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New to you in 2009?


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What musical "discoveries" did people make in 2009? I'm talking about bands/acts you hadn't known about before 2009 started, and which you're now a big fan of.

For me, the big one is Bruce Peninsula; thanks go to flipzoso for turning me on to them. I saw three of their shows this year, including back-to-back Saturdays (in Burnstown and then Ottawa) in October, and they impressed me more and more each time I saw them. They mix harmonized vocals with tight-as-prog intricate guitar riffs with a kind of tribal feeling to it at times. Their do some great covers ("Swimming Song" by Louden Wainwright, "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac), and are great people and dedicated musicians taboot.



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The Avett Brothers (wow, these guys are amazing)

Patrick Watson (music that reaches into you soul and gives it a shake)

MGMT (I knew some of their tunes in 2008, but I got their last album in December and it has won me over)

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (not as crazy or put-on as fellow desert-dwelling communal folksters, The Polyphonic Spree)

The Dead Weather (nasty piece of deconstructed blues, and Jack White shows up as a good drummer)

Them Crooked Vultures (Josh Homme's guitar is a bit too busy at times, but still an excellent hard rock record)

I hate myself for not hating the new Decemberists, but I still hate The Decemberists.

I wish I discovered Massive Attack far sooner than 2008/09.

The Great Outdoors (I knew of them in 2008, but gave their Winter EP lots of spins in 2009 and loved it. They are a fantastic and fantastically talented folk/roots band from Vancouver; if only they got their shit together, they'd be better known)

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Frank Fairfield, without a doubt my favourite.

I'm absolutely floored by this guys music, I love it. He also has a radio show dedicated to old-time music, and spins pretty much only 78s.




The Ancient Folk of Frank Fairfield

by Nick Rallo

A year ago, I was up at the Echo to see the Fleet Foxes. It was their first time in Los Angeles, so there was a lengthy line queuing up. While waiting, a friend of mine pointed out a young guy riding up on cheap bike, wearing a tweed jacket and slacks - and a banjo on his back. I assumed the guy was crazy. He had an iron burn on the back of his shirt. His banjo strap was made of rope.

This was the opening act the Fleet Foxes took on the road. His name is Frank Fairfield, and you can catch him around Los Angeles if you look. He plays in old bars, Churches, and at the Farmers Market with a coffee can at his feet. He has a radio show where he plays old 78s. I would compare his music to other bands, except the kind of music he plays pre-dates the music you listen to (and inspired it.)

On stage, he sits on a wooden chair and flings his fingers all over his banjo, tree-saws his fiddle, and winces as he plucks his guitar. It’s as if the ghost of Blind Willie Mctell invaded a 26 year old white guy in SoCal. His music is the oldest blues, the most ancient folk arrangements you could imagine: songs about killing your wife, about traveling alone (with the word “rambler†generously applied). Think trains pumping through fields, and bundles of clothes on your back.

Recently, Frank played at the annual Old Time Social in Echo Park, at the Hyperion Tavern. A band was there called Sausage Grinder, and the bartender was wearing a shirt that read, “Who the fuÇk is Mick Jagger?†Frank took the stage, and melted everyone’s face. No one played like he did (or does). Its why the Fleet Foxes took him on the road, and as Frank’s kind girlfriend told me, let him stay at their house in Seattle.

Meeting him, you’d think a black hole opened up from Pre-War south and dropped Frank into a tree in beautiful California. I’m pretty sure the words, “blog†and “iTunes†didn’t register in his mind as real. He’s from Corpus Christi, and he plays a fiddle that his grandfather “busted up his knuckles pretty good on.†When I asked him why he plays in California, he said, “that’s just where I like to play.â€

“I wish I was a lizard in the spring / Oh I wish I was a lizard in the springâ€

Fairfield is a serious warbler. In his most arduous but inspiring track, “I Wish I was a Mole in the Ground,†he painfully banjos his way through metamorphosis. He sings with the intensity of a man stuck on a never-ending railroad, gone too long from the one he loves. What is it about being a rambler that’s so sad? I’m not sure, but when you listen to Fairfield’s version of “Mole in the Ground,†you feel it: The muscle put into the fingerings. The sweat on his palms, and the desire to be home so strong it’s like death–

“I been in the bend so long / Yes I been in the bend so longâ€

The weight is damn real. You can even hear him huffing exhausted breath into the microphone. That kind of pain shuts up a crowd, and “Mole in the Ground†is hurtful.

I mean seriously, have you ever heard anyone play like this? Jaw dropping. When he plays, you’re just hit with lightning - you don’t know how it happened or why. There’s a man up there singing about digging a hole! What makes you play like that? I asked him, in nicer words. It’s just what he loves, he responded. It’s what he grew up with.

Or maybe he did the whole sell-your-soul thing. Does the devil still need a banjo picker in 2009? Frank’s 78, “I’ve Always Been a Rambler,†is out now on iTunes (strange, yes) and buzzing in the air near dirt roads in Southern California.


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New to me this year:

Crooked Still

The Bad Plus


Emma Lee

The Hold Steady

Vampire Weekend

Music I've been delving much deeper in to and have discovered a lot of great new stuff from:

Bruce Springsteen

Josh White

Pete Seeger

Woody Guthrie


Fred Eaglesmith

I credit CBC Radio 2 with about 90% of my new musical discoveries in the last 16 months.

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Here's a few:

Kill It Kid

- used to work for em at One Little Indian, but they are amazing. Still listen a lot. Really interesting take on trade blues.


Bring Me The Horizon

- Mental screamo-metal from the UK. Absolutely insane.



- just got into them. Love it.


Jill Is Lucky

- A band from Paris I really like. Really authentic stuff.


The Collective

- A band you'd never know to come from Israel. Really amazing and probably the best live band I've EVER seen.


Team William

- A Belgian band I'm in love with. So good.


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Though this doesn't count, I got hooked on black nylon tapewound bass strings.

Rotosound TruBass 88


A lot of people that play tapes play LaBellas but I'm all for the Rotos.

They tame that nasty zing and the overplaying that comes along with it, and the deep lush bass these strings deliver makes me so glad that I didn't get the flatwound strings I was about to get cause I couldn't find the 88's

A drink to holding out!

Also, Today was the first day I ever used a foam mute...so close it burns...doesn't count for 2009.

Holy funk machine.

(I know there are bass nerd forums but I thought I'd share...The G string broke off the last set of these sluts I had on my bass. so smooth and enticing to play. Snap!)

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Thanks to Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers, I discovered Mulatu Astatke. This, in turn led me to discover the entire Ethiopiques compilation series of Ethiopian music of the '60s and '70s, and the Strut Records' Inspiration Information series, which pairs current artists or producers with their music heroes for collaborative albums. Thanks, Jim Jarmusch!

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  • 2 weeks later...

My favourite albums I discovered in 2009 but that were released earlier:

--Fort Knox Five: Radio Free DC

--Adrian Quesada & Ocote Soul Sounds: The Alchemist Manifesto

--Afrika Bambaataa: Dark Matter Moving at the Speed of Light

--Herbie Hancock: Future 2 Future

--Nguyen Le: Purple

--Phuse: Mingus Lingers

--Bombay Dub Orchestra: 3 Cities

--Miles Davis: Another Unity

--The Baker Brothers: Transition Transmission

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For me all this happend in the first portion of the year and hasn't changed. And one of these has become my all-time favorites; Patrick Watson.

In order of discovery

- saw Leif Vollebekk open for Basia. Easily became a fav of mine.

- (doesn't count but I knew and heard some Bruce Peninsula stuff but couldn't see them live or get the album until February '09. So I guess the only discovery was how awesome they are, haha).

- The Balconies. a friend linked me to their myspace was amazed right away. One of my favorites now.

- In April I got into Patrick Watson by listening to Fireweed. Saw him live in June and still its my favorite show of the whole year. Saw Plants and Animals...fell in love. Saw Torngat..jaw dropped. Saw Immaculte Machine loved it and bought Fables that album rocks hard. Now getting into one before that 'Ones and Zeros' may even be better.

After April there wasn't much. Album-wise I really got into Great Lakes Swimmers, who I haden't heard before. But their live show, though enjoyabl didn't leave a lasting impression and nor did Lost Channells.

Over the summer I found out about Rural Alberta Advantage, that was notable discovery. As was Hey Rosetta!

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