The best local albums of 2009: Alastair St. Hill on Villanova Junction, Philip Pietri and the Manatees and Giddy-Up, Helicopter!
(This week we’re asking local musicians to pick their favorite local albums of 2009. Here, Alastair St. Hill of Gentlemen, Please dishes out his picks.)
Giddy-Up, Helicopter!, Something That Needs Nothing
Although I had no serious qualms with their first album, I Am Secretary, it wasn’t until I heard this year’s release that I feel like I really got what Giddy-Up, Helicopter! is all about. The album’s full of epic pop that sails on the high delayed melodies of the guitars and often-anxious drum beats, not on overwrought vocals. Conner and Nikki Navarro always sound calm and controlled, sometimes twisting around each other in overlapping call-and-response, and other times singing in an eerily lock-stepped octave unison.
Philip Pietri and the Manatees, Beach Jazz EP
Philip Pietri is kind of a weird guy. Usually when I see him, he’s wearing jeans that reach his mid calf and is either barefoot or in some kind of slip-on affair without socks. He’s also super friendly ... like, to the point where you think maybe he’s putting you on. He’s not, though. As far as I can tell, he’s just a nice guy. That’s why, after some time, I finally decided that I could enjoy The Manatees’ Beach Jazz EP without searching for subtextual irony or too-cool-for-school piss-taking. The songs on this album are just easy breezy beautiful (Cover Girl). Despite he and bassist Josh Price’s involvement with various improvisational noise outfits, these songs are built on classic song structure. No apologies. No hidden agendas. I can’t recommend the closing track, Wake Up, enough. When the harmonies hit, there’s nothing better.
Villanova Junction, Villanova Junction
Villanova Junction are from Sarasota. They have no bass player and an organist. Before I heard any of their songs, I saw a video of them covering a Doors song. This sent me into their world with a bias. It didn’t take me too long to overcome it, though. Ryan O’Neill’s particular style of wailing could never be mistaken for Jim Morrison’s, although who exactly to compare it too escapes me, despite its immediately familiar texture. And besides, instrumentally they actually sound a lot more like this band The New Rags, but maybe if the Rags had to soundtrack a march of soldiers out of the gates of Hell.
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I have to give an honorable mention to the Beauvilles, who put out Whispering Sin in September of last year, but I didn’t give it a proper listen for 6 or 8 months. It’s got some beautiful songs on it, and I think that in some circles, they’re a band that gets a bad rap for having a singer that looks like he stepped out of a Pantene commercial. Not me, though. I award EXTRA points for shine and bounce.
-- As told to Julie Garisto, tbt*. Photo by Nicole Kibert.