Superb live recordings; highly recommended.


15 more favorites from last year, to go with the 10 local albums listed below.

  1. Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion
  2. Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca
  3. Sister Suvi, Now I Am Champion
  4. Shrag, Shrag
  5. Bibio, Ambivalence Avenue
  6. Atlas Sound, Logos
  7. Animal Collective, Fall Be Kind
  8. Maayan Nidam, Nightlong
  9. Abe Vigoda, Reviver
  10. DJ Koze, Reincarnations – The Remix Chapter 2001-2009
  11. God Help the Girl, God Help the Girl
  12. Sonic Youth, The Eternal
  13. Durutti Column, Love in the Time of Recession
  14. The Juan Maclean, The Future Will Come
  15. Mountains, Choral

syThis spring, n+1 magazine sponsored a panel discussion on the 1990s. Around the same time, I started hearing songs from Pearl Jam’s first album on the radio again. And now we have Sonic Youth‘s new lp, “The Eternal,” which sounds to me like a sequel to 1992’s “Dirty.” If you don’t hear it too, play “Poison Arrow.” And then go back to “Sugar Kane.”

Some would say these things go in cycles. But I side with the artists, and say these things never change. “I’ve been around the world a million times, and all you men are slime ….”  “All the money’s gone … but it was never here ….”  Death and taxes, but especially death. You know, The Eternal.

But, I also side with that other 20th century philospher, Mike Damone, who asked rhetorically, “what about the tunes?” “Antenna,” “Thunderclap for Bobby Pyn,” “Walkin Blue,” “Malibu Gas Station.” Those are great songs — powerful compositions — and already some of my all-time favorites.

Sonic Youth's "The Eternal," Out June 9 on Matador

Sonic Youth's "The Eternal," Due Out 6/9 on Matador

Sonic Youth‘s next album, “The Eternal,” is due out June 9 on Matador Records. And, as is often the case when I’m looking forward to hearing something new by one of my all-time favorite bands, I’ve found myself returning to the Sonic Youth catalog over the past couple weeks, listening again to and thinking again about all of their earlier releases.

Which leads me back to “New York City Ghosts and Flowers.” Though much maligned both when it first came out (for a leading example, see this review) and in the years since, I’ve always really liked the album. Sure, the compositions lack the awesome power of the wide open jams that appear on each of the excellent SY records, “Murray Street,” “Sonic Nurse,” and “Rather Ripped,” that have come out since. But much of songwriting on NYCG&F is as poignant as anything any of the band’s members did before or have done since. Here, I’m thinking about the poetry of Thurston’s “Free City Rhymes” and Kim’s “Nevermind (What Was It Anyway)” and, even more, “Side2Side.”  Overall, the album is like a small painting hanging in the corner of a gallery, one that’s all too easy to overlook at first but that once you see it, just pulls you in. Maybe that’s what Robert Christgau is getting at, too, in his review of the record here.

Of course, what up until recently has been one of the most interesting things about NYCG&F is that it’s an album of songs about New York City that came out just 16 months before the September 11 attacks. But what ought to make the album, particularly the title track by Lee Ranaldo, even more compelling today is that while, admirably, New York City didn’t fall to the foreign invaders then, now it’s been hit even harder, bitterly and ironically, by the colossal greed, selfishness, and stupidity of our very own ruling economic class. Karl Marx might be amused, but I’m certainly not. Still, at least there’s a new Sonic Youth album to look forward to.