- 1372 Overton Park, by Lucero—I got a chance to see Lucero in (I believe) 2008, and I remember being more impressed with opener Glossary (and getting to hang with the indomitable Micah and Shane, who both made the trip up to BG for the show). I did like Lucero enough to buy Rebels, Rogues, & Sworn Brothers, but when I listened to it, my impressions were that they had potential, but most of the album just seemed lazy in terms of playing and inconsistent in terms of writing.
I bought 1372 Overton Park after an online request for “new rock and roll.” Man, is this album miles above anything else from this band. Solid songwriting throughout, tight arrangements (winning the “best unexpected use of horns in rock and roll 2009” award), great playing throughout. Lyrically, this is a leap above most rock and roll out today. How can one not love “What Are You Willing To Lose?,” an ode to realizing that you might risk all without ever seeing the rewards due? “Would you keep on going if you couldn't make it through?” Indeed.
- baby darling doll face honey, by Band of Skulls—I picked this up as a “listening booth” find at Culture Clash records in Toledo. At first listen, Band of Skulls is definitely operating in the White Stripes vein, but with a little less Zeppelin in the mix. I think, however, that Band of Skulls might do it better...better lyrics, better vocal melodies, and generally smarter. Plus they have the coolest name ever.
- When The Stage Lights Go Dim, by Micah Schnabel—Two Cow Garage frontman steps out with a quieter sound. This could've easily been a sleeper pick, doing little else but to hold us over until 2010's TCG album. Instead, Micah's songwriting elevates this to simply being an awesome album. Micah brings more heart and soul, but more importantly, energy and insight. An acoustic album which definitely rocks.
- Them Crooked Vultures (s/t)—Okay, I admit that I only bought this because John Paul Jones (yes, the former Led Zeppelin bassist) is playing on it. Sue me. Solid rock and roll throughout, great hooks, awesome musicianship, with enough funk and hooks to make you want to move.
- Message to Garcia, by Visqueen—This album is not the deepest or most varied pick on my list. However, it might just be the most fun. Plus awesome vocals...if I knew someone who could sing like this, I'd do anything to become part of the band. “So Long” might be the best ballad in years.
- Murdering Oscar & Other Love Songs, by Patterson Hood—While I have been increasingly meh about the Drive-By Truckers' last few, Patterson's solo work continues to bring it. No one brings scathing lyrical insight nearly as well, and there are several songs (most notably the stunning “Skrewtopia”) which will make you quiet with awe.
- Wolves, by Roger Bryan and the Orphans—Bar rock done right...slightly sloppy, slightly messy, slightly over the top. But this is how rock and roll should be...walking the tightrope and coming dangerously close to crashing.
- Quest for Fire (s/t)—Will this one burn your face off? Well, it should. Quest for Fire is a full-out sonic assault that slams your face against the wall before simply crushing and burying you.
- Live at the Ohio Theater, by The Polka Floyd Show—Yeah, it's a live album. Yes, it's a Pink Floyd cover band. Yes, the songs are done in polka. Get over it. This band could easily slip into parody and get old really quickly. Instead, The Polka Floyd Show boast a level of commitment and musicianship (the guitar specifically will blister your face) that allow them to really get it right. After a few spins of this one, regular Pink Floyd seems dull and insignificant.
- A New Tide, by Gomez—Yes, it's mellow at times. But the songwriting is generally fun and doesn't go to the normal, expected places. There are enough toe-tapping moments to keep this one regularly going to my cd player.
Just missed the cut:
- American Central Dust, by Son Volt
- The All-Night Bedroom Revival (free download), by Joey Kneisser
- The Majestic Beast of the Flatlands, by Raise High the Roof Beam
If only I had more time/yes, I know I need to check out:
- Brendan Benson
- Vulture Whale
- Reigning Sound
Other 2009 releases:
- Backspacer, Pearl Jam—And I still can't hack Eddie Vedder's voice.
- 21st Century Breakdown, Green Day—An overly poppy letdown after the brilliant American Idiot.
- Porcupine, Tim Easton—He continues to show why his high point was The Truth About Us.
- Wilco (The Album), Wilco—This has a few great songs, but it has many more deathly dull songs.
- Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (s/t)—On first listen, this did nothing for me, which is strange considering how much I lived his debut. I'll have to go back to this
- The Mountain, Heartless Bastards—Sorry, I've been told I should like this, but it's a bit monotonous. A shame, really...they have such a great band name.
The best 2009 songs:
- “What Are You Willing To Lose?,” Lucero
- “Bull Black Nova,” Wilco
- “Screwtopia,” Patterson Hood
- “American Static,” Micah Schnabel
- “Dynamite,” Son Volt
Shows of the year:
- Two Cow Garage, Jackson MI
- Josh Ritter, The Agora Ballroom, Cleveland OH
- Micah Schnabel, Frankies, Toledo OH
Why 2010 will be a better music yea:
- rumored releases from Two Cow Garage, Grand Champeen, Glossary. RAWK!
Wanna hear more? For a limited time, download my 2009 sampler!