As this decade comes to a close, there is no doubt it will be remembered for the rise of Indie music and the enormous influence the Internet has had on the course of music history. 10 years ago the independent music scenes of the United States were fragmented by location and genre. But thanks to technology, they have all coalesced into one huge melting pot phenomenon unlike any other before it. There was no giant explosion as with underground scenes of the past. It was a slow, steady crawl that still goes unnoticed today by a large portion of pop culture despite unlikely widespread commercial success from weirdos like Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear. And thus 2009 marks the high point so far in this golden age of music. The money may be draining out of the industry faster and faster, but the art is getting better, and there’s a whole lot more of it.
Last year I felt other Blogelites’ end of year lists were rewarding commercial viability over music quality and I was worried that Indie music as whole may have been moving towards the mainstream a little too much. It turns out my slight pessimism may have been unfounded, at least for now. This year I agree with the hipster consensus picks for the most part, and my list lines up with others’ lists much more so than in the past two years. I still think things are moving in a poppier direction overall, but that may not be all that bad of a thing if it results in albums like Merriweather Post Pavilion, Veckatimest, and Bitte Orca, all of which were the most accessible efforts to date from their respective artists. You have to figure this Indie thing is going to eventually burn out and something else is going to come along, but so far there is no sign of it slowing. I continue to suspect that there is something fundamentally different about this music movement than its predecessors.
Up until this year, one phenomenon that was prevalent in former scenes that was not a primary characteristic of the Indie world was artists collaborating and teaming up with one another. But in 2009, that seemed to change. Two of the greatest compilations of all time came out this year, Dark Night of The Soul & Dark Was The Night. Both Dark comps featured a vast cast of Indie stars all working together in new configurations, and the music world began to fell a little smaller and more tightly knit together. You had My Brightest Diamond joining The Decemberists and Beach House joining Grizzly Bear. There was Karen O’s Kids, there was the Monsters of Folk, there was Zach Hill working with as many artists as he can. Certainly there have been plenty of team-ups before, but this year it just felt different to me.
Last year’s trend was the No Agey distortion lo-fi sound, and that bled into 2009 for a bit helping propel Wavves into Indie celebrity. This year’s trend would be “chill-wave”, characterized by bands like Real Estate, Neon Indian, and Washed Out. This stuff sounds nice, but for the most part it is way too boring to amount to anything more than a passing fad.
Even though I agree with the P4kish lists more this year, I still think there are plenty of overrated records getting way too much love. Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Fever Ray bored me to death. Girls was good for a crappy punk record, but that’s like winning the Special Olympics. The new Baroness was weak, and I think people were overcompensating for overlooking the stellar 2007 Red Album. And you’ll find my list absent of any hip-hop records for the first time, as I could not find a single one that felt special. I absolutely hate that I cannot find anything worthwhile in a genre I used to love, but all I hear is unimaginative garbage or borrowed styles done better 15 years ago. One thing that always appealed to me about hip-hop was how one beat and one rhyme could express so much, but now I feel this style is overwrought with limitations and constricting expectations. Innovators could always come along and revive this thing, but right now I don’t hear a heartbeat.
In years past, I flexed my writing muscles by doing individual write-ups for all 50 albums on my list, but this year I decided to spare you readers the overkill. For the most part, I’ve already said everything I want to about these records, and if I haven’t the other 5 billion bloggers sure have. Enjoy the final product of a year’s worth of research:
- Posted by Davy Minor on December 29, 2009 at 7:13 am
- 5 Comments
Abby Go Go:
A Fight To The Death:
Book of Colors: Click here to read the entire post…
Click here to read the entire post…
- Posted by Kevin Griggs on December 23, 2009 at 4:34 am
- 1 Comment
- Posted by Clint Miller on December 21, 2009 at 7:13 pm
- No Comments
10. Deastro: Grower
9. Washed Out: Life Of Leisure
8. Bibio: The Apple & The Tooth
7. Tealights: Take Us By Sea
6. No Age: Losing Feeling
5. Deerhunter: Rainwater Cassette Exchange
4. Destroyer: Bay of Pigs
3. Animal Collective: Fall Be Kind
2. Au: Versions
1. The Octopus Project: Golden Beds
- Posted by Davy Minor on December 19, 2009 at 1:00 am
- 1 Comment
Most of the time in this city, bands rise and fall based on who they know and how exciting they are live. But for this list, I’ve considered only what is contained on their recordings. Over the course of the year I’ve given roughly 75 records from inside the perimeter a spin, and these are the essential twenty that I recommend listening to most. There are actually many records that I really liked that just missed the cut, so this was very tough to piece together, especially the final spots.
Looking at this list and comparing it back to my favourite local stuff over the two years before, it’s apparent that music in this city just keeps getting better. Atlanta’s independent music scene is running deeper than ever both in terms of quality and quantity of music being produced. Outside of Brooklyn, you’d need quite a compelling argument to convince me anywhere else in America has a better scene right now. Promising young bands keep popping up out of nowhere, and the veterans keep delivering the goods. It sure makes my job here a lot easier to have so much great music to blog about.
On a technical note, anything that has been released over the holidays I’m grouping in with my 2010 lists, and so a couple of albums on this list were released over the holidays last year. Take a gander:
20. Noot d’ Noot: Cash For Gold
19. Harken The Hands Askew: Thou
18. Slushco: Sometime Tonight
17. Sound On Film: The Eloquent Reginald
16. Thy Mighty Contract: Thy Mighty Contract
15. Club Awesome: Dynamos
14. Jungol: Places
13. Lee Harvey Oswald: Lee Harvey Oswald
12. The Selmanaires: Tempo Temporal
11. Tealights: Take Us By Sea
10. Deerhunter: Rainwater Cassette Exchange
9. Slushco: The Silver Surface Demos
8. The Orphins: Wish You Well
7. Mastodon: Crack The Skye
6. Lotus Plaza: Floodlight Collective
5. From Exile: Monolith
4. Nomen Novum: Paradises
3. Untied States: Instant Everything, Constant Nothing
2. Atlas Sound: Logos
1. Nomen Novum: November
In the Atlanta music scene, 2009 was the year of Nomen Novum. While most musicians take a whole year to scrap together enough decent songs to fill a good EP, the prolific Nomen Novum were able to drop two virtually perfect full-lengths, plus a great live EP, and they’re already posting new stuff to their myspace.
Although, all five records at the top of my list were legitimate contenders for Atlanta album of the year, and I would have probably been content with any ordering between them. The other 3 records to round out my top 5 each happened to be crafted over about 2 years, and the extra time and care in putting them together just right payed off. A big mistake I notice younger bands make is trying to push out a record too quickly on some arbitrary time scale and in the end get stuck with something that is less than what they are capable of producing. Atlas Sound, Untied States, and From Exile all spent more time than they probably wanted to on their respective albums, but the extra effort was well worth it in the end.
Looking back over this list after I finished it, I noticed that it is almost entirely dominated by veterans of the scene, and mostly by artists I was already familiar with before starting this blog. There is only one true first recording from its respective musicians to make the list. If I were to make a “Best Atlanta Artists of the Decade” shortlist, most of those artists would have an album included on this list, so I feel like it is a good snapshot of not just where the scene is at today, but where it has been heading for the latter part of the ’00s. There is so much diversity in sound and so much talent in this city, and if you have any interest at all in Atlanta’s music scene, don’t let anything on this list slip by you, because all twenty are well worth giving a listen.
- Posted by Davy Minor on December 13, 2009 at 10:20 pm
- 3 Comments
If you’ve been paying attention around here this year, there is no doubt you will be familiar with everything on this list, and perhaps even a little burnt out on some of these tracks. But each of these songs are strongly linked to different moments and memories I have of 2009, and they make up the ultimate soundtrack to an amazing year in music. So jam them out one last time:
Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse w/ Wayne Coyne : Revenge
Animal Collective : My Girls
Atlas Sound w/ Noah Lennox : Walkabout
The Dirty Projectors : Useful Chamber
Grizzly Bear : Two Weeks
Bat For Lashes : Daniel
Andrew Bird : Anonanimal
Here We Go Magic : Fangela
Loney, Dear : Airport Surroundings
Mew : Introducing Palace Players
St. Vincent : The Strangers
Do Make Say Think : Do
Phoenix : Lisztomania
Nomen Novum : Miracles Come True
- Posted by Davy Minor on December 7, 2009 at 5:02 pm
- 4 Comments
Before I begin awarding the sounds of 2009, I wanted to give a little props to the best eye-candy I’ve seen. These ten videos clearly stood out to me above the rest of this year’s offerings. They are definitely all a million times better than that garbage from Beyonce and Taylor Swift. So, enjoy:
10. Of Montreal: “An Eluardian Instance”
This video has just got a really nice, fun vibe to it. The special effects are utilized just right and the whole thing matches up with the music beautifully.
9. Untied States: “Unsilvered Mirrors”
There are so many neat little video tricks in this one and the whole thing captures the mood of the song expertly. I love when it snaps into the end section with the band playing.
8. St. Vincent: “The Strangers” Lake Fever Session
This video wins solely on the rarity of capturing St. Vincent playing an acoustic, stripped down version of one of the year’s best songs. Totally gorgeous.
7. The Flaming Lips: “Watching the Planets”
Yeasayer tried their best to up the ante on nudity with their recent experimental video, but having a clothing-less mob feeding a naked Wayne Coyne to a vagina monster pretty much trumps anything. Warning, it’s very NSFW.
6. Mastodon: “Divinations”
I loved Mastodon‘s science fiction video for “Oblivion” too, but this one got the edge due to how brutal Brent Hinds is as a caveman.
5. Clues: “You Have My Eyes Now”
This one is just simply hilarious.
4. Grizzly Bear: “Ready, Able”
Grizzly Bear have a ton of amazing videos this year, both official and fan made. But this weird claymation vid is easily my favourite.
3. Here We Go Magic: “Fangela” Black Cab Session
Taking bands and having them perform stripped down versions of their songs in various settings is all the rage these days, and one of the best in the business right now are the Black Cab Sessions. This version of “Fangela” is just pure magic.
2. Bibio: “Top Soil”
Bibio has such a distinct sound, and this video matches his audio style with the perfect visual enhancements.
1. Thy Mighty Contract: “Conjugal Freelance”
I laugh my ass off every time I watch this. I absolutely love everything about this video and it was an easy choice for my best of the year.
- Posted by Davy Minor on December 6, 2009 at 5:10 pm
- 2 Comments