John Greak Poop 09

2009: The Year In Muse-Ick

2009, you are barely three weeks past in the rear view mirror of life and I’m already getting sentimental over you. Not that you were a very good partner, just that 2010 has started out no better than the miscreant year that was. Okay ’09, in your defense, you were only miserable for a few months. You provided some massive highs – an Obama inauguration, lots of great music, lots of great times spent with friends, and on some magical evenings a combination of the two that reminded me why we’re all here in the first place. But the crushing lows, those weren’t so much fun. So if you can, let your younger sibling 2010 know to take it easy for a bit. We could all use a respite from bad news, heartbreak, and Lady Gaga.

Now that we have gotten the obligatory salutations out of the way, here are my top 10 records of 2009, in some particular order. I am sure I missed out on a lot of great stuff, as the sheer volume of new music being released means that many acclaimed titles slip through the cracks or receive nothing more than a cursory listen. Animal Collective, St. Vincent, Flaming Lips, I am looking at you! Drum roll, please?

Japandroids - Post-Nothing   Buy New or Used through amazon   OR   @ eMusic
1. Japandroids – Post-Nothing

Rural Alberta Advantage - Hometowns   Buy New or Used through amazon  OR   @ eMusic
2. Rural Alberta Advantage – Hometowns

NEKO CASE   Buy New or Used through Amazon
3. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart  Buy New or Used through amazon   OR   @ eMusic
4. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix   Buy New or Used through amazon   OR   @ eMusic
5. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

The Thermals - Now We Can See   Buy New or Used through amazon  OR   @ eMusic
6. The Thermals – Now We Can See

John Vanderslice   Buy New or Used through amazon   OR   @ eMsuic
7. John Vanderslice – Romanian Names

Beirut - March Of The Zapotec / Holland   Buy New or Used through amazon  OR   @ eMusic
8. Beirut – March Of The Zapotec / Holland

WILCO   Buy New or Used through amazon
9. Wilco – Wilco (The Album)

SON VOLT   Buy New or Used through amazon
10. Son Volt – American Central Dust

The Japandroids record is an aural experience that simmers, swaggers, and sways between distortion drenched indie rock and more soulful garage influences. “Heart Sweats” is my song of the year! The Rural Alberta Advantage produced a more “mainstream” indie sounding record, borrowing heavily from the Jeff Magnum song book of tricks, yet creating a record that is all their own. Neko was solid as ever – she delivers nothing but strong, polished efforts; lyrically, it may be some of her best work. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart disc is a clever nod to the shoe gaze scene of the 90’s, with some killer hooks and harmonies thrown in for good measure. Phoenix delivered the flat out most infectious record of the year, heck possibly the most infectious record of the decade. Not a huge fan of the production, but the songs are freaking H1N1 catchy. The Thermals prove the power trio is alive and well. Their formula tires a bit, but the first 6 tracks provide an ambitious riff rock blueprint. John Vanderslice is still the most underrated singer/songwriter of the past 10 years. His albums are always musically/lyrically interesting, and “Romanian Names” is no exception. The same can be said for Beirut, although this double EP release features more of a synth/electronic feel on “Holland” and further expansion of their Balkan folk sound on “March Of the Zapotec”. Wilco was in full on Guthrie/populist mode in 2009 – not a bad thing in my opinion – with their admittedly catchy collaboration with Feist (“You And I”) sticking out like a sore thumb. That said, the record really grew on me as the year went on. And Son Volt, with what appears to be a re-invigorated Jay Farrar, puts out a record that I not only wanted to like, but did like. A rebirth of sorts for one of my favorite songwriters, as I had not been fond of the previous albums released under the Son Volt name since he “reformed” the band in 2005.

Awesome Live Shows
Wilco – 7/18, Dutchess Stadium
The Hold Steady – 6/6, Castaways, Ithaca
Big Star – 11/18, Masonic Temple, Brooklyn
Jeff Tweedy – 3/26, Calvin Theatre, Northampton, MA
Social Distortion – 10/13, Northern Lights, Clifton Park
The Feelies – 11/12, Bearsville Theater, Woodstock
The Old 97’s – 6/19, Maxwell’s, Hoboken, NJ
The Hold Steady – 4/1, The Tralf, Buffalo
The Hold Steady – 7/25, Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ
The Hold Steady – 9/6, Stewart Park, Ithaca (Yes, I saw the HS 4 times in one year!)
The Muffs – 1/18, Maxwell’s, Hoboken, NJ
Ted Leo/Pharmacists – 6/22, Maxwell’s, Hoboken, NJ
Rhett Miller/Serial Lady Killers – 9/21, The Chance, Poughkeepsie
Skinny Puppy – 11/17, Nokia Theatre, NYC
The Wilco show stands out as one of the aforementioned magical evenings, a beautiful night under the stars in Fishkill, of all places! Despite the minor league baseball stadium backdrop, perfect weather and an engaged audience gave it a much more intimate feeling. The band sounded great, Jeff Tweedy was cracking wise, and the set list was almost perfect. Added bonus was Nels Cline providing all the sublime guitar debauchery one could ask for, without it ever becoming obnoxious. The band as a whole seemed to be having a great time, possibly sensing that evenings where artist and audience feed off each other in such a positive fashion are increasingly rare.

Movies I Liked
Adventureland, Zombie Land, Up In The Air, Watchmen, Whip It, A Serious Man, Cold Souls, Inglourious Basterds, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, 500 Days Of Summer, I Love You Man, The Hangover, Star Trek

I usually end these things with a nod to those who have culturally touched my life and passed on in the previous calendar year. This time around, such notices seem a bit frivolous knowing that many of us lost a true friend when Jack Goldberg passed away earlier this month. I encourage anyone who has not had a chance to read any of the moving tributes to his legacy to check them out on the Jack’s Rhythms Facebook page