Saturday, December 19, 2009

And everything is going to the beat... 2009: The year in rear view, and the genius of Passion Pit.

Everybody seems to be pretty tight-lipped about it, but not only are we at the close of another year, but a decade as well. Who can blame them, right? I need not go into that I suppose, but as an annual tradition that began last year, I would be remiss without charting the best albums and reissues of 2009. This blog is predominantly about the past, but you'd be surprised at how well I can multi-task with the current slew of music as well. For me the '00s were a steady downward trajectory, with each succeeding year producing a less enticing crop of new albums and bands. Then from out of the blue, something quite amazing happened this spring.

To this set of ears, no other band dominated '09 more than Passion Pit, perhaps the single most arresting band to roll outta Boston, MA since the Pixies. I'll be the first to admit they're a puzzling pick given my usual pallet. In fact, I've never been so stoked on a band so utterly diametric to who I normally wax about on Wilfully Obscure, past or present. Nevertheless, their debut, Manners is by far and away the most convincing proposition the year had to offer, and for that matter, the past three or four years. Specializing in engulfingly, hyper techno-pop, Passion Pit are more attuned to the dance floor than just about any other environ I tend to frequent. Upon hearing “The Reeling” on a sampler compilation this spring, I immediately succumbed to Michael Angelakos gleeful, unremitting falsetto and his band’s dizzying keyboard arrangements, penetrating harmonies, carefully choreographed glitches, and even a reoccurring kids choir. Think the Gibb brothers fronting New Order on overdrive. This is a band that mesmerises full-bore on all fronts, but the bizarre thing is, a year ago I wouldn’t have believed my gonzo reaction to an album of this ilk. Simply put, Passion Pit posses a prowess light years beyond their 2007 infancy (conceived no less in Angelakos bedroom as a Valentine’s Day gift to his sweetheart). Furthermore, Manners ironically bids adieu to a sheer pisser of a decade on an ultra celebratory crescendo, not a whimper. My only concern? I don’t see how they'll ever top it.

Though far from mainstream, the band is hardly underground at this point, which means a lot of you have already experienced them firsthand. While I’m not at liberty to share the readily available Manners, I’ve opted instead to put together a “starter kit” of sorts, containing remixes of four crucial album cuts, and two outtakes from their 2008 ep Chunk of Change, “Batty Lashes” and “Tons of Guns.” As most remixes go, they’re not exactly representative of the LP versions, so to round things out a little more, I’m also sharing their entire live set from this years Glastonbury festival! The links and tracklists are at the tail end of the post.

Yes, there was other stuff occupying my CD player and turntable this year. Also of note was the equally out of character indulgence, Owl City, yet another Casio-kissed contender churning out sublime (in fact, downright utopic) keyboard confections. Superdrag brought forth a great reunion disk, Industry Giants, while Taking Back Sunday, Built to Spill, The Marked Men, and Thermals unleashed reliably satisfying albums as well. Inspired newcomers like Japandroids, Telekenesis, and I Was a King sweetened the pot to fine effect. Mission of Burma delivered their most roiling post-reunion album yet, and Julian Casablancas (of Strokes fame) stunned with a bracing debut solo effort that I never saw coming. There was also Waking Up Birds from the little discussed Bernadettes, the latest endeavor from the ex-frontman (who shall remain unnamed) of The Braves/Evergreen Trio, an album only available via e-mail request for an extremely limited time. Thankfully, for your sake, there's a Rapidshare link to the whole thing below. Alongside my Top 20 and honorable mentions, are my fave reissues and such of 2009. I'd say that's enough typing for one day. Enjoy, and if you're up for more Passion Pit visit them on Myspace, and check out a plethora of live goodies and sessions on Peenko blog.

20 albums that made 2009 more tolerable:

01. Passion PitManners (French Kiss/Columbia)
02. The Pains of Being Pure at Hearts/t (Slumberland)
03. Owl CityOcean Eyes (Universal)
04. Two Tonguess/t (Vagrant)
05. Built to SpillThere is No Enemy (WB)
06. SuperdragIndustry Giants (Thirty Tigers)
07. JapandroidsPost-Nothing (Polyvinyl)
08. The BernadettesWaking Up Birds (self released)
09. Taking Back SundayNew Again (WB)
10. Julian CasablancasPhrazes for the Young (RCA)
11. Marked MenGhosts (Dirtnap)
12. I Was a Kings/t (The Control Group)
13. Tinted Windowss/t (S-Curve)
14. Manic Street PreachersJournal For Plague Lovers (Sony UK)
15. Vinyl CandyLand (self released)
16. TelekenesisTelekenesis! (Merge)
17. Mission of BurmaThe Sound, The Speed, The Light (Matador)
18. Silversun PickupsSwoon (Dangerbird)
19. ThermalsNow We Can See (Kill Rock Stars)
20. DovesKingdom of Rust (Astralwerks)

Bubbling under:

Doug GillardCall From Restricted
CitifiedAbsence ep (Eskimo Kiss)
The Pains of Being Pure at HeartHigher Than the Stars ep (Slumberland)
Pete YornBack and Fourth (Sony)
Dinosaur Jr.Farm (Jagjaguar)
MewNo More Stories (Sony)
SuperchunkLeaves in the Gutter ep (Merge)
Bostons SpaceshipsZero to 99 (GBV Records)
MansionsNew Best Friends (Doghouse)
Chad PriceSmile Sweet Face (Suburban Home)

Top reissues, deluxe editions, anthologies, etc...
01. Big Drill CarA Never Ending Endeavor (Variant)
02. Close LobstersForever Until Victory! The Singles Collection (Fire)
03. Big StarKeep and Eye on the Sky box (Rhimo)
04. The Stone Rosess/t (Silvertone/Legacy)
05. Jane’s AddictionA Cabinet of Curiosities box (WB/Rhino)
06. LoopA Gilded Eternity/Heavens End (Reactor)
07. The A’sThe A’s/A Woman’s Got the Power (American Beat)
08. The VaselinesEnter the Vaselines (Sub Pop)
09. Volcano SunsThe Bright Orange Years/All Night Lotus Party (Merge)
10. V/ASouvenirs: Little Gems of Pop (Sound Asleep)
11. The Undertoness/t (Salvo/Union Square)
12. The Neats1981-84 The Ace of Hearts Years (Ace of Hearts)
13. The SincerosThe Sound of Sunbathing (Cherry Red)
14. The Ergs!Hindsight is 20/20 My Friend (Dirtnap)
15. REMReckoning (IRS)
16. PylonChomp (More) (DFA)
17. NirvanaBleach (Sub Pop)
18. The PassionsThirty Thousand Feet Over China (Cherry Red)
19. CIVThe Complete Discography (Equal Vision)
20. Sunny Day Real EstateDiary/LP2 (Sub Pop)

Passion Pit starter kit:

01. The Reeling (Calvin Harris Remix)
02. Sleepyhead (Neo Tokyo Remix)
03. Little Secrets (Hey Champ Remix)
04. To Kingdom Come (Artwork Remix)
05. Batty Lashes (Chunk of Change outtake)
06. Tons of Guns (Chunk of Change outtake)

Passion Pit - live at Glastonbury 6/27/09:

01. Better Things
02. Make Light
03. Let Your Love Grow Tall
04. Folds In Your Hands
05. Moth's Wings
06. Sleepyhead
07. Smile upon Me
08. The Reeling

Passion Put starter kit:
live at Glastonbury:


Monkey Flinging Poo said...

I spend a good chunk of time checking out the past as well, but usually spend December pouring over "best of" lists to see what nuggets I missed out on. It always helps me realize that every year has plenty of wonderful artists making great music.

I love "The Reeling", but wasn't quite as blown away with the rest of the album. I never tire of hearing bands who work in a little New Order in their diet.

Shteeve said...

Huge thanks for The Bernadettes, who I've never heard or heard of and absolutely love. Web searches have come up pretty empty; any pointers to where I can send them some dough and declare my fandom?

Nice list, and love the blog; thanks for a year of offbeat treats.

Unknown said...

LOUSeY DIARIA!passion shit!
Well solong Suckers!

eric said...

Very nice list, and the occasion seems like a good time to say thank you for another stupendous year of posts. You (again!) turned me on to lots of great things I'd never heard before, and I especially appreciated the new rip of Dreams So Real. I asked about the glitches the first time it was posted, so shame on me for not saying thanks before now, but I just recently got around to giving the entire thing a full and close listen (been busy, busy, busy lately) and it does sound perfect to me. Thanks for everything... the tunes as well as the always interesting info you dig up. Looking forward to 2010...


evr said...


Where'd you get the Close Lobsters from. I gotta order one for me!

Also, Passion Pit dude used to live in Buffalo. Forgot the name of the band he was in (Cherry Bing?).

I'll send my list when I have it!


spavid said...

Thanks for your astute and *ahem* appreciative comments folks, especially you fraropa as you seem to possess an especially enlightened mindset and gifted tongue. Piss on you.

As for the Bernadettes, Waking Up Birds was never commerically released. It's basically a one-man show, the man being Joe Reina, formally of the Rockford, IL bands The Braves and The Evergreen Trio. Visit the Braves Myspace page and you can send him a message. Maybe I'll have something to share by the Braves in the future.

Eric, had no idea Passion Pit had roots in Buffalo. Maybe that explains why they sold out Mohawk Place over the summer. If you need that Lobsters disk, try Amazon UK:

Merry Christmas and a belated Happy Chanukah!

Young Guv said...
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