Every year I host a music swap with my music geek friends where we share our top albums of the year. This year we spiced it up a bit by adding a new component – a mix of your favorite songs of 2008 by artists not represented in our Best Albums of 2008 list. (Ryan’s rules, not mine.) So here it is, my mix of some of my favorite indie rock tunes for 2008. I was struck by a lot of San Francisco local music this year and have noted those artists with an asterisk (**). I enjoyed the emergence of such good music from my hometown and hope you will too. Enjoy!
- ** Pigeonhold by Port O’Brien
- Testify by Carney
- ** The Drag by Ty Segall
- Pot Kettle Black by Tilly and the Wall
- Operation by Deerhunter
- There Are Birds by The Ruby Suns
- The Dazzled by Crystal Stilts
- The Shedding Path by The Lord Bird Dog
- Chemtrails by Beck
- Oppressions Each by Brightblack Morning Light
- The Columbia by Lackthereof
- ** Hellhole Ratrace by Girls
- ** New York Through York by Lady Genius
- Charlyn, Angel of Kensington by Jason Collett
- My Baby by Juliana Hatfield
- Furr by Blitzen Trapper
- ** Peg by Cryptacize
- Lady Luck by Richard Swift
- Don’t You Worry by Jim Noir
My first reaction to seeing Brooklyn-based Crystal Stilts take the stage at Bottom of the Hill last night was, ‘Yeah, girl drummer!’. The next was Napoleon Dynamite meets Meg White. That was the visual anyway. Lead singer, Brad Hargett, does evoke a Napoleon Dynamite vibe not only in appearance but also in his emotionless, monotone delivery of each song. It was hard not to compare drummer Frankie Rose to Meg White with her long raven hair, pale skin and stripped down, minimalist drumming style.
The overall effect? Eh. I loved their EP and am really enjoying their new album Alight of Night, but as live performers they leave a bit to be desired. Maybe it was an off night but they seemed out of synch – starting and stopping songs a few too many times. At one point during show the keyboard fell off its stand, causing some commotion and a bit of levity. But overall the spellbinding show I had heard so much about wasn’t there for me.
That’s the way it works sometimes though. I would much rather see Dr. Dog live than listen to their albums. And Crystal Stilts are definitely worthy of a listen. I like it very much. I would just rather listen to their album than see them live.
Check out ‘The Dazzled’
Crystal Stilts released their self-titled debut this year. They have a stripped-down, moody, garage rock sound that is heavily influenced by groups like Velvet Underground and Jesus and Mary Chain. And who isn’t these days?
Featured is the track, Crippled Croon.
So what did I learn from all this? in retrospect, I’d say my preconceived notion of ‘Black’ bands as a dark and moody rockers holds water. The Crystal set as all Indie pop rockers? Not so much. Whatever the case, it’s clear that – just like people – bands can fall into the trap of naming trends.
Scrolling through my music library recently – in alphabetical order of course – it became apparent to me that if you want to be a hip, cutting edge indie rock artist, you should insert the word ‘black’ or ‘crystal’ into your band name somewhere. There have been three debut LP/EPs from Crystal bands alone this year: Crystal Antlers, Crystal Stilts and Crystal Castles. Not to mention the bevy of ‘black’ dubbed bands with new albums out like Black Angels, Black Keys and Black Mountain to name a few.
Personally, I find myself more drawn to the ‘black’ bands as these groups tend to be of a more dark and moody ilk. (You know, the kind that attracts a predominately male audience.) For some reason, whenever I free associate ‘crystal’ bands, my mind immediately goes to 80s synthpop. I just can’t help it. I’m very judgmental toward the ‘crystal’ set. Is this fair? Is there any relevant basis for me to draw such a biased conclusion? And why is there no band named Black Crystal yet?
Welcome to the first OCMD Trendspotting series – Black Crystal Bands– where I’ll explore some of the new emerging artists in this category (read: no Black Crowes, Black Sabbath, etc.), attempt to answer some of these questions, and hopefully turn you on to some great new music in the process!
I’ve got at least 10 bands to tackle in this series, but I would love to hear your thoughts, comments and additions of other worthy bands I may have missed.
Tune in tomorrow for The Black Angels.