Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent. This is a compilation of 2009’s best local music, lovingly curated by YIMBY columnist Christopher R. Weingarten
New York musicians did the “hope” thing in 2008 and now a lot of them are struggling through the broke thing. Unemployment hit 10.3% in the city over the summer–a 16-year high–and local musicians already dependent on a shaky freelance market for rent /gear/tour time were hit especially hard. Compounding that (as about 200,00 think pieces said, to various degrees of eloquence) the music industry itself is pretty much fucked. Unfortunately for newsweeklies like us, a feature-friendly narrative of “look! broke kids making music in a climate of disaster!” has yet to emerge, like it did for punk or hip-hop or hXc or whatever. That is, unless you count the critical accolades spilled on the passionless pit of mushed-out, straight-to-MySpace bummercore (Blank Dogs, Soft Black, Jersey’s Ducktails), all of which required very little equipment and even less energy.
So, most of the best New York music of 2009 came from longtime, long-struggling artists who worked smarter not harder, who fought to make their existing formulas stronger, who set out to impress and challenge their fans instead of reinventing the wheel, who simply existed despite being practically ignored by the supposedly important cool-points-jostling of the internet hype cycle. Yes In My Backyard’s Best Local Music of 2009 CD-R is named Never Enough after the Tanya Morgan song, a tribute to the artists who run uphill but never stop running–or as Skyzoo says, “treadmillin’ my life on a lower speed.”
The mix begins with the perpetually forward-looking avant-rap crew Antipop Consortium who emerged from a contentious breakup, a five-year hiatus, and a critical 180 on underground hip-hop with their strongest, funkiest, trippiest, most lateral-minded effort to date. To a similar degree, the woozy beats of longtime knob-tweaking noise crew Black Dice evolved into a convoluted, hypnotic, warped-VHS siren slosh–finishing up what might be the strongest five-album run of any rock band this year. Brooklyn psych stalwarts Oneida, not to be bested, made their 10th album a three-disc opus, splintering their signature hypno-pound in a dozen new directions. (Full disclosure: The O are my pals, but get a full co-sign from Voice music editor Rob Harvilla, too.) Queens rapper Cormega and Brooklyn’s Skyzoo have both been putting it down for forever and then some, but both seem like a breaths of fresh air thanks to the timelessness of sparse beats, no-bullshit flows, and narratives that dig into the evocative and personal. Brooklyn Balkan Brass band Slavic Soul Party has been playing every Tuesday at Park Slope’s Barbes bar for five years, and are finally reaping some of the rewards.
This isn’t to say 2009 isn’t bursting with outstanding new talent; it’s that new talent better not get too comfortable if it wants to stick around. Luckily we see bright futures in bands already challenging themselves from the get-go: note how Sleigh Bells give grungy noise an unlikely party-bounce, how future-funker Jahdan Blakkamoore simultaneously reaches out to all directions of Planet Rock, or how Talk Normal give tried-and-true Brooklyn scuzz some of its busiest percussion work ever. Or watch even how bands can still make more with less–Julianna Barwick’s loop-pedal symphonies, Liturgy’s attempts at nirvana through black metal, or trumpeter Peter Evans conjuring the impossible with just a horn. In short: Let’s hear it for New York.
1. Antipop Consortium – “Lay Me Down”
Recently reunited rhymers from hip-hop’s bleeding edge weave around their neck-snappingest beat to date.
2. Black Dice – “Glazin”
Noise-beat kingpins throw a slurpy, tape-damaged, nauseous dance party.
3. Sleigh Bells – “A/B Machines”
Blogstars-of-the-moment mix blown-out hip-hop, spindly pigfuck guitars and party-starting chants–they’re mum on the song’s meaning, but admit that A and B Machines are “people.”
4. Javelin – “Digits”
Crate-digging weirdos mix the muted headknock of J. Dilla productions with the nostalgic punk-rock waver of a warped tape.
5. Cormega – “Rapture”
Veteran Queensbridge MC reminisces on his hustle while producer Ayotollah mutilates a Willie Hutch sample.
6. Jahdan Blakkamoore – “The General”
Brooklyn vocalist takes an unflinching look at Caribbean ghettos over a chest-caving Shadetek/Liondub beat, walking the lines between hip-hop, dancehall, electronic, and dubstep.
7. Oneida – “Brownout In Lagos”
Brooklyn noise-rock stalwarts open their three-disc psych opus Rated O with a distorted, dubbed-out banger featuring Santa Cruz MC Dad-Ali Ziai.
8. Slavic Soul Party! – “Taketron”
A five-year Tuesday residency at Park Slope’s Barbes bar results in a fiery CD of funkified Balkan brass and second-line stutter-step. This track is a tribute and showcase for snare-drummer Take Toriyama, who passed away after recording it in 2007.
9. Talk Normal – “In A Strangeland”
[Rare Book Room]
The year’s most promising new act from the Brooklyn noise-punk loft scene, Talk Normal mix Swansy bad moods and oppressive feedback with uneasy shouts and labyrinthine percusso patterns.
10. Tanya Morgan – “Never Enough”
Brookynati crew Tanya Morgan–that’s two-thirds Brooklyn, one third Cincinatti–drop some sunny science about unconditional love.
11. Skyzoo – “Beautiful Decay”
Long-time mixtape champ and constantly rising Brooklyn MC Skyzoo finally releases a proper album, practically dripping with soul-baring, autobiographical rhymes.
12. Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard – “Roll Bus Roll [Single Version]”
Anti-folk poet has a knotty sing-along about retreating to his cabin in Augusta, Maine, on a midnight Greyhound from Times Square.
13. Julianna Barwick – “Bode”
With a loop pedal and a crystalline voice, Barwick is a one-woman church choir, making massive prisms of floaty, joyous croon.
14. Liturgy – “Ecstatic Rite”
[20 Buck Spin]
Brooklyn’s most celebrated new metal band play black metal with the transcendental aspirations of New York minimalist artists like Glenn Branca.
15. Bloody Panda – “Pusher”
Doom metal expressionists in execution masks play sludge riffs like they’re oscillating sine waves.
16. Noveller – “Rainbows”
Brooklyn sound artist Sarah Lipstate specializes in colorful drone and explosive noise.
17. Peter Evans – “Micro”
Astoria out-jazz trumpeter vacillates between the fragile and forceful, the noisy and sparse, making a diverse panoply of sounds with just his mouth and a horn.
18. Infinity Window – “Internal Compass”
At nearly 8 minutes, this comparatively short psych-dream raga from this expansive drone duo comes from the excellent, vinyl-only meditation, Artificial Midnight.