The Indie Handbook: best of 2009

The best according to Kristin:

10. Our Temperance Movement, Cats on Fire (Matinee)
9. A Balloon Called Moaning, The Joy Formidable (self-released)
8. The Yearling, Piney Gir (Hotel)
7. The Life of the World to Come, The Mountain Goats (4AD)
6. Where the Wild Things Are [soundtrack], Karen O. and the Kids (Interscope)
5. Tarpits and Canyonlands, Bombadil (Ramseur Records)
4. God Help the Girl, God Help the Girl (Rough Trade / Matador)
3. Aim and Ignite, fun. (Nettwerk)
2. My Maudlin Career, Camera Obscura (4AD)
1. Know Better Learn Faster, Thao w/ the Get Down Stay Down (Kill Rock Stars)

Honorable mentions: A Very Cherry Christmas 5, various artists (Cherryade); Reverence for Fallen Trees, The Black Atlantic (In a Cabin With / Beep! Beep! Back up the Truck)

The best according to Eric:

10. Rockwell, Anni Rossi (4AD) – If you caught Camera Obscura on their US tour this summer, you now have a better idea just what one girl and her viola are capable of, but I saw Anni twice this year, and I still can’t believe it.

9. Actor, St. Vincent (4AD) – Though my review of this album for a certain e-zine was “improved” by some hack of an editor who considered my avoidance of clichés downright unpalatable, Annie Clark remains one of the great musical geniuses at work these days.

8. The Big Machine, Emilie Simon (Barclay/Universal) – It’s a departure from her last (and my favorite) album, Végétal, but this, the first of what you might call Emilie’s “American” recordings, proves that a creative powerhouse starting anew is still better than any number of pop idols doing what they do best. [interview]

7. Uam, Julie Fowlis (Machair/Shoeshine/Cadiz) – I hesitated to include this since none of the songs on this album were even written in this century, but few (if any) have done more to make one of the world’s great musical traditions relevant again than Ms. Fowlis. That combined with impeccable musicianship and a killer set of tunes spanning several centuries are enough to obliterate my reticence.

6. Pays Sauvage, Emily Loizeau (Polydor) – On her sophomore release, Emily Loizeau copes with, among other things, the loss of her father. In the process, she will tear your heart to shreds – and you will never again be more happy to be heartbroken. If you had told me a year ago that a French woman would prove this year to have a better grasp of American roots music and slave songs than almost anyone I’ve heard in recent memory, I’d have written you off as a complete nutjob (no offense).

5. My Maudlin Career, Camera Obscura (4AD) – Apparently, it’s been a good year for 4AD. “French Navy” is probably the catchiest song by a band I like that your average Starbucks customer may have actually heard this year. Still, I think “Honey in the Sun” is my favorite from the second Scottish act on this list.

4. Bitte Orca, Dirty Projectors (Domino) – The only album on this list that I do not actually own and I am ashamed. Even worse, I missed their Columbus show this year because I suck. I streamed this about 3,487 times when it was streaming on the NPR website. Holy crap, it’s brilliant.

3. Lungs, Florence + the Machine (Universal Republic/Island) – You Brits have been hearing about Florence Welch for ages now, but I guess Paste hasn’t given the American indie subculture permission to trade in their Grizzly Bear CDs for one of the most monumental voices of the decade yet, not to mention the super sexy percussion. But her time will come, kids. Now is your chance to get in on the ground floor. I suspect that, if I’d had more than two months with this album before writing this, Florence + the Machine would be finishing even higher on this list.

2. A Balloon Called Moaning/First You Have to Get Mad, The Joy Formidable (self-released) – If you have not heard of The Joy Formidable by now, you a) live outside of the UK and/or b) do not read this blog enough. Technically, these are two albums, one studio and one live and there is a lot of overlap between them. But together, they prove two things conclusively: The Joy Formidable are the best unsigned band in the world (yes, I said it); and they are the band to watch in 2010. If you don’t already own these albums, ask yourself why and the go out and buy them. Then, when they play their three shows in NYC with Passion Pit in January and all those cool Brooklyn kids think they’ve discovered something groundbreaking, you can (gently) remind them that you and some unenlightened hick from the Midwest got there a year before them.

1. The Love Language, The Love Language (Bladen County) – This album took 150% more turns in my car stereo than any other album released in 2009. That fact alone made my album of the year decision an easy one. (Not a bad accomplishment for one guy sitting alone in his bedroom.) Then there is the fact that the live incarnation of The Love Language, which is considerably larger, put on what is, at the very least, the second best show I saw this year (Los Campesinos are pretty phenomenal in their own right). I am speechless just thinking about it, so go back and read what I wrote after that show, if you’re interested. And, Stuart McLamb, if you’re reading this, let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for this record. I hope I won’t have to wait too long for a second one.

Honorable Mentions: Welcome to the Walk Alone, The Rumble Strips (Island); God Help the Girl, God Help the Girl (Rough Trade/Matador)

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I am lost in the sand building you a pyramid

this image is from INDYWEEK.COM, mmk?

Thanks to everyone who came to our blog today and helped us make 2,000 hits in the month of November!  We realize that in the scheme of the interwebs, we’re little babies, but this was a big deal for us and we’re excited that you guys are excited about The Indie Handbook.

Also, I want to remind you guys that no matter where you are in the world, Free e-Day has officially begun!  Check out the website for lots of wonderful & free bits of creativity.  We owe a huge thanks to Dan Holloway for his help with our blog–we’ve been proud to have him as a guest writer, and his work with Year Zero Writers is an amazing endeavor that we, who at least like to sort of think of ourselves as creative thinkers, can definitely get behind.

To reward you for faithfully reading our blog today so that we’d hit 2,000 hits, I will actually make a new post, and it will not be about how Camera Obscura is my new Belle  & Sebastian, but rather it will be about a lovely band I’ve recently fallen in love with that reminds me of hobbits.  Bombadil always makes me think of Tom Bombadil (Lord of the Rings?), and they have released their very first music video!  According to Bombadil, the video of “So Many Ways to Die” uses old public domain footage to “tally up all the different ways there are to die (and live!).”  That sounds depressing, I know, but I promise it is the opposite.  There is no living without risk, without chance.  I’m actually reading a book sort of about that right now, but it’s not self helpy which I feel like a lot of those types of books are, but all my feelings and thoughts about that will explode out of me into my other blog where I talk about my feelings and thoughts about things in a very rambly fashion that often seeps onto this blog, and I apologize.  I try to keep it contained on the other one, but it just erupts like a volcano inside of me.

ANYWAY I am watching this video and I FRICKIN LOVE BOMBADIL and I think maybe they have emotions and thoughts that erupt like mine.  Watch it now!!

So anyway, since we’ve never mentioned them before or anything, let me say that Tarpits and Canyonlands , the album containing “So Many Ways to Die” possesses all the most important qualities of a brilliant piece of art, a piece of human connection. You want to know what these qualities are, probably, and that’s fair, but I don’t have any energy tonight to say them poetically and I don’t want to just throw them out there with ugly words. They say they love the unexpected, they love, in a song, when everything changes; this much is most definitely clear. They build and they come down and they do what they want. They are wild, raw, and free–like Born Ruffians meets the Mountain Goats meets Yo La Tengo. Tenderness meets uninhibited emotion! If you have forgotten why you (yes YOU) love indie folk, if Fleet Foxes have been drowning out all other voices, if the Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack just wasn’t enough for you, it is time for you (yes YOU) to listen to Bombadil.

Also, maybe it’s just “where I am in my life,” but Bombadil’s lyrics speak to me. They ask questions, and I think we survive on questions. Obviously having just gotten married, the songs “Marriage” and “Honeymoon” are both at least a little bit relevant, and I may even post all the lyrics to one of them just because I can. Sorry, is that too personal? I don’t think so. What lies behind that honeymoon? Are you the reason I get mad? If we fell in love in an aeroplane cabin pressure would you take my name? How many ways are there to laugh? Did you really think you had it the worst of all?

Anyway, they are poets. Enjoy them.

p.s. it’s funny that they have a prologue in the middle of the album

p.p.s. Bombadil, I’m sad that you were in Norfolk the week before I got married. I did not see you, nor did I see you play.

p.p.p.s. here are the lyrics to ‘Marriage’…because I can, I said.

what would you say to marriage

after the 200th time I told the same joke

and then I broke your favorite watch with my heel

what would you say of true love

after the 200th time I told you I loved

and then I blew your confidence with a lover that was in my past

I thought you knew, I thought you knew

this was marriage

would you still find me pretty

after the 200th time I wore the same skirt

and then I hurt your dream job offer because I was scared

would you still buy me dinner

after the 200th time I dropped my silver fork

and the nursery rhyme stork never brought a baby to you

I thought you knew

I thought you knew

this was

just two names on a court certificate

20 years and the same kiss

and I thought you knew

I thought you knew

this was marriage