2009: Already a Great Year for Music

Last year was not a great year for music. TV on the Radio put out a great record (which sound incredible on vinyl), and I enjoyed albums by Ra Ra Riot and The Dodos. Kanye West put out a surprisingly good record. I’ve recently gone back and discovered Fleet Foxes, whom everyone already loves, and My Brightest Diamond, a really wonderful orchestral indie-pop outfit that reminds me of that amazing unreleased Jon Brion-produced Fiona Apple album (and that’s a really good thing). But still, there wasn’t a whole lot that really stuck with me. I’ll put it this way: five years from now, I won’t be listening to many 2008 records.

This year is already far better, with a handful of absolutely essential records either here or on their way already. Animal Collective’s much-heralded Merriweather Post Pavilion is just as good as everyone says it is. Pitchfork is right about the excellence of the Dark Was the Night compilation — the new track by The National (online here), in particular, is breathtaking. I absolutely adore Antony and the Johnsons’ The Crying Light, although the group’s best new track is the saxed-up, delightfully sleazy “Shake That Devil” on the Another World EP. The new Franz Ferdinand album is slightly uneven, but contains a half-dozen superb pop tracks. Better yet, there are also truly exceptional records by Cursive, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Grizzly Bear on the way.

The bad news is that it’s become almost impossible to procure tickets to even remotely buzzworthy shows in D.C. Animal Collective sold out a mid-May show at the beginning of February, and TV on the Radio just sold out two June shows. The National is playing three shows in late May, and only the Sunday-night, 11:30pm spot has any tickets left. Even a smallish buzz band like Passion Pit sold out weeks ahead of time and had to be upgraded to a larger venue. Sure, their EP is really good. But it’s not the sort of thing I’d have thought would pack a venue.

As I recall, just a year or so ago, it was pretty easy to get tickets to most shows by showing up at the door; high-profile gigs would sell out maybe a week in advance at most. Now it’s mad rush to see any band that’s been featured anywhere; shows of any note are selling out almost immediately. A friend of mine noticed the same thing and declared, not entirely facetiously, that Obama was to blame. Perhaps the Democratic administration has brought a few more indie rock lovers to the city. But the character of the city and its residents hasn’t changed that much in recent months. It’s not as if tens of thousands of hip young urbanites have suddenly descended upon Washington since last Thanksgiving. Anyway, this is especially frustrating given that I just moved to a new place not far from both the Black Cat and the 9:30 Club — and now it’s almost impossible to get into interesting shows at either!