Story of the Year: Beirut
The story is so well documented it's hardly worth rewriting. And of course, that was the problem. A mountain of Blog Buzz was built before the band played their first New York concert ever. Before they had even fully formed the touring band. Always trying to meet the impossible expectations, their live shows were heavily scrutinized from day one, but the general consensus was that these guys were pretty darn good. After touring the country and parts of the world, days before a pair of nearly sold out homecoming shows at Bowery Ballroom, The 20 year old bandleader Zach Condon claimed a case of "extreme exhaustion", canceled the final dates and returned to his home in New Mexico. The rest of the band was last seen solemnly marching through the Good Sheppard Faith Church during the Wordless Music series to join Hawk and a Hacksaw for a few instrumental numbers. We sincerely hope this isn't the last we see of them, and that the band bounces back in '07 stronger than ever. For now we can only think what could have been had the band been allowed to develop the good old fashioned way. Damn you Internet!
Comeback Band of the Year: The Strokes
The Strokes had revitalized the New York music scene, whether you like it or not, at the beginning of the century by referencing the classic punk bands of back in the day. They played fast, lived fast and brought a vital combination of what the kids wanted their rockstars to be while reminding their elder generation what Rock and Roll should be. But flash forward to 2006, and we had kind of grown tired of the whole shtick. The drunk, sloppy shows with Julian’s babbling commentary that he always seemed to find more amusing than anyone else. But as it turned out, the band had grown up as well. They released a new album that showed some genuine progress musically, and when they finally returned to the New York stage for a series of sold-out shows at Hammerstein Ballroom, they genuinely were better than ever. Gone were the days of the 45 minute encoreless shows, our boys stood out like grown up champions of the scene they created through a nearly 2 hour set that spanned their entire career to this point. Had this series of events happened 6 months later, we have no doubt you'd be hearing much more about them in your end of year lists. But the impression was strong enough that it was well worth a mention.
Worst Club Closing: CBGB
What a mess. The club was a shell of the shell of it's former self. It had been screwing over their bands for years, hadn't booked a relevant developing band that wasn't trying to get their "CBGB experience" in over a decade, while making it seem like the corporatization of the Lower East Side was really to blame for the club closing. That certainly didn't stop the dozens of relevant rock clubs that have popped up in that time to give the scene a much needed boost. For chrissakes, by the time it was over, the Hard Rock Cafe was more punk than the disgraced venue. While many sites and news outlets, ourselves included, covered the final days like the pope's death, with a few months now between us, we can finally say, good riddance.
Best NY Music Blog: Heart on a Stick
There are too many music blogs these days to really care anymore, but the one that continuously makes us happy to see pop up on our RSS in the morning is Heart on a Stick. It's long winded and relentless, but that's what we like about it. In an era of perpetual heaping praise and disposable bands, 'J' is the one voice of reason. Never afraid to cut down the band everyone is talking about, and never seeming like the contrarian for the sake of being contrary. When a guy writes 15,000 words on why your favorite band blows, you get the sense he's really put some thought into what he says. And of course, not being afraid to knock a band down a peg makes his recommendations all the more convincing. In a blog era where posting an MP3 first seems to trump content too often, it is a relief that there are still music bloggers with the patience and the passion to actually write about and experience the current music scene.
Big in '07: Pela
Total Crapshoot, of course. If 2006 taught us anything, it's that there is no real rhyme or reason predicting who will be what everyone is talking about 6 months down the line. One year ago this week we truly expected We are Scientists to be winning VMAs and Headlining Radio Station Christmas Festivals at this point, but instead they've settled into being just another solid band lost in the shuffle. For next year we're picking Pela for one simple reason: We've never met anyone who has seen them play who didn't think they were excellent. Simple enough. The Math makes sense. Maybe we should call this the Snowden award, for the band that we expect to make the jump from blogger favorite to blog-reader favorite in the coming year. We hope it plays out as we see it, because we cant think of a more deserving group of guys.
Lost to the Lonesome.m4a - Pela
Breakthrough Band: Grizzly Bear
Speaking of solid bands lost in the shuffle, that's where we had always pegged these fellas. Then we started hearing from friends about how great their latest album, Yellow House, was. But it was a local band who was friendly and outgoing, and you know how perceptions change under those circumstances. But the buzz slowly grew. It was never forced down our throats, always felt very organic and natural. Some solid reviews beget some better ones, and all of a sudden they were opening for TV on the Radio, selling out Bowery Ballroom and in every top album of 2006 conversation we've found ourselves in. The final validation, of course, comes at this magical time when all the year end lists come out. Sure enough, they're on top of the ones that matter. Thank you, Grizzly Bear, for proving yourselves to being excellent without shoving that fact down our throats.
On a Neck, On a Spit.mp3 - Grizzly Bear
Band of the Year: TV on the Radio
When it was all said and done, there was one band that seemed to completely rule this last year. They're not from Austin or Athens or Montreal or Stockholm, but right here in Brooklyn. Brooklyn, goddamnit! It's about time the pendulum swung back to our neck of the woods. From the moment they came out for their free show at Prospect Park with a new-found live energy, roundly and suddenly being dubbed as one of the best live shows of the year to that point, they seemed to be picking up steam. The major critical success of the following album only cemented it as their year. No New York band has exceeded expectations or impressed on such a major scale as TVotR did. It is not a surprise by any stretch for us to call them our Band of the Year, but that only stands as a testament to their total dominance in 2006. (pic via Brooklyn Vegan)