Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Metro Times writers pick the best music of 2009

Today's Metro Times features the favorite music picks by their music staff folk. D'Anne and I both pick our top 5 which can be found very near the bottom of the list due to the way the alphabet works. Eat This City also has their "Top Whatever of 2009" which I used to crab about Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors (not really...ok, kind of) but is really more worth reading for Ben Blackwell's entry.

I've obviously been reading a lot of 2009 best of lists (I can't seem to stop!), which always makes me anxious about the amount of stuff I have not heard yet. But so far, there's only a few records on my "2009 records I haven't heard yet, but due to their inclusion on one or more best of list by people who's tastes I trust, I need to check out" list. But I am sure I'll be adding more to this soon... Do you have any to add?

Matt Jones - The Black Path
Computer Perfection - We Wish You Well On Your Way To Hell
Richard Swift - The Atlantic Ocean
Screaming Females - Power Move (This post from their blog is reason enough to buy their record)
Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk (a record my sister-in-law called me "stupid" for not having any real interest in. So now I need to hear it just to spite her)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Laura's Favorite Albums of 2009

Top 20 favorite albums of 2009 in good ol' fashioned ABC order:
Also, if you want a mix CD with one song from each of my top 20, give me a holler! In return, all I ask is for something cool mailed to or traded to me... Nothing that can get me in trouble with the authorities, and nothing alive. Those are the rules.

BOAT - Setting the Paces
Remember when Weezer was catchy, pure and fun? And how they're like, not that anymore? If you're one of those people who is still having trouble letting go, listen to Setting the Paces. That should give you some closure. Not to mention a new favorite band and album.

Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
Sad bastard enough for me and J Mascis to both place it on our favorites of the year list.

Copper Thieves - From Way Out To Way Under

I can't imagine any of these guys actually stealing copper pipes from the deluge of foreclosed and abandoned properties Detroit readily offers to those willing to risk it for precious scrap metal. Well, maybe John.

Sonya Cotton
Red River
Remember that movie Powder? I wish that guy was real so he could could bring the deer on the album cover back to life. Wait - did Powder bring the deer back to life, or only make the hunter feel the pain of the deer as it died? I don't want to do that to Ms. Cotton - her record is sad enough. But even if he can't bring the dead back to life, if Powder were real I could at least tell him to his face how horrible his movie is.

Deastro - Moondagger
Randy once made a comment in an article about how he measured how excited to get about money as a child by assessing how much Big League Chew he could buy with it. I can't remember the whole deal, just that it was totally a "Wow! Me too!" moment and it made me happy.

Dinosaur Jr - Farm
The loudest band I've ever seen live, and still near and dear to my heart after all these years. 2007's first-album-in-a-decade-with-the-original-line-up Beyond was really awesome, but Farm one ups it and wins perfect Dinosaur Jr status. I also give my coveted "album cover of the year" title to this one. It's like Super Mario Bros meets High Times magazine. I want the sweet, stoned foliage man to carry me into the J Mascis dream world. But I'll make sure to remember some ear plugs.

Elvis Perkins in DearlandElvis Perkins In Dearland
If asked which Elvis camp I was in, I wouldn’t pick Presley or Costello. I’d pick Perkins which would illicit a, “You mean Carl Perkins?” response from Presley fans, and maybe a, “Was it marrying Diana Krall that did you in?” from Costello’s faithful. But my response would probably make his dad (Norman Bates!) happy seeing as he named his son after Elvis Presley.

Future of the Left - Travels With Myself and Another
If you were to tell me that one of my favorite albums this year would contain the lyric, "
Slight bowel movements preceded the bloodless coup," I would've considered that the end of our friendship. I would've insisted you return the Ace of Base/bhangra mix I gave you, because that is only for true friends. But alas, our friendship is safe thanks to my love of this record. As my friend Tim said, "It's refreshing to hear someone ripping off the Jesus Lizard properly."

Morrissey - Years Of Refusal

Oh, hai. Hav u heard of Morrissey? He are my favorite singr.

The Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come
As soon as I heard the line, "And if my suffering doubles, let me never love you less" I knew this would be on my year end list. I'm still not totally sure if that line is from the Bible or if it's Darnielle's work. If it's a Darnielle line, that's not a huge surprise seeing as he's pretty good at that whole writing lyrics thing. If it's actually from the Bible, I'm not moved enough to like, go to church or something, but I am comfortable with extending a, 'Hey Bible, nice work."

Music Go Music - Expressions
Besides Stephin Merritt and John McCain, it's not often that you hear anybody unabashedly point to ABBA as a favorite or an influence. As many records as ABBA has sold around the world, I've yet to personally meet somebody who has a serious passion for the band. Music Go Music love ABBA and, using Sweden's greatest export as a foundation, have smartly harvest an array of late 70's staple sounds on Expressions: Heart, Donna Summer, 10cc, Olivia Newton John... basically all things that are patently uncool to today's youth. Which is probably the exact reason why today's youth will love this record.

Office - Mecca

Do you work in a cubicle environment? Maybe you keep the radio on NPR real quiet-like all night for your desk plant to help you feel more humane and in touch with nature’s rhythm. This is because you can’t even tell if it’s sunny or dark out from where you sit, let alone see a tree. When you go home at night, you are too exhausted to do anything but watch TV and heat up a Lean Cuisine (which is the same thing you had for lunch). It’s rough, but at least you have a job, yes? Either way, you totally deserve a break once in awhile – so maybe download Mecca, the new album by Office. For free. It is so, so good and not boring like your life.

Polvo - In Prism
Polvo is one of those bands I should’ve listened to sooner, but alas, it took In Prism to get my attention. I blame the indie subcategory of “math rock.” I don’t want to say I hate math, but if one were to judge my intelligence level based solely on my math skills, I may very well be considered a developmentally challenged adult – high functioning enough to say, dress myself, but still in need of some sort of basic supervision or home care.

The Prime Ministers - Compromiser

One of the first bands I saw after moving back to Detroit and still one of my favorites. Smart, catchy, high quality pop songs. I probably get songs from this album stuck in my head more than any other this year.

Scotland Yard Gospel Choir - ... And The Horse You Rode In On
Like a cross between Camper Van Beethoven and Pulp, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir totally make me think of my friend Meghan. Like, if she hadn't been the one to introduce me to them, and I heard them for the first time, I'd think, "I bet Meghan loves this band." And if Meghan likes it, it makes me happy.
They were supposed to play Detroit earlier this year, but their entire tour got scrapped because of a tour van accident. I figured they abandoned the tour due expensive van damage, but further investigation revealed that every single member of the band was hurt in the accident - some are still recovering/doing physical therapy, etc. So sad! Their record ... and the Horse You Rode In On just came out in September. Consider it your contribution to health care reform and buy a copy.

Telekinesis! - Telekinesis!
I like this guy even more now that I know he recently became obsessed with Scott Walker. I can't imagine what a Walker influence would do to his perfect pop songs, but it could be interesting.

Those Darlins - Those Darlins
These ladies played the Pike Room the night of the Nine Mile Overpass Tanker Truck Explosion (7/15: Never Forget) and I’m going to just run with the idea that their presence in Pontiac is the reason nobody died, because why not? They’re like a super fun mix of Wanda Jackson, Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers and the Exciters.

Wye Oak
The Knot
Squalling feedback- drenched guitar interspersed with glacially paced haunting melodies ala Low, Red House Painters, Pale Saints etc. Jenn Wasner has that matter-of-fact-yet-longing alto voice like Georgia Hubley or Jennifer O'Connor that I’m a sucker for. Wye Oak is a nice break from the Dan Deacon wackiness I typically associate with Baltimore. Then again, I don’t know that much about them – maybe they wear neon dinosaur masks and pass out roller skates to audience members during live performances.

Yo La Tengo
Popular Songs
Early on in high school, I befriended this really sweet hippie girl who eventually made me a mixtape. I remember only two things about the tape – that it was mostly really boring Grateful Dead stuff and that it had this song called, “From a Motel 6” by Yo La Tengo. She soon afterward became a born again Christian, started dating a sanctimonious prick who once (as a “concerned friend”) said to me, “As a white, Christian male, I feel threatened by your feminist views” and our friendship dissolved. For all I know she’s married to him now and has 11 kids with names like Ezekiel and Hezekiah all of whom have been homeschooled to believe that homosexuality is responsible for the inevitable apocalypse which would come shortly after Satan was elected President of the United States by posing as a hope filled black man with a Muslim name and no U.S. birth certificate. But I got Yo La Tengo out of the deal and I’ve basically been madly in love with them ever since. So clearly I win.

Zoos Of Berlin - Taxis
If you missed Zoos Of Berlin playing in the Detroit Science Center IMAX back in November, you probably missed one of the coolest sets in Detroit this year. Seriously.

Here's 20 Runners Up! For Fun!
Antony & the Johnsons - The Crying Light

Bad Veins - Bad Veins
Lou Barlow - Goodnight Unknown Bat For Lashes - Two Suns
Choo Choo la Rouge - Black Clouds

Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele - The Good Feeling Music Of...

Heartless Bastards - The Mountain

John Doe & The Sadies - Country Club

Dan Mangan - Nice, Nice, Very Nice

Amy Millan - Masters Of The Burial

The Most Serene Republic - ...And The Ever Expanding Universe

A.C. Newman - Get Guilty

NOMO - Invisible Cities

Nurses - Apple's Acre

Pet Shop Boys - Yes

Sonic Youth - The Eternal

The Thermals - Now We Can See

J Tillman - Year In The Kingdom

The Very Best - Warm Heart Of Africa

WHY? - Eskimo Snow

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wonder Twins: Detroit Derby Girls

The Wonder Twins have had some excellent adventures (No time travel though - not yet at least.) over the past year, but attending our first Detroit Derby Girls bout was a definite highlight. These girls are awesome. Read our account and then go buy tickets to their next bout. Actually -that would make a perfect Holiday gift for that hard-to-shop-for loved one. Get 'em tickets to something really awesome that happens right here in Detroit. But buy them now, or else they'll sell out and you will be forced to make some of those "Good For One Hug - Expiration: NEVER!" coupons. Those were kind of cute when you were five, but now that you're a grown ass adult, put the glitter and glue away. Seriously. Virtually anybody on your shopping list would rather have one of those teeny tiny bottles of Jack Daniels. Which, come to think of it, is a lot like giving them a hug they can put in their purse.

Get off the stage: Favorite live albums 2009

I've never really been much for live albums. Unless it's a band I'm really attached to, the only way I want to hear them live is if I'm intrigued enough to actually go see them live. Unless, of course, seeing them in person is no longer an option because they've died, broken up or, in the case of say, the Police, regrouped for an embarrassingly bad reunion tour that inevitably left fans broke and disappointed. With these things in mind, I was kind of surprised to realize just how many live albums I've been excited about this year. Six in fact - two from acts I've personally seen, two from acts I've yet to see, and two from acts I'll never get to see.

Two from bands I've had the pleasure of seeing:

Lambchop - Live At XX Merge
Lambchop remains one of the most underrated bands around today. I've had the pleasure of seeing them once as a full band, with Yo La Tengo at the Majestic Theater back in the late 90's. It was one of the best live shows of my life and one that I still use as a barometer for subsequent shows. This might be why so many concerts since have left me feeling underwhelmed. I also had the pleasure of seeing Kurt Wagner do a solo set (also with Yo La Tengo) in Charlotte, NC a few years ago, and he was fantastic. And he played "Moody Fucker" so it was double plus fantastic. Live At XX Merge is taken from the Merge 20th Anniversary show at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, NC and it is the perfect example of how fucking great Lambchop is.

Shudder To Think - Live From Home
I saw Shudder to Think open for Pavement at Saint Andrew's Hall back in the late 90's. I remember watching some indie elitist Pavement fans making fun of STT's grandeur and dramatic stage presence - particularly Nathan Larson's almost Spinal Tap-like guitar moves. I thought they were totally awesome and actually remember their set way better than Pavement's. Live From Home was recorded on their 2008 reunion tour - the first time they'd done a live stint since breaking up ten years earlier. It must've been a 90's indie rock dream come true for those who got to see them on this tour. For those who didn't, this is a great reminder of just how good they were.

Two from acts I've not had the pleasure of seeing (yet):

Tom Waits - Glitter And Doom Live
I love Tom Waits. This is his first official live album since 1988's Big Time and contains performances from his acclaimed Glitter and Doom tour - all hand picked by Mr. Waits himself. On my "Things To Accomplish In My Life" list, seeing him live ranks pretty near the top. Even above learning CPR.

Drive-By Truckers - Live From Austin, Texas
One of the most quintessential American rock n' roll bands in the quintessential rock and roll city. Austin City Limits has a pretty stellar reputation and is apparently now the longest running music series in American television history (trivia!). I consider it my patriotic duty to like this band.

Two from acts I'll never have the pleasure of seeing:

Ella Fitzgerald - 12 Nights In Hollywood
The story behind this new, 4 CD box set is awesome. But suffice to say, these recently unearthed, Norman Grantz produced live sets from 1961 and '62, at the Crescendo - a small jazz club in Los Angeles - are already being heralded as among the best live Ella Fitzgerald recordings in existence.

Nirvana - Live At Reading
I missed my chance to see Nirvana and that's not something I can change. And really, I didn't feel much regret about that until this Live At Reading recording made me painfully aware of how big a missed opportunity this was. 1996's On the Muddy Banks of Wishkah didn't make me feel that way. Neither did the Unplugged album. But Live At Reading is like the perfect set at the perfect time in Nirvana's all too short trajectory.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Go see Choo Choo la Rouge at PJ's Lager House tomorrow night

For those of you who aren't going to the Magic Stick tomorrow night for the Pure 11 extravaganza, may I suggest Boston's Choo Choo la Rouge at PJ's Lager House? Ok? Good. That is my suggestion then! I didn't even know they were coming until yesterday when I was flipping through the Metro Times (yes, the physical, made-out-of-paper version) and saw the ad listing upcoming shows at the Lager House. They're on Kiam Records which is the label of one Jennifer O'Connor - who happens to be one of my very favorites, and Choo Choo la Rouge happen to be one of her very favorites. Synergy! She even guests on the album on a couple of songs. Speaking of their album, I wrote about it awhile back when Black Clouds was released. Here is a word for word repeat of my review. Repeated here for you. Word for word:

Choo Choo la Rouge - Black Clouds
Since my parents weren’t fans, my childhood introduction to Bob Dylan was through “We Are the World.” At the time, I thought this was pretty much the most amazing song ever recorded. I loved picking out my favorite singer’s voices – Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner... But the song ended with this weird, unfamiliar voice that didn’t make sense to me as a child. I always wondered, “Who is this guy and why are they letting him sing with musical greats like Kenny Loggins and Huey Lewis?!” To be fair, I was 8 at the time. But this suspicion has stayed with me, and to this day, if you compare something to Dylan, I’m skeptical. But I think I may be cured thanks to Choo Choo la Rouge. Black Clouds has Dylan’s influence all over it, and yet I am not repelled! In fact, it’s sweet and catchy and unselfconscious and a nice change of pace from the deluge of recent bands who either think they’re Animal Collective or Yaz or some combination of the two.
Here's their video for "Here Come the Guns" which, really, should totally score then a sponsorship from 3M™

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Write as least one thoughtful letter

I love letters, so it's not a huge revelation that my new favorite site is Letters of Note - a blog that "attempts to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos. Scans/photos where possible." There have been some really great posts so far - several of them music related and well worth reading:

A letter written in 1957 by three teenage girls to President Eisenhower begging him not to give the King "a G.I. hair cut" while he's in the military, or else they "will just about die!"

A letter written in1976 by Frank Sinatra to a Chicago Daily News columnist who trashed him in print. It includes (among other gems) the line, "Quite frankly, I don't understand why people don't spit in your eye three or four times a day."

A letter from a 20-year-old David Bowie in response to his first ever American fan letter in 1967. It's weird to think of Bowie writing the words, "I hope one day to get to America. My manager tells me lots about it as he has been there many times with other acts he manages."

A faxed letter from Joe Stummer to a documentary film maker in '97 about his love for Bruce Springsteen. The opening line sums up his feelings best: "BRUCE IS GREAT... IF YOU DONT AGREE WITH THAT YOU'RE A PRETENTIOUS MARTIAN FROM VENUS."

An adorably earnest fan letter from Andy Kaufman to Elvis Presley written in 1969. In it he writes, "I have been an 'Elvis Presley fan' since my grandfather bought me a copy of Elvis' Golden Records when I was seven. (Since then I have acquired every word you ever recorded, except three.)"

A 1993 letter from Kurt Cobain to William Burroughs asking him to be in the video for "Heart Shaped Box." Cobain writes: "I realize that stories in the press regarding my drug use may make you think that this request comes from a desire to parallel our lives. Let me assure you that this is not the case. As a fan and student of your work, I would cherish the opportunity to work directly with you. To the extent that you may want to avoid any direct use of your image (thus avoiding the aforementioned link for the press to devour). I would be happy to have my director look into make-up techniques that could conceal your identity." Even so, Burroughs declined.

There are many others - some historical, some hilarious, but all worth preserving and reading. Kudos to blogger Shaun Usher for collecting and sharing these letters with us.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wonder Twins and The Twilight Saga: New Moon

This week's Metro Times features the latest installment in the adventures of the Wonder Twins. This time around, we take on The Twilight Saga: New Moon. If you are in vampire love with these books and movies, you may be offended by our opinions and wry observations. But that's okay because it'll give you another reason to lock yourself in your room and cry into your Edward pillow. Because that's all you want to do anyway.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Winter Once Again

I am not a betting person. But if you presented me with the following information, I may not be able to resist: A local record label gathers a huge group of bands, musicians and friends together to record a 53 song holiday compilation. This compilation is totally free. Is this something that anybody other than the people involved in the project and their mothers would find enjoyable?

My money would be on "no." As fun as a project like this might be to put together, how much quality material could it really produce? It probably just sounds like a bunch of people having fun and goofing off, right? I mean, if compilations like Sleighed: The Other Side of Christmas (which has Beck, the Smithereens, Sonic Youth...) and the Sufjan Stevens' Songs For Christmas box set have taught me anything, it is even artists I like and have heard of can make terrible and (in Sufjan's case) terribly pretentious holiday music. So you can understand my holiday music pessimism here, I'm sure.

O, Holy Shit. Suburban Sprawl has the magic recipe for holiday cheer. I was not even half way through the newly released 2009 Suburban Sprawl Music Holiday Compilation before I was ready to run through the streets of Hamtramck like a little lesbian George Bailey. "Merry Christmas Polish Village! Merry Christmas New Palace Bakery! Merry Christmas you old wonderful Whiskey in the Jar!"

You might consider just downloading the tracks from those you know and recognize, but you will miss out! Instead,
download and listen to the whole thing. For real. Make this your go to holiday music collection this season. Yes, I know you like that Mariah Carey song so, so much, but you will get to hear it a bajillion times as you stand in line at Bed Bath & Beyond trying to return a regifted lotion warmer you don't have a receipt for. Thank you to everybody who contributed to this. I was going to try to pick some favorites, but it's just too difficult. Happy Holidays to all of you, and I'm sorry I didn't get you anything in return. But if you find yourself in Hamtramck this season, I'd be happy to pour you a Brandy and Silk Nog.

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