Year In Review, Vol. 10 - Tunnel Motor

This December, to celebrate the music of 2007, I asked a bunch of the artists I’ve featured on PHW over the last 11 months to share their thoughts on the “year that was”. I asked a mix of my favorite local artists, as well as several larger acts, with the hope of having a diverse assortment of reflections on the music that mattered to the artists that mattered to me.

Better late than never - here’s the final entry in the PHW Year In Review series. Tunnel Motor is a Brooklyn-based rock band and a local favorite of mine. I’ve posted about the band’s fine recorded output twice, I believe, over the past 12 months. They have just recently released an excellent new EP, Substantial Ranch (5 tracks that rock, roll, spit, sway, swear, rip, cut, bleed, and groove), which, like all other Tunnel Motor releases, is available for free download at the label’s website, 80H Records. Tunnel Motor writes catchy, driving Americana styled rock n’ roll - a little bit Guided By Voices, a little bit Mike Cooley-led Drive-By Truckers - and releases their songs for free, with the hope that a fan-base will grow out of respect for a band that obviously isn’t in it for the money.

Here’s what the band sent along as their favorites of the past year:

Best Record by a Band that I Had Not Listened to Prior to 2007:
Magik Markers - BOSS

Best "Grower" Record of 2007 (mild boredom to extreme interest):
Blitzen Trapper - Wild Mountain Nation

Best Record by a Band that is not quite as good as their last album:
The National - Boxer

Best Record by a Reunited Band:
Dinosaur Jr - Beyond

Best Record by a Band Featuring Members of a Sadly Defunct Great Band
(see band in next item):

Bottomless Pit - Hammer of the Gods

Best Discography of a Band I Had Not Listened to Prior to 2007:

Rick's Pick for Best Local Band of 2007:
Casa De Chihuahua

Tunnel Motor in 2008
1) Cut down on the rotating door of the rhythm section (namely the drummer)
2) Record Record #2

Head Wounds, "Dork Day", and Ryan Bingham

Would you trust this guy’s pick for best song of 2007? Yeah, me neither. But believe it or not, he has remarkable taste in music. This is my buddy John, and no, the picture wasn’t staged to coincide with the name of this blog. It’s an actual head wound suffered a few weeks ago during a drunken stumble. He’s all better now.

This past Sunday we had our annual countdown of our favorite songs and albums of the year. We sit around and, one by one, play for the other our top 20 songs while drinking a lot of beer. My girlfriend calls it “dork day” and she’s exactly right I’m sure. But there’s something about the mutual love of music we share that allows the day to put a comforting stamp of closure on the previous 12 months. There were a few disappointed groans (“this is your favorite song from The Stage Names?”) and a lot of high 5’s (“niiice, I think “1 2 3 4” is a fucking awesome song too, but I chose ‘I Feel It All’”). And by the end we’re taking pee breaks after every 2 or 3 songs. I didn't think I'd make it through "The Past Is A Grotesque Animal".

Anyway, Ryan Bingham. John was very excited this year because his “#1” was going to not only be a surprise, but would top mine. He was right on one of those assertions. A few months ago John caught Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses in an opening slot for the Drive-By Truckers and was blown away. He picked up the CD and it became his 6th favorite of the year, but wound up housing his favorite song, “Southside of Heaven”.

If it were up to me I’d say it’s a nice choice, but sounds a little too “Lost Highway-ish”. Unfortunately, I’m not referring to the classic country song but instead the over-production just about every record Lost Highway puts out seems to have. But I’m sure John loves the weepy pedal steel, chugging acoustic chords, and ghostly harmonica that puts the setting squarely in some broken down Western desert town. I’m sure he loves the voice - a non-ironic mix of Mellencamp and a 75 year-old bluesman - and I’m sure he loves the imagery: trains, cocaine, lonesome highways rolling on, poor men, West Texas, and “been gone so long, Lord it’s getting cold”. I’m sure he thinks the tempo changes and 6-plus minute running time add an epic sense to Bingham’s story of a man’s search for a home. He's right about all of it.

There’s something unabashedly romantic about the song, and there’s no doubt Bingham has at least soaked in the great old records of his idols if not the lifestyle he describes. Sorry John, it’s not even close to being as accurate or important as All My Friends, but it’s good. Very good. And no, I didn’t see it coming.

MP3 :: Southside of Heaven
(from Mescalito. Buy here)

I got drunk and I fell down. More fun with John:


Best of the Rest...

Another year-end list season down, and another bunch of gems that I missed out on during the year. Here are some of my favorite recent finds:

First of all, Pitchfork introduced me to King Khan & The Shrines, my favorite find of the season, with their lists of songs and albums. Their sound combines a couple of sources, all of which sound vintage, including 60s garage rock, Motown, James Brown, and the raw power of The Stooges. The Black Lips had a big year doing something similar, and deservedly so. This is better. I don’t know much about the band at this point, but trust me, if those influences make you weak in the knees then you won’t be able to resist their latest album, What Is?!.

MP3 :: Welfare Bread
MP3 :: No Regrets
(from What Is?!. Buy here)

Shake Your Fist had a really great list of their favorite songs of the year. Below are 2 of my favorites from their list, but really, do yourself a favor - download the whole thing and make yourself a playlist. Many many hidden gems.

MP3 :: Daddaughter / Madzak
(from Life Beginnings. Buy here)

MP3 :: Igloo / Clear Tiger
(from Brutal. Buy here)

As part of PHW’s Year-In-Review series comes a recommendation from Jacob Berns of The National Lights. His favorite album of the year was Electrelane’s No Shouts No Calls. I haven’t heard the whole record yet, but “To The East” is shimmering, melodic indie-pop of the highest order.

MP3 :: To The East
(from No Shouts No Calls. Buy here)

Finally, I heard a few songs from Times New Viking’s Present The Paisley Reich over the past few weeks. Their use of fuzzed out noise may be too graphic for some viewers, but underneath the violence are some pretty cool tunes. Look for an early ‘08 release from their new label, Matador Records.

MP3 :: Teenage Lust!
(from Present The Paisley Reich. Buy here)

Christmas With Jesus

What better time of year than now to get a little Jesus on your playlists? The dude has by far the most popular name in my music library, with, ironically, only Mary coming close. Among other things he’s a Mexican Boy (Iron & Wine), a friendly neighbor who cooks pancakes (The Roadside Graves), an only son (a pair of times - Modest Mouse & Springsteen), and possibly a heavy drinker in need of help (Minutemen). Happy birthday, man.

MP3 :: Jesus Christ / Big Star
(from Third/Sister Lovers. Buy here)

MP3 :: Jews For Jesus Blues / Clem Snide
(from End of Love. Buy here)

MP3 :: Jesus Christ With Signs Following / The Gourds
(from Bolsa de Aqua. Buy here)

MP3 :: Jesus the Mexican Boy / Iron & Wine
(from The Sea And The Rhythm. Buy here)

MP3 :: Christmas With Jesus / Josh Rouse
(from Under Cold Blue Stars. Buy here)

MP3 :: Jesus And Tequila / Minutemen
(from Double Nickels On The Dime. Buy here)

MP3 :: Jesus Christ Was An Only Child / Modest Mouse
(from The Lonesome Crowded West. Buy here)

MP3 :: Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam / The Vaselines
(from The Way Of The Vaselines: A Complete History. Buy here)

MP3 :: Jesus / Page France
(from Hello, Dear Wind. Buy here)

MP3 :: Brides of Jesus / Little Feat
(from Little Feat. Buy here)

MP3 :: Jesus Is A Friend Of The Family / The Roadside Graves
(from What Happened To Him Could Happen To Anyone. Buy here)

MP3 :: Trust Jesus / Slobberbone
(from Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today. Buy here)

MP3 :: Jesus Saves, I Spend / St. Vincent
(from Marry Me. Buy here)

MP3 :: Jesus Gonna Be Here / Tom Waits
(from Bone Machine. Buy here)

MP3 :: Jesus / The Velvet Underground
(from The Velvet Underground. Buy here)

MP3 :: Picture Of Jesus On The Dashboard / Whiskeytown
(from The Freightwhaler Sessions. Info here)

MP3 :: Jesus, Etc. (live) / Wilco
(from Kicking Television: Live In Chicago. Buy here)

MP3 :: Jesus, Don’t Touch My Baby / Ryan Adams
(from Demolition. Buy here)

My Favorite Songs Of 2007

I’ve said this before on this blog, but 2007 was for me, more than any other year, a time of musical discovery. As a guy in my early 30s I’ve spent about 2 decades listening to little else other than white guys with loud guitars. This year changed that (a little bit). Now I listen to white guys with iMacs and drum machines too. No - I hope this list represents some sort of evidence of growth as a music listener and as a music fan. I know this blog isn’t exactly Pitchforkian (or Gorilla vs. Bear-like for that matter) in its diversity, but I like what I like. Here is a legitimate list of my favorite songs of the year….or at least my favorite songs that weren’t culled from my favorite albums. What Top 40 radio would sound like in my perfect world. Thanks for reading, listening.
Secret Hidden Bonus Track (#41) Amasser :: Moonwatcher (mp3)
(from Legal Wall) [myspace]

PHW :: I thought it would be a bit anti-climatic to put this track after #1, so here it is, the secret hidden bonus track to get you started.
40. St. Vincent :: Now. Now. (mp3)
(from Marry Me) [official] [myspace] [youtube]

39. Track A Tiger :: All These Accidents (mp3)
(from We Moved Like Ghosts) [official] [myspace]

PHW :: Songs like “All These Accidents” perfect the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-inspired laptop folk of their debut record.

38. Maria Taylor :: Lost Time (mp3)
(from Lynn Teeter Flower) [official] [myspace] [youtube]

PHW :: This delicate, beautiful folk song represents one side of her talents, as her album mixes folk with burbling electronics. She’s at her best here though, just that vulnerable voice floating in and out of some simple guitar chords and a lilting piano on the chorus.

37. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists :: La Costa Brava (mp3)
(from Living With The Living) [official] [myspace] [youtube] [original post]

36. Shapes And Sizes :: Alone/Alive (mp3)
(from Split Lips, Winning Hips, A Shiner) [official] [myspace]

PHW :: Elements of rock and folk intersect with wild experimentalism and jarring sound effects to create an enthralling listening experience.

35. The Black Lips :: Cold Hands (mp3)
(from Good Bad Not Evil) [myspace] [youtube]

34. Papercuts :: Take The 227th Exit (mp3)
(from Can’t Go Back) [myspace] [official]

33. Castanets :: This Is The Early Game (mp3)
(from In The Vines) [official] [myspace] [original post]

Bonus MP3 :: Sway

32. Eric Wolfson :: Graveyard Girls (mp3)
(from State Street Rambler) [myspace]

PHW :: “Graveyard Girls”, a song about a drug dealer who also happens to be Buddy Hackett’s niece, is a mash up of clever wordplay, unbridled enthusiasm, and a ripping band that sounds like it’s blowing dust off the dashboard from a Buick 6.

31. Hallelujah the Hills :: Hallelujah the Hills (mp3)
(from Collective Psychosis Begone) [official] [myspace]

30. The Cummies :: White Radio (mp3)
(from The Cummies EP) [official] [myspace]

PHW :: after seeing them perform a few months ago at Pianos I can safely say that they may be more on the angry/aggressive side than most of the music I write about. Whatever though, their songs were full of these dirty little punk rock melodies that sounded like an early Sub Pop Greatest Hits compilation. As if he was a 20 year-old Kurt Cobain fronting The Stooges in 1973, lead singer Joey Tokyo let out some sort of uncontained, primal rage into that microphone that may have given it brain damage.

29. Chris & Mollie :: Transition Trade (mp3)
(from The Palm Tree) [myspace] [official] [PHW Interview]

Bonus MP3 :: Waltz
Video :: Transition Trade

PHW: The music of these two (Chris Donlon and Mollie Hagar, no relation to Sammy) sounds like a free form take on folk-rock, as songs are constantly turning traditional structures on their head. The Palm Tree is a warm, inviting record - a mix of cool California harmonies and lo-fi indie-rock charm - full of beauty, grandeur, and chaos.

28. Soft Black :: Pearl With No String (mp3)
(from Blue Gold) [official] [myspace]

PHW :: although it is specifically unaccredited, either Maya Caballero or Caitlin Jaene provide some fine harmonies on “Pearl With No String”. That song houses the album’s most memorable melody as well - it’s been swirling around my head all week at work.

27. Parts & Labor :: Fractured Skies (mp3)
(from Mapmaker) [official] [myspace] [video - “The Gold We‘re Digging”]

PHW :: It comes racing out of the gates, all sorts of dissonant sonic squeals, uninhibited drumming, and an industrial strength chorus. Better take a deep breath…

26. The Clientele :: These Days Nothing But Sunshine (mp3)
(from God Save The Clientele) [official] [myspace]

25. Studio :: No Comply (mp3)
(from Yearbook 1) [official] [myspace]

24. Capgun Coup :: Bobby Chops & The Do Gooders (mp3)
(from Brought To You By Nebraskafish) [official] [myspace]

Bonus MP3 :: Oh My Mod
Bonus MP3 :: My Tears Cure Cancer

PHW :: “Bobby Chops And The Do-Gooders” may be the best representation of this band on record. The song is upbeat and catchy for an unlikely 7 minutes, with a chorus that will keep you humming long after you’d think it would have grown tiresome.

23. The New Pornographers :: Myriad Harbor (mp3)
(from Challengers) [official] [myspace] [youtube]

Bonus MP3 :: Your Rights Versus Mine
22. David Shane Smith :: Sorry (mp3)
(previously unreleased) [myspace] [Talkin’ NY, Vol. 8] [original]

PHW :: On Angry Earth - It’s as if Radiohead were recording with no budget - with Smith sleep-rapping his nuclear wasteland poetry over bedroom blips and bleeps.

21. Los Campesinos :: You! Me! Dancing! (mp3)
(from Sticking Fingers Into Sockets) [official] [myspace]

PHW :: His voice is like a smoke alarm in the dead of night: huge, dominant, unable to be ignored, maybe even life-saving.

19. Bon Iver :: Skinny Love (mp3)
(from For Emma, Forever Ago) [myspace] [original post]

18. Radiohead :: 4 Minute Warning (mp3)
(from In Rainbows [disc 2]) [official]

17. Wynn Walent & The Folks :: A Question of Water (mp3)
(from Upon Leaving EP) [myspace]

PHW :: Just picked this up after seeing Walent live about 2 weeks ago. This guy has got it. I get the sense from Walent that I get from listening to The Band’s first 2 albums - music devoid of time and space, timeless and essential. Much more to come.

16. The Tragically Hip :: In View (mp3)
(from World Container) [official] [myspace]

PHW :: It’s the first real attempt at a pop song in the band’s long history, and surprisingly, is wildly successful. The keyboard/acoustic guitar driven song is hyper-melodic in a mercurial way , sounding more like The Cure’s “Inbetween Days” or Wilco’s “Pot Kettle Black” than themselves.

15. Earl Pickens :: Can I Turn On The Radio? (mp3)
(from Turn On The Radio EP) [official] [myspace] [youtube]

PHW :: It may be the perfect soundtrack to a long springtime drive - top down, blue skies, holding hands, and singing along.

14. Adam Chandler :: Shine To Me (mp3)
(from Icon T-Shirt) [website] [original post]

13. David Vandervelde :: Nothin’ No (mp3)
(from The Moonstation House Band) [official] [myspace] [youtube]

PHW :: Vandervelde does his best at impersonating him some T. Rex, and fools just about everyone who’s never heard them. This song proves to be its own electric warrior, full of jagged, crunching guitars, and witty phrasings.

12. The Twilight Sad :: That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy (mp3)
(from Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters) [official] [myspace] [youtube]

11. Dinosaur Jr. :: Been There All The Time (mp3)
(from Beyond) [official] [myspace]

Bonus MP3 :: Almost Ready
PHW :: Damn if I don’t feel like me and my buddies ditched our lame prom dates and are hanging out in the back of a limo with the radio turned up really, really loud.

10. Wilco :: The Thanks I Get (mp3)
(NOT from Sky Blue Sky) [official] [myspace]

PHW :: The track is a new recording of a very popular song that has been in rotation live on Wilco/Jeff Tweedy setlists for quite some time, and honestly, is an obvious choice to replace “Shake It Off” mid-Sky Blue Sky. Talk about "making it better"!

9. Rilo Kiley :: Silver Lining (stream)
(from Under the Blacklight) [official] [myspace]

PHW :: It starts with a lilting, George Harrison-esque guitar riff and Jenny Lewis’ gently caressing honey-dripped vocals and builds to a soulful, gospel-tinged finale. Hooray! Hooray! indeed.

8. Matt Singer :: Stacy J (mp3)
(from Cross Pollination: The Mixtape) [official] [myspace] [youtube] [original]

7. Bright Eyes :: Tourist Trap (mp3)
(from the Four Winds EP) [official] [myspace]

Bonus MP3 :: Four Winds
(from Cassadaga)

PHW :: The percussion is like footsteps on a gravel road, somewhere dusty and flat. Conor Oberst sounds tired of the city’s cement walls, imagines them crumbled, and leaves to find his love and bring her home, wherever that is. His heart may be an open door, but the home it leads to has been torn down.

6. The Octopus Project :: I Saw The Bright Shinies (mp3)
(from Hello, Avalanche) [official] [myspace]

5. Gui Boratto :: Beautiful Life (mp3)
(from Chromophobia) [official] [myspace] [youtube]

4. Feist :: I Feel It All (mp3)
(from The Reminder) [official] [myspace] [youtube]

3. Dan Deacon :: The Crystal Cat (mp3)
(from Spiderman of the Rings) [official] [myspace] [youtube] [original post]

2. M.I.A. :: Paper Planes (mp3)
(from Kala) [official] [myspace]
1. LCD Soundsystem :: All My Friends (mp3)
(from Sound of Silver) [official] [myspace] [youtube]

PHW :: There’s a reason this song has turned up #1 on so many year-end lists, a reason that goes beyond it simply being a fucking awesome song. This song is a generational anthem, like “Baba O’Reilly” (thanks CMG), “Teen Age Riot”, or “Smells Like Teen Spirit” were in their day. But this is an anthem for me and you, not the kids. It’s for us, and more precisely me, with memories of friends more than actual ones at this point.

My Favorite Albums of 2007

20. Deer Tick - War Elephant

MP3 :: Dirty Dishes
MP3 :: Diamond Rings 2007

[official] [myspace] [youtube] [original post]

19. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha

MP3 :: Heretics
MP3 :: Scythian Empire

[official] [myspace] [youtube] [original post]
18. Okkervil River - The Stage Names

MP3 :: Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe

[official] [myspace] [video] [original post]
17. Band of Horses - Cease To Begin

MP3 :: Is There A Ghost

[official] [myspace] [youtube] [original post]
16. Battles - Mirrored

MP3 :: Atlas

[official] [myspace] [youtube]
15. The Roadside Graves - No One Will Know Where You’ve Been

MP3 :: West Coast
MP3 :: Radio

[official] [myspace] [youtube] [original post] [Year In Review]
14. Iron & Wine - The Shepherd’s Dog

MP3 :: Boy With A Coin
MP3 :: Innocent Bones

[official] [myspace] [youtube] [original post]
13. The Field - From Here We Go Sublime

For me, 2007 was the year electronica broke. Neither The Field, Dan Deacon, or Gui Boratto are artists I would have paid attention to before starting an mp3 blog. But by constantly being online and, therefore, constantly seeing the rave reviews, I was kept interested. And now at the end of the year I can safely say that the warm, sweeping soundscapes on this Swedish band’s (actually just Axel Willner) debut are among the most beautiful songs I’ve heard all year.

MP3 :: A Paw In My Face
MP3 :: Good Things End

12. Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

Hissing Fauna.. is a schizophrenic song cycle from one of indie rock’s most prolific bands. It’s also often uncomfortably personal, as lead singer/songwriter Kevin Barnes bravely lays bare every facet of his relationship - no doubt, desire, secret, or flaw is spared. The band matches Barnes’ openness with equally captivating arrangements - songs sway from prescription fueled indie-pop to coy disco-flavored nuggets to winding epics (the unconquerable “The Past Is A Grotesque Animal”). On that song Barnes sings “we want our films to be beautiful, not realistic” - he’s accomplished making music that is both.

MP3 :: Suffer For Fashion
MP3 :: The Past Is A Grotesque Animal

[official] [myspace] [youtube] [original post]
11. Arcade Fire - Neon BibleMP3 :: Keep The Car Running
MP3 :: Black Mirror

[official] [myspace] [youtube] [original post]
10. Phosphorescent - Pride

Matthew Houck has created another hypnotic, meditative song cycle with Pride, bettering 2005’s underrated Aw Come Aw Wry. His songs sound like true field recordings - the buzz of night insects sing harmony on more than one song - and on “Wolves”, one of the year’s most beautiful and arresting tracks, Houck sounds resigned to the violence that is out there, inevitably to enter his home. This man deserves to be mentioned with Sam Beam, M.Ward, and Tim Rutelli as a forerunner among progressive American folk artists, and Pride is the irreconcilable proof.

MP3 :: A Picture Of Our Torn Up Praise

[official] [myspace] [youtube] [original post]
9. The National Lights - The Dead Will Walk, Dear

The songs on the debut record from Jacob Berns’ folk group The National Lights are the most hauntingly beautiful you’ll hear all year. Literally. Each one touches on some combination of ghosts, death, dark secrets, lost love, and non-accidental drowning. Berns is clearly inspired by the American Gothic short stories of Flannery O’Connor, and it doesn’t hurt that he hides his take on the traditional murder ballad behind songs that, without close attention, come across as just a series of lost love songs. Dig deeper though and you’ll find the river has washed away the hearts and bones, leaving only memories and Berns’ hushed, twee vocals to hint at a gruesome tale. With help from the beautiful harmonies of Sonya Cotton and the crisp production of Chris Kiehne, The National Lights have released one of the year’s best debut records of any genre.

MP3 :: Midwest Town
MP3 :: Buried Treasure
MP3 :: Mess Around

[official] [myspace] [original post] [interview] [Year In Review]
8. Burial - UntrueThe music on the mysterious Burial’s second offering in as many years is the perfect soundtrack for the cold winter days ahead; a distant and alien sounding collection of R&B vocal samples, emaciated beats and keyboards, and scratchy blips and bleeps. Whatever haunted universe this music is beaming from must be lovely, dark, and deep.

MP3 :: Archangel
MP3 :: Ghost Hardware

[myspace] [original post]
7. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam is Animal Collective at their most accessible; it’s an expansive and continuously rewarding art-pop record that reveals new strengths and secrets with every listen. Avey Tare has blossomed into a singer with a wildly expressive range, leaping from pillowy soft whispers to throat-scraping screams with ease, and leads the band further away from the dreamy, child-like lo-fi folk of earlier releases to something darker and more immediately disturbing here. And although he only sings lead on 2 songs, that increasingly distinctive Panda Bear stamp is all over Strawberry Jam in his beautiful harmonies.

MP3 :: Peacebone
MP3 :: For Reverend Green

[official] [myspace] [youtube] [original post]
6. A.A. Bondy - American HeartsThe title track may refer to a country of bruised hearts, but the songs on A.A. Bondy’s solo debut deal mostly with the stuff that’s in his. Bondy uses the back-drop of his folk and folk-blues songs to mix lyrics of both personal and political insight. His greatest asset though is a voice full of Southern cracks, recorded dry and intimate. When he sings the chorus of “Witness Blues” - and once there was a time to join the army, and once there was a time to hear the news, and once there was a time for easy silence, but now the jury waits for you - it’s as if he’s rewritten “Blowing In The Wind” for a nation whose history is repeating itself. Again.

MP3 :: There’s A Reason
MP3 :: Witness Blues

[official] [myspace] [youtube] [original post] [Year In Review]
5. The National - Boxer

2005’s brash Alligator should have announced a new critical darling to the indie-rock scene, but for some reason it took many critics until Boxer to catch up with the band. Calling Alligator a “grower”, as many have, is absurd - a completely revisionist excuse for missing the boat. I’ve hardly been smacked harder in the face on first listen by an album this decade than I was the first time I heard the rolling chords of “Secret Meeting”. If anything, Boxer is the grower of the two. Far less immediate than it’s more puffed up (and at times comically egotistical) predecessor, Boxer revels in its gauzy, impossibly rhythmic arrangements and the red wine buzz of Matt Berninger’s aristocratic baritone. If Craig Finn has become the street-poet laureate for those with blue collars and a soft spot for their wild, youthful nights, on Boxer Berninger is at least his white collar equivalent for those in their early 30s growing tired of balancing a day job and a nightlife.

MP3 :: Slow Show
MP3 :: Apartment Story

[official] [myspace] [youtube] [original post]
4. Handsome Furs - Plague Park

As the less critically adored half of Wolf Parade Dan Boeckner has been living in the shadow of the erratic genius of Spencer Krug. Plague Park should be proof enough that Boeckner is deserving of no such fate. His is Wolf Parade’s steady hand; he added a solid group of emotionally charged mini-anthems to Apologies To The Queen Mary, and does the same on the debut of his side project. His songs have always been infused with plenty of power chords and Will Johnson-meets-Beck-meets-“Eddie and the Cruisers” vocals, but on Plague Park the arrangements are stripped down to their primal core and drip with gritty urban paranoia.

MP3 :: What We Had
MP3 :: Cannot Get, Started

[official] [myspace] [youtube] [original post]
3. Radiohead - In Rainbows

In Rainbows is sheer brilliance - a concise, instrumentally fluid, and song-oriented album from arguably the best band of the past 15 years. Priceless.

MP3 :: Nude
MP3 :: House of Cards

[official] [youtube] [original post]
2. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Like 2005’s workmanlike Gimme Fiction, Gax5 doesn’t do anything dramatically re-inventive with Spoon’s trademark sound - razor sharp guitars and the taut, minimal arrangements that barely contain Britt Daniels’ restless howl. But this record sees the fruition of Spoon’s gradual exploration of traditional pop sounds over the past half decade. One after another they churn out many of their catchiest songs - from the angular guitar anti-heroics of “Don’t Make Me A Target” through the sweeping “Black Like Me”. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is nothing short of a rock n’ roll celebration.

MP3 :: The Ghost Of You Lingers
MP3 :: The Underdog

[official] [myspace] [youtube] [original post]
1. Panda Bear - Person Pitch

“Comfy In Nautica” is as huge and beautiful as a song can get - a pitch perfect combination of soaring melody and open space - but much of the rest of Person Pitch crept into my subconscious, demanded repeated listens, and very gradually became my favorite record of the year. While certainly companions, Person Pitch is more characterized by Pet Sounds-styled vocal melodies and its nearly tranquil, circumambient tape loops than Strawberry Jam’s nightmarish intensity. Without a doubt, Person Pitch is the most beautiful, consistently rewarding album I’ve heard all year, as well as the one I’ve listened to most. What else is there to say?

MP3 :: Comfy In Nautica

[official] [myspace] [youtube] [original post]

Be sure to check back later this week for my favorite songs of the year - 40 of them, no repeat bands and no bands that are featured here. So really, my 40 favorite songs that aren't on my 20 favorite albums.


Year In Review, Vol. 9 - A.A. Bondy

This December, to celebrate the music of 2007, I asked a bunch of the artists I’ve featured on PHW over the last 11 months to share their thoughts on the “year that was”. I asked a mix of my favorite local artists, as well as several larger acts, with the hope of having a diverse assortment of reflections on the music that mattered to the artists that mattered to me.

My favorite discovery of 2007 was the music of A.A. Bondy. I didn’t need Pitchfork to do it. I didn’t need other bloggers, or a magazine, or a friend’s recommendation either. I needed my own ears, and I needed to be in the right place at the right time. That place was The Bowery Ballroom, and the time was the opening set for the March 2 Bright Eyes show. That night I watched a singer/songwriter take the stage, alone with an acoustic guitar and a whole bunch of harmonicas, and listened as he sung 9 or 10 of the most magnetic folk songs I’d heard in a long time.

Fast forward a few months to the release of Bondy’s solo debut album for Superphonic Records, American Hearts. After months of eager anticipation for this release (and of living off the scraps of whatever mp3s I could scrounge up online) I was prepared for the result to not quite fulfill the high expectation. You probably know the rest - it far surpassed them. I knew from the first listen that I was hearing an artist of the highest caliber - a songwriter with the sharpest of pens and a voice, like the Jeff Tweedy of the mid-90s, that could sing anything and I’d believe it. American Hearts is a record that never let me down this year.

MP3 :: There’s A Reason
MP3 :: Vice Rag
(from American Hearts. Buy here)

MP3 :: I’m On Fire
MP3 :: Mightiest of Guns
(previously unreleased. From the American Hearts sessions)
Mr. Bondy was kind enough to pass along the following words regarding his take on the music of 2007 and his part in it.

the past year has been pretty great, in the way that I made
a record for myself in a barn with a great many
ghosts and shadows around. To me it's the first record I’ve ever made.
music for music's sake you know? it seems
like more and more that's what people are doing. The ever rusting machine rarely
sells many millions of records anymore, and the concept of that generally gets in the way
of true things with only a few exceptions.. That's how it seems to me.
I'm happy that I did something with no corporate grease involved and people respond to
It (good or bad). Fashion is worth less and less these days, and that's a good thing.
I get songs from the moans of old pines, bears, wheeling hawks and the holes in my clothes. There are a lot of really great bands out there. They know who they are.
I drink to them and anyone who has the guts to stand in the light

These pictures are from Bondy’s 12/12 show at the Mercury Lounge.

Year In Review, Vol. 8 - Matt Singer

This December, to celebrate the music of 2007, I asked a bunch of the artists I’ve featured on PHW over the last 11 months to share their thoughts on the “year that was”. I asked a mix of my favorite local artists, as well as several larger acts, with the hope of having a diverse assortment of reflections on the music that mattered to the artists that mattered to me.

Matt Singer wrote 2 of my favorite songs of the year without releasing an album of his own. The first, “Stacy J”, simply has to be heard. It’s full of Singer’s precise observational humor and earnests insights, the kind that populate his 2006 album All Us Heathens. Singer has written two fully developed characters in just a few descriptive verses, capturing both the out-of-reach desires of the its namesake, as well as, almost accidentally, the sad lack of direction of the narrator. I dare anyone to listen and not laugh out loud at least once, and then feel sort of touched by the story when it’s over. And then hit repeat. “Stacy J” was released as part of Family Records/Liberated Matter’s Cross Pollination: The Mixtape compilation (available for free download). On a CD that featured really good songs from My Brightest Diamond, The Undisputed Heavyweights, and Kevin Devine, Singer stole the show.

“VHS” is the other one of my favorites, and like “Stacy J”, was a part of almost every play list I made myself this year. Singer’s lyrics are just as sharp here, using the dead technology of VHS tapes as a symbol for a faded love and an aversion to progress in any way. The song graced Antifolk’s brilliantly titled Anticomp Folkilation.

MP3 :: Stacy J.
(from Cross-Pollination: The Mixtape. Download for FREE here)

MP3 :: VHS
(from Anticomp Folkilation. Buy here)
------------------------------------------------Here are a few of Matt Singer’s favorite things:

Favorite Albums of 2007:

Blip Blip BleepWireless :: This album is proof that today’s pop does not suck. So well produced, sowell executed. I highly recommend their live showtoo… there’s always a chance that Sean Han will tossone of his sopping sweat rags at you. That’s got tobe worth something.

Wynn Walent & the FolksUpon Leaving :: This nomination is in no part based on my involvement inmaking this record, but is in some part based on myexperience as Wynn’s friend. I love this man, and Ilove this music. Do pick it up. $5.00 is prettycheap for an item that’s priceless.

Ivan Sandomire :: If You Say SoI say so.

Favorite Live Acts I Saw in 2007:

LowryDespite frighteningly harsh and unbalancedsound at Luna Lounge in August and a chatty crowd atPianos in November, this is easily one of my favoritelive acts. Let the nickel slide Down, down, down,down, Dooowwwwwnnnn….

Here Lies PaThey killed us all dead at Arlene’s Grocery in June.

Wakey!Wakey! & Creaky Boards“Versus” show atSidewalk… I love those two divas.

Favorite stuff to happen to me this year… in noparticular order, maybe:

1. Opening for the Undisputed Heavyweights at Joe’sPub

2. Debuting “Stacy J” at Freddy’s in Brooklyn

3. Picking up a banjo for the first time

4. Starting a new job

5. Leaving the same job

6. Every single show that I have played in Wynn Walent& the Folks

7. Touring the North- and South-east with IvanSandomire

8. Oyster Bay Music Festival

9. Signing with Family Records

10. Bar 4

11. Adding an updated definition of the word, “Poon”to – it stayed up on the site for asolid 2 weeks before they took it down

12. Playing in the Clipperships – chances are you havenever heard of them… perhaps you never will. If so,too bad.

13. Beginning work on the new CD, due in Spring 2008.

Year In Review, Vol. 7 - The Roadside Graves

This December, to celebrate the music of 2007, I asked a bunch of the artists I’ve featured on PHW over the last 11 months to share their thoughts on the “year that was”. I asked a mix of my favorite local artists, as well as several larger acts, with the hope of having a diverse assortment of reflections on the music that mattered to the artists that mattered to me.

It was a banner year for The Roadside Graves. In January the band released a sort of best-of EP, What Happened To Him Could Happen To Anyone, with several of their earlier standout tracks, 2 new songs, and a new single called “West Coast”. That song was from their then forthcoming record No One Will Know Where You’ve Been (my review), which followed a few months later and stands as the watermark of the Jersey septet’s short recording career. More than anything else the album stands as a reaffirming statement that the alt-country genre is not as dead and buried as one might think. No One Will Know… shakes the dust off the tired confines of its genre by containing nothing but smart, energetic, poignant songwriting and playing by its plethora of band members. Taking inspiration from bands like early Son Volt and Whiskeytown, the Graves infuse their sound with more than a little tip of the cap to The Band, as well as Jersey’s most famous rock n’ roll man himself, Bruce Springsteen. The results are captivating. 11 tracks that set the bar high for modern folk-rock, with a lyricist able to use the smallest of details to open up worlds of possibility in his characters. Oh yeah, did I mention that No One Will Know Where You’ve Been, an “alt-country” record, was reviewed by Pitchfork and received a 7.5? That’s higher than Sky Blue Sky, and almost higher than the last Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle albums combined.

Do yourself a favor and download these 2 songs, and then go buy the album from Kill Buffalo. “West Coast” is the perfect introduction to the band. The song is a rousing anthem, with a driving beat and a chorus that sticks. It features some inspired writing: “I got a name and I got a place, for every scar you see on my face, and I got a heart that won’t quit, won’t break”. “Radio” works as the album centerpiece, even though it is the second to last song. It begins as a plaintive, traditional sounding folk song, then bursts into an organ and electric guitar romp, before settling into what may be some of 2007’s most beautiful and memorable moments, an organ solo that takes the song to new heights, becoming something that would sound right at home tucked into the back half of The River. The song’s finale, the simple repeating of the line “it was a good, good night on the radio” over and over, at first just to piano accompaniment and then slowly back to the whole band, is worth the price of admission by itself. It’s a line that sounds like something I’d love to say again at some point, an innocent declaration that seems to be falling further from reality all the time, and one that captures a youthful appreciation of the magic that good songs, played in a row, can have.

MP3 :: West Coast
MP3 :: Radio
(from No One Will Know Where You’ve Been. Buy here)
-------------------------------------------------------------I caught up with lead singer/songwriter John Gleason recently, and he sent along this detailed account of the band’s many highs, and a few lows, of a very productive year:

We went on a small tour this past summer from New Jersey to Louisiana. We set it up ourselves. In Birmingham, Alabama we were treated. We had sweat towels and water bottles on stage! We watched the LAST WALTZ in an old Air-stream trailer. Well, we skipped right to Neil Diamond actually..."Dry your EYES!". Strange women danced with us, some of us. We slapped each other's asses on stage repeatedly.

Other random acts of tour included: our drummer diving into a bush and dripping blood from his nose back to the hotel room, a two hour lecture from a meth addict poolside about Mexicans taking over the country, the same meth addict inviting me into her room so she could undress and show me her swastika tattoo, answering a knock on our Day's Inn door to find an all-girl teenage punk band holding a wild feret, watching fire works before our set in Atlanta, and being welcomed in Shreveport, Louisiana by an enthusiastic bunch of Texans.

Our new record, 'No One Will Know..." was well reviewed by Pitchfork and others, yet our local paper compared our EP to Elmo and Patsy, yes of “Grandma Got Run Over” fame. So lesson to be learned...You can't please 'em all.

As for new music, Jeremy and I were just speaking about Antony and the Johnsons. How unearthly that man is. His voice is so fucking intimate and comforting. His recent covers of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen are worthy of quitting music. My favorite records this year were by the National, Okkervil River, the Hold Steady, and Alex Delivery.

As for 2008 the graves are currently writing a new record, "My Son's Home." We are recording a demo of it in February and crossing our fingers it will find a home to be released sometime in the next year. We are planning another homemade tour this summer in mid-July and hope to retrace our steps down south and then venture north to the Great Lakes.

Thank you for listening.
-john Gleason


Year In Review, Vol. 6 - Chris Cubeta

This December, to celebrate the music of 2007, I asked a bunch of the artists I’ve featured on PHW over the last 11 months to share their thoughts on the “year that was”. I asked a mix of my favorite local artists, as well as several larger acts, with the hope of having a diverse assortment of reflections on the music that mattered to the artists that mattered to me.
Chris Cubeta, a Brooklyn based singer/songwriter, bandleader of The Liars Club, and owner and operator of Foil Studios in Williamsburg, is in the middle of some pretty busy days. P.S.318:Warehouse Songs, a collection of tracks recorded live at his studio by some of New York’s finest singer/songwriters, was just recently released in an effort to bring together musicians and get quality music heard. Cubeta is also days away from the long awaited CD release party for his new EP, simply titled Change. The event is to be held this Saturday evening (12/15) at Crash Mansion. The new EP collects several new songs, a cover of Tom Waits’ “Hold On”, and 2 stripped-down versions of songs from his last 2 full length albums, Sugar Sky and 2006’s Faithful.
It was Faithful that I heard first earlier this year. At times reminiscent of the best of Counting Crows and John Hiatt, Faithful is a strong collection of radio-ready, passionate roots rock and roll. Cubeta has the unique ability catch that restless feeling of watching your youth fade away out the rearview mirror. His songs long for the good old days gone by, but make the best of dealing with the difficulties of adulthood. They are layered in varied instrumentation and sweet melodies, but are spacious enough to invite multiple listens. At their best, as on “Clementine” and “Don’t Worry”, the characters and stories are so sharply written you almost feel like he’s singing about folks you know. And he probably is…

Here’s a smattering of mp3s from the Chris Cubeta catalog, and I included a link to his myspace where you can hear a great cover of Neil Young’s “Old Man”, which features Emily Easterly on banjo.

Stream :: Old Man

MP3 :: Change
(from the brand new Change EP. Buy at the release show this Saturday)

MP3 :: Clementine (recommended highly by my girlfriend, as well as me)
MP3 :: Don’t Worry
(from Faithful. Buy here)

MP3 :: Don’t Worry
MP3 :: One Holy Night
(from P.S. 318: Warehouse Songs)
Chris was kind enough to take some time from his busy schedule and send along some highlights of his year, both from a musical standpoint and a personal one:

Favorite Liars Club moment - Swimming on a beach in Willmington, NC on our first East Coast tour
Favorite Record - Steve Earle - Washington Square Serenade
Favorite Restaurant - Sounkyo Sushi (all you can eat Sushi for 20 bucks !!!!)
Favorite book I read - Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Favorite drunken memory - Three grown men standing naked on my kitchen table for no apparent reason (YIKES)
Favorite show I played - AIDS benefit with Gary Jules in which we raised over $2000 for my good friend Michael Reynolds
Favorite sports moment - Alex Rodriguez hits a walk off home run to beat the Atlanta Braves
Favorite date - A lovely dinner with my wife at a small restaurant in BK
Favorite food - Boulder Canyon Potato Chips (Malt vinegar and sea salt) WOW
Favorite person - DA BOSS (for those of you who don't know him consider yourself lucky)
Favorite shitty pop song - “Umbrella” by Rihanna (this was our theme song on tour)
Favorite nephew - Christopher Matthew Cubeta (my first and only nephew so I don't really have a choice)
Favorite blog - Pop Headwound !!!!!!
Favorite charity -

Year In Review, Vol. 5 - Your 33 Black Angels

This December, to celebrate the music of 2007, I asked a bunch of the artists I’ve featured on PHW over the last 11 months to share their thoughts on the “year that was”. I asked a mix of my favorite local artists, as well as several larger acts, with the hope of having a diverse assortment of reflections on the music that mattered to the artists that mattered to me.

Your 33 Black Angels has the distinct pleasure, here in 2007, of being a really good, completey independent band that received one of its first doses of national attention in Rolling Stone magazine. Crazy, right? Aren’t they the ones that gives 5-star ratings to crappy Mick Jagger albums while ignoring most music made by people under 60 or over 20? Yup. But somehow Y33BA, a Brooklyn-born band that self-released their debut, Lonely Street, with a run of 250 limited edition LPs, cut through the crap and found themselves featured in a David Fricke write-up. Remarkable. And very much deserved.

Lonely Street is a solid debut record, filled with passionate rock n’ roll songs and instantly memorable folk-rock ballads. The band mixes hard-driving Bob Dylan-meets-Dinosaur Jr. rockers (“Psycho On Your Side”) with completely un-ironic, feel-good, mid-tempo country rock (“Me And My Girl”) to great effect. Lead singer John Westfal’s voice is a very un-Brooklyn-like creeky drawl that immediately brought David Berman of Silver Jews to my mind. It’s a highly accomplished record, but more than anything else, Lonely Street shows promise. This is a talented band that looks ready to grow with each release.

MP3 :: Psycho On Your Side
MP3 :: Me And My Girl
(from Lonely Street. Buy here or here)


I caught up with Stevie “Sunshine” Stapleton, guitarist for the band and all around Brooklyn music fanatic. Stevie was kind enough to pass along the names of about a dozen new bands for me (and you!) to check out (with links! Dude!), as well as answering several questions I passed along to the band:

Favorite Albums….

Madam Robot and the Lust Brigade (Brooklyn) - self-titled debut on ICBM Records is an absolutely psychedelic-garage-future-age-rockalicioius album!

Slaraffenland's "Private Cinema" is knocking my socks off right now. Pitchfork reviewed this album and forgot to mention that 'Polaroids' is the best song written this year. What a shame. Slaraffenland is from Denmark.

Apollo Heights' "White Music for Black People" is raging amazing!

Butane Variations came out with an album this year, too. Simply splendid.

I can't wait for the new HEAVY CREATURES album, dernit!

Best Live Shows….

Endsville at Luna Lounge in Brooklyn, sometime near the end of July, I believe.Saw this band Master/Slave at Lit Lounge in the spring. They played with SAMARIUM and what an awesome sound these guys have. They're from California. We were lucky enough to be a part of our own party on Halloween...our annual Heavenly Horrors party! This year we had eleven great bands, hundreds of people in costume arrived, Don Pedro's was a very happy place to be that night! One for the ages, for sure.There are so many shows, and so little time. All of the bands we've played with have been wonderful. For real. Oh yeah, that reminds me...The Saudi Agenda is my new favorite band. I saw them at the Charleston and they simply tore it up.

Favorite Local Acts:

How about Discovery, Teedo, Trauma Team 666, We Are the Arm, SAMARIUM, The Above, The Bahamas, The Young Lords, Hobson's Choice, Endsville. Renminbi. The Saudi Agenda. Brooklyn is taking over. For real. You heard it here first. When is the music press going to figure it out?

PHW: Musically speaking, what were some of the most exciting things tohappen to Your 33 Black Angels over the past year?

The best part of being in this band is meeting so many great people and getting so see so many of our favorite bands so often! Your 33 Black Angels was a part of Make Music New York on the day of the summer solstice, and that was pretty badass. Fred Mills said we were his new favorite band, and that made me excited. I could feel the blood coursing through my veins, as it piqued my interest and made me smile. Does that count?

PHW: What was the most memorable show you played all year?

Heavenly Horrors III was the most memorable show for me - it was truly great. Most of the best bands in the world were there, and I didn't have to pay a cover since I was cleverly disguised as part of Your 33 Black Angels as my costume. The Heavy Creatures and The Above opened the show and just blasted good vibes throughout the whole neighborhood right off the bat. It was such a positive experience and it was a night none of us will ever forget! Don Pedro's is a great venue, too.We recently went up to Ithaca to play with Butane Variations, who were kind enough to invite us with them. it was a really amazing trip, and we met a lot of great people that we hope to see again soon and got a tour of the gorgeous gorges. I got lost trying to find the liquor store, drove home in a snow storm, got a cold and broke even! Those things together all make for a very memorable experience!

PHW: What exciting things can we expect from the band in 2008?

A nationwide spring tour, more debauchery, more music, more ribaldry, more community, another album, more lewd behavior, more beautiful people, less noise, more ringing ears and less geese shitting on my head!

P.S. - 12:01 am, January 1st! Your 33 Black Angels are playing a New Year's Eve blowout on Manhattan Avenue in Brooklyn!