A comprehensive list? No. Extensive? Definitely not. But what does lie below is a diverse and unique selection of opinions. We prompted all our contributors (around 120 people) to submit a review of their favorite records of 2009. Seven actually followed through. For fuck’s sake, I didn’t even respond (LPs goes to Marked Men, 7”s Future Virgins). The end result might not be as broad as we would have liked, but it’s still pretty interesting to see what rocked people in 2009.
So thanks to seven people that submitted a review and thank you for reading them.
BRANDON TUSSEY: Outfitted for the Apocalypse: CD
Kentucky’s Connie Dungs were one of the very best pop punk bands of the 1990s. It was fascinating seeing them morph from fun, sophomoric comedy to dark, brooding complexity over the course of their six now-classic albums and multiple EPs. The front-man, Brandon Tussey, has a singularly bizarre nasal voice that definitively brings the snot into snotty. Forming from the ashes of the Connie Dungs was A Radio With Guts, an even darker band with songs focusing almost exclusively on themes of hopelessness, despair, and suicide. Beat Heart Sweet Stereo remains one of this millennium’s greatest albums to date, a mind-numbingly potent emo-pop record that manages to uplift despite its surface message of heartbreak. A Radio With Guts recorded a second full length that remains unreleased. Brandon Tussey, like the late Lance Hahn, is one of the most prolific punk songwriters, constantly churning out new material. Outfitted for the Apocalypse represents his first album without a backup band, with Tussey playing all of the instruments. The guitars are noisier than any on his prior releases, but it still has the signature late-Dungs/ARWG dark Tussey touch that his fans adore. The lyrics aren’t all doom and gloom, although there’s still a fair amount of musing on death and suicide. The songwriting is stellar throughout and the intentionally noisy mix gives the Jawbreaker-inspired pop a sense of unease and aggression. Tussey’s lovably odd voice shines through on each track, with tinges of chilling sweetness underneath the snot. Tussey outdoes himself with his most mature recording to date. “I Am a Sick Man” is my favorite track, with lyrics taken from two different translations of the opening sentences of Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground. There’s even a redo of the ARWG song “Spiders across the Stars,” featured here with a crazy, wonderfully chaotic remix that highlights the uniqueness of this album. Self-released with beautifully hand-done covers, Outfitted for the Apocalypse is far and away the standout release of the year. –Art Ettinger (Self-released, myspace.com/brandontusseymusic)
CHEAP GIRLS: Find Me a Drink Home: LP
I sit eating an ice cream sandwich in Brooklyn, New York. It’s the dead of winter and ten degrees outside. But it feels like the Summer of 2009 when I play Cheap Girls’ Find Me a Drink Home. It’s the kind of record you remember friends’ smiling faces and smells; like waking up on the floor somewhere new and confused but still feeling like you’re home. Personally, I haven’t known where home is for about two years. And still this record, “takes me away to that special place and if I stare to long, I’ll probably break down and cry.” Ian and Ben—who are brothers—and Adam have been playing music for years. You can tell in the record they really come together as a three piece. Like the Mercedes Benz symbol or a Neapolitan ice cream sandwich. It fits. They mesh. Tightly. Like O.J’s glove. Or perhaps more like Smoking Popes meets Lemonheads. The good albums, not the shit. It makes you feel like you’re a part of this record. In fact, when the song, “Stop Now” plays, right now—as I fucking write this to you, trying to explain—it’s echoing through my ears and sends me somewhere I can’t put nicely into words to rationalize what the fuck I’m talking about. But in a good way, not like you blacked out drunk and forgot, trying way too hard to explain quantum mechanics. Sitting still, stuck, lost in the lyrics. Perplexed by what Ian means by, “It looks good in print.” So you say it to friends, shitfaced at the bar. To the point where they leave you sitting alone. And in the forced seclusion, you find rest, dreaming you’re next to a beautiful woman… even though you’re awake, she’s gone, and the bartender is very upset. The lyrics are so distantly familiar like, “I’d choose a murder over heart attack.” Significant shit that only the truly fucked-up contemplate. The kind of shit we relate to. –Gabe Rock (Los Diaper)
DRIVIN N CRYIN: Great American Bubble Factory: CD
From seemingly out of nowhere appears the best record of 2009, and the best by this band in nearly twenty years. The key to Drivin N Cryin is the voice of Kevn Kinney, bandleader and songwriter. This unique vocal style is one part Tom Petty and one part Metal Mike Saunders of the Angry Samoans; a strange and wonderful combination. Kevn Kinney started out as a member of Milwaukee Killed by Death punk band, the Prosecutors, in the early ‘80s, playing shows with the Oil Tasters and others, releasing one 7” single. After moving to Atlanta, Georgia he played his first show with Die Kreuzen as his backup band and then founded Drivin N Cryin with other locals. Since then, there have been a slew of records—mostly acoustic/folk based—with the more rockin’ Fly Me Courageous bringing the band the most commercial success in the early ‘90s. Then, along comes this monster! The first song, “DetroitCity,” is a hard-rocking blast of motor city thunder, sounding very much like a Sonic’s Rendezvous Band outtake. The rest of the record fluctuates between hard-edged power pop and somber tales of the bleak economic landscape of the USA at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. All of this is split right in the middle of the record by a raging cover of “I Stand Tall” by the Dictators, championing everything that is great about America. “Lotsa pizza, ice cold Coke, Johnny Carson telling jokes, and lots and lots of American g-g-girls!” This great break in the action is perfectly sequenced and is an inspired choice. This amazing record, the first from Drivin N Cryin in twelve years, is more than a return to form, it is a masterpiece. –Mike Frame (Thirty Tigers)
LOVE SONGS: Another Guaranteed 40 Minute Music Set): LP
I somehow missed the fact that this was even coming out, and that pleasant surprise helped make it my last-minute favorite. It also helps that, ultimately, I mostly just like laughing at dumb jokes, and Love Songs are one of the best “funny” bands (by which I mean they are in fact legitimately funny, and not “oh, ‘funny’”). But, you also can’t forget that they also write legitimately great songs that are equal parts smart and stupid, as well as equal thirds Hickey, Weird Al, and flamboyant arena rock (speaking of, I haven’t done a direct comparison yet, but I feel like this one’s a bit more straight forward than their last, mariachi-inspired one). I’m hoping more people check this out, and that more bands start taking a hint and stop being so boring. –Joe Evans III (Little Deputy)
NAPALM DEATH: Time Waits for No Slave: CD
This is the record that should not be. Can you name any other band that is even decent, let alone absolutely face-ripping fantastic, after damn nearly thirty years of being a band? Can you name one that does it featuring no original members, with a sound that has progressed greatly from their “classic” albums? I can’t, other than Napalm Death. I mean, no original members? They should be opening for Grand Funk Railroad at the county fair, not killing my eardrums with a new record that’s heavier than Shane Embury. This is an absolute grind masterpiece, from the guys who wrote the book on how it’s done. I didn’t listen to anything more this year than I did this record, and I eagerly await the next one. Very highly recommended. –Ryan Horky (Century Media)
SHARK PANTS: Automatic Pinner: 7″
Previously only available on CD from Japan, this record finally got the vinyl treatment it deserved. These three kids from Arizona are not only the nicest people my wife and I have ever met, but they rock so hard on stage that you can’t tell if it’s the same kids! Their music melts your face as you’re bobbing your head up and down, and nothing gets lost from live awesomeness to recorded craziness. Pick it up before this disappears. Your turntable will thank you. Seriously. –Mr. Z (Dirt Cult)
SPITS, THE: The SpitsIV: School’s Out: LP
I’m thirty. I don’t rock as hard as I did ten years ago, or even five years ago. It’s been a long time since I puked in front of the cable guy, or blacked out and drew mean pictures of my upstairs neighbor on my coffee table. And that’s good, because that’s the type of behavior that makes for fun stories, but stops being cute after a certain age. And I’m past that age. So, it was a big deal last summer when my (even more elderly) girlfriend Sharon and I scraped up what money we had left after rent and went to see The Spits on a Sunday night. She had to work the next day! I’d been up since 6:15 AM! We’d only just started listening to this band! What were we, crazy? But I had a gut feeling that stuck with me even though the opening bands were awful.
Woven Bones were such primadonnas that I wanted to rescind the nice review I gave their 7” a few issues back. Sharon was shooting me, “What did you drag me out of the house for?” looks. I finished another pricy bar drink. My body was saying, “You worked an opening shift this morning then sat in a driveway drinking beer all afternoon. You’re tired!” Then The Spits set up their equipment, plus a giant papier mache skull with one blinking red eye and a smoke machine. They left the stage and let the smoke gather. I stood there giggling and nudging Sharon (“This is gonna rule!”). She smiled back. The Spits returned in druid robes and proceeded to lay waste to the stage. They played at least two-dozen songs in about forty-five minutes. I pounded my beer can on the little table nearby. My friends sung along. I got in the pit. The night was so awesome that I didn’t have a hangover the next day. Always trust your gut.
So, this band: The Spits are lead by two brothers from Michigan who claim to have started playing music while in juvie. They now live on the West coast. The music is punk so basic that it makes The Ramones sound like Tchaikovsky. It’s dark and garagey and catchy with chanted vocals and b-movie synths. It sounds like the first couple Ramones albums mixed with The Misfits’ “Static Age,” and a pinch of ol’ tightbutt Devo. This is their fourth album. It’s got fucked-up class pictures on the cover. Ten songs in less than sixteen minutes, so there’s no reason not to memorize the whole thing, plus you can play it through roughly three and six-sevenths times in an hour.
Why did The Spits beat out Reigning Sound for my favorite album of ’09, even though Love and Curses makes me want to move back to the South and drive around in my grandfather’s powder blue Cadillac with the curb feelers and a chain link through the hood so crackheads don’t steal the battery? Because I hadn’t heard The Spits before this past summer, and I love that thrill of discovery. Also, The Spits are a juggernaut live, while Greg Cartwright spends two hours tuning his guitar in between each two-minute song, killing his band’s live momentum.
I’ll leave you off with a couple fun facts:
– I changed the lyrics from “In a Van” to “In a Box,” and I sing it while my cat Carl sleeps in this shoebox that Sharon left in the living room.
– “EyesoreCity” gets in my head whenever I walk past Blood Alley in Uptown on my way to the train.
– Sometimes I jog to this record. Further proof that party jams make for good jock jams and that there are two sides to every story.
–CT Terry (Recess/Thriftstore)