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Sweet Child '09

CityBeat music writers get all list-y on 2009's ass

By Staff · December 23rd, 2009 · Music

CityBeat’s music writing brigade found a lot to love about music in the last year of the ’00s (for those who claim the new decade doesn’t start until 2011 ... get over it, math nerds). From locals to underground sensations to mainstream oddities and commodities, 2009 was something to write home about.

We asked them to do just that, in the classic “Top 10” format, and they graciously obliged (expectedly, not always in the Top 10 format). Got beef? Hit the comments button at the bottom and put in your own 1 cent. (Yes, it was 2 cents last year, but, you know, the economy …)


A group of performers demanded the U.S. government release the names of all songs used to grease the interrogation wheels (aka torture) at the GW Bush Sleepaway Camp (aka the Gitmo prison in Cuba). Interrogators blasted all sorts of music in an effort to disorient prisoners and get them to tell implicating lies about their terrorist activities. A White House spokesman said music is no longer used as torture. Someone please tell that to the program directors at every Top 40 Pop radio station in the country.

Not the hippie musical (I’d prefer going to see a public execution than to sit through that), but the popularity of celebrity hair and the odd things done with it commercially in 2009. Lady Gaga included a locket from her wig(s?) with a “deluxe edition” CD release, people auctioned off (for huge bucks) locks purported to be from Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, and Jackson’s hair was also reportedly carbonized and used in the creation of a line of diamonds. Hot celebrity body part commodity of 2010 prediction: dried skin and scabs.

Our favorite Republican of 2009? Has to be Hi-Caliber, a construction-workerturned-rapper from New Jersey who was at CPAC 2009 spittin’ about our country’s socialist president and rhyming Nancy Pelosi with “phony baloney.” This came on the heels of MC Cold Steele (aka Michael Steele, chairman of the RNC) saying, “We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-suburban Hip Hop settings.” The GOP is dope, y’all! Or is that “dopes”?

Kanye West had a huge year in 2009. Oh yeah, and we think he put out some music, too. Kanye is well on his way to becoming the Hip Hop Courtney Love — drunkenly harassing teenage Pop stars at awards ceremonies is so Courtney circa 1995. Unlike Courtney, West at least has managed to stay musically relevant.

Hard to say which of these 2009 headlines was more painful: “Limp Bizkit to reunite for new album and world tour” or “(Joaquin) Phoenix says ‘no turning back’ on quitting acting.” Because we think Joaquin’s “Rap career” is a joke or the result of a lot of illicit drugs (either way — fun!), we’re going with the Limp Bizkit news, which probably excited tens of hundreds of fans worldwide. Biggest music news since Ugly Kid Joe got back together.

We’ve often wondered if it’s possible to get through the day without the Internet. Turns out, there’s a pretty big base of music fans that could never steal music because they don’t have Web access. A study by the Country Music Association found that 50 percent of all Country music fans probably don’t know a Twitter from a Google because they lack home Web access. In related news, noted illegaldownload-hater Lars Ulrich of Metallica announced that his band’s next release will be a duets album with Conway Twitty.

We love animals (delicious!), so sometimes we love PETA, but often their gimmicks go a little beyond ridiculous. Their 2009 attention-grabbing antics included a stunt involving British Synth Pop duo the Pet Shop Boys. Pet shops are evil to PETA (especially when it comes to dog food prices), so they reportedly approached the Pet Shop Boys and requested that they change their name to the Rescue Shelter Boys. The Boys politely declined, presumably because they’re not totally insane.

Snuggies, those ingenious blankets with armholes and sleeves (which we like to call “backwards bath robes”), became a national sensation in ’09. While Pop Rock heroes Weezer could have commissioned its own “Sweater (Song) Bedazzler” or maybe a “Weezer Emo ShamWow” (for fans to wipe away those “rivers” of adolescent tears), the group teamed with the Snuggie company to create the “Wuggie” (basically a Snuggie with a “W” on it) as a promo item for their latest album. Next big Pop star Snuggie? Amy Winehouse’s “Druggie,” a putrid yellow/green Snuggie with (and that’s not all!) chunks of vomit and drool down the front.

We never hope for the death of anyone (well, maybe that guy from the FreeCreditReport.com commercials), but if there is one Hip Hop feud we wouldn’t mind seeing end in at least tears, it’s the recent “beef” between rapper Jay-Z and Rush Limbaugh. Jay-Z ripped on Limbaugh, rapping “Tell Rush Limbaugh to get off my balls/It’s 2010 not 1864” on his song, “Off That.” Rush responded by saying, “Mr. Z, it is President Obama who wants to mandate circumcision. If we need to save our penises from anybody, it’s Obama.” Which was actually kinda funny.

Rolling Stone magazine is opening a restaurant chain. We were really happy with the Taylor Swift chicken finger platter, but Beyoncé’s potato skins was one of the best appetizers of all time!


The best possible title for an album is Greatest Hits. It means that you’ve had some.

Failing that, you have to get creative. That means resorting to irony, sarcasm, silliness, anger, political activism, poetry, puniness, literary references — anything — to stand out from the thousands of other albums being released in an era when album sales are plummeting.

Here, then, are my favorite album titles for 2009, compiled, with one exception, from the roughly 1,000 albums reviewed this year at blurt-online.com, where I’m a contributor. Have I heard them all? Heck, no! I’m not sure I’d want to hear some of these. But I do like reading their titles and trying to figure out who thought of them and why. Next year — best label names, starting with Asthmatic Kitty.

No Need to Light a Night Light on a Night Like Tonight: Snowglobe (Makeshift Music)

We Used to Think the Freeway Sounded Like a River: Richmond Fontaine (Arena Rock Records)

You Filled His Head With Fluffy Clouds and Jolly Ranchers, What Did You Think Was Going to Happen?: Fight Like Apes (Model Citizen Records, EP)

Awe Owe: Helado Negro (Asthmatic Kitty)

Goodbye Cruel World, Hello Crueler World: Spider Bags (Birdman)

When Sweet Sleep Returned: Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound (Tee Pee Records)

Thank You Very Quickly: Extra Golden (Thrill Jockey)

Vignetting the Compost: Bibio (Mush)

I Made You Up: Michael Miller (self-released)

Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian: Prefuse 73 (Warp Records)


You were proud to see an intellectually mature Jay-Z celebrate his 40th birthday and still rule the Rap game.

You actually enjoyed Rakim’s recently released solo album The Seventh Seal.

You keep repeating to your children/ nieces/nephews that this Autotune thing has been around since the days of Zapp, Kraftwerk and Soulsonic Force.

You still listen to Zapp, Kraftwerk and Soulsonic Force.

You have to ask, “Drake who?”

You were ashamed of how many Rap songs were included in the Boston Public Health Commission’s recently published list of 10 songs with “unhealthy relationship ingredients.”

You’re more excited about Sade’s forthcoming Soldier of Love than just about any new Rap releases in the foreseeable future.

You miss mix tapes. Not CDs, but actual tapes.

Years ago, you thought that B Rock and the Bizz’s “My Baby Daddy” was about as bad as it was going to get.

You heard the GS Boys’ song “The Stanky Leg” and discovered, sadly, that you were wrong.


My 10 favorite albums of 2009 (in alphabetical order), most of which could be swapped out for 10 more based on mood and day of the week.

The AntlersHospice
Hospice sounds like something that should be playing at the end of the world.

Or maybe the beginning. These Brooklyn boys are all about build and release, both sonically and emotionally. Contradictory descriptors often come to mind, often within the same song: beautiful and haunting, epic and intimate, anguished and cathartic. The headphone album of my year.

DOOM — Born Like This
If he was born like this, DOOM’s mother is to be commended not only for spawning and nurturing one of Hip Hop’s great madcap characters but also for surviving whatever alien invasion hit her town thirty-something years ago. Each spin reveals a previously undecipherable lyrical nugget like the one I just caught about “praying in a mini-mall hallway.” And while Born Like This isn’t his finest hour, mid-level DOOM is next-level gold in (yet another) down year for his genre of choice.

Fuck ButtonsTarot Sport
The fact that I mistakenly thought the second word in this British duo’s name was “Bottoms” for more than a year only adds to its mysterious allure (I still like my version better). More expansive if slightly less sinister than 2008’s Street Horrrsing, the curiously titled Tarot Sport will likely be the soundtrack to David Lynch’s next cinematic mind-fuck. I envision a scene in which the ingénue-in-peril snorts coke while swaying sexily to the noise in her damaged head.

Retro but far from derivative, Girls’ endearingly primitive, ‘60s Pop-infused debut — which was largely crafted by two dudes, one of whom says he grew up in a cult devoid of secular music — brings to mind that period in one’s life when anything seems possible (and overly dramatic). The long song that concludes side one — you know, the one entitled “Hellhole Ratrace,” the one in which the singer laments, “I don’t want to cry my whole life through/I wanna to do some laughing too” — gets me every time.

PhoenixWolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
I probably played this more than any other album of 2009, which means one of three things: 1) I’m a pussy, 2) the transition from “Lisztomania” to “1901” is as pleasurable as is legally allowable or 3) both. I’m thinking No. 2.

St. VincentActor
Singer/songwriter Annie Clark’s second album is rife with contradiction, grandiose arrangements and surreal flourishes. Check “Marrow,” which opens with the ethereal sound of Clark’s voice backed by what could pass for a Disney score before being kicked-started by a big beat, dissonant guitar tones and a clip-voiced chorus of “H-E-L-P/Help Me/Help Me.” It’s the aural equivalent of Snow White biting into the poison apple.

Sonic YouthThe Eternal
This is just the latest chapter in a three-decade existence that continues to surprise and enthrall. SY’s mood-altering guitar tangle and vague but evocative vocals/lyrics are still like nothing else on the planet. I’m now convinced, as the title suggests, that they will go on forever.

The local quartet’s most compelling and cohesive statement to date digs deep via Chuck Cleaver’s and Lisa Walker’s tension-riddled tales of relationships in various states of disrepair. Just as impressive has been the evolution of Wussy’s use of dynamics — the most important of which remains the unique dichotomy, both aesthetically and musically, of its lead couple.

The XXThe XX
I buy my music in stores, typically stores that specialize in music. Old-school vinyl is my format of choice. There’s something reassuring, ritualistic and almost mystical about freeing that beautiful platter, sounds miraculously spilling from speakers when a needle touches its surface. I need the tactile, interactive aspect of the experience. Why am I relaying this information in relation to The XX? Well, I was sent the digital MP3 copy of this album (it’s cheaper and easier for labels to e-mail promo copies to journalists) long before I could find it on vinyl. Yet only when I finally procured the physical version — with its sleek, conceptually compatible minimalism — did The XX’s intent, its mise en scene, become fully realized. Put more simply (and less pretentiously): I like the girl’s voice when paired with the spare, atmospheric music.

Yeah Yeah YeahsIt’s Blitz The YYYs’ seven-year evolution from skuzzy, Lower East Side art rockers to dancey, bicoastal purveyors of Pop has been as seamless as Karen O’s jump from Angus Andrew to Spike Jonze. By which I mean both turn of events seemed to have come about organically.


1. Top 10 Joe Jackson Sales Pitches During the New Jacksons Reality Show

2. Top 10 Lil Wayne Syrup Hallucinations

3. Top 10 Myspace Spamming Ads to Look Forward to In Your Inbox

4. Top 10 Major Label Money-Making Techniques

5. Top 10 Artists Destined to Be Better Than Michael Jackson

6. Top 10 Talented People On VH1 Reality Shows

7. Top 10 Uses of Sayings in a Literal-and-Not-Ironic-Meaning by Hipsters

8. Top 10 Reasons Dr. Dre Will Be Dropping Detox Any Minute Now … Yup, Any Minute

9. Top 10 Reasons Chris Brown Will Dominate The Charts In 2010

10. Top 10 Performances Lil Mama Will Walk Aimlessly On Stage To

*This has nothing to do with the list, but just let it be known 2010 brings us a new Outkast and a new Sade record. Case closed.


White Walls — A very noisy hardcore Punk with some former Order 66 members in it. The closest band I can think of to compare them to are hardcore punks Cult Ritual (one of the two loudest bands I’ve ever heard). Just thinking of them gives me a headache …

Paralyzer — Short bursts of fast, raging, heavy hardcore Punk from four straightedgers who’ve been in a million of some of the best local hardcore bands. Far and away my favorite straightedge band (yes, that includes Minor Threat), but not just because of their music. Unlike a lot of straightedgers here, they don’t put up a front or engage in the shady bullshit that has stained it.

Black Dove —Three-fourths of Paralyzer plus a shredder from the northern tundras of Columbus, Ohio (and a former member of The Awakening), this band makes some of the most intense, epic, burly and heavy metallic hardcore Punk you’ll ever hear. Not for cowards.

Beneath Oblivion — These guys have been playing their oppressively depressive brand of doomy, sludgey drone Metal since 2004. They make a strong case for being the biggest good timesparty band in the city … provided there’s a garbage bag full of anti-depressants available to the crowd.

Sabre — These sludgy hardcore punks are my new favorite local band. With riffs strong enough to make your head fall off, your chiropractor will be asking you what you’ve been doing to your neck lately. I know mine won’t be too thrilled with me next time I go in.

Fucked for Life — With more veterans (well, of the punk variety) in it than a VFW hall, this band plays crusty, stop-on-a-dime, fast-as-hell thrashing Hardcore. Easily one of the Top 5 bands in this city right now. And unlike a lot of the local crust Punk scene, they’re not false as fuck.

Fake Hands — One of the only local indie rock bands that have genuinely impressed me, and that’s saying a lot, considering I feel the genre died in 2003. Imagine a cross between American Football and Explosions in the Sky that isn’t afraid to rock. I lose myself in them at times.

Wise Blood — Definitely the best Indie Rock band in this city, they blend influences from Nick Cave to Why? to Xiu Xiu. Honestly, though, part of my attraction to them is that they don’t fall into the pathetic circle jerk of mind-numbing, sickening mediocrity that most locals playing the Northside Tavern/Comet/Southgate House loop do, something everyone complains about, but no one has the balls to say anything about.

Wasteland Jazz Unit —Distorted clarinet and sax create this Free Jazz freakery, which has been called “the second coming of Borbetomagus.” If that means anything to you, then you either listen to them already or should get your ass down to the Art Damage Lodge as soon as possible. Just remember, much like freedom, Free Jazz isn’t free.

Hellnation — Legendary for their album Fucked Up Mess, they’re arguably the best (and fastest) band of their genre in the country. They have probably never played a set longer than 20 minutes, but it always feels longer, and I mean that in the best way possible. If you call yourself a punk and haven’t heard them yet, shave off your mohawk and apply for a 9-to-5 at Procter & Gamble.

Brody’s Militia — Two members of Hellnation are in this band. They’re gonna hate me saying this, but I absolutely love their first 7-inch. They went through a period of sounding a lot like ANTiSEEN (by no means a bad thing), but pulled away from that and came into their own sound. They’ve put out a slew of 7-inch releases since their full length, The Appalachian 12-Gauge Massacre, and all of them are worth getting. And I’d like to close this out by thanking Doug Long (also of Hellnation) and ex-bassist Henry Bruening (now in Fucked for Life) for encouraging me not to give a shit what other people think of me.


10.) During the middle of their interview, the band Sohio was trying to decide on a title for its new 2009 album. I suggested that they put a huge blowup picture of my face on the cover and call it Christine. I don’t know why they were laughing. Hmm.

9.) July for Kings interview. We were supposed to meet at Baba Budan’s, but it was closed. When Brian Ives, the bassist, showed up, I was sitting on my butt in the street like a panhandler, saying, “Hey, what’s up.” Classy. I totally should’ve asked him for spare change. Then, when I was recording John McGuire, the guitarist, I wasn’t sure if we deleted what he said, because really I had no idea how the recorder worked. What they didn’t know was this: I only use it for show. I remember everything. Yes, be creeped out.

8. Vaughn and Co. interview. We met at a Starbucks and I said to singer Ronnie Vaughn, “Do you want to get a drink?” He was like, “Yeah, let’s go!” I meant, did he want a coffee. Then I asked them all to add me on Facebook, but not to worry when I deleted them later, because I was just saving space. I was joking, but I think some thought I was serious.

7.) I was so tired and crabby and dull when I interviewed entheos, and I was acting awake and nice because I love them to death, but I’d been up the whole night before. Not only did I act like a flat fish and drill them with questions, I then asked if they’d do a benefit show for me. And they actually did it.

6.) Krononauts. The entire interview should have been awkward, since they are convincingly experienced time travelers. Weirdly, I fit right in and I asked if I could join the band. In the future.

5.) The Atriums. We were supposed to meet at Sitwell’s, but it was too loud and they were too tall for Sitwell’s, so we went to their practice space, where the ceiling was lower, the room was smaller and it was much louder.

4.) I spied Billy Alletzhauser of The Hiders and The Sweep riding shotgun in a car down Ludlow. It was brief, but I waved excitedly. Last year, I saw him at Yagoot and didn’t say hello, because I don’t like Yagoot, and I had no idea what to say, so I ducked. I was proud of myself for the progress.

3.) I saw Jason Ludwig of noctaluca play acoustic in Kentucky one night. He said, “Hi, Christine.” Now I feel bad for writing last year that he met me a gazillion times and never knew my name. Again, progress. Next year, I will quiz him on my social security number.

2.) Nick Mitchell of Chick Pimp Coke Dealer at a Bar. I made fun of him for always calling me “Christina.” Now, every time he sees me, he exclaims, “Christine!” with emphasis, so that I will know that he cares and feels really superguilty. It’s OK, man, it’s OK. I still like you a lot. Call me Sarah if you want. The Scion guy at Midpoint did.

1.) I ran into singer/songwriter Matt Shelton at the laundromat. I loved talking with him about MegaBus and other oddities, like his art and music, but in the back of my mind, I was worried. I wondered if he would still be there when I was folding my underwear and I thought about how I might fold it real fast so that he wouldn’t see it. Just a blur of hands and folding. A tornado of clothes. Me, the clothesfolding octopus.

(Bonus. After the Midpoint Music Festival, when I had picked Yusef Quotah of You, You’re Awesome as my “Person I randomly ran into all three nights,” I think Yusef thought I was stalking him. So I sent him an e-mail to clarify. It said a few nice words, including, “I know where you live, Legohead.”)


Ho ho motherocking ho. Somebody must have asked Santa Claus for a great year of music last Christmas, because 2009 was all that and a little something extra down in the toe of 20the stocking. Fantastic bands, amazing albums, incredible events. What more could you ask for in a calendar?

Best Bands of 2009: Why pick? All of them. Local, regional, national, global — if you’re in a band and worked hard to make something happen in 2009, give yourself a hand. You’re doing the Lord’s musical work out there. Who am I to say who’s best? Every band is the best to somebody. As it says in the Big Book of Rock, “Blessed are the musicmakers, for they shall set asses loose from their moorings.” I might be paraphrasing.

Best Albums of 2009: Equally hard to pin down, but this time I’ll give it a swing. Lyle Lovett’s Natural Forces, Joe Henry’s Blood From Stars, Tommy Keene’s In the Late Bright, Grant-Lee Phillips’ Little Moon, Electric Six’s Kill, Rosanne Cash’s The List, Ian Hunter’s Man Overboard, K’Naan’s Troubadour, Will Hoge’s The Wreckage, Patton Oswalt’s My Weakness Is Strong, Drivin’ & Cryin’s Whatever Happened to the Great American Bubble Factory?, Ike Reilly’s Hard Luck Stories, Mission of Burma’s The Sound the Speed the Light and, perhaps my favorite album of the year, the Avett Brothers’ I and Love and You. That and about 300 others. God, I love music.

The Best Events of 2009: Well, one word springs immediately to mind, and that’s MidPoint. Self-serving to mention it? Not at all — props where they’re due. This year brought a record number of bands to MidPoint (after a record number of submissions), every show was well attended (a good many at or near capacity) and the rain did little to dampen either the numbers or the enthusiasm of the crowds. Highlights? Almost too many to count, but Heartless Bastards’ tent-bursting set surely placed at the top of a very long list, followed in rapid succession by all the (un)usual suspects — Wussy, The Seedy Seeds, Chick Pimp, Coke Dealer at a Bar, The Pinstripes, Sparrow Bellows, The Sundresses, The Fairmount Girls, Messerly (with no Ewing), The Minor Leagues and so many others. There was also a whole lot of crazy badassness from cool out-of-towners like Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles, Aficionado, Extra Golden, Ketch Harbour Wolves, Early Day Miners and many more. I can barely wait until next year. The attention paid to Cincinnati because of MidPoint will only draw bigger and better bands into the city the rest of the year. Pretenders, John Hiatt & Lyle Lovett, Glenn Tilbrook, Meat Puppets, Ed Hamell, Silversun Pickups and Tara Jane O’Neil were just a few of the brilliant names that graced local marquees in 2009.

Best Radio Station in 2009: Class X Radio, baybay. Deep-cut Classic Rock with specialty shows on the Blues, Metal, Prog, local music and so much more. It’s on the dial at 88.9 FM in Cincinnati, 107.9 FM in Independence, Ky. or 97.7 FM in Walton, Ky., but the best way is to point your browser at www.classxradio.com and prepare to be amazed.


With the Internet’s unruly ability to bury me in music choices, keeping up on fresh releases feels almost impossible. While I did my best to skim through 2009’s most-discussed material, I neglected stuff that still has me intrigued. In alphabetical order, here’s what I vow to catch up with come the new decade.

1372 Overton Park by Lucero
My beloved Southern/Punk Rock drifters record a track called “The Devil and Maggie Chascarillo” in tribute to the remarkable indie comic Love and Rockets — and I miss it? How?

Daisy by Brand New
Long after Emo loses its luster as the buzzword to hate, Brand New architect Jesse Lacey will remain the niche’s preeminent poet, begrudgingly or otherwise. After he masterminded the hot-blooded torrent of 2006’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, my anticipation for Daisy is intense.

Exploding Head by A Place to Bury Strangers
Cracked-up, earthshaking Noise/Shoegaze by a group with a supremely killer moniker? Sign me up.

Fever Ray by Fever Ray
Fever Ray is a woman’s solo project apparently adored by the Indie elite. That’s the extent of my knowledge about that subject but, hey, enough hype means that I should give it a shot.

It’s Blitz! by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Aside from a few cursory plays of “Zero,” I barely investigated this. This is especially puzzling because 2003’s Fever to Tell is still a big favorite. Fingers crossed that something on Blitz! will be half as mesmerizing as “Maps.”

“Life Moves” by RVIVR
Before being cover subjects for Punk periodical Razorcake, I had heard of this band maybe once before. With ex-members of Latterman in the ranks, this is probably Pop Punk that’s gung-ho about community and earnestness. I like their vowel-free name enough to give this 7-inch (the only non-album here) a go.

Now We Can See by The Thermals
Before abandoning my Last.fm account in January, I tallied up 58 listens of “A Pillar of Salt” from 2006’s The Body, the Blood, the Machine. I haven’t checked in with this spunky Portland Indie Rock gang in a while, so let’s hope they’re still entertaining.

Summer Fences by Castevet
I frequent a message board where folks champion this band. Halfway through the year, I felt pretty cool when I thought I pitched their name (without having listened to them, no less) to an editor for a feature story. Turns out the show featured the band “Castanets.” Pretty stupid. The replacement ended up fantastic but I have yet to listen to my original subject.

They Came From the Shadows by Teenage Bottlerocket
In 2005, Total produced Pop Punk that kicked ridiculous quantities of ass while retaining a tongue-in-cheek sensibility. In 2008, Warning Device proved to be juvenile (in a bad way). For their Fat Wreck Chords debut, they ideally returned to the former. We’ll see…

Under and Under by Blank Dogs
What a great premise: Blank Dogs (aka Mike Sniper) plays lo-fi crud and issues press photos where his face is covered with gauze and cloth. Sure, you can plainly see his mug if you go to his concerts, but Garage has always needed a part-time Invisible Man.



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