Modern Mystery’s Top 25 Albums of 2009

 

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.

10. Girls-Girls
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
15. Headlights-Wildlife
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

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Secondhand Sunday: Bishop Allen “Shanghaied”

This edition of Secondhand Sunday is a bit different. I think it’s pretty obvious right off the bat that neither this song or video is more than a few months old. Well, let me put it this way. For some reason I completely missed that Bishop Allen had put out a video for “Shanghaied,” and yes I know they already have another new one. This is one of my favorite tracks off of Grrr  and the video is just extremely cute. All it entails is Bishop Allen sitting around and singing on a couch, in a hallway, and to a rabbit. One thing I also love about this video is that singer Justin Rice was wearing the same blue hoodie when I interviewed him back in March on the release of this record. The video was directed by Bob Byington, who also made the movie Harmony and Me in which Rice stars in (It comes out 11/17). In other Bishop Allen news the band is on the final week of their tour with the last two stops at Union Hall (Friday, 21+) and The Bell House (Saturday, 18+) in Brooklyn. Fun!

Watch Bishop Allen’s “Shanghaied”

Interview: Justin Rice of Bishop Allen

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Last week after the Bishop Allen instore for the release of their new record ‘Grrr’  I had the pleasure of meeting up with singer/guitarist Justin Rice after the show for an interview. Justin with his easter plaid shirt and navy hoodie was beyond cheerful as he greated us hello. We headed out to the cold New York sidewalks for the interview and chatted about everything from influences, the new record and their stint in that little film staring Nick and Norah. 

How did you and Christian meet?

We went to college together, and we had English 10A Early British Writers together and we were in the same section. And we really didn’t talk to each other until one night we saw each other at a Jawbreaker show and the next day when we were in our section, we struck up a conversation and started playing music together.

Jawbreaker? Didn’t see that coming! Who are your influences?

I mean, we both worked at the radio station and so we were defiantly like record collectors and so there were tons and tons of bands we listened to, lots, and the influences are pretty wide from like 60’s Garage Rock to like, I don’t know, The Seeds, The Shangri-Las, The Castaways, and too, like Buddy Holly and the 50’s. Great 50’s Rock and Punk Rock from the 70’s. Talking Heads are a big influence and also I really like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen and just beautifully written songs. So I sort of like them to have a lot of energy which is why I like early rock songs and punk rock songs, and then I like songs that have really interesting points of view like Bob Dylan’s songs, and Leonard Cohen.

How did you get involved with ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’?

They called us out of the blue, um the director, Peter Sollett had this script in development for like a year or so and was going around to shows trying to find New York bands that he liked to put into the movie. And he just came to one of our shows and it was like ‘I think you guys are perfect’. So they hired us, literally.

There have been a few rotating members of the band, why so?

Well Christian and I, the main two, have worked together for a really long time, and we have like a rapport and its um, really good to write songs as a duo and then start to work out the details with a bunch of different people. But we also have a lot of friends who play music and most of them play in a lot of different projects. So, most of the time when people aren’t playing with us at a given moment, it’s because they’re off working on a different project, and a lot of them will come back in. Um, it just seems to be a good way to work, to have the main two songwriters always there and then have people rotate in at times. People seem to like it as players and we like it as musicians.

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Which do you prefer, being in the studio or being on tour?

I prefer being in the studio, but its much harder. Um, its like being on tour can be a drag and it can be a little bit boring when you’re driving for a long time.  But its mostly really really fun. But being in the studio, its harder, its more challenging. But like at the end of the day when you’ve made a new song its like really, really amazing.  You know its like the feeling you get from writing a new song is far greater than anything else I’ve ever experienced.

What was the overall inspiration for the songs on the new record?

Um, I don’t know, I think that there were, alot of it was…..we wanted to make a record that was really upbeat, and that had like a really strong rhythmic element, that was almost like chattering teeth, you know? Something you can dance to but not a dance record, you know? Something that brought the energy out in the percussion. And so I think alot of it, when we start to think like that, alot of the things that started to pop into my head were like school yard chants and double dutch. Um you know and also  a lot of songs that have lots of  ‘ma’ rhythm.

That’s a good word! I heard that several labels before had offered you contracts. What did Dead Oceans offer to you that the other labels couldn’t lure you in with?

We’ve been putting music for a long time by ourselves and we were pretty happy doing it. So we weren’t really looking for a label. There were some labels that came to us, um, and I don’t know, Dead Oceans was the one that came to us and explained very clearly how they could help us out. And they had a lot of enthusiasm but they were also really practical and really smart, and I don’t know, just how transparent they were about what they hoped to do, and how much we liked them as people is really what drew us in. It wasn’t a thing as much as it was them. They were good.

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What inspires you to write a song?

Nothing! I don’t think its inspiration as much as compulsion. I mean for me, I try to find something, a thought that interests me, um whether its something I encounter in everyday life or something that I read. Or hear in another song or a thought that pops into my head. Usually those thoughts that are interesting to me, they make want to figure out why they’re interesting, and the way I tend to feel that out is by writing a song. So its a way of thinking.

What was the first musical instrument that you learned how to play?

Um, the guitar. But I think it turns out that I’m better at the piano, but I only discovered that a few years ago. I think my inclination is towards the piano.

How did the recording of ‘Grrr’  differ from recording ‘Charm School’ and ‘The Broken String’?

We did it all at once, we like did it really in a 3 or 4 month period and when we recording it, basically we recorded a lot of demos and Christian and I would split time in the practice space. He would go in the morning I would go in the afternoon. Once we had those demos, we actually went into a studio and worked to record and to mix, to record the drums and mix with like a producer which we’ve never done before. Its still about half home recorded, and the home recording is definitely more um, like was used more in a decisive manor. We used it to really figure out what we wanted it to sound like, and before I think that we just kind of would record over the period of a long time and put it all together at the end, you know whats finished. This time we were much more deliberate.

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What made you decide to release the 12 EPs instead of one record?

I don’t know! (laughs)

Sounded like fun!

It was like a dare, like a challenge, we kind of dared ourselves to do it. Then once you commit to doing it, then you can’t back down because people would know and they’d say ‘Alright, we’ve got January, February, March, April….where’s May?’ you know? And like, even though, whether that’s true or not,  it feels true, that position, that  feeling of there being some external expectations, really makes you like live up to your word and finish what you need to finish. So it was like, it kicked our ass into finishing a bunch of songs.

 

What is your favorite song to perform live?

Um, I think my favorite song right now, although we kind of woofed it today, is ‘True or False’ because I get to play the wood blocks. And uh, I like playing those.

Who doesn’t like playing the wood blocks? You’ve been in a couple of movies. Which do you like more, acting in a movie, or playing music?

Playing music and that’s what I do most of the time. The movies that I’ve been in are kind of accidental, because they’re mostly made by the people that I know, and making music is what I do everyday.

If you weren’t in Bishop Allen, what would you be doing?

(long pause) I don’t know. Living it up, uh like doing some, building some houses in Africa or something. Living it up in Iceland, I have no idea. Its so hard for me to imagine.

Where do you see the band in ten years from now?

Hopefully we will continue to make music that’s decent (laughs), you know? Like I don’t see us giving up, and I’d like to keep, I  hope that in ten years I feel still excited about songs and making music, and that’s all that I can hope for.

What board game can you kick anyone’s ass at?

Trivial Pursuit! Easily.

Bishop Allen at Other Music 3-10-2009

Standing outside of Other Music in New York’s East Village (in the freezing cold), the line grew waiting for the highly anticipated Bishop Allen instore. On the release day of their third album titled ‘Grrr’ the band and attendees had a glimmer of excitement in their eyes. Waiting to hear the new record, Bishop Allen treated the crowd to a load of new tracks, along with some old classics.

With the room so packed you couldn’t even move, it didn’t stop us from having a stellar time. I noticed something last night in Justin Rice  that I haven’t seen with many other singers (as odd as this may sound). He has a great ability to truly connect with the audience. He looks in their eyes like he is talking directly to each and everyone of them. He’s having a conversation with them. A lot of singers don’t do this I’ve noticed, and quite frankily, this impressed me.

Bishop Allen played some brilliant tracks off of the new record like they’ve been playing them forever. ‘Grrr’is a nice progression from their prior work, but does not by any means lose the integrity and sound that Rice, Rudder and company bring into every piece of music they write. That’s the kind of thing that makes a band timeless, and Bishop Allen is the definition of that.

Check out more pictures of Bishop Allen at Other Music after the jump

*Stay tuned in the next few days for our Bishop Allen Justin Rice interview. Hint: He likes playing the woodblocks…alot*

Bishop Allen Release New Record

Finally! Bishop Allen is due to release their new record titled ‘Grrr…’ through Dead Oceans on March 10th. This will be the third full length from the band and fans couldn’t be happier. Will there a bigger buzz about the band since they appeared in Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist? Who knows. The band continues to play those great catchy indie pop songs that we’ve come to know and love.  Bishop Allen will also play and instore at Other Music in New York City the day of the album release. After that the band is off to an extensive U.S. tour, some dates including MM favorites, The Miniature Tigers.

Download Bishop Allen’s newest track, Dimmer

Bishop Allen Tour Dates

03/10 – New York City, NY @ Other Music (Free In-Store)
03/12 – Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church
03/13 – Washington, DC @ Black Cat
03/14 – Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506
03/15 – Asheville, NC @ The Rocket Club
03/16 – Memphis, TN @ Hi Tone Cafe
03/17 – Little Rock, AR @ Sticky Fingerz Chicken Shack
03/18 – Dallas, TX @ House of Blues – The Pontiac Garage
03/19 – Austin, TX @ SXSW
03/20 – Austin, TX @ SXSW
03/23 – West Hollywood, CA @ The Troubadour
03/24 – San Francisco, CA @ The Rickshaw Shop
03/26 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
03/27 – Provo, UT @ Velour
03/28 – Denver, CO @ Hi Dive
03/29 – Lawrence, KS @ Jackpot Saloon
03/31 – Chicago, IL @ Subterranean
04/02 – Northhampton, MA @ Iron Horse
04/03 – Cambridge, MA @ Middle East
04/04 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
04/05 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom