The December Mixtape

As I get ready to ring in the new year by drinking my face off tomorrow night I wanted to get together the final edition of PHW’s monthly mix series for 2009. Much of December was spent looking back at the best 2009 had to offer, but interspersed throughout a lot of those kinds of posts were a bunch of excellent songs from albums coming out in early 2010. Here’s the best of the bunch, as well as a few older songs that I didn’t get to earlier.

Vic Chesnutt’s “Flirted With You All My Life” starts the playlist off, and it’s a song that has really hit me hard over the past few days since his untimely passing. Unfortunately, while he was alive Chesnutt was always an artist on my periphery, so I can’t put together the kind of eloquent memorial that An Aquarium Drunkard or Muzzle of Bees posted. I knew a few songs from over the years and liked them, but I never jumped in like I now wish I had or like I now intend to do. “Flirted…” is an almost scarily prescient song about always feeling death standing so close to you. As a final artistic statement (from his final LP - At the Cut), it’s simply mind-blowing.

MP3 :: Flirted With You All My Life/Vic Chesnutt (original post)
MP3 :: Even Heroes Have To Die/Ted Leo & The Pharmacists (original post)
MP3 :: Burning Holes/Why Write? (original post)
MP3 :: Left It Alone/Banjo Or Freakout (original post)
MP3 :: Castaways/Shearwater (original post)
MP3 :: Scissor/Liars (original post)
MP3 :: Four Score Part One
MP3 :: Four Score Part Two/Titus Andronicus (original post)
MP3 :: Hide It Away/Retribution Gospel Choir (original post)
MP3 :: Holding Hands/We Are Wolves
MP3 :: Time/Beach Fossils
MP3 :: Boy Lilikoi/Jónsi’s (original post)
MP3 :: We Talk Like Machines/Savoir Adore (original post)
MP3 :: My Proud Mountains/J. Tillman (Townes Van Zandt cover) (original post)

Happy New Year everyone, see you in '10

See also: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, & November.


Two weeks ago my friend John and I got together for our annual “Year In Music Fest” (it’s not really called that, I just don’t know what else to name it right now). At the end of every year we do a “Favorite Songs” countdown along with a discussion of our top 10 albums. This year was epic, as we not only got that out of the way, but then played our 20 favorite songs of the decade and discussed our 100 favorite albums. All told, it was about 7 hours of excellent beer and better tunes. Most people wouldn’t understand the need for two grown men to do this, including my ever-so-patient wife, but it’s one of my favorite nights of the year.

Anyhow, I could spend a lot of time telling you all about my 50 favorite, or 100 favorite, or 500 favorite songs of the last ten years, but I don’t have the energy to compile another list of that size. So here are the 20 songs I played for him, including either their official videos or live clips, followed by the 20 he played for me. I think his list is spectacular - some unexpected choices from some of my favorite artists. Since we alternated on a song-by-song basis we actually heard “Farewell Transmission” twice in a row, so those were 15 pretty awesome minutes.

And I know….no New Pornographers, no Centro-Matic, no Califone, no Iron & Wine, I’m really happy with the way my list turned out, but there were some tough exclusions.

20. Comfy In Nautica / Panda Bear (2007)
(from Person Pitch,
PHW’s #3 album of decade)

19. Black Cab / Jens Lekman (2003)
(from Oh You’re So Silent Jens)

18. Stuck Between Stations / The Hold Steady (2006)
(from Boys & Girls In America)

17. Faraway You / Marah (2000)
(from Kids In Philly,
PHW’s #6 album of decade)

16. Not For The Season (YHF demo) / Wilco (I played this one)
Not For The Season (Tweedy - acoustic)
Not For The Season (Wilco - live)
(released as “Laminated Cat” on Loose Fur)

15. Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken / Camera Obscura (2006)
(from Let’s Get Out Of This Country,
PHW’s #20 album of decade)

14. The Rat / The Walkmen (2003)
(from Bows + Arrows,
PHW’s #41 album of decade)

13. Re: Stacks / Bon Iver (2007/8)
(from For Emma, Forever Ago,
PHW’s #21 album of decade)

12. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) / Arcade Fire (2004)
(from Funeral,
PHW’s #4 album of decade)

11. Chariot / Page France (2006)
(from Hello, Dear Wind)

Though this live take is much rougher than the studio version, it only makes me love it more:

10. Hey Ya! / Outkast (2003)
(from Speakerboxx/The Love Below)

9. Paper Planes / M.I.A. (2006)
(from Kala)

8. The Underdog / Spoon (2007)
(from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga,
PHW’s #11 album of decade)

7. Gimme Back My Dog / Slobber bone (2001)
(from Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today)

Here’s a video with Slobberbone’s lead singer-songwriter Brent Best playing the song with his new band, The Drams:

6. Shakey Dog / Ghostface Killah (2006)
(from Fishscale)

Ghost crams an entire movie into 3 ½ unbelievable minutes.

5. All My Friends / LCD Soundsystem (2007)
(from Sound of Silver)

4. Biomusicology / Ted Leo & The Pharmacists (2001)
(from The Tyranny of Distance)

3. 3rd Planet / Modest Mouse (2000)
(from The Moon & Antarctica,
PHW’s #14 album of decade)

2. Farewell Transmission / Songs: Ohio (2003)
(from Magnolia Electric Co,
PHW’s #19 album of decade)

1. Abel / The National (2005)
(from Alligator,
PHW’s #18 album of decade)

John’s 20:

20. Set Out Running / Neko Case (2000)
(from Furnace Room Lullaby)

19. Dirty Dishes / Deer Tick (2007)
(from War Elephant)

18. Mississippi / Bob Dylan (2001)
(from Love & Theft)

17. Radio Kaliningrad / Handsome Furs (2009)
(from Face Control)

16. The Trapeze Swinger / Iron & Wine (2005)
(from Around the Well)

15. Land Locked Blues / Bright Eyes (2005)
(from I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning)

14. The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism / The New Pornographers (2000)
(from Mass Romantic)

13. This Year / The Mountain Goats (2005)
(from The Sunset Tree)

12. For Emma / Bon Iver (2007/8)
(from For Emma, Forever Ago)

11. Thin Blue Flame / Josh Ritter (2006)
(from The Animal Years)

10. All These Things That I've Done / The Killers (2004)
(from Hot Fuss)

9. I Turn My Camera On / Spoon (2005)
(from Gimme Fiction)

8. Certain Songs / The Hold Steady (2004)
(from Almost Killed Me)

7. Come Pick Me Up / Ryan Adams (2000)
(from Heartbreaker)

6. For Real / Okkervil River (2005)
(from Black Sheep Boy)

5. All The Wine / the National (2005)
(from Alligator)

4. At Least That's What You Said / Wilco (2004)
(from A Ghost Is Born)

3. Farewell Transmission / Songs Ohio (2003)
(from Magnolia Electric Co.)

2. Southside Of Heaven / Ryan Bingham (2007)
(from Mescalito)

1. Let There Be Rock / Drive-by Truckers (2002)
(from Southern Rock Opera)

Singer-Songwriter Vic Chesnutt dies at 45

Athens singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt died yesterday at the age of 45. Paralyzed as a result of a car accident in 1983, Chesnutt released 12 studio albums over the past two decades, including this year’s critically acclaimed At The Cut. I saw the story this morning on MSN.

I first heard Chesnutt about 10 or 11 years ago as part of a compilation called Exposed Roots: The Best Of Alt. Country. On a double CD set that featured several artists I was quite familiar with (Johnny Cash, The Jayhawks, Steve Earle, Whiskeytown, etc.), it was Chesnutt’s heartbreaking “Gravity Of The Situation” that stood out most among the music I didn’t already know. Though I never dove into Chesnutt’s catalog with full force, the songs I did hear over the years were obviously the work of a truly gifted artist who never compromised his vision.

In 1996 Victoria Williams’ Sweet Relief organization released a benefit album featuring many notable acts covering Chesnutt’s music - R.E.M., Garbage, Madonna & Joe Henry, Soul Asylum, Smashing Pumpkins, Cracker, Sparklehorse, & The Indigo Girls, among others. Proceeds went to help defray the enormous medical bills Chesnutt was faced with. Apparently, 14 years later the expenses were still a tremendous burden. "Flirted With You All My Life" becomes eerily prescient in the wake of this sad news:

MP3 :: Flirted With You All My Life
MP3 :: Philip Guston
MP3 :: Chain
(from At The Cut. Buy here)

[video] The Sweetbriars - "Virginia, This Christmas"

PHW favorites The Sweetbriars have released a holiday-themed single over on iTunes. “Virginia, This Christmas” may recall some of your favorite Christmas music of the past 20 years, but a few of the lines (I’m thinking “Christmas ain’t about the stash in your trunk, it ain’t about cussin’ and getting’ drunk, it ain’t about asking Santa to score you drugs”) make this one NSF your family party or for sing-alongs with the kiddies. Plus, the video confirms my long time theory that of all your mom’s favorite 80’s music icons, Sting had the best fashion sense.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas. PHW will be back next week with my Songs of the Decade and a December mix. Peace.

jj Sign to Secretly Canadian, Announce New Album

The digital ink is barely dry on the many Best of 2009 lists Swedish pop band jj’s jjnº2 appeared on, but today came word of their signing to Secretly Canadian, as well as a new album, jjnº3, to be released in March. Here’s the hypnotic, Lil’ Wayne-pilfering “Ecstasy” from earlier this year. Stick it in your IV.

The band is set to tour the U.S. with fellow hype machine sensations The xx starting in March.
Dates below.

MP3 :: Ecstasy
(from jjnº2. Buy here)

3/22 Baton Rouge, LA - Spanish Moon
3/23 Birmingham, AL - Bottletree
3/24 Atlanta, GA - The Earl
3/25 Carrboro, NC - Cats Cradle
3/28 Washington, DC - Sixth & I Historic Synagogue
3/29 Philadelphia, PA - First Unitarian Church Sanctuary
3/30 Brooklyn, NY - Knitting Factory
3/31 New York, NY - Webster Hall
4/02 Boston, MA - Paradise
4/03 Montreal, QC - Le National
4/04 Toronto, ON - Lees Palace
4/05 Columbus, OH - Wexner Center
4/06 Bloomington, IN - Buskirk-Chumley Theater
4/08 Chicago, IL - Lincoln Hall
4/09 Minneapolis, MN - Varsity Theater
4/12 Bellingham, WA - The Nightlight Lounge
4/13 Vancouver, BC - Commodore Ballroom
4/14 Portland, OR - Crystal Ballroom
4/16 San Francisco, CA - Bottom of the Hill

[guest post] 2009 In Review, Vol. 10 - Simon Joyner

When I first heard Out Into The Snow earlier this year I knew I was listening to something truly special. I hadn’t heard, or even heard of, Joyner before that day - but the first song to be released by Team Love, “Roll On”, was a barreling folk-rocker with some standout lines (“you were up to your necklace in drunk friends and wreckage”, for example) that made my further investigation into his catalog an easy decision.

As exciting as that song is though, it doesn’t really capture the album’s overall hazy, narcotic mood. Here was a singer/songwriter who sang like Lou Reed (on valium) with a knack for the type of gently sweeping folk music of “Ambulance Blues”-era Neil Young or early-70s Townes Van Zandt. Out Into The Snow was on constant rotation around here for the rest of the year, and wound up at #5 on my year end list last week.

I said it then and I’ll say it now - of all the albums I listened to this year, I feel this is the most criminally overlooked by the larger music publications and blogs we all frequent. That’s probably because Joyner doesn’t sing songs with mass appeal - his slow, brooding folk music and impressionistic narratives seem destined for cult status. But though it may be the wallflower in a room full of great albums, Out Into The Snow proves the quietest guy around might well be the most interesting.

I think it’s fitting then that Simon contributes the final Year In Review “guest post” to PHW - he was my favorite new discovery of 2009. He’s really gone all out on this too, offering insights into music, movies, and books both old and new. Check it out, then be sure to check out the two free downloads below from Out Into The Snow, if you haven’t already. Then be sure to buy it on vinyl if you like the songs:

I've never done one of these end-of-the-year "best of" lists. My sense of time is so embarrassingly poor that I am unfortunately just as likely to think something happened in the last calendar year as happened five years ago. A friend asked me recently how old my daughter Frances is and I said "eleven" (she turns thirteen next month). So, this is tough for me. I am also unforgivably out of touch with most new music releases lately so I don't feel qualified to comment on what came out in 2009 anyway. I will try and rectify this in the coming year. What follows is my attempt to compensate for failing the assignment I've been given here. I don't have a best of 2009 but I do have a few lists of some things I listened to, watched, and read. I apologize for not distilling and honing. My New Year's resolution is to keep track and try to do better next year.

Of the music I did purchase this year which was relatively new, I was excited about this stuff:

Neil Young: Archives Vol.1 1963-1972.

This was a fairly life-saving collection, along the lines of Dylan's Bootleg Series, vol 1-3. I'm sure everyone knows how great this is already so I won't go into too much detail. The only downside in my opinion is too many versions of "Sugar Mountain", a song I could do without.

Outlaw con Bandana: Faeries and Rewards.

My favorite local band. Brendan Hagberg writes beautiful, gritty, truths and lets all his personal trials wave in the wind. Pearl Lovejoy-Boyd improves on the truth with harmonies to take the edge off and make you forget you're listening to stories of broken-hearted people suffering terrible things or doing terrible things. Regular life stuff, romantic too, and funny sometimes. I don't know how many times I've gone home after watching Outlaw play and just had to write a song before I went to bed, otherwise I'd toss and turn all night. It would be fairly easy as a songwriter to hit the sack hating this man and his goddamn songs. Outlaw con Bandana has got a lot of records, self-released or on little labels. Itinerant, moody, folk and blues country singer-songwriter soul music. They just keep getting better but I suspect they're true fellow foot-shooters and you'll have to dig a bit to keep up with them. I highly recommend this latest lp, link to Slumber Party Records below. Probably the first album since early Descendants to feature the words "Diarrhea" and "Halitosis", but somehow Outlaw con Bandana pulls it off unflinchingly. Dylan's "Bringing It All Back Home" features the word "Hot Dog" three times, I guess, so it isn't wise to get too high-minded about the English language.

Paleo: The Song Diary (on dvd)

David Strackany isn't the greatest ping-pong player in the world but I'll admit he can write a song. A couple years ago he wrote a song every day in fact while on a nearly never-ending tour (his life) and put all 365 songs on a dvd. In the wrong hands, this could be the worst thing ever attempted but it's amazing to me how much great stuff came out of this inspirational experiment. He put out a kind of "best of" collection of selections from the Song Diary called "Death and Taxes" but I recommend springing for the whole year. It's a great chance to support real artistic sacrifice. Most people barely lift a finger in the name of anything, let alone a chance to toil in obscurity for the sake of the song. The least we can do is throw some scratch his way to keep him on the road. Not sure when this came out, seems like yesterday but the internet says otherwise.

Michael Hurley: Ancestral Swamp

I think this came out this year but if it didn't, who cares? It's timeless and typically effortless sounding, like everything Michael Hurley does. Hurley's mind-blowing 2nd lp, "Armchair Boogie" was just reissued on vinyl recently too. Get it. Get it all. If you've got to take your sweet time, that's okay, I understand we are in a recession and may be slouching towards Bethlehem even, but you should begin acquiring these records as quickly as your wallet permits. Do not find the records free on shareware somewhere, buy them so he'll keep putting them out for us. Michael Hurley has been releasing incredible records since 1965 ("First Songs" came out on Folkways and was later re-titled "Blueberry Wine". Don't hold it against him that Cat Power tried (in vain) to ruin one of his songs on her covers cd. For anyone not familiar with this giant of Song, I encourage you to get acquainted here:

Anne Briggs: Time Has Come (reissue on Four Men with Beards)

This is another vinyl reissue of a seminal work previously only available for hundreds of dollars or on cd. It's a beautiful record, originally released in 1971, the year of my birth. They also reissued the first Anne Briggs record (also recommended) which is mostly traditional songs. This second record is full of Briggs' own haunting songs. Four Men with Beards is doing a great job. Available on Amazon and elsewhere.

Linda Perhacs: Parallelograms (import vinyl reissue)

Basically the same story. Incredible 1970 psych-folk-electronic masterpiece, previously only available as a cd reissue but finally reissued on vinyl. This is the only record Perhacs made. When you make records this good, you only have to make one. You can get this on Amazon too.

That's all the new music releases I can remember right now. I mostly bought used vinyl. My relationship with movies is similar, I haven't seen too many recently made films but between Netflix, TMC and my favorite arthouse theater, Film Streams (, I watched hundreds of movies in 2009. If I had kept track of them all I'd cherry pick some favorites to recommend but unfortunately, I didn't. Maybe next year. I can remember the last twenty or so movies I've seen though, and some are among the best I've seen all year, and all are worth checking out. After re-reading my observations of music releases above, I think I'll stick to listing these and spare the reader unnecessary "reflections".

The Locket (Brahm)
Cornered (Dmytryk)
Little Dieter Needs to Fly (Herzog)
Sanjuro (Kurosawa)
A New Leaf (May)
Dog Day Afternoon (Lumet)
Five Easy Pieces (Rafelson)
Taxi Driver (Scorsese)
The Tenant (Polanski)
The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles)
The Gunfighter (King)
Strange Illusion (Ulmer)
The Messenger (Moverman)
Wages of Fear (Clouzot)
The General (Keaton)
The Marrying Kind (Cukor)
Men In War (Mann)
Killer's Kiss (Kubrick)
Crime Wave (De Toth)
The Apartment (Wilder)
The Far Country (Mann)
The Best of Youth (Tullio)

Here are some books I have no regrets about reading (or re-reading) in 2009 and recommend to others for 2010.

The Savage Detectives (Bolano)
2666 (Bolano)
Last Evenings on Earth (Bolano)
Time Will Darken It (Maxwell)
So Long, See You Tomorrow (Maxwell)
The Sportswriter (Ford)
Moons of Jupiter (Munro)
Tree of Smoke (Johnson)
The Wild Palms (Faulkner)
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea (Mishima)
Back in the World (Wolff)
Ward No. 6 and Other Stories (Chekhov)
Tell Me a Riddle (Olsen)
Suttree (McCarthy)
Kentucky Strait (Offutt)
Incognito Lounge (Johnson)
Fires: Essays, Poems Stories (Carver)
Cruelty (Ai)

If you live in America I suspect you will be growing very cynical in the coming year and will likely need a lot of music, film and books to help you slog through with heart intact. I hope some of this helps a little.
Happy New Year,
-Simon Joyner
MP3 :: Roll On
(from Out Into The Snow. Buy here)

SONGS of the YEAR - 2009

It’s exhausting putting together these end of the year/end of the decade lists, so for this one, this year, I’m just keeping things simple. Here’s my 20 favorites of the '09, followed by 40+ more in no particular order that I also listened to an awful lot. One song per artist, mp3s where I can. Enjoy:

1. Vampire - Pink Mountaintops
2. My Girls - Animal Collective
3. Stillness Is The Move - Dirty Projectors
4. Radio Kaliningrad - Handsome Furs
5. All For The Best - Thom Yorke
6. Vessels - J. Tillman
7. Lisztomania - Phoenix
8. Young Hearts Spark Fire - Japandroids
9. Little Bird Courage- Old Canes
10. French Navy - Camera Obscura
11. Walkabout (ft. Noah Lennox) - Atlas Sound
12. Roll On - Simon Joyner
13. Quiet Dog - Mos Def
14. Northern Lights - Bowerbirds
15. Get Older - Dan Deacon
16. Two - The Antlers
17. Sun Was High (So Was I) - Best Coast
18. Something Waiting For Us In The Night - The Wooden Sky
19. Just Like Nathan Hale, pt. 2 - Brook Pridemore
20. Optimist vs. The Silent Alarm (When The Saints Go Marching In) - Casiotone for the Painfully Alone

Two Weeks - Grizzly Bear
Ruby - The Roadside Graves
I Am An Animal - Soft Black
Tell It (In My Ear) - Fergus & Geronimo
People Got A Lotta Nerve - Neko Case
Reasons To Quit - Phosphorescent
Fetal Horse - John Vanderslice
Glasses On - Schwervon!
There Are Maybe Ten Or Twelve - A.C. Newman
Starting Over - The Black Lips
Lalita - The Love Language
The Poet - Matt Singer
So Far Around The Bend - The National
From The Hips - Cursive
You Can’t Get It Back - Gentlemen Reg
Sitting On The Sidewalk - Capgun Coup
Don’t Lie - The Mantles
The More That I Do - The Field
Wind Phoenix - Cymbals Eat Guitars
I Knew - Lightning Dust
Whip-poor-will - Magnolia Electric Co.
Dream City - Free Energy
Island, IS - Volcano Choir
Ida Walked Away - AU
Julia - The Very Best
Despicable Dogs - Small Black
Be My Girl - The Smith Westerns
Ravens - Secondstar
Young Adult Friction - The Pains of Being Pure At Heart
Ecstasy - JJ
Oh The Vampyre - A.A. Bondy
Can’t Won’t - Bruce W. Derr
She’s Got Stripes - Aaron Young & His Nightjars
Beauty Force - David Shane Smith
Hindsight - Built To Spill
Olympians - Fuck Buttons
Lust For Life- Girls
Over It - Dinosaur Jr.
No Time, No Hope - Times New Viking
Overnight Religion - Kurt Vile
Thanks A Lot - The Empties

[guest post] 2009 In Review, Vol. 9 - Capgun Coup

Omaha, Nebraska’s Capgun Coup released their second album earlier this Fall through Team Love Records. It’s called Maudlin and it’s full of reckless garage rock and fuzzed-out folk - a real barn burner that would appeal to anyone who likes the idea of The Replacements (circa Hootenanny) getting drunk in a basement (hard to imagine, I know) and giving Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home a run through.

I caught up with Sam Martin from the band, who sent along the following Top 10 list:

Top 10 shit that happened in 2009

1. The Vaselines reunited and toured the United States. I saw them play in Chicago and it was the best show of the year hands down, maybe of my life. Usually people who reunite their bands from their youth lose "it" - they most def still had "it".

2. Os Mutantes reunited as well and toured the US for the first time in decades. I have never been in a room with everyone smiling the entire show before, that was perfect.

3.Obama was elected and everyone thought Washington would be on our side.........that lasted a day but it was a good day.

4. The Velvet Underground still have records in print, that's great.

5. UUVVWWZ released their debut record, one of the finest bands in the country, they make me wanna be a girl lead singer and a bass player and a drummer and a crazy good guitar player all at the same time.

6. A Wallmart closed in Omaha.......VICTORY!!!!

7. I broke three phones this year out of my hatred for technology, that felt great..........I'm typing this from my phone.

8. We toured the South where, in many places, bars never close. It is truly a beautiful country we live in.

9. Tom Waits lives to see another year, and he still puts out rad fucking records.

10. 2010 is gonna look so cool on calendars, I've been waiting to write "2010" on something all year.
MP3 :: Bad Bands
(from Maudlin. Buy here)

And be sure to check out this one from their debut:
(from Brought To You By Nebraskafish. Buy here)

[mp3] Retribution Gospel Choir - "Hide It Away"

Retribution Gospel Choir, which features Alan Sparhawk of Low (who have kept a, um, low profile since 2007’s Drums & Guns) will be releasing album # dos, imaginatively titled 2, on January 26 through Sub Pop. Listen to “Hide It Away”, the first free mp3 to emerge from the album. It’s very good.

MP3 :: Hide It Away
(from 2. Info here)

[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)

[video] Raekwon - "Catalina" (live on Jimmy Fallon)

RftTRCJFL from O's Cool on Vimeo.

From J Tillman playing an intimate acoustic session to Raekwon bringing “Catalina” to life with The Roots on Jimmy Fallon last night. Yeah, I’m covering both extremes today. Rae, who seems to be wrapped up in the holiday spirit (with a pocket full of contraband), got a little help from Questlove on the chorus and last verse. I just dove into Only Built For Cuban Linx pt. 2 about a month ago, but you might have picked up on the fact that it’s really made an impression (#14).

[video] J Tillman live @ Luxury Wafers

J Tillman - Year In The Kingdom - Luxury Wafers Sessions from Luxury Wafers on Vimeo.

As you might’ve guessed, if you’ve been checking in here recently, I thought J Tillman had a pretty great 2009. Both Year In The Kingdom (#13) and Vacilando Territory Blues (numero uno) found their way into my Albums of the Year post from the other day, not to mention that the man has a really fantastic cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “My Proud Mountains” on a recent tribute compilation and also yet another Western Vinyl release in the works - a limited edition vinyl only 7” with two new songs - “Wild Honey Never Stolen” and “Borne Away On A Black Barge”. Well, now, over the next seven days, you can hear/see Tillman perform those two songs, as well as a handful of others from his recent full lengths (and even a previously unreleased song), over at Luxury Wafers. Available right this very minute for your viewing pleasure are videos of “Year In The Kingdom” (above) and “Casualties” (an older song from I Will Return/Long May You Run). New videos will be added everyday until Christmas, so keep dropping by over there for more great music. Check out a handful of free live mp3s below from the sessions:

MP3 :: Year In The Kingdom (live)
MP3 :: Above All Men (live)
MP3 :: Borne Away On A Black Barge (live)
(from Luxury Wafers live session)

ALBUMS of the YEAR - 2009

Those of you out there who actually read this blog from time to time know that 2009 was a momentous year in my life. My wife gave birth to healthy, beautiful (if I do say so myself) twin girls back in February, and though there are a thousand things to worry about every day with children, my life has been on the proverbial 9th cloud ever since. One of the many wonderful things about them is that they are amazing sleepers - seriously, they’re in bed at 7 every night and only on the rarest of occasions do we see them before we have to get up for work (and besides that, my wife is usually in bed by, like, 9). Hence, lots of time for me to still run this humble little website that shares with you the music that matters to me. And in 2009 there was a whole hell of a lot of it.

In the past I’ve limited my year end list to my favorite 20 albums, but it was obvious right when I started drafting this that 20 just wouldn’t suffice. Not this year. I thought about doing 25, it’s a very nice number, but even then there were albums that I really like that would’ve been left high & dry. So, this year you get to see and hear and read about my 30 favorite albums, and believe it or not there are still a few that I wish I had room for. Regardless, these are the albums that I enjoyed most this year. Among them you’ll find a bunch of the same albums everyone else seems to love, but also scattered throughout rather generously are ones that I hope differentiate Pop Headwound a little bit from the many, many other music blogs out there. Hope you find something new to love.

30. Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle - Bill Callahan

This one was a late contender for this list, as I just started listening to it after it was so highly recommended by Brook Pridemore in his Year In Review guest post a few weeks back. Callahan’s second solo album since ditching the Smog moniker has been in heavy rotation ever since, and even though I’m still getting to know these songs that are content [to ripple] along like a river in low water season (thanks Brook), it’s clear that Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle is a brilliant record (he’s dark again), and one that would no doubt be higher if I had gotten around to it sooner.

29. There Is No Enemy - Built To Spill

After two good-not-great albums over the past ten years, There Is No Enemy finds Built To Spill back in the business of being awesome. While it may not be quite on par with their mid-to-late 90s run of classics (not much is), it is their best effort since Keep It Like A Secret, and comes full of the expansive guitar jams and skewed alt-pop Doug Martsch & co. made their name on in the first place.

MP3 :: Hindsight

28. S/T - The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

Here is a band with a lot going for them - looks, locale, buzz, youth, and a laundry list of influences that are cooler than your bands’. The thing that sets The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart apart though from the dozens of other similarly armed indie-rock outfits who were shot through the hype machine this year are the songs - a whole album’s worth of snappy potential singles that match melodic twee-pop with fuzzed-up shoegaze. One of the year’s brightest debuts.

MP3 :: Come Saturday
MP3 :: Everything With You
MP3 :: Young Adult Friction

27. Childish Prodigy - Kurt Vile

On his Matador debut, Vile alternates between heavy, stomping full-band rockers, open-road anthems filled with bright, chirpy melodies, and murky folk-blues that feature only his voice, electric guitar, and noise effects - each showing he writes compelling songs in a wide range of styles.

MP3 :: Overnight Religion
MP3 :: Hunchback

26. Cloud Pleaser - David Shane Smith

Smith’s relocation from Brooklyn to Los Angeles has only intensified the jarring tales of consumerism, urban decay, and environmental corrosion that dominated his previous albums, Wintertower and Angry Earth. Cloud Pleaser is, to say the least, a bleak album that continues the trend - if there’s one prevailing theme at work here it’s probably about feeling disconnected from just about everyone and everything. But, ironically, Smith himself has never sounded as engaged as he does throughout these 10 songs. Dark beats, tape glitches, military march drums, jarring sound effects, ambient stretches, finger-picked acoustic guitars, and Smith’s nasal, sing-speak vocals coalesce into a seamless whole - the best album yet from a young artist whose grim worldview continues to inspire stunning songs.

MP3 :: Miserablism
MP3 :: Brand New
MP3 :: Beauty Force

25. Logos - Atlas Sound

As the leader of Deerhunter, Bradford Cox has been behind some of the most affecting (and, yes, divisive) indie-rock of the past few years. A restlessly creative spirit, his Atlas Sound project has mostly, until now, been a vehicle to set at large a massive amount of lo-fi home recordings, either on last year’s Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel or through his ever-prolific blog. Logos sees Cox taking his solo project to the next level though, with successful collaborations with Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear) and Laetitia Sadier and a whole batch of his best drone/pop songs yet.

MP3 :: Walkabout (ft. Noah Lennox)

24. The Ecstatic - Mos Def

Anyone who’s ever seen Be Kind Rewind, Cadillac Records, or The Woodsmen knows the talents of Mos Def reach far beyond the mic. But The Ecstatic reminds us of how he made his name in the first place - this is a diverse, socially conscious, genre-hopping hip-hop record with tinges of blues-rock, soul, pop, and Latin among its 16 songs. The highlights are many, but my favorites are the soaring “Life In Marvelous Times”, a nostalgic look back at his tough Bed-Stuy roots, and “Quiet Dog”, a brooding boogie down with some deep dark rhythms.

MP3 :: Life In Marvelous Times
MP3 :: Quiet Dog
MP3 :: Casa Bey

23. Tarot Sport - Fuck Buttons

Tarot Sport is a more mature, fully-realized version of the electro-noise band who brought us last year’s terrific Street Horrrsing - the arrangements have more of a sense of urgency and the scream-o vocals are all but extinct. Overall this is an expansive, deeply hypnotic work that will appeal to fans of electronic music as well as left-of-center indie-rock fans.

MP3 :: Surf Solar (7” edit)

22. Face Control - Handsome Furs

Handsome Furs tightened things up on Face Control, streamlining the sprawling urban-paranoia of their debut, Plague Park, into focused pop-rock gems. Dan Boeckner has never had a problem writing macho, fist-pumping indie-rock anthems, but “Radio Kaliningrad” might be his best one yet.

MP3 :: I’m Confused
MP3 :: Radio Kaliningrad

21. Album - Girls

In an era when most bands using nostalgia as inspiration are going back to The Beach Boys or the synth-pop of 80’s new wave, Album looks back even further, recalling the 50s pop of your local “oldies” radio station more than anything else. The androgynous, Iggy Pop-quoting lead single, “Lust For Life”, (with its “I wish I had a boyfriend, I wish I had a loving man in my life” lyric and NC-17 video) isn’t really a fair representation, sonically, of the album. Much of it is comprised of slow-building, self-pitying anthems that, like “Hellhole Ratrace”, suck you in and repeat their refrains like mantras until you can’t help but feel a strange sort of affinity.

MP3 :: Lust For Life
MP3 :: Hellhole Ratrace

20. Feral Harmonic - Old Canes

Feral Harmonic is a raucous folk-rock record that, despite being predominantly the unaided work of The Appleseed Cast’s Chris Crisci, sounds like it was recorded by a bunch of friends as part of a drunken hootenanny. Every song is a winner, but the mess of acoustic guitars, in-your-face drums, careening horn section, and shout-along lyrics on “Little Bird Courage” really stands out to these ears.

MP3 :: Little Bird Courage
MP3 :: Trust

19. Get Guilty - A.C. Newman

The second solo album from the chief new pornographer was one of the most underrated and overlooked albums of the year. Yet again Newman proves himself to be this generation’s most skilled craftsmen of melodic indie-pop, churning out infectious, blissful tune after tune. The orchestral “There Are Maybe Ten Or Twelve” and “Elemental” are two of his most beautiful songs yet, and “The Heartbreak Rides” continues his long string of terrific track 2’s. Seriously, check his back catalog and tell me how often track two is just the shiznit….

MP3 :: There Are Maybe Ten Or Twelve
MP3 :: Submarines of Stockholm

18. My Maudlin Career - Camera Obscura

The bittersweet indie-pop of these Scots is much the same on My Maudlin Career as it was on their 2006 new-classic, Let’s Get Out Of This Country. That means more reverbed, ringing guitar chords mixed with lush keyboards and Tracyanne Campbell’s unsinkable melodies. One only need listen to “French Navy” to be forever smitten.

MP3 :: My Maudlin Career (follow link)
MP3 :: French Navy

17. xx - The xx

On their debut, London’s The xx create spellbinding, noirish little songs where the negative space between notes expresses as much emotion as the music and vocals. The starkly minimalist arrangements are impressive enough on their own, but combined with the chilled-out back and forth boy-girl vocals and mature, fully-realized songs far beyond what you’d expect from a bunch of kids in their early twenties adds up to one of the year’s strongest debuts.

MP3 :: Basic Space (Sapha Remix) (follow link)

16. Veckatimest - Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear’s elegant, painstakingly detailed third album is easily my favorite thing they’ve ever done. Their nuanced art-folk sways from sweeping, near-pop masterpieces like “Two Weeks” and “While You Wait For The Others” to cathartic, slow-building mood pieces like “Ready, Able” and “I Live With You”. Less raw and more, well, choir-boyish than the music that made my Top 10, Veckatimest is still every bit the “fucking stunning achievement” I called it way back when everyone only had their 128 kbps leaked copies.

MP3 :: Cheerleader

15. A Brighter Light - Brook Pridemore

A Brighter Light finds NY’s Pridemore once again bashing out his fiery, invective brand of punk/folk/agit-pop at a variety of deserving sources, but it also manages to be his most personal album to date. Recalling The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle or anti-folk legend Ed Hamell, Pridemore sounds, as always, intent on moving your ass and your mind in equal measure. Overall, there’s not a weak moment on A Brighter Light – it’s a tour-de-force rock ‘n roll record that’s smart, sharp-tongued, and fun. As he says himself, “I didn’t come here to proselytize; I came to bring the noise”.
MP3 :: Stockholm St. Syndrome

14. Only Built For Cuban Linx pt. 2 - Raekwon

Raekwon’s magnum opus is a true street poet (and a lot of friends, most prominently Ghostface) rapping their asses off for well over an hour. It's the kind of animated, vivid storytelling that seems made for the big screen.

13. Year In The Kingdom - J. Tillman

Compared to his more expansive Vacilando Territory Blues, the 9-song Year In The Kingdom can come across as a somewhat minor offering. But listen carefully and you hear a fully developed batch of songs that whisper about mortality like a man who thinks about dying a lot. Tillman sounds like he’s consumed by this inevitability - offering ruminative insights over gorgeous, hymn-like arrangements. He’s on such a streak right now that even this, his second best album of 2009, tops nearly everything else I heard this year.

MP3 :: Earthly Bodies
MP3 :: Though I Have Wronged You

12. Farm - Dinosaur Jr.

Yeah, 2007’s Beyond signaled a startling return to form from the original cast of Dinosaur Jr. It was a record steeped in their early, sludgy SST sound and housed a lot of Mascis’s best songs in a decade and a half. But Farm, the even better second coming of the second coming, finds the band leaning more towards their early 90s days (my personal favorite DJr. era). It was then that they were alt. rock’s best near-miss on the strength of the slacker anthems and stoned guitar-god heroics of Green Mind and Where You Been. That latter album seems to be Farm’s best point of reference, with the band playing tight, searing mid-tempo crunchers for the better part of an hour.

MP3 :: I Want You To Know

11. Embryonic - The Flaming Lips

Embryonic is a thrillingly excessive display of warped, druggy songcraft and musicianship. It’s the band walking the fearless freak-walk instead of just talking it up with a megaphone, balloons, and a light show. Since The Soft Bulletin they’ve spent the better part of 10 years making a major label’s idea of “weird alternative” music (granted there are a few great songs mixed in there), but on Embryonic The Flaming Lips sound like a band again; albeit one that’s been hanging out on Mars and listening a lot of Can, Zappa, Beefheart, and Miles Davis. Since At War With The Mystics I wasn’t expecting to ever really like a new Flaming Lips album again, let alone love one.

10. My Son’s Home - The Roadside Graves

The latest from New Jersey’s Roadside Graves is a raucous journey through nearly every corner of American music. The 18 songs here touch on barroom rock & roll, folk, blues, country, and soul, as well as The Pogues, Exile-era Stones, The Band, and Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue. Despite its long running time, the album is held together by the theme of family and friends trying to stick it out during hard times. Singer/lyricist John Gleason’s aptitude for using simple details to reveal universal human truths makes him stand out as a songwriter, and the 6-piece band never fails to further bring those words to vivid life. Hell, just listen to “Ruby” and see for yourself.

MP3 :: Ruby
MP3 :: Far And Wide
MP3 :: My Son’s Home (demo)

9. Outside Love - The Pink Mountaintops

Part Phil Spector wall of sound pop, part Jesus & Mary Chain feedback-fueled madness, part warped folk/country, Outside Love strings together some pretty disparate influences and coalesces them into a unified set of songs about the ups, downs, and middle grounds of love. Every song is top notch, but the hauntingly romantic “Vampire” never ceases to amaze me – it's my favorite song of the year.

MP3 :: Vampire
MP3 :: While We Were Dreaming

8. The Earth Is Black and other apocalyptic lullabies for children - Soft Black

The Earth Is Black is a strikingly personal album from an artist spilling his guts on the effects of deep fear, religious doubt, and nightmare-induced sleep deprivation. While that may seem like soporific inspiration for a rock n’ roll record, singer-songwriter Vincent Cacchione never puts his owns demons before the good of the song. The Earth Is Black is thematically bleak, but Cacchione surrounds his words and melodies with a crackin’ band that’s equally capable of anthemic glam-folk (“I Am An Animal”), Ray Davies-like shuffles (“Time Gets Away And Has Its Way With You”), and propulsive folk-rock sing-alongs (“The Lions”, “The Earth Is Black”). It’s all brought home by the album’s cathartic finale, “Night Terrors”, whose creeping tension is relieved only by the vulnerability in the vocals. Over the past few years I’ve heard and written about a lot of New York’s up-and-coming talent - The Earth Is Black is the fanged, rabid animal at the front of the pack.
MP3 :: The Lions

7. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - Phoenix

Kicking off an album with two of the year’s very best singles (“Lisztomania” and “1901”) is a sure way to get the rest of your songs ignored, but those who managed to stop hitting repeat for “Fences” and beyond heard the most consistent record yet from these slick French indie-rockers. Never ones to shy away from their obvious commercial ambitions, the clumsily titled Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is a straight pop-rock album that’s, for lack of a better way to put it, un enfer de beaucoup d'amusement pour écouter.. Seriously I don’t know how anyone with five working senses could not enjoy the hell out of this record.

MP3 :: Lisztomania (A Fight For Love & 25 Hours A Day remix)
MP3 :: 1901 (L’Aiglon Remix)
MP3 :: Fences (The Soft Pack remix)
MP3 :: Love Like A Sunset (Animal Collective remix)
MP3 :: Love Like A Sunset (Shuttle remix)

6. Post Nothing - Japandroids

The primordial garage-rock of Vancouver’s Japandroids hits with a combination of brute force and undeniable hooks. This duo may just be yelling about french kissing French girls and getting older and the tediousness of their hometown, but they do so with such conviction that you can’t help but hang on their every word. “Young Hearts Spark Fire” is one of the best angst-anthems I’ve heard in a long time, but Post Nothing is filled with 7 more songs that are its near equal.

MP3 :: Young Hearts Spark Fire
MP3 :: Wet Hair

5. Out Into The Snow - Simon Joyner

Out Into The Snow is Simon Joyner’s 12th full-length record since debuting way back in 1993, and it finds his songwriting talent finally peaking. A highly impressionistic writer, he matches the creativity of his words with acoustic guitar and piano-driven arrangements that, on the surface, are not dissimilar to some of his obvious inspirations - Townes Van Zandt and On The Beach-era Neil Young. Though it may recall these classics, Out Into the Snow is a quietly intense album that stands entirely on its own. In my opinion, the most overlooked album of the year.

MP3 :: Out Into The Snow
MP3 :: Roll On

4. Bromst - Dan Deacon

What’s most apparent when listening to Bromst is that Deacon is at the peak of his creative powers - a madcap genius striving to be taken seriously as both sound artist and traditional musician. Bromst is looong, but its sizzling kinetic energy hardly wavers. Simply put, this record is fucking righteous.

MP3 :: Woof Woof

3. Bitte Orca - Dirty Projectors

2009 was a breakthrough year for Dirty Projectors. First they were prominently featured on the terrific Dark Was The Night compilation on a song co-written with David Byrne. Then they dropped Bitte Orca, a surprisingly accessible album, to near-universal praise from critics. It deserved every bit of it - Bitte Orca is a kaleidoscopic art-pop thrill ride. Despite being masterminded by David Longstreth, the whole record is a truly collaborative effort, which is never more evident than on Amber Coffman’s star-turn lead vocal performance on “Stillness Is The Move” - one of 2009’s best songs.

MP3 :: Knotty Pine (w/ David Byrne)
(from Dark Was The Night)

2. Merriweather Post Pavillon - Animal Collective

Most people were ready to declare Merriweather Post Pavilion 2009’s best album when it leaked last Christmas. Yet here it is almost a year later, having withstood its unfair head start and even a moderate degree of online backlash (initiated more by competitive Grizzly Bear fans than critics or bloggers methinks). There’s no doubt that it’s proven to be every bit the classic that those first few listeners intimated.

After the brooding intensity of much of Strawberry Jam, Animal Collective filled MPP with similar lush harmonies and mesmeric repetitions to those found on Panda Bear’s Person Pitch. That stylistic decision works particularly well within the album’s recurring themes of fatherhood and the struggle to overcome limitations to provide for your kids (see “My Girls”, especially). For years before Merriweather, Animal Collective churned out whimsical sing-alongs (“Grass”, “Leaf House”, “Peacebone”, etc) that seemed tailor-made for kids to blindly shout along with. It wasn’t until they started voicing adult concerns that they truly exploded with a whole new generation of indie-kids.

1. Vacilando Territory Blues - J. Tillman

There are records that you hear in your life that become inextricably linked to a specific time and place. Hearing Vacilando Territory Blues for the first time last February, five days before the birth of my twin girls, gives it a distinct advantage when held up against the other great albums on this list - sentimentality. As much as I adore Merriweather Post Pavillon, Bitte Orca, and the other albums I have just written about, those feelings just don’t come close to the ones I have for this humble little folk-blues record by a guy best known (for now) as the drummer in Fleet Foxes. I just can’t hear songs like “Firstborn”, “Above All Men”, or “Someone With Child” without being immediately brought back to the (sniff, sob) happiest days of my life. Which is kind of ridiculous considering that much of Vacilando Territory Blues is made up of weary, whispered folk songs whose overall mood, while certainly celebrating life (as opposed to Year In The Kingdom’s meditations on death and what comes after it), wouldn’t be confused with “joyful” in a thousand years. When he does employ fuller arrangements the songs are just as stark, merely louder. Regardless, there’s a deeper connection here for me that won’t ever fade - every time I put it on I feel like I did on the morning my little world doubled in size. Fatherhood. Holy shit. “I don’t want to live again cause I don’t want this life to end” - yeah Josh, that about sums it up. But honestly, take away the personal affiliation and what’s left is a soul-stirring album with a cohesive mood that’s thirteen great songs deep. The most moving, most beautiful album to find my ears in a long, long time.

MP3 :: James Blues
MP3 :: Steel On Steel
MP3 :: Firstborn