As I’ve done for the past two years on PHW, I’ve asked a handful of the artists I’ve blogged about over the last 12 months to reminisce, musically, on 2009. I asked a mix of my favorite local artists, as well as several more nationally recognizable acts, with the hope of having a diverse assortment of reflections on the music that mattered to the artists that mattered to me. In the coming 2 or 3 weeks there will be a series of “guest” posts from some names you may recognize, if you were paying attention this year…
I get the sense from my limited interactions with Brook Pridemore that he’s a guy with a lot to say. I mean, a week or two ago I sent him an invite to contribute a year end “guest post” to PHW and within three hours he had written the “Top 10 Albums of the Year” list that appears below. It was 15 albums deep, not 10, and came with blurbs about each that were more insightful than anything my sorry ass could put together with a month of editing. His myspace bio is one of the more entertaining reads of its type you’ll probably find, avoiding the easy temptation to be sarcastic, aloof, insincere, or irreverent - instead just sounding like a wise guy with a really self-assured view of himself and his art and a real passion for what he does.
His kinetic 5th album, A Brighter Light, throws words around in a similar manner. Released earlier this year through Crafty Records, it’s filled with verbose punk/folk/agit-pop songs that come on in rapid-fire mode, as intent to move your ass as your mind. In that regard, as well as others, he reminds me of what I imagine Ted Leo to be like - someone who’ll play shows anywhere and everywhere and under any conditions. Someone who's spent countless nights sleeping in vans or on people he barely knows’ couches. Someone who’s as interested in dancing (though I bet he's not good at it) as he is in politics (which I bet he is good at), and who’ll make you a mixtape with The Minutemen, Bill Callahan, and some girl who shared a bill with him last month. More than all that though, he seems like someone who knows exactly who he is and what he does best. Brook Pridemore’s love of music comes through in every word he sings, every note he plays, and, I’d imagine, almost every time he opens his mouth. Case in point:
Twelve Albums (By My Friends) That Made 2009 Infinitely Better Than 2008 (Plus, three by my heroes!)
(My Top 10 of 2009)
by Brook Pridemore
15. Guitar Bomb-Happy Hour at the Silverado (Crafty Records) Finally, dude trades in the loop station for a drummer, and gets "Dirty, Bluesy Bar Rock" right. Look past the fact that Happy Hour at the Silverado contains multiple re-recordings of earlier tracks: this is the definitive Guitar Bomb platter. Heavy drunk blues that'll snap your head clean off. "Shit Stains" will remind you what you like about loud-ass electric guitar.
14. Boo Hoo-Hypermarche (Self-released) Boo Hoo is a guy named Bernhard from Frankfurt, Germany. He sings with a delicate tone that makes the listener feel like he (Boo Hoo) feels lucky to be singing for you. "Pete and Pete" is like Kraftwerk crossed with the Moldy Peaches: techno folk about a relaxed afternoon.
13. Woog Riots-Pasp (Self-Released) What is it with German Antifolkers and their gadgets? Woog Riots are a husband and wife duo from Darmstadt, who's brand of "folk" music includes electric guitars and multiple synthesizers. "People Working With Computers" is a list of should-be-obvious truths set to a vintage 80s beat.
12. The Mountain Goats-The Life of the World to Come (4AD) It's almost criminal that, after consistently releasing quality work for almost twenty years now, John Darnielle's fifteenth album is arguably his best. Backed by the crackerjack rhythm section of Peter Hughes on bass and drummer Jon Wurster, Life is an alternately pummeling and devastating batch of songs titled after (and apparently inspired by) Bible verses. "Psalms 40:2" is a good starter for anyone who thought Get Lonely was too wimpy.
11. River City Extension-Nautical Sabbatical (Self Released)These guys are breathing new life into Asbury Park, NJ. Like Bright Eyes, but not shitty. Banjos and cellos and horns crash over cacophonous drums, while leader Joe Michelini presides over the whole mess like the world's most endearing carnival barker. Get in on it. "Clever and Quickness" to start.
10. Thomas Patrick Maguire-Corporation Town EP (Luv-A-Lot) Tom's been around the New York Antifolk scene at least as long as I have, and this, his fourth release, is the strongest TPM recording to date. Still channeling the lo-fi crunch of Lou Barlow and early Smog, but infinitely more tuneful than either, Corporation Town is reverent to its' (and the authors') 90s roots, without wallowing in nostalgia. After one listen to "Worn Clothes," I challenge you to walk through Williamsburg on a Saturday night, not humming its' acerbic chorus.
9. Short Term Effect-Pit-Yacker Suite (Discount Horse Records) Short Term Effect is Michael Bridgewater of Durham, UK. As someone who works in the punk rock idiom but rarely sounds "punk rock," it was a great pleasure to meet a kindred spirit like Michael at a show in his hometown earlier this year. Pit-Yacker Suite could have been the next Elliott Smith album, if dude'd had a slightly sunnier disposition. Highlight: "The Dead is Coming," with it's haunting coda of "They'll kill us if they catch us."
8. Ching Chong Song-(Self-Released) Everything Is For The Babies The duo of pianist Dan Gower and saw/ukelelist/chanteuse Julie LaMendola expand their sound for their second album, adding accordionist (and Bushwick Book Club founder) Susan Hwang to the fold. The sound on ...Babies, with Gower's vocals a little higher in the mix than last time, is more representative of their live show than its' predecessor, but the style remains the same. What's that style? I have taken to calling it "Dadaist Cabaret." Start with "Giggle Fact," wash, rinse, repeat.
7. Schwervon!-Low Blow (Olive Juice Music) Partners in life and music, Matt Roth and Nan Turner seem to do everything together, which is what makes their albums so sweet. In listening, one gets the impression that one is being given a bird's eye view of Schwervon!'s private life. If Schwervon! weren't such great people, listening to Low Blow would be a chore, but Matt and Nan are two of the smartest and funniest people on the downtown scene, and their fourth album leaves the listener exhilarated and giddy. For fans of: Sleater-Kinney, The White Stripes. Highlight: "Jad Fair," a love letter from Schwervon! to a figurehead of the last generation's DIY scene.
6. Toby Goodshank-Johnny's Democracy (Unicorn Sounds) For his twenty-fifth (depends on who you ask) album since 1999, the potty-mouthed Goodshank of Follow Me If You Want To Fuck returns in full effect. Ten name-them-yourself songs (a la Butthole Surfers' Hairway to Steven) open with "Pulled Pork," in which TG fantasizes about molesting the 2008 Election candidates ("and I think about touching Biden, and the dander on his dick and ass"), and get progressively filthier from there. "I Had Become A Man" (Track 4), with its' over autotuning and Adult Contemporary dance beat, is divisive among longtime Goodshank fans, but a highlight in the man's long, absurd catalog (and the least NSFW track herein).
5. Daniel Bernstein-Everybody Knows (Self-Released) Two years in the making, Daniel Bernstein's latest batch is considerably sunnier than anything he's made before. The band (including local stalwarts Vin Cacchione on lead guitar and Miss Erin Regan on harmonies) sounds more like Out Of Time-era R.E.M. than ever, and these songs are, once again, more representative of what Bernstein and Co. sound like live than any of his other albums. Open your party mix with "Tag You're Hollow." Trust me.
4. Soft Black-The Earth Is Black and Other Apocalyptic Lullabies for Children (Plays With Dolls) In which Vin Cacchione eschews the alt-country elements of his debut, Blue Gold, embracing his love for the Stooges and MC5. Songs sparkle with an intensity heretofore unseen from the chill, affable Cacchione, though my highlight on the album (after the title track), is the mournful, elegant "Mouth is Dripping."
3. Erin Regan-S/T (Self-Released) For such an outsized personality, Erin Regan sure makes some stately, reserved music. Her low alto is not unlike that of Aimee Mann, but her lyrics mine a much more personal depth than her predecessor. Check out the negative space in "Amen," which is almost louder than the song itself.
2. Huggabroomstik-Intimate Huggabroomstik (Olive Juice Music) Though it won't be ready for the world until 2010, I'm telling you now that Intimate Huggabroomstik is the best album I played drums on in 2009 (also the only album I drummed on in 2009, but shut up). Recorded live at Brooklyn Tea Party, a la Tom Waits' Nighthawks at the Diner, Intimate Huggabroomstik is at once Piper-era psychedelia, folk, metal, classic rock, jazz, cabaret and funk. Don't tell Jerry Bruckheimer about the Con-Air sample at the beginning of "O.U.R.6," please and thank you.
1. Bill Callahan-Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle (Drag City) Okay, Callahan's the only guy on this list I don't know personally, but his latest (and at least second-best, after the 2005 Smog swansong A River Ain't Too Much To Love), is definitely my favorite album of the year. Though his relationship with Joanna Newsom ended somewhere between Eagle and 2007's Woke on a Whaleheart, this is not a bitter breakup album. Callahan's songs rarely speed up past a glacial pace, content with rippling along like a river in low water season. If we still lived in a world of singles, "Rococo Zephyr" would be single of the year.
Honorable Mention - Brook Pridemore A Brighter Light (Crafty Records) I am extremely proud of my new album, though not narcissistic enough to put it in my top ten for the year. I have played it's title track, "A Brighter Light," easily a thousand times since I wrote it, and the thrill hasn't worn off yet. If an honorable mention for my own album is against the rules, write your own Top 15. Dick.
“Just Like Nathan Hale, Pt. 2”
MP3 :: The Buckeye State and Russell
MP3 :: Remain Upright
MP3 :: Stockholm St. Syndrome
(from A Brighter Light. Buy here)
Brook was kind enough to put together a Zip of all the songs he mentions in his blurbs. Download that HERE (available for 7 days starting 12/24).