Huevos's Best Records of 2009

Although not taken kindly to by my Imprint staff, I still hold strong to my year's end list. It's good to know there's no prejudice here against things that people would consider 'too obscure,' even though some of these results are pretty obvious (i.e. Embryonic or Merriweather) But even so, I did try to include albums I believe to be wildly underrated and unfairly overlooked during the passing year. And even though this may be what's posted, there is always an underlying feeling I've forgotten something, so be sure to tell me yours!

Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free

Blackout Beach
Skin of Evil

Built to Spill
There is No Enemy

Monsters of Folk
Monsters of Folk

Yo La Tengo
Popular Songs

Tom Waits
Glitter and Doom Live

Dinosaur Jr.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The Flaming Lips

Animal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavilion

Honorable Mentions
Big Business- Mind the Drift
Meat Puppets- Sewn Together
El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez-Lopez- Cryptomnesia
Antony and the Johnsons- The Crying Light
Bat for Lashes- Two Suns
The Bad Plus- For All I Care
Tortoise- Beacons of Ancestorship


Boris- Japanese Heavy Rock Hits Vols. 1–4

Throughout the last several months of 2009, Boris put out four 7" vinyl singles that somehow showed them experimenting more with their music than before. The freedom of the medium sparked some creative outputs, and the results are unsurprisingly vintage Boris. Vol. 1 kicks off with the epic rocker "8," a blazing number that could have seemingly been plucked from yesteryear's anime hit. It still has that Heavy Rocks edge in a way, so there's definitely no misled presumptions of what the single collection offers. "Hey Everyone" may be the more unorthodox of the two, boasting a party banging beat and drunken vocal chants.

Boris took the opportunity to display their fun side with these singles without being constricted by the wild concepts of previous endeavors like Flood and Feedbacker. On Vol. 2, it's made clear by even the title of "H.M.A. -Heavy Metal Addict-" as much as the song itself. Led into the groove by the rare appearance of synthesizers, echoing yelps and chugging guitar growls propel the track through five minutes but doesn't seem to go anywhere. Fortunately "Black Original" makes up for the lackluster rocker with its '80s new wave-inspired sentiment. Remember the Psychedelic Furs? Me either, but if they were Japanese and (presumably) not hung up with cheesy love songs, it might have sounded something like this. It's certainly a treat to hear harmonizing vocals in Boris's music...

...just as much as it is to hear lead guitarist Wata perform vocals herself. The post-rock "16:47:52..." of Vol. 3—reminiscent to the quieter moments of Flood—moves along at a very contemplative pace while Wata sings ever-so-softly, as if whispering inches away from your ear. Of course it's in Japanese, leaving most listeners in the dark on what the song means. "...And Hear Nothing" keeps on the crawling tempo but amps up the grandiosity with an anthemic quality akin to Pink's "Farewell," complete with the trademark droning feedback we've come to love from our Japanese trio.

The fourth and final single was released this month in December, although without a cover sleeve, any accompanying artwork and only only features one song rather than two. The band covers an upbeat '70s oldie called "Seasons," originally by a Dutch progressive rock group called Earth and Fire. Wata makes yet another appearance on lead vocals, but in an almost adorable manner when her Japanese accent drives the English-spoken lyrics. It's a substantial finish to the singles tetralogy and leaves Boris as eclectic as ever, while fans are left wondering what the band could possibly experiment in next.


If, Bwana- Tripping India (1997)

If, Bwana's mystery goes far beyond its bizarre lengthy tracks and baffling name.
For more than twenty years, the project has been quietly run under the hands of noise music artist Al Margolis. It remained passably popular through time, and from what I can see, has still yet to recieve any kind of true recognition... and that breaks my heart. There have been very few albums to make me react so ecstatically, especially to something that would be considered all noise. But I feel like it's something totally beyond that. Joined by a hefty collective of experimental performers, Margolis created a nucleus of sound that could only be described as a stripped down Sun Ra sweating through an acid induced hour long take in an outhouse studio during a thuderstorm. Three different pianists consistantly play at different times, both manipulated and processed to inject a riveting sense of familiarity to the listener. But within these tracks of clangs and piano keys, there's a larger story. You just sort of have to let the album overwhelm you, allow the soundscapes to narrate themselves and at the same time, prevent concern about where it takes you. The experience could be completely frightening (for me, it was), but it affected me so much more in larger way. I truly think it's an experience worth taking, for anyone, even if it's just once.
(some weed helps, too.)

1. 3 Out If 5 Ain't Bad
2. Pr-Dr
3. Tripping India


Dinosaur Jr. @ Headliners Music Hall, Louisville

Dinosaur Jr., Lou Barlow and The Missingmen
Friday, October 16, 2009
Headliners Music Hall
Better than: Any experience in my life leading up to this show.

One thing I've learned about Headliners is that they really don't give a shit about your age. Although, it's not particularly a bad thing; eighteen and over shows should be banished altogether. Really, why? No one's buying beer with their little wristbands and hand stamps; no underage child is going to go home drunk. It seems that there is an unfair prejudice against people under 18, and with a band like Dinosaur Jr. arriving in town, the hate should stop here. To my absolute pleasure, it did. Eighteen or no, I got through that door.

The only downside to my experience was arriving extremely late. I missed Lou Barlow and The Missingmen's set -a total bummer because this time, I actually wanted to see the opening act. But my absence was made up for (see paragraph 4) and I believe it was well deserved. After all, who can deny the significance of flowers? Carrying a bouquet around a gig is a sure way to get noticed, at least; making friends this night was far from avoidable. It's nice being able to charm your way to the front.

Around came 9:00 and J Mascis took the stage, unnatural platinum hair swaying side to side with awkward bluesy sound checks and all. I never expected to take J for a bashful guy, but aside from mumbled thanks in between songs, he said nothing the entire set (this, of course, assuming he sang lyrics.) But modesty aside, the set list was insane. Predictably, tracks from Farm took up a good portion of the night -"I Don't Want to Go There" included an extended jam, along with a funky version of "Over It" and the record's catchy opener, "Pieces." But old school Dino fans got their treat as well. You're Living All Over Me's "Little Fury Things," Bug's "Freak Scene" and the popular "Feel the Pain" of Without a Sound were also honored. Keep in mind (for those who aren't familiar with the band) Lou Barlow is in Dinosaur Jr., even though he also produces solo work and was one of the founding members of Sebadoh. For the record, I freaking love Sebadoh. And deciding whether my bouquet should be given to J Mascis or Lou was an epic on its own. This, along with a few drunken dancing wash-ups, was my only distraction of the night.

It turns out my internal conflict was decided for me. Immediately proceeding the show, J Mascis hightailed to the tour bus and never came out, no answer to my urgent knocks and still no Lou to be seen. As with the Melvins, I figured lurking near the backside of the building was my best option, so I shot the breeze with some of Lou's old college friends, one of whom stole part of my heart.*
The whole ordeal lasted for at least two hours after the show had ended, but in the end Lou got my flowers and he wrote me a note in thanks. It was actually the first time I've had a real conversation with one of my underground heroes. And I didn't cry this time. It's not like I try to be the creepy fan chick anyway, it just comes naturally. But we'll see how long this newfound coolness fairs. Meat Puppets are hitting Headliners Nov. 17th. You bet your ass I'm there.



The Smiths- Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)

The Smiths were more expansive than their generic name gave away. Does it even need to be mentioned what a great duo Morrissey and Johnny Marr made? To this day, they still refuse to tarnish their legendary years in the '80s by reforming, as if anything could be done to ruin a band so flawless. With a cadence that dripped with sincerity and sex, Morrissey gave voice to a muted generation. There weren't a lot of songwriters with the huevos to speak up about such sexual and personal subject matter before him; songs from human nature to comatose girlfriends and the every day life in between.

Strangeways, Here We Come is short, barely brushing past the 36-minute mark, but you'd be a fool to underestimate how much is packed into a half-hour with The Smiths. There are jams, ballads and anti-ballads that paint a vivid picture of mundane-yet-provocative life, and as mentioned prior, they are wildly relatable with Morrissey's affection. Even from the song titles alone, there's a certain atmosphere that's dark and inviting for anyone yearning to dim the lights and take a closer look at themselves. Strangeways is introspective music at its finest.


Melvins @ Headliners Music Hall, Louisville

Melvins, Weedeater, Evil Army and Down
Monday, September 28, 2009
Headliners Music Hall
Better than
: Nearly every rock show I've ever seen.

Perhaps it's dry city for Down fans, or maybe too many people just don't like Pantera, but I was expecting sheer mayhem. Hardly anyone was risking their limbs to be up front to, at the least, catch a glimpse of Phil Anselmo or even Jimmy Bower assaulting his drums. It's one of the very few occasions where people care more about the opening act rather than the actual headliner; it was beautiful.

The Melvins graced the stage by 9:00, as promised by Coady Willis whom I had spoken to earlier while waiting in line outside. I caught him before the band was apparently going out to eat (-yeah I know! It's like they're real people too!), and fortunately he remembered me. We had previously spoke after a Big Business show and we talked about tapeworms or something; sorta eerie, but mostly exciting. Buzz came out wearing his signature suede smock/turtleneck thing, immediately breaking into the set's first song, while the band's two drummers, Dale Crover and Coady Willis, pounded ferociously on their two drum sets. Among the night's setlist was Houdini's "Hooch" and "Night Goat," along with "Billy Fish" and "The Kicking Machine" from their '07 release Nude With Boots. The audience was treated to a dose of comedy as well. Between three and four song intervals, Buzz would stop to tell some kind of obscure joke no one really understood (or at least didn't hear over ringing feedback), but we would pretend to laugh and think it's funny anyway. It's Buzz, after all.

The show was great, yada yada. But here's where it really comes down to:

The Melvins have been one* of my favorite bands, at least since 10th grade, and are probably the only artists who have survived my drastic change in apparent 'taste'. This wasn't a promotional tour. The Melvins haven't had a new album since 2008. Ultimately, this tour was for the fans, (and maybe for some money too), but more importantly, for me. So you can probably imagine my immediate reaction when I was personally escorted behind the band's tour bus. Buzz in front of me, and my arms around his neck.

I am an emotional person.

I have no other reaction except to cry.

And to think I never understood those girls in the 70's, who ripped each other's heads off in the presence of John Lennon or Paul McCartney. To me, it was part of the era, and to me it looks ridiculous. But that's just how I was to everyone else. I was the sobbing teenage girl who could barely speak, and when I did, in complete gibberish. The only issue was that I didn't care. You get so overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude that it doesn't even seem real. It's everything you've dreamed of in front of you, and you're hugging it.

I encountered Dale Crover later in the night, along with a couple dudes from Weedeater. I cried in front of them, too. Maybe it was the alcohol (I literally had 12 beers), or it could have been the Buzz overhaul still seeping in, but I couldn't stop. The only thing that really sinks in now is that it was definitely worth coming home extremely late for. I would get grounded for the Melvins any day.

*The list of artists I label as 'one' are usually considered my absolute favorite. Although, given the amount of absolute favorites I actually have, I still feel using the word 'one' lessens Melvins value to me. It's like saying Tom Waits is one of the greatest songwriters of all time. What I mean is that he actually is the greatest songwriter of all time, among others. Therefore, there's no specific way to classify something I consider to the absolute best. I just, like the Melvins...a lot.


Boris- Boris at Last -Feedbacker- (2003)

Not unlike an ominous premonition, the quiet drone of an idle amplifier invites you. The volume dial is cranked up to 10 and engulfs your ears in overdriven chords that are strummed and sustained for what feels like eternity. A second guitar teases its presence with brief shrills wavering in the background. Open string resonating, the first cohesive and structured bar of music enters, complete with plodding drums. It's brooding and damn near melancholic, tinged with the forsaken characteristics of analog equipment: played and recorded on. Fuzz, feedback and repetition are what plague this epic 44-minute song. If you're familiar with remastered editions of classic records, a large majority still and forever will hold the originals as the true work of art, defects and all. The plague that Boris eminates shines through just as gorgeous as anything else. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course.

A guitar solo drenched in wah blasts through just as Feedbacker begins climbing to the top of its first peak. The fuzz becomes overwhelming and dominates the mix, sounding more like a disaster of Mother Nature than it does music. It dissipates very quickly and makes space for Japanese sung vocals. Don't worry about translating any of it. Let the emotion of the music translate it for you. However, within minutes, the soul of the Melvins abruptly takes over and launches the massive suite into a stoner rock jam that packs a monstrous punch. The peaks are jagged and refuse to remain in one spot, as the guitars shift from distorted messes to clean tones accentuated with echoes. While only just past its halfway mark, Feedbacker's crescendo comes upon quickly, but sticks around for another eternity. Cymbal crashes become crackling havoc on top of looping drones and feedback for several minutes before the hurricane dies down.
The record ends on a reprise of the original verse, showing evidence that it's stunningly based around a simple song structure; granted, the verses are stretched out to hell and back and it bares little-to-none resemblance to most things one would call music. Feedbacker is a testament to unbridled art, leaving the reins at home to roam wild in its natural state of beauty and ugliness.


Blog Roll

Somehow my blogroll got completely swiped clean.
I can't remember most of the blogs I had added to the list, so if you know you were one of them, leave a comment and I can add you back.


Modest Mouse- No One's First, and You're Next EP (2009)

After multiple delays, Modest Mouse's brand new EP has finally seen a release. Was it worth the wait? Is it true that the band is catastrophically going nowhere after their previous two fan-proclaimed abortions? Here's a full track play-by-play, void of (most) personal opinions for your reading pleasure.

"Satellite Skin" leads off the extended play in a form that's been missed since 3rd Planet, followed by Isaac Brock's drunken barking on the upbeat "Guilty Cocker Spaniels." Fans of Conor Oberst will seemingly enjoy the mellow folk pop of "Autumn Beds," before getting thrown into the ocean of "The Whale Song"'s piercing guitar riffs and dense vocal loops. Modest Mouse hasn't jammed like this since The Moon & Antarctica, so it's sure to be a treat for the close-minded kids of the band's catalog.

The second half (or side B to us vinyl and cassette junkies) jumps into "Perpetual Motion Machine": a jazzy lounge number that wouldn't be unlike a Tom Waits concoction, featuring slick brass and a smooth Brock. "History Sticks to Your Feet" seems to be the only generic Mouse track on here, but is completely forgiven for the inclusion of two excellent b-sides that finally get a wide release: "King Rat" and "I've Got It All (Most)." The former strikes you with whimsical imagery of a howling Isaac Brock having a jaunty stroll through a town's mischief-filled cobblestone walkways, while the latter closes up the compilation in one of the greatest crescendos Modest Mouse has penned.

In retrospect, No One's First, and You're Next stacks up well with the band's past EPs, and it documents nicely the varied happenings behind their last two studio albums. However, only time will tell what the next progression will be for the Mouse.


Aaron Ross- Shapeshifter (2007)

Aaron Ross wields a magical voice. The folk singer, anyway; not the defensive back. He's undoubtedly well known for his short stint as the vocalist of Hella's transcendental sci-fi math rock record, There's No 666 in Outer Space. There was some great anticipation from the hardcore kids over whether or not he'd return for a follow-up album, but it's very unlikely as Zach Hill and Spencer Seim are returning to the Hella roots of playing as a duo.
Fret not, for Ross has been recording his own solo albums for years now. It most likely won't satisfy your craving for universal space jams like on 666, but if you're willing to come back down to earth and listen to Ross play his psych-folk ballads by fireside, you'd forget all about the ungrateful dead, free-spirited anarchists, and those weird dudes who do things when they think nobody's looking.
Shapeshifter is probably Aaron Ross's greatest musical collective so far. At first glance, you'd be confused at how the guy could fit over an hour's worth of pure barre chord guitar strumming into nine tracks, but by the time you get to Elevator Blues, it'll start to make sense. The verses are long, the melody structures are cohesive, but what ties it all together is Ross's ever expansive lyrics and vocals. If this were the product of some other guy, it would easily lose more than half its charm; Ross displays pure soul in his compositions. It's hard to accept how much of an underground talent he is post-Hella. Maybe that's how he likes it, but it's surely something to treasure for the audience that he has.

1. Pass the Peace Pipe
2. Mama Lonely Wolf
3. Elevator Blues
4. Looking Glass Mass
5. Mississippi Burnin
6. Sin Is a Spell
7. The Mountain
8. Made in Stone
9. Speak the Truth

Shapeshifter (2007)


Hawnay Troof- Islands of Ayle (2008)

Coming off of the joint release of Dollar and Deed/Community EP, Mr. Cooler began to record his most eclectic offering yet during the massive world tour that led him everywhere and nowhere. Spastic hip pop laced with LSD is what this album sounds like, but don't take my word for it—you'd be surprised how many areas of music Cooler touches upon here. The bouncy glitch of "Front My Hope" starts the album off in top Troof form. "Water" is a bizarre head-nodding cruise that leads into "The Gods Are Crazy," which displays the damaged pop sensibilities in the best context available on Islands. The aptly titled "Out of Teen Revisited" closes the album, effectively showing the ongoing progression of Hawnay Troof's music by taking a previous Dollar and Deed track and rehashing it into a peppy chiptune anthem.
If you're bored with the standards of pop music and sick of amateur hardcore MySpace bands abusing Auto-Tune, this could be worth your time. Vice Cooler is going places as an artist and deserves the recognition for all the time, effort and passion he puts into his craft. Did I mention he's already got another record coming out this year? Get it on!

1. Suspension and Conclusion / Finale
2. Front My Hope
3. Underneath the Ocean
4. Two Week Bruise
5. Zhou Zhong
6. Connection
7. Water
8. The Gods Are Crazy
9. Oblivions
10. Venus Venus Piper
11. Bizarre Triangle
12. Feelings
13. Out of Teen Revisited



I meant to actually post this on the appropriate date of June 10th, but plans and surprise arrangements are what have been keeping me from updating things as much as I used to. But it's summer. Meaning I really will have nothing to do but listen to music anyway, with occassional parties, obviously.
Anyway, my parents got me a strawberry cheesecake for the celebration. I'm 17, btw. Cool!
and one more year to go.