2009 was a great, great year for rock in Boston, and so I could have easily expanded this list into a top 20. But, anyway, here are my ten most favorite local recordings from the year just past.

  1. Old Furnace, Hidden Hills
  2. Pants Yell!, Received Pronunciation
  3. Neats, 1981-84 The Ace of Hearts Years
  4. Chriss Sutherland, Worried Love
  5. Arms and Sleepers, Matador
  6. Mission of Burma, The Sound The Speed The Light
  7. Joe Pernice, It Feels So Good When I Stop
  8. Technoir MA, Technoir MA
  9. Appletown Gun Shop, Ghosts of Green
  10. Animal Hospital, Good or Plenty, Streets + Avenues

On this week’s show (Wednesday, February 11, 2009, 1-3pm), I’ll be playing the new cd  “Hidden Hills” by Old Furnace as it was meant to be heard: straight through, in its entirety, starting just before 2pm and running until 2:30pm. See my review of this excellent album below.

And also as noted below, Old Furnace will be doing a live set on WMBR’s “Subject to Change” program on Saturday, February 21. For details, see this announcement on the band’s myspace page.

Apple Betty have just released their second full-length, a 12-song/27 minute cd titled “Streakin’ ‘Cross the Sky.” The record sounds great from the first listen and even better with repeated spins: I enjoyed it more and more each time through as the individual tracks became more familiar. My favorites now: one called “Slide Song,” where the guitars stay on overdrive throughout, and another called “Simple Things,” where the lyrics take a more philosophical turn. But don’t let that last comment mislead you: this one smokes from start to finish. A very solid and consistently good lp, just as one would expect from this trio.

Monique Ortiz returns, too, with a four-song EP recorded live in Brooklyn late last September. Hence the title: “Live in Brooklyn EP.” My two favorite tracks are old favorites: “Three Chairs” appears previously on A.K.A.C.O.D.’s “Happiness” and Monique’s own “Reclining Female;” “DMY” also appears on the “Happiness” disc. Here, the arrangements are stripped-down, with Monique on bass and vocals and R.L. Hulsman on drums, but the virtuosity of both musicians keeps the sound full and interesting and, if anything, the spare set-up brings out more of the power in the always-haunting “Three Chairs” than I’ve ever heard before. Monique Ortiz’s work just keeps getting better and better, and this EP leaves me looking forward to her next full album, which I hope will continue to explore this new sound.

Finally, let me call your attention to a new cd called “Hidden Hills” by Old Furnace: it’s an absolutely magnificent album consisting of 15 instrumental tracks, most about two minutes in length. The sound is hard to describe, but I’d call it ambient, folk, and psychedelic all combined into one. The individual songs flow smoothly into each other, so that when I heard the cd for the first time I thought to myself, “this cd is best enjoyed straight through — kind of like one long, constantly-shifting but ultimately unified, single composition.” Then I go to their myspace page and read, “‘Hidden Hills’ is a 33-minute CONTINUOUS album made up of 15 short movements which are all supposed to run into and morph into each other. So, it’s best to hear the whole thing, in order, in one sitting.” I agree! Anyhow, if you like Six Organs of Admittance or perhaps ever wished that Fripp and Eno would leave their studio for a day, go out to explore the wilds, then come back to record some compositions inspired by their journey, then this one’s definitely for you.

In short: three great local cds, and the new year is not even a month old!