With the spring breeze in the air on an early night in Willimsburg, Brooklyn last Wednesday, fans packed the Knitting Factory to see the Miniature Tigers play their first show EVER in the BK area. Four of the nicest guys took time out to greet friends and fans that they passed throughout the night.
Hitting the stage first was The Stationary Set. The room was already starting to get packed for this indie buzz band. Trading instruments like something you would see at a Sloan show, and seperate precussion that you would experience while seeing Pavement, were both driven throughout. Lead singer (most of the time at least), Andrew Lutes, has one of the most poppiest voices I’ve heard in a long time. Though these boys may be on a small label they certainly have a big label sound and potential. I can only imagine we will be hearing more about The Stationary Set in the coming months.
The next to take the stage was Australia’s own, The Grates. The quintet led by charasmatic and energenic front woman, Patience Hodgson, literally blew the crowd away (even down to her golden chucks). What we were in for, and I’m sure no one was aware, was a 45 minute set of pump-your-fist-dance-your-ass-off music. If you didn’t look like you were having fun Hodgson got in your face and made sure that you did. And who could resist? The Grates play amazing indie pop tunes with a dab of Gwen Stefani style. Heading into the crowd several times, she really won the whole crowd over, leaving a once skeptical audience wanting more.
Around 10pm, the Miniature Tigers took the stage with big grins on their faces. Rick Schaier’s signature moustache is noticably gone, and I couldn’t help but think of the fresh faced CMJ newcomers I had originally met in 2008 and interviewed in a diner. It’s amazing how far they’ve come since their first New York City trip.
Most of the night was filled with upcoming material from their second record, Fortress (ModernArt) that is due to be released this summer. Produced by musician/friend/tourmate Chris Chu of The Morning Benders, you can really feel how the group has crafted their songs further from the early versions they have been playing recently on their last couple of tours.
New tracks like “There’s a Japanese Woman in My Closet,” and “Bullfighter Jackets,” were amazing to hear live on stage and really started to give the audience a glimpse of what the new album is going to sound like. Singer Charlie Brand’s voice is more brilliant in tone than ever. For a few songs, the band switched it up a bit as Schaier
took to the keyboard and synths and guitarist Algernon Quashie went behind the drums. Though I am not sure of the title, Rick took the lead vocals on one track that was very un-Mini T’s like but it was incredible nonetheless how it switched things up.
Brand also came out from behind the guitar and went mic-stand solo for a track as well. The band has become quite popular with fans and fellow musicians alike as there was some giggling high school girls in the corner, and you could see Tim Or of The Morning Benders and Christian Rudder of Bishop Allen watching the show from the center of the crowded room.
Everytime I see the Miniature Tigers they get better and better. I’m not sure how it’s possibly but they manage to pull it off flawlessly every single time. Watch out for Fortress this summer, and the band will most certainly be on tour thereafter. Be sure to check them out when they pass by your fortress!
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1. The Wooden Birds-Magnolia
From the ashes of the classic indie band, American Analog Set, rose a new project from former frontman, Andrew “AK” Kenny, called The Wooden Birds. Shifting completely everything he’s done musicially, AK has come out with one of the most surprising releases of the year. Creating a record that is more folk than rock, no songs on the album contain any drums what-so-ever. The bass and vocals really take off and captivate you, the listener. The live sets of the song also include Matt Pond on guitar along with songstress Leslie Sisson. I’m not sure I’ve heard such a heart felt and warm record in the past 10 years.
2. Julian Casablancas- Phrazes for the Young
It’s been a long time since we heard from The Strokes as a unified band. A lot of fans were hesitant on the thought of a solo album by the charasmatic leader, Julian Casablancas, putting out music that doesn’t resemble his band at all. What a surprise it was when we found he took his love for a bit of 1980’s dance and incoporated it with his unforgettable voice and lyrics. The end result? One of the coolest records of the year. We’d expect no less from him.
3. James Husband- Parallax 1
It took 10 years for multi-instrumentalist and drummer from Of Montreal, James Husband, to create his solo album masterpiece. Husband is in the spotlight for the first time in his career and wow, is he certainly taking advantage of it. Providing one of the best indie pop records of the past year, he lets out a 60’s retro sound that no one can mess with. The end result is something as charming as it seems. Raw, catchy, and glorious.
4. Alvin Band-Mantis Preying
Rick Schaier is not only an amazing drummer and artist, but he is also an extremely talented singer and songwriter. Schaier who spends most of his time playing drums in The Miniature Tigers has begun a new chapter in his book in the form of ‘Alvin Band,’ this year and completely blew our minds. Blending a retro sound with updated electronics, this is one album you should pick up if you haven’t yet. The catchy hooks and vocals will only leave you wanting more. That my friends, is a good thing!
5. Bishop Allen- Grrr
It’s been a long night since Bishop Allen gained attention by two teenagers named Nick and Norah, and fans were at the edge of their seat wondering what the Brookyln line up would come up with next. Taking a further step into their brilliant indie pop sound, the band did not disappoint at all with Grrr. See it as the next chapter in the Bishop Allen movie, one that is bound to have many sequels in store.
6. Grizzly Bear-Veckatimest
Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you may have heard of a little band called Grizzly Bear. Somehow exploding this year, it was certainly one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2009. Every song is flawless. Catchy yet moody. Beautiful in every way. This album describes itself better than anyone ever could.
7. Bat for Lashes- Two Suns
Completely out of left field, the lovely miss Natasha from Bat for Lashes surprised us all this year with making a stunning, charming, and beautiful record. The combination of her voice and the spacey background music is enough to send chills down your spine. And it does just that. The haunting track “Daniel” captivated the attention of many, and the rest of the album is able to keep you around.
8. Flight of the Conchords-I Told You I Was Freaky
Yes, they are known for writing ‘funny’ songs, but on this record, FOTC became even witty and even more advanced it seems in their writing. Their songs, even though the lyrics are mostly ‘silly’, are composed perfectly from start to end. Jermaine and Bret are really on top of their game with this record. We can’t wait to hear more!
9. Phoenix-Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
This band always makes a great record, and their 2009 hit was no different. Everyone wanted a piece of Phoenix and boy, did they get them. This classic indie dance pop record was a must have for everyone who ‘knew what’s cool.’ Apparently, this was the world.
An unlikely hit, this retro indie duo shocked us all with such a raw and appealing debut album. This lo-fi record filled with melodies, doesn’t need any frills or thrills to make it great. It hold’s its own firmly which is a hard thing to mess with.
11. Cass McCombs-Catacombs
12. Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Its Blitz
13. Pains of Being Pure at Heart-Pains of Being Pure at Heart
14. Casper and the Cookies-Modern Silence
16. Japandroids- Post Nothing
17. Cymbals Eat Guitars-Why There are Mountains
18. Kevin Devine- Brother’s Blood
19. Joan of Arc- Flowers
20. Passion Pit-Manners
21. The Antlers- Hospice
22. Loney Dear-Dear John
23. Neko Case-Middle Cyclone
24. The Mountain Goats- The Life of the World to Come
25. Dirty Projectors-Bitte Orca
2009 was an incredible year for songs. No doubt about it. Even some of the last minute yearly additions were able to sweep the early year competitors off of their feet. In 2009 there was a surprise around every corner with the quality of songs written. I’m not sure there could have been a better ending to the decade. Check out our Top 20 Songs below!
1. Matt Pond PA- “Starting”
2. Wooden Birds- “False Alarm”
3. Grizzly Bear- “Two Weeks”
4. The Drums-“Let’s Go Surfing”
5. The Spinto Band- “Jackhammer”
6. Sloan-“Take it Upon Yourself”
7. Vampire Weekend-“Cousins”
8. Ryan Adams-“Go Ahead and Rain”
9. Julian Casablancas- “11th Dimension”
10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs-“Zero”
11. James Husband- “A Grave in the Gravel”
12. Alvin Band- “Temple Pressure”
13. Darwin Deez- “Constellations”
14. Surfer Blood- “Swim”
15. Bishop Allen- “Dimmer”
16. Jupiter One- “Flaming Arrow”
17. Phoenix- “1901”
18. Pains of Being Pure at Heart- “Young Adult Friction”
19. Japandroids- “The Boys Are Leaving Town”
20. Julian Plenti- “Games for Days”
This year was a great time for videos. Sending off 2009 and the decade with a bang, we chose our favorite 10 videos of the year. We’ll stop talking your ear off and let the videos speak for themselves.
1. The Spinto Band “Jackhammer”
2. The Drums “Let’s Go Surfing”
3. Alvin Band “Temple Pressure”
4. Grizzly Bear “Two Weeks”
5. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin “Glue Girls”
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6. Flight of the Conchords “Carol Brown”
7. MGMT “Kids”
8. James Husband “Windows”
9. Vampire Weekend “Cousins”
10. Bishop Allen “Shanghaied”