[guest post] 2009 In Review, Vol. 8 - Soft Black

We woke up with no blood in our hearts, trying to count all our Frankenstein parts

Way back in early January, when the only 2009 albums I had heard were leaked copies of Merriweather Post Pavilion and Get Guilty, NY’s Vincent Cacchione sent me a copy of the latest album, the subtly titled The Earth Is Black, and other apocalyptic lullabies for children, from his band, Soft Black. To say I was blown away would be an understatement. It’s an album haunted by nightmare-induced sleep deprivation, serious religious doubt, and the occult that takes the strummy folk-leanings of 2007’s Blue Gold and shoots it up with a sort of raw glam influence, best exemplified on the ferocious “I Am An Animal”. It’s pure rock & roll that hits all the right spots - swaying from the chiming folk of the title track to Kinks-like shuffles (“Time Gets Away And Has Its Way With You”) to depraved slow jams like “Mouth Is Drippin’”. The Earth Is Black remained a favorite all year long - ending up #8 on my year end list the other day. Cacchione has made this great album available on the Soft Black website as a “pay-what-you-want” download. It’s the best deal going. Toss the guy a ten spot, would ya.

Thanks Vin for putting together a summary of a very weird year:

This year grabbed me from a flimsy part. It started in DUMBO, drunk on lychee martinis, with a bunch of haggard looking hipsters trying to shake their groove things. Everything since then has been set at high contrast. Low lows, High Highs, the in betweens all dissolving in the ether of NYC. I ended a several month stint of homelessness and got a fly place out in Bushwick, the happiest town in the world. We toured America with our friends Werewolves and released our first notable record in "The Earth Is Black." I narrowly escaped being murdered in Atlantic City. I got robbed. I got robbed again. And spent my first couple days in jail.

2009 was a sloppy kiss.

It was, however, a fantastic year for records made by friends of mine.

Here are the creme de la creme:

Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers- "A Fish Hook, An Open Eye"

Shilpa is a wild woman, refined genius, and nothing short of classic. Nick Cave is a fan. A Fish Hook, An Open Eye is her first record apart from original group Beat The Devil. I got the privilege to play guitar on this album, and despite my involvement, the record is unstoppable. As a singer, Shilpa somehow manages to straddle idiosyncrasy and familiarity and remain pure, sincere and savage. Her songwriting shines on everything she's done but several tracks on this album are genuine masterpieces, check out "Beating St. Louis," "Looking For Mr. Goodbar," and "Filthy and Free." Look out in 2010 for the new record, it will be even better no doubt.

Forest Fire- "Survival"

In a lot of ways this was my favorite record of 2008 and 2009. A total classic somehow overlooked by mainstream indie tastemakers. But in a perverse way I'm glad. "Survival" is an underdogs album. A record you can examine like the surfaces of your lover, it allows you in and asks you to study all of it's blemishes without shame. As a collection of songs it reeks of personality from start to finish and flows seamlessly. I've never put this album on and skipped around. I could go on for a while about this one, but it wouldn't do it justice. Most cats who know me well, know this is an album I hold at the highest of statures, check that shit out!

Werewolves- "Dance Raincoat Glass"

This is a whirlwind of a record made by the craziest group of 20 somethings in Brooklyn. I love these kids like brothers. I hate them like brothers too. But regardless of all that it's easily one of the greatest records of the year. Soulful singing and lyrics pistol-whipped by deep kraut-grooves and hypnotic guitars.

Daniel Bernstein- "Everybody Knows"

One of my all time favorite NYC songwriters makes his most well-formed and crafted release yet. I also played guitar. Dan is a diamond in the rough. A genuine weirdo and genius who only a select and highly privileged group of cats get to know about. I've followed his career throughout it's many twists but the quality of art that this guy has made has never dwindled, never dulled. He has the rare gift of making genuine pop-music sound genuine. He's totally and uncontrived and contrived simultaneously in a exquisite way. I'm sure he'll be well onto his next record before the 50 copies of this record disappear but if there's a way to get your hands on this shit you won't regret it.

Thank You James.

MP3 :: I Am An Animal
MP3 :: The Lions
(from The Earth Is Black. Buy here)

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