The 2009 Music Year in Review
Best album of the year: Wooden Shjips, Dos, (Holy Mountain Records)
Ending a decade full of Sabbath worship (nothing at all wrong with that), Wooden Shjips not only put out the definitive psych album of the aughts, but gave the world a record that will stand the test of time alongside names like Neu!, Silver Apples, Suicide, Spacemen 3 and the Velvets. About as perfect an album as you could get this year.
More Good Wood
The album that simultaneously put all indie bands with Grateful Dead fixations to shame, and also gave a hanging-out-in-a-poncho feel to the Woodsist/Captured Tracks revolution of 2009 was Songs of Shame by Woods. This record has 8 minute instrumental freak outs, and a heartbreaking cover of Graham Nash’s “Military Madness”.
Driven by Demons
To be honest, when I read the press release, I thought “yeh, right”, but then I fell asleep listening to this thing on repeat and realized “oh, Brian Eno got fucking evil, and tried to make Music for Black Metal Airports.” I really never thought they would be able to top the album they did with Boris, but somehow Sunn O))) put out the most epic album of their career thus far, Monoliths & Dimensions.
If I gotta chose the hero of the “genre” this year, it’s gonna have to be Gary War. This is hardly a slight on Blank Dogs Under and Under, but Gary’s (I don’t think that’s his Christian name) Horrible Parade (Sacred Bones) was like a demented lo-fi tribute to early Wax Trax, and it just barely edged out Mr. Dog.
Gave into the Hype
I tried hard to be a hater, especially after I read the Pitchfork review, which made me a bit sick, but Album by the SF band Girls is really fucking good. These guys obviously have an understanding of what has made love songs so great for the last 50 years, connecting everything from Buddy Holly to The Ramones, and have put out an album full of heartbreaking odes to life and love from the bottom. Also, the video is pretty brilliant.
The Family Grows up
Akron/Family always put out stuff I liked, but never a full album that I considered crucial, but Set Em’ Wild, Set Em’ Free (Dead Oceans) changed all that. At some points moody, other totally jubilant, it is pretty much totally focused on making the band the 21st century version of The Dead while avoiding all the Phish/shitty jam band pitfalls. Also, this disc takes home the award for ‘best weeper to close an album by’ in the ’09.
More often than not, Phil Elvrum will do something to remind us that he’s a fucking genius. In 2009, he did that and managed to give us an album under his Mt. Eerie moniker, that combines ambient black metal with damaged songs from the prairie, like Neil Young’s Dead Man score, or much of Earth’s more recent work. Wind’s Poem is at some points gorgeous, at other moments, frightening.
I had heard some stuff involving Kurt Vile in the past; most notably his contributions to Wagonwheel Blues by The War on Drugs. A year later, after invoking a bidding war between some of the most established “indie” labels in the buisness, Vile gave us Childish Prodigy on Matador, which made every music writer scratch their bald heads and ask “what sub-genre can we attach this guy to?”. Neil Young joining Galaxie 500? The Boss turning “Dancing in the Dark” into a glitchy, lo-fi ditty? Who knows? Who cares?
The Girls Club
Sharon Van Etten, Marissa Nadler and Girls in Trouble, each put out incredibly strong albums that lean more towards the folk side of the spectrum, and the (mostly) all-girl band revolution of 2009 kicked it up a notch with not only a great 2nd LP by Vivian Girls, but a lot of attention paid to The Girls at Dawn, Dum Dum Girls, and Pens. All this gives us reason to believe this glorious period isn’t ending anytime soon.
The Beets walked into a shitty club in a shitty part of Brooklyn carrying their shitty equipment, and when they took the stage, I felt something of a mini-revelation. Later, in the wee hours of the morning, as I played the CD they had given me (their album Spit in the Face of People who don’t want to be Cool), I remembered the good old days when a little band from Atlanta called the Black Lips gave this much love and respect to The Fugs.
Hardest working garage band in the biz
Anything Thee Oh Sees put out was good. They had two albums out this year, Help on In the Red, and Dog Poison on Captured Tracks. Lea Oh See John Dwyer is a genius.
Music writing of note
Anything Carrie Brownstein wrote on her blog Monitor Mix.
The book Heavy Rotation was pretty phenomenal. James Wood and the N+1 founding editors (among others) discussing their favorite albums was a serious treat.
Pop Jew’s live coverage of the Black Lips/Wavves fight at Daddy’s. It started out as a early morning Tweet, and ended up turning two of the years biggest names into laughing stocks.
Justin Taylor’s lovingly written ode to the poetry of David Berman in the music issue of The Believer kind of makes Berman the rightful heir to the poet/troubadour crown currently word by Leonard Cohen. Now, if only Berman didn’t have to go and put an end to the Silver Jews.
Aaron Cometbus capsulizing the history of Punk Magazine through John Holstrom’s point of view in the latest issue of his long running zine.
The New Yorker once and for all proving that Will Oldham deserves “high brow” status.
Impose “calling it” on Dum Dum Girls. The band who pretty much everybody will be “talking about” in 2010.
I had a pretty fun time asking some of my favorite musicians and writers their favorite Pavement lyrics.
Continued evidence that there is indeed room for a sub-genre of writing called “noise lit”: Blake Butler by name-checking racket makers like Wolf Eyes and Boredoms in his Largehearted Boy “Book Notes” list, John Wray writing Lowboy with the assistance of Sunn O))), and one of the architects of this genre that only I am convinced exists, Dennis Cooper, taking a fair amount of time to blog about 80′s industrial music and putting Wolves in the Throne Room on his “best of” list in June.
Hipster Runoff making sites like Pitchfork look stuffy.
Anything that graced the pages of Yeti Magazine was good. This happens every year, but the Abner Jay “manuscript” in issue seven was a highlight.
1. Summer of dumb:
A) Wavves vs. Black Lips fight/Jared of Black Lips calling Nathan from Wavves a “faggot”.
B) Jay Reatard sounding like a caveman in the New York Times. Gems like “I was the ultimate nihilist,” and “I wasn’t just mad at the system, I was mad at the people who were mad at the system”, made me dislike Watch Me Fall even more.
2. Michael Jackson Death Cult:
Sure, I’ll concede that he wasn’t prosecuted either of the times child molestation charges were brought against him, but honestly, Michael Jackson was a creep who hadn’t done anything worth my time since the 1980′s.
3. Grizzly Collective overhype
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