Monday, December 28, 2009

Best Local Music '09

There's Rope to Leave

Kids in the Pacific NW discovered Pablo when they accompanied indie crooner Kevin Devine on that leg of his tour and KEXP in Seattle has been blasting them ever since.

The band's gone through some line-up changes and other documented issues but their new release, There's Rope to Leave, is by far the best thing we've heard out of Staten Island all year.

The band, fronted by Paul Schalda and beautifully complimented by brother Will, comes from a legit musical background and relies and stellar songwriting and angelic harmonies to make music that is more Neil Young-inspired then Pitchfork-approved.

Songs like "Holy Whore" and "Hey Luci" soar on Paul's fragile vocals as they rise and fall with the crescendos of acoustic guitars, light organs, and more importantly, those subtle harmonies.

The band actually pulls in more of a crowd at the Mercury Lounge on Houston Street then they do in Staten Island, which is a damn shame. SI needs to appreciate their talent, lest they move to Greenpoint and grow beards.

Pablo - "Morning"

Tryptophan - Destroy Fashion

Did it really take this long for Tryptophan to get a proper release out? This exceptional display of psychedelic folk rock is long overdue and is a tribute to these four(?) musicians' prolific contribution to the SI music scene.

Destroy Fashion wallows in tripped out Dark Side of the Moon-esque riffs with elements of classic psych tropes from bands like 13th Floor Elevators. An added plus is front man Ron Hill's YouTube channel which marries their twisted tunes to vintage stock video.

Songs like "That Front" go on some Pet Sounds-type shit as the band adds some strings into the mix. Vocals are manipulated, layered, then fucked with again. Guitars are fuzzes out, yet clear as day. And each song bleeds into the next making it an actual album - in the pre MP3-sense. These albums aren't made anymore. It makes me miss my record collection.

Tryptophan - "Pancakes"

- Paragraph

Paragraph threw us a curve ball with their last release, which is heavy on the funk guitars, deep bass lines, and Prince-like falsettos. The band lost a valued drummer, ditched the indie rock stigma, and went full-on libido rock with one of the sexiest albums to ever come from of the forgotten boro.

Songs like "The Line" combine danceable riffs with double entendres, and even has a guest rap verse (damn smooth). "Body Part(y)" casually invites us to a make-out party with it's swaying open chords and drum shaker percussion.

Disclaimer: No Matter who you are, this album will get you laid.


The Headlocks - Cuckoo Bird

The party pack from the North Shore somehow managed to cram all the instruments into a studio in Brooklyn and record the most ambitious albums from a local act in recent memory.

The biggest accomplishment of Cuckoo Bird was how Rob Carey and friends managed to layer all the elements together into cohesive structures and songs, instead of a jumbled mess of instruments.

The band included all the old-school classics like "Driving in the Dark" as well as some new additions like "Ways and Means" and "Me and You." These guys are not complacent either, I wouldn't be surprised to see big things to come from them in '10.

Rob Carey and Friends - "Outside Lookin' In"

Dead Set on Destruction - Bloody Noses, Dead Sparrows

Few bands can light up the back of Martini Red like this crew right here. In a music scene which has seen it's art grow -- let's say -- more mature, Dead Set On Destruction pays homage to the hardcore the Island is famous for but brings it into the new century.

The band's new album is true to form as they blend Husker Du-style riffs and shout-a-long vocals with pummeling beats. Lead singer Todd Currier's knock-down screams are powerful, yet melodic.

Dead Set is one of the only punk bands which have made a foray into the Island new scenesters, and they should get more recognition from the North Shore intelligentsia. Anyone can try to recreate the early-'90s and claim to be "keeping it real" but these guys hold onto the aesthetic without sounding stale or formulaic.

Dead Set on Destruction (live)


  1. Where's Brownwater?

  2. Good list! I second the above question regarding Brownwater. Also, I would inquire as to whether Cymbals counts, because as much as I love local bands and local musicians and as much as Islanders distrust or dislike that band, that album--written largely by two Islanders if we're being fair--is undeniably well made and holds some excellent songwriting. Also, it seems you only include albums, but I would argue there's plenty of 'local music' that should be on a list titled as such: the download-able recordings, $1 demos and free EPs made by The Delay, The Great Unwashed, Kilgore Trout Is Dead, Lu Hefner, the Crackens, Tommy Bones, and Vessels. All released--to my knowledge--in 2009, all very much in the same league with the music you list here.
    -Ben Brock Johnson