Thursday, December 31, 2009

10 things to look forward in 2010 and other bits

2009 was great and as we are about to enter 2010 there are a few things to look forward to. musically, of course. let's discuss.

SXSW 2010 - march 17 - 21

my first trip in 2009 was the best week of my life. hands down. hoping for a repeat or at least as close to one as i can get this march. there's still time to make plans for you to go.

THE NATIONAL - new album, date and name TBD
the album has some HUGE shoes to fill as a follow up to Boxer, that album is on handfuls of "albums of the decade" list, including mine.

FRIGHTENED RABBIT - new album, march 9, "winter of mixed drinks"
they already released the first single and i heard it live this summer, it's great. the album's going to be more of the same, which is piles of awesome. hopefully they'll get some more recognition this time in the states.

THE APPLESEED CAST - new tour playing old songs, february and march
local heroes (of mine) are getting ready to hit the road in february and will be playing in full TWO of my favorite albums of all time, "low level owl: volume 1 and 2." if this was ten years ago i'd hope that someone with power would be in the room at one of those gigs. these days people of power don't exist, so i'll just wish them a successful tour and hope they sell a ton of merch to pay the bills.

JONSI BIRGISSON (Sigur Ros frontman) - new album, march 23, "go"
my icelandic hero jonsi is putting out a solo album. not sure how "solo" it will be, but i'm positive it will be remarkable. i'll starting lighting candles in hope of a tour.

ALBUM LEAF - new album, february 2, "a chorus of storytellers"
i'm amazed that these guys aren't household names yet. and live, they put on a special show. maybe we'll get a tour too.

LILITH FAIR festival - summer 2010
obviously not an album, but a tour, but it should be great. kansas city isn't on their agenda yet, but the line will be well worth the drive.

JJ - new album, march 9, name TBD
this obscure band shall be obscure no more! properly signed to a label and currently lining up things for a new release. this album will be a sxsw darling and probably make it impossible for me to see them in austin a week after the album is cut.

JJ to tour with XX - spring 2010
hipsters get in line! should be a great time. the pairing only happens 7 times. not sure if i'll make it to a show, but the musical smugness in that room makes me happy.

WHITE STRIPES Documentary, march, "great white northern lights"
jack white was in one of my favorite movies in 2009, "it might get loud". perhaps in 2010 he'll pull a repeat with their tour documentary. they played tiny towns in crazy small corners of the world. the movie should be awesome.

other bits:
VAMPIRE WEEKEND - new album, january 12, "contra"
ARCADE FIRE - new album, may release, name unknown
THE COLBERT REPORT - more musical bookings
THE HOLD STEADY - hinted at new album in 2010, not much else known
CAT POWER - chan marshall drops some hints of a new album in late 2010
FLEET FOXES - heard in an interview, should have something out in fall 2010
BAND OF HORSES - new album, date TBD, "night rainbows"
PETER GABRIEL - new album, feb. 15, "scratch my back"
JOHN BUTLER TRIO - new album, date TBD, "april uprising"

Saturday, December 26, 2009

my top 30 favorite albums of the decade

in the previous decade i dabbled in music. this decade i lived in it. i suppose that's the difference between being a fan and an addict.

live music, studio albums, a music blog (RIP patchchord and now this thing), trekked all around this country, made lifelong music friends in kansas city and every where else, built up a ridiculous collection of music... so, i'm a little biased here, but i'll call it my favorite decade of music. i know those will argue that the beatles and the early rolling stones era were far superior but i'll stick with the first decade in the 2000s. i imagine myself and most of my music snob peers would have turned our noses to the music coming out of the radio back then and gone out in search of something else. the same way we do now.

putting this list together was a ridiculous process. you hide in a dark room holed up with your favorite album of the moment playing on your headphones and try and think back on TEN years. you check play counts on iTunes. you dig through stacks of cds. you flip through some vinyl. you think back to the albums that changed your life. that might sound silly, but if you're reading this blog, you probably "get it", i hope you do.

all these things in mind, i give to you my favorite 30 albums of the 2000s.

30 bachelor no.2 aimee mann 2000
29 one cello x 16: natoma zoe keating 2006
28 our endless numbered days iron and wine 2004
27 underneath the stars kate rusby 2004
26 wolfgang amadeus phoenix phoenix 2009
25 the sunset tree the mountain goats 2005
24 soviet kitsch regina spektor 2004
23 get behind me satan the white stripes 2005
22 silent alarm bloc party 2005
21 guero beck 2005
20 oh my god charlie darwin the low anthem 2009
19 hymns for the hopeless william elliot whitmore 2003
18 if you want blood mark kozelek 2001
17 the earth is not a cold dead place explosions in the sky 2003
16 give up the postal service 2002
15 the midnight organ fight frightened rabbit 2008
14 carnavas silversun pickups 2007
13 details frou frou 2002
12 kid a radiohead 2000
11 time without consequences alexi murdoch 2006
10 since i left you the avalanches 2001
i can remember where i was when i first heard this and the first person i called and dropped a "dude, you're not going to believe this album i just picked up" on.

9 i’m wide awake, it’s morning bright eyes 2005
from the lyrics, to the lo-fi production, to the guests, i think it's his opus.

8 young mountain this will destroy you 2006
the band name speaks volumes here, this will destroy you! it's not a title as much as it is a warning. brace yourself.

7 solace xavier rudd 2004
this album is responsible for airfare all around this country. xavier took folky, jam rock and incorporated the didgeridoo into it and gained masses of fans worldwide.

6 boys and girls in america the hold steady 2006
i was late to this party, and what a crazy, killer party it is. sex, drugs, rock and roll being preached at you from pastor finn.

5 the animal years josh ritter 2006
some of the finest songwriting i've ever heard is on this album. paste magazine agreed and named him one of the best, living songwriters.

4 low level owl, vol. 1 the appleseed cast 2001
this album pushed me towards a genre of music i never knew about. produced by ed rose, i have him and the cast to thank for turning me onto so many bands.

3 boxer the national 2007
i hate when people have a song as their cell ringtone, but my ringtone comes from this album. that's as big a compliment as i could ever give a band.

2 O damien rice 2003
this album came a long at a crazy time in my life and filled some holes. i've been fortunate to tell him that and thank him for that in person.

1 ( ) sigur rós 2002
not everybody gets it, but who wants to be everybody. grab your headphones, fire up the iPod and forget about the world. this album is so good, it hardly feels real.

Friday, December 18, 2009

my top 20 favorite shows of the year, kc and elsewhere

Some people go to Florida for vacation. Some people go to Chiefs games. Some people are in book clubs. Well, I hate Florida, the Chiefs are disastrous and I’m not much of a book reader, i like audio books. What I’m getting at is, while they are out doing those things, I’m at a show.

This year opened some new doors for me. I made my first trip to SXSW in Austin and will go every year going forward (several of my fave shows were in Austin). I also went to Pitchfork Music Fest in Chicago, yeah, but won’t be going back to that one. My out of town shows were only a fraction of the shows I took in.

Yeah, so lots of bands were seen, heard and felt. The year should end with a tally of about 275 bands seen, here’s a list of my favorite 20 favorite shows.

20. Lisa Hannigan 3-20 at B.D. Riley’s Austin, TX – SXSW Day Showcase
19. Katie Herzig 10-10 at Crosstown Station, KC
18. Glasvegas 3-19 at The Mohawk Austin, TX – SXSW Day Showcase
17. ACBs with Ces Cru 2-14 at The Record Bar, KC
16. An Horse 4-25 at The Record Bar, KC
15. Green Day 8-12 at Spring Center, KC
14. Flyleaf 8-9 at The Beaumont Club, KC
13. Over the Rhine 8-18 at Crosstown Station, KC
12. Swell Season 11-30 at The Uptown, KC
11. Brandi Carlile 9-14 at The Beaumont Club, KC

10. Passion Pit 9-1 at The Lied Center, Lawrence, KS

I know this band will never come back to KC after the stage incident, but I really dug their show on KU's campus. Seeing all the 18 year old freshmen discover their new found freedoms a few days before the semester began made the show even more memorable.

9. Bela Fleck’s Africa Project 4-2 at The Uptown, KC

I’ve been a fan of African music since I first heard Paul Simon’s “Graceland”. Bela is a huge fan and traveled around Africa building a band of merry musicians and brought them to America to play for us. Thanks for doing that Bela.

8. The Hold Steady 3-20 at The Mohawk Austin, TX – SXSW Showcase

If you haven’t seen The Hold Steady it’s like spending the night at a friend’s house in high school and waking up on Sunday morning and going to church, and realizing their church is nothing like the church you’ve grown numb too. Preacher Finn, preach on.

7. The Rural Alberta Adventure 3-19 at Central Presbyterian Church Austin, TX – SXSW Showcase

The coolest venue in the coolest town at the coolest fest, these 3 kids had no idea what was in store for them. If you pull the spot in front of Grizzly Bear you’ll get a full house. And if you’re a good band, particularly playing in a church as it was, these fans will go forth and spread thy word. Then you’ll get signed to Saddle Creek records.

6. This Will Destroy You 3-18 at SOHO Austin, TX – SXSW Showcase

To quote The Matrix, “I’ve never seen anyone move like that”, when I watch TWDY’s drummer I always remember that line. Wooden shards were flying above his head in this crowded, upstairs bar on Sixth Street. All music fans should see this band.

5. Manchester Orchestra 5-11 at The Record Bar, KC

This was a radio promo show and most of those are lame. Here’s a glaring exception. Andy Hull, MO’s frontman destroyed that room last night with his crazy range and with two full drum sets rattling the windows of the Record Bar for almost 2 hours.
Photo by Brittney Bush

4. Frightened Rabbit 7-19 at The Bottom Lounge, Chicago

In 3 years they’ll be at the Sprint Center (although I hope I’m wrong), so see them sooner than later. It’s a timid name for this Scottish indie rock outfit. Their lyrics will crush you. They’ll be back in the US this spring at SXSW and then a tour.

photo by Euan Anderson

3. Phoenix 6-24 at The Record Bar, KC

This was a Myspace (not-so) Secret Show. The line was the length of the shopping center at The Record Bar. It was about 92 that day and I waited 3 hours to get my bracelet to get in. It would have been worth a 10-hour wait.


My favorite moment of the year came in this Phoenix show. I got to see a band that I really like, in a bar that I love, in the smallest venue on their tour all less than 400 steps from my home. Really. The entire show had built up to this fever pitch that would explode during the song “1901.” Every refrain, as the crowd shouted back at the band, “Fallen, fallen, fallen”, well it was amazing. I know that sounds silly right now, but some of you get it and some of you were there. They stretched out the middle for a few extra chords as they teased us, anticipating the last verse of the song. Somewhere in that moment if felt like the roof was about to rip off the building. Everyone was hot, we’d been waiting all day/night and this was one of the songs the crowd came to see. The studio version of the song is awesome, but this live version was something else.

Photo by Todd Zimmer

2. The National 7-16 at First Ave Minneapolis, MN

I hadn’t been this excited to see a band for the 1st time in a long while and they didn’t disappoint. I can’t believe they’re not a household name yet. That night front man Matt Berninger took us all on a crazy trip with his deep baritone voice guiding us. Please come back to KC.

1. Leonard Cohen 11-9 at The Midland Theater, KC

After the first song ended I said to my buddy that “it’s so good it feels fake.” I had no idea how good this show would be. The dude’s 75 but as spry as any indie band kid skipping on and off stage. The production and musicianship on stage was remarkable and the crowd hung on every word. Thanks Mr. Cohen.

“Don’t know if we’ll pass this way again but it is our intention to give you everything we got tonight.” - Leonard Cohen

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

my top 20 favorite albums of 2009, it was a good time

Shoe gazer. Synthy-pop. Chamber-pop. Indie-electronic. Those aren’t sections of you’d find in a record store but those genres fill my iTunes catalog. As a true reflection of that, they fill my top everything this year, in this case my favorite albums.

I thought it was a great year for music. I think we’re still seeing a trend to the slow death of big label artists and more small and middle size acts standing up and getting some attention. Here’s to that continuing.

(in keeping with parlance of our times, I will attempt to summarize all of these albums in a Twitter friendly amount of characters, ‘cuz really how much time are you going to take to read this.)

20. The Rural Alberta Advantage - Hometowns
For fans of: Handsome Furs and Throw Me the Statue

Great, indie rock folk trio out of Alberta. They put out this album independently, people fell in love with them and then Saddle Creek signed them and re-issued it. The deserve it.

19. William Elliott Whitmore – Animals in the Dark
For fans of: Lucero and Tom Waits

Dirty, whiskey soaked, throaty, voice of the American Revolution and the steam engine, yeah I said it. Everyone should know him before he disappears back into his horse farm in Iowa.

18. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
For fans of: Old Crow Medicine Show and Josh Ritter

An update on Americana with a bit of hipster wit. Nothing’s wrong with that. It’s got an old-rugged quality to it, like an old beat up, well loved acoustic guitar.

17. Ben Nichols – The Last Pale Light in the West
For fans of: William Elliott Whitmore and Lucero

The voice of an angel; a hung-over, dragged through gravel, suckin’ on a Marlboro, traveled cross the desert in a Western movie and then ordered a whiskey at the bar angel.

16. Handsome Furs – Face Control
For fans of: Wolf Parade and The National

A great album to get lost in, with some pretty smart lyrics upfront and some synthy hooks to back everything up.

15. Glasvegas – Self Titled
For fans of: My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain

I listened to this album for 3 months, constantly. Thought they’d be the next big thing, can’t figure out why that didn’t happen, but I blame U2.

14. Steddy P – Style Like Mine
For fans of: Tupac and Mobb Deep

I listened to more hip hop this year than ever, this really stood out and he’s from KC. The production on this album is top notch and some topical lyrics make for an interesting ride.

13. Bell Orchestre – As Seen Through Windows
For fans of: Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Arcade Fire

America’s still learning how to listen to modern instrumental music and by modern I mean not Classical. If only they realized most of the lyrics they heard were crap you’d think they’d embrace it.

12. Bat For Lashes – Two Suns
For fans of: Neko Case and Imogen Heap

A voice that has me on my knees with a ring waiting in my hands. Smart lyrics, great beats and she even got some commercial appeal this year.

11. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Self Titled
For fans of: Camera Obscura and The Antlers

NYC kids filled with drama and so much shoegazing, it’s perfect. Every verse comes off like a profound moment in each of their young lives, particularly in “Stay Alive”, great track.

10. Polly Scattergood – Self Titled
For fans of: Regina Spektor and Tori Amos

There’s enough drama on here to keep an audience of Tori Amos fans on the edge of their seats and then send them streaming to the merch table. Dark hooks and passion soaked lyrics, hopefully she’ll find love in the US soon.

9. Metric – Fantasies
For fans of: Stars and Feist

A great name for an album from the stunning Emily Haines. She does it again, bouncing in and out of some swoopy beats and she’s finally getting some deserved commercial recognition. Nothing wrong with getting paid.

8. The XX – XX
For fans of: Phoenix and Grizzly Bear

Male and female vocals are traded back and forth over a very hipster-friendly vibe as these Brits take you on a foggy, rainy, grey-sky trek.

7. Jonsi & Alex – Riceboy Sleeps
For fans of: Sigur Ros and Amiina

Sigur Ros frontman, Jonsi along with his partner Alex and longtime SIgur Ros contributors Amiina team up to make one of the most hauntingly beautiful albums you’ll ever hear. The music sounds like your favorite painting.

6. An Horse – Rearrange Beds
For fans of: Rainer Maria and Frogpond (both RIP)

This one blindsided me. Saw them open for the Appleseed Cast and it was the perfect pairing. Two Aussie kids hiding behind a silly name making simple indie pop music with femal vocals up front.

5. Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything to Nothing
For fans of: Bright Eyes and Silversun Pickups

Most of these songs start in a veil and then unravel into this fist fight of double drum kits and Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde lyrics. Who uses two drum kits? No one, but maybe more will now. These guys deserve a big stage.

4. Passion Pit – Manners
For fans of: Battles and Avalanches

I know Kansas City hates this band, but this album surpasses the hype. You can’t be mad forever KC hipsters. One of the best start to finish albums of the year. I bet Aphex Twin even likes this album.

3. JJ – JJ N 2
For fans of: Fever Ray and Passion Pit

JJ is this year’s unicorn. They’re an obscure, by choice, group that every music freak wants to know more about, hear more from and see live. I listened to “From Africa to Malaga” at least 10 times in a row once.

2. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
For fans of: Mew and Daft Punk

This will be a “best of 2009” staple or darling. I could pour superlatives all over this thing. It’s all of my favorite things. Check out the track “1901” and tell me you don’t love it.

1. The Low Anthem – Oh My God Charlie Darwin
For fans of: The Avett Brothers and Bright Eyes

This album sounds like the ghosts in abandoned train yard or desolate railroad town got together to play their hearts out before going back into hiding. These three musicians gut their souls and it’s a beautiful thing.

michael byars and his weekly podcast - check out new tunes

my buddy and fellow music geek has a weekly music podcast. if you're up for some new tunes, check it out.

it's always a good listen and spans a good variety of musical genres.

click here to listen!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

the appleseed cast on tour

in late february one of my favorite bands of all time will set out on a national tour. the appleseed cast. yes, i know they tour all the time. but this time they will be playing in their ENTIRETY the albums Low Level Owl: Volumes 1 and 2. really. what's next another sigur ros tour, a new album from damien rice or maybe for the first time ever mark kozelek will come to kansas city. until those or other miraculous acts happen, mark your calendar to attend.

unfortunately, their kansas city date is the saturday of sxsw so it looks like i'm headed up to omaha.

the full list of tour dates can be found here.

dates in our region:
03-13 Denver, CO - Hi Dive
03-15 Omaha, NE - Waiting Room
03-16 Minneapolis, MN - Triple Rock
03-17 Dekalb, IL - House Cafe
03-18 Madison, WI - High Noon
03-19 Chicago, IL - Bottom Lounge
03-20 St. Louis, MO - Off Broadway
03-21 Kansas City, MO - Record Bar

check out these artists after the snow melts this spring

with snow on the ground last week, it's easy to already start looking forward to sunnier days. in addition to the sun, march and april bring with it some good shows to kansas city and lawrence. and as you are holed up this winter, you can study their catalog, and be their biggest fan in no time at all. except ani, her catalog of 20 albums or so might take you till next summer.

mark your calendar for these shows:
March 7 Black Joe Lewis at Bottleneck
March 27 Kevin Smith at The Midland
April 8 Delorean and Miike Snow at Record Bar
April 10 The Big Pink at Bottleneck
April 16 Ani DiFranco at Beaumont Club

Sunday, December 13, 2009

lilith fair according to me

sarah mclachlan is back at it this summer with her troop of lovely ladies. they don't have dates announced yet, but it looks like they're skipping kansas city. so, if i could, here's who i would pick to see at lilith fair in either chicago or minneapolis.

congrats to local band kids, vedera on making the list. it should do great things for their career!

Butterfly Boucher
Chantal Kreviazuk
Serena Ryder
Tara MacLean
The Weepies
Vita Chambers
Ximena Sarinana

Friday, December 11, 2009

my top 10 to check out so far at sxsw in march

sxsw announced 200 more bands yesterday. so far they've given us 400 names, so only about 800 more to go. of those first 400, here's who i am excited the most to see so far!

an horse (Brisbane QLD)
Frightened Rabbit (Selkirk UK-SCOTLAND)
The Low Anthem (Providence RI)
Anya Marina (Los Angeles CA)
Pomegranates (Cincinnati OH)
Sherlock's Daughter (Sydney NSW)
Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter (Seattle WA)
Those Darlins (Murfreesboro TN)
We Are Scientists (New York NY)
Ze! (Kuala Lumpur MALAYSIA)


Thursday, December 3, 2009

ground rules for favorite albums of the year list

before we get into my favorite albums of 2009, an explanation of a few things.

here's my ranking system.

apoligize to me = bad
metal b*tch = metal's bad
wtf = superbad
ok = good
wow = really good
wow2 = near awesome
wow3 = so close
holy sh*t = awesome

i've used the same ranking system since 2005 with the only change being the addition of "wow3" ranking this year. there were several albums so close to being awesome, it needed it's own category. this system is more descriptive than thumbs ups/downs and who wants to grade an album with numbers. i hate math. and so do you.

a look at the numbers, i plowed through 353 albums this year. the goal was 350 but i miscounted initially. aim high. i know that sounds like a lot, but if your hard drive is big enough and you spend as much time in your car as i do, it's not that hard.

i only throw this number out there as i'm skeptical of most "best of" lists i see. unless you own a club, are a dj or get paid to write about music, for the most part i don't believe you. sorry.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

music week(s) are coming soon.

it's that time of the year. when all music freaks act like they know what you should be listening too. or at least that's what they think.

well, this music freak is no different.

in the coming week(s) i will knock out these lists:
- my 20 favorite albums of 2009
- my 20 favorite live shows of 2009
- my 30 favorite tracks of 2009
and strike up a drum roll that probably won't live up to the hype,
- my 30 favorite albums of the DECADE, yes this decade is ending.

please notice the word FAVORITE appears 4 times there. it never says BEST or anything so profound. this is what i like, and if you are in search of new tunes, you may like it too.

i have no idea if this blog will outlive those 4 posts.

we'll see.