Friday, February 12, 2010

The Best of 2009 - #15 - #1

Here it is. The Best of 2009. Now, get listening!

15. Act III: Life And Death - The Dear Hunter (Triple Crown)

Put these on your iPod right now: "What It Means To Be Alone", "The Tank", "The Thief"

Part Broadway play, part rock opera, The Dear Hunter's principle member, Casey Crescenzo, continues his foray into the art of the melodic, bombastic, and orchestral concept album. A much more accessible Mars Volta, The Dear Hunter employs some of the emo aesthetic, but really lets the strength of the songwriting, in particular, the melodies and orchestration, propel the album without getting mired into fulfilling whatever expectations come along with the emo genre. Musically, the album is all over the place with some really straight out alterna-pop songs, some strange vaudevillian type numbers, and complex arrangements all interwoven. An ambitious album, Act III: Life And Death proves that, while quite a few other bands are doing what they are doing these days, The Dear Hunter is one of the most impressive.

Have yourself a listen here.

14. Everything Touching Everything - These United States (United Interests)
Put these on your iPod right now: "Will It Ever", "Good Night Wish", "The Important Thing"

These United States give you a little bit of everything in their latest release, but what it comes down to is that bandleader Jesse Elliott has assembled excellent musicians who pull off a great Americana record. There's a little garage rock here, as well as some overt alt-country, but the album never veers too far in one direction, rather relying on a lot of brushed percussion, steel guitars, and piano accents to provide the common thread. There are nice tempo shifts here as well as some pretty grandiose compositions. These United States crafted a rootsy record that is the perfect length, has catchy riffs, and can easily be enjoyed as a whole effort. In this day and age of "Shuffle brain", there's something to be said for that.

Have yourself a listen here.

13. Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse Present: Dark Night of the Soul - Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse (Self-released)

Put these on your iPod right now: "Just War (Ft. Gruff Rhys)", "Little Girl (Ft. Julian Casablancas)", "Daddy's Gone (Ft. Nina Persson)"

Multi-instrumentalist and producer Danger Mouse continues his successful string of releases and collaborations, this time tag-teaming with Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse and myriad singers (from Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips to Julian Casablancas of the Strokes to the late, great Vic Chesnutt.) The result is a trippy, dreamy, sometimes creepy (thanks to Iggy Pop) collection of thirteen tracks that range from pop to country-tinge, to rock, to trip-hoppy beats. There's a little psychedelia here and despite the wide range of vocal guests and individual song styles, there's an interesting thread of life, love, and pain throughout, culminating in David Lynch's recitation of the title track. Due to legal issues, this one is hard to find, but it would behoove you to track it down. Behoove, I say.

Have yourself a listen here.

12. The Knot - Wye Oak (Merge)

Put these on your iPod right now: "Tattoo", "For Prayer", "Mary Is Mary"

This Baltimore duo's sophomore release is a lush and lavish affair, with rich songs that are dense with sound, but not so much so that the individual instruments get lost. Some of the songs drone (in a good way) and call to mind some of the better shoegazer bands and even a little Yo La Tengo. Jenn Wasner's voice, though not completely remarkable, works perfectly within the context of the 10 songs here. Mixing in some violin and steel guitar rounds things out and the sprinkling of up tempo numbers makes The Knot a nice, well-rounded release.

Have yourself a listen here.

11. Townes - Steve Earle (New West)

Put these on your iPod right now: "Rake", "Lungs", "Where I Lead Me"

The rank of this collection of Townes Van Zandt covers is particularly notable considering, prior to this release, I had heard very little of Steve Earle and even less of Van Zandt. So, the songs we all basically new to me. Earle's fragile gravelly voice here comes across as completely heart-breaking on some numbers and sinister on others. Both work exceptionally well as does Earle's impressive acoustic guitar playing. I'm a sucker for minor key numbers and they are here in abundance and, whether Earle displays a roadhouse swagger or an introspective vulnerability, it works wonderfully and makes Townes not just a run-of-the-mill cover album.

Have yourself a listen here.

10. Noble Beast - Andrew Bird (Fat Possum)

Put these on your iPod right now: "Effigy", "Tenuousness", "Not A Robot, But A Ghost"

Oddly alluring, haunting, and undeniably quirky, Andrew Bird's Noble Beast is chamber pop at its finest. Meticulously crafted with no note wasted or out of place, the 14 tracks revel in lavish orchestration, odd meters, and Bird's often head-scratching anunciations. While all very reserved and proper, Noble Beast does project to be a grand release - something you hear in its entirety and marvel at how the complicated can sound so easy. And when Bird does let his hair down a little and kick the tempo up a little, like on "Not A Robot, But A Ghost," comparisons to the experimental, yet still accessible parts of Radiohead's catalog leap to mind. And that's always good company to be in.

Have yourself a listen here.

9. A New Tide - Gomez (ATO)

Put these on your iPod right now: "Little Pieces", "Lost Track", "Airstream Driver"

Ahhh, the art of the song. Those who know me know how much I appreciate artists who still master the art of the "song." These five guys from England really get it and while A New Tide is not as rocking as some of their earlier releases, Gomez still knows how to write some catchy pop and still tinge it with a bit of an edge. Still alternating between three lead singers, I find myself drawn to Ben Ottewell's gravelly smoothness (sounds like an oxymoron, but if you hear him, it's not) more than the others, but everyone is just so good at what they do, it's hard to play favorites. A New Tide tends to favor the acoustic mellow side quite a bit, but when the band, and more importantly, the songs are this good, that can be easily overlooked.

Have yourself a listen here.

Previous List Appearances: Abandoned Shopping Trolley Lane (#18 in 2000)

8. Masters Of The Burial - Amy Millan (Arts & Crafts)

Put these on your iPod right now: "Bury This", "Low Sail", "I Will Follow You Into The Dark"

Amy Millan (of Broken Social Scene and Stars) doesn't have the kind of voice that knocks your socks off. But for some reason, her delicate and soothing vocals are just so easy to listen to and enjoy. Masters Of The Burial is a quick record, but one that is striking in how much it packs into a short period of time. The songs border on minimalistic, though acoustic and electric guitars intermingle with strings and mandolins to forge an enjoyable sonic tapestry. Despite although the album never gets out of a low gear, at the end of it all, because of her wonderful vocals and song arrangements, I'm left wanting more. And that is a sign of a strong release.

Have yourself a listen here.

7. Remind Me Where The Light Is - Great Northern (Eenie Meenie Records)

Put these on your iPod right now: "Houses", "Snakes", "Mountain"

Part guitar-driven rock, part ethereal spookiness, LA's Great Northern is unfortunately a well-kept secret. Powered by guitarist/singer Solon Bixler and vocalist/keyboardist Rachel Stolte, Remind Me Where The Light Is harkens one back to the golden age of alternative music (the 90s!) where catchy songs mingled with great vocals and musicianship. Great Northern's strength here lies with Stolte's dreamy vocals and the musical drive of the tunes here. The harmonies here are equally impressive and the album is boosted by the track "Houses," which just might be my favorite song of the year. Great Northern might not be greatly known, but talent like this can't be hidden in the dark forever.

Have yourself a listen here.

6. Wilco (The Album) - Wilco (Nonesuch)

Put these on your iPod right now: "Bull Black Nova", "One Wing", "Everlasting Everything"

While Wilco (The Album) will never be mistaken for Wilco (The Landmark, Seminal Release), it still ranks as a solid release, especially factoring in that this, more than any other Wilco record, feels like it benefits from input from the whole, talented band. Granted, Jeff Tweedy is still in charge and he might have smoothed his songwriting edge here, relying on more mid-tempo acoustic numbers sprinkled with the occasional George Harrison-esque leads from Nels Cline, but the fact that this is a very strong record and worthy of mention this year speaks volumes to Wilco's talent. If virtually any other band attempted such a record, it probably would have been deemed forgettable, especially against the prior catalog. The fact that Wilco makes (The Album) remarkable demonstrates just how good they are.

Have yourself a listen here.

Previous list appearances: Summerteeth (Honorable Mention in 1999); Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (#6 in 2002); A Ghost Is Born (#1 in 2004); Sky Blue Sky (#5 in 2007)

5. Middle Cyclone - Neko Case (Anti)

Put these on your iPod right now: "The Pharoahs", "Polar Nettles", "Prison Girls"

While mainly a mellow, downtempo affair, Neko Case's latest offering shows remarkable growth, both lyrically and musically. Case's amazing voice is still heavily showcased, thankfully, and her band is still spot-on. Completely abandoning the twang of her early records and even the alt-countryish tendencies of her later offerings, Case presents Middle Cyclone as more of a singer/songwriter record - albeit with heavy and mature lyrical content and interesting musical nuances. While it might not immediately grab you, repeated listens draw out just how excellent this is and makes her fans very excited at what's around the corner.

Have yourself a listen here.

Previous list appearances: Blacklisted (#8 in 2002); Fox Confessor Brings The Flood (#1 in 2006)

4. Broken Side Of Time - Alberta Cross (ATO)

Put these on your iPod right now: "City Walls", "Broken Side Of Time", "Rise From The Shadows"

Just a really excellent pure rock and roll album at a time where excellent pure rock and roll albums are extremely hard to come by. The bluesy tinge would make you think that this band comes from a place a little further south than their New York home. But their sound is completely authentic and, if you can find yourself eventually used to Petter Ericson Stakee's admittedly occasional unique vocal stylings, you'll discover Broken Side Of Time to be utterly enjoyable, solid from start to finish, and a breath of fresh rock and roll air.

Have yourself a listen here.

3. Lungs - Florence + The Machine (Universal Republic)

Put these on your iPod right now:
"Drumming Song", "Dog Days Are Over", "Hurricane Drunk"

What an utterly impressive debut from flamehaired Florence Welch and her excellent band. Welch's voice is so soulful, powerful, and flawless it propels each of the stellar 13 offerings here, with the richly textured music lurking just below her amazing vocals, but far from drowned out by them. The songs are filled with energy, catchy, and extremely well-written. The varying tempos, even incorporating some dance beats, punctuated with strings and even a harp, really makes Lungs are wonderfully diverse debut. There is not a single skippable track out of the baker's dozen and virtually all of them could easily be radio singles. Yet, while you are listening to Welch and her outstanding band, "pop" isn't the first word that comes to mind. "Wow" tends to be that word.

Have yourself a listen here.

2. I And Love And You - The Avett Brothers (Sony)

Put these on your iPod right now: "The Perfect Space", "I And Love And You", "It Goes On And On"

North Carolina's Avett Brothers really hit the jackpot with a gorgeous, sprawling and fun record that defies categorization. There are garage rock stompers, some 50s style pop, acoustic folk, and alt-country twangers. The key to bringing it all together is excellent songwriting and expert use of a variety of instruments - their widespread use of piano in their songs is a tremendous accent without making it a piano record - as well as fantastic record pacing and vocals. The harmonies are lush and deep, and the compositions all fit together like pieces to a puzzle. They've been around for awhile now and it seems with their latest release, an amazing record and all that entails is incredibly effortless.

Have yourself a listen here.

1. The Hazards Of Love - The Decemberists (Capitol)

Put these on your iPod right now: "The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid", "Won't Want For Love (Margaret In The Taiga)", "The Hazards Of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle The Thistles Undone)"

Simply the most musically stunning album of the year. Adding to the intrigue is that it is a concept album about a shape-shifting forest being, his affair with a human woman, a jealous nature queen, a murderous rake, and vengeful children. Colin Meloy's impressive lyrical narrative is superseded only by the tightness of the band, which seamlessly shifts between acoustic folk, bombastic hard rock, and everything in between. Adding another complex layer are the sweet, ethereal vocals of Becky Stark (as Margaret) and the mindblowingly powerful Shara Worden (the Queen) who completely steals the show. The reach of the disc is mighty - a perfect concept, executed perfectly by perfect musicians. Not just the best album of 2009 by a country mile, but one of the best in a long, long time.

Have yourself a listen here.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Best of 2009 - #30 - #16

This past year, I got almost 70 full length releases. The following list represents my favorite recordings of a very prolific year in music.

30. Elvis Perkins in Dearland - Elvis Perkins in Dearland (Beggars Xl)

Put these on your iPod right now: "Shampoo", "Doomsday", "Hey"

Another artist who might take a little while to get used to, Perkins and his band again craft interesting and dynamic songs that come close to defying categorization. Sounding a little like Neutral Milk Hotel's more down-to-earth cousin, Perkins spins tales of love, loss, and Armageddon with shuffling beats, a cornucopia of instruments, and some bombast. The melodies are sharp and the talent in the band boundless. There's a poignancy and emotional thread to all of ten songs of slightly twisted Americana and it is all these qualities that make Perkins one of music's most interesting artists.

Have yourself a listen here.

Previous List Appearances: Ash Wednesday (#7 in 2007)

. Be Set Free - Langhorne Slim (Kemado)

Put these on your iPod right now:
"Back To The Wild", "Boots Boy", "Yer Wrong"

It might take a little while to get used to Langhorne Slim's unique vocals, but once you do, you quickly recognize his talent as a songwriter and performer. An all-around mellower affair than his previous work, Be Set Free still manages to expertly fluctuate moods between upbeat and hopeful and heart-wrenching and introspection. Slim's honest take on the Americana genre is endearing and while fans might yearn a little more for a little more of the wilder side to come out, the maturity displayed here definitely showcases exponential growth of an intriguing artist.

Have yourself a listen here.

Previous List Appearances: Langhorne Slim (#12 in 2008)

28. Humbug - Arctic Monkeys (Domino)

Put these on your iPod right now: "Crying Lightning", "Pretty Visitors", "Dance Little Liar"

Managing to somehow be dark, occasionally sludgy, and lush all the same time, Humbug is a bit of a slow-burn album. While no tracks will completely knock your socks off, the album, as a cohesive whole, is steady and heavy on atmosphere. Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme shows up as a co-producer here, which makes sense, since some of the tunes do sound a little like later era Queens, only with Alex Turner's very British vocals. Those looking for quick hitting power pop might want to look elsewhere, but the Arctic Monkeys deliver here with some dark-edge rock that's a little more brooding and complex.

Have yourself a listen here.

27. Blakroc - Blakroc (Blakroc)

Put these on your iPod right now: "Dollaz & Sense (featuring Pharoahe Monch, RZA), ""Ain't Nothing Like You [Hoochie Coo] (featuring Jim Jones and Mos Def)", "Stay Off The Fuckin' Flowers (featuring Raekwon)"

The Black Keys take their low-fi garage blues sound and play behind a host of rappers and the result is a surprisingly cohesive effort whose only sin is its brevity. The music is signature Keys, with the beats and Dan Auerbach's guitar riffs first getting your head bobbing. Then, with rappers ranging from Raekwon to Q-Tip to Mos Def dueling with Nicole Wray's smooth R&B vocals, the songs really come together. It's nice to hear this kind of collaboration just to prove there is more to rock and rap than Aerosmith and Run D.M.C.

Have yourself a listen here.

26. Love, Save The Empty - Erin McCarley (Universal Republic)

Put these on your iPod right now: "Pony (It's OK)", "It's Not That Easy", "Love, Save The Empty"

One of the biggest compliments I can pay this record is that it isn't really the kind of music I enjoy and/or listen to all that much. But when the whole female singer/songwriter radio-friendly alterna-pop thing is executed so flawlessly, it's hard for me not to stand up and take notice. McCarley's songs are very easy to listen to and her voice smooth and soothing. Adding to the appeal is the fact that she wrote or co-wrote all of the eleven songs on her debut. Sometimes utilizing guitar as the main instrument, other times the piano, McCarley displays proficiency at both and when you factor just a perfect production job, Love, Save The Empty is deeply satisfying, even if the genre itself isn't your usual cup of tea.

Have yourself a listen here.

25. Monsters Of Folk - Monsters Of Folk (Shangri-La)

Put these on your iPod right now: "Dear God (Sincerely, M.O.F.)", "Man Named Truth", "Ahead Of The Curve"

Supergroups tend to be hit or miss, with way more of them failing to live up to the sum of their parts. Considering the immense talent of Monsters of Folk, it's easy for them to miss the lofty standards expected of them, but that's far from saying their self-titled release is a failure. Comprised of Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James and singer/songwriter M.Ward, Monsters of Folk is heavy on the folk, a little light on the monsters, but pretty much the mellow, acoustic effort one would expect to come from their name. The songs are very good, not great, but something about the instrumentation and how their voices coherently meld more than make up for any shortcomings or lack of edginess.

Have yourself a listen here.

24. Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures (DGC/Interscope)

Put these on your iPod right now: "New Fang", "Mind Eraser, No Chaser", "Reptiles"

Supergroups tend to be hit or miss, with way more of them failing to live up to the sum of their parts. Considering the immense talent of Them Crooked Vultures, it's easy for them to miss the lofty standards expected of them, but that's far from saying their self-titled release is a failure. Comprised of Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme, Foo Fighter Dave Grohl, and John Paul Jones from you should know God damn well what band, Them Crooked Vultures is heavy on the crooked, a little light on the vultures, but pretty much the heavy, stoner, distorted effort one would expect to come from their name. The songs are very good, not great, but something about the musicianship (particularly Jones' bass) and how this really comes across as a heavy-on-the-Josh project (which is OK) more than make up for any shortcomings or lack of overtly catchy songs.

Have yourself a listen here.

23. The Satanic Satanist - Portugal. The Man (Equal Vision)

Put these on your iPod right now: "People Say", "The Home", "Guns And Dogs"

The latest release from the enigmatically named Portugal. The Man (from Alaska, no less) really showcases the band's diversity and willingness to embrace different genres all throughout the course of a single disc. The Satanic Satanist is layered with melodic vocals over some funky and soulful indie rock beats. The album is friendly and inviting without being simplistic. They won't boggle your mind with time and key changes, but will make you stop and admire the catchiness of the tunes and the subtlety of their obvious songwriting talent. John Baldwin Gourley's vocals are little on the higher-pitched side, but they never sound out of place and the signs of a strong album is one that gets better and better with each listen and The Satanic Satanist definitely falls in that category.

Have yourself a listen here.

22. Songs In The Night - Samantha Crain & The Midnight Shivers (Ramseur)

Put these on your iPod right now: "Get The Fever Out", "Songs In The Night", "Bananafish Revolution"

With a oddly unique voice that sounds like it came from a little more "across the pond" than her native Oklahoma, Samantha Crain and her band put forth a fun alt-country/folkie album that displays a maturity well beyond her 23 years. Crain employs some interesting enunciations and use of meter, but it all works very well and Songs In The Night definitely shows a high degree of vocal aptitude and songwriting ability. While conventional wisdom would say Crain and her band can only get better, the reality is their debut full length is pretty damn good on its own.

Have yourself a listen here.

21. Horehound - The Dead Weather (WEA/Reprise)

Put these on your iPod right now: "So Far From Your Weapon", "Treat Me Like Your Mother", "No Hassle Night"

Jack White will have a hard time doing wrong in my eyes and this new project has him getting behind the drum kit, turning guitars over to Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age, keeping Raconteurs bassist Jack Lawrence, and letting Kills frontwoman Alison Mosshart belt out the majority of the songs. What's left is a spacey, sludgy piece of heavy blues-infused rock. While you can hear elements of White's previous endeavors sprinkled throughout, Horehound is definitely all its own: a project that surprisingly loses no power with White in the background.

Have yourself a listen here.

20. To Be Still - Alela Diane (Rough Trade)

Put these on your iPod right now: "White As Diamonds", "The Alder Trees", "To Be Still"

Alela Diane has one of those voices that sounds vulnerable and fragile and powerful at the same time. Her sophomore release is a collection of wonderfully sung folk songs that sound like they came from deep inside Appalachia. Diane's unique vocal stylings, coupled with the vast number of instruments employed here make for a textured and complicated folk album. Delicate and calming, yet with the undercurrent that some darker folk has, To Be Still is a well-rounded effort from a very up-and-coming singer/songwriter.

Have yourself a listen here.

19. My Old, Familiar Friend - Brendan Benson (ATO)

Put these on your iPod right now: "Borrow", "Poised And Ready", "You Make A Fool Out Of Me"

Brendan Benson was already a pretty established singer/songwriter before he teamed up with Jack White in the Raconteurs. My Old, Familiar Friend has him back solo and writing catchy and melodic pop songs that have a bit of a dated (in a good way) sound. I guess that makes it retro! Benson's voice is virtually flawless and perfect for the music here, which range from ballads to rockers. Some might yearn for a bit more of the edge that the Racs provide, but ultimately, Benson has gone his own way and delivered a tight and impressive pop affair.

Have yourself a listen here.

18. Tell 'Em What Your Name Is! - Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears (Lost Highway)

Put these on your iPod right now: Sugarfoot", "Boogie", "Humpin'"

Gotta love this release. It's got the five F's: ferocity, funk, freshness, fun, and a really cool album cover. While young bandleader and guitarslinger Black Joe Lewis' vocals won't ever be confused for the perfection that is James Brown's, the album and the songs are just a full-on onslaught of a horn-driven soul/funk/blues concoction that really brings a smile to your face. The backing band is more than able - to the point of proficiency - (especially the crazy bass) and the fact that it feels like you are in a timewarp when listening to it adds even more to the charm. Lewis' debut album is brief and a little rough around the edges, but you expect that from a record like this. After hearing this one, I'm looking forward to experiencing what he does with this talented band and some experience under his belt.

Have yourself a listen here.

17. Embryonic - The Flaming Lips (WEA/Reprise)

Put these on your iPod right now:
"Watching The Planets", "The Sparrow Looks Up At The Machine", "Silver Trembling Hands"

Oppressively dense in some areas and eerily atmospheric in others, the latest opus from Oklahoma's Flaming Lips isn't easily digestible in one sitting. Nestled somewhere between spacey and psychedelic early Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin's plodding metal, Embryonic is a audio challenge, but quite a rewarding one. Never one to conform to musical trends, leader Wayne Coyne puts up a middle finger to popular music (and even their more accessible Yoshimi record) and says "take this or leave it." Even with an expected convoluted lyrical narrative, Embryonic is ultimately enjoyable just because there is so much going on sonically - though not all of it works perfectly - and it is daring, different, and when stripped down to bare bones, rocks pretty hard.

Have yourself a listen here.

Previous List Appearances: Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (#10 in 2002)

16. The Mountain - Heartless Bastards (Fat Possum)

Put these on your iPod right now:
"Witchy Poo", "Be So Happy", "Had To Go"

It is possible that rock is dead, or at least gasping for air, but no one bothered to tell that to Austin's Heartless Bastards, who manage to put together a powerful garage rock record complete with excellent howling vocals. At the center of the Bastards is singer, guitarist and principal songwriter Erika Wennerstrom whose strong lower register really gives each song a solid foundation upon which the music is built. While most of the songs are slow burn rock tunes, the band does manage to mix things up a little with the use of mandolin, steel guitar, and strings. All in all, The Mountain is a bright ray of hope for a dying genre.

Have yourself a listen here.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Best Shows and EPs of 2009

Greetings denizens of Dim City. Been a long time. Been a long time. Been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time.
Hello, hello, hello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me. Is there anyone home?
Well, I certainly wouldn't blame you if you weren't around, but here's my annual attempt to update this blog more frequently than bi-yearly. Starting off with my annual list of music-related superlatives. Today's installments will focus on my favorite live shows of 2009 as well as my favorite EPs. Sometime next week, I hope to follow with two installments of my favorite 30 releases of 2009. Stay tuned and check back from time to time. The lights might just be coming back on in Dim City...

And hey, comment will ya? Just so I know you all are alive?

My 10 Favorite Live Shows of 2009:

10. Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs at the Iron Horse, Northampton, MA (11/14/09)
9. Grant-Lee Phillips with Winterpills at Club Passim, Cambridge, MA (11/16/09)
8. Neko Case with John and Joey from Calexico at the Calvin Theatre, Northampton, MA (11/13/09)
7. Jeff Tweedy with Pronto at the Calvin Theatre, Northampton, MA (03/27/09)
6. Amy Millan at the Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA (11/04/09)

5. The Decemberists with Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus Three at the Bank of America Pavilion, Boston, MA (06/09/09)
4. Bob Mould Band with Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson at the Paradise, Boston, MA (10/07/09)
3. Gomez with Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears at Pearl Street Ballroom, Northampton, MA (04/02/09)
2. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals at the Orpheum Theatre, Boston, MA (02/21/09)
1. The Decemberists with Heartless Bastards at Mountain Park, Holyoke, MA (08/16/09)
My 5 Favorite EPs of 2009:
5. Alela & Alina - Alela Diane & Alina Hardin (Rough Trade)

Soothing acoustic folk, despite some dark subject matter. Diane's and Hardin's voices interweave beautifully, spinning and swirling together into an Appalachian timewarp.

Have yourself a listen here.

4. Things You Should Know - Carina Round (Self-Release)

Criminally underrated, Round continues her string of stellar releases with a slightly less rocking, but no less biting EP - chalk full with excellent melody, arrangment, and execution.

Have yourself a listen here.

3. Black River Killer EP - Blitzen Trapper (Sub Pop)

Unfortunately brief, even by EP standards, the latest from Portland, OR's Blitzen Trapper picks up where 2008's brilliant "Furr" left off: quirky, complex alternative pop with a slight twang and a lot of hooks.

Have yourself a listen here.

2. Doomsday EP - Elvis Perkins In Dearland (XL Recordings Ltd.)

Richly textured and complex, Perkins' 2009 EP is grand without being overbearing and dense without being overwrought. Mixing gospel elements into his acoustic rock genre, Perkins is turning into one of music's most prolific and rewarding artists.

Have yourself a listen here.

1. Power + Light - 50 Foot Wave (Self-Released)

Kristin Hersh's dynamic power trio manages to absolutely slay a single 26 minute track with multiple movements, time changes, and mood swings. String sections that segue into pummeling, almost prog-rock propels this offering into the stratosphere. A very impressive piece of music.

Have yourself a listen here.

Oh, and if you have made it this far, be sure to check out my bud March's list too.
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