Thursday, January 28, 2010


Dear Snow,
I love you, I've always loved you and probably always will. Here's the thing: I'm not 12 years old anymore. I no longer feel the excitement of 'snow'. The only real upside to the possibility of snow is that it might be SO bad that I get to miss work...which I think happened once. Nowadays, snow means my car and/or work van sliding all over the road, the possibility of missing out on seeing my friends, and subsequent weeks of awful wet muddiness and sad clumps of snow that for some reason refuse to melt. It's a bummer.
I enjoyed you momentarily today. After a 50 minute commute to work (about a half hour longer than usual) complete with slipping and sliding (made tolerable only by Destroyer's 'Your Blues' album) I arrived at work and slip slided my way to the Post Office. When I was leaving the PO I stopped for a moment and just enjoyed the then still heavily falling snow. I got to experience that quiet, peaceful feeling that snow can give you. Then it was back in the van to negotiate the icy stuff once again.
So, what I'm trying to say is I love you and please go away. It's the end of January, and I know you've always got one big February storm planned. Put it off, okay? I'm okay with one big storm a year, screw up all my plans and make everything look nice for a day and then terrible for a month...but just once a year. Don't be cute about it either, no big storm on December 28th and then another one on January 17th, you'll be all "but Brian, those WERE two different years". Not cool snow.
I wish I still felt the impulse to enjoy you as I once did. Making forts and sledding and throwing you at my friends and climbing those big piles of you in parking lots...but there's one simple reason I can't do those things anymore: Clothing. I have less than no interest in buying big snow resistant pants, and boots, and like, a snow jacket? Ugh, forget it. If I could do all those things I mentioned in jeans and a sweater without catching pneumonia, I'd do it in a second (and now I could do it drunk, which makes it all the more enticing). Until I move to Canada I won't be making those purchases, and maybe not even then. Of course, it's stopped snowing since I started writing this...and I already miss you.

Yr Friend,

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


-- Name: Brian James Muirhead
-- Birth date: aug twenty five eighty one
-- Birthplace: Somerset Med Center
-- Current Location: my desk, at lunch, bored
-- Eye Color: the bluest blue
-- Hair Color: the light brownest light brown
-- Righty or Lefty: right
-- Zodiac Sign: virgo

- describe
-- Your heritage: irish, scottish, english, polish...european mutt
-- The shoes you wore today: my shitty damaged work shoes
-- Your hair: normal
-- Your eyes: hidden behind consistently fogged spectacles
-- Your weakness?: cheap records, beautiful ladies
-- Your fears: are largely irrational
-- Your perfect pizza: hot, ultra cheesy, and with the minimum of those weird paper-thin tomato pieces
-- One thing you'd like to achieve: i'd like to be elected president by accident

- what is
-- Your most overused phrase on aim: i don't use aim much...but maybe "haha"
-- Your thoughts first waking up: i first have to convince myself that the dream i just had was a dream and not reality
-- The first feature you notice in the opposite(or same) sex: opposite: face, or strangely enough, shoes. same: i tend to notice if they have a cool t-shirt or not
-- Your best physical feature: that's for the judges to decide
-- Your bedtime: usually whenever i can literally no longer stay awake, though i would like to
-- Your greatest accomplishment: discovering radium
-- Your most missed memory: i don't understand the question

- you prefer
-- Pepsi or coke: sprite zero
-- McDonald's or Burger King: baja fresh
-- Single or group dates: i don't go on dates
-- Adidas or Nike: umm, if i had to? nike
-- Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea: snapple (why is that not an option?)
-- Chocolate or vanilla: that depends, are we talking ice cream or cookies or cake? c'mon!
-- Cappuccino or coffee: skim, 120 degree, hot chocolate, no whipped cream
-- Boxers or briefs: with recent technological advances this question has been rendered moot

- do you
-- Smoke: not anymore
-- Cuss: i try not to
-- Have a crush(es): nope
-- who are they: pay attention
-- Do you think you've been in love: i know i have
-- Want to go to college: i would love to get my PhD in abnormal credit short!
-- Like high school: i loved it, as much as you can love anything when you spend the whole time avoiding people sitting in the stairwell
-- Want to get married: i'm not opposed to it
-- Type w/ your fingers: yeah (what kind of question is that?)
-- Believe in yourself: "sometimes you're all you've got" -Rambo?
-- Get motion sickness: no
-- Think you're attractive: it's all relative
-- Think you're a health freak: certainly more so than i used to be
-- Get along with your parents: for sure
-- Like thunderstorms: for sure
-- Play an instrument: for sure

- in the past month, did/have you
-- Drank alcohol: duuuude
-- Smoke(d): nope
-- Done a drug: i'm not so adventurous
-- Have Sex: WHAAAAT!
-- Made Out: unfortunately no
-- Go on a date: you already asked me that, if you're not going to pay attention i'm not going to continue
-- Go to the mall?: yes
-- Eaten an entire box of Oreos: i used to like the chocolate covered ones, so decadent
-- Eaten sushi: i haven't eaten sushi in 28 years
-- Been on stage: "all the world's a stage" -Rambo
-- Been dumped: no, thank god
-- Gone skating: ice skating? no, when i do that i have to hold on to the wall and i get passed by 65 year old spanish ladies
-- Made homemade cookies: that would be delightful, but no
-- Been in love: that would be less delightful, and no
-- Gone skinny dipping: that's not my style, survey
-- Dyed your hair: no
-- Stolen anything: no

- have you ever
-- Played a game that required removal of clothing?: didn't we all?
-- If so, was it mixed company: of course, what are you trying to say survey?
-- Been trashed or extremely intoxicated: ha! yes, and i recommend watching 'the dark knight' before you go to sleep
-- Been caught "doing something": too vague
-- Been called a tease: no, i'm a dude
-- Gotten beaten up: totally
-- Shoplifted: when i was young
-- If so, did you get caught: no
-- Changed who you were to fit in: back in the day, as they say, i had very little self-esteem

- the future
-- Age you hope to be married: okay survey, if we're not married by the time we're 40, we'll get married
-- Numbers and Names of Children: i want three babies, one named Maxamillion (but we call him Monty for short), then there's Eugene, and lastly we've got the yet unknown, but I'm leaning toward Joenifer.
-- Describe your Dream Wedding: lady's choice...except it has to be on a hill overlooking another hill
-- How do you want to die: in the rapture
-- Where you want to go to college: listen survey, yr getting a little pushy, forget about our eventual marriage
-- What do you want to be when you grow up: bassist in a funk band, or big wave surfer
-- What country would you most like to visit: france

- opposite sex-
-- Best eye color?: i've always loved green
-- Best hair color?: there is none
-- Short or long hair?: i'd prefer longer than shorter
-- Best height: slightly shorter than myself
-- Best weight: fat bottomed girls, you make the rockin' world go round
-- Best articles of clothing: pencil skirts and sweaters, i have a Mad Men-esque vision of beauty
-- Best first date location: Stonehenge
-- Best first kiss location: behind one of the Stonehenges

- number of
-- Number of girls I have kissed in my life: i have no idea but i bet it's not double digits
-- Number of girls you have made out with: less than
-- Number of girlfriends you've had: officially, uno
-- Number of drugs taken illegally: umm, i think i had a sip of my dad's beer when i was a baby. it sucked
-- Number of people I could trust with my life: i have no idea
-- Number of CDs that I own: i'm bad at estimating this kind of thing, so let's say between 150 and 7,000
-- Number of piercings: none
-- Number of tattoos: II
-- Number of times my name has appeared in the newspaper?: let's many times did I win the spelling bee?
-- Number of scars on my body: i have a bunch! iguana bite, pencil stab, laparoscopic surgery, dragged by dog
-- Number of things in my past that I regret: eleventy godzillion

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Double 0 is Gonna Glow, and Other Fallacies: The Top 10 (ish) Albums of the Decade

The time: 1993…or ’92, or whatever year I entered Middle School.
The place: The auditorium / lunchroom of said Middle School.
The event: A young and goofy Brian sits (most likely, in sweatpants) with some of his fellow soon-to-be 6th graders and learns that he is part of the Class of 2000. It sounds so futuristic! Visions of kids on hoverboards holding diplomas race through my head. It is at this point I heard something I will never forget, the slogan for my graduating class: Double 0 is Gonna Glow! Wow. The word ‘unimaginative’ comes to mind. We’re going to glow? Is there going to be some sort of nuclear war or chemical spill?
Fast forward to 2010, Middle School and the ‘Double 0’s’ have come and gone and not only were they some of the worst years ever, I am still not luminescent.
A truly awful decade has just passed us by leaving behind war, disease, injustice, unrest, and…what’s the opposite of world peace? Well, that too, whatever it is. Thankfully there was some great music to listen to, and here’s what I liked best in the double 0’s.

Top 10 Albums of the Decade:
1. ‘Discovery’ by Daft Punk (2001) –
I can’t argue myself out of this choice, Daft Punk has been at the forefront of musical creativity since ‘98’s ‘Homework’. Electronic music had an unprecedented surge this decade, and I can’t think of a band more deserving of the role of catalyst. This record has such diversity but at the same time is hit after hit. Listening to it the whole way through you’d come back to songs that you maybe had forgotten about and you can really see what a step forward this was. In the 90’s I, as I’m assuming many other “punk” kids were, listened to primarily whatever was on the radio before I really discovered music. Through this practice I thought the only dance music that existed was Snap, and C&C Music Factory. Judging by the musical landscape as it is today, I wasn’t the only punk kid who just happened to find out he loved French house music. I love when the boundaries are broken down and anyone from any scene can do any sort of music and without this record I don’t think there’d be half as many great ‘00 albums as there are, but this one still beats them all.

2. Microcastle/Weird Era Continued’ by Deerhunter (2008) – Off the top of my head I can only think of three or four records that I would put ahead of this one on an all time favorites list. This record completely blew me away when I first heard it and the effect still hasn’t worn off. Before this record Deerhunter were a kind of odd, creepy sounding band that I found a little off-putting. Once I heard about their new endeavor and shift in sound I knew this record would be really good, I just didn’t know it would be this good. Plucky guitars, dreamy pop vocals, My Bloody Valentine-esque screeches and wails, enigmatic song titles with lyrics about being simultaneously set free and hidden away, and a double CD with casually cool artwork and a sherbert color scheme…I can’t say enough, I’m fighting myself to stop typing.

3. ‘Mt. Forever’ by The Party of Helicopters (2000) – I’m laying on my bed, my room is dark and there’s a record spinning on the stereo from a band I just saw at a basement show, and wasn’t all that interested in. ‘Mt. Forever’ came into my life out of nowhere by way of Ohio, and literally changed it. I sat there transfixed by what I was hearing. It was like Gregorian monks singing a duet with Prince while a prog-metal band covered My Bloody Valentine, or vice versa. This was my go-to favorite record of all time for a while with good reason, it’s brilliant.

4. ‘Is This It’ by The Strokes (2001) – Can we all agree on this being THE cultural touchstone of the decade? Back off Coldplay, go to hell ‘Kid A’, The Strokes were the moment of the 00’s. Endless praise turned to gutless disregard just because five guys who made a truly great album got a little press. They may have had the tightest jeans, the dirtiest white Converse, and questionably privileged backgrounds, but that shouldn’t have made them the target. It was really something to watch the backlash towards The Strokes. I saw them, right before they got big, in Hoboken and I remember thinking Julian Casablancas was like a perfect mix of Johnny Depp and Iggy Pop. This is still a great piece of true rock music in all it’s Lou Reed-y, pseudo-nonchalance glory that has spawned a thousand imitators but hasn’t been topped yet.

5. ‘Guitar Romantic’ by The Exploding Hearts (2003) / ‘Let It Bloom’ by Black Lips (2005) – Punk was in a strange place these last ten years. The grunge and indie-punk that made it’s way into the mainstream in the 90’s was tossed away for, at first, the aural abomination known as nu-metal, and more recently the dual crappiness of the long stringy haired (and oft-mega religious) emo-core (?) and sickeningly sweet sound of what I’ll call radio-friendly pop punk, because I can literally think of nothing else to call it. If I had to choose sides I’d align with the latter in a second, but neither one represents anything you’d call “punk”. The two records that share this spot essentially kept my hope alive for the future of punk. The first is flawless power pop, I wouldn’t hesitate to call it the most enjoyable and fully realized power pop record of all time. ‘Guitar Romantic’ is (due to some unfortunate events) a time capsule, much like Nevermind, in that when it came along it just demolished everything else around. ‘Let It Bloom’ is garage punk perfection and the epitome of a band not taking themselves too seriously. If there was only one word to describe these records I would think it would have to be ‘refreshing’, if not ‘genius’. And ‘Let It Bloom’ also has my favorite album cover art of all time.

6. ‘Made In The Dark’ by Hot Chip (2008) – My ‘Best Record of 2008’ (didn't hear Deerhunter until '09) makes the list for the simple reason of potential. This record is an auditory example of a band actually making the best record they possibly can. Their two prior records hinted at greatness and occasionally achieved it, but this record is non-stop electronic domination. Every song is phenomenal and genuinely different from the next. In a decade where every ‘next big thing’ was four schumcks from across the pond, Hot Chip stands out as a band that doesn’t need hype to make an unforgettable statement.

7. ‘Commit This To Memory’ by Motion City Soundtrack (2005) / ‘Chroma’ by Cartel (2006) – Speaking of radio-friendly pop punk I’ve gotta say that these are two of my all time favorite records. It’s hard to defend a lot of records by contemporaries of these two bands, but there’s something very different about these two. MCS is much more of an emo band than I had thought before I bought this CD off Amazon for three bucks. It really is one of the most hopeful and genuine records I’ve ever heard and it leans much more toward nerdy and awkward than the typical pop punk record that tends more often to sound like a bunch of wolves in sheep’s clothing. ‘Chroma’ is like being baptized by the pop gods in a reflecting pool of hair gel. It’s SO poppy and positive that I was hooked instantly. It’s like these guys said, “We’re going to be a bunch of cute dudes and girls will love us but we want to make something a little bit better than everything else”, and they totally did. Both of these records, for me, make me feel like I’m at a water park or it’s the last day of school or something. Not everyone gets it, and I’m fine with that, but if you can appreciate records like these, you can’t do much better.

8. Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse’ by Of Montreal (2001) – This was the last Of Montreal release that really sounded like Of Montreal. After this record they began to mutate into the heavily electronic aberration that they remain as today. It’s not that they’re BAD now, they’re just not the twee, lyrical, cutesy Of Montreal that I used to know and love. This band was like the embodiment of ‘indie’ way back when. They made odd, poetic songs that lived in imagination and romance and they gave in to their eccentricities and excesses…this record ends with a 17+ minute song that’s 99% piano flourishes, for example. The reason this record deserves a spot is because it’s unlike any other record I own. It brings to mind musical outsiders like Captain Beefheart in it’s density and stylistic variation. On the other hand, where other oddball musical experiments like this fail, this one succeeds again and again with Beatles-esque pop melodies and intermittent theatrical spoken pieces. This album is like a 22 track vacation from every boring record you’ve ever heard.

9. ‘Sung Tongs’ by Animal Collective (2004) – Put this record on in a car full of friends and you may get a request or two to throw it out the window…you may just as well see your friends hypnotized by the lysergic wonder of ‘Leaf House’ and ‘Who Could Win A Rabbit’. This is a record to be discovered and absorbed. It was written and recorded (if I remember correctly) by just two of the four AC members, and was the first release of theirs I came across. It really embodies all the cliché art terms you can throw at it: unique, avant garde, groundbreaking. There’s no point in describing the songs or themes, this kind of record is at its richest, most inspirational when you just give it an honest listen.

10. ‘United We Doth’ by PFFR (2003) – The final spot on many of my lists tend to belong to someone or something I can rant about. In this case it belongs to one of the strangest and most hilarious records ever. PFFR (pronounced P.F.R.) are made up of the creative force behind TV shows like Xavier: Renegade Angel and Wonder Showzen. People may classify this record as “twisted”, “demented” or “crude” but not only is it hilarious, it’s also musically brilliant. The songs (mostly about strange interactions, strange comparisons, strange opinions and how much you either are or are not like an eagle) are catchy and bizarre and thoroughly enjoyable. This may have begun as a novelty but somewhere along the way it mutated into a classic.

The Best of the Rest: Honorable Mentions -
‘We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes’ by Death Cab For Cutie (2000)
‘Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons’ by Blonde Redhead (2000)
‘Jane Doe’ by Converge (2001)
‘Oh, Inverted World’ by The Shins (2001)
‘Maladroit’ by Weezer (2002)
‘Want One’ by Rufus Wainwright (2003)
Madvillainy by Madvillain (2004)
Heartbeeps by Mae Shi (2005)
‘Double Death’ by Coachwhips (2006)
‘Trouble In Dreams’ by Destroyer (2008)

These albums are not necessarily records 11-20 on my decade list, they’re just ten more releases I wish I could find a reason to write about.

3 Hits from Hell: Ten Years with Liars –
Over the past decade three of my favorite songs have come from one band, Liars. A dance-punk turned experimental turned more experimental turned low-fi indie group that has weathered the storm better than most and put out some really highly praised (and some not so highly praised) records. Here they are:
(2002) ‘Loose Nuts On The Veladrome No idea what this title means, I just no every time I hear the opening line, ‘Last night, you and I, we gathered berries with a flashli-i-i-i-iiii-ight!’ I get the same feeling I had the first time I heard it, this is awesome.
(2006) ‘The Other Side Of Mt. Heart Attack’ Found ending the ‘Drum’s Not Dead’ album, this song is like some kind of meditation on what came before it. After a blistering and chaotic record this song comes along and is reassuring and peaceful in a way that transcends the scope of the album.
(2007) ‘Cycle Time’ This is a no-frills kind of attacking rock song, complete with Angus Andrew’s signature full bodied chant style of singing. It’s aggressive without being confrontational which could make a similar song sound phony.

Ya Blew It: The Most Commercially Viable and Overlooked Song of the Decade-
‘Myth Takes’ by !!! –
The group known as !!! (most commonly pronounced as ‘Chk Chk Chk’) has been orbiting the indie experimental/dance universe since the mid-to-late ‘90s. In 2007 they released ‘Myth Takes’, a grand gesture of trippy dance rock that was far more evolved than anything they’d released prior. The opening track (‘Myth Takes’, the song) is a hyped-up, bass heavy, reverb gem that sounds like something Chris Isaak and Sly Stone may collaborate on. Everywhere you looked in the past few years there was an indie song used in commercials, movies and TV shows (Spoon, Phoenix, Passion Pit and Band of Horses immediately come to mind) and if I was one of the few who choose these songs ‘Myth Takes’ would have ended up somewhere. I picture it opening a sci-fi or mystery TV series, not to mention the slowed-down remix available on the second disc opening up a quality drama. This is basically my shot at the advertising execs who slept on this song.
As a side note, this record features the GREATEST song title ever: ‘All My Heroes Are Weirdos’.

So, that's about it. Thanks for reading, be good 2010.

Friday, January 15, 2010


A few years ago my friend Zack Finch died in a car accident. I met him in English class my Freshman year of high school. I thought he looked really cool, as Freshman quasi-punks often do towards older dudes that they think share their anti-establishment views. Zack wasn't a punk per say, more of a skater? It was the 90's, did anyone have a solid personality? He always argued this point, but in group activities we would pair up and I would write the papers. I would joke that he MADE me, but really it was that I wanted to and he didn't care. He always treated me with that cool detachment that upperclassmen use when they're friends with younger kids that they don't consider obnoxious pricks, I know I used it in the coming years.
The point of all this being that today is his birthday, and I've been thinking a lot about him lately. Death in general too, but when you think about death you can't help but think about the people close to you who've died. For me, my dad, my grandma and Zack were the hardest hitting and most significant losses. My dad died of a heart attack, or heart failure (I never really found out, it was a strange time) in November of '99, it wasn't a shock as he'd been reminding me he wasn't going to live very long ever since I can remember. He was an alcoholic Vietnam War vet with PTSD who smoked constantly, it was more shocking that he made it as long as he did, really. My grandma had to spend the last few years of her life in nursing homes and hospitals due to Cervical Cancer and a tendency to break a bone every month of so. I remember once she tripped over a turned up carpet and broke something, a hip or ankle maybe, and when the paramedics arrived one of them said "I've fallen and I can't get up!" Can you believe that? 100% true. And as I said Zack died in a car accident, I remember my friend Sean calling me on my cell phone at work to let me know. I was putting away magazines and then I had to just go back and make drinks for people for hours with that news just sitting in my head...maybe I could have left work but for some reason I feel like I'm burdening people if I tell them things like that, that's my own issue I guess.
What I've been thinking about mostly is what happens (and what doesn't happen) after you die...but also what happens in your mind prior. In the case of my dad and grandma, they had a lot of time to reconcile the fact that they didn't have a lot of time left. But as for Zack, that must have been a split second, no time at all. I'm not a religious person, and I certainly don't believe in the classic "God", as in Adam and Eve and the Ark and all of that...but we had to come from somewhere and I think there has to be something after. I've always liked the idea of reincarnation, I guess it's just as illogical as any other notion, but it's much more poetic and decent, at least in my rudimentary understanding of it. It's a terrible reference, but I think of Lt. Dan from Forrest Gump (stop laughing) and the part where he swims and makes his peace with God, obviously he didn't do this before he died, but I wonder if my dad and grandma experienced anything like that.
I kind of can't even believe I'm writing any of this, it's such a bummer and I think I've been depressed enough lately. I can't help it I guess.
I remember right after Zack's viewing (horrible term if you ask me) me and my then-girlfriend stopped at Wawa to get something to drink. In the parking lot I stopped to say hi to another friend who just happened to be there. Out of nowhere some guy walks out of some store in the strip mall and starts ragging on me and my girlfriend because we look goth. "Hey! It's not Halloween! What are you guys supposed to be, The Osbournes!" All that. I was just looking at this guy, completely shocked that someone who was actually wearing black because someone they knew and loved had died was being mistaken for a goth kid. I could have leveled this guy, for real, I could have made this guy feel like garbage for years. "Actually my friend just died! Got any jokes about that!" But I didn't say anything, I just looked at him and eventually he said, "Hey man I'm just kidding around, okay?" It was a really profound moment, it was about having to make a choice, I certainly wasn't thinking 'What Would Jesus Do', but I was thinking about suffering and guilt and karma, as little as I knew about any of it.
I had surgery for the first time ever this year and I wasn't scared of dying right until they wheeled me into the operating room. I thought, 'Oh my god, this could be the last room I see, and I can't really even move, all I see is lights' and then they gave me the gas and I was out. When I woke up hours later I was in an unfamiliar, gigantic white room, and I literally thought I was in Heaven. Please feel free to laugh. It's not even a joke, for a few moments I thought I was in Heaven, some kind of heavenly waiting room, I arrived in my gown, how embarrassing. Then I looked down and there was a nurse doing a crossword or something and it hit me that I WAS in some kind of waiting room, but it was on Earth.
I don't know what that story had to do with anything, maybe just a laugh to lighten the mood a bit. Kind of grim topics, but sometimes that's what's on yr mind. I guess all I really wanna say is that I hope Zack, where ever he is and whatever form he is in, is enjoying his birthday. He was one of the sweetest and kindest people I've ever known and I miss him everyday.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Speaking of Mad Men, wow. I've watched the first two seasons in the last two weeks, I have one more episode of season 2 to watch and I'm putting it off a bit, I don't want it to end. Apparently season 3 is coming out in March, I can't watch it on TV, that may screw up the order. Jeez. Last night I bought the first season of The Big Bang Theory, that should hold me for a day or two. I gotta say I like the look of Don Draper in California, if I was him I would have stayed there with Joy, was that dude really her dad? Oh, spoiler alert? I think I'm pretty much the last person on earth who is not completely caught up with Mad Men, I feel like I can spoil nothing.

There's been some rad music lately: Final Fantasy, Why? and Hella have been ruling the car. Not to mention there are new records by Spoon, Hot Chip, Xiu Xiu, and Final Fantasy all coming out soon.

Back to my Top 10 of the Decade list...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Turn Those Lemons Upside-Down: 2009, The Year In (Good) Music

As I always state, I am not a professional reviewer...this simply means that record companies don't send me free records and no one pays me to write. My apologies to all the records that I liked this year that didn't get mentioned and many thanks to anyone who actually reads this. Since I got the worst papercut of my life today I feel a little bittersweet about starting the list like this, but here we go...

Top 10 Albums of 2009:
1. ‘You Can Have What You Want’ by Papercuts – Picking this year’s Record of the Year was much more difficult than last year. Hot Chip’s ‘Made in the Dark’ was an obvious choice, partly because I hadn’t heard several of the great 2008 releases, but also because it was just such a complete record. I decided on Papercuts for a few reasons: 1. I remember sitting in the car after hearing ‘The Wolf’ on the radio and waiting through 5 or 6 subsequent (and awful) songs just to hear who that first song was. 2. Throughout the year I continually grabbed this record on my way out the door, and repeat car listenings goes a long way. 3. I’m not sure how well known this band is (evidenced by my seeing this record sitting in a used bin for $1.99 at the Princeton Record Exchange) and I wanted to pick something, at least somewhat, less than obvious…besides the fact that it’s just an amazing record.
2. Phrazes For The Young’ by Julian Casablancas – Who saw this coming? I love Little Joy, Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti’s side project, and Albert Hammond Jr.’s stuff is decent, but I didn’t think Mr. Casablancas had anything left in the tank. It’s still new and exciting to me, I just got it last weekend, so maybe that’s why I’m so on board…but c’mon, timing really is everything. This is just a really incredible record, it’s 8 tracks (a little short for a full length, I agree) of weird pure pop, it has an 80’s-by-way-of-the-future feel and actually sounds optimistic, if not positive in the face of the rapture. However, WARNING: You have to be willing to accept this album for what it is, if you are too cool for school you won’t get it.
3. Miike Snow’ by Miike Snow – As jarring as #3 may be to look at (all those ‘i’s!) this record really surprised me. I’d heard ‘Animal’ on the radio about a thousand times and decided to finally break down and buy the record…but only if I could find it used. I did, and I was totally into it. It’s kind of a sampler of everything good about electronic/dance music, it’s heartfelt and organic while still being icy and suave and everything else electronic music has to be.
4. ‘Axe To Fall’ by Converge – There’s not a whole lot I can say about this record. Anyone who knows Converge knew this was going to be yet another redefining of ‘heavy’ music. Converge is, for me at least, the benchmark by which all other ‘heavy’ acts are measured. They’ve been doing this forever and they actually get better and better every time. This record makes so many others obsolete.
5. ‘Rainwater Cassette Exchange’ by Deerhunter / ‘Logos’ by Atlas Sound – This is the Bradford Cox two-fer. This year the man at the helm of Deerhunter and the sole driving force of Atlas Sound released 2 great records, and in the interest of saving space they get to share #5. RCE is an EP, but a fantastic 5 song EP is better than a bloated, boring LP any day. This record continues in the tradition of last year’s phenomenal Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.’ and really cements them as one of the best and most promising groups around. Atlas Sound is similar in tune and texture but is certainly more trimmed down and personal. ‘Logos’ is the follow-up to last year’s ‘Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel’, and it’s a more cohesive and song-oriented effort. Two of the real bright spots are the songs ‘Walkabout’ which features Noah Lennox, Panda Bear from Animal Collective (the song sounds a lot like something on a Panda Bear solo record) and ‘Quick Canal’ which features Letitia Sadier of Stereolab (this song sounds more like someone covering Stereolab, than Stereolab themselves). There’s something very endearing about these two songs, the latter especially, who does a song with the singer from Stereolab in 2009? This is a solid record.
6. ‘Summer Of Hate’ by Crocodiles – Last year brought us The Muslims (now known as The Soft Pack), the other band formed out of the now defunct Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, and now we have Crocodiles. Named for the Echo & The Bunnymen record, this is a two piece electronic duo (think Suicide from California) who make a kind of smoldering, damaged, punk noise rock that could apparently appeal to readers of Rolling Stone (it was featured as a ‘Buy This Now’ item). This record takes the beauty of being an outcast, the anger of endless frustration, plays it back and doesn’t care if you dig it or not.
7. ‘200 Million Thousand’ by Black Lips – Easily the best named album of the year ‘200 MT’ is yet another strong collection from Black Lips. ‘Elijah’, ‘The Drop I Hold’, and ‘Let It Grow’ continue the tradition of innovative garage the Lips have been making for years now. Though ‘I’ll Be With You’ is pretty much a carbon copy of the earlier ‘Dirty Hands’, the rest of the album holds up as a modern piece of garage in a sea of rehashed 60’s nostalgia.
8. ‘Break It Up’ by Jemina Pearl – I’m an unashamed and unapologetic lover of Jemina Pearl. I loved Be Your Own Pet and I don’t think they ever got (or will ever get) the credit they deserved for what they truly were. This is probably the only record I’ve ever gotten excited about through reading a blog, I followed the writing and recording process through Jemina’s blog and was ready to love every second of the record. Even though I don’t, it’s still a really good collection of songs. Members of Redd Kross and Sonic Youth had help in the production (as they did with BYOP) and you can feel their presence, but I’d like to see Jemina become a little more Debbie Harry and a little less Cherie Currie. Songs like ‘Heartbeats’ and ‘Selfish Heart’ are unassailably cool and completely pop and that’s where she’s at her best.
9. ‘In & Out Of Control’ by The Raveonettes – Last year’s ‘Lust Lust Lust’ missed my top ten (#11, so close!) but this record snuck on due to some of the strongest songs they’ve ever written. It’s hard to tell where The Raveonettes lie in the collective consciousness of the music buying public (or the music downloading public) but I kind of think they’re completely overlooked. I was at a show in Hoboken once and in walks Sharin Foo, all blonde and boots, and I don’t remember anyone even approaching her…even to buy her a drink. They had a song in a K-Mart commercial a few years back, and I heard their Christmas song at the mall yesterday, but this is really more of a review of the public at large for ignoring The Raveonettes rather than a quick blurb about yet another great record.
10. ‘Tentacles’ by Crystal Antlers – I reserved the #10 spot last year for a band and record that I thought was a bit underachieving, and so now it’s a tradition. ‘Tentacles’ has 4 amazing songs, and then a bunch of decent to sub-par tracks. Crystal Antlers are an organ-over-everything rock band that incorporate woodwinds and saxophones a feature a really talented singer, and this record has a few truly promising moments. Other times however it seems like they’re just going through the motions. I’d like to see them put out a record that doesn’t have 13 songs, that’s a little more focused and uses all the collaborative effort they’ve got. As a side note, in terms of band names ‘Crystal’ is the new ‘Wolf’. As another side note, I read a review of this record that said it was no good because Vanilla Fudge already did organ driven rock music. Vanilla Fudge, really? I think there’s enough room for them both.

Top 15 Songs of 2009:
1. ‘Two Weeks’ by Grizzly Bear
– Along with the aforementioned ‘Animal’ by Miike Snow and ‘My Girls’ by Animal Collective, ‘Two Weeks’ has to be THE indie-rock radio song of the year. Though I found this year’s Veckatimest somewhat underwhelming, I am a GB fan and this song is a classic. You can’t beat it for singing in the car.
2. ‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)’ by Beyonce – Please believe me, this choice is 100% un-ironic and not at all comedic fodder, it’s a phenomenon. This song is non-stop, it’s all energy and it’s accompanied by one of the best videos ever made.
3. ‘Enemy Destruct’ by Thee Oh Sees – The opening track from the quite enjoyable ‘Help’, this song is a monster. It’s also the first song they played when I saw them this fall, and Jeff Dwyer couldn’t have been nicer during our brief interaction.
4. ‘The Wolf' by Papercuts – This is a dreamy, reverb-y, echo-y, shoegaze-ish pop gem where Jason Quever sounds a bit like Bjork. See: Album of the Year.
5. Elouise by Say Hi – I never thought I’d include a band that used to be called ‘Say Hi to Your Mom’ on a ‘best of’ list, but here they are. Their ’09 release ‘Oohs & Aahs is full of great subdued pop about girls, and this opening track will have you hooked.
6. ‘On The Road’ by Turbo Fruits – It’s become clear that while Turbo Fruits (ex-BYOP) aren’t exactly going to wow me, every record they do will have one really, REALLY good song.
7. ‘Conventional Friend’ by Cartel – Cartel’s first album ‘Chroma’ is one of my all time favorites, their following releases (2007’s ‘Cartel’ and this year’s ‘Cycles’) were decent, but it’s songs like ‘Conventional Friend’ that keep me interested. It may be punk-pop for the masses but it works.
8. ‘Disappearing Ink’ by Deerhunter – It appears there’s nothing they can’t do.
9. ‘I Hate People’ by Jemina Pearl – This song is interesting. It’s not the best on the album, and on the surface it’s just a typical girl-meets-guy through a shared hatred of everyone else story. However, if you dig a bit, it has a couple things that set it apart: 1. Iggy Pop is a guest vocalist on it giving it a classic punk feel and instant credibility and 2. it uses vague descriptions of the ‘boy’ that could be interpreted simply as ‘punk’ itself. So when you add these elements it becomes less of a song about a boy and a girl and more a song about someone discovering punk for the first time through their distaste for everything else. All this is completely valid provided you allow yourself to over analyze, which I do.
10. ‘Life Magazine’ by Cold Cave – Very cool song from a very cool record, helmed by the lead singer of Some Girls. The record, ‘Love Comes Close’, has a nice synth-goth-pop sound and this song is just one of 4 or 5 standouts. It also inexplicably showed up in a Radio Shack commercial.
11. ‘It’s Not Impossible’ by Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard – Jeffrey Lewis is possibly the most undervalued musician in America. He’s brilliant, writes really interesting songs with endless lyrics, and he’s also an amazing illustrator (the album this song appears on, ‘Em Are I’, has a great Madballs motif). The song is an easy-going little ditty that, to me, seems to be about girls…but I think everything is about girls, so it’s probably a bit deeper than that.
12. ‘Scarlet Fields’ by The Horrors – I didn’t really hear anyone talk about this record besides KEXP’s John Richards, but it was a really surprising and promising release. The Horrors began as a sort of flavor-of-the-month British garage-goth act. Their first release was good but not particularly memorable, but here you can tell they’ve really grown up and let in some other influences (My Bloody Valentine chief among them) and ‘Scarlet Fields’ is nearly perfect.
13. ‘Fall Drive’ by The Hunches – Until a moment ago this spot was occupied by a good song by Black Moth Super Rainbow from their severely boring ‘Eating Us’, but I just remembered this record. 2009 brought yet another awesome release by The Hunches, ‘Exit Dreams’ is just as raw and powerful as their previous stuff, but as with every new record, they’re better than they’ve ever been. I can’t think of a band more underrated than The Hunches, they’re poetic, delicate, and chaotic…one more reason I inexplicably love Oregon.
14. ‘Run’ by Obits – Obits is the new Rick Froberg (Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes) project and although this record didn’t really blow me away ‘Run’ is a really strong song in that tradition of straight forward rock.
15. ‘Faker’ by Miike Snow – I like when albums have a way of opening and closing with some purpose, when you can tell someone thought about how to present their music. This is the closing track and it does a great job of wrapping things up in a warm, electric piano-y way. There may be more interesting or influential songs here, but this is what really caught my ear.

Top 10 2009 Discoveries not of 2009:
1. Deerhunter
– Easily, if I had heard it, Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.’ would have been my #1 record of last year. It’s like Deerhunter when into my head, found all the songs I’d ever wanted to hear and made them. I could also easily write for another 20 pages about my love for this record, but I’ll spare you.
2. Destroyer – What the hell is Destroyer? Well, it’s on Merge, and I like the cover art for this ‘Trouble In Dreams’ record, but I think the dude is in The New Pornographers, and I’m not into them really…but it’s only 4 bucks, I’ll get it. Thank God. What have I been missing all this time? Amazing, amazing vocals theatrically sung over weird bendy guitar solos and piano. You know you love a band when you’re stuck in the hospital for a week with Pancreatitis due to your soon-to-be-removed inflamed gallbladder and all you can think about is how much you want to listen to Destroyer when you get home.
3. Xiu Xiu – If the first 6 months of 2009 belonged to Deerhunter, the second 6 belonged to Xiu Xiu. ‘Women As Lovers’ (also left off the ’08 list) was another used impulse buy that floored me. I’ve known of this band forever but never thought they were for me, having never heard them and being annoyed that I didn’t know how to pronounce their name (if you feel the same, it’s “shoo-shoo”, named from a Chinese film). No band has ever made me feel worse about being/more hopeful to be a human being. If Deerhunter made all the songs I ever wanted to hear, then Xiu Xiu made all the ones I didn’t know I wanted to hear.
4. Jens Lekman – A kind of Swedish Scott Walker with a hit of Stephen Merritt, I got really into him when I heard ‘Oh You’re So Silent Jens’ and continually heard ‘The Opposite of Halleluiah on the radio. I was happy to hear some of his songs in the film ‘Whip It’, especially like 4 seconds of 'A Sweet Summer's Night On Hammer Hill'. He’s incredible.
5. Yo La Tengo – Why, WHY did none of my friends ever tell me that Yo La Tengo are amazing? All I ever knew about them was that they had a million records, lived in Hoboken, and indie people loved them. I took a chance on a used copy of ‘And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out’ and, for the most part, I loved it. ‘You Can Have It All’ is a standout, and I am officially a fan.
6. ‘You, Appearing’ by M83 – Simply put, just a gorgeous song.
7. ‘Falling and Laughing’ by Orange Juice – It sounds like a joke that there was once a band called Orange Juice but I was completely unfamiliar with these seminal Scotts. Classic quirky pop, it’s always great to accidentally come across something that you can tell has influenced a ton of bands you already like.
8. ‘Health // Disco’ – A remix record of Health’s self titled ’07 release, and EVERY SONG is great. How many remix albums can you say that about?
9. A Hard Day’s Night – While I was recuperating from gallbladder surgery I stayed in bed for a week watching TV. Due to the impending release of ‘Beatles Rock Band’ it was non-stop Beatles and I decided to finally watch this movie. The early Beatles are my faves and this is like a time capsule of how to be cool. Dress excellent, sing catchy love songs and speak so that no one can understand a word you say.
10. ‘My Home is the Sea’ by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy & Matt Sweeney – Anything with Bonnie “Prince’ Billy is worth a try. This is the opening track from the album Superwolf and it’s completely cathartic. Four or so minutes in it hits you with this power pop wail, and it’s pretty epic. This was also the record I was listening to the night I went to see ‘Pirate Radio’, so it has memorable connections.

(Special Thanks to the Princeton Record Exchange, 80% of these came from the massive used section, and were quite reasonably priced. Plus, you get to hear stuff like this: “Oh, I think they must have a different section for ‘heavy metal’, because I don’t think AC/DC is ‘rock’.”)

Top 5 Rediscoveries of 2009:
1. ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ by The Flamigos
– This was the year I realized that this is the best love song ever written.
2. Emo – For some reason I got pretty heavily back into emo (and no, it was not because I broke up with my girlfriend.) Maybe it was nostalgia or whatever but the emo classics from high school found new life. Joan of Arc, CaP’n Jazz, Piebald, Death Cab for Cutie (also got into their newer stuff that I formerly gave up on), American Football, Braid, Jets to Brazil, early Bright Eyes, The Van Pelt…and I’m going to include Motion City Soundtrack and Alkaline trio, even though I didn’t listen to them in high school, hearing them now it feels like high school. Emo has, since some point in the 00’s, turned into some weird amalgam of goth, metal, mall-punk, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s not even a thing now, at least, it’s not what it was. People ask me if I’m emo (a lot), and I don’t even know what to tell them (besides no). I want to sit there and tell them emo doesn’t exist anymore and I don’t know what these kids today call themselves. Then I want to give them a copy of ‘When Life Hands You Lemons’, but who has the time?
3. Neil Young – It took me 12 years to realize that the first song on ‘After the Gold Rush’ is one of the best. “I am lonely but you can free me, all in the way that you smile”, how did that not grab my ear in high school?
4. Weezer – I went through a big ‘Maladroit’ phase, as well as finally getting around to buying the deluxe edition of the blue album. There’s something very timeless about Weezer and I hope they start being awesome again soon.
5. Sonic Youth – At the start of 2009 I had 3 Sonic Youth records, most of which I got in high school (it all comes back to high school doesn’t it?), and I presently have 11. I went nuts at some point mid-year and got a new Sonic Youth record like every week. I also read ‘Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth’ over the summer. I think the whole thing was caused by the song ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ off the ‘Evol’ record. That song is unbelieveable.

Top 5 Pop Culture Music Moments:
1. (500) Days of Summer
– In the scene where Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are riding the elevator and he’s listening to ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ by The Smiths on his headphones, Zooey recognizes it and sings it back to him. This is the most unrealistic thing ever put in a romantic comedy (I know this, I’ve seen them all). Even if you’re in Death Cab For Cutie, the odds of Zooey Deschanel singing The Smiths to you in an elevator are slim. However, his reaction to this ridiculous act is completely perfect. If I remember correctly, once she steps off the elevator he simply says, “Holy shit.”
2. Fantastic Mr. Fox – The return of the good Wes Anderson (sorry Darjeeling, I was not a fan) is promising for film and music alike. His films have always had flawless use of music and this one was no exception. My favorite was in the opening scene where Mr. and Mrs. Fox are seen in a side-scrolling shot avoiding obstacles on their way to steal some chickens. Anderson uses the Beach Boys here, which is brilliant because it gives the otherwise macabre act on screen a kind of good time feel which sets you up for the entire film. There’s another great moment when a singer voiced by Jarvis Cocker is playing around a campfire, but that scene is more memorable for what Bean says to him.
3. Infomania – This is a spec of comedic dust in the cable-sphere, but it’s one of my favorite shows. It’s on Current TV, the Al Gore network, and it has a music segment called ‘Sergio’s White Hot Top 5’ wherein host Sergio Chilli makes fun of awful pop music, example: “Coming in at #3 is ‘Good Girls Go Bad’ by Cobra Starship, nice band name idiot.”
4. The Big Bang Theory – Sheldon and Penny singing ‘Soft Kitty’ in the round provides a certain kind of heartwarming usually reserved only for long-lost relatives reuniting on TV, and receiving hand-made gifts from Down Syndrome kids. That’s how special it is.
5. Tim and Eric Awesome Show: Great Job! Season 4 – This is the best combination of music and comedy since Tenacious D. This season alone we heard: Pusswhip Banggang, Minivan Highway, David Liebe Hart’s email song, bloody nips, Tim and Eric’s sitcom theme song, Frank Stallone’s song to his daughter, and of course the song about the father and son who share a bed.

Best Band Name Heard in 2009:
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
– Wow, I have never had such an instant reaction to a band. People may find this name corny or dramatic or just stupid, but I got it right away and I love them for it. They actually made a really good record this year too, and aided in bring back the long off the radar (mine, at least) Slumberland Records label.
Runners Up: Sissy Wish, Au Revoir Simone

Worst Band Name Heard in 2009:
– This is a weird one because I don’t really know why I don’t like this name, there’s just something about it. It just sounds sloppy, or like some kind of crappy desert…I don’t know what it is, I just know I don’t want any.
Runners Up: The Big Pink, Does It Offend You, Yeah?

Top 3 Mixtape Names of 2009:
1. Contorted Treaties
2. Vociferous Revelry
3. Fake Beard

Most Annoying Band of 2009:
– These guys are at the forefront of something that’s been going on for a while now. These awful British bands that play truly banal rock music that are somehow super popular. Everywhere I look there’s bands like this and they’re just boring as hell. The worst part of all, of course, is that they all think they’re really cutting-edge and hip. Other bands that fall in this category: Kasabian, Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs, The Kooks.

Most Annoying Things of 2009:
The Credits of Pirate Radio – Let me begin here by saying that I loved this movie. Apparently people had a problem with it because they used music that was not from the time period they were supposed to be in, and I couldn’t care less. It wasn’t a movie sampler about the music of 1966, it was a movie about the passion that a certain group of people had for a certain kind of music. Here’s my problem: during the credits, because it was a movie about pop music, they showed a montage of albums in pop music that have come about since. For some reason they thought it was a good idea to include ultra commercial, bad pop music albums in said montage. The problem here is that even though The Rolling Stones and The Beatles and The Kinks and all the British Invasion music was ultra commercial pop it was also genuine history in the making and completely culturally relevant. The only album I clearly remember seeing in the credits was one by Kanye West, and my friend said he saw Taylor Swift. It was hard to keep track due to the fact that it was impossible not to be going, “whaaaat, what is that…huh…no way, whaaa?” the whole time. These artists are not on par with ‘Astral Weeks’, sorry. The most glairing problem with this whole issue is the fact that the British government was forcing these songs off the air, so they had to be played on pirate radio. To this point I have heard of no radio station having to remove Taylor Swift and Kanye West from their playlists due to government regulations.

The Beard Backlash – What’s wrong with beards? More importantly, what’s wrong with bands that have beards? This year I listened to a lot of Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses and a bunch of other bands that prefer their faces warm, if not itchy. I read a blurb in GQ recently that said bearded bands don’t seem as rock starish as say…Jet, who suck. This writer had a problem because he wants his rockers to rock! And beards do not rock! Just look what happened to Kings of Leon, last time I looked they only had one bearded member left and they’ve never been more popular. The real backlash has come from the epicenter of bullshit cool, Brooklyn. If you have a beard and you like good music you are one of the three following things: a Brooklynite, a ‘hipster’, or Zach Galifianakis. I’m here to defend Brooklyn in this respect, Brooklyn isn’t cool. At least, it’s not cooler than anywhere else that has a collective scene and decent bands, and the only people that get down on it and call you a hipster are people that listen to Jet, who suck. So yes, I have a beard, no I’m not a hipster, yes I wouldn’t mind being Zach Galifianakis, and no I don’t live in Brooklyn…but I wouldn’t mind it, that’s where all the cool bands are.

Missing the Atlas Sound / Broadcast show that I had tickets for in Philly - Yeah, this was a huge disappointment. I missed Little Joy in Hoboken, and I was in the hospital for The Zeros show, but actually having tickets to see these two bands in a place as intimate as the First Unitarian Church was pretty crushing. It was the result of car trouble for both me and my show companion. Dude, I was bummed. Honorable mention to the Horrors / Crocodiles show that I purchased tickets to and then the Horrors canceled the show. Way to be.

Top 5 2009 Albums I Haven’t Heard, but are Probably Pretty Good:
1. ‘Alpinisms’ by School of Seven Bells

2. ‘Bitte Orca’ by Dirty Projectors (Actually, I purchased this on December 30th, after this piece was already written, and it’s amazing. I didn’t want to take anything out of the existing list, but I will say that ‘Stillness Is The Move’ could be the best song of the year.)
3. ‘Manners’ by Passion Pit
4. ‘Middle Cyclone’ by Neko Case
5. ‘The Crying Light’ by Antony and the Johnsons