Saturday, December 05, 2009

2009: The Year of Lists - Nardy

Nardy is Justin Nardy of Bald Eagle and sometimes Foundry fame. He prints t-shirts for tea-baggers, blogs once in a blue moon, draws some cool-as-shit portraits of famous people, Tweets some insanely depressing stuff, and will someday illustrate a children's book for yours truly (if I ever get my act together). Also, he wrote me a top-10 list for 2009. Notice the label mentions. Nardy (I'm considering calling him "Nard-Dog" like the dude on The Office.) spends many of his waking hours on team Emergency Umbrella. Read his list and learn something.

It should also be noted that the opinions expressed in these posts are not those of comoprozac (a pseudonym) or of the owner of this blog. The lists are entirely attributed to the author identified above.

2009 Top Ten

1. Russian Circles- Geneva/ Suicide Squeeze Records

2. Iron and Wine – Around The Well/ Sub Pop Records

3. Jason Lytle- Yours Truly, The Commuter/ ANTI Records

4. Obits- I Blame You/ Sub Pop Records

5. Cave- Psychic Psummer/ Important Records

6. David Bazan- Curse Your Branches/ Barsuk Records

7. Phoenix- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix/ Glassnote Records

8. Grizzly Bear- Veckatimest/Warp Records

9. Cursive- Mama, I’m Swollen/ Saddle Creek Records

10. Tortoise- Beacons of Ancestorship/ Thrill Jockey Records

Here is my top ten list for 2009. While making this I had to think back about what actually came out this year and if anything was actually good. I found myself going back and listening to more older obscure records this year than I ever have before. I visited a lot of jams from the 70’s and dove into some weird African jazz/funk/soul via Swami Land and African Afrodesiac, all suggested by my friend Ahmed Gallab. This music inspired me way more than anything that came out this year. I became really obsessed with the sounds of the 70’s and the quality and noises these musicians were getting out of their instruments. Not a lot of music does it for me anymore. I am very very rarely blown away by a band's live performance. So coming up with a list of ten worth while records was somewhat of a challenge. I am sure I am missing some things in my list or have forgotten about certain records that came out in early 2009. I do know for sure that these ten records actually did something for me and either inspired me or were an important part of my life this year. So here is my list, I can’t put them in any order, just the top ten records you should have picked up this year in my opinion. These are the records that I actually listened to over and over and went out and bought actual copies of (as well as downloading them all for the iPod). These are the ones that meant something this year.

Russian Circles- Geneva

The third full length from this Chicago trio. This just came out in early October so it is just scrapping by for the releases of 2009. I really feel like RC are coming into their own and this record shows it. I remember when RC only had their first record “Enter” out and they would tour non-stop playing just those songs. Everyone that saw them would be blown away by how tight they were. My biggest complaint was, that they only had 6 songs that they were playing. Of course they were going to be tight as shit, give any band just 6 songs to learn and have them play them over and over for a few years, they better be fucking tight. So it is nice to see the RC catalog grow and for them to come into their own. With the addition of bass player Brian Cook (These Arms Are Snakes, Botch) I really feel like they made one hell of a record and on Geneva the bass finally stands out. The thing that really does it for me with RC is that they all are amazing musicians. Anymore I think that is what it takes for me to be blown away, is seeing musicians that can actually play their instruments. I feel like these guys grew up with a lot of the same influences that I did, and I really respect what they are doing. There aren’t a lot of instrumental bands that continue to blow me away but RC is definitely one that does, and is one band that I will always be curious to pick up a new record by.

Iron and Wine – Around The Well

While this is simply just a collection of rare songs, out-of-print, never released, and cover songs, it still might be my favorite collection of Iron and Wine songs. If you happened to buy this on vinyl it came as 3xLP and had something like 23 songs on it. There is just something about Sam Beam’s voice that does it for me, while I’m more of a fan of the super lo-fi recordings from Iron and Wine, pretty much everything on this record blew me away. I made a set of 4 mix cd’s for someone this year and I think at least 5 songs from Around The Well made it on those cd’s. I must have listened to this 20 or 30 times at work just to get through the day. Just a great laid back record, so much so it might stir up some emotions and get you a little teary eyed from time to time.

Jason Lytle- Yours Truly, The Commuter

After 15 years with his band Grandaddy, this is the first solo record we see from front man Jason Lytle, let’s hope there is more to come. While I have always been a fan of Grandaddy and had the chance to see them twice before they called it quits, I have never thought any of their albums were as solid as this by Jason himself. Every Grandaddy record has those songs that blew me away but they never felt like complete albums to me. Yours Truly has all those songs, they all go together, it feels complete. I downloaded this way before it came out and listened to it a ton, and finally had to break down and buy it on vinyl. Apparently the story goes something like this: After the break up of Grandaddy Jason moved from California to Montana, while in Montana and facing nothing to do during the harsh winter months, he locked himself in a house and wrote and recorded this entire record, the results are pretty amazing. Jason played in Columbia on July 3rd this year (the day after my birthday) it was a pretty special show. I had just started hanging out with a new girl, who was a huge fan of Grandaddy and Jason, so this was a nice excuse to go to a show and hang out and get to know one another a little better. The next day (the 4th of July) I had the pleasure of going to a private BBQ at my friend Daryle’s house, Daryle had grown up with Jason and had done some touring with Grandaddy, he was the whole reason Jason even came to Columbia to play. That night I got to meet Jason and the rest of the band which included ex- Grandaddy drummer Aaron Burtch. We had BBQ and shot the shit, and then later climbed a ladder to the top of the Hearnes Center to watch fireworks and drink wine out of a bag, the night ended with drunken volleyball inside the Hearnes Center. That truly was a night that I will never forget, and was probably the best night I had in 2009. With all of that how could this record not have been in my top ten this year.

Obits- I Blame You

The only reason I even picked this up or gave it a chance was because it was band that had Rick Froberg in it. Rick is one of my favorite guitar players and singers, if you aren’t familiar with his previous work check out pitchfork (the band, not the site), Drive Like Jehu, and Hot Snakes. Now the thing with Rick Froberg is that he works really well with his counterpart John Reis, they simply might be the best guitar duo there is in my opinion and they have influenced every single band I have ever been in. The problem is when these guys do bands by themselves they usually kind of suck. This is not the case with Obits. Obits picks up where Hot Snakes left off, but they kind of add a little garage rock/surf thing into the mix. Either way it works for them and I love Froberg’s voice, I even love the one song he doesn’t sing on. It is just a great rock record. I got to see them in Chicago at the Empty Bottle this year as well. I was having a really shitty time with life and just kind of took off and drove to Chicago to get away, by chance I looked in the Chicago reader while eating some pizza and saw that Obits were playing that night, it definitely made the trip to Chicago worth while. Obits is rad, go buy this record or at very least download it.

Cave- Psychic Psummer

It is really nice to see such a good record and band come out Columbia. Cave started as a Columbia band then headed north to Chicago to really establish themselves as a band. I had seen them a few times live and sometimes they came off really sloppy and other times it was one of the tightest rock and roll shows I’ve ever seen. What I really like about this record is that it has that 70’s feel to it, but it also has something new and refreshing to it as well. I think that 70’s sound is coming back in music and while that’s cool I can also see every “cool” band going in that direction. Cave is led by guitar player Cooper Crain and has somewhat of a rotating cast of characters. Some people hold Crain as musical god in these parts (I won’t go that far), but fact of the matter is when Cooper wants to write a good song he does (see his work with Warhammer 48k and One Inch Punch), and this record is full of them. It’s loud, catchy, psychedelic, has sick drum parts, is full of catchy keyboard/synth parts. It’s just a fucking good record and it gets props from me because of it roots to Columbia. Definitely one of the better records and bands to come out of Columbia. Hopefully they can keep in together and not fall apart like every other good band Columbia has produced. They have been busy touring and putting out a bunch of releases, a couple 7”s a split 10” another full length etc. all good, but I think Psychic Psummer is the crown jewel in the Cave catalog.

David Bazan- Curse Your Branches

You are probably most familiar with Bazan’s work in the band Pedro The Lion. I never really got into Pedro, they had a few songs here and there that I thought were ok. After my roommate Kevin told me about this record and directed me to a free download of it, I figured I would give it a shot. This is hands down better than any Pedro The Lion record. This is such a personal record and Bazan sings about religion, his struggles with drinking, his family life and love. I guess when I started listening to this record I could really relate to what he was singing about. I have never been a big Christian music fan, and sometimes Bazan and Pedro The Lion get lumped into that category, and it is a little off putting for me. In this case I don’t think it matters, Christian or not this is just a good, honest record full of great singer/songwriter songs. My band Bald Eagle was in the middle of writing a record called Drug Church and a lot of themes in our record were about religion and addiction to drugs/drinking, so I found a common bond in Bazan’s subject matter on Curse Your Branches. Even though I had the free download of this, I broke down and bought it on vinyl, it was definitely worth it. This is slowly becoming not only one of my favorites for 2009 but one of my all time favorites. It might force me to go back and give the Pedro The Lion catalog another chance.

Phoenix- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

It felt like Phoenix just came out of nowhere. One day I was hanging out with my friend Chris and he was like have you heard that band Phoenix. I had no idea who he was talking about. He popped it in his car stereo and almost immediately I was hooked on how catchy and poppy these songs were. Wolfgang Amadeus is Phoenix’s masterpiece and really helped them explode as a band. All of sudden this little French band was on every cover of every hip and cool music magazine, they were playing every music festival that mattered, and they were on Letterman and Conan. The fucked up thing is that have been a band for a pretty long time and have few other full lengths out, it just that no one really gave a shit about them until this record. I don’t know why I am such a sucker for music like this, but there is something just fun about putting on this record and turning it up and singing along, it is so so so catchy and pretty easy to get into. There are a few duds on the record towards the middle that can easily be skipped over, but when the good songs come on, they are good. I still don’t have a proper copy of this and still haven’t went back and checked out Phoenix’s older records, I need to do both of those things. Maybe I fell on the band wagon of falling in love with the next cool band to like, but hey as I get older I just don’t give a shit. If it’s good, it’s good and well I think this shit is good. A few weird facts about Phoenix, they started out as a backing band for a remix project of some Air songs. A few of them were in a short lived band who eventually turned into Daft Punk. They have been a band since the late 90’s and there is a band called Empire of The Sun from Australia who sound almost exactly like them.

Grizzly Bear- Veckatimest

I feel like this record is going to be on a lot of top ten lists this year. While I like this record and Grizzly Bear I don’t think I am shitting my pants over them as much as everyone else is. I tried to see them at SXSW and the line was so ridiculous that I just gave up. I finally got to see them a few months ago at The Blue Note here in Columbia, and they put on a great show. They can pull it off live and the big thing for me with Grizzly Bear is the vocal harmonies, I think that is their secret weapon. It is pretty amazing to see a band who have all of the members singing, and doing it very well. At times they remind of the Beach Boys a little bit. The down fall of all of this is that ever fucking hipster and cool kid out there LOVES Grizzly Bear, hey I get it, they are good band, they put out a pretty good record. However there are a lot of bands trying to do this same thing right now. So I am not real sure how long the hype of Grizzly Bear will last. I don’t think ever song on this record is mind blowing or amazing. However songs like “Two Weeks” and “Ready, Able” are really really good and make this record worth checking out and owning. I usually don’t fall into the Brooklyn, NY trap of cool bands, but there is something about Grizzly Bear that is in fact good, again I think the harmonies pull me in and keep me interested enough to always give whatever Grizzly Bear is doing a chance.

Cursive- Mama, I’m Swollen

I have personal ties to this record and to Cursive, so that is why Mama, I’m Swollen makes it into my list this year. My band got to play with Cursive a few times this year and we were personally invited by them to come to Omaha and open/play with them to a sold out crowd. Cursive was one of my favorite bands in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I still think to this day that Domestica and the Burst and Bloom ep are fucking amazing records. People fell in love with them later on with their record The Ugly Organ, which is a great record as well. Then Cursive kind of fell off the radar and put out a record called Happy Hollow that wasn’t received as well as some of the previous records, their drummer quit and then there is always the on going drama of singer Tim Kasher. If you have ever followed Cursive or Saddle Creek Records, you know that most of their releases are at very least worth checking out, they just have that history to them. I came pretty familiar with the new songs that were going to be on Mama, I’m Swollen and became friends with Cursive through playing these shows. Also when their bass player Matt Maginn moved to Columbia, we developed a small friendship and shared lots of beer and stories of record labels, bands, and touring. Cursive are a Midwest band and down to earth, genuine nice dudes that write good songs and like to drink beer. I owe them a lot for helping out my band and allowing us to play some shows with them. We were in talks of possibly touring with them and maybe even doing a split 7” with them before we called it quits. While all of these personal ties make me love Cursive not only as a band but also as people, I do also think they made a great record this year. This record again pulls into some religious themes, questions of human condition, and Kasher ongoing subject matter of “the Peter Pan Syndrome”. While Mama, I’m Swollen might not be my favorite Cursive record, it is still a damn good record and the songs “From The Hips” and “In The Now” might be two of the best Cursive songs to date.

Tortoise- Beacons of Ancestorship

This is Tortoise’s first new studio album in five years and it is probably my favorite Tortoise album or at very least has my two favorite Tortoise songs on it. If you are not familiar with Tortoise, they are an instrumental band from Chicago that have been around since 1990 or so and have ties to a zillion other bands. Their drummer John McEntire also plays in the Sea and Cake, which are one of my favorite bands. McEntire would probably fall in my top ten list of favorite drummers. All you need to know is that Tortoise is full of great musicians and they make some damn fine music, combining dub, indie rock, electronica, and various styles of jazz. They have an amazing catalog of records and all of their releases are worth checking out. I had no idea they were even working on a record, and then boom this fell into my lap and I was blown away. I am still kicking myself in the ass for not going to see them in St. Louis a while back, they are one of the few bands that I still really need to/want to see. I ordered this on vinyl sometime ago and I am still waiting to receive it, it has been on back order for ever. Anyhow buy this record it will floor you, and at very least check out the songs “Prepare Your Coffin” and “Charteroak Foundation”.

*other notable releases this year, that didn’t make my list, but were definitely considered and should be checked out.

-Dark Meat- Truce Opium/Emergency Umbrella Records

-Sinkane-Sinkane/Emergency Umbrella Records

-Call Me Lightning- When I’m Gone My Blood Will Be Free/ (this never officially got released)

-St. Vincent- Actor/4AD

-Dinosaur Jr.- Farm/ Jagjaguwar

-The Flaming Lips- Embryonic/Warner Brothers

-So Many Dynamos- The Loud Wars/Vagrant Records

- White Rabbits- It’s Frightening/ TBD Records

-Monsters of Folk- Monsters of Folk/ Artist First

No comments: