Top Singles of 2009
1. FNU Ronnies Golem 12″
2. Tin Man Cool Wave 12″
3. Andre Ethier The Running of the Bulls 7″
4. Pearson Sound Plsn / Wad 12″
5. Mayyors Deads EP 12″
6. Kurt Vile and the Violators The Hunchback EP 12″
7. Twin Stumps s/t 12″
8. Aardvarck Bloom 3 12″
9. Joe Grimelight 12″
10. Ricardo Villalobos feat. Los Updates / Reboot split 12″
11. Ra.H Time 12″
12. Low Threat Profile s/t 7″
13. Joy Orbison J. Doe / BRKLN CLLN 12″
14. Kutz Drumz of No Return 12″
15. The Feeling of Love Waiting For the Cheerleaders To Get Drunk 7″
16. Cold Cave Death Comes Close 12″
17. Ramadanman Revenue 12″
18. Total Control Retiree / Meds II 7″
19. Mr. Raoul K Le Karantkatrieme Peul 12″
20. Dorian Concept Trilingual Dance Sexperience 12″
Pop. 1280 Bedbugs / Times Square 7″
Cro Magnon s/t 7″
Wartech The Rattle Snake 12″
Bruno Pronsato The Make Up The Break Up 12″
Radikal Guru Rudeboy Skank 12″
Top Albums of 2009
1. Cold Cave Love Comes Close
2. The Native Cats Always On
3. Phoenix Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
4. Demdike Stare Symbiosis
5. Julian Casablancas Phrazes For The Young
6. Luciano Tribute to the Sun
7. Zola Jesus The Spoils
8. Destino Final Atrapados
9. Iron Age The Sleeping Eye
10. Cult Ritual LP1
11. Planetary Assault Systems Temporary Suspension
12. Jay Reatard Watch Me Fall
13. Iron Lung / Walls / Pig Heart Transplant Public Humiliation
14. Tamaryn Led Astray, Washed Ashore
15. Home Blitz Out Of Phase
16. Shackleton Three EPs
17. Kurt Vile Childish Prodigy
18. Moritz Von Oswald Trio Vertical Ascent
19. Endless Humiliation My Wife Is Willing
20. DJ Quik & Kurupt Blaqkout
Blues Control Local Flavor
Purling Hiss s/t
Pig Heart Transplant Hope You Enjoy Heaven
Mi Ami Watersports
Ben Frost By The Throat
2009 overflowed with great new music, anyone telling you otherwise clearly wasn’t paying proper attention. Therefore, it was with great care and consideration that I picked my twenty favorite EPs and albums of the year, ranked in descending order and supplemented with honorable mentions. I’ve written about mostly all of these records throughout this year’s reviews, and rather than share the complex algorithm I use to numerically rank works of art, I’ll briefly elaborate on my two number-one choices.
FNU Ronnies Golem 12″ (Night People)
I first heard the Golem recordings on a rough CD-r in late 2008, but seeing as it only made it to a proper vinyl release this year (alongside multiple official cassette and CD-r versions, no less), it’s fair game. Normally a recording I’ve been enjoying for over a year won’t carry with it the freshness needed to grab my top spot, but these songs have grown like a fungus, somehow blooming larger and more intense with every listen. It’s the ugliest music I’ve heard this year, which is compounded by the fact that I believe the Ronnies’ intent was really nothing more than to make a decent punk record that the guys in Clockcleaner wouldn’t make fun of too harshly. Throw in that menacing, SPK-induced intro to “Watchful Eye” and I’m chomping at the bit for even a sneak preview of their recently-recorded full-length. The label that snags it for release is a lucky one indeed.
Cold Cave Love Comes Close (Matador / Heartworm)
Competition ran thicker for EPs than albums this year, which I suppose makes sense. Even so, I didn’t expect Cold Cave to grab the top spot – I loved Love Comes Close from the first listen, but surely this was too fun to be the defining album of 2009, right? Cold Cave have an image to match the name, but in this concise batch of pop songs, they display a devotion to incessant hooks, beautiful chords and succulent patterns, casting away that distance that synth-pop often hides behind. By peeling away the layers of noise found on earlier material, Cold Cave let the songs stand on their naked own, which helped me to unconsciously memorize the lyrics and practice my steadily-improving Wes Eisold impersonation. They collected their best songs from previous 12″s and put together a record I am ready to hear at any moment. These tracks strongly appeal to me physically (dancing, laughing) and mentally (contemplating the synths, dissecting lyrics); in the end, my choice for “best album” was painfully clear.
On an average day in 2005, I was browing the racks at the Princeton Record Exchange
when Daniel DiMaggio handed me his debut Home Blitz single. It was about as DIY as a
record can get, the cover clearly designed with pencil and scissors and photocopied at
Stop & Shop, and I appreciated the gesture. After taking it home and being thoroughly
confused and amused by what I had heard, it was hard not to fall in love with his
shambolic, unnerving guitar style and ADD song structures. Nearly five years later and it
has become the norm for any random person to transform his or her bedroom into a studio,
but how many of them have as singular and unpretentious a voice as Home Blitz? There’s
no mistaking this music for anything other than Home Blitz; even his covers of Cock Sparrer
and The Raspberries sound like they were written alongside “Live Outside” and “Two Steps”.
Home Blitz’s first official full-length is out now on the respectable Richie Records imprint,
and with it DiMaggio and his gang are setting the bar painfully high for anyone else looking
to move their gear from the bedroom to the garage. He’s an incredibly modest guy who will
probably never get his due, but isn’t that how it always goes for the best of us? I figured
the best way to start my conversation would be to apologize for hitting him with an errant
snowball at the deceased Allentown venue Jeff the Pigeon, where he tried to attend an Air
Conditioning show that they had cancelled.
First off, I think the first time we met, I accidentally pegged you with a snowball,
and I want to apologize.
Ha, I don’t remember that at all, but if you’re referring to the Great Excape song about
Allentown, I think John, the bass player and co-vocalist of the band, wrote the lyric about
the snowball. Neither of us have any memory of it being you who threw the snowball, and
I don’t think the part about it hitting one of us in the face ever actually happened. So no
When did you first start playing guitar? What inspired you to pick it up?
I first started playing it in like middle school I think, cause I was playing upright bass in the
school orchestra, and guitar is pretty much the same as bass. There was an acoustic
guitar that sat around my house that I began to play real primitively and pick out tunes on.
There was no real exciting catalyst for me starting to play, I guess I liked music. I would
figure out how to play things like Sublime songs, but kind of incorrectly. After I started doing
that I got a pretty nice Ovation electric/acoustic guitar for Christmas, which I still have
and I hate, and then I finally got an electric guitar a little later.
Was the Great Excape your first band?
No, the very first band I was in was Red Episodes, towards the end of 8th grade and early
high school. We only played live like 3 times but we recorded an album at the WPRB studios
that is really bad and weird, it has bizarre songs and each instrument sounds really horrible,
like it was recorded in a huge room. Pretty good album. Great Excape formed after that,
and we recorded a bunch of songs and played live kind of a lot, we went on a tour of the
South in 2004. I think there’s gonna be a Great Excape retrospective LP at some point,
we reformed in the Summer of 2009 to play some promotional shows for it.
After recording and pressing the first Home Blitz single, what was your plan? Was there a
functioning Home Blitz band at the time?
I honestly didn’t really have a plan after pressing the first single, which is why I feel like the
band has been fairly slow to get off the ground in the long run. I pressed the first single
almost as a sort of dare with myself, since I had been thinking about pressing a record I kind
of made myself do it. Also I think my friend Brian, who was the first drummer of Home Blitz,
suggested doing it, I forget whose idea it was first. I thought it was funny that it was so
easy to press a record, and I didn’t really expect anyone to enjoy it. There wasn’t a
functioning Home Blitz band at the time, and when we started playing shows it was just me
on guitar and singing and Brian playing drums. I’m pretty sure I didn’t really have any
intention of playing live until we got offered shows, but I can’t totally remember now.
Are you trying to be less laid-back about Home Blitz these days? Is the lineup
solidified at this point?
Yeah I think that’s fair to say. I realized I kind of have nothing else I really want to do so I
figure I might as well try to take the band as far as it can go. Even if I don’t like how it’s
going I think I should just push forward with it cause I’d probably regret not doing anything
about it later, and just try to change it if I think it can be better. I feel like everything’s going
to get worse sooner than later probably, so I should try to get a good amount done now.
The lineup is pretty solidified now, it is currently my friend Theresa playing guitar, my friend
Jason who played drums in the Great Excape but plays bass now in Home Blitz, and my friend
Henry playing drums. The only possible change is that we might get a new drummer because
Henry is in high school in Princeton. He is awesome at drums and an awesome guy, but just
logistically it is kind of tough cause he can’t play shows on school nights and stuff like that,
and he’s farther away from New York than I and the rest of the band members.
Do you still work at the Princeton Record Exchange? Has your job there been
the catalyst to any musical epiphanies?
Nah, I stopped working there early this past summer, which I am pretty happy about. I think
‘epiphanies’ is a bit strong, but I certainly bought tons of records while working there, some
of which I like a lot. I guess the closest thing would be songs on records I put on while
working that I could tell were striking and incredible from the first time I heard them, even as
they played above the heads of Princeton shopping retards. Two notable songs that I
remember like this are “I Don’t Know What I Want” by the Raspberries and “St. Nicholas Hall”
by Judy Henske and Jerry Yester, though I’m sure there are others that I’m forgetting.
Thinking about it now, I realize I also made 3 friends from working there (not counting
co-workers), which is cool.
What do you do for a living now? Are you in school?
Yeah I just started going to Rutgers full time, I don’t have a job anymore. I was going part-time
and working for a while but I figured I might as well try to get it over with. Also I think just
going to college is more conducive to playing shows etc.; you can skip class but you can’t skip work.
Is there any music to influence Home Blitz that you don’t think anyone has
picked up on yet?
I guess maybe my biggest music influence at this point is the band Game Theory, who are my
favorite band and the band I’ve now listened to most in my life. I’ve only been listening to
Game Theory records more intensively in the past 2 or 3 years though, so I think previously
released Home Blitz songs have maybe not borne out this influence that much, though neither
will newer Home Blitz songs since I could never write a song as good as any Game Theory song,
or even write an adequate GT ripoff/approximation (I wouldn’t say this about any other band
either, I think Game Theory are a cut above all other bands and that Scott Miller is, to quote
Joe Harrington, “rock’s greatest artist”). Other than that there’re are minor influences on a
song by song basis that I wouldn’t expect anybody to pick up on, a lot of the songs have
stolen lyrics from rap songs. Many of the reviews of Home Blitz records up to this point have
compared them to things that I’m not that into, but if they sound like that then it’s no one’s
fault but my own.
I’ve never heard of Game Theory before. What should I check out?
Their greatest overall album is probably Real Nighttime from 1985. Every song is killer and it
maybe works the best as an LP as such. Lolita Nation from 1987 may be even better, but
it’s a double album and accordingly is pretty sprawling and maybe not the best place to start
(though I think it’s immaculately put together, especially for a double LP). Both of those are
amazing, though I think every Game Theory record is great to almost the same degree.
Their first LP, Blaze Of Glory, is also incredible, and weird in a way that none of the others
are really. I would say start with Real Nighttime and then anything else if you like that.
Is that your blood in the Out Of Phase art?
What was that all about? A personal pledge to your music, ala Manowar or Kiss?
Uh, I dunno really, the first Home Blitz 7” also had blood on the cover, so I was partially doing
it just cause of that. It’s just reproduced better now. Pretty much just for fun.