Thursday, December 17, 2009

2009: The Year in Numbers (Posts 5)

So I wasn’t entirely sure what list to do next, but I felt that I needed something good today, so I've compiled a list of my favorite albums of 2009. I intended on saving it for close to last, but why not put the best post in the middle? Live a little.

To my surprise, this was a great year for music. Usually, I find myself so disappointed with most of the new releases, but I have to say, I was thoroughly happy with most everything. Yes, some albums were overrated, but that doesn’t really detract from what was fantastic. In fact, there was so much that I loved, that I had to extend my list to twenty albums, rather than the usual ten or fifteen.

It was far too difficult to pick a definite number one, so it’s still pending. Just think of my top five as interchangeable for now; it depends on my mood.

And here we go…

20. The Bachelor - Patrick Wolf: I had really high expectations for this. The first half is great, then it just gets weird and I end up turning it off. So, not that it was a bad effort, I believe that P-Wolf put his whole heart into it, it just drags on after the fifth song.

19. The Fame Monster - Lady GaGa: “Seriously, Devyn? Did you seriously just…?” Yeah, I just went there. Are you gonna hate on it now? You better not.

18. It’s Not Me, It’s You - Lily Allen: This was so heavily promoted, and I get why. It was damn good. Albums promoted with free lollypops win my vote any day.

17. Fantasies - Metric: I don’t see why anyone would have a problem with this album. It’s totally catchy and great. Certainly not Metric’s most notable work, but I don’t see why it doesn’t deserve a spot on my top 20.

16. Merriweather Post Pavilion - Animal Collective: Okay, so I really didn't want to put this album anywhere near my list, but I have to say, I've given in. I've always considered myself just a casual Animal Collective listener, I never found them to be particularly mind blowing, but yes, they've won me over with this album. It's, dare I say it? ... LISTENABLE! And not just that, but actually quite good.

15. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - The Pains of Being Pure At Heart: Okay, so a lot of the songs sound the same, but you know, whatever... YOU KNOW YOU LIKE IT TOO! SO, SHUT UP!

14. Logos - Atlas Sound: I have never been a big listener of Deerhunter, but I've never argued with the fact that Bradford Cox is an incredibly talented musician. I actually didn't intend on listening to this album, but after hearing a lot of good things about, I figured it couldn't hurt. Much to my surprise, I quite enjoyed it. It's really chill and good for taking naps to.

13. Manners - Passion Pit: I think I may have expected too much of this release after how good their EP was, which managed a top 10 spot last year. Nonetheless, this was good though. It's basically an extension of the EP which is by no means bad.

12. Hands - Little Boots: I had this on repeat all summer, need I say more? It’s catchy as hell, and it’s got a lot of cute lyrics. Not to mention, Little Boots is totally adorable.

11. Real Estate - Real Estate: I knew this was going to be good, based on their EP’s. It’s crazy how popular they got within a few months. Who knew some guys from my home state would make such a bang?

10. Vapours - Islands: I was scared to listen to this the first time, but I was actually really happy with it. I like it better than Arm’s Way (which only got an honorable mention last year). It’s totally different from anything Nick has ever done. There were no ten minute songs... just pure dance party.

9. Grand - Matt and Kim: Basically, I’ve been looking forward to this album for the last two years, and when it finally arrived in January, I was totally stoked. Of course, their self-titled debut is a thousand times better, but this was a good follow up. I’m happy for them and the attention they’ve gotten from this album. It’s well deserved, but I feel like their first album, and EP are just being overlooked because of the publicity that Grand has gotten.

8. Get Color - Health: This album made me love Health. I’ll admit, I was never really a fan before, I just thought they were some noisy experimental band, no thank you! But this was actually melodic. It was short, sweet and enjoyable, but still retained the intensity expected from their music.

7. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - Phoenix: Upbeat and catchy. That’s all I was really looking for in this album, and Phoenix more than surpassed my standards.

6. It’s Blitz! - Yeah Yeah Yeahs: I was thoroughly happy with this. It’s got just the right amount of synth, just enough disco, and seemed to cut down on Karen’s signature shouting, without losing what we all know and love about YYY’s. It was more of a light listen compared to previous releases, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. There was nothing really startling about it. Nothing that made me feel like I was having a heart attack. Karen’s got such a pretty voice, I’m glad she fully took advantage of it on this album.

5. Psychic Chasms - Neon Indian

- What’s not to like about this? It kind of gave me a Starfucker (I’m sorry, Pyramiddd) feel the first time I listened to it, but a little more raw. I dig it, a lot. Truly seventeen minutes of bliss.

4. My Maudlin Career - Camera Obscura

- What else could you expect from them? It was bound to be good. Every track is just so sweet and lovely. They can really do no wrong.

3. Veckatimest - Grizzly Bear

- This was actually unexpected. I thought it was going to be another snoozefest, considering I can barely listen to Yellow House or Horn of Plenty without getting bored.

2. March of the Zapotec/Holland - Beirut

- If all of the material was new, this would most definitely be number one on the list, but I figured that would not be fair, because only half of the material is new, the other half is from when Zach was 15. It really is fantastic though. It is impossible for Beirut to come out with a bad release, I'm convinced.

1. XX - The XX

- I listened to this once, and for the next two weeks, it was all i listened to. These newcomers from the UK have stolen my heart. Sure, they lack any form of stage presence, but that doesn't make this album any less enjoyable.

Honorable Mentions:

Sainthood - Tegan and Sara: I really wanted to love this, but I found that it just didn't meet my expectations. Though, they get a shout out anyway, because this album certainly did not change my opinion of them. There are some decent songs, it's just not totally golden like their last three albums (and I say last three, because anything pre-If It Was You is not so great).

Ultraviolet - Kid Sister: If this had come out two years ago, or even last year, it would have been in my top albums. Instead, she gets an honorable mention. Sorry, Sis. It simply wasn't worth the wait, especially because I already had half of the tracks.

Far - Regina Spektor: Compared to her other albums, this was far from what I expected; it really didn't do much for me. I probably listened to it twice, then it disappeared into the lost land of barely played songs on my itunes. And to think, she got so much hype this year, I mean hell, I saw her TWICE!

See Mystery Lights - YACHT: This album seemed to be an attempt to appeal to a broader audience. It didn't cut it for me. Go back to The Blow, Jona!

Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future - The Bird and The Bee: This was a cute album, but I mean, there were only a couple of songs that stood out.

Living Thing - Peter Bjorn & John: Peter barely sings on this album, I don't get it. I thought it was going to be fantastic, based on the first single I heard, "Lay It Down," but I guess I was wrong.

BiRd-BrAiNs - tUnE-yArDs: Okay, I like ukuleles and all, but aside from maybe two or three songs, Merrill's voice got a little irritating, and I just wasn't loving it anymore. The initial concept is nice though. I wish I liked it more.

LP - Discovery: I wanted this to be awesome. Instead it just ended up sounding like Vampire Weekend and Ra Ra Riot thrown into a blender with Kanye West and a vocoder. It probably wouldn't have even been mentioned on my list if it weren't for the song "Carby," which I had on repeat for weeks after I first listened to this album.

Clues - Clues: Another offshoot I wanted to love, but just couldn't. I suppose most offshoots and side projects will only receive an honorable mention.

2009: The Year in Numbers (Posts 3-4)

The next list I've compiled are of the most life threatening shows of the year - shows that could have easily been in my list of heartbreaking shows, but the reasoning would have been literal. I kid you not when I say i could have died at these shows, and I don't mean I could have died of happiness (because I certainly was NOT happy), but that my life was actually in danger. There are only two shows that have made this list, which I should be thankful for, as I never want to relive these experiences ever again. But really, the endangerment of my life was due to the faulty barricades, shitty summer show security, and i suppose the nature of the music, as it generally attracts crowds of overactive hipsters who have one goal, and that goal is to injure you as much as possible.

The number two spot goes to...

2. Black Lips, Health @ Williamsburg Waterfront (7/26/09)

- Based on the time I saw them at Maxwell's in the summer of 2008 (which won most life threatening show of last year), I knew that this show would be at least a little bit painful. It started out just fine, not that many people, a little light dancing, whatever, so I figured, how bad could this possibly get? I obviously jumped too far ahead, as I had no idea what was coming later on. Black Lips started, and the crowd exploded. I was immediately pressed against those less than sturdy barricades, and instantly, the photo pit had disappeared. There was no space between us and the stage; absolute mayhem had broken out, and there was no way to stop it. Shirts were flying, beer bottles smashed, people stormed the stage, but again, that's what's to be expected of Black Lips.

What could POSSIBLY be more dangerous that that?

Oh, you don't even know...

1. Matt and Kim, Team Robespierre, Flosstradamus @ Pier 54 (7/9/09)

- And you thought Black Lips sounded bad?! I don't even want to think about how horrendous this show was. I have never been in so much pain in my entire life. I was dead center against the barricade, being squashed by five thousand d-bags, twelve year olds, and a bunch of drunk a-holes who only came to the show because it was free, and oh, they "like that one song where they get naked in the video".....ugh. The barricade was so close to toppling over, which would have meant me being stampeded by every person in the crowd. What fun is there in that? Also, it didn't help that the girl behind me was searing my skin with her cigarette ashes.

(Thanks to ma gurl Natalia for this photo ... how she managed to even take photos baffles me)

Next List: Best Free Shows (and no, these two are not included on that list, which is actually kind of sad, because the lineups were fantastic)

So, I've done the most heartbreaking shows, and the most life threatening shows, but what about good ones? No, it's not time for the best shows of the year, because that's being saved for close to last. But, this year has brought a lot of good free shows, mostly thanks to all of the summer waterfront series, and performances at the apple store. I was tempted to put All Points West on my list, but then I realized that the great majority actually had to pay ... oops!

On with the list already...

The Best FREE Shows of 2009

10. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart @ South Street Seaport (7/10/09)

- So, I'll admit, I went to this show with no expectations, as the day of the show, Jay Reatard posted that tweet calling them "The Pains of Being Boring at Heart." Up to that day, I convinced myself I hated TPOBPAH, when in reality, it was just the fact that Peggy Wang is incredibly annoying that made me think I hate them. But i don't! I actually quite enjoy them now. I mean, i wouldn't pay more than $10 to see them, but I sincerely take back anything mean I've said about them in the past. And now I can say that I wasn't lying in that New York Noise bit I got filmed for.

9. Man Man @ East River Park Bandshell (7/16/09)

- Okay, so it was hot as hell, and it took about fifty years to get to the stupid bandshell, but this was still a good show. They seemed kind of tired and lacked energy in the beginning, but they brought it for the encore, which lasted like a half hour, I might add. Hello, colored feathers.

8. The XX, School of Seven Bells @ South Street Seaport (8/14/09)

- The XX was great, definitely won me over that night (too bad it was kind of a snooze fest the second time I saw them, also for free). School of Seven Bells were also quite good. I wasn't sure what to expect of them, considering I just knew that one song, "Half Asleep." I enjoyed them for the most part, I could have done without that song that seemed to last a billion years though. I timed it. It was eleven minutes.

7. Casiokids, Slow Club @ South Street Seaport (8/7/09)

- I. LOVE. SCANDINAVIANS. Oh, and Slow Club is just adorable.

6. Camera Obscura @ Other Music (11/22/09)

- They only played five songs, but they were lovely nonetheless. Bummed I didn't get to see them at Music Hall later that night, but I guess this made up for something, right?

5. AfroPunk Festival (featuring Janelle Monae and Elevator Fight) @ BAM (7/6/09)

- We got there just in time for Elevator Fight, which is Lenny Kravitz's daughter, Zoe's band. They were cute and entertaining. And as usual, Janelle killed it. She only got a 30 minute set, but whatever, she tore up that stage. I love her.

4. Portugal. The Man @ The Apple Store (10/23/09)

- Such a nice acoustic set, and the perfect way to end my less than eventful CMJ week. And oh my goodness, the violinist they had was great. She should play with them all the time.

3. Phoenix @ The Apple Store (9/24/09)

- So, this show was thrown in right before their shows at Central Park, which I had no interest in because tickets were $40. But this was really great. They had just great energy, and luckily, I got there early enough to get a good seat.

2. Regina Spektor @ The Apple Store (7/24/09)

- I waited for close to five house for this show, seated comfortably under a table at the apple store. Not only did I get to see one of my favorite musicians for free that day, but I also made a bunch of new friends on line. I also realized that I'm horrible at charades.

1. Lily Allen, Matt and Kim, Trouble Andrew (2/10/09)

- Another one I waited five hours in the cold for this show. Pretty much perfect lineup, but i could've done without the part where we were herded like cows up the stairs, but ya know, it was free, i kept my crowd expectations low. This was probably the last time Lily Allen would play at a venue that small, considering a couple months later, she headlined at Roseland Ballroom.

Next list is up in the air right now... there are so many choices!

2009: The Year In Numbers (Posts 1-2)

After the magnificence of 2008, this year had some tough competition, but with a swift start, it was quickly in the running for my favorite year yet. But would it live up to my standards, or would it sink into the background of the first decade of the millennium? Only time would tell.

This year had its ups, and it had its downs. We had our share of devastating band breakups, and unexpected reunions, heartbreak, pure awesomeness, being ripped off by the assholes at BAM, never getting Janelle Monae to give us her paintings, barely spending anything for shows this past summer, and being covered in mud way too many times for my liking. But all in all, 2009 proved to be a lot better than I predicted.

I will countdown to the new year by posting a list every day (or every other day), depending on what I have time for. This should get pretty interesting. I will start with the best dressed bands and artists of 2009.

5. Nick Thorburn (Islands)

-Okay, so how could I NOT include him on this list? Yes, it's a complete turnaround from his previous costumes, but no one can deny the grandeur of a bedazzled cape by Christian Joy.

4. Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)

-Again, can't go wrong with Christian Joy. Karen O is the epitome of fierce. She could even make a garbage bag look hot.

3. Janelle Monae

-Black and White. She's classy as hell. No one can make a women's pants suit look as fantastic as she can.

2. Patrick Wolf

-He's not a diva, he's just got standards. Seriously though, when it comes to what he wears on stage, he has high standards. He wouldn't be caught dead wearing anything that doesn't make a statement... and a loud statement at that.

And now, the number one best dressed artist of 2009 (No, it's not Lady GaGa), for the second year in a row...

1. Kevin Barnes (of Montreal)

-What else is new? Must I go into why he is so amazing? His outfits are always so ridiculously over the top, and he changes countless times at every show, then just gives away his garments like it's nothing! His closet must be endless.

Here are some of his best dressed (and undressed) moments this year:

Next list: Most Heartbreaking Shows

On to the next year-end list.

Although there were countless fabulous shows, it was inevitable that there would also be heartbreaking ones. And I must say, they seemed more heartbreaking than usual, as I've actually broken down in tears... multiple times. Yeah, they were that bad. Like, honestly, so upsetting. Whether it was the plethora of d-bags surrounding us, in turn ruining the night, or realizing that all of your favorite band members of a band got kicked out, they all made for depressing nights.

The number 5 spot for most heartbreaking shows goes to...

5. Lily Allen, Natalie Portman's Shaved Head @ Roseland Ballroom (4/20/09)

- Oh yeah, NPSH? Think you're all high and mighty now that you're opening for big name artists? Yeah, not so much. Anyways, of course, I was one of the only assholes dancing to them, but because it was about 8 thousand degrees where we were standing, we opted to leave the crowd and stand somewhere else. I love Lily to death, but this was just an upsetting show. Not to say that she had a bad performance, because she most definitely did not. It was just an upsetting night, mostly due to the fact that it was at one of my least favorite venues. Oh, and that that this was the night I realized that Natalie Portman's Shaved Head are just a bunch of assholes who think it's okay to bask in their nonexistent fame. There was no one at their merch stand because they were too busy spending quality time with "John" (who was actually Bjorn ... way to get them confused! John is the bald one, Bjorn has the mustache, obviously) from Peter Bjorn and John backstage, eating bananas and whatnot. And hot damn, those tickets were expensive too!

4. Nightmare of You @ Maxwell's (1/17/09)

- Okay, Okay, so they were my favorite band when I was 14. I was on that "friend" basis with them, I saw them all the time, I had enough set lists to wipe my ass with, it was all fine and dandy, until they disappeared one day. So, of course, with their miraculous return to Maxwell's last January, I was thrilled. But it was that night where I came to realization that they were not the same band. I was horrified when they came on stage, and I could not even fathom the fact that the only two original members of the band are Brandon and Joe. Ryan was kicked out of the band, and replaced by some weird old guy. And to top it off, Brandon was completely drunk. Nice move, guys. Just lost a fan.

3. The Woodie Awards @ Roseland Ballroom (11/18/09)

- Truly heartbreaking. I had high expectations after last year's experience, and I figured this year would be awesome too. I was Mistaken. You know when Death Cab For Cutie, a band that has been around for over a decade, is being referred to as the "Twilight soundtrack stars," that something is wrong. Very very wrong. Also, Matt and Kim have been whored out by MTV, and there's no way to get them back. Oh, and a note to Roseland Ballroom, TURN DOWN THE BASS! FOR GOD'S SAKE, DO YOU WANT OUR EARS TO BLEED?!?

2. of Montreal @ Terminal 5 (9/18/09)

- I regret going to this show. I was left totally unsatisfied afterwards, and not just due to the fact that the whole crowd was probably the worst I've encountered in a while, but the fact that of Montreal held back. Sure, this would have been fine for an "of Montreal virgin," but I was just less than excited at this show. I'd say I'm just jaded, but that's not true. I know they're capable of much more; they just didn't have the same energy they've had at previous shows. And it didn't help that the show was at Terminal 5. Dear God, never going there again. I'd rather sleep in a dumpster, thanks. Trust me, if you missed this, you really didn't miss anything (except for Solange Knowles ... and i guess Janelle Monae too, but every show of her's is exactly the same, seeing her ten times is just like seeing her once. It never changes). You just saved yourself $35. No, really. There is nothing to be sad about if you didn't go to this pathetic excuse for an of Montreal show. I mean, Kevin kept his clothes ON ... what the hell is that?

Now, after all that, what could POSSIBLY be the most heartbreaking show of the year?

I bet you didn't expect this...

1. Islands @ The Bell House (8/19/09)

- No. Super. Chow. Brothers. Need I say more? Islands is not Islands. Islands is Nick and whoever he feels like having to back him up. Again, however, this was not a bad show by ANY means; it was quite enjoyable actually. It's just that I was thoroughly baffled when I realized that Nick had changed the ENTIRE band lineup. I was upset, to say the least, but I suppose it was to be expected, given the whole change of sound on the new album. And umm, the aftermath of the show wasn't much to be praised. Just a bunch of angsty hipsters hating on me on everyone's favorite public music forum for ~*~StaTiN' da FaCtZz.

Next list: Most Life Threatening Shows