Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Obligatory "Best Of" Posting

These are my favorite albums of 2009. The ones that were on repeat nonstop for sometime throughout the year, the ones I came back to when I wanted to be in a good mood or sing along. I started this list in January in a simple Google Doc where I noted when I could tell an album was beginning to pull on me in some way or another. Is it like I couldn’t remember later which ones supposedly stood out to me throughout the year? Frankly, yes. It’s like when someone comes up and asks you what’s good that’s new, or what they should be listening to right now, or what’s my favorite album right now… my mind goes completely blank.

This sort of list requires some thought, and this list is important enough to me that I didn’t want to accidentally leave out a single one (you know how when you’re packing for a trip and you get there and you realize you left out something really important like your underwear…), hence the Google Doc. I almost didn’t even do a year end list, though. When all the magazine, blog, radio best of lists started coming out, I get tired of reading slightly different versions basically the same lists, but it’s nice to reference back to the year as a whole, and be able to start anew in 2010.

So here it is… and when any of you ask me what my favorite albums/songs of ’09 were (or any of the above questions) I’m going to tell you to read my blog.

I decided to just list them here, in no particular order, without descriptions or reasoning of why I loved them so much—I’m fairly sure I did a pretty good job gushing about each one at some point on my blog in the past year, so if you need backup, click on through to the other side.

Andrew Bird - Noble Beast

Neko Case - Middle Cyclone

Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Bad Veins - Bad Veins

The Flaming Lips - Embryonic

Amazing Baby - Rewild

Peter Bjorn & John - Living Thing

Metric - Fantasies

White Rabbits - It's Frightening

Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures

*PS* I'm thinking of putting up a Favorite Songs of '09 list as well (since I just realized I started a best songs Google Doc, too, and there were some good ones!).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A little follow up/background on the previous Flaming Lips post...

When Tankboy and I started dating, I had been to his house a few times and wondered where all his music was. Sure, there was a pile of CD's on the end table, but that's nothing for someone who has supposedly been writing about music for 15+ years.

Then one day he opened the door to the "extra room" that I didnt realize was there. The room was FILLED with boxes, and stuff, and the walls were lined with CD racks. "THAT'S where everything is!" I exclaimed. When I moved in, I felt like I moved into my very own record store, that only carries stuff I love!

Around the same time I had gotten really into The Flaming Lips after hearing a couple of new tracks from their then upcoming Embryonic album. So, Tankboy started schooling me on the "early stuff" that he said had more of the weird--before the balloons and confetti and radio-friendly feel-good melodies.

Luckily, the F's were right by the door of the extra room, easily accessible. So I snagged what I could, loaded up my iPod, and spent a lot of time with their catalog (including the later prettier Yoshimi and At War With The Mystics). And I loved it all.

The Flaming Lips Cover Pink Floyd, Are Awesome

So, The Flaming Lips are covering Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon for a NYE concert in Oklahoma City.

And then they go and release the entire cover album yesterday on iTunes. Tankboy (read his review here) played it for me yesterday, and while I am not intimately familiar with the original DSOTM (obviously I know most of the popular songs, and recognize some of it from my Dad playing it in the house when I was growing up), I still totally dig it. I love the weird (something I think I can thank/attribute to my year exposed to free jazz), which is why I also loooved the freakout that is their latest album Embryonic (which I recently realized I never reviewed or really talked about on this blog--maybe because I thought I couldn't do it justice...or I'm intimidated because I'm not as versed in Lips history as much as Tankboy, so I'll just direct you to his review here.)

I realize I refer you to Tankboy a lot in this post, but I think he puts into words perfectly everything I would want to say, but even better and with better authority. So go, go read, and go listen. Links are below.

The Flaming Lips - The Dark Side of the Moon

The Flaming Lips - Embryonic

(*Also, I think I am about to enter a Pink Floyd phase, with homework guided by our former neighbor. Thanks Eric!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Cold Winter Night, A Special Concert

Warning: this is long. But it's my blog and I can do whatever I want, and I wanted to write something more to remember the show rather than "review" it. So there.

My modest iPhone pictures from last night's concert.

Tankboy took me to see Andrew Bird play a special concert last night (an extension of my birthday celebration :)) at Fourth Presbyterian Church (which coincidentally is right across the street from my office and I had never been inside). It was the second of four Gezelligheid concerts--a dutch word loosely translating to “cozy” (ironic since that is the largest venue my boyfriend has seen him in… yes, we are incredibly lucky…).

The show was absolutely beautiful (I will have a hard time using any other word from here on out) musically and visually, the setting and lighting really added another dimension to the performance. Sometimes the entire height of the altar was lit up with color, and others the back was completely dark, essentially disappearing, leaving Bird on a modest looking stage at front. There was no PA, only the 4 huge horn speakers that Bird is known for having on stage, letting the accoustics of the church do the rest. Bird himself was dressed to the nines, wearing a suit for the occasion, and he was seated for the performance--which he pointed out he normally doesnt do (he injured his right heel backing into some equipment at last show in Minneapolis), but it actually added another bit of intimacy to the show. (He also donned a long past 5 o'clock shadow, which along with his wiry frame unfortunately made him look like a little elderly or homeless man when he limped across the stage--eek!)

Watching Andrew Bird play is so entrancing. He is like a scientist of music, mixing a little of this here a little of that there, building orchestras of sound and melodies; you can just picture him alone in the western Illinois barn playing with melodies and instruments and looping all alone in a desolate place for no one to hear but himself. Must be beautiful solace.

This was not a typical concert where an artist would play songs from their new album, or even the most popular songs from their catalog. This was an intimate performance featuring new melodies and the birth of old songs. I only knew about ten percent of the music he played, but it was enthralling to watch/hear development of melodies. I think I may have even liked it better when I didn’t know the songs or the melodies… It's like the first time you see a movie, the first viewing is sometimes better than all subsequent ones.

"Scythian Empires" and "Natural Disaster" were the only two songs that I remember actually knowing before the show. There was a new song near the beginning I enjoyed, which he said had words, but that he wasn't ready to share them with us quite yet. It is so interesting to hear him play a beautiful melody that he says popped up just within the past month--to hear it so seemingly perfect and practiced.

It's also interesting to hear the stories behind the writing of songs, the development and where they began, like another new song, "Lusitania," which was actually an old lyric that started out in "Natural Disaster," but wasn't used. After more research on sunken Naval ships, “I’m the one who sank the Lusitania” became it's own song. He referred to the demise of a romantic relationship when he talked about the meaning, which is the first time I remember ever hearing him refer to personal relationships like that.

Another intesting story came from the "Capital I" song from Sesame Street (“We all live in a capital I…") developed into the song Imitosis after lawyers from the children's program said he couldnt use the lyrics. Bird played the first verse from the alphabet song, then added that he bet that if Jim Henson were still around he would have let him use it. Another bit of fun came in when Before "Scythian Empires" he asked the crowd to provide the percussion by clapping along during the chorus, but then said that if someone said clap along during a song he'd be like "I'm not your monkey." (Really it's his delivery that made it so hilarious).

[Here I will mention one more song that I enjoyed, it had menacing swells and contained lyric “he is a diamond maker.” This guy seems to think it's called "You Woke Me Up." He also has a setlist from one of the Minnesota Gezelligheid concerts which was similar to ours last night.]

The setting of the show, being in a church (a rare concert for us with no booze) felt seasonally appropriate. There were distinct moments when I felt completely relaxed, despite sitting in church pews, suddenly aware of how tense my muscles were in the cold winter air. We even stopped for hot chocolate afterwards. The temperatures outside were bitterly cold though, we ran from building to building even though we were covered from head to toe--any bit of skin that was exposed was bit with pain from the freezing air.

I could tell that Tankboy was upset that my elation from the concert did not carry through our commute home and seeing him sad made me sad! - Damn you Chicago Winter!! (*shakes fist*) - I decided to write for a bit when we got home and I started to feel a little better (I've been feeling more inspired to write the week or so, just need to find make the time and a place in the new house that I like).

So thank you Tankboy, thank you for taking me to the concert (I know that you wouldn't have gone, but you knew that I would love it). It was a nice break in the hubub and chaos and cold of the holiday season to sit in a beautiful scene and watch and listen to beautifully crafted music. I think that sometimes it's just that set-up that makes us appreciate moments like these even more.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Tonight is the big night! The Flaming Lips, Phoenix and Pete Yorn at the Allstate Arena! Birthday week continues!

Tip: Also, we figured out how to get there from the city via public transit so we don't have to drive (and rent a car, and park, and pay for parking, and not drink, etc.). PACE has an event bus set up from the Rosemont Blue Line stop. It runs for one hour before the start of the event and after the event.

PACE Route 221 Allstate Arena Express Schedule

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

NKOTB wants to wish you a Merry Funky Christmas

My friend Sam posted this video on her website. It brought back some good... well, it brought back some memories.

Wow. This is so bad, and I mean bad in the bad way, not the way people say it now when they really mean something is so good that for some reason it needs to be reversed. Why did we like them?! Why is Jordan not wearing a shirt? Joey doesnt even look to be of legal age. OH! Btw he is coming to Lincoln Hall next month, getcher tickets now!

Look out for a special surprise around 3:22.

Hey, remember when Arsenio Hall had a tv show?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What do you want for your birthday? A month full of your favorite concerts? Done.

Here we are... December. While it marks the beginning of a cold, snowy winter (which I hate), it's also turning out to be a month full of concerts from some of my favorite bands, which is perfect because it's also the month of my birthday! Happy birthday to me!

It all started with the announcement of the Flaming Lips/Phoenix/Pete Yorn show at Allstate on the 11th; you'd be hard pressed to find a more Mich-perfect bill.

Then, Andrew Bird announced that he would be playing a bunch of "Gezelligheid" (that means "cozy," i.e. small) concerts at Fourth Presbyterian Church. I didn't go for any of those tickets bc I would have felt greedy after getting to see him at The Hideout last year, the Black Cat DC show AND Schubas, but a special someone nabbed a couple guest list spots for us :)

And then last week, there was this curious announcement of Metric playing, of all places, Cubby Bear. They were just here in June, playing a sold out Metro, and did I mention Cubby Bear is a sports bar across from Wrigley Field??? But, the myth has been verified by Tankboy--apparently the show is a part of Q101 partnership with the bar called "Q-Up" and it's serving as the station's official after-party for their "Twisted" holiday concert. Whatever, I get to see Metric at a bar.

Lets see, what else... Tonight we start the month with one of my favorites of '09, Winter Gloves (luckly) returning to Chicago after playing to a nearly empty room in May. And on top of it all, local friends Hey Champ and Tom Schraeder are playing this month too. (I keep telling Tankboy that the only way this month could get any better is if Spoon announced a last minute Chicago show).

So here's to December. It's going to be busy between concerts, holiday parties and unpacking a new home, but hey, I can breathe in January.