Monday, December 28, 2009

Rock in the Year of the Ox

So it's time to do the year in music blog entry. I think they take away my Internet access if I don't rank this year's releases in an arbitrary manner. Who am I to fight it? Here's all the music you should have been listening to this year.

Favorite 2009 Releases:

1. Banner Pilot -- Collapser
I've made two "Best of" blog posts here and Banner Pilot is talented enough to be on both lists. This year they made their Fat Wreck debut and simply made my favorite album of the year. They play a style of punk that can, if left in the hands of the uncreative, become repetitive and boring. Fortunately, the boys in Banner Pilot took their Fat debut seriously and made an full length album with no filler. I'm not exaggerating on that last point. Most bands would be happy to have one of the first nine tracks in their repertoire. The hooks do their job and the lyrics are still as fresh as last year's Resignation Day. For making the most complete album this year, Banner Pilot earns top spot.

2. Fake Problems -- It's Great to Be Alive
After a handful of EPs and a couple full lengths, Fake Problems's It's Great to Be Alive proved coming of age for the band. They somehow made their lyrics more mature but still kept all the fun. In addition, they infused horns beautifully and made some damn catchy singalongs.

3. Red Collar -- Pilgrim
I bought Pilgrim in early August in anticipation of a live show they were scheduled to perform in Springfield. I liked it at first, and my interest in the album slowly grew, but after their live performance, I was converted. The group brings an unparalleled energy to their show. Maybe it's unfair to give an album such a high ranking based largely on the band's live act, but every single time I listen to "Radio On" or "Rust Belt Heart" or "Used Guitars" or any other song off their debut album, I am reminded of that stormy August night at Lindberg's in Springfield when Red Collar gave it their all for, at most, 10 people. I bought the vinyl later and it's a beautiful, translucent red (what else?).

4. The Bootheel -- Gold Tops
I've had the privilege to follow a couple talented local bands this year. Among those, The Bootheel has proven to be one of the most promising. Their country/punk/rock sound rewards both casual and critical music fans. Gold Tops is a fun EP with some great beats. Unfortunately, I don't think the EP is available for order online yet. You'll have to contact the band for all the CD, but while you are at it you can ask for some homemade barbecue sauce, which they also produce.

5. The Gateway District -- Some Days You Get the Thunder
Minneapolis power punk makes another appearance on this year-end list and so does guitarist Nate Gangelhoff. He (of Banner Pilot) along with Marren and Carrie (both formerly of The Soviettes) made an album that ranges from crunchy hangover songs to twangy country numbers. I had been waiting for another Soviettes album because the vocal interplay between these two women is so good it's risque. The entire album is streaming at Punknews.

6. Chuck Ragan -- Gold Country
Despite Hot Water Music's sort-of reformation, Chuck Ragan is still pursuing his solo career. Gold Country builds on and improves upon his previous efforts. This has a cohesive quality that his previous efforts lacked. Also, let's be honest here, if you need someone to sing some country music for you, that someone should be Chuck Ragan.

6. Cropdusters -- Howdy
Another local band of some of the most talented musicians in town. They're some of the nicest dudes to boot. Howdy is a far too short EP that only covers a sliver of what makes this band great. I'm proud to be in the same area code as this band.

7. Cursive -- Mama, I'm Swollen
Never really considered myself a Cursive guy. However, every time I listen to them, I'm drawn in. I'm not sure why exactly. I got to see them live last month and it was quite the entertaining time.

9. Bomb the Music Industry -- Scrambles
Every time I listened to this album, I thought about how amazing it was. However, for some reason, the album (which is available for free at Quote Unquote Records) does not play on my MP3 player. Therefore, I didn't have the opportunity to listen to this album in my car, which is where I listen to most of my music. If fate set those digital songs free, who knows how high the album would be . . .

10. How Do We Jump This High? -- Deep Stationary
Great demo. Former members of Frames and Get Bent. Sounds like a marriage of Cursive and Latterman (but I'm never good at that game). Looking forward to more from this band in the future.

Releases That Might Have Made the Top Ten If I Hadn't Just Bought Them With Christmas Funds

The Lawrence Arms -- Buttsweat and Tears
Lucero -- 1372 Overton Park
Cobra Skulls -- American Rubicon
The Riot Before -- Fists Buried in Pockets
Red City Radio -- To the Sons & Daughters of Woody Guthrie

Other Albums That Didn't Make the Top Ten for One Reason or Another
Shook Ones -- The Unquotable AMH
Frank Turner -- Poetry of the Deed
Nothington -- Roads, Bridges & Ruins
Mike Hale -- Lives Like Mine
Yesterday's Ring -- Diamonds in the Ditch
Dear Landlord -- Dream Homes

Top Live Shows
1. The Lawrence Arms 10th Anniversary Show -- Chicago, Ill.
I still can't believe I got to go see my favorite band play a huge show in their hometown. It was an amazing birthday present that I will never forget.

2. Red Collar -- Springfield, Mo.
See above

3. Gaslight Anthem -- Kansas City, Mo.
After missing all but 2 songs the first time my buddies and I went to KC to see them, we made sure to make sure we gave ourselves enough time to get there. If you count the two song show where they opened for Alkaline Trio and Rise Against, I saw Gaslight Anthem 3 times this year. The KC headlining show with Heartless Bastards was the best of the trio. Also, my host got a text that morning that Gaslight was dining at a IHOP for breakfast. I'll never forgive him for not taking me to that IHOP. I could have had a danish with Brian Fallon!

So that was my year in music. Where did I go wrong? Based on my lists, what bands/albums would you recommend for me? Leave it in the comments. I'll get to it sooner rather than later.

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