Best Shows I Saw In 2009

December 27, 2009 by · 2 Comments
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2009 was another great year for live music , slightly edging out last year for me with a grand total of 97 shows, in 26 different venues for 251 sets of music by 215 different bands, with 26 bands logging in 2 or more. Continuing to be one of the best live music venues anywhere, Johnny Brenda’s topped the list with 25 visits. The other places where you could have found me hanging out this past year being World Cafe Live(15),The M Room(11),Kung Fu Necktie(7) and The Khyber, The Fire and The Spectrum at 4 trips each. Enough with the numbers for now, here’s the best shows I saw this past year.

Want to throw in a very special thank you Joe @ Village Green Productions for letting me put Bag Of Songs Presents nights together and especially to all of the bands that played them this past year : Pow  Wow!, DeJesus, The Skyler King, Bridges And Powerlines, Curious Buddies, Bojibian, The Shots, Sugar Canyon, Canadian Invasion, Golden Bloom, Sudden Ensemble, In Grenada, Lima Research Society, Meyerman, Halloween, Alaska, Missing Palmer West, Scott McClatchy, Dinosaur Feathers, Joe Michelini of River City Extension, Creatures Of The Golden Dawn, North Lawrence Midnight Singers, High Hearts, Matt Kresge, Acres Of Diamonds, Tall Tall Trees, Eat Your Birthday Cake, Cailin Callahan

05.12.09 Leonard Cohen @ Academy Of Music
10.22.09 Leonard Cohen @ Tower Theater
Leonard Cohen came to Philadelphia twice this past year, after having not been here since 1993. While both shows were outstanding, the May show at the Academy Of Music was hands down the best show I saw this past year and also secures a place on the list of all time greatest shows I have ever witnessed. His stage presence and connection to the audience is amazing and at 74 years old he is still performing three hour plus shows. A friend at the same show called it “a gift from god”, it really was that good.

02.13.09 In Grenada @ Johnny Brendas
In Grenada plays a percussive, guitar driven brand of indie rock, that’s often compared to Arcade Fire or The National, this show complete with double drummers was as amazing as either of those bands. A Philly band you’ll want to keep to keep an eye on.

02.14.09 Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright @ The Kimmel Center
Rufus Wainwright never fails to put on a highly entertaining show and really knows how to interact with the audience. Solo inside the confines of the beautiful Kimmel Center was a perfect show for Valentines Day. Martha’s opening set was impressive as well.

03.13.09 The Feelies @ Johnny Brendas [Listen]
The Feelies hadn’t played in Philadelphia in just over 18 years but this show proved they hadn’t lost the magic in the interim. Easily as good or better than the shows I saw them play twenty years ago and still sounding relevant, a testament to the legacy of their influence.

06.08.09 Pink Mountaintops @ Johnny Brendas
Black Mountain made my best shows list two years in a row, I wasn’t lucky enough to see them again this past but leader Stephen McBean’s other project Pink Mountaintops is equally as brilliant trading in the heavy stoner rock of Black Mountain for more of a garage rock psychedelia.

07.19.09 Dinosaur Feathers, Joe Michelini of River City Extension @ M Room
09.07.09 River City Extension @ The Fire

Two of the bands that will be making serious waves in 2010 playing absoultely stellar sets on a Sunday night. If you witnessed this one you know how great it was. If you didn’t you’re you going to wish you had. Thanks to Emma at The World In A Paper Cup for turning me on to Brooklyn’s Dinosaur Feathers whose debut disc Fanstasy Memorial is going to make some serious waves when it drops in early 2010. New Jersey’s River City Extension’s live show is nothing short of amazing and this solo set by leader Joe Michelini was absolutely spellbinding. They also have a new disc coming in 2010 to be on the watch for.
River City Extension’s full band show is non stop energy and fun. Get out and see them as soon as you can.

09.09.09 Sleepy Sun @ Johnny Brendas
This San Francisco Band had the considerable luck to have long time Bag Of Songs favorite Rachel Williams(birds.fled.from.me) join the fold. Their live show is stunning blend of trippy psychedelia.

09.23.09 Missing Palmer West @ Bruce Springsteen Birthday Tribute at World Cafe Live
In a night that was filled with top notch performances by Philadelphia musicians playing the music of Bruce Springsteen, including the Born To Run album in it’s entirety, Missing Palmer West’s breathtaking stellar performance of the epic Jungleland was the crown jewel of the evening for me.

10.14.09 Bruce Springsteen @ The Spectrum
After seeing Bruce play a phoned in sloppy mess of a show back in April, where he even botched the lyrics to Promised Land while reading from the teleprompter, I almost didn’t bother to go again on the fall dates. The lure of seeing Darkness On The Edge Of Town played all the way through was too great to resist however. It was totally worth it. While the portions of the show before and after were good, the album in it’s entirety was outstanding,with Bruce turning off his work the crowd schtick for 45 minutes or so and just playing the music with the intensity it deserves. It was like being time warped back to 1978 when he still felt like he had something to prove.

10.17.09 Acres Of Diamonds,Tall Tall Trees,Eat Your Birthday Cake,Cailin Callahan @ JDMcGillicuddys
Sometimes when you put a show together it all just falls into place like magic, this was one of those times. This was the Bag Of Songs Third Anniversary Party and I can’t thank the bands enough for delivering a night of incredible music and fun all around.

10.23.09 Andrew Bird @ World Cafe Live Upstairs XPN Free At Noon
To see Andrew Bird recreate the sounds on his album in a live setting all by himself using loops and samples and multiple instruments was a truly memorable experience, and left me with a much higher regard for him as a super talented musician.

10.31.09 Pearl Jam @ The Spectrum
For the final show at the Philadelphia Spectrum Pearl Jam delivered a forty one song,three and a half hour juggernaut of that included plenty of hits,many rarities and even a special Halloween encore with the band dressed as vintage DEVO in yellow jumpsuits and red flowerpot hats
performing the song Whip It. A fitting send off to a great music venue.

11.06.09 The Swimmers @ Kung Fu Necktie CD Release Party
The Swimmers holed up for the last year or so and reinvented their sound and themselves as a band while working on their latest record People Are Soft. Their set at the CD Release Party for the disc showcased their new sound, playing one of the best and tightest sets I think I have seen them play, including a smoking cover of New Order’s Age Of Consent.

07.25.09 The Hold Steady @ XPoNential Music Festival @ Wiggins Park
In a weekend filled with some great performances form the likes of Yeasayer,Steve Wynn,Illinois,Low Anthem,They Might Be Giants,Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby and John Wesley Harding,The Hold Steady delivered a brilliant but slightly shortened set as a late evening rainstorm blazed through. The site of Craig Finn arms outstretched, singing in the pouring rain is forever etched in my mind.

I usually don’t list my worst shows of the year but this one was so exceptionally bad I thought it warranted a special mention:

10.23.09 Todd Rundgren @ The Spectrum
In what was billed as Philly sendoff for the final days of the Spectrum, Todd Rundgren shared a bill with The Hooters and Hall And Oates. After an amazing sounding and extremely tight set by The Hooters, Todd Rundgren took the stage and played an obnoxiously loud,self indulgent set of mostly obscurities that sounded like Spinal Tap gone wrong. More like a F— off than a send off tribute, maybe he intended it as a joke, I don’t know, but it cleared out most of the arena while he played,leaving everyone wondering just what the hell he was doing.

Everyone out and playing music deserves a mention so here’s the full list:
100 Monkeys,A Distant Second,Absolute Zeroes ,AC Newman,Acres Of Diamonds,Adam & Daves Bloodline,Adam Arcuragi,Aimee Mann ,Amy ,An American Chinese ,Andrew Bird,As Tall As Lions,Asteroid #4,Audible,Autolux,Bad Flirt,Bad Religion ,BC Camplight,Ben Arnold   Band,Beretta76,Bishop Allen,Black Landlord,Bojibian,Bottle Rockets,Bridges And Powerlines,Brother JT,Brown Recluse Sings ,Bruce Springsteen,By Surprise ,Cailin Callahan ,Cale Parks ,Canadian Invasion,Chairlift,Cheers Elephant,Chris Huff,Chris Kasper,Coltrane Motion,Cordero,Creatures Of The Golden Dawn,Curious Buddies ,Custom D 3,Cynthia Mason,Dan May,Danielson,Darwin Deez ,Dead Meadow,Deadstring Brothers ,DeJesus ,Dex Robweber,Dinosaur Feathers,Donna the Buffalo,Doomed To Obscurity,Drummer,Early Day Miners ,East Hundred,Eat Your Birthday Cake,Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeroes ,Fanfarlo,Fang Fang,Faux Slang ,Felice Brothers,Folklore,Frankie V & Kitchen Sync,Free Energy,Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus Of Dreams,Golden Bloom ,Goldspot,Grammar Debate,Grant Hart,Ha Ha Tonka,Hall & Oates,Halloween Alaska,Heirloom,Hesta Prynn,High Hearts ,Hoots And Hellmouth,Hop Along Queen Ancelais ,Horses Mouth,Ice Palace,Illinois,In Grenada ,Instamatic,James Maddock,Jeff Kessler ,Jeff The
Brotherhood,Joe Michelini of River City Extension ,John Gorka,John Train featuring Mike Brenner,John Wesley Harding ,John Wesley Harding and the English UK,Jotto ,JP05,Justin Townes Earle,Katie Herzig,Kitten Disaster ,Lambchop,Leonard Cohen,Lima Research Society,Longwave ,Lopez,Low Anthem,Lucero,Lucky Day ,M Ward,Marianne Faithfull ,Martha Wainwright ,Matt Gauss,Matt Krefting ,Matt Kresge ,Matt Santry,Matt Spitko,Meyerman ,Mini Mansions ,Minus 5,Missing Palmer West,Monsters Of Folk,Mount St Helens Vietnam Band,Nervous Rex,New Model Army,New Motels,Nicole Atkins,North Lawrence Midnight Singers ,Nothingberry Plasma,Oasis,OK Go,One Eskimo,Papertrigger,Pearl Jam,Persona ,Pete Yorn,Phil Roy,Phill-E Street Band ,Pink Mountaintops,Post Post ,Pow Wow!,Qatsi ,Quest For Fire ,Ray Morin,River City Extension,Robbie Fulks,Robes,Robes ,Rosewood Thieves,Royal Bangs,Rufus WainWright,Ryan Adams ,Scott McClatchy,Scott McMicken of Dr Dog,Serena Ryder,Sharon Little,Shonen Knife ,Shrinking Islands,ShyDog,Sisters 3,Sleepy Sun ,Spinto Band,Static Jacks ,Steve Forbert and the Windfall Prophets,Steve Wynn,Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra,Sudden Ensemble ,Sunset ,Superdrag,Tall Tall Trees,Team B,Ted Leo,The Armchairs,The Bacon Brothers,The Baseball Project,The Big Jangle,The Black Fortys ,The Broken West ,The Bye Byes ,The Bynars,The Capitol Years,The Depreciation Guild,The Doughboys,The Feelies,The Friggs,The Great Unknown,The Hold Steady ,The Hooters ,The Lampshades ,The Lemon Treasures,The New Time,The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart,The Popo,The Rigbees,The Shots,The Skyler King,The Subjects,The Swimmers,The Tough Shits,Them Vultures,Theotis Joe,They Might Be Giants,Those Darlins,Throw Me The Statue,Todash,Todd Rundgren,Tom Hamilton’s American Babies,Tommy Keene,Tommy Womack,Trained Attack Dogs ,Univox ,Upsincefriday,Victor Victor Band,Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby,Yeasayer,Youth Group

Bag Of Songs Top 25 Albums of 2008 : 1 to 10

January 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Wrapping up the BOS top 25 albums of 2008 with the top ten. It’s the end of the countdown but stay tuned for some addtional thoughts on 2008 coming in another post real soon, plus lots of great music on deck for 2009.


10 Birds Fled From Me – Deeper Lurking [BUY]
It was just about a year ago when I named Birds Fled From Me the BOS Artist Of The Day and predicted this to be among the year’s best releases. It stood the test of time. Santa Cruz, California’s Rachel Williams is one extremely talented girl who independently recorded and released this record herself. With a voice most closely reminiscient of Fiona Apple or Bjork, this is a stunningly beautiful record that deserves so much more recognition than it received. You
can buy it directly from Rachel via her Myspace page.

Birds Fled From Me – Resisted
Bonus – Bird Fled From Me – I Love You (Live)



9 My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges [BUY]
Take MMJ’s catalog and throw it into a blender with a big batch of those K-Tel hits of the 70′s records and I imagine this is pretty close to where you’ll end up. Not as thematically consistent as some of their earlier records but the success level in the adventurousness pays off more often than not in what ends up sounding like and indie rock version of AM radio gold. Some of the highlights on the buffet include the weird funk experiment Highly Suspicious,the pure sugary rush of Two Halves, and what is one of the best songs of the year in the beautiful, acoustic, Librarian.

My Morning Jacket – Librarian



8 Blitzen Trapper – Furr [BUY]
More refined and focused than their breakthrough Wild Mountain Nation,Blitzen Trapper have taken the Grateful Dead meets Pavement mix to the next level on this one, solidifying their influences into thier distinct sound. The title track with it’s storytelling of a boy raised by wolves grappling with his human emotions is an instant classic.

Blitzen Trapper - Furr



7 She & Him – Volume One [BUY]
Who’d have thought this would work so well, actress decides to be singer is generally the making of a one off disaster(see Scarlett Jo) but this is an addicting listen steeped in a mix of California harmonies and sixties girl group sounds. Zooey Deschanel and M Ward cooked up a winner here for sure here’s hoping there’s a volume 2.

She & Him – This Is Not A Test



6 Black Mountain – In the Future [BUY]
Expecting more of the immediacy of songs like Modern Music  or No Satisfaction I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with the first couple listens to this, thinking it was more Black Sabbath than Black Mountain,not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s so much more. Picking up where songs like Druganaut left off and taking them to the next level, capped off by the epic 16 minutes plus, Bright Lights. The show I saw them do back in February with Bon Iver opening was probably the best show I saw in 2008.

Black Mountain – Tyrants



5 Ting Tings – We Started Nothing [BUY]
Sure this is probably more style than substance, but it is hands down the party record of the year, when was the last time you heard a record where every song had enough hooks to be a single. As they used to say on American Bandstand, “It’s got a great beat, and you can dance to it”. Catchy, fun, danceable, and just try not to sing along.

The Ting Tings – Shut Up And Let Me Go



4 Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping [BUY]
If you’re like me and only really had a passing interest in Of Montreal, now’s the time to change that. This album is a mix of sexual confusion,funk and dance music, and Sergeant Pepper like psychedelia all blended together in a dizzying mashup that makes Girl Talk‘s Greg Gillis seem like an amateur, yet it somehow all holds together as a whole. As a musician it leaves me amazed just wondering how someone can get that far out there for inspiration and then be able to realize it as a finished work.

Of Montreal – For Our Elegant Caste



3 Cheers Elephant – Here We Are(Demo) [BUY]
One Of Philadelphia’s best bands right now, this record best described is psychedelic folk music with and indie prog rock twist. Shimmers of  sixties and seventies folk and psychedelia are as prevalent as eighties and nineties indie rock. Like all great artists these are just touchstones in a clearly unique and individual sound. This was an early 2008 demo, Cheers Elephant releases their first official CD in a couple weeks watch for it to be turning heads early in 2009.

Cheers Elephant – Here We Are



2 The Dutchess and the Duke – She’s the Dutchess, He’s the Duke [BUY]
Stripped down and folky this album is all about the songs in their purest form. I’m going to quote my own review from July here:
The Dutchess And The Duke’s, debut full length She’s the Dutchess, He’s the Duke careens along in it’s lo-fi immediate glory like a combination of Bob Dylan, The Mamas & The Papas and early Rolling Stones swagger. With the familiar warmth of a lost 60’s classic and the jagged edge of a modern recording, everything old is new again and sounding better than ever. Kimberly Morrison(aka The Dutchess) and Jesse Lortz(aka The Duke) holed up last fall at Magical Basement Studios in West Seattle with Bryan Standridge behind the board of an 8- track and recorded a modern folk classic. It’s chock full of strummy acoustic guitars and percussion with more than enough pure pop melodies and sing along vocal harmonies to have you hooked after just one listen.

The Dutchess and The Duke – Reservoir Park



1 Mono In VCF – Mono In VCF [BUY]
The album I listenedd to more than any other this year, I was hooked on this from the first play back in June of this year and it’s still in the heavy rotation six months later. The name Mono In VCF is a combination of Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound(Mono) and Moog Synthesizer tones(VCF) and their music has been described as “Drifting in space between psychedelic Beatles and Massive Attack” by Tom Scanlon of The Seattle Times. It is music that is sweeping,cinematic and serenely lush sounding, all woven together by the silky smooth, soaring vocals of Kim Miller. What I previously described as “fearlessly futuristic and reminiscient of the great film soundtrack music of the sixties all at once”. It’s music with the power to take your mind to another place away from all the distrations around you, similar to the the sensation of flying in a dream but converted into sound.

Mono In VCF – Escape City Scrapers

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Bag Of Songs Top 25 Albums of 2008 : 11 to 15

January 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Number 11 to 15 of the BOS top 25 albums today, stay tuned for the top ten coming up soon.

15 Duffy – Rockferry [BUY]
Mercy may be the best single of the year, but is not necessarily typical of the rest of this disc which takes a slightly more low key approach and harkens back to 60′s soul singers like Petula Clark, or to a lesser extent Dusty Springfield. Bolstered by solid songs like the the title track and the excellent Warwick Avenue it’s a great kick back and listen record.

Duffy – Mercy
Bonus Duffy – Ready For The Floor (Hot Chip Cover)



14 The Hymns – Travel In Herds [BUY]
The Hymns also had one of the great singles of 2008 with the horn laced I Can’t Be What You Want, and the rest of the disc runs deep with equally great songs from The Velvets Meet CCR rocker Streets Alone, to the country tinged Off My Mind. Another one of the overlooked gems of 2008.

Hymns – I Can’t Be What You Want



13 The Hold Steady – Stay Positive [BUY]
After the pretty much perfect Boys And Girls in America, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at this being a bit of a letdown. I anticpated this ending up in my top three for the year,and with the exception of a clunker or two the songs are all there, but where this really lost points for me is the overly loud muddy production that makes it near unlistenable. I haven’t been able to sit and listen to this all the way through because after two or three songs I get ear fatigue so bad I need to put something else on. Be sure to track toown the version with the three bonus tracks Ask Her for Adderall,Cheyenne Sunrise and Two Handed Handshake.

The Hold Steady – Slapped Actress



12 No Age – Nouns [BUY]
Unlike the Hold Steady record which tried to be loud and faltered, this record sounds better the louder you play it. Sculpting a wall of sound reminiscient of Husker Du or Sonic Youth into catchy melodic songs, this record is filled with the joyful catharsis of playing loud electric guitar.

No Age – Sleeper Hold



11 Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Pershing [BUY]
The years best record of pure ear candy, indie influenced power pop at it’s best. It’s a record chock full of hooks and harmonies, finding just the right balance between quirky and super catchy.

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Glue Girls

Bag Of Songs Top 25 Albums of 2008 : 16 to 20

January 1, 2009 by · 1 Comment
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Happy New Year’s 2009 everyone, five more of the Bag Of Songs Top 25 albums of 2008 for you.
Again, feel free to chime in with comments along the way,let me know your picks, what you think I missed, etc.


20 Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago [BUY]
I’m sure by now you ‘ve all heard the story of how Justin Vernon holed up for three months alone in a cabin in the woods of northern Wisconsin in the winter to make this record. If you’ve listened to it you know how he managed to translate the heartbreak of a breakup combined with all of that isolation into a set of stunning, powerful,intimate songs. It’s worthy of all the raves you’ve been hearing. What’s even more amazing is that his live show is even better than the record.

Bon Iver – Skinny Love



19 MGMT – Oracular Spectacular [BUY]
Giving keyboard based electronic pop their own twist, this is one of those albums where your favorite songs change as you listen to it more. Filled with some of the years best singles in Time To Pretend,Kids and Electric Feel, just about every song is a winner.

 MGMT – Time To Pretend



18 The Major Labels – Aquavia [BUY]
Sort of a supergroup of sorts, The Major Labels- Mike Viola, Bleu, and Ducky Carlisle rolled all their influences into what is arguably the best pure power pop record of the year,jangly, fun, and filled with irresistable sugary hooks. They also put on one of the best live shows I saw this past year.

 The Major Labels – Don’t Hear A Single



17 The Rosewood Thieves – Rise And Shine [BUY]
Steeped deep in songs influenced by the likes The Beatles and T Rex, The Rosewood Thieves put out one of the most overlooked records of the year in Rise And Shine.

 The Rosewood Thieves – She Don’t Mind The Rain



16 James Hunter – The Hard Way [BUY]
Another strong contender bringing old school style R&B and soul into the present, where Eli Reed mines the Southern sound of artists like Otis ReddingJames Hunter is more akin to people like Sam Cooke and Ray Charles, and even spent some time in the past in Van Morrison‘s backing band.

 James Hunter -Jacqueline

Number 21 to 25

Bag Of Songs Top 25 Albums of 2008 : 21 to 25

December 31, 2008 by · 1 Comment
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Starting off with the ususal disclaimer when it comes to a list of this sort, this is by no means going to be the all encompassing perfect list from the last year but moreso what I listened to and enjoyed the most. With the overwhelming amount of music that came my way this past year there’s surely still potential greats I haven’t even listened to. Here’s the first five more to come as soon as I can get it ready to post.
Feel free to chime in with comments along the way,let me know your picks, what you think I missed, etc.

 

 

 

 

25 Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend [BUY]
By the time Vamppire Weekend finally got around to releasing a ” real” album very early in this year I had grown tired of listening to them for the most part. But to not include them here seemed to somehow discount the fact that they did in fact release a pretty good album. While not necessarily brand new sound, Their blend of afropop and new wave was unique amongst their peers. So for better or for worse no one else in 2008 sounded like them and they triumphed despite some pretty widespread backlash. It’ll be interesting to see where album number 2 takes them.

Vampire Weekend – A-Punk


 

 

 

 

24 Nada Surf – Lucky [BUY]
After the addicting brilliance of 2005′s The Weight Is A Gift, my expectations for this record were so high that if it met them this would easily be in the top five on this list. While there are some true gems here like Whose Authority, I Like What You Say, and Ice On The Wing, most of the album is relatively good songs mired down in a slow midtempo vibe which drains a lot of the
power out of them. What you end up with is really good record instead of the potential career defining classic it had the promise to be.

Nada Surf – I Like What You Say

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

23 Hot Chip – Made In the Dark [BUY]
Hot Chip is the personification of the cell phone,text message,video game,internet generation in sound. Frenetic and danceable and catchy as hell with a top 40 pop melodic sense twisted into it all. They also know how to slow it down too, the title track Made In The Dark could easily pass for a lost Jayhawks song while In The Privacy Of Our Love dabbles in the same atmospherics as Grizzly Bear’s The Knife. Overall, an album with a lot more depth than it got credit for.

Hot Chip – Ready For The Floor

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

22 Eli “Paperboy” Reed And The True Loves – Roll With You [BUY]
The sound of Old School Soul and R&B made some significant return in 2008 and Eli Reed’s apprenticeship in Memphis roadhouses served him well. Roll With You is a horn infused flat out party record steeped in the sounds of classic Rhythm and Blues artists like Otis Redding and Jackie Wilson.

Eli “Paperboy” Reed And The True Loves – The Satisfier

 


 

 

 

 

 

21 Jukebox The Ghost – Let Live And Let Ghosts [BUY]
One Philadelphia’s shining stars at the Moment, Jukebox The Ghost released it’s debut full length record this year. It harkens back to the kind of classic piano based pop songs Ben Folds used to write when he still had the fire in his soul. Hold It In easily qualifies as one of the catchiest singles of the year.

Jukebox The Ghost – Hold It In

Best Live Shows Of 2008

December 7, 2008 by · 2 Comments
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Black Mountain at Johnny Brenda's 2.20.08

Black Mountain at Johnny Brenda's

Some of the numbers from a busy concert year here at Bag Of Songs, in the ensuing months since last year’s best shows of the year recap I’ve been to 90 shows in 21 different venues adding up to 240 sets of music by 195 bands.  Johnny Brenda’s once again topped the venue list with 24 shows followed closely by The M Room(16),The Khyber(13) and World Cafe Live(10). 25 bands logged more than one appearance, with the always amazing Cheers Elephant topping the list at 9 times, followed closely by Creeping Weeds and The Swimmers at 5 each. So without further ado and in chronological order here’s the best shows I saw in 2008.

DEC Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings @ TLA WXPN Free At Noon
In a year that saw funk and soul continuing to make a strong resurgence, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings were at the forefront. Coming onstage to a packed TLA in the middle of the day, they packed the energy of a full set into a condensed 45 minute sweat soaked funk workout.

JAN Drink Up Buttercup,Cheers Elephant,The New Motels @ The Khyber
Three of Philly’s finest on the same night, part of a Drink Up Buttercup / Cheers Elephant residency that was a precursor to the serious momentum both bands would build up during 2008.

FEB Black Mountain,Bon Iver @ Johnny Brendas
A study in brilliant contrasts, Bon Iver’s live show far exceeds their recorded work and is a study in the power of silence and hushed intensity while Black Mountain is the total opposite psychedelic thunderous and rhythmic.

MAR Roky Erickson @ Maxwells
In a special small venue appearance, Roky Erickson, well back on the path to some sense of normalcy, aided by his scorching backup band The Explosions, blazed through a set of his classics that showed why he is the legend he is.

MAR Holy Fuck,A Place To Bury Strangers @ Johnny Brenda’s
My original review of this show described A Place To Bury Strangers like this:
Taking the stage in total darkness, coming on like the bastard children of Jesus And Mary Chain and Sonic Youth, they proceeded to tear into a mind numbing aural assault of what can best be described as melodic white noise. Fueled by powerhouse drumming with guitar and bass turned up well past the distortion point, it was as mesmerizing as it was loud. Holy Fuck then came on and pushed it all a notch even higher and turned the place into a dancing frenzy. Incredible.

JUN James Hunter @ World Cafe Live Free At Noon
James Hunter also did his part to help give a kick to the old soul revival. James is the ultimate showman and pured 110% onto his stage show. A must see if you haven’t had a chance to catch him yet

JUN REM,The National @ Mann Music Center
I’d seen REM a number of times early on, and they were always a good but not great live band. They obviously had worked at it in the near twenty years since I’d seen them last as they tore it up in a way I’d never seen them do before. Bonus points for having Eddie Vedder come out and join them for a song during the encore. I was not really a big National fan going onto this show but their live set was impressive.

JUN The Ting Tings Dan Deacon @ Popped Festival Drexel
When the Ting Tings were booked to open this show a few months before it happened, they were still relatively unknown, by the time June rolled around the buzz behind them could have fueled a headlining slot. They kicked it all off with one of the best sets of the 2 day festival and set the bar high. In a set I can only describe as mix of Romper Room and a Rave, Dan Deacon set up in the middle of crowd and pushed the energy level through the roof as they obeyed his every command. One of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

JUN Gildon Works @ Popped World Cafe
Gildon Works played the main stage of World Cafe and deliverd set of shoegazey pop that sounded massive enough to fill a stadium. The undisputed best set I saw on day two of the Popped Festival.

JUN Mission Of Burma @ First Unitarian Church
Playing Signals,Calls and Marches in it’s entirety as well as many other songs from that era, Loud, fast and furious,Mission OF Burma made it undeniably clear why they are legends.

AUG Creeping Weeds,BOAT,Drink Up Buttercup,Greyhounds @ Johnny Brenda’s
Creeping Weeds are one of Philadelphia’s best bands and their show with BOAT’s at Johnny Brendas to kick off their summer tour together was outstanding. All four bands delivered top notch sets that night, and made me realize that I need to see Greyhounds more often.

AUG Sonic Youth,The Hold Steady @ TLA
The Hold Steady are easily one of the best American bands going today and their opening set for this show was a bit short, but never let off the pedal for a second, Sonic Youth has obvious ly sold their soul to the devil because I don’t think any of them have aged in the past twenty years. They played a set heavy on Daydrem Nation songs that made even the most skeptical in the audience believers.

SEP The Major Labels,Hypernova @ M Room
The Major Labels Aquavia is one fo the best power pop records of the year and the live show matched or exceeded it every aspect.
Hypernova is a rock band from Iran the comes on like a hyped up version of Franz Ferdinand, watch for them in 2009.

SEP Robert Pollard’s Boston Spaceships,The High Strung @ Johnny Brenda’s A three hour marathon of non stop excellent songs and excessive drinking, This show also contained some of the scariest moments I saw all year when near the end of the set people started throwing pint beer glasses around like they were plastic cups. I saw a more than a few shatter on the balcony and spray broken glass into the crowd below.

OCT Swift Technique @ World Cafe Live Upstairs
NOV Swift Technique @ M Room BOS Night
My biggest holy shit live moment of the year when I just happened to be at World Cafe Live where Swift Technique was playing a showcase set. Absolutely amazing, They blew me away with what’s best described as a horn infused blend of funk and hip hop. One of the tightest bands I have ever seen. Their set at the November Bag Of Songs night was equally as impressive and left quite a few more believers in it’s wake. Watch for these guys to explode in 2009 as the word spreads.

NOV King Khan BBQ Show,Vivian Girls,Jacuzzi Boys,Love City @ Johnny Brendas
A excellent garage rock blowout all around, see my recent recap here.

Those are some of the highlights but so as not to leave anyone out here’s the whole list in alphabetical order:
A Place To Bury Strangers, Action Set, Adam & Daves Bloodline, Aderbat, After Dark Band, An American Chinese, Anthony Lattanze Band, Apples In Stereo, Ar Duvall, Arc In Round, Aspiga, Bc Camplight, Beach House, Bears, Beaten By Them, Ben Purcell, Bitter Bitter Weeks, Black Angels, Black Joe Lewis, Black Mountain, Blitzen Trapper, BOAT, Bon Iver, Bright Lights, Broken Trees, Brother JT, Brothers And Sisters, Bryan Scary & The Shredding Tears, Canadian Invasion, Carbon/Silicon, Cary Ann Hearst, Cass Mccombs, Cassavettes, Caterpillar, Cedarwell, Chairlift, Cheers Elephant, Colour Reporter, Creaky Boards, Creeping Weeds, Dan Deacon, Dan Malloy, David Copa, Dear Althea, DeJesus, Devon Williams, Drink Up Buttercup, Duke Spirit, East Hundred, Eastern Conference Champions, Elf Power, Eli Paperboy Reed and The True Loves, Except After Sea, Extra Golden, Fang Island, Fleet Foxes, Future Tips, Ghosty, Gildon Works, Gogol Bordello, Grammar Debate, Greyhounds, Ham 1, Holy Fuck, Hoots and Hellmouth, Hymns, East Hundred, Hypernova, I Am The Heat, Illinois, Impossible Hair, Intergalactic Incense Burners, It’s A King Thing, Jacuzzi Boys, James Hunter, Jealous Girlfriends, Jen, Johnny Action Figure, Jonah Delso, Jotto, JP05, Jukebox The Ghost, Jukebox Zeroes, Kate Nash, Kevin Devine, Kimya Dawson, King of Siam, Langhorne Slim, Levee Drivers, Los Campesinos, Love City, Mahogany, Map Of The World At Night, Matt Pond PA, Minor White, Missing Palmer West, Mission Of Burma, Mitch Hood, Modest Mouse, Mr Lif, Mural And The Mint, Murder Mystery, National Eye, Nervous Rex, New Motels, No Hate Train, Panda Riot, Papertrees, Pattern Is Movement, Peasant, Pete Best Band, Phonograph, Photon Band, Pico Vs Island Trees, Poison Control Center, Ports Of Call, Public Record, PWRFL Power, Randall Of Nazareth, Rarebirds, Ravens and Vultures, REM, Rick DiFonzo, Rio Vouga, Robert Pollard’s Boston Spaceships, Rogue Thief, Roky Erickson, Roomtone, Rosewood Thieves, Ruder Than You, Run Runner, Scary Monster, Sea Wolf, Secret Life Of Sofia, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Shawn Fogel, Six Organs Of Admittance, Sky Drops, Slot Cars, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Sonic Liberation Front, Sonic Youth, Sparky’s Flaw, Squaaks, Stone Thrown, Successful Failures All Star Cover Band, Superdrag, Surefire Broadcast, Swift Technique, Takka Takka, The 500s, The Annuals, The Brakes, The Bye Byes, The Capitol Years, The Chimeras, The Colorfield Theory, The Donkeys, The Figgs, The Friggs, The High Strung, The Hold Steady, The King Khan & BBQ Show, The Major Labels, The National, The New Motels, The Novenas, The Percocettes, The Ribeye Brothers, The Shaky HAnds, The Shots, The Smithereens, The Sparklers, The Spinto Band, The Squaaks, The Swimmers, The Thirteen, The Ting Tings, The Vandelles, Thee Minks, Thinking Machines, Throw Me the Statue, Tickley Feather, Tullycraft, Upsincefriday, Versus, Via Audio, Vivian Girls, Warlocks, XYZ Affair, Yeasayer, You, You, Me And T Rex, Young Knives, Zolof The Rock And Roll Destroyer

It’s A Listravaganza !

December 28, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
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Addicted to those year end lists that are everywhere this time of year ? Stop on by my friends Light In The Attic Records blog for their Year End Extravaganza. A different twist on the year end list and one of the few places where my list gets to comingle with people like Robert Christgau, Greg Dulli and more.

The Top 25 Albums Of 2007 – 1 to 10 And A Giveaway !

December 23, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
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Okay here it is the grand finale, my top ten of the year. The albums I listened to and enjoyed most this year. There was so much great music this year that a short list of twenty five doesn’t nearly it do it all justice. There’s obviously way more omitted than included.

And, as I promised I have giveaways. A copy of The SwimmersFighting Trees that most of you will need to wait until it’s March release to get your hands on, but I have it for you now, and a copy of The Broken West‘s I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On autographed by the whole band(Thanks Ross!)

Once again I’ll make it easy to win just leave a comment or send me an email to
bagofsongs@gmail.com with “Top 25 Contest” in the subject line.
You don’t have to, but feel free to get creative in the comments – your top albums, what I missed, etc. If you leave a comment make sure you leave an email or some way to get in touch if you win. I’ll pick 2 winners at random on New Year’s Day from all the entries. Good Luck !

1:The Swimmers – Fighting Trees
Back in January of this year when I received a rather unassuming email from Steve Yutzy-Burkey, not so unlike a lot of other emails I receive everyday from bands, letting me know they had shows upcoming and that their new album Fighting Trees was
streaming from their website if I wanted to give it a listen. What I found at the end of the link was a record I would unabashedly call one of the first truly important releases of 2007. Now nearly a year later, I’ve seen the band live more than a dozen times and there is no single album I listened to or enjoyed more this year. It’s the perfect balance of catchy hooks,vocal harmonies and intelligent lyrics that I just can’t seem to get enough of. The record saw a limited Philadelphia area CD release this fall on Mad Dragon Records, who signed the band and will officially release their record to the rest of the world in March 2008. Watch out for it.

MP3: The Swimmers – Pocketful Of Gold
[MYSPACE] [WEBSITE]

2:The Broken West – I Can’t Go On I’ll Go On
Guitar driven, smart, power pop. Reference points of Big Star,The Beatles,Cheap Trick and more come to mind but the sound ends up undeniably all The Broken West. A dozen songs here and each one could be a single in it’s own right, no filler here just great music.

MP3: The Broken West – Down In The Valley
Buy I Can’t Go On I’ll Go On

3:Julie Doiron – Woke Myself Up
The best overlooked album of the year. Emotional, ragged and real with a sound that falls somewhere between fellow Canadians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Forget Feist you need this.

MP3: Julie Doiron – I Woke Myself Up
Buy Woke Myself Up

4:The Clientele – God Save The Clientele
Alasdair Maclean describes the band’s sound on this record: “The band are setting free their inner Monkees; a lovely blend of Big Star twisted power-pop and country achin’, with flashes of the Beatles at their most joyful and upbeat.” He’s dead on, it’s a perfect Sunday morning record, filled with smooth sixties overtones but never sounding retro or dated.

MP3: The Clientele – Here Comes The Phantom
Buy God Save The Clientele

5:Blitzen Trapper – Wild Mountain Nation
What Wilco could sound like if they didn’t sand all the edges off. The perfect mix of alt country and indie rock, they delivered one of the best live shows I saw all year.

MP3: Blitzen Trapper – Sci-Fi Kid
Buy Wild Mountain Nation

6:Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter
One of the best new songwriters of a generation, Josh amped it up a bit more than his earlier records for this one and created a new classic. And as good as this is, I somehow feel it’s still only hinting at the future greatness Josh has in him.

MP3: Josh Ritter – Right Moves
Buy The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter

7:Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
I’ll commit blogger heresy here and say other than a song or two,their debut Funeral did nothing for me. But with only one real clunker(Black Wave),this one is just shy of perfect. Anthmemic and engaging it grabs you right from the first listen. Openly embracing their Springsteen influences in their sound this time around didn’t hurt at all either.

MP3: Arcade Fire – Black Mirror
Buy Neon Bible

8:LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver
James Murphy obviously honed his ear for what works during his time as a bouncer at Trenton’s alternative rock club City Gardens all through the mid to late eighties and delivered an album that put all that knowledge together for something relevant right now. Their live show is phenomenal, hearing All My Friends live was one of most transcendent concert moments I’ve ever experienced.

Listen To The Whole Album Here
Buy Sound Of Silver

9:Creeping Weeds – We Are All Part Of A Dream You’re Having
One of Philadelphia’s most original sounding bands this manages to run the gamut from desolate spacey piano, to jagged edgy guitar rockers and all points in between, and it all works. And having seen them live like 8 or 9 times this past year I can tell you they’re an awesome live band as well.

MP3: The Creeping Weeds – Eternity Is A Long Time
Buy We Are All Part Of A Dream You’re Having

10:Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
Twelve solid midtempo pop songs filled with hooks,violin, whistling and more, from th eopening notes of Fiery Crash it creates an alternate world and holds you there right through to the final notes of Yawny at the Apocalypse. One of the best sequenced albums of the year, each song perfectly setting up the next, just like a great mix tape.

MP3: Andrew Bird – Fiery Crash
Buy Armchair Apocrypha

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The Top 25 Albums Of 2007 – 11 to 15

December 21, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
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Part 3 of the Top 25 Albums Of 2007. These were some of the ones shuffled around the most as I worked and reworked the final list. Stayed tuned for some giveaways in conjunction with the top ten getting posted.

11: New Pornographers – Challengers
While I liked a few of their older songs their albums felt like a lot of filler, this one delivers from beginning to end. New Pornographers sound more like a band than a “supergroup” on this one making it their best album yet. I have to add though, the live show I saw, even with Neko and Dan Bejar in tow, was a bit disappointing, good but not great.

MP3: New Pornographers – Myriad Harbour
Buy Challengers

12: Bruce Springsteen – Magic
Bruce pulls the E Streeters in for one more go around and makes what is his best rock album since Born In The USA. Although not as direct as John Fogerty on Revival he manages to deliver his own political agenda as well. The Phil Spector-ish Girls In Their Summer Clothes may be the best single of the year.

MP3: Bruce Springsteen – Radio Nowhere
Buy Magic

13: Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Spoon sounds like no one else. To me it’s not as immediate sounding as their last, Gimme Fiction, but still filled with great pop songs. You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb and The Underdog are instant classics.

MP3: Spoon – You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb
Buy Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

14: The A-Sides Silver Storms
If Chris Martin of Coldplay had the same Springsteen obsession that Win Butler of Arcade Fire has, it would probably sound something like Philadelphia’s A-Sides. Expansive and dramatic without the overkill, they’ve created a shimmering, beautiful record that solidifes their place as a band on the rise.

MP3: The A-Sides – A Florida Grove
Buy Silver Storms

15: Iron and Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog
The warm intimate folky feel of the disc is something that immediately grabs you and transports you to another place. Delicate hypnotic percussion, soft strummy guitars, a sprinkling of other ambient sounds all woven together by Sam Beam’s softspoken vocal style, create an almost spiritual vibe to the whole thing that is just mesmerizing.

MP3: Wolves (Song of The Shepherd’s Dog)
Buy The Shepherd’s Dog

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Top 25 Albums Of 2007 – 16 to 20

December 20, 2007 by · 2 Comments
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Part 2 of my top 25 albums of 2007, coming to you five at a time because my lame typing skills can’t bang it out any faster than that. How’s it look so far? Did I hit your favorite yet?

16: MIA Kala
In a really weak year for hip hop who’d have thought one of the best songs(Bamboo Banga) would open with a line lifted from Jonathan Richman. There’s sheer beauty in just how aggressive, rhythmic, and relentless this whole disc is. It’s music made to be played loud. Turn it up, and then turn it up some more.

MP3: M.I.A – Bamboo Banga
Buy Kala

17: The Cribs – Mens Needs, Womens Needs, Whatever
The Cribs third album, produced by Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand is an energetic blend of pop punk goodness and their accompanying live show was one of the best I’ve seen this year, a powerhouse tour de force. Bonus points for taking chances on one of my favorite tracks, Be Safe, featuring a spoken voice over vocal by special guest Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth.

MP3: The Cribs – Men’s Needs
Buy Mens Needs, Womens Needs, Whatever

18: Bless 1 – Starving Artist
While Kanye,Fifty Cent and Jay-z made mediocre records and spent the year trying to out promote each others ego, Bless 1 holed up in Chicago and self produced this gem of a hip hop record and then gave it away for free via his myspace page. All about the music, the way it should be.

MP3: Bless 1 – The Hunger
Bless 1 Myspace

19: The Silver Seas – High Society
Playing like a long lost seventies classic, when albums were on vinyl records and FM radio still mattered, this blends the sound of that era’s finest, Van Morrison,Jackson Browne,Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, etc. into one great kick back and just listen experience.

MP3: The Silver Seas – The Country Life
Buy High Society

20: The Fratellis – Costello Music
When I first wrote about these guts way back last January I called them the UK version of The Hold Steady, in retrospect that may have been a little over exuberent a comparison on my part but they’re still damn good. The Fratellis can, and do, crank out tunes that come off like a cross between the Buzzcocks and T.Rex. Mostly about girls, girls and girls. Playing good old rock and roll, and they got to make a ipod commercial to boot.

MP3 : The Fratellis -Chelsea Dagger
Buy Costello Music

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