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It’s the End of the Year as We Know It

December 22nd, 2009

2009, Bitches!
As 2009 comes to a close, The House List’s writers and photographers (and editor) take a look back at the year that was. Check back tomorrow for our year-end photo gallery.

My Top Five 7″ Tour Singles

I’ve always loved that for the price of a drink, bands sometimes go the extra distance for their tour and press 7″ vinyl that you really can’t get anywhere else but at the merch table.

1. Times New Viking/Axemen, Tour Single
I love Times New Viking’s no-fi melodic messiness, and they save the great experimental stuff for their B-sides. I got this at their Mercury Lounge show. That it was a split with New Zealand legends the Axemen was even better. Only later did I find out each band covered the other’s songs and they hand-colored every copy! It’s that combination of paying homage to this influential band and introducing people through their reinterpretations that makes this an easy No. 1.

2. Jeff Novak, “Home Sweet Home” Single
I recognized Stephen Braren of Cheap Time behind the table after the Jay Reatard show at Music Hall of Williamsburg, and I got Jeff Novak’s long sold-out single from Reatard’s Shattered Records. I actually ended up contacting Novak after this and talked with him for my own blog.

3. Black Dice, “Chocolate Cherry” Tour Single
Black Dice have just a handful of singles from quite a few years ago, so when I saw them at The Bowery Ballroom, I was just looking out of habit. But this unlabeled single ended up being from Catsup Plate, which put out the insane Animal Collective LP box set this year. Both unreleased tracks were a departure—almost funk and with recognizable vocal samples! Truly weird.

4. Make a Mess Records, “Brilliant Colors” Single
I went to see Nodzzz and Wavves at the Underground Lounge on the Upper West Side. I managed to talk to Eric Butterworth from Nodzzz, who had just pressed a single on his label, Make a Mess Records. This ended up being one of my favorites of the year. Simple, stripped-down female-fronted No Wave punk pop.

5. The Balkans, C++ Tour Single
I caught the Balkans at a new space in Brooklyn called Little Field. Woody Shortridge had pressed a single-sided 7″ at home, and I had to see it for myself. He pours them in his apartment and you get a really crazy-looking handmade single with the lowest of low-fi sound. And it helps that the track is great too. —Jason Dean, writer

My Top Five Bowery Presents Shows

1. Jimmy Eat World (playing Clarity in full), Terminal 5, February 23
2. Thursday (playing Full Collapse in full), The Bowery Ballroom, October 25
3. Fake Problems, Mercury Lounge, July 1
4. the Gaslight Anthem, Terminal 5, October 15
5. Head Automatica, Music Hall of Williamsburg, January 8 —Kirsten Housel, writer

My Top Five Favorite Shows

1. Justice, Webster Hall, October 29
There is a clear divide between Justice’s show and every other concert I saw this year. I was immediately overcome by the energy of the crowd. Scantily clad women grinded with masked men, and sweat poured from all in attendance. The French DJ duo seamlessly navigated through their own songs as well as classics like War’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends.” I eagerly await a concert with the force and spirit that Justice created.

2. All Tomorrow’s Parties, Kutsher’s in Monticello, N.Y., September 11-13
The Flaming Lips performed brilliantly and selected an impressive list of artists: Sufjan Stevens, Caribou, Marshall Allen, of the Sun Ra Arkestra, and Deerhunter (their last show before declaring an indefinite hiatus). Artists mingled with fans in a sleepy relic of the Borscht Belt.

3. Warp20, Terminal 5, September 4
The 20th anniversary celebration for Warp Records was as unique as it was spectacular. As the only North American Warp20 event, it featured the U.S. debut of Pivot, Battles’ first North American date in 2009, Flying Lotus and Battles. And I even got to meet David Byrne.

4. Siren Music Festival, Coney Island, July 18
Just a couple of days into living in New York City, I learned about this festival. During the dog days of summer, Coney Island hosts a free music festival full of established artists and exciting new acts under the shadow of the Cyclone. Built to Spill headlined. I had never seen or heard them before that, but I have been hooked ever since.

5. Animal Collective, Prospect Park Bandshell, August 15
It is fitting that the first show I reviewed for The House List was Animal Collective. Though I may have been relatively late to the party, I am consistently blown away by their ability to channel noises and samples into catchy and beautiful songs. They have established themselves through their live shows, and this late-summer concert was Animal Collective at their finest. —Jared Levy, writer

My Top Five “Whoa! Glad I Got Here Early!” Opening-Band Surprises

1. Janelle Monáe (opening for Of Montreal), Music Hall of Williamsburg, April 15
2. Yacouba Sissoko (opening for the Bad Plus), The Bowery Ballroom, February 17
3. Brazos (opening for White Denim, Music Hall of Williamsburg), November 12
4. Hymns (opening for Jason Lytle), The Bowery Ballroom, July 11
5. Vandaveer (opening for These United States), Union Hall, August 28 —A. Stein, writer

My Top Five Favorite Bands I Saw for the First Time This Year

1. Deer Tick I’m not ashamed to admit that I love this band to the legal limit of the New York state marriage laws. Their songs are raw and real and come alive onstage. (Note: Dear Tick loves the sauce, so you might be better off checking them out earlier in the night.)

2. Dawes Young bands’ live stuff too often sounds exactly like their recorded versions, but not with Dawes. Although they only have one disc, they seem like they’ve been around for years. Just try to get their soaring anthem “When My Time Comes” out of your head after seeing them.

3. Alberta Cross The first band I intended to review for The House List was a dud, but the opener, Alberta Cross, blew me away. Their sound comes from the ’70s (think Neil Young and Crazy Horse) but they come off as totally and completely of the moment.

4. Portugal. The Man Their sounda mix of soul, blues, folk and prog rock, plus a healthy dose of guitaris as intriguing as their name. Add John Gourley’s appealing falsetto voice to that mix, and these guys are a can’t-miss band. I saw them four times and was never disappointed.

5. Blitzen Trapper I knew about Blitzen Trapper before I’d ever seen them. I almost caught them early in the year, but a stomach virus derailed my attendance. So when they returned to The Bowery Ballroom on a Sunday night, I didn’t let the fact that I felt like shit deter me. Good thing too, ’cause they cured my hangover. —R. Zizmor, editor

My Top Five Favorite Covers of the Year

1. “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” (Velvet Underground), Black Crowes, Summer Stage, September 2
This was my happiest musical moment of the year. “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” is my favorite song on one of my all-time favorite albums (Loaded). I’d seen others cover it, but not as well as the Crowes. Rich Robinson, singing lead, sounded confident and strong. His brother, Chris, joined in on a third guitar, and Luther Dickinson’s searing solos completed it. Ten minutes of bliss.

2. “Crown of Thorns” (Mudhoney), Pearl Jam, the Spectrum, Philadelphia, October 31
This was the last-ever show at the Spectrum. And at the same time, game three of the World Series was going on, like, a thousand feet away. Just two songs after playing Devo’s “Whip It,” Pearl Jam launched into one-half of Mudhoney’s haunting “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns.” The original came out in 1989, but I didn’t hear it ’til it made the Singles soundtrack in 1992. All these years later, I finally heard it live. I just closed my eyes and took it in. (Afterward, we were like smiling, squinty salmon swimming upstream through a parade of sad, dejected Phillies fans.)

3. “Bring It on Home to Me” (Sam Cooke), Dawes, Mercury Lounge, October 16
We shotgunned beers in the basement and then headed upstairs for a slew of covers—Springsteen, Petty, CCR and the Beatles. But Sam Cooke’s tale of infidelity was the highlight. It’s one of the finest soul songs in the history of the genre, and these four white boys did it supreme justice.

4. “The Real Me” (the Who), Pearl Jam, Outside Lands, San Francisco
The second song on Quadrophenia is about a young schizophrenic trying to find “the real me” amidst his four distinct personalities. It’s loud and angry and embodies rock and roll. And from the gritty opening notes, Pearl Jam—especially Eddie Vedder’s voice—killed it.

5. “Under Pressure” (Queen and David Bowie), Ben Harper and Relentless7, May 8
Granted, this tune isn’t for everyone. But it’s an upbeat, slow-building song about, well, dealing with pressure, and it makes me happy. So to see it done live, as the encore of a surprisingly good show, made a Friday night that much sweeter. —R.Z.