Top Five Albums of 2009

The decade comes to an end and I must say I am left somewhat at a loss. The internet has completely removed me from my favorite past time, record shoping. Of the top five listed below, I only own one of these in physical format. Record shops are scarce and overpriced in hopes of staying afloat. Never mind that release dates are often announced before bands have even entered the studio. I know more useless crap about my favorite bands then ever before.

Also, Hip Hop kinda sucks. While there were some bright lights this year by Mos Def and Q-Tip, most of the hip hop I heard was weak sause. The music that I heard and loved this year came from unexpectad places. I heard new music that I wasn’t neccessarily looking for, but the internet did make it a lot easier to explore. It’s hard to say. There are a lot of good albums not even mentioned below. But again, not much in the way of GREAT. We shall see what the next decade has to offer.

My Top Five of 2009

1. Propaghandhi – Supporting Caste
This year’s race for the number one spot was tough and ultimately it was decided by one factor and one factor alone: Propaghandhi fucking RULES live. This is what tipped the decision making here at Franconia Station. It’s been a long time since I saw a band as intense and insane as Propaghandhi. But this is not the only reason why they deserve this distinguished position atop the pile of records. In what seems like another year of mostly okay albums, my attitude towards almost everything I bought was “but it wasn’t as good as Supporting Caste. This is crucial, because there were a lot of insane records this year, and I bought a lot of punk and hardcore music this year, but truly, nothing can touch Propaghandhi.

Aside from just being a punishing 40 minutes of fast as shit metal riffs, militant, homicidal vegan righteousness and a really easy album to listen to, Supporting Caste is just really beautiful at times. The opening track “Night Dreams” has just a very beautiful melodic quality to the vocals that carry some really solemn and yet very touching lyrics. And how much better can you get than a song that pontificates upon political ideology and hokey after an amazing intro of metal thrash the breaks into some of the best sounding guitar chords this side of The Most Secret Method. And of course there is “Human(e) Meat {The Flensing of Sander Kates}” which is essentially the vegan day dream of cooking and eating a former vegetarian who willfully accepts faulty logic that the humane killing of animals for food somehow makes it all okay. And sure Sander Kates may be an AIDS advocate and die titian, but there is nothing unjustifiable about Propaghandhi’s attack. After all, we have to review our dominion as the supposed top of the food chain. This song had a direct impact on me becoming vegan this year. Propaghandhi are that good.

Which is another thing about this album, it engages and challenges you. Many people would probably consider Propaghandhi didactic and preachy (or just self righteous and full of shit) but in their despair, anger and frustration is compassion and love. These decisions aren’t made all willy nilly. These ideas are not the constructs of some psychobabble political machine. These are just four hokey loving Canucks who also happen to love Thrash Metal and want to preserve this world that has given them both of these things.

Their political approach isn’t for everyone, but they aren’t backing down. After nearly twenty years of just getting better and better, Propaghandhi delivers a career worthy album. Sure, the grander music world doesn’t care. But if you can’t see the finesse and musical genius in this band then frankly, as far as I am concerned you don’t know shit about music. If you refuse to be challenged by your art then you’re just fucked. I tend to say this every year, but again I am presented with an album that speaks to me musically and challenges me personally. I can’t help but think that Supporting Caste has made me a better human being.

2. xx – The xx
When I first heard this band, I really tried hard not to like them. I knew they were going to be the buzz band of the year and that fuck heads with ironic mustaches and fancy hats, donning fucky skinny jeans would be blogging about them from their iPhones. But fuck man if xx didn’t just blow me over. At first listen I was reminded of when I was introduced to Unrest. There was something so subtle about this band. It’s the power of hushed silences that permeate a room and the xx say more in the absence of space then most bands say filling every inch of the room with whatever cacophony they can throw at the listener.

And fuck me if these little twenty year old bastards aren’t some of the most sexual tension expressing fuckers I have ever heard. Again, I go back to Unrest comparisons, because a band hasn’t made sexual tension and straight up fucking seem so innocent and so fun too. These English brats are at that age where they are old enough to have had their hearts broken, but horny enough to know that getting it on is fun, the emotional consequences be damned. By the time we file in for the closing song “Stars” your pretty breathless and so what does singer Oliver Sim whisper to you with his gravely, off key voice? “I can give it up on the first date”. I mean WHAT THE FUCK? Seriously? You spend the previous nine songs professing love, dabbling in obsession, disregarding heartache and running back to jilting lovers all to end the album with a song about being a horny slut? I’m too old for this shit! But damn if it isn’t beautiful.

To make matters worse, this is a debut album. If the hype machine doesn’t kill them, this minimalist love pop fiasco only has upwards to go. Because as good as The xx is, what makes it great is the future possibilities. This is a debut album made by some kids only at the beginning of their unsure experimentation and obsession. What happens when they actually know what they’re fucking doing? I can’t wait to see personally.

The band is already down a member after constant touring. But there recent show in DC showed me that they are getting restless and already playing with the foundation of what they laid down. There is a bit more confidence in the xx and perhaps they are playing it safe by working this album to death by staying on the road constantly. By the time they get done they will be sick to death of it and ready to explore a very available pallet in which they already have definitive command over. This band makes me fucking sick how good they are.

3. Pissed Jeans – King of Jeans

In the movie This is Spinal Tap one of the reviews read by Martin DeBergi describes the bands music as “treading water in a sea of retarded sexuality”. And while this is meant to be a joke about music that is itself a joke, I can’t help but think it fits Pissed Jeans perfectly. After all the protagonists of singer Matt Korvette’s tortured vocal flailings all seem socially undeveloped. I imagine a sea of fat, slovenly gamer geeks, lanky music dorks or just oddly bespectacled man with greasy hair rocking back and forth in their chairs. It’d be sad if it wasn’t so funny. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. But somehow, even in their reclusive defense stance, these fringe members of society seem to be getting by. There is a lot to be said about perseverance in the face of adversity. Especially when the establishment is just as fucked and cock-eyed as the people they cast judgment upon.

This record gets a visceral reaction out of me, and yet I am able to transform those feelings into words so easily. When I wrote about this record back in August, I couldn’t think of a time I had more fun listening to and waxing on about an album. Because of this, Pissed Jeans are totally from their own planet, in a sense imbibing the same screwed up hopelessness of the stories they tell and yet fashioning on in spite of what the larger community has to say about them.

Pissed Jeans are a love them or hate them kind of band. Invoking some of the greatest bands to come ahead of them and yet existing in such a unique sonic natural disaster. The comparisons to Black Flag and The Jesus Lizard are not inaccurate and as a listener and critic, totally welcomed, because those bands are fucking amazing. That anyone even wants to touch upon either of those intensely uncomfortable and sacred cannons is actually a relief as year after year music gets safer and more boring. Pissed Jeans have dirty faces and slobber at your feat. While the music and lyrics are creepy, their perversion is not derived from cynicism or sinister angles. Instead they undulate like an unruly child too emotionally immature to express themselves constructively but with the complete understanding that what they are doing is completely infantile.

4. The Twilight Sad – Forget about the Night
For me this record represents the interesting state of music. There is no doubt that this is a very Scottish album. It certainly is the vocal inflections of lead singer James Graham that make it such. The music itself owes a lot to the English dream pop and noise rock, equal parts The Smiths and My Bloody Valentine. But The Twilight Sad emerge from what appear to be obvious influences with a sound that is very distinctive. Much the way Ian Brown’s voice speaks the streets of Manchester, somehow James Graham elicits the senses to invoke Glasgow, Scotland. I’ve never been there, but I feel like I know the city just a little bit better now.

What I love about Forget the Night is how massive it sounds. The instruments are so distinct, separate from each other and yet they are cohesive and make such a big fucking sound. It’s the kind of record that overcomes you and your senses. And rock music has a hard time doing that. After all, there is so much of it, and the old tricks just seem to get recycled. And this too separates The Twilight Sad from all the rest, they don’t have any tricks up there sleeves. The music is sincere, almost dryly so. It’s evocative of something very serious, often feeling like it’s directed to the bottom of a pint glass in some very dark bar where there aren’t many patrons, even though it’s Friday night and every one on the bar stools are relatively young.

This is a record that is more than just sound, it’s feeling. You can feel the wetness and rain falling on your shoulders and the guitars shimmer brightly from the speakers. The drums, they rumble like a storm, the bass the thunder that shakes the windows. And back to Graham’s voice, it’s a wind that blows fervently, but is none the less gentle.

Honestly and truly I am surprised at how much I love this record, because it is so straight forward. But this is music made for the sake of making music, passionately and fully. There are not a lot of bands like this, and that it came unexpectedly was quite a treat. It has also peaked my interest in what else is going on over the pond on that small island. My record collection’s foreign entries are dominated by England’s best and have far over shadowed this great Scottish city. But The Twilight Sad has changed all of that. Glasgow is the place to be, Forget about the Night makes that crystal clear.

5. Russian Circles – Geneva
I have never, ever been a fan of instrumental music. And as a music geek I have always found this disheartening in myself. I truly can not get into Jazz music because the human voice is my favorite instrument of choice. I feel that way because the human voice is limitless. Instrumental music always feels like it hits a glass ceiling. However Russian Circles have transcended that and there second album Geneva more than put a wrench in my musical world view.

From a strictly aesthetic presentation Geneva has all the right things. In this day and age, where everyone has a guitar, great guitar work is a must. Guitarist Mike Sullivan, does not disappoint. While Russian Circles over all gives nods to Isis and Neurosis, Sullivan’s playing at times reminds me of the masterful work of Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo. In fact, much of the time I feel like he is bringing the best of Ranaldo and his sidekick Thurston Moore together in one package. So already we have a band that can bring together the power of epic metal bands and the sonic clusterfuck of indie rocks greatest music makers.

In fact drummer Dave Turncrantz approach and finesse reminds me of Sonic Youth’s skinsman Steve Shelly on a little album called Daydream Nation. This band is eager to rock the fuck out, but they understand so clearly the subtlety of what makes a song. They are powerful and mighty, the gut punching bass lines of Brian Cook won’t allow you to forget that, but Russian Circles aren’t merely plowing the audience over with volume. They are constructing pieces of music. Not just songs, but what feel like very meticulous compositions.

And yet there is so much room that Russian Circles are exploring this time out. To much surprise they employed the use of violin on several tracks on the album. And while the placement of those songs leaves something to be desired, it indicates that this band is thinking about the music, not just bashing it out in a room together. The first ten minutes of the album seem to fly by, and the start of “Melee” suggests more of the same. But rather then swipe at the jugular, Russian Circles steps back and tugs at the heart strings, pushing and twisting the muscle to it’s will.

The best thing a musician can do is know their instrument intimately. Geneva is sure proof that the members of Russian Circles are quite close to their chosen tool. Though it probably is a band made up of virtuosos, they are master craftsman that understand very clearly what they want to communicate and each person’s role in that process. They very rarely step on each other’s toes, and often seem to each be in there own world, but the voices emerging from the speakers is powerful, subtle, beautiful and absolutely intense.

Other Considerations
Dalek – Gutter Tactics
Dalek offer the most intense version of hip hop the world has to offer. Closer to The Twilight Sad then they are to Wu-Tang, none the less they put out an amazing album once again. Sadly once again it is terribly overlooked. But there is no justice in this world so long as Dalek is terrifying hip-hop. With the amount of weak ass, cry into your shoulders bullshit mainstream hip-hop offered us this year, Dalek is the antidote to that blues jam.

Dead Friends – S/T
Gainesville, FL is a magical place, where magical men with beards grab fucked up, watter logged guitars and make the most regional rock sound of the decade. Dead Friends is no exception, but they are fucking awesome. Short songs, covered in layers of dirty Nirvana songs and buzzing Jesus Lizard tunes, Dead Friends teaches some old dogs new tricks.

Ida Maria – Fortress Round My Heart
Every song on this album had the potential to be a radio hit, and across the Atlantic I believe this Norwegian rookie made quite a splash. She didn’t do to bad over here either. Surely her Scandinavian sensibilities were a bit too odd for the larger public at first taste, but there is no denying this infectious pop-rock music. Though as an album, the songs don’t totally mesh, but the beauty of Ida Maria is that she has such a command over each song that they are distinctly hers. It’s too bad the industry is the way it is these days, because ten years ago, Ida Maria would have been one of the biggest waves in the ocean. She’s under the radar now, but I suspect she will get better with time.

Bomb the Music Industry – Scrambles
Bomb the Music Industry are a hyperactive mess, and Scrambles is the most indicative of this. Jeff Rosenstock shoves a lot of lyrics into three minute songs, so much so that it’s hard sometimes to keep up, but there is no denying how energetic this band is. You can’t listen to Scrambles and not want to just stage dive off the hood of your car. Don’t do it though, there is no one around you in the parking lot and everyone will just look at you like an idiot while you bleed from the skull fracture.

Paint It Black – Surrender/Amnesia
If Paint it Black had packaged the nine songs that make up these two EP’s together they easily would have found there way into my top five this year. But sequencing is such an issue with albums, and having to build my own is frustrating as all hell. However, this is the best music this band has ever produced. Gone are the days of trying to prove to the old school that the new school is worthy. Closer to 40 then 15, Dan Yemin has harnessed this band into a full on machine and proven that hardcore has no age limits. And while it is loud and fast, I truly believe that Yemin and company make music that can reach beyond the hardcore/punk rock underground ghetto. They may not do it now, but history will tell.

Fuck the Internet

Like jerking off just for the orgasm.

Perspective

Fuck the internet. I don’t have anything else clever to say. This is the blog for the zine Korrupt Yr Self. It will feature random shit, maybe extended interviews. Works in progress or works that just don’t quite make the zine. Maybe it won’t feature a fucking thing. Who knows. I only made this for people who want more information if they find the zine. I am making life convenient for them in the era of instant gratification. Like jerking off just for the orgasm.

Blogging is all instantaneous, actually making a zine takes time. I prefer actually making a zine, the original blogging. But you know that involves, time, care, creativity (both in writing, production and distribution). Blogs are essentially vomited out. Even good blogs don’t consider layout, production, distribution. Some get out in the world better than others, like zines. But most blogs are bullshit. Fuck that, all blogs are bullshit. Digital media sucks.

Oh, look at the little cry baby. Any way, currently issue #3 is still, somewhat available. You can get it by mail. For free. Just send me yr address to goodgovernor@yahoo.com. I am currently at work on both issue #4 (which will be out if I ever get the interview I am looking for) and issue #5 (which will be out when I write more stupid crap, get stupid crap from other people, and generally figure out that shit). Oh, you care. Why thank you. Turn off the internet, go read a book.

Vacation, all I ever wanted.

Vacation, vacation, where will you go? Somewhere exotic? Brazil, perhaps? Nope, not this guy. Maybe somewhere fun, like New York City? Fuck that place. Seriously. Worst East Coast City EVER. What about a tropical island, you could lay on the beach, get some sun, go swimming. HELLO? SKIN CANCER ANYONE? Fuck no. Where am I going to spend my winter vacation? In Washington D.C. That’s right the Down Low District, Diamond City, South of Heaven, North of Hell. The greatest fucking city to ever be a city.

I opted to drive to the metro today. It was cold when I left my house, just after the 10:00 AM mark. It took me a bit of time to decide that this was what I wanted to do. Despite a curtain of fog, draped over the earth from the heavens, I grabbed my camera, fresh memory card in tow and hit the metro. I love taking the train into the city. It is so much more relaxing then driving. I can actually pay attention to the music, today’s selection being The Most Secret Method. I also took the opportunity to snap some shots from the moving train. Spying opportune scenes of graffiti, I was able to catch a glimpse of some great suburban art before I descended down into the tunnels.

My first stop was American Apparel. This store has replaced my visits to record stores. It is my mecca for guilty consumption. Like this white boy needs another fucking t-shirt. But I did have some gifts to buy and very much wanted a “Legalize Gay” Human Rights Campaign t-shirt. It feels a bit more universal than the Prop 8 one. But lets face it, it’s an American Apparel t-shirt in support of the gays. Like I need more of an excuse. Even though the beautiful looking boys and girls that work there make me feel like a bridge troll, I left very satisfied with my purchases and decided to seize upon the day.

I headed up 12th or 13th. I don’t remember which exactly. I came across some science foundation building. It had this weird looking sculpture by the front window. I felt like it depicted the universe being destroyed or something. It was kind of evil. At least I thought it was. As I was taking this picture some little kid was watching me. I think he was trying to talk to me, but between Paint It Black blasting from my iPod and his mother yelling at him, I think he gave up pretty quickly. Kids are kind of awesome. I wish I was less shy about the camera and people. I don’t really like asking people if I can take there picture. You never get a good, honest reaction. But this kid was rad. I tried to sneak a shot, but he ran off his over-bearing mother. She was probably from the suburbs. Or really rich. Or just an asshole. Whatever. It was time for me to move on.

I decided that Ben’s Chili Bowl was my destination for the time being. I must have somehow decided that subconsciously already, because I was walking north after all. Further, I must confess, that I decided I was going to hit up Ben’s at least once on my vacation, having just seen State of Play, the Hollywood thriller staring Ben Affleck as a politician and Russel Crow as a reporter. Despite Crow being far too muscular to be any kind of reporter I have ever seen ever, the movie rules. But what rules most about the movie is that there is a scene that takes place in Ben’s Chili Bowl. This dude has a small speaking part in it. Dude has been serving me veggie chili and veggie burgers for a long fucking time. He was stoked when I told him I saw him in that movie. It’s well deserved. He played the part like a natural. No one could have done it any better. I sat at the counter, drank a root beer, murdered another set of Veggie Chili Fries and red the new Burn Collector.

A visit to Ben’s Chili Bowl is not complete unless you are approached by someone with a CD-R of their new album. I think there must be some sort of hierarchy, because some people are allowed to solicit inside Ben’s while others seem banished to the alleyway outside. I don’t know what the deal is, but as I was destroying more starch and soy, a dude who calls himself Pookanu started chatting me up. He went into his spiel pretty quickly, and usually I smile, nod and say I only have enough money for my food. But fuck it, I was on vacation and he was only asking five bucks for twenty songs. I am now the proud owner of S.M.E.A.R.S, the new demo CD by Pookanu. Available at Ben’s Chili Bowl if he’s there. (The internet is telling me he actually works at Ben’s, so I guess that’s how he gets slinging rights within the holy walls).

After Ben’s, it was time to walk off the delicious meal and lethargy that set in from too much sitting. Realizing I was just shy of the great meridian that marks my fair city on the map, I headed just a bit further north to the seat of Malcolm X Park. This little oasis has long been a favorite photography destination of mine and now was the perfect time to return to it’s beautiful surroundings. I had one statue on my list to make sure I captured. For whatever reason, the Serenity statue has always seemed to elude me. I honestly didn’t even know it was there until I drove home from a show at St. Stephens last fall. It’s tucked at the bottom of a hill, and I’ve missed it during every trip. This time however, the decaying beauty was all mine. The face of the statue looks at though it’s been chipped away, and it’s arm has been severed. I took a bunch of shots of it however, and had a great time climbing all over it. Unfortunately, some weird dude was eyeballing me, so I decided to ascend up the hidden hill and make my way towards some of the other sights. I was sad to see, as I approached her atop her horse, that Joan of Arc is looking even more unkempt then usual. The copper is turning into that turquoise color, like the statue of liberty, the city obviously loosing interest in this park. She is not alone in this however as both Dante and Buchanan are also slowly being overtaken by oxidation. At the rate the city is going that park will probably be sold off and turned into more condos. But who am I to bitch? I’ve lived in Virginia my entire life. But seriously, Malcolm X park is one of the reasons I keep coming back to the city. It’s state of decay is a fucking shame.

At this point, I didn’t really know where to go. I felt like I went to all the best places the city had to offer. I had a new T-Shirt, I read my book, I was listening to Fugazi and I was getting a little sleepy (not to mention, for reasons still unknown my glutes fucking hurt and my legs were stiffening up). But soldier on I did and decided to walk to Dupont Circle. I wanted to pay my homage to Lamda Rising, DC’s oldest gay bookstore which is closing the beginning of January. With the Blade having the rug pulled out from under them and now this, I truly wonder where the important writing and conversations are going to come from. As I walked towards Dupont the streets became more crowded. I saw a dog park that had astro-turf. What the fuck? Really? How is it a city like DC has money for shit like this and not, I don’t know, schools? The mystery will never be solved. As it stands, this was my last straw. I wasn’t going to linger much longer. I hit the Circle and immediately someone tried to get me to sign a petition. Fugazi was still going strong in the ears though, so I just walked by, like a smiling asshole. The streets suddenly seemed to erupt with people, my cue to exit stage left. I dropped down into the bowels of WMATA and quickly caught a train. Not really paying attention too much at this point, Amy Farina’s drums banging in my ears as Alec Mackaye screamed “CHUCK YOUR BRAINS OUT“, I missed Metro Center by about three stops and had to switch back directions.

The rest of the ride home was pretty uneventful. I read DC Agenda, the new paper trying to replace the Blade. Some old dude gave me dirty looks. But that’s to be expected, train bound for the suburbs, back home to Franconia Station.

Posted in Uncategorized

forgetters


forgetters
Originally uploaded by goodgovernor

forgetters, The Max Levine Ensemble, Police and Thieves. St. Stephens Church, Washington, DC. January 12, 2009. A Positive Force Benefit for We Are Family (http://www.wearefamilydc.org/)

Zomes – S/T

Zomes – S/T
Holy Mountain

As the year comes to an end, most of my CD buying focuses on stuff I’ve missed over the years. I usually hit the used place a couple times to see if some of the stuff over the last 12 months have hit their shelves in time for holiday thriftiness. Occassionally however, I managed to stumble on something I should have picked up and failed to. This is the case with Zomes. Man I really fucked this up. I should have been on top of this, and I wasn’t and boy are my ears mad at me.

I caught Zomes, the solo project of Asa Osbourne, best know for his work in Lungfish, last Friday night. He set up a tape player hooked up to a bass amp and a Casio keyboard run through some effects peddles into a combo amp. The shit was loud. I mean loud as Lungfish used to be. And despite the change up in instrument, it was just as hypnotic and meditative as Lungfish. The instrumental pulsating waves over the thunky, desolate beats was mesmerizing and trans-formative in a way that so little music is. The sparse crowd mostly dispersed as Asa calmly sat in front of his machines, but his monk like presence seemed little disturbed by the reaction. Much like Lungfish, if you don’t get it you won’t get it until you get it. And you may very well never get it.

As for Asa’s solo debut offering, it’s a low-fi affair, replete with sixteen far too short tracks. The quality and brevity leave a bit to be desired. It has always been repetition on these amazing notes that has made his work so lovable, but I feel like for the most part these songs are just a taste, self edited by an unsure artists branching out into new territories. But no one makes music like Asa on this planet, and I suspect in the universe and so the songs could due with a little more time on them. But it is a joy and a treat to have this music. To feel this musical language again, and now transformed into new sounds and pulses. It’s the dialect of a native tongue and I couldn’t be happier to hear it once more.

There may never be another Lungfish album, and the world is that much darker because of it. But in that void, that dense and empty space, collapsing upon it self, Zomes offers some comfort, the repetitious lull, the overwhelming calm, the changing shapes through time and space.

Posted in Uncategorized