I'm sure some of you read that last post and said "wow, i wish i could listen to this album right now"!
now before you go rushing to myspace, check out this mixtape i made, featuring songs from my favourite albums of 2009!



CAMERA OBSCURA: french navy.
POLAR BEAR CLUB: see the wind.
MEW: introducing palace players.
SIGHTS & SOUNDS: shudder, st. kilda.
STRIKE ANYWHERE: failed state.
PROPAGANDHI: night letters.
CURSIVE: from the hips.
DAVID BAZAN: bless this mess.
ATTACK IN BLACK: i'm a rock.
FRANK TURNER: the road.
WILCO: one wing.
SILVERSUN PICKUPS: substitution.
WEATHERBOX: they're ready for us to come home.
NORTHCOTE: i'm on your side.
BON IVER: beach baby.
THE WOODEN SKY: something hiding for us in the night.
OWEN: brown hair in a bird's nest.
PHOENIX: countdown (sick for the big sun).
CAMERA OBSCURA: other towns and cities.
DEFEATER: a wound and scar.
LUCERO: mom.

BEST OF 2009!

in the spirit of the grammy's, i'm finally ready to unveil my best of 2009 list!

01. CAMERA OBSCURA: my maudlin career.
it was really hard for me to pick my favourite albums of year, and even harder to pick a number one. i bought a lot of records this year, and a lot of quality stuff came out. i decided to pick my maudlin career as my top album because it was something new and fresh for me, and really captured me, sucked me in, and kept me playing it over and over. i had never listened to the bands previous albums, and for the longest time exclusively associated the name with the grind band from san diego that my friend toby really got into in high school. alas, i heard a lot of buzz about this scottish group while touring the uk earlier this year, and through ahead-of-the-curve indie music mastermind paul koehler. like i said before, the record immediately sucked me in, and i couldn't stop listening to it. right away i was reminded of the famous phil spector sound, and the sugary sweet vocal arrangements of spector's female pop groups of the sixties (see: the ronettes) mixed with some well known scottish indie flavouring (see: belle & sebastian). the album kicks off with a few upbeat, undeniable pop hits in a row, yet develops a nice ebb and flow with some subdued ballads. it seems as though regardless of the tempo, the lyrical themes all seemed to deal with failing, and perhaps even tragically doomed relationship scenarios. i think this is where the record really got me. i'm the king of doomed relationships, and seem to set myself up most of the time for failure in these types of situations. i'm not sure if this record revealed an inevitably inauspicious outcome of a certain relationship i was attempting to work towards at the time, but it definitely embraced my situation, and had to be shelved for a bit the more i was able to relate to the lyrics. i'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing, but that relation is a main reason why i felt so attached to the record, solidifying the top position here. i really don't see much flaw in this album. the production is wonderful, and every track has it's place and is enjoyable. there's this one really great song about toronto, too!
KEY TRACKS: french navy, james, forest and sands, other towns and cities.
02. PROPAGANDHI: supporting caste.
putting this record at number two was really hard. i want to say it's my favourite record of the year, and i want to say that it's my favourite propagandhi record, and i think it is, although that seems like such a tall order against such classics as 'less talk, more rock'and 'today's empires, tomorrow's ashes'. needless to say, this record really rips, and i think it encapsulates everything that i've loved about their previous material, while diving into a whole new level of progression, riffing, and both clever and intelligent lyrics. the recording is definitely the best of their discography. making the choice to go with bill stevenson and jason livermoore at the blasting room (who previously handled only the mixing duties for 2005's 'protemkin city limits') was hitting the nail on the head for these guys. kicking off with the fast, hard hitting aggression and anger of empires with 'night letters' (sung by bassist todd kowalski), and shortly followed by a refined and on point progression to the steps taken on potemkin with a riffy, mid tempo prog-banger 'tertium non datur' and several tracks throughout the album seem like modern versions of songs that would've fit alongside the catchy, poppy and often goofy 'less talk'. the lyrical themes are all still there, animal and human rights, militaristic protest, social and cultural injustices, love and death...oh, and of course hockey! if you think "jesus saves, gretzky scores" was a lyrical milestone for you, then you really need to hear 'dear coaches corner'. all in all, i want to call this my favourite propagandhi album, and i think as the years go on it will truly stick with that title, even though it's really hard to shake loyalty with the ever-so-important moments shared with a record for the first time at age 13. oh, and being vegan, this record is amazing. with his tongue firmly implanted in his cheek, chris hannah suggests that man kind would be better off eating eachother than suggesting that eating animals is anything short of inhumane. another track that really hits close to home is 'without love' (as previously documented right here on this very blog) after losing my grandfather, and several close friends in previous years. it's really easy to slump into a rut of sadness, frustration and anger in the loss of a loved one, and this track really inspires hope and motivation to move on with positive and loving attitudes towards each and every day you're alive. i also hate metal, yet i really love some of the riffs and bangers on this record.
KEY TRACKS: night letters, dear coaches corner, human(e) meat (the flensing of sandor katz), without love.
03. MEW: no more stories are told today, i'm sorry, they washed away. no more stories, the world is grey, i'm tired, let's wash away.
mew keeps raising the bar with each record they release. 'no more stories' continues with the obscurely timed and proggier moments of their previous release 'and the glass handed kites' it also seems to bring back some of the initial pop sensibilities of my first introduction to the band, 2003's 'frengers'. at this point, i don't think this band can disappoint me. they're an easy pick as my all favourite live band (they play in front of a syncopated and interactive digital animation) who flawlessly seem to balance the line between both complicated and experimental, yet extremely catchy and memorable. the rhythms are so unique and precise, coupled with often brash and abrasive tones, and shimmering and enchanting melodies of keys, strings, and certainly the upper register of vocalist jonas bjerre. there has always been such an obvious euro quality to this scandinavian quintet, most obviously from the simplistic, and often charming, second nature of the english lyrics. something this record seems to want to achieve is somewhat of a conceptual between the tracks, using seamless transitions coupled with obvious breaks and interludes every so often. mew presents a vast sonic dynamic landscape with 'no more stories', introducing the listener to the peaks of aggression and complexity and the valleys of soothing balladry and compelling beauty of their softer moments. they also seem to introduce a number of new instruments never before used on their previous records, including what sounds to me like many forms of african percussion and some sort of xylophone. definitely an album to check out if you enjoy challenging and involved compositions. oh yeah, and i know the title is a little absurd, but it's a lyric faintly chanted throughout the middle of the record (see the track: 'a dream') and probably holds some sort of conceptual significance, or just goes back to my point about their weirdo euro tendencies.
KEY TRACKS: introducing palace players, beach, repeater beater, cartoons and macramé wounds.
04. DAVID BAZAN: curse your branches.
let me start off by saying, i'm a huge pedro the lion fan, and it was a bit sad to hear that david had dissolved the band to take the solo project approach in which he first took on the pedro name. with that said, i've loved everything he's released, including his first solo ep 'fewer moving parts' and his synth based project headphones. with all of that said, it was great to see david go back to a full (mostly live) band setting for his debut "solo" full length effort on barsuk records. i'd also like to note that i had been anticipating the release of a new bazan record for over two years ('david bazan's back cloud' was a previous working title) and 'branches' did not disappoint. while david has often approached conceptual album topics of divorce, addiction, and christianity, this album is the amalgamation of all those topics with a precise autobiographical narrative. past pedro records have used these topics as a fictional story line, including the struggle to keep together an unfaithful relationship, the temptation of drugs, alcohol and other moral infidelities, along side a constant search for a typical christian spiritual connection and redemption. this record is all these things, and it is most definitely a "break up" record, yet this time it's not a fictional story; in a state of struggling spirituality and alcoholism, bazan has broken up with god. this fantastic chicago reader article i read preceding the release of this album tackled this observation perfectly, and is worth checking out. it seems david has become discouraged in his search for a higher spiritual redemption, and is now bordering atheism, and is here to wallow away with a tall glass of beer as he continues to sing his sorrows. many bold statements are made, most of which take a look at obvious problems of modern society as a result of the dated and inconsistent teachings and traditions of the church (see: 'harmless sparks') as well as the absurd strategic fear of impending eternal damnation. bazan displays a collection of recognizable influences (see: the beatles, radiohead, leonard cohen, wilco) while still maintaining and existing within his own definitive sound. everything you could want from a bazan record (and more) is here, and the sounds and melodies are fresh and inovative, yet still hold an endearing level of familiarity for long time fans.
KEY TRACKS: hard to be, bless this mess, curse your branches, harmless sparks, heavy breath.
05. PHOENIX: wolfgang amadeus phoenix.
this is a pretty generic pick, and seemed to show up on most mainstream rock critics best-of- (albeit numerous urban outfitters play-) lists this year. it's crazy how fast this record seemed to catch on. i heard about it back at the start of summer, on recommendation from paul, and really dug it at first. the next thing i know, the songs were all over the radio and car commercials. the fact of the matter is, this record is extremely catchy, it's undeniable! the first two tracks are instant hits, and have been received as so. the third track fences is really the only thing that bothers me on this record. i find the track so annoying, and make it even more annoying when i try to impersonate how it sounds in my head. i've recently clicked the check mark beside the song in my itunes off so that it doesn't play it. i would much rather listen to extremely boring first half of the fourth track love like a sunset then be put through a full three minutes and fifty seconds of fences. but i digress; back to that fourth track, like i said, suuuuper boring build up part for about 6 minutes, and then a beautiful, and simple ending, with a picking guitar part that totally sounds straight off of moneen's theory of harmonial value. track five bangs into a dueling drum solo, and five or six "where wouldjya go"s later, you've got yourself another instantly catchy hit song. from there the record really opens up for me. i find with these instantly catchy records, i get stuck on the primarily side-a hit singles for the first few listens, but often end up having the b-side of the record really grow on me. this record is totally like that, i've often just listened the vinyl on the b-side for more of a mellow vibe, the songs are really great. the vocal break / high hat solo in rome is a really beautiful part.
KEY TRACKS: countdown (sick for the big sun), lasso, lisztomania, 1901.
06. WILCO: (the album).
i've really embraced wilco as one of my favourite bands since their 2007 release sky blue sky, but mostly due to the regular rotation of their earlier masterpiece yankee hotel foxtrot and the corresponding documentary i'm trying to break your heart. wilco has grown exponentially since the release of foxtrot but have taken on a definite elite status of credibility in the mainstream, large theater/arena concert, grammy nominated world that they now exist in. i really enjoyed this record at first listen, and didn't need much enticement for repeat listening. at first i really felt that they went back to some more experimental studio sounds (see: deeper down) but keeping a good level of consistency with sky blue sky. shortly after, i was calling the record "safe", and even compared it to what i felt death cab for cutie did with their major label debut plans, which is to set themselves some parameters where they know they are successful and really just try to make the best sounding, and most accessible record they can inside that box. it wasn't until i saw wilco live for the 3rd time at massy hall (easily my favourite live performance of the year!) this fall that i really gained a full perspective on the record. i think the fact that it sounds so good masks what is really going on, which instruments are being played, how and when. seeing all six members individually and cooperatively perform their, more often then not, multiple instruments in such a beautifully set venue was absolutely necessary for me to see the wilco machine operate with flawless preciseness. i feel like the record has a really diverse vibe and flow, and don't feel like there are any songs that sound the same or that i would want to skip. the dueling riffing between guitarist/front man jeff tweedy and lead axe slinger nels cline is more intricate and exciting than ever! some songs (see: bull black nova) seem like a real life guitar hero show down for a couple of veteran players like tweedy and cline. the duet with feist is super endearing too! swoooooooon.
KEY TRACKS: one wing, you and i, deeper down, wilco (the song), solitaire.
07. THE WOODEN SKY: if i don't come home you'll know i'm gone.
now for my favourite local release! the boys in the wooden sky have made a huge impression on me since i was introduced to their music after meeting wyatt several times though mutual friends. something about lead singer gavin gardeners voice that really sucks me into these beautiful songs and stories. i find when attempting to review albums, i always feel that i could never do as good of a job as nada could. she loves this album too, and wrote this story in attempt to cover the bases of the landscape that this record beautifully paints. i found it really easy to sentimentally relate to nada's story, which is probably why i had such an instant connection with this record. read her version, it's better than anything i could say. nada wins. as for the sonic element of this record, i think these guys really nailed it with choosing to record at montreal's hotel2tango, well known for producing the studio owners godspeed you black emperor's eclectic albums. another noticeable addition to the production of this record was the performance of (former moneen) drummer peter krpan. peter is such a talented drummer, and brings so much to this record. i believe the band asked peter to join them on the road for a few months, and to assist in the writing and recording of this album while their current drummer andrew kekewich was finishing up school. i don't want to discredit andrew by any means, because he also contributed to the drumming and vast percussion duties on this album as well (and we also recently had a hard bro down over pet sounds). another thing that absolutely must be included in the praise of this wonderful album is the documentary in pieces film project. the band embarked on the "bedrooms & backstreets" tour, featuring performances in unique and unconventional spaces across canada this past summer. the tour was captured and compiled into this dark, strange and beautiful sectioned pieces by director scott cudmore. it's really cool to see how the band adapted these intricate and multi-instrumented songs to be played in unconventional settings such as basements, libraries, sunflower crops, and even a boat, without the format of a traditional live stage or backline. i really hope they move forward with this documentary series and release it as a full length summary of this fascinating album.
KEY TRACKS: (bit part), call if you need me, an evening hymn, something hiding for us in the night, oslo.
08. STRIKE ANYWHERE: iron front.
let me start by saying strike are one of my favourite punk bands, and dear friends (sweet brag), i also have their antifascist circle logo tattooed on my leg. now that we have all that out of the way, lets talk about how i came to love this band. i kind of slept on their early material, and listened to their breakthrough change is a sound only a handful of times before really getting into their 2003 effort exit english just in time to support them on their tour shortly after that albums release. it seemed like change was extremely rushed, and sounded kind of sloppy to me before really knowing the songs, and exit seemed to be producer brian mcternan's attempt to correct that. i loved how exit sounded, thick guitar tones, polished vocal lines, hooks and harmonies, and tight and crisp rhythms. after seeing them live a handful of times, it became apparent that the recording seemed formulated, and the use of a click track came across as slow compared to their aggressive and rapid live tendencies. when i first heard exit's follow up dead fm it felt like the band was trying to rebel against those thick and lush production techniques, and produced a thin, loose, and somewhat bland and boring album (aside from the obvious banger, lead off track sedition, which might stand as my favourite strike song). i was a little disappointed to lose the things i loved about exit and wished they would find a way to harness the intensity and aggression of change and make it sound as good as exit. it seems as though they have finally done that here with their debut for, predominantly hardcore, bridge 9 records. iron front takes everything that i like about the band, and hammers it home with a refined, and extremely well executed fearless statement. strike anywhere is a fast, aggressive, passionate, melodic, pissed off, thoughtful and educated hardcore band. i know these descriptions don't all seem to fit with one another, but they are all important elements that make up the band and this exceptional thirteen song effort. get ready to pump your fist, sing and yell along at the top of your lungs, rebel, relate, circle pit and stage dive! GO!
KEY TRACKS: invisible colony, i'm your opposite number, failed state, first will and testament.
09. WEATHERBOX: the cosmic drama.
this record is really cool, obscure and all over the place, but has some shining moments and sincere qualities. i got the idea that the band sort of broke up, or at least left singer brian warren alone to make this record on his own, with the help of musicians of his choice (some of which were in the band to begin with...i don't quite get it). i kind of had the impression that this would be one of those weird, lead singer goes crazy, kicks out the band, and makes an obscure solo record, and i guess in many ways it is. it's definitely different than their doghouse debut american art and took me a few listens to get past the weirdness of some of the tracks (especially the first one, it reminds me of something jeremy enigk would be behind, and i'm not sure if i like it or not). there are a few really cool, simple, yet intricate, lofi acoustic songs, and tons of quirky riffs and enigmatic lyrics. i think as a whole, i can really appreciate every song for what it is, and really commend the band for taking a risk into a world of obscurity, while maintaining somewhat of a consistent sound to their previous material. i kind of relate this record to the new attack in black (see bellow) album years (...) which i think completely alienates their old material, and in turn their entire fanbase, and i don't think this album does that, it just challenges old fans to enjoy some weird and new ideas and song structures. the recording quality is also rough, lofi and seemingly diy at times, without losing any sort of impact in the mean time. i dig it. oh, and the cover art salute to famed late author kurt vonnegut is a very nice touch! the long song titles aren't too tiring either, it really does sound like he's saying "youtube the clouds". if my band had the sense to name the songs the dumb things we think we hear being said in songs we'd definitely have named some "stop fucking my mom", "apple tooth, ba-do-do-doot-doot", and "just when you think you're done banging dudes" (a tribute to social distortion).
KEY TRACKS: they're ready for us to come home, mindthings to waste, youtube the clouds (anything that flies), and you will know me by the trail of dead.
10. LUCERO: 1372 overton park.
this new lucero record is a huge step in the polished, pop structured, mainstream and sugary sounding direction from their rootsy, organic, live, loose, sad drunk sounds of their considerable discography. they really honed in on their sound, tightened and brightened everything up, added more keys and plenty of horns, and seemingly took a dive head first into an accessible sound. i can see how fans of the old sound would dismiss, and even hate this record, but i think the more i listened, i see this record for what it is, which is a logic musical progression and not a form of "selling out" by any means. lucero have made something like 6 or 7 records, and can keep making the same shitty sounding record, but have decided to do better than that, and make a good sounding record for a change. if you don't like it because the songs sound too happy, well listen and look a little deeper into the songs. the same themes and stories are still there beneath the glistening tones and sonic value. i really like where they have gone with this, and have a hard time finding myself not enjoying and singing along to these songs. the first obvious comparison you can make is that of the hold steady, which is a great thing in my opinion. i must admit though, i almost always skip 'sixes and sevens', just a bit too hoaky for me. the final track 'mom' is easily as good as any lucero album closer to date (see: the war, she wakes when she dreams, it gets the worst at night).
KEY TRACKS: smoke, what are you willing to lose, sound of the city, goodbye again, mom.
these albums didn't quite make the cut, but are still pretty good and worthy of talking about and checking out.
FRANK TURNER: poetry of the deed.
frank turner was easily my favourite artist and greatest musical discovery of 2009 (thanks stephanie!) but that was entirely based on 2008's masterpiece love ire and song. poetry is franks technical epitaph debut (they gave ire a proper north american release this year i suppose) which grows on me more and more every listen, but just doesn't seem to make the impression and mark set by it's predecessor. while ire is so beautifully honest, on point, and composed, poetry seems to lack some sort of spark, in my opinion, mostly due to the intended live band approach and vibe in both the song writing and recording. like i said, this record keeps growing on me, and some of the songs are total sing along bangers (especially after seeing him live three times now since the release) but it always boils down to there being something missing that ire is just soaking with. for every great song on this record, there is at least one mediocre filler track. i really enjoy the continual message of this record though, which to me screams "BE WHAT YOU BELIEVE...burst at the seems, be what you dream, and then take to the road". if you've yet to hear frank, go pick up love ire & song and catch him live if you can!
KEY TRACKS: try this at home, poetry of the deed, the road, journey of the magi.
this record is cool, and definitely better and more thought out and put together than their debut carnavas. i really like a bunch of the songs, and the album as a whole, but for some reason it's just not there. i really hope 'the royal we' is a big lebowski reference (you know, the editorial...)
KEY TRACKS: the royal we, it's nice to know you work alone, panic switch, substitution.
SIGHTS & SOUNDS: monolith.
a great debut effort for this comeback kid side project band. i really liked this record when i first heard it, and have listened to it a lot. the songs are very powerful, and the production is very heavy at the hands of predominantly metal producer devin townsend. i think the reason that this record doesn't quite cut it is that there isn't a ton of dynamic, and seems to follow along the same sort of sonic tone, mood and vibe. in some ways, i see that as a good thing, and perhaps what the band was aiming for, but i also got tired of it after a while. i think some of the songs drag on a bit too long as well. still, really great album, can't wait to see what these dudes do next!
KEY TRACKS: sorrows, shudder st. kilda, storm and the sun, the furthest truth, pillars.
POLAR BEAR CLUB: chasing hamburg.
much like frank turner's poetry of the deed, the polar bears' new record doesn't quite shine through the shadow of their previous achievements. i think i was actually the last guy to get into this band, but finally i'm here, and really digging this new disc, but not quite as much as their 2008 full length debut sometimes things just disappear. a product of influence of a majority of my favourite bands (see: hot water music, small brown bike, the get up kids, piebald) polar bear club really made an impression on the gainesville fest attending punknews.org-ers in the past couple of years. chasing hamburg marks their debut with aforementioned, and apparently eager to branch out, hardcore staple bridge 9 records. produced by matt bayles (minus the bear, mastodon, isis, blood brothers) who may or may not have convinced the bears to shorten, and focus their song writing structures, resulting in a very to the point, while still aggressive, predominantly pop focused album. it sounds great, has well written lyrics, and is extremely catchy, but doesn't quite meet the mark set by disappear, and i guess that's why it doesn't make the cut for me. hamburg really is a perfect musical journal of the typical punk ethos band dude, struggling to find their place, remain honest, sincere and credible in a ruthless industry of faceless message board attacks and put-on rockstar egos. i think anyone who has ever truly loved touring and playing music can agree that "there are lots like us, with no grave but the stage".
KEY TRACKS: see the wind, living saints, light of local eyes, chasing hamburg.
OWEN: new leaves.
i don't think i could ever hate an owen album. mike kinsella is so extremely talented, and endearing in his song writing and performing. there really isn't a whole lot "new" going on with leaves, his fifth full length effort, which i think is my only real problem. the songs are all really beautiful, well and cleverly written (especially lyrically), produced and performed, yet i wasn't really as excited about this record as i was with past owen material, and found myself reluctant to listen and re-listen, and when i did, it was a lot of the same old for kinsella. mind you, that same old is pretty brilliant, and extremely talented, it's just, not really any better than previous albums. the best part is, mike doesn't seem to really care what i think, or anyone for that matter, and will continue to share the music he essentially makes for himself, as long as he's not serious about that one final curtain call.
KEY TRACKS: good friends bad habits, a trenchant critique, brown hair in a birds nest, curtain call.
CURSIVE: mama, i'm swollen.
most of my friends who love cursive didn't really like this record, often complaining that it was too similar to frontman tim kashers side project the good life. i really like the good life, and while i still feel mama fits as a cursive album, i don't really mind either way. it's definitely less abrasive compared to their last two records happy hollow and the ugly organ which i feel is something i enjoy about it. it definitely took a while to get into, but i made sure to listen to it a lot before attending the bands first ever canadian headline show this summer at toronto's legendary horseshoe tavern. after seeing the songs performed live, along side older classics and favourites of mine from earlier albums domestica and burst & bloom, i found myself enjoying the new songs as much, if not more so. i think it's really worth checking out this record and giving it a chance, but i suppose it's not quite top ten calibre.
KEY TRACKS: from the hips, i couldn't love you, cavemen, what have i done.
alright, so i really like the smiths, and it's cool for a band in 2009 to make a record that sounds like them. i really enjoyed this record, but probably not as much as the long list of critics giving them top ten honours this past year. they were kind of boring live, too.
KEY TRACKS: come saturday, young adult friction, stay alive, gentle sons.
ATTACK IN BLACK: years (by one thousand fingertips).
after two exceptional, yet drastically different releases in 2007, it was hard for me to really know which direction attack in black was going to go with their music. it's quite obvious that along with the recording equipment they found buried in their parents basement, used to record the curve of the earth, they must've stumbled upon their parents record collections too. after a taste of radio success, and countless tours with friends, canadian screaming heavy hitters alexisonfire, it's obvious that these four guys wanted to throw a wrench into the machine that was operating their career. they set out to alienate the fans they made on the radio or any of those convention center sized alexis shows, by making a lofi, diy home recording of sixteen songs in the vain of those dusty records they must've found in their basement (see: neil young, bob dylan, the band, etc). i definitely had planned on covering this album in my hopefully upcoming "biggest disappointments of 2009" post, but i think i like it too much to really call it a disappointment. i gotta say though, i would appreciate this album much more as ten or eleven songs than sixteen. there are some real sinkers on here, and i think a lot of it comes from the experiment in letting all 4 band members sing on curve. while it was charming to hear the less experienced, mostly off pitch vocal performances on curve, it's just flat out bad and boring in some cases here. while i really enjoy bassist "big ian"s distorted vocals on track two leaving your death in a flowerbed, it gets extremely cringeworthy mid record with leather jacket. the middle of the record actually has a lot of skippers for me, especially track nine, the extremely boring, insta-wincer messenger bird. same goes for slender loris and brownness of her curls, both secondary singer songs. all of that criticism aside, there are some really great songs on this album, which brings back my suggestion about it being a stronger album at shorter length. luckily with all these new influences they still have a strong affection for the weakerthans, as shown on a personal stand out track moon of day. another thing i have really began to hate about this band is that, musical styles aside, this band seems reluctant to alienate their fans with their setlist selection. i've liked these guys for a few years now, and i always feel like i'm a year behind their setlist. when i first got into their widows ep they were already playing songs off their yet-to-be recorded marriage. i saw them a few times on the australian soundwave tour, which they were doing to support the aussie release of marriage, yet insisted on playing a set list made up of mostly then unreleased songs from years. i had a lot of friends from australia who were really excited to see the guys on soundwave after i hyped up marriage to them, and they were all instantly disappointed with the set of unknown, slower folk songs. even since, i went to see them play a few weeks ago for the constantines ten year anniversary shows, and was looking forward to seeing them play some of my favourite songs from this record (see below) and was completely let down with mostly songs i didn't like (see above) and new songs that no one in the crowd could've possibly known. i admire the ethos and mindset as an artist to play what you want to play, but c'mon guys, there needs to be a line. it may just be a coincidence, but kudos to the how it feels to be something on album cover homage.
KEY TRACKS: leaving your death in a flowerbed, i could turn, i'm a rock, moon of day, the surface i would travel.
TOP 5 EP's.
PAINT IT BLACK: amnesia.
paint it black decided to make two 7" ep's this year instead of a full length. amnesia is the first one, which they released on bridge 9. i personally think it's the better of the two, and contains five really great songs. it starts off with the pissed off salem, which addresses the separation of church and state, and the issue of teaching creationism in public school systems in america. track two homesick is probably the most kid dynamite-esque paint it black song to date. the title song tackles the sensitive subject of the holocaust, and ends with the plea "NEVER AGAIN". the fifth and final track bliss is paint it black's longest, and definitely most lifetime-esque, and is about riding bikes, so i'm down. i was lucky enough to attend 3 of the 4 record release weekend shows for this, and you can read about that and see my photos here.
KEY TRACKS: (basically all of them...it's only like 10 minutes of music).

BON IVER: blood bank.
i'm ready to admit that bon iver's debut for emma, forever ago should've received a higher position on last years list. this quick follow up ep is pretty good, and features two really good songs followed by two mediocre songs. apparently there won't be any new material for a while now, but i've really enjoyed the full length and this ep this past year.
KEY TRACKS: blood bank, beach baby.
DEFEATER: lost ground.
another band who released a full length record last year that i didn't get into in time to give proper honours. lost ground follows up their bridge 9 debut travels by continuing on with a story line from my favourite track on travels, prophet in plain clothes. this double 7" concept ep follows a character through the experience of being a soldier in world war two with six very powerful, hard hitting tracks. some real heavy songs on here, both musically and emotionally. defeater are an awesome new band for fans of modern life is war, have heart and verse, easily as much as one of underoath (minus the whole christianity thing i suppose).
KEY TRACKS: the red white & blues, the bite & sting, a wound & scar.

NORTHCOTE: borrowed chords, tired eyes.
northcote is my pal matt goud who used to play guitar and sing in the band means. he's been working on this solo stuff for a few years now ever since means split up, and has been sending me demos and rough mixes along the way. this debut under the new moniker is a nice collection of eight solo songs with the accompaniment of a female vocalist/trumpeter, and much more in-studio instrumentation including harmonica, slide guitar and a few different forms of percussion. matt is a really kind soul, and has become a really dear long distance friend. these songs are mostly simple, but extremely honest and endearing. i'm looking forward to see what else he does as a solo musician and have my fingers crossed for him making a stop over in toronto this spring and summer. matt really pours his heart out in these songs, and i feel like he's at his most honest and heartfelt in the album closer good night, which reflects on his touring days with means, and deals with the struggles of moving on from all the joys and struggles of being in a band.
KEY TRACKS: wheels, all i have is time, i'm on your side, stark major, good night.
PAINT IT BLACK: surrender.
surrender was the second paint it black 7" this year, released on fat wreck chords. the only real downfall of this ep is that it's shorter (clocks in under seven minutes), and slightly less memorable (probably because i haven't listened to it as much). i definitely like the cover art better than amnesia, though.
KEY TRACKS: (again, all of them, not skipping a song takes longer than listening to it in this case).

i take a lot of pride that, with the music industry in a dying physical climate, i'm still buying records and supporting these bands. here's a photo of all* of these records listed above on vinyl.

*frank turner, sights & sounds**, and northcote currently not available on vinyl.
** (in north america)