Matthew Sweet brought just such a show with him when he made a June stop at Blueberry Hill's Duck Room. He and his backing band, which included members of power-pop act the Velvet Crush, brought the intensity and volume as they crunched their way through a set of highlights from Sweet's twenty-plus-year career. Cuts such as "Divine Intervention" and "I've Been Waiting" from his 1991 breakout album Girlfriend sounded fresh and energetic as the spotlight shone on his sugary vocal melodies and thick, rhythm-guitar crunch.

The announcement that Sonic Youth would play the free summertime concert series Live on the Levee came as a very pleasant surprise to most music fans in the city. The iconic experimental rockers took the stage at river's edge just before dusk on a perfectly cool and crisp summer evening and blazed through a set heavy on tracks from its latest album, The Eternal. As the sun descended behind the buildings of downtown, big pillowy clouds drifted in behind the open-backed stage, creating a natural backdrop that couldn't have been more perfect for the spacey sonic barrage that the band produced. It goes without saying that fans of live music in St. Louis had nothing to complain about on such a pristine night of outdoor entertainment.

Anyone who was lucky enough to secure a ticket for Leonard Cohen's stop at the Fox Theatre this fall would probably agree that the show transcended expectations. The sheer amount of genuine sincerity and heartfelt charm he displayed was in a league all its own, while the reserved, delicate musicianship of his band and backup singers defined tasteful. The celebrated songwriter's voice has deepened with age into a bone-rattling baritone croon that sends shivers and summons tears — and at 75 years old, Cohen is more spry (and at times even more sensual) than most men half his age.
— Shae Moseley

Bang Your Head
Rocking the fuck out is the new metal. Time was, metal was the new hard stuff that just grabbed you by the throat and made you move — be it moshing, headbanging or playing air drums. However, extreme music's been in a lull. Modern hardcore is pure formula. Nightclub-level metal bands are consumed with bloody-finger guitar shredding and Uzi-fast, double-bass-drum rolls. Technically, it's amazing — awesome, but forgettable. But this is music we're talking about. It should be about songs. What'll turn your head faster than a big sharp hook?

Here are ten badass bands that stopped showing off and instead wrote some memorable material in 2009.

16, Bridges to Burn. Pure stoner-metal misanthropy. Download "Flake," the riff of the year.

Mastodon, Crack the Skye. Splits the difference between metal and prog. Download "Divinations." Killer solo, short and sharp.

Kylesa, Static Tensions. Psychedelic-tinged metal that rocks like hell. Download "Running Red."

Converge, Axe to Fall. Metallic hardcore with intermittent chill tunes. Download "Dark Horse" for thrasheration, "Wretched World" to unwind from it.

Skarhead, Drugs, Money & Sex. The catchiest New York hardcore in years. Download "D.F.F."

Doomriders, Darkness Come Alive. Stoner hardcore that's influenced by Sabbath, Fugazi and Metallica. Download "Knife Wound."

Slayer, World Painted Blood. Thrash gods return to form. Download "Psychopathy Red."

Every Time I Die, New Junk Aesthetic. Hopped up on hardcore and classic rock, ETID delivers literate lyrics and convincing self-loathing. Download "Host Disorder."

Goatwhore, Carving Out the Eyes of God. None of this speedy metal tour-de-force is groundbreaking, but all of it is excellent, especially the breakneck "This Passing into the Power of Demons."

Saviours, Accelerated Living. Bay Area metallions wield thick, crunchy guitar tones like a flamethrower. Download "We Roam."
— D.X. Ferris

Ten Tweets for Ten Post-Acoustic Albums
A.A. Bondy, When the Devil's Loose. American Hearts, Bondy's solo debut, broke from rock. This time he gets reverb soaked and Southern spooky. Mississippi becomes him.

Neko Case, Middle Cyclone. Gods of reverb smile upon Neko. But who needs gods? She has guitarist Jon Rauhouse, harmony singer Kelly Hogan and a barn full of pianos.

Slaid Cleaves, Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away. Visions of work, life, nature and the soul being taken away by time sound so sweet covered in the melting toffee of Cleaves' voice.

The Duke & the King, Nothing Gold Can Stay. Simone Felice left his brothers this year. He had his reasons. His crushingly personal vision of loss is almost too much to take — almost.

Megafaun, Gather, Form & Fly. The most embarrassingly named of all embarrassingly named indie neo-folkers make a modest, chipper and surprisingly lush racket.

Mark Olson & Gary Louris, Ready for the Flood. The old friends reunite, one still living through a wrecked marriage, the other still as gifted a melody maker as anyone in pop.

Howard Eliott Payne, Bright Light Ballads. Lead singer of Brit band the Stands finds his inner 1964 Dylan via delicate melodies and a lyrical love of life, tunes — and love itself.

Son Volt, American Central Dust. Jay Farrar's acoustic guitar, moving moan, rich lyrics and quietly ambitious band are on a quest to find what lasts. Mission accomplished.

Taken by Trees, East of Eden. Third-world musical tourism gets sublime and glitchy, as Victoria Bergsman and her Pakistani friends prove beauty matters more than politics.

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