1. Henry Rollins Don’t Dance – Allo, Darlin‘ (Download)
Allo, Darlin‘ caught me completely off-guard with this single, but I’ve been absolutely enthralled with it since I first heard it. It’s silly, but I love songs that namedrop things I like (see “The International Tweexcore Underground Will Save Us All” by Los Campesinos!, “Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend’s Too Stupid To Know About” by Tullycraft, “Hot Topic” by Le Tigre & loads of others), so a song that hits on both Black Flag and the movie-musical Grease is too much. On top of that, the horns make it supremely danceable and almost too catchy for its own good.
The Henry Rollins Don’t Dance 7” is sold out, but Allo, Darlin‘ has a new 7” out now! Get it here.
2. Fun – Sourpatch (Download)
Oh, Sourpatch! Perhaps one of my favorite new bands of 2009 — and when I say “perhaps,” know that I mean “definitely.” Sourpatch is like a combo of every 90s indie pop California band that I’ve ever loved and “Fun” is the perfect sweet-sad friendship anthem. Sourpatch has an upcoming full-length on HHBTM that I can’t wait to hear.
3. new lady – Rocket or Chiritori
I pretty much never buy albums on iTunes — I prefer to have the physical product (whether it’s vinyl, CD, cassette, whatever — I’d take almost anything over a digital release), but I made an exception for the new album by Rocket or Chiritori and I’m so glad that I did. “new lady” is fantastic — the same stripped down, lo-fi bedroom pop that I loved on Rocket or Chiritori’s previous releases, but with a slightly (ever so slightly) more sophisticated sound. Since my copy of “new lady” is DRM protected, I can’t upload it for you here, but it looks like you can listen to a live version on Rocket or Chiritori’s MySpace.
4. Save Me From My Lethargy – Weed Hounds (Download)
Weed Hounds are another one of my favorite new bands of 2009. Their four song cassette demo caught my ear & I’ve been happily listening to it on and off since I first heard it. You can purchase the cassette from Crooked Direction Records for $6.50 or download it from I Could Die Tomorrow. Weed Hounds have a fuzz pop shoegaze sound that reminds me of a blend of Dinosaur Jr. and Swirlies, which is pretty cool. Weed Hounds also have an upcoming 7” on Rok Lok Records.
5. My Heart – The Smith Westerns (Download)
The Smith Westerns were the first band I blogged about here! I saw them open for Los Campesinos! this year and was pleasantly surprised by their fuzz pop sound. I also really loved that they were a group of high energy young people playing infectious 2-3 minute songs. I’m a sucker for a great, brief pop song & the Smith Westerns have a whole album full, though “My Heart” (the album’s closer) is my stand-out favorite. You can get their self-titled album on HoZac.
6. The Tenure Itch – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Download)
The Pains had a load of great releases this year — a great album, a great EP, a great 7” — it was hard to pick just one song, so I went with my first favorite, “The Tenure Itch” from their self-titled album. When I first heard the Pains full-length, this song jumped right out at me. I was thrilled to hear them play it the first time I saw them live & even though they’ve kept releasing fantastic pop songs all year long, this one is still at the top of my list. You can stock up on Pains releases from Slumberland.
7. Over It – Dinosaur Jr. (Download)
This year was the year of Dinosaur Jr. I saw them three times in the span of 8 months & they wowed me every time. On top of that, they put out another amazing album with Farm & the first single, “Over It,” caught my eye with what is probably my favorite music video of this year. I really don’t know what else to say — Dinosaur Jr. knows exactly what they are doing and they are awesome at it.
8. Education – Mirah (Download)
Oh, Mirah. Mirah, Mirah, Mirah. I don’t even know what to say — I just get all gushy whenever I think of her, which doesn’t exactly make for great prose. I first heard Mirah play “Education” sometime in 2008? 2007? It’s hard for me to remember now — it was at a small, ill-attended show in Columbus and it knocked the wind out of me. I love how insightful Mirah is, how sharp and true her lyrics are, and how although her writing is often sad, it can also be overpoweringly hopeful.
9. Like How You Are – P.S. Eliot (Download)
P.S. Eliot’s Bike Wreck demo was one of my most listened to releases during my senior year of college — I turned out many a half-hearted paper and lesson plan to P.S. Eliot’s riot grrrl influenced songs & spent a long time awaiting the release of their debut album Introverted Romance in Our Troubled Minds. “Like How You Are” appeared on both P.S. Eliot’s 2008 demo and their 2009 album and it’s definitely one of their strongest tracks. You can order P.S. Eliot’s full-length from Salinas Records.
10. Beautiful Things – Quasi (Download)
Quasi’s cover of “Beautiful Things” (originally by the 3D’s) was, for me, the standout track on Merge’s Score! compilation. Something about this song is extremely uplifting — every time I hear it, I’m left feeling extremely hopeful. It’s just a great, great pop song.
1. (a)spera – Mirah
I’m not going to lie — I was feeling apprehensive about Mirah’s most recent album. While I’ll always call Mirah my favorite artist, some of her recent collaborations with the Black Cat Orchestra had been leaving me a bit cold. I missed the total and complete intimacy of a Mirah solo album — & that’s exactly what (a)spera delivered on.
2. s/t – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
It was my boyfriend who really, really pushed me to listen to the Pains and wow, I’m glad that he did. I had always been a Slumberland Records fan, but was ready to write the Pains off as too much for me — I like bedroom pop, I tend to prefer groups that are less musically proficient — I don’t really know where I’m going with this, but while my boyfriend was pushing me to listen to the Pains, I was busy listening to an old Delta Dart cassette tape & not paying attention. I’m so, so glad that I finally listened. The Pains remind me of all my favorite My Bloody Valentine songs in the best possible way.
3. s/t – The Smith Westerns
The Smith Westerns came out of left field for me. I had never heard of them and they ended up as the opening act for Los Campesinos! when I saw them earlier this year. It was, obviously, a pleasant surprise. I didn’t realize how much I liked the album until I realized that I had Smith Westerns songs stuck in my head on a daily basis.
4. Middle Cyclone – Neko Case
Middle Cyclone was actually my most played album of 2009, so I’m not 100% sure why it’s not at the top of this list. I love Neko Case — I love her voice and I love her stylized alt-country solo records. I love that she was in Cub, though I could take or leave the New Pornographers. I love this record. I love “I’m An Animal” and “People Got A Lotta Nerve.” I love her lyrics, even in their most awkward moments — “I love girls in white leather jackets” makes some of my friends cringe, but it makes me wish I had a white (faux) leather jacket. Writing this gives me the feeling that this album will have staying power for me that some of my other favorite albums of the year might not have.
5. Farm – Dinosaur Jr.
Oh, Dinosaur Jr. Ok, so I had never heard of Dinosaur Jr. until Grace of My Heart came out and my parents played the soundtrack incessantly. I could take or leave many of the songs on that soundtrack, but J. Mascis’s “Take A Run At The Sun” was one of the most awesome things my 9 year-old self had ever heard. My senior year of college I read Our Band Could Be Your Life and seriously listened to Dinosaur Jr. for the first time. Then I graduated, just a few months before Farm came out, and set about seeing Dinosaur Jr. every time they played in the state of Ohio. Beyond was an amazing comeback & I was worried that Farm might be a let-down. Thankfully, I was very, very wrong.
I also loved: Rose Melberg’s Homemade Ship, Bunnygrunt’s Matt Harnish and Other Delights, Girls’ Album, Pants Yell!’s Received Pronunciation, Now We Can See by the Thermals (who also put on a great show in Cleveland in April) & though it’s not technically out yet, I have high hopes for Sourpatch’s upcoming album on Happy Happy Birthday To Me.
1. Los Campesinos! (with Girls and The Smith Westerns) in Cleveland, OH
I bought tickets for Los Campesinos! immediate after they went on sale & the closer the show got, the less I felt like going. I even considered dipping out at the last minute, mainly because I can be a bit socially anxious and hate to get beer spilled on me, which can be sort of inevitable at these sorts of events. But oh my god, what a great show. The Smith Westerns and Girls were the two best openers I saw this year & Los Campesinos! BLEW MY FUCKING MIND. I’m not even kidding. I had intended to be “cool” at this show, but could not stop myself from dancing, jumping, screaming, and throwing my fist in the air for all of my favorite lines. The band was remarkable — consistently high energy throughout the entire set, coming down into the audience, making their way to the back of the venue & staying long after the night had come to an end to chat with everyone who was around. Color me impressed, Los Campesinos!
2. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (with the Afternoon Naps and Zaza) in Cleveland, OH
I saw the Pains twice this summer, once in Cleveland, OH and once in Portland, OR. While the Portland show had better openers (Girls, the Champagne Socialists), the sound and vibe at the Cleveland show was way better. The Pains won me over at their Cleveland show & I’m still bumming about not having the opportunity to see them more that twice before they took off for their overseas dates.
3. Jonathan Richman (with Vic Chestnutt) in Cleveland, OH
I saw Jonathan Richman for the second time this summer and it was an amazing experience. Jonathan played a perfect set blending newer numbers with some of my old favorites (it was particularly nice to hear “Velvet Underground”). Jonathan played with such complete and total enthusiasm, which was really wonderful &, unfortunately, all too rare sometimes.
4. Dinosaur Jr. (with Lou Barlow and the Missingmen) in Columbus, OH
I saw Dinosaur Jr. three times this year, but their show in Columbus was, by far, my favorite. Lou Barlow opened with the Missingmen (Mike Watt’s group) & it was awesome to see Lou on his own playing solo material. The group played more or less the same set each time I saw them, but the Columbus show had a nice energy & the venue was great. I was also surprised by how relaxed the crowd was — there was a lot of fighting when I saw Dinosaur Jr. in Cleveland, but none of that in Columbus, which was much appreciated since I tend to be the poor, oblivious fool who catches an elbow in the face or a foot in the head.
5. Sufjan Stevens (with Cryptacize) in Cleveland, OH
Seeing Sufjan Stevens was an unexpected experience for me, but a very, very good one. You can read my review of the show here.
(See a complete list of attended shows here.)
In order to see what I actually listened to the most this past year, you can creep on my last.fm.