You know that old saying about blinking — like, don’t blink or you’ll miss it, or time goes by in the blink of an eye or some cliche crap like that? Well, shocker: It’s true. Things move fast and now as I quickly encroach upon three decades of personal existence (mere months away at this time), it seems ever more prevalent a concept.
So I decided to take a brief look back at a few bands I should have checked out last year but didn’t for some reason or another; most likely because of a lack of time.
Here are 10 bands and albums I should have checked out in 2009… a few of which would have made my top 50 of 2009.
What’s surprising is that many of these bands not only fit the genre I so obsessed over in 2009 — garage rock and pop — but that many also perfectly fit psychedelic folk, another genre-pair I absolutely adore.
1. The Mantles by The Mantles
The Mantles have been my early 2010 soundtrack since I picked up their amazing self-titled LP in January. At the time, I wrote that I had a difficult time discerning anything truly unique about this group’s sound, but also noted that it possessed great appeal. The latter holds true, while the former only partly. In retrospect, The Mantles would have been a top 10 for the year, for sure. Word on the street is that they’ve got an upcoming release on the much-cherished Mexican Summer label.
2. BiRd-BrAiNs by tUnE-yArDs
God I love tUnE-yArDs sound! Why didn’t I check out this band? Easy: I can’t f*ing stand that lowercase followed by uppercase thing the band does with their name and album title. It irks me to no end. But I can suppress my angst as the tunes hit the record player. It’s bizarre experimental folk-pop that meshes tribal beats with insane personalities easily fit for the imaginary, fictitious worlds of children and the clinically insane with ridiculously high IQs. You could ask for little more.
3. Songs Of Shame by Woods
Oddly enough, the first band I thought of when hearing Woods‘ most outstanding song “Rain On” from Songs Of Shame is Okay. It’s strange, as the two bands have little, if anything, in common. “Rain On” has a light swagger, a chill to the guitar that prickles the skin like goosebumps. High pitched vocals and guitars tinkering in the upper registers, and Woods’ music is complete in a way that many bands never reach.
4. The XX by The XX
With a name like The XX and a minimal black album cover containing only a giant X in white, I figured this band would be a few things. First, they’d be loud — louder than the rambunctious garage rock of bands like JEFF The Brotherhood and The Splinters. Second, it would ultimately lean toward a hefty rock sound; I envisioned it along the lines of Phoenix, whose Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix I didn’t much care for, or even something goth-y. Third, because of the first two, I wouldn’t like it. Well, I was dead wrong on all three accounts. If you have yet to check out this band, check out “Basic Space” and hear for yourself.
5. Real Estate by Real Estate
I picked up this Real Estate single; not even sure what it’s called. Listening to it, and listening to “Beach Comber”, I’m surrounded by sunny, folksy psychedelic pop. “Beach Comber” is such a great song title in that it can really act as a descriptor for the band. Real Estate’s music finds that comfortable coastal hot-spot. The sun’s out, but its rays don’t have that ominous radiance that us redheads fear. Still, the sand is warm between the toes and you can almost see the band strolling well above the water with guitars and wind-swept hair and a soft yet fun jangle. Some of the best music in existence sparks a unique presence that, in some ways, is borderline otherworldly. The music of Real Estate does just that. (Photo by Ryan Muir.)
6. Grey-Eyed Girls by The Fresh & Onlys
What is this, like the third band that has released music via Woodsist on this list? It seems like everyone has been raving about The Fresh & Onlys. Everyone, that is, but me. Sometimes you can only take so much hype before hitting the “off” button, and in doing so it often means taking your seat a bit late in the game, after most of the action has passed and your team is well on its way to victory. The win is no less sweet, but you don’t have that intense pleasure of having fully experienced the good plays first-hand and thus lose out on some of the cred it comes with.
7. Magnolia by The Wooden Birds
Up in Bellingham last week visiting my buddy Andy (seriously, it’s like all my friends are named Andy… totally ridiculous) and his wife Rhonda, we listened to some records over vegetarian lasagna. One of them was Magnolia by The Wooden Birds, and I immediately recognized the voice of Andrew Kenny. The album was released via the beloved Seattle label Barsuk, so it should not have slipped by me. No excuse.
8. Best Coast
Loud fuzzy guitars fronted by equally fuzzy vocals, all of which are as bouncy and as upbeat as can be — that brief description can be applied to a number of bands that put out great albums last year. Well, the one that I missed was Best Coast. Like the rest, I heard of the band, but I didn’t hear the band in 2009. It’s a total bummer, because “Something In The Way” fits that space almost precisely where a band like Pens does with “High In The Cinema” but sans the abrasiveness (though abrasiveness can surely have its own appeal). The fuzz is so overpowering that it rounds things out rather than producing a grating uncomfortableness. (Photo by Cali Dewitt.)
9. Six by The Black Heart Procession
Of all these bands, I’ve known The Black Heart Procession the longest. This is no surprise, as (to my knowledge) they were around before the rest. I also had Six in my possession for quite some time, but my record player was buried under piles and piles of stuff, inaccessible. So the album and the band are basically grandfathered into this post. Six is an excellent release, perhaps one of their best since 2.
10. Sugar Lips by North Highlands
Sugar Lips by North Highlands is easily one of the top EPs of 2009. We’re talking top five, or even top three perhaps. I want to refrain from describing the band’s music, because it’s something you just have to hear for yourself. Title track “Sugar Lips” and opener “Collar Bones” are favorites, but there really are no weak points on the EP.
Feature “Oops” photo at top by krakenimages.