverential treatment here with a re-mastered stereo and 5.1 surround mix. Also included are un-released backing tracks, outtakes and excellent re-packaging. Steve Wilson of Porcupine Tree and Robert Fripp (having finally retrieved the original analog masters) make this Prog Rock classic new again. Pete Sinfield’s tripy lyrics, Fripps’s guitar and mellotron, Greg Lake’s vocals and woodwinds from Ian McDonald showcase this first incarnation of KC. From the opening scorch of “21st Century Schizoid Man” to the dreamy “Moonchild” and title song, jazz improvisations and sonic delights abound.
Van Morrison: Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl
A reworking of his essential 1968 release performed live in its entirety. If you’ve never heard the original, go back and listen to it (several times, at least) before you hear this. Better to appreciate the 40 year span of linear time. Here, Van’s voice has matured and mellowed , yet his band – including Jay Berliner, the original guitarist -maintains the jazzy, improvisational feel with flutes, horns, vibes & percussion. Van re-sequences some of the songs and adds some vocals about transcending. As if we needed to be told. It remains an ethereal mix of rock, jazz & folk. Or maybe something else entirely.
The Beatles: In Mono (re-mastered box set)
Never having the complete catalog in my collection, I decided to take the plunge and shell out more money to Apple Corp. But I’m glad I did. Here we have their entire recorded canon, cleaned up with care and presented in punchy monaural sound, the way they were first heard in the 1960’s through car radios, transistors and single-speaker record players. On the early stuff, the harmonies and guitars leap out. While careful re-listens to Revolver, Sgt. Pepper and the White album reveal subtle yet noticeable differences. Mono was the mix the Beatles and George Martin labored over. Stereo mixes were left up to Martin and his engineers to complete later. That said, many of the stereo re-masters (purchased separately) have their merits as well. The White album, Magical Mystery Tour, Abbey Road and even Hard Day’s Night reveal sounds you may have missed before.
Eric Blowtorch and the Welders
Paul Host: Saturdays, 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Eric Blowtorch and The Welders with Dan Kubinski: ”Don’t Put Down The Dream”
This should be a mega-hit
Brainerd: ”Blood Money”
Madison band channeling Motorhead
Your Frustration: “Oppose”
Beatallica: “I Wanna Choke Your Band”
Kid Millions: “Victim To The Beat”
Highball Hooligans: “Wisco Bay”
J.C. Poppe: “Break Yo Self”
Reckless Hearts: “Personal Property”
TIE–Flips/Sugar Stems/ Barrettes
Great rockin’ girl group sound
Hal Rammel: Sundays, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
The Vijay Iyer Trio: Historicity / ACT Records
A very original piano trio record that builds on the work of Andrew Hill and Jason Moran that includes a great take on Julius Hemphill’s composition Dogon A.D. This is Iyer’s best record yet and if you’ve never been able to get into his work, but like Jason Moran’s solo and trio discs then this will make you a Vijay Iyer fan too.
Henry Threadgill’s Zooid: This Brings Us To, Volume 1
His first record in eight years and his writing and playing with this new group is stellar. This is only volume 1 and, along with the big reissue box coming from Mosaic next year, 2010 will be the year of Henry Threadgill. He deserves it. This is a very original sounding ensemble, but if you can imagine getting into something that sounds like the dense guitars and reeds of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time bands but with quirkier, more eccentric rhythms then you’ll uncover some great listening in this first installment.
Mike Reed’s People, Places and Things: About Us /482 Music
The latest from this great Chicago quartet with some guest spots for David Boykins, Jeb Bishop, and Jeff Parker. This is a collection of relatively shorter pieces that reflect Reed’s very contemporary appreciation of Chicago’s hard bop tradition. Note to Dr. Sushi: we have to get this band to Milwaukee.
Rob Mazurek: Sound Is /Delmark
Nice collection of Mazurek’s writing and playing (cornet and electronics) with a new quartet which includes Jason Adasiewicz from Loose Assembly on vibes. Rob’s returning to Milwaukee in February with drummer Chad Taylor to play at Woodland Pattern.
Peter Brötzmann’s quartet with Toshinori Kondo, Paal Nilssen Love, and Massimo Pupillo: Hairy Bones
A live set of incredible power. Kondo’s electric trumpet solos set fire to the two set-length pieces documented here. It’s almost impossible to keep up with Brötzmann’s recorded output year-to-year, but if you pick up only one disc, this is it. Plus it’s from Milwaukee’s own Okka Disk label!
Steve Lehman Octet: Travail, Transformation, and Flow
Very original scoring for this band that draws on contemporary ideas about spectral analysis giving the band its very unusual but compelling sound. Lots of critics have compared it to Andrew Hill’s groups with Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, but I think Henry Threadgill is a stronger influence in the way Lehman sets up dramatic entrances for the soloists and in Lehman’s own approach to the alto saxophone.
I’d like to add two great music books from this year:
Robin R. D. Kelly’s Thelonius Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original. Kelly has written close to a day-by-day narrative of Monk’s long career. Monk produced a considerable body of work over the course of his lifetime in spite of all the considerable barriers, personal and cultural, placed in his path. At 450 pages I thought this would be far too detailed, but I couldn’t put it down. It was fascinating all the way through and sent me back to listen to all the recordings in whole a new light.
Sam Stephenson’s The Jazz Loft Project gathers together photos and tape transcriptions from photographer W. Eugene Smith’s loft space in New York which existed on the fringes of New York’s busy jazz scene from 1957 until 1965. Everyone from Thelonious Monk to Zoot Sims to Roswell Rudd to Sonny Clark rehearsed there and Smith photographed it and caught it all on tape. The tapes haven’t been released yet but this book is the first look into documents that will change the way jazz history is written.
A Sunny Day in Glasgow
Erik Nash: Thursdays, 3 a.m. – 6 a.m.
A Sunny Day in Glasgow: Ashes Grammar / Mis Ojos Discos
A Place to Bury Strangers: Exploding Head / Mute
Screen Vinyl Image: Interceptors / Custom Made/Safranin Sound
800beloved: Bouquet / Moodgadget
The Depreciation Guild: In Her Gentle Jaws / Kanine
Fleeting Joys: Occult Radiance / Only Forever
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: S/T / Slumberland
Telefon Tel Aviv: Immolate Yourself / bpitch Control
spc eco.: 3-d / Noiseplus
A Shoreline Dream: Recollections of Memory / Latenight Weeknight
Call Me Lightning
Pete (of the Joe and Pete Show): Mondays, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Call Me Lightning : When I’m Gone My Blood Will Be Free
Har Mar Superstar: Dark Touches
Obits: I Blame You
Bald Eagle: Drug Church
Monotonix: Where Were You When It Happened?
Future of the Left: Travels w/ Myself and Another
Yeah Yeah Yeah: It’s Blitz
Peaches: I Feel Cream
The Spits: School’s Out
Scott Lucey: Wednesdays, 6 a.m. – 9 a.m.
To start with a bang, I’ll first mention the album getting the most listen from me as we speak (figuratively)…
The Hidden Cameras: Origin:Orphan
“In the na” was the first track to get me interested in this album. What I thought were synthesized orchestrated brass quickly led into the song’s catchy hook “in the na,” and even though I had no idea what it meant, it soon stuck in my head. With some mild research, I’m led to believe “NA” may be what we refer to as n/a or “not available” – that’s just my guess. Underage is another track I love for it reminds of Graceland and Paul Simon in a wierd way. “Let’s do it like we’re underage” is surely another provoking reason to listen closely. And then there’s the title track, origin:orphan – a song that brought calls in as well as station manager Crawford to demand I explain to him what it was I just played, this one’s a bit more haunting, but in a good way.
Nurses : Apple’s Acre
You’ve got to enjoy the higher pitches that can exist in a man’s vocals if you’re going to like this album. I do. If you like Band of Horses or AU I think you’ll like Nurses. There’s random tracks with echoish relaxations and there’s tracks with whistley folksy old-timey briskness of just telling a story – it’s worth checking out to say the least.
Zero 7: Yeah Ghost
I was excited to hear how this albums sounds. I’d comparing it to a flower blooming larger. Although I’ve liked Zero 7 before hearing this album, I felt there was something about their last album that didn’t allow to differenciate songs from each other. Yeah Ghost does not have that problem. Mr. McGee leads the beginning of the album with a wonderful swinging vocals with a garnish of diced jazz. I think those who like Portishead or Massive Attack will like this album. Tricky or Cinematic Orchestra also come to mind if I have to image who would tour for this album – but Yeah Ghost has many moments of being awake and up temp with just the right amount of darker more mysterious tracks. “Ghost Symbol” will be my favorite track on this album, reminding me of eerie Fever Ray vocals, clumsy but coordinated.
Lake: Let’s Build a Roof
I have an affinity for female vocals, the type that calm like a mother would singing to her child. It might sound lame to the tough, but Let’s Build a Roof isn’t THAT soft. “Gravel” and “Madagascar” are my favorite tracks here, and their the perfect example of how I think the percussiveness of this album is what I like most. “Madagascar” reminds me of Mockey, a touch of soul, a tiny bit of funk, and for the most part mellow golden reclined tempos.
Slavic Soul Party: Taketron
This is most out of the ordinary if it’s at all important for me to stay within my realm, which it’s not. And THAT my friends is why WMSE rules all. I’m not forced to really follow any guide lines, I’m not “suggested” to review any albums, I’m giving you my honest words about what I’m listening to and why. And Slavic Soul Party is what I’m going to force on my relatives over the holidays if I want them to experience something I’m sure they’ve never heard before (we’re going into farm country my friends). It is what is sounds like it should be. Slavic, soul, and a party – there’s a lot of brass, great beats, and when I play this on the radio I happy myself with imaginations of tucked in shirts busting out of their cubicles – coworkers dancing their ass off for the three minutes the song is on, and then instantly returning back to reality. It truly is a party.
Jayx/Charlie Joecks of Streamline: Sundays, 3 a.m. – 6 a.m.
Mark Knight, D Ramirez & Underworld: Downpipe
Nadastom: Save Us
Riva Starr feat. Noze: I Was Drunk
Dennis Ferrer: Hey Hey (DF’s Attention Mix)
Sharam feat. Kid Cudi: She Came Along
Joris Voorn: Catch The Mouse
Oxia: Whole Life
Michael Cleis feat. Toto La Momposina: La Mezcla (Copyright Main Mix)
Wolfgang Gartner: Wolfgang’s 5th Symphony
Jerome Isma-Ae: Hold That Sucker Down
Jason Ellis of Team Metal: Wednesdays, 9 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Johan “Shamaatae” Lahger has been doing Arckanum for nearly 18 years now. And thusfar there has been no misstep in terms of quality or direction of evolution.ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ (which, from what i understand means ’soundtrack to wintry death of the worlds!’…. uh,sure…). This has tons of cold emotion and awesome atmosphere.If you like what Enslaved does, this should make you lose your mind in a good,happy way. And the MySpace page unintentionally has “nummy” in it.This may be the record of ‘09 for me.
Infernal Stronghold: Godless Noise
Philadelphia’s Infernal Stronghold are an awesome mix of vintage Sodom and Deathcrush-era Mayhem. Not one moment from the twenty-six minutes of this record is throw-away — and the oldest member is 21. Infernal Stronghold has been a band since ‘02, and they make a lot of other bands I’ve seen in the last year look really silly live, too. These guys are the new defenders of the faith.
Onirik: After Centuries of Silence
Portugal’s Onirik (not to be confused with the Italian death metal band with the same name) is another one-man black metal project. Where a lot of one-man black metal is (for lack of better terms) crappy and lame, Onirik is seriously amazing. ThinkTelepathic-era Xasthur with some mid-’90s Norway touches and you have After Centuries. Extremely necessary. And you cannot add or message him via his MySpace. How elitist black metal is that???!!!
Funebrarum: The Sleep of Morbid Dreams
Angry old school worship death metal. From the US, even. They sound like they belong with the founders of the genre. A great blend of vintage Swedish and US death metal styles. Super recommended.
I dont like “hipster metal” at all. It comes off as contrived,weak and uninspired. Why do i bring this up? Cuz for some reason unknown to me, Wolf sometimes gets unfairly lumped into this catagory. Wolf has been slugging it out playing awesome “retro” metal since 95. And when i first heard Wolf,i was waiting for the joke to kick in.But its no joke, and neither is Ravenous. If you havent heard them, think the fun parts of Accept,Maiden,Priest with no use of modern sensabilities. If you are familiar, they stayed the path they have on previous records. Get pumped.
Asphyx: Death… the Brutal Way
I am late rider on the Asphyx train. My first exposure was their God Cries record, and that isnt a real honest example of what the band is. It wasnt until 4-5 years ago when i was turned onto Last one on Earth that it all made sense. And Death… the Brutal Way is how textbook comebacks should be. The material is completely throwback to the Rack/Last one… era, with slight modern touches thrown in. Martin Van Drunen sounds amazing. And new guitarist Paul Baayens,also in Hail of Bullets with Van Drunen, keeps it from being a clone of their other band. If you like 90′s death metal at all, this will work for you. And it has the 2nd best record title of the year[first is Arckanum, and record title contest is based on nonsense.].
Claws: Absorbed in the Nethervoid
Another sickly named record. Another slab of fucking amazing throwback death metal, with little in terms of current trappings. Not unlike Convulse or Abhorance. Lasse[also of amazing doomsters Hooded Menance] does everything here. It is a needed half hour of death. And the first actual song is called Bloodsucking Sorcery. That is happiness to me.
Propagandhi: Supporting Caste
I am a Propagandhi apologist. I love this band and havent found fault with anything they do.I love Potemkin City Limits, and i guess thats not a popular stance.[It may be, but im usually discussing this with other metalgoons.] Anywho… Supporting Castes is a grower, and when it sinks in it rules alot. Propagandhi but more metal is how id describe. Take away the opening riff to Night letters and the cover of Black Widow’s Come to the Sabbat, its as good as anything they have ever done. The title track and Dear Coaches Corner are definite repeat listeners. Backed.
Candlemass: Death Magic Doom
Its not classic but its proof that getting old doesnt mean becoming antiquaited.Leif Edling still knows how to write overdramatic/theatrical doom, and has been doing it for going on 25 years. Robert Lowe is no Messiah, but he is sick and awesome in his own Dio worship sort of way. Hammer of Doom, House of 1000 voices, and the Bleeding Baroness are all well welcomed additions to the Candlemass sick song party. If you liked em before, you should still like them now. No excuses.
Funeral Mist: Maranatha
Pretty all over the place BM. Alot of it seems kinda like the “look how weird I am…” section of artiness. But its crazy solid release as well. Overdramatic/somewhat modern black metal. Odd recording tones, alot of samples, not unlike FM’s previous release Salvation, or maybe in line with newer “forward thinking” black metal bands like Deathspell Omega or Blut Aus Nord. I really dig it on headphones.
Jon Blick: Thursdays, 12 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Plexi 3: Tides of Change
Fun live, Fun on record, Fun, Fun, Fun.
Ida Maria: Fortress ‘Round My Heart
Awesome use of what voice she has, great songs.
Regina Spektor: Far
Weird, intriguing, tuneful, catchy.
Alberta Cross: Broken Side of Time
Great crunchy stoner rock (crunchy as in guitars, not granola).
St. Vincent: Actor
Some of this is a bit out there, some just gets stuck in your head, and yeah, she can pull it off live.
Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Pure pop. What more do you need?
Tegan & Sara: Sainthood
Again, with the great pop.
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart: Higher Than the Stars EP
Sunny, fuzzy pop, great fun (do I detect a theme?)
Honkytonkitis: You Drink and Drive Me Crazy
Sucker for a good smartass country song? Here’s an albums’ worth.
The xx: S/T
For those of you who find the Raveonettes just a tad too upbeat….
Erin Wolf: WMSE Music Director and Tuesdays, 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.
The Obits: I Blame You / Sub Pop
Rick Froberg is a god. This’ll satiate all the Hot Snakes fans that want more venomous rock and roll to get good-angry about. “Two Headed Coin” is my favorite song of the year. The bass line!!
The Reigning Sound: Love and Curses / In the Red
Been a fan since I first heard Too Much Guitar and instantly backtracked to Time Bomb High School. Greg Cartwright throws so much vulnerability into his vocals and music without ever sounding like a sissy.
Crocodiles: Summer of Hate / Fat Possum
Awesome, fuzzed-out pop. I get the most calls asking what I just played with this album. Funny that Pitchfork gave it a ’4.1′. Ha. I still like it anyway.
Thomas Function: In the Valley of Sickness / Fat Possum
First saw this band play a live show. Last year’s Celebration was pretty awesome, but this one definitely tops it. Josh Macero’s snotty vocals paired with lively guitars and Hammond organ are the unlikely icing on the cake. “Ew Way Ew” is probably my second favorite song of the year.
Decibully: World Travels Fast / Listening Party
So happy these guys finally put this out – it’s a really pretty and energetic vs. reflective collection of pop from a local band that never fails to wow me with their live shows.
Sonic Youth: The Eternal / Matador
Take or leave Kim Gordon’s vocals, but this latest SY release is still brutal and awesome. Their appearance at Turner Hall Ballroom was one of the best shows I saw all year.
Jaill: There’s No Sky (Oh My My) / Decorated
Now, the local band is known as ‘Jaill’ (they just signed onto Sub Pop). One of the best pop records of the year –guitarist/vocalist Vinnie Kircher has the Midas touch with everything he writes. Jail’s EP, which was released a couple years ago, was a good prediction of things to come. This album is just as solid, through and through.
Terrior Bute: Realm Dwellers / Vicious Pop
Super fun, spazzy and sweet electro-pop from a local band that likes to put on quite a show. Last time I saw them, they tripped out the audience with both their synths and their light show and white jumpsuits.
Desolation Wilderness: New Universe / K
I’m such a sucker for Galaxie 500 and the whole dream-pop era of the ’80s/’90s. Desolation Wilderness’ sophomore release is luminous, and completely reminiscent of a bygone musical era. Each song sparkles.
Strange Boys: The Strange Boys…and Girls Club / In the Red
Nothing innovative for garage-rock, but this Austin band put out a solid record with this release. Wavering between bluesy tendencies and straight up distortion-laden rock with lots of punk attitude, this is one you put on when you feel like flipping the whole world the bird. The Black Lips, who?
Dr. Sushi: Tuesdays, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Philip Glass: Glass Box
Miles Davis: The Complete Columbia Album Collection
The Bad Plus: For All I Care
Peter Brotzmann: Hairy Bones
David Murray: The Devil Tried to Kill Me
Vandermark 5: Annular Gift
Medeski, Martin & Wood: Radiolarians
Fred Anderson: 21st Century Chase
Nels Cline: Coward
Vijay Iyer: Historicity
Chris DeMay: WMSE Volunteer Coordinator
(Chris’s picks are his ‘best of’s’ of everything from the year of 2009:
- Big Star Box, “Keep An Eye on the Sky”
- Bonnie “Prince” Billy show at Turner Hall – Mr. Oldham and band made a big room feel quite cozy and delivered a dynamic two-hour plus set.
- Call Me Lightning at Radio Summer Camp – The best live band I saw all year, twice.
- The Palm and Sugar Maple going preemptively smoke-free. Smart and forward thinking … take note saloon keepers.
- Fantastic Mr. Fox
- The video for Bob Dylan’s version of “Must Be Santa”
- Trusty Knife video for “It’s All Built In”
- Royal Rumbler burger at Comet and Honeypie
- Atomic Records farewell show
- The Borg Ward
- German Chocolate mocha at Espresso Christoph
- Levon Helm – Neither cancer or Robbie Robertson can stop him
- Howl Street Recordings
- Nashville in May
- Aaron Schleicher’s Weekly Song Project
- The Whiskey Belles in-studio during the WMSE Fall Pledge Drive
- Wilco (The Album) – I’m ready to hate the next record but never do.
Dori Zori: WMSE Underwriting Director and Thursdays, 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Dirty Projectors: “Stillness is the Move”
Pezzettino: “You Never Know”
La Roux: “Bulletproof”
Codebreaker: “Follow Me”
Peaches: “Talk to Me”
Miike Snow: “Animal”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: “Zero”
The Dead Weather: “Treat Me Like Your Mother”
Arctic Monkeys: “Crying Lightning”
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: “Young Adult Friction”
Discovery: “Orange Shirt”
Passion Pit: “The Reeling”
Har Mar Superstar: “Tall Boy”
Flight Of The Concords: “Sugar Lumps”
Kid Millions: “Victim to the Beat”
Tom Crawford: WMSE Station Manager and Mondays, 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Gong : 2032
From Monument to Masses: On Little Know Frequencies
bibio: Ambivalence Avenue
Ken Vandermark: Resonance Ensemble
Martin Hall: Hospital Cafeterias
Sunn0))): Monoliths and Dimensions
Eric Blowtorch and the Welders w/ Dan Kubinski: Don’t Put Down The Dream
Buzz: Fridays, 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Cococoma: Things Are Not Alright
Hex Dispensers: Winchester Mystery House
The Snazzy Boys: S/T
The A-Bones: Not Now
King Khan & BBQ Show: Invisible Girl
Jerk Alert: Dirty Slurs
Various Artists: Gonerfest 4
Reigning Sound: Love and Curses
Estrogen Highs: Tell It To Them
The Hussy/Sleeping In The Aviary: split 7″
Future of the Left
Craig Mertes: Tuesdays, 6 a.m. – 9 a.m.
Future of the Left: Travels with Myself and Another / 4AD
The Andrew Falkous led Future of the Left follows up their debut “Curses!” with a slightly more refined album. One that retains all of the piss and vinegar we’ve come to love from the McLusky front man. “Travels with Myself and Another” is full of catchy Pixie-esc indie punk with single note guitar leads and snarling vocals.
P.O.S.: Never Better / Rhymesayers
P.O.S’s third full length “Never Better” is the definition of a raw nerve. P.O.S delivers with an intensely personal and emotional album of underground hip-hop that is full to brim with fantastic beats and even better rhyming (a few of P.O.S’s references include the Big Lebowski, Ove Gloves, and Scions). Guest appearances from fellow Doomtree posse members Dessa and Sims make for nice additions.
Dinosaur Jr.: Farm / Jagjagwar
Dinosaur Jr. continue to show why they were such a force in the late 80’s and early 90’s with their second album since the reformation of the original Dinosaur Jr. line-up. Plain and simple these songs rock and J Mascis shows off his chops with several extended solos. The songs penned by Lou Barlow are slightly more catchy than those penned by J, but J’s work tends to be more beefy and rocking. This is a fantastic example of indie rock at its finest and I’m extremely happy that these boys are back to making music together.
Mastodon: Crack the Skye / Warner Bros.
Crack the Skye is Mastodon’s full immersion into prog-metal, a trajectory that started with their last album “Blood Mountain”. A concept album revolving around Czarist Russia and outer space themes, “Crack the Skye” never slows down once it gets out of the gates and remains interesting throughout and for repeated listens. A number of these songs are downright catchy.
…And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead: The Century of Self / Richter Self
The Trail of Dead return to form after a handful of album lost somewhere in the progressive rock jungle. “The Century of Self” finds the Trail of Dead discovering the happy balance between their progressive noodlings and indie rock bombast. It’s a combination that works incredibly well for the Trail of Dead and is really what we have been waiting for them to grow into since “Source Tags & Codes”. Given the strength of this album it’s been worth the wait.
The Gossip: Music for Men / Columbia
The Gossip (specifically Beth Ditto’s voice) have benefitted from some additional production on their major label debut for Columbia records. They have also really grown into their own garage/ dance punk genre on “Music for Men”. An album choked full of incredibly catchy danceable numbers that showcase Beth Ditto’s absolutely amazing voice.
Metric: Fantasies / Metric
Fantasies is a catchy indie rock album drenched in sexuality. I am constantly finding songs like “Help, I’m Alive,” “Gold Guns Girls,” and “Satellite Minds” getting stuck in my head. In a world where “indie” has just about become synonymous with “pop”, Metric’s ability to stand out on their infectious song writing abilities makes them worth checking out.
Aceyalone: Aceyalone and the Lonely Ones / Decon
Following up Aceyalone’s reggae influenced “Lightning Strikes” with a heavily R&B influenced album. This album takes the form of a faux live album both in a references from Aceyalone within songs and the recording style. Aceyalone does a wonderful job of meld R&B with underground hip-hop. Vintage guitar lines, horns and backing vocals (from Bionik and Treasure Davis) make this album a real treat. I find myself listening to this album over and over again without it losing any of its appeal.
Obits: I Blame You / Sub Pop
The Obits’ “I Blame You” is a damn good straight up rock ‘n roll record. Well written muscular songs that stand up to repeated listens grace this album from front to back. This album is just fun to listen to.
The Life and Times: Tragic Boogie / Arena Rock Recording Company
The Life and Times continue to expand their sound with more syncopated rhythms, recording effects and additional instrumentation (piano’s, keyboards and xylophones are scattered throughout the album). Despite having an atmospheric quality that runs throughout the album the Life and Times still deliver the muscle with several rocking tracks.
Honorable Mentions: (no particular order here, just albums that I think should be mentioned, a couple of these albums could have swapped places with the Life and Times):
Sonic Youth: The Eternal / Matador
It’s Sonic Youth — they continue to be a power house in indie rock. Another solid effort in the vein that we’ve come to expect from Sonic Youth.
Brother Ali: Us / Rhymesayers
Brother Ali’s Us has a definite positive vibe to it which is truly a pleasure to listen to, rapping about purchasing a house and spending time with his children without losing the listener.
Mos Def: The Ecstatic Downtown
A return to form for Mos Def, which I find makes me all the more upset over “The New Danger”.
Sunn O))): Monoliths and Dimensions / Southern Lord
These guys know how to create an atmosphere. This album sounds like it was recorded in a cavernous cathedral.
P**sed Jeans: King of Jeans / Sub Pop
Parts of this album give me a real Transnational Speedway League (Clutch) feel which is a very good thing.
Bob Mould: Life and Times / Anti-
Standout Local Albums from this Year:
Invade Rome: Light Eyed and Villainous / S/R
Pezzettino: Lion / Nite Owl
The Vega Star: The Night / S/R
Rich Mars: Wednesdays, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
The xx: S/T
Dinosaur Jr.: Farm
Sonic Youth: The Eternal
Jarvis Cocker: Further Complications
Fiery Furnaces: I’m Going Away
Viva Voce: Rose City
Heartless Bastards: The Mountain
PJ Harvey and John Parish: A Woman A Man Walked By
The Handsome Family: Honey Moon
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: It’s Blitz