Wavves hater or not, you have to admit that his new album, King of the Beach, is at least a lot of fun. Personally, I think it’s more than that. I might even say it’s a perfect slacker anthem album, and it will be on repeat in my apartment until the weather stops making me want to go to the beach every day. If his recent show at the Knitting Factory is any indication, Wavves’ live show keeps getting tighter and better, though I’m not sure he can carry a space as large as Bowery (his show at the large Brooklyn Bowl was abysmal). The Smith Westerns put out one of my absolute favorite albums of last year, and their tough-as-nails-teen-heartthrob vibe makes for a fun live show. Plus, it’s Total Slacker’s Bowery debut! After months of constant playing, they totally deserve this next step.
Tag Archives: WAVVES
Wavves. Wavves, Wavves, Wavves, Wavves, Wavves. Are you really dating Best Coast or is it all just a publicity stunt? Why exactly did you sign to Mountain Dew Records? And are you flat-ironing your hair now? It kind of looks like you are. So many questions. One resounding answer. A pretty sweet rock and roll show. While it’s eerie to see Pope and Hayes backing Wavves, saying things like, “We taught him how to be a punk,” when only a few months ago they were quitting the band of one of the actual last true punks, only to have him die weeks later, they are a damn fine rhythm section. The threesome has clearly practiced quite a lot since their awful Brooklyn Bowl gig (they did, in fact, cut a record in that time), but I still think the best version of Wavves I’ve seen was with Zach Hill. There’s always a lot to say about Wavves, but I’ll keep this brief since it’s so belated. This show at the Knitting Factory was immensely fun, with a ridiculous amount of stage-diving and Pete and Pete theme songs. Hayes’ stage banter was cuter and less offensive this time around, which seemed to signal that the band had finally jelled. And Nathan Williams himself? He seemed coolly unaffected by it all, kicking out the jams and surfing along with his guitar out into the crowd.
Cloud Nothings played a fantastic set. At first I thought their drummer was rushing, but as their set wore on it quickly became apparent that they planned to play their songs as fast as they humanly could. A lot of the pop intricacies were lost, but it sure made for a fun show. It was my first time watching Dom, and I generally liked them. Their songs seemed to drift between 60s surf-style garage rock tunes and more 80s synth inspired ones. I’m sure you could guess which ones I favored, but I’ll spend a little more time with this band before dispensing my final judgement. They’re worth checking out, at least, with a reservedly interesting frontman.
Northside Festival has begun! What does this mean? So. Many. Shows. If you’d like to see a lot of music this weekend, it’s definitely worth it to get a $50 badge. If you’re just looking to go to one, well, it’s probably best to just get tickets for that show. Unless, however, you want to go to this ultra-buzzy show tonight- Wavves, Cloud Nothings, and Dom at Knitting Factory. It’s sold out, so you’ll need a badge for entrance. This is definitely the show of the evening. I’ve never seen Dom before but have heard good things, and Cloud Nothings definitely have one of the albums of the year. The last time we checked in with our buddy Nathan Williams was at that terrible, weird free show at Brooklyn Bowl. He couldn’t fill the room, and it was eerie watching him play with the late Jay Reatard’s old band. Since then, he’s announced his new album, which I have heard in full and really, really like. He also signed to Mountain Dew’s record label which is…you know…fine but not really fine. I think tonight will reveal a lot about how Williams’ music and “personal brand” is going to proceed.
Everything was just slightly askew at Brooklyn Bowl this Tuesday. Nothing that happened seemed to line up with reality in quite the right way. There was a parade and Mardi Gras beads, but the sheet of ice covering Brooklyn made walking down the street a near impossibility. There were burlesque dancers and a free show, but Brooklyn Bowl was barely even half full. There was a mosh pit, but it couldn’t even sustain itself. And my favorite suburban stoner-whiner was playing with who I will always think of as Jay Reatard’s band, raising him from the dead in my ghost memories of those very same people trashing Olde Club and harassing my classmates. The last time I saw Nathan Williams perform he was in fine form. At that show he had finally seemed able to take his wonderful bedroom recordings and turn them into an exciting live experience- mostly animated by Animal-esque drummer, Zach Hill. This time at Brooklyn Bowl, despite the addition of a bass player (and an experienced one at that), the new line up and new songs didn’t exactly shine. It seemed that Willaims had just figured out how to transfer his suburban-malaise charm into something musically productive again for the first time since the release of those first few tracks. But backed by Reatard’s old crew, he turned into something else. No longer was he that suburban college-grad bumbling his way through nascent fame by copping a bad-boy persona, like every teenager who listens to rock music wishes they could. The proven badass punks of the ex-Reatards transformed Williams into an actual punk himself, instead of just a kid who’s petulantly partying. Slightly more dangerous. Rude, not caring, not giving a shit. He even said as much at one point during the show. I was intrigued by this new view I had of Williams, but also a bit disappointed. If the songs had lived up to it it would have been different, but the music fell short. And it really is all about the music when it comes down to it. Partly, this was Brooklyn Bowl’s fault. It just wasn’t loud enough. Even with the addition of the bass, Wavves’ sound was thinner than I’d ever heard it. Billy Hayes is no wimpy drummer, we know that, but he didn’t sound like anything last night (maybe it was because his pussy smelled bad, a line he kept repeating over and over- always a good excuse). Free shows can also sometimes just blow. A simply curious crowd and a non-plussed band. It made me wonder who set up the whole Wavves/Hayes/Stephen Pope thing. If it happened organically through shared shows and friends, fine. If it was a record label or other industry entity that set it up…well, then Williams may have lost me. Some of the new songs were certainly intriguing, but nothing about this Brooklyn Bowl show lived up to what it could have been.
MNDR was fine. She played some solid electronic tunes and had about half of the crowd entertained with her oversized accessories and jerky dancing. Girl has charisma and some really great hooks to her songs. On the other hand, those hooks rarely go anywhere interesting, and her stage presence wasn’t enough to carry her through the entire set. I’m not usually one for electronic-karaoke, but I like it when it’s done well. MNDR did it just fine, but she’s not quite there yet to captivate me for an entire performance. I’ve posted a song after the photos below, so you can decide for yourselves. Also, I’m really unhappy with all of my photos of Nathan, but I think that sort of reflects how I feel about the show in general. Total Slacker started the show, as evidenced by the photo below, but I regrettably didn’t make it in time to catch them.
Nathan Williams is back in town. You can never predict what you’re going to get with Wavves, but I’m betting it will be some pretty strong lo-fi punk tunes at the very least. Maybe a hissy fit, maybe a bar fight with members of another band. You never know. Plus, the show is free, so it’s really a win-win-win. MNDR is an electronic dance group that have been getting quite a lot of buzz recently, and Total Slacker is playing, as well. Apparently it’s all tied in with some sort of Fat Tuesday parade thing, so I would arrive on the early side to make sure you get in. And don’t forget to RSVP.
Well, this is it. My top ten favorite albums of 2009. There was so much great music this year that it feels strange to narrow it down to so few albums. I really did love each of these though, and I hope you do, too. Let me know what you think. I probably won’t be blogging too much until 2010, but I can’t wait to hear what happens next year.
I’ve included my favorite song from each album, unless it was on my Favorite Songs list, in which case I’ve included a different favorite.
10) Yeah I Know – Darlings Darlings are charmingly adolescent. They’re like that adorable kid you used to baby-sit, but who you know is going to grow up to be really attractive. With lines like “We can do things to each other,” and “We’ll get fucked up in the park/And we’ll get fucked up in the dark” scattered throughout Yeah I Know, there is something innately raw and youthful about these songs. They give a pretty great picture of what it feels like to be a twenty-something in New York, as well, with songs like “Eviction Party.” I think they capture something innate about the spirit of Brooklyn right now. Then you get a song like the title track, “Yeah I Know,” that’s so full of ecstatic songwriting ideas, and sublimely mature for such a young band (and it’s even better live). This is a great, fun album, but I’m even more excited about it because of what it signals for this band’s future.
9) Ducktails – Ducktails Matt Mondanile has put out so much music this year. This self-titled Ducktails LP is probably the most concrete chunk of output, but I’d really like it to represent everything Ducktails has put his name on in 2009. From splits with Julian Lynch to tapes to work with Real Estate, Mondanile has created a wonderfully unique soundscape and new musical sensibility. It’s so calming and peaceful without being too easy to accept. Ducktails is swirly and complicated and totally satisfying.
8 ) Here We Go Magic – Here We Go Magic This album deserves to be on any top ten list based on the strength of “Tunnelvision” and “Fangela” alone. While those tracks circulated around the internet quite a lot in early 2009, Here We Go Magic somehow didn’t get the kind of buzz that other bands have garnered in 2009. I believe this is due to Luke Temple’s maturity as a musician and songwriter. These songs age well with repeated listens. Temple’s been around forever and is finally getting the recognition he deserves. This album is full of serious compositions, wonderful and bewildering- not the kind of thing that’s easily hyped. Instead, this album is solid and stable, steeped in talent and vision, and will be a work to remember for years to come.
7) Hospice – The Antlers This is the saddest album I’ve ever heard. A year ago, The Antlers were another Brooklyn Antlers band, one that I frequently mixed up with Crystal Antlers and in turn, Crystal Stilts. A year later, I doubt anyone will make that mistake again. Dubbed as one of the best albums of 2009 all the way back in January by NPR, Hospice is stark and honest, a frank take on death and mortality, especially from a young person’s point of view. Hospice feels like an accomplishment, one that must have been difficult to produce. I saw The Antlers play it, front to back, at Union Hall earlier this year. I’ve seen the band several times since then, but I particularly remember Silberman’s a cappella vocals at the end of that Union Hall set for “Epilogue.” That’s when I knew how truly good this album is. What a talent. My only worry about Hospice is that it’s so well-conceived, that the extremely talented Silberman will have a difficult time ever creating anything better. I’m not the only one to be struck so starkly by the Antler’s live show. I’ve heard others complain that the album sounds like it’s too muted compared to the sound of the songs live. I think, though, that this only adds to the beauty of Hospice. Suffocating, choked, and dying. The whole thing is so despairingly gorgeous. Truly one of the most remarkable works of art produced in 2009.
MP3: “Bear” – The Antlers
6) Real Estate – Real Estate I feel the same way about Real Estate as I do about Ducktails. This band really created a sound this year, something that didn’t exist before they started doing it. Plus, they’ve done it with two guitars, bass, and drums- a remarkable feat at this point in rock and roll’s history. It’s less that I love this album, and more that I love all of the output from Real Estate that’s been floating around the internet all year, much of which did find its way onto this release. An immensely talented group of young men. Not only is Ducktails a side project, but so is Alex Bleeker and The Freaks, another band that I bet you’re going to pay attention to in 2010. I’d like to crown all the boys in Real Estate champions of 2009.
5) Songs of Shame – Woods Maybe it’s because one of my favorite tracks off of Songs of Shame is “Rain On,” but this is the perfect album for a rainy day. There’s just enough melody to ground all of the psychedelic noodling, and it holds together because all of it is so pretty. Tapes and old microphones and beards and guitars all add to Woods’ homey aesthetic. There’s a reason why I put Woods and Real Estate next to each other on both this list and my Favorite Songs list. They’ve both cultivated, in different ways, a laid-back, quiet rock sound without being too much like that lost 60s band from way back when. I don’t know, I just really love this stuff.
MP3: “The Number” – Woods
4) Smith Westerns – Smith Westerns Young, overconfident, gritty, naive, celebratory, excited, already jaded. These are all the things a good punk record should be, and the Smith Westerns deliver all of this on their debut self-titled lp. Boys and girls and girls and boys, I had to exercise a lot of control so that this wouldn’t be the only album I listened to throughout the month of November. I’m astounded that these guys are only seventeen years old, but at the same time, no one older could have made such a confident, brash, excellent album.
3) Post-Nothing – Japandroids The title really says it all. Post-Nothing. Don’t call them post-punk, post-noise, post-Pavement. Japandroids know that they sound like a lot of things that came before. In a year that truly did mark the evolution of what indie music means with the enormous proliferation of genre-bending electronic acts like Animal Collective, Japandroids put out a rock and roll album. And while it might not be a huge step forward for music like the aforementioned band, it’s no less good or important. The urgency of the vocals and drumming were unparalleled anywhere this year, and few bands put out an album with so much energy and rock and roll grit. While the Smith Westerns take their burgeoning boy/girl crushes with the humor of a teenager, Japandroids take their crushes a little more seriously, a little more urgently. Just like this style of music we love, they’re getting older and maybe wiser, and feel the impending sense of time. You can hear all of this in their songs. In the end, it makes my heart feel good. Let’s go French kiss some French girls.
2) Wavvves – Wavves Amidst the sudden rocket to fame, amidst the drinking and the drugs, the breakdowns, the backlash, the broken arm, and the bar fights, Wavves put out this album. It’s easy to forget the music, in light of all of the hype-inducing antics. Let me illustrate this clearly. I know the number rankings aren’t ultimately important, but Pitchfork gave Wavvves a higher ranking than it did Jewellery. But Jewellery made it onto their 50 Best list, and Wavvves did not. After all of the furor (that Pitchfork largely created) over Wavves this year, it’s become gauche to include Nathan Williams in your best of 2009, or possibly to even admit liking him at all. Well, I don’t care. I stand by my convictions that when you cut out all of the other bullshit, you’re left with a fantastic, innovative lo-fi album. Wavves was one of the first of the whole “lo-fi” craze this year, and frankly, I don’t think anyone does it better than him. If there’s a better representation of contemporary suburban kids’ existential angst than “So Bored” in music, literature, or art, I haven’t heard, seen, or read it. With his “ooos” and “waas,” Williams also creates a wonderful pop tension above his difficult, scuzzed out guitar. Lest we forget the more experimental tracks on Wavvves – while other lo-fi artist like Times New Viking incorporate the pop into their noisy songs, Williams actually divides noise and pop into two different types of songs on his album. There’s “Goth Girls,” “To the Dregs,” and “Killr Punx, Scary Demons.” Then there’s “So Bored,” “No Hope Kids,” and “Gun in the Sun” – Ramones-worthy punk janglers. There’s a wonderful logic to structuring an album in this dual way, one that says quite a lot about bedroom music versus live shows (one of the main tensions of Wavves’ act), and it really sets this album apart for me.
Sometimes it may be difficult for an artist to get themselves heard if they’re not getting hyped by the proper sites. But we’ve reached the other end of the spectrum, where it’s sometimes difficult for an artist to get heard once they’re in the hype machine. It’s challenging, but we need to put our notions about Wavves aside and stick to the music on this one. When you subtract how popular or hated or obnoxious or overexposed Wavves might be, you’re left with one hell of an album.
1) Jewellery – Micachu and the Shapes Jewellery is the most original, unique record to come out in 2009, hands down. Micachu and the Shapes are an androgynous female-fronted band of twenty-two year olds banging on beer bottles and home made guitars, who play completely bizarre Waitsian ditties with more dark humor than a Poe short story. Maybe it’s because they’re British and didn’t tour in America as much as other bands this year, but this is another album that escaped the hype machine. Pitchfork gave them an unbelievably low review the first time around, but did indeed include the album in their Fifty Best list. I honestly can’t understand how this album, with its stunning originality, wasn’t in the top ten. For starters, they are straight-up weird. For being so strange, it’s a remarkably versatile album. “Golden Phone” and “Calculator” are two of the catchiest songs of the year. Jewellery can be dark and scary, or fun and lighthearted, depending on what mood you’re listening in. They’re also one of the few indie bands that have really incorporated electronics with guitar-based tunes in an exciting, creative, new way. The first forty seconds of “Just In Case” are a great example. It’s still, vaguely, rock and roll, but the electronics combined with the home-made guitar make sounds that are totally new. It might all be a little too wacky for some to take seriously, but to my ears, Jewellry is absolutely delicious and refreshing, and will certainly be one of the coolest, most interesting artifacts of 2009.
To recap: As for My Favorite 50 Songs of 2009, I made a few rules for myself. First, a band can only appear once. Also, this is purely about singles I enjoy. For instance, I would never put Harlem Shakes’ Technicolor Health on my favorite albums list, but “Sunlight” made it pretty high on this list because it’s a great pop song. I like a lot of Grooms’ songs and think they’re probably better than many of these, for instance, but none of them made it onto this list because they work much better as a group of experimental songs on an album. This gave me a chance to give recognition to many bands from this year I would otherwise have left out. And, for the record, I think this list of songs is less important but more fun than my forthcoming list of best albums of 2009. You can download all of the songs by clicking on the words in bold.
This ha been really fun. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. Stay tuned for my favorite albums list. So here it is, the FINAL installment of My Favorite 50 Songs of 2009.
10) “Snookered” – Dan Deacon Bromst was so much better than I expected it to be. The album was a huge leap forward for Deacon. He moved away from dancy, albeit awesome, electronic creations, and transformed them into something a little more serious, a little more sinister. This song is the centerpiece of that excellent album. Starting with just a few chimes, adding garbled chanting voices, and layering synth upon synth, this song is the perfect exercise in build. But it’s not just a simple treatment of how to create tension with electronic music. This song oozes soul, and honesty. “I’ve been wrong so many times before/But never quite like this/Heard all/In the rain/But the rain all turned to piss.” That’s exactly what life feels like sometimes, and Deacon gives us all a hope with the wonderful climax of the song, right before the break down with the voices. I’m really usually not one for button-pushing, but a mature Deacon reminds me how very human, complex, and downright good it can be.
9) “The Ancient Commonsense Of Things” – Bishop Allen I reviewed Grrr… on the blog earlier this year, and I didn’t give it a very good review. But this is an album, particularly this song, that I’ve continued to listen to over the months. Part of that has to do with how good Bishop Allen is live, particularly this song (I saw them for the first time at Northside in June). I suppose “The Ancient Commonsense of Things” really wouldn’t be included on a “Best” list, but it does what music ought to do. It makes life feel a little brighter. There are two concrete reasons, both lyrical, why I like this song so much. First, I do think that there is an “ancient commonsense of things,” and I’m glad this song points it out. Also, “There are those/Who know to look/Through all the crannies and the nooks/And when I found you did/What it meant to me.” This is the problem with doing a Favorites list instead of a Best Of. I really, really love that line, and I can’t really explain why.
8 ) “Sunlight” – Harlem Shakes This is the best pop song I’ve heard all year. Honestly, I don’t know why it isn’t played on Top 40 radio all the time. Maybe Lexy’s voice? I don’t know, but “Sunlight” is pure ear candy. It makes me want to dance. It makes me want to drive fast in my car. It makes me want to listen to it again and again and again.
7) “When They Fight, They Fight” – Generationals From the outset of this song, you know it’s going to be special. It starts with a 70s sort of piano/cowbell part, giving “When They Fight” an insistent energy right away. Then suddenly, you’re right in the middle of a late 50s, Beatlesesque, vaguely doo-wop melody. “When they fight, they fight/And when they come home at night they say/I love you baby.” The horns, the choppy vocals, and the “oooohs” are all irresistible. I can never get enough of this song. I do think it lacks a strong bridge, but the ideas and general feel of this song are great, and I’m surprised this band didn’t get more attention this year.
6) “Tomorrow Sorrow” – Blake Miller When I posted this song awhile back, it was the single most popular MP3 ever on this blog, by far. There’s something incredibly relatable in Blake Miller’s quiet freak folk. Not only is “Tomorrow Sorrow” musically interesting and remarkably mature for someone so young, but I think it has that little bit of teenage angst that everyone can relate to. He’s right. Tomorrow will inevitably bring bad things, along with the good, and the idea of “If I could figure out/A way to trick the sun/Into keeping me warm,” is so comforting in its simple beauty. A remarkable song.
5) “Shine On” – Air Waves Nicole Schneit’s songwriting is so simple, so straightforward. “I lost someone this year/You gained a start.” “Shine On” feels true. That’s what I like about it. She’s really telling the truth. I don’t know how else to explain it.
4) “When I’m With You” – Best Coast This song has been on a ton of Best Of lists, and the reason is, without a doubt, because no one likes sleeping alone. Best Coast pinpointed one of the most private but universal feelings and put it to music. That takes talent. “When I’m With You” is also just really well-written. The slow, lazy start, the sped-up verse, and the completely different, driving end. The song unfolds so well on itself. Plus, the production quality is just right. Best Coast deserves every bit of buzz she gets, and I love this song.
3) “White As Diamonds” – Alela Diane Writers use the words “achingly beautiful” far too often. But that’s exactly what “White As Diamonds” is. I believe that Alela Diane will be remembered as one of the most unique singers of this time, or at least she ought to be. The timbre of her voice is absolutely incredible, and this song stays with you long after you hear it. Diane paints such a unique aural landscape, creating something entirely new out of strong folk traditions. Plus, her father is in her band, which is about the coolest thing ever. A true talent, and a truly classic song.
2) “No Hope Kids” – Wavves I get shit for this all the time, but I love Wavves. I’m completely and totally fascinated by him. But I’ll save that for my Favorite Albums list (there, I just gave one away). Instead, let’s focus on this song. “No Hope Kids” is a great song. There’s a lot of reasons I listen to music, but the number one reason is probably as an outlet for my teenage angst. Isn’t that, after all, when most of us really started to listen to music to begin with? When we were sullen fourteen year olds and no one else could understand? It’s a musical habit now. “Got no car/Got no money/I got nothing nothing nothing not at all/Got no God/Got no girlfriend.” “Got no friends/Got no family/Just a bunch of people put around me.” Wow, way to pinpoint the post-modern condition of suburban teens. His petulant, stuck-up attitude only makes it better. The energy of this song is unparalleled in all the other lo-fi, schmo-fi bands that came out this year. “Yeah I know, I know, I know, I know, I know.”
1) “Young Hearts Spark Fire” – Japandroids There was not a single time this year when I was in a moving vehicle and did not listen to this song. If Wavves is about teenage angst, then Japandroids is about twenty-something angst. “Oh, we used to dream/Now we just worry about dying/I don’t wanna worry about dying/I just wanna worry about sunshine girls.” Hold onto your youth while you can. I can think of no better soundtrack to do that to. I suppose this song isn’t all that interesting. It’s fairly derivative and doesn’t bring much new to the table in the way a Merriweather Post Pavilion track does. But this song is even better than all of those to me because it shows that rock and roll is still worthwhile. Despite its two-man simplicity, its typical drums and guitar, “Young Hearts Spark Fire” is so good. The rock and roll I grew up on is alive and well and possible, and Japandroids proved that to me in 2009. This is my absolute favorite song of the year. It understands something about me, and for that, it gets my number one spot. “Young/Hearts/Spark/Fire.”