Preview: ‘To Have & To Hold’

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Pavement reunion: The first glimpse

Inside Pavement’s Reunion Tour Rehearsals

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Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop and the best albums of 2009

Village Voice Pazz & Jop 2009

The results of last year’s Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll were published this past week, and although they just don’t seem to carry they weight they once did — this year’s, in particular, seemed not to garner much attention — I figured I’d mark the occasion and post my own ballot, since I’ve written about the poll a couple times now.

It’s also worth noting that this post I wrote about P&J’s abysmal online presence in the summer of 2008 is now more true than ever; at the time of that writing, I’d voted in the poll five times, yet could only locate three of my ballots online — and now all three of those links are dead, too. The Voice is sitting on a goldmine of data going back more than 35 years. Why they don’t have a comprehensive, searchable database — or at least manage to keep recent years’ results online — is beyond me.

Anyway, enough with the rant. I already posted my favorite albums of the decade. Here are my top 10 from ’09:

1. Metric, Fantasies
2. Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
3. Sonic Youth, The Eternal
4. Doves, Kingdom of Rust
5. The xx, xx
6. Neko Case, Middle Cyclone
7. Dinosaur Jr, Farm
8. Matt and Kim, Grand
9. Camera Obscura, My Maudlin Career
10. The Flaming Lips, Embryonic

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If flying on the ground is wrong, I don’t want to be right

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Mr. Presley goes to Washington

Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley

Picture of Elvis and Nixon is worth a thousand words:

The next morning, it comes out that Vernon, Elvis’ father, and Priscilla, his wife, were bugging him about how he spent his money. This aggravated the king, so all by himself he got on the first plane going out, which happened to be bound for Washington. Things did not go well.

For starters, a “smart aleck little steward” with a mustache discovers Elvis is carrying a gun — it was his habit to carry at least three — and informs him he cannot bring a firearm on the airplane. Elvis, unaccustomed to being told what to do, storms off and is chased down by the pilot: “I’m sorry, Mr. Presley, of course you can keep your gun.” Elvis and his firearm reboard.

Upon arriving in the nation’s capital, Elvis decides he wants a doughnut. While waiting for his order, he encounters some unsavory types who notice his five big gold rings and three necklaces.

“That’s some nice jewelry,” one thug says.

“Yeah, and I aim to keep it,” says Elvis, raising one leg of his bell bottoms to reveal a snub-nosed revolver strapped to his right ankle.

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RIP Jay Reatard

Garage rock wunderkind Jay Reatard dead at 29

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Best albums of the 2000s, according to one guy

LCD Soundsystem, 'Sound of Silver'For music nerds, the end of the year means one thing: lists. And the end of the decade? Well that’s even better. More lists.

Of course, the thing about making lists of a year’s or decade’s best albums, is that such rankings, even when emphasized with bold type and occasional italics, are so transitory; ask me again next month to compile a list like the one below, and I’ll probably come up with at least nine different entries. (I mean, how can this one not include Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or any of Ghostface’s ’00s output?)

So here’s a list of 10 albums from the 2000s that I really, really liked. As of right now.

  1. LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver (2007) James Murphy’s dance-punk outfit can be too snarky for its own good at times, but on its second album, everything clicked. The New York hipster perfectly captured the decade’s post-millennial comedown, with both sterile detachment and unexpected pathos. And some fantastic beats.
  2. Spoon, Kill the Moonlight (2002) — Hands-down the most consistently great band of the decade, Britt Daniel and Co. have never made their deceptively simple elements — just guitar, bass, drums, piano and vocals — sound as effortlessly realized as they did on this killer disc.
  3. Grandaddy, The Sophtware Slump (2000) — Jason Lytle wrapped this treatise about his growing unease with technology in a warm blanket of analog synths and shimmering guitars, resulting in a seemingly timeless record that sounds something like Neil Young fronting the Beach Boys, with some weird squiggles and bloops thrown in, too.
  4. The Twilight Singers, Powder Burns (2006) — In the decade following the collapse of The Afghan Whigs, Greg Dulli remains a dark, dark bastard, and this is perhaps his crowning achievement: a gritty, straight-up rock ‘n’ roll epic that finds the notorious Lothario finally coming up for air on the other side.
  5. Hot IQs, An Argument Between the Brain and the Feet (2004) — This late, lamented Denver trio should have been the Mile High City’s big musical export of the ’00s (sorry, Fray). Instead they’ve left behind this one note-perfect chunk of absolutely irrepressible indie-pop. Not a bad legacy.
  6. Josh Ritter, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (2007) — The singer-songwriter’s fifth album has it all: Dylanesque wordplay, Rumors-like melodies and a welcome sonic variety. Nearly every song is stellar, none more so than “The Temptation of Adam,” a heart-rending tale of love in a missile silo that ends in near-apocalypse.
  7. Sleater-Kinney, The Woods (2005) — The acclaimed Washington trio put the rawk back into its angular punk on this, its swan song, a dissonant, sometimes brutal record that layers shrill vocals over peals of guitar feedback that make it sound like your speakers are blown. OK, so that may not sound great on paper, but it actually does.
  8. The Black Keys, Attack and Release (2008) — This blues-rock duo churns primal riffs and thudding beats into almost primal rhythms, abetted on this, their finest outing, by producer Danger Mouse. With just the faintest hint of hip-hop menace, the DJ elevates the pair’s game, resulting in something truly special.
  9. The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema (2005) — Carl Newman’s indie-pop supergroup — featuring Neko Case and Destroyer’s Dan Bejar — is rarely as giddily infectious as it is on this harmony-soaked rocker, highlighted by not one but two of the decade’s best songs: “Sing Me Spanish Techno” and “The Bleeding Heart Show.”
  10. Desaparecidos, Read Music/Speak Spanish (2002) — Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst was burdened with the “new Dylan” tag early in the decade for his verbal eruptions, but his often-bland music doesn’t always keep up with those lyrics. Yet this raucous side project, a concept album that rages against consumerism, brings the noise. It’s the whole package, for once.

Originally published Dec. 18, 2009, in the Camera and Dec. 24, 2009, in the Colorado Daily.

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RIP Rocky Mountain News


Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

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Matador marks Record Store Day with Sonic Youth, Pavement pressings

Record Store DayThe fine folks at Matador Records today announced a series of limited-edition vinyl pressings to be released via participating shops on the second-annual Record Store Day, which this year falls on April 18.

(The label last year issued a special Stephen Malkmus 10-inch, which was carried by stores such as Twist & Shout in Denver, alongside special releases by Built to Spill, R.E.M., The Breeders and others.)

This year, Matador seems to be celebrating its new signee, Sonic Youth, and is issuing another Pavement live LP, hot on the heels of the excellent faux bootleg that came with last year’s reissue of Brighten the Corners.

The label says it will release 2,500 copies apiece of the following titles on Record Store Day:

OLE-864-7: Jay Reatard, “Hang Them All,” b/w Sonic Youth, “No Garage” (7-inch)
OLE-865-7: Sonic Youth, “Pay No Mind” (Beck cover), b/w Beck, “Green Light”  (SY cover) (7-inch)
OLE-855-1: Pavement, Live In Germany (LP)

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Pazz & Jop: Top of the pops ’08

Village Voice Pazz & Jop '08 cover

In a sort of update to a post from last summer, this past week saw the Village Voice Pazz & Jop results go live, with TV on the Radio claiming the top spot for its striking third album, Dear Science. I’ve now voted in the poll for the past six years, although I have to confess, since becoming an editor, I don’t find myself doing a lot of writing anymore, let alone music criticism.

Still, I figure, once a critic, always a critic. Below is the list I submitted for this year’s poll, although within about a day of hitting the submit button, I remembered I’d forgotten to include The Kills‘ brilliant Midnight Boom, an album that should have ended up near the top.

And in the intervening weeks, I’ve also found myself enjoying Dead Confederate’s Wrecking Ball a whole lot more than I did on first blush. If I had a do-over, I’d put both records on the list. But I don’t.

So here’s how I voted.

I’m actually including the list below, because Village Voice, in addition to doing a lousy job of archiving its vast trove of music polls online, manages to mix up the order of my ballot every other year. And this year’s no exception.

1.) Glasvegas, Glasvegas
2.) The Black Keys, Attack and Release
3.) TV on the Radio, Dear Science
4.) The Gutter Twins, Saturnalia
5.) Everything Absent or Distorted, The Great Collapse
6.) The Cure, 4.13 Dream
7.) Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak
8.) David Byrne and Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
9.) The Magnetic Fields, Distortion
10.) Spiritualized, Songs in A&E

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