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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Best of 2009: April

Best Albums of 2009

Rather than compiling a huge list at the end of the year, not having enough time to do a good job, and simply throwing something together really fast, I'm going to start compiling my thoughts on albums over the whole year - month by month. Some of these may have actually been released earlier in the year, but are in this months set because this is when I got my hands on them.

April Edition

Shark Speed -
Sea Sick Music

Local bands are a dime a dozen. We have all been to so many small local shows that go something like this: 1. Music starts. 2. We think to ourselves, "Yeah - these few opening chords and riffs sound great . . . these guys have a great sound . . . " 3. Then, invariably, the singer opens his mouth and ruins the whole thing. SO many local bands with great musicians are ruined by horrible vox. Well, when I came across Shark Speed - a band from Provo, UT (go Cougs!), a place I spent a few years, I was excited. Here's how I happened upon them: 1. Former Before Braille guitarist Hans Ringger pops up on the "people you may know" feature on Facebook. 2. I send him a note to see if he is still playing music. 3. He replies, Yes, and directs me to Shark Speed. 4. I listen, am impressed and then find the added bonus that they recorded their debut album, Seasick Music with none other than Bob Hoag of the Flying Blanket Studio in Mesa, AZ.

Long story short, when I hit play on the album, I was blown away. They had a great sound - somewhere between Minus the Bear and the Long Winters - and the singer could sing! YES! The Long Winters comparison is apt not only because of overall tone, instrumentaion and style, but the guy's lead vocals are VERY reminiscent of The Long Winters. If you had given me the album and said, "Here's the new Long Winters album," I would have believed you. Hooray for freaking awesome local music! Top tracks are And You're In the Band, Cast off Dance Off [download mp3] and Deep South Detox.

Art for Starters -
Drugs Made my Favorite Bands/Drugs Ruined my Favorite People

Coincidentally, this album comes from my same penchant for local bands and again, Bob Hoag's Flying Blanket Studio. After the demise of Before Braille a few years back, lead singer Dave Jensen started doing some songs on his own and in some crazy late-night sessions with Bob, recorded them. Then he went to Korea. Eventually he made his way back to AZ and finally released his new material as a 2-CD set. Dave was kind enough to send me quite a few of these songs a couple years back in their demo mixes, and it is great to hear the fully polished versions. The 1st disc - Drugs Made My Favorite Bands is largely electric and the 2ns disc - Drugs Ruined my Favorite People is mostly acoustic. It is similar to his previous Before Braille work, but distinct. The math-rock and heavy guitar noodling of Rajiv Patel and others is gone. More pronounced are thick layering of Jensen's vocals. Complex harmonies with various vocal tracks and lines interweaving pervade the songs. As a music snob, its good to have the fully polished discs in my collection. Self-released on his own record label - Sunset Alliance. Top tracks include I Hope Ants Crawl Under Your Eyelids (On a Saturday Night) [download mp3], You Deserve a Disease, Pinprick by Prick [download mp3] and Diction.

Jimmy Eat World -
Clarity Live

Clarity (1999) still ranks high on my favorite albums of all time. To celebrate the 10th year anniversay, Jimmy Eat World did a short tour where they played the album straight through, plus an encore. This is a live CD of the last show on the tour at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe, AZ. As good as it ever was! Top tracks include . . . well, just take your favorite from the originals and listen to its live version.

The Mountain Goats & John Vanderslice -
Moon Colony Bloodbath EP

Yet another Mountain Goats EP. I really like John Darnielle. I really like John Vanderslice as well, but am increasingly thinking that his music is a somewhat hit and miss for me. This is a good solid EP that deserves a listen for fans of both artists. My top tracks are Darnielle's Satori in Denver [download mp3] and Surrounded.

Iain Archer - To the Pine Roots

Iain Archer has been way off my radar for quite sometime, and it was a somewhat random coincidence that I even stumbled across this album. I'm glad I did. His stripped down indie sounds are straightforward and presented with a marked degree of earnestness. I know that sounds like really schticky reviewer nonsense - "earnestness" - but it really is fitting. Top Tracks are Black Mountain Quarry, Everest and Frozen Lake [download mp3].

Lateef the Truth Speaker - Truth is Love mixtape
Oh Quannum! Lateef, why do you keep on teasing me with mixtapes?! I want a full length, full production album of new material! I want Lateef & the Cheif's follow-up to Maroons: Ambush - I want Ashe! Well, this will have to suffice for now. There are some great tracks and bumps that I had yet to collect from disparate sources, some new takes on things I already had and a few brand new tracks all together. Some great collaborations with Headnotic, General Elektriks / Herve Salters and Fat Boy Slim. The mix blends together well - better than many mixtapes do. Top

Dark was the Night Compilation

I'm sure we've all heard more than enough about this indie compilation to end all compilations - ad naseum almost. I think it fine and all. A good number of the artists are ones that I don't care for. And, even with some of the artists I do like - (The National, Sufjan Stevens, Spoon) - I wasn't impressed with their contributions. I did like the Andrew Bird track The Giant of Illinois, but already had it from his Daytrotter session. Conor Oberst's reinterpretation of Lua was interesting, but not needed. Iron and Wine's Stolen Houses (Die) was phenomonal - but only 1:07 long.

Running LP List

  1. J. Tillman - Vacilando Territory Blues (January)
  2. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love (March)
  3. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast (January)
  4. Dent May and his Magnificent Ukuele - The Good Feeling Music of Dent May (March)
  5. Shark Speed - Sea Sick Music (April)
  6. Art for Starters - Drugs Made / Drugs Ruined (April)
  7. The Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels (March)
  8. Say Hi - Oohs & Aahs (February)
  9. Coconut Records - Davy (January)
  10. Jimmy Eat World - Clarity Live (April)
  11. Iain Archer - To the Pine Roots (April)
  12. The Appleseed Cast - Sagarmatha (February)
  13. Peter, Bjorn and John - Living Thing (March)
  14. Lateef the Truth Speaker - Truth is Love Mixtape (April)
  15. Vetiver - Tight Knit (March)
  16. General Elektriks - Good City for Dreamers (February)
  17. Dark was the Night compilation (April)
  18. Ben Kweller - Changing Horses (January)

Running EP List

  1. Common Market - The Winter's End (March)
  2. Death Cab for Cutie - Open Door (March)
  3. The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice - Moon Colony Blood Bath (April)

Monday, April 27, 2009


Now THIS is bebop jazz!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Full General Elektriks Concert Video live in Paris

I dare you to find a more awesome keyboard-ist!

Go to the Grand Crew website to watch the entire concert.

Monday, April 20, 2009

New Mighty Underdogs Video - Science Fiction

You NEED this stuff on your iPods!

The Mighty Underdogs


Gift of Gab Solo

Lateef & the Chief

Lateef the Truth Speaker