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The Year in Music: Ear to the Ground


The Post-MEEMAW EraBegins
Remember MEEMAW? They were scrappy, creative, catchy without being sugary, and awesome—and a lot of readers agreed. (The ones who didn't were typically more vocal, even if they were more wrong.) Since the band's disintegration, we've had more space to fill and you've had less to argue about. Fret not, for the trio has kept busy in numerous projects. For those who found MEEMAW's instrumentation lacking in proficiency, drummer-turned-frontwoman Jessica McFarland's Heavy Cream make a mission of proving just how badly that argument misses the point. The quirkiness of our former fixation remains intact in Daniel Pujol's solo output, which this year included a regrettably overlooked but fantastic split tape with Deluxin' called Timbre Shades of Great. (The Deluxin' side rules, too.) And bassist Wez Traylor has committed fully to the city's best pop-punk band (Kintaro) and the latest hot shit from the crew (Natural Child). MATT SULLIVAN

After years in the pipeline, hours upon hours of work and an unfortunate run-in with the business end of a tornado, Murfreesboro's Youth Empowerment through Arts and Humanities finally has a home for all its educational awesomeness. With swanky new digs on Bucket City's historic square, YEAH is open every day, offering kids a safe place to hang out, make art and make music. They offer classes on everything from screen-printing and recording to hip-hop dance and, uh, knitting. But we think the parents of M'boro's musical youth might make out the best in this deal—YEAH offers a practice spaces for atonal—er, aspiring—young rockers. SEAN L. MALONEY

Willy T's Final House Show
At this house-show-to-end-all-house-shows, Lambchop's mind-blowing performance alone was enough to render it legendary. But that was only the beginning of a night that featured sets from the likes of Caitlin Rose, Natural Child, Turbo Fruits, Tim Chad and Sherry, and a handful of out-of-towners. If there was any show you'd put into a time capsule to best represent Nashville indie rawk in the year 2009, it's easily this one. In true house-party fashion the night ended with Daniel Pujol jump-starting the cops' cruiser, just after they had broken up the party in the middle of JEFF the Brotherhood's set. Classic! ADAM GOLD

Taylor Is the New Shania
Even though no amount of pitch correction could have saved her opening performance at the CMAs, and despite her uncomfortable attempts at sultriness during that same performance, the country music establishment is betting all its chips on this Taylor Swift person. And for good reason—we hear she's probably the most successful country music artist of the decade, a feat made even more remarkable by her not sounding remotely country. She's cashing in on the trail blazed 10 years ago by Shania Twain, one that completes the goal set by the advent of the Nashville Sound half a century ago. Developed as a reaction to country music's shrinking influence alongside rock and pop, the Music Row machinery has measured success ever since in terms of crossover potential. With Swift, they finally got that amorphous nothing we thought we heard in Shania Twain, and this time on every station in every format. Feels good to see a plan through. MATT SULLIVAN

Jay Leno Makes Kanye West Cry
Imma let you finish, but Jay Leno making Kanye cry was one of the greatest moments in the history of television! When Ye—who we love, don't get us wrong—went on The Jay Leno Show (aka the dumbest idea in television history) to apologize after the whole Taylor Swift-VMA kerfuffle, and The Chin busted out the "I knew your mother. What would she think of this?" line we squealed with delight. The apology was nice but the tears were awesome—what can we say, we're suckers for embarrassing moments on national television. SEAN L. MALONEY

Jandek Comes to Town
Reclusive cult figures are, as a rule, loathe to play out-of-town club shows—it kind of goes with the territory when you're a recluse—so when we found out that legendary auteur of atonality Jandek would be making a stop at The Basement, we could scarcely believe our Internets. Then we found out that music listings editor Adam Gold would be his drummer for the show. Then we found out he accepted an offer to record an album here. At least, we think it was Jandek—the man introduced himself only as an "associate" from Corwood Industries, the shadowy company that may or may not release the Nashville sessions sometime in the next two years. Weird! STEVE HARUCH

Jazzed About That
Local music fans gained a victory this year when WMOT-FM didn't completely alter its three-decades-plus mainstream jazz format. But the station—which has won critical acclaim domestically and internationally as one of the nation's few remaining 100,000-watt champions for improvisational music—did make some changes in the wake of state budget cuts. Public radio shows are again a regular part of WMOT's weekday mornings and afternoons, most notably The Takeaway, a three-hour live news show airing from 6 to 9 a.m. Still, nationally and locally produced jazz shows remain prominent, with such staples as Jazz with Bob Porlocha and Jazz on the Side still safe, and popular area broadcaster Greg Lee featured in the 9-12 a.m. slot. No hardcore jazz lover is happy about losing the 24/7 format, but WMOT's revised schedule is vastly preferable to the total demise of daytime classical music on WPLN-FM. RON WYNN

Running for Covers
Though this year has seen some great music released by both new and esteemed artists and bands, you could be forgiven for thinking Nashville has turned into a drunken wedding party as of late. Fact is, local cover bands have been turning regular show-going nights into good times party times like you haven't seen. There's no reason not to take advantage: This town is lousy with professional musicians weaned on the classics. The Long Players cover seminal albums from Side A to Side B, My So-Called Band embraces '90s chart-toppers, and Guilty Pleasures are the touchstones—multiple vocalists, multiple genres and a party enthusiasm the likes of which you haven't seen since Cousin Susan's nuptials. ASHLEY SPURGEON

The Overnight Mixtapes by Future
If there was one local hip-hop artist who dominated our iPod this year it would have to be Future—the megabytes of The Overnight Mixtape series were mega-tight. Releasing six mixtapes in as many weeks is no small feat, and maintaining the high level of quality is nothing short of miraculous—and we're reminded of this every time we hit "shuffle" and a Future-fied take on the day's top hits pops up every other track. And you gotta love an artist who will stay home on his 21st birthday to keep us knee-deep in fresh tunes. SEAN L. MALONEY

The Re-Rise of the 7-Inch
Maybe you've read this already, but MP3s are killing CDs. Some would have you believe that the long player is circling the drain with them. But these things are cyclical, and a growing crop of bands are drawing parallels to previous singles-driven eras by opting for the 7-inch record format—and producing some of the best local releases of the year. Jack White's devotion to the format was apparent with his Third Man Records, whose "A Glorious Dawn" 7-inch release of the Carl Sagan Internet phenomenon just hit cyber-stores. Before that, Turbo Fruits and Kintaro both offered standout slabs of wax, but longtime local flagship Infinity Cat have embraced the disc with the greatest success, unleashing a flurry of singles over the course of the past year that have found regular rotation on our tables: two JEFF the Brotherhood splits, Heavy Cream's EP and the Natural Child debut. MATT SULLIVAN

Bows and Arrows Shoot Their Way Into Nashville
Aside from the riches, fame and VIP lounges, one great thing about being a music writer is the chance, on any given night, to stumble upon a band you've never heard of opening for a band you have heard of, and walk away liking the new band better. Such was the case when Murfreesboro's Bows and Arrows started their run of sweet opening slots this year, prepping the room for twee sensations The Pains of Being Pure at Heart at The End with a fetching mix of Velvets-y cool, '60s pop warmth and big, shoegaze-y tangents. And their self-produced album 1010 Eaton Street is a gem, showcasing a young band with good instincts and the reverb to match. STEVE HARUCH

Road to Bonnaroo
There was some fierce, vicious competition that went down at Mercy Lounge this spring: Sixteen bands competed for three slots to perform at Bonnaroo 2009. Voting was split between the crowd and a weighted panel of judges, and every band was more than aware of the opportunity presented. The holds? None were barred. Scantily clad bikini girls were pranced around (The Tits), loyal reservists were called in to pack the house (The Protomen), and marching bands were woven through the crowd to the stage to start the show (Heypenny). In the end, The Protomen, Heypenny and the much-celebrated The Features ended up in Manchester. Each deserved it. Each deserves more. ASHLEY SPURGEON

The Grand Palace Crew Survives a Shoot-Out
When we heard that the guys from Murfreesboro's Grand Palace crew had been shot during an attempted carjacking, we were worried. When we talked to 'em and found out that they were OK, we couldn't stop laughing—the bullet had gone straight through Charles "Chuckshot" Bruner's hand and landed ever so delicately in James "Pimp Limp" Robbins' leg. This, kids, is why they don't use hip-hop videos for firearms instruction—you might look cool shooting that gun sideways, but you're not going to get very good results. SEAN L. MALONEY

Kings of Leon Get Slashed
Some people think we loathe the Kings of Leon, but they are wrong—KOL are an endless font of hilarity that we could not live without. Think Jerry Lewis with skinny pants and pointy hair. Case in point: Kings of Leon slash fiction, the fan-authored tales of incest and infidelity starring Mt. Juliet's finest in various states of fraternal flagellation. Sure, the grammar and the graphic nature of the works can induce vomiting—even degenerates like us find the concept of "shirt fisting" weird and disturbing—but it's totally worth reading. "For the lulz," as the kids say. SEAN L. MALONEY

Breaking up Is Easy to Do...Apparently
It's been an emotional year for Nashville's indie-rock, punk, folk, rock 'n' roll and pop scenes. We've seen the dissolution of legendary locals Silver Jews as well as punk favorites MEEMAW. What's more, principle MEEMAW member Wes Traylor went on to join Turbo Fruits, leaving shortly thereafter to focus on his group Natural Child. Turbo Fruits found new life with The Tits' rhythm section, but that resulted in the disbanding of the controversial mammary cock-rockers. The Tits' buds The Glib moved away, while Shoot the Mountain suffered significant member change-ups. Indie-folk troupe All We Seabees went their separate ways, while the former Roadrunner Records up-and-comers De Novo Dahl also became defunct. They're back again now, but the same can't be said of Scene favorites Hotpipes, who have one final recording in the works. (Future live performances are allegedly out of the question.) Gone too are the days of experimental-pop megagroup KinderCastle—as a matter of fact, they announced their breakup at the three-year anniversary party of the Scene's music blog, Nashville Cream. Movement Nashville's indie-pop crew Tommy and the Whale also called it quits, proving that punkers and popsters alike are capable of meeting an abrupt end. D. PATRICK RODGERS

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