Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ten Albums I Liked This Year

I know I know I know, I already said I hate top ten lists and I do! But I was one of 1,500 i*l*l*u*s*t*r*i*o*u*s music journalists asked to submit a top ten for the Village Voice's poll, so I bit the bullet and put one together in hopes that Rob Harvilla who I think is probably the music editor at the Voice (and if not is at least someone important) will see my picks and go, "Oh my God, Jason Simms, you have such amazing taste! Would you like to write a weekly column about the best underground bands in the country, for, say, $1000 dollars a week?"

OK before you can stomp all over my dreams, I'm going to deafen you with the sound of my amazing top ten!

10. These Arms Are Snakes - Tail Swallower and Dove.

9. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Real Emotional Trash. Honestly, I really didn't know the first thing about Malkmus until I was assigned to write about him. I'm glad that happened though because I like this album and when I listen to it, it sort of feels like an album that I made, which I gather is the appeal for a lot of people.

8. Jaguar Love - Take Me to the Sea. I know several critics who hate this album and this band. Fuck 'em. Johnny Whitney is a genius with a unique and bizarre world view. This album is pure fun and a great way to follow up his more seriously strange career with Blood Brothers.

7. Dirty Mittens - Pinky Swear

6. The Rainy States - In Basement Air. I really wish the lyrics were intelligible on this album. I would know them all now if they were. Instead I just hum along this sweet and tuneful Portland indie band which sounds like Elliott Smith when the clouds part and it's raining and sunny at the same time.

5. Blue Giant - Target Heart. Two things happened in 2008 that made me proud to be an American for the first time ever. Barack Obama and this band.

4. White Fang - Pure Evil. I feel like this is one of those albums that people are going to look back on and realize it founded a new kind of core.

3. PWRFL POWER - PWRFL POWER. This album is so self-conscious and hilarious that Pitchfork hated it. They had to--it somehow manages to call out everything they represent with sweet, awkward love songs. But the reason this album is great is its frequent and innovative use of noise in a singer-songwriter format.

2. Mr. Gnome - Deliver This Creature. Versatile, emotional drumming, and an elemental female voice are just two reasons this Cleveland two piece got some decent media attention this year. 2009 is going to be their year.

1. Trees - Lights Bane. This album is all punishment, no reward. There is no rhythm. There is no melody. The most structured element is the unforgettable witch's growl. Yet, it is probably my most listened to album of the year. I have it on both CD and vinyl.

Image: Lenny from Trees.


  1. I'd love to hear more about your affection for Trees, Jason. What makes them stand out so strongly for you?

  2. That Pwrfl Power album makes me want to put a hole in my head. Or move away from people. Or something.

    After it sunk in, I realized how insincere and kinda mean a lot of it is. It makes me feel put upon. Really passive aggressive sarcasm, I guess.

    I'll admit he writes good guitar parts.


  3. I think what I really like about Trees is the contrast between the instrumental and vocals, which is even better live. I've always thought doom was really cool in theory--music that's just ridiculously slow and heavy sounds a like a good idea--but never fully connected to it until I saw Trees. Lenny's approach is pretty punk, pretty confrontational, where a lot of doom vocalists are kind of background. There's a quality showmanship and showiness, which is something a lot of experimental music can benefit from.

    And as for PWRFL POWER I could see how you could feel like it's mean. Like, I wouldn't want to date Kaz or something. Even though he can be really sweet, there is an insensitivity at times in his music. But I just find his songs really really entertaining. They make me laugh hard and his lyrics stick with me. "You think I have a easy life/ I just don't have a job" is a favorite. And it's not noise in the deafening experimental sense, but for a player who could be tight and flawless all the time, I think he makes good use of sloppy open strums here and there.