Josie Rubio

Top 10 Albums

Wooden Shjips
Thrill Jockey

The third release from Wooden Shjips could be arguably one of best psychedelic rock records to come from San Francisco since the genre’s heydey in the ’70s. Influenced by Swedish psych and the output of their hometown, the four-piece puts together mesmerizing tracks that aren’t just for stoners. While sometimes described as minimal, the record’s sound is larger than life, thanks to the band’s dynamic of entrancing rhythms, rambling guitars and smoky keyboards.

Actor Caster
Park the Van

Kicking off with the irresistibly catchy “Ten-Twenty-Ten,” a surprisingly upbeat song about a fading friendship, The Generationals’ second album is a collection of finely crafted pop songs. The album ranges from the dance-party beat of “You Say It Too,” to the synth-heavy ballad, “Please Be It.” The unifying factor is that each varying track is undeniably done well and some of the best indie pop around.

The Beets
Let the Poison Out
Hardly Art

This Queens band always sounds bawdy and a little drunk, as if they just woke up from a bender and hit record. Some of this is due to the sing-along feel of tracks likes “I Think I Might Have Built a Horse” or “Doing as I Do,” the latter containing the carpe diem line, “Don’t be afraid, you will not die. And if you die, whatever.” Let the Poison Out is charmingly (and characteristically) an unpolished gem, a rollicking and, at times, goofy record.

Crystal Stilts
In Love with Oblivion

When this Brooklyn five-piece released a preview of their sophomore album—the single “Shake the Shackles”—the prediction was that the new songs were taking an upbeat direction, even with lyrics like “pull the earth up over your grave.” That turned out not to be the case. In Love with Oblivion features the eerie “Alien Rivers,” a seven-minute journey through waters tinged with Mazzy Star, the Doors and Joy Division.

Fat Possum

It’s nearly impossible to mention the London-based four-piece Yuck without mentioning the obvious influences of bands like Dinosaur Jr, Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine strained through their fuzzy guitars. There’s the wall of sound, dreamy guitars and lazy vocals of the seven-minute “Rubber” for residents of Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation, and even the sunny pop of “Georgia” has a tinge of melancholy and nostalgic wistfulness, as if mourning its ’90s predecessors’ passing. Yet the band’s fresh energy defies easy categorization, as vocalist Daniel Blumberg in “Stutter” proclaims, “Time is on the outside looking in.”

Dum Dum Girls
Only in Dreams
Sub Pop

The follow-up to I Will Be, Only in Dreams shows the Dum Dum Girls maturing, both in lyrical content and in the dynamic of the four-piece girl group from LA. Vocalist Dee Dee’s lyrics are largely concerned with the recent death of her mother and she shows sass and confidence on tracks like “Always Looking” and “Heartbeat.”

Fungi Girls
Some Easy Magic

The tracks on the Fungi Girls’ second release sound as if somehow they’re simultaneously filtered through a ray of sunshine and the darkness of a dive bar, though the latter is rather improbable since the members of the band aren’t old enough yet to drink legally. Proof that age is just a number, this Cleburne, Texas trio delivers raw and gritty, yet undeniably catchy, hooks tinged with the kind of psychedelia that makes their shroomy moniker make sense. Jacob Bruce’s vocals and lyrics are tinged with ennui born not of jaded rocker world-wariness, but youthful restlessness. The teenage need to get out of the ’burbs and find something more, unsurprisingly, is a reoccurring theme, and since the band has toured and opened for the likes of Wavves and Hunx and His Punx, they probably have a better gauge of what’s out there than their peers, so who can blame them?

New Brigade
What’s Your Rupture?

Despite the frigid moniker, Iceage became my summer soundtrack. (Part of this is by chance, since The Agit Reader editor-in-chief arbitrarily declared it his reggae summer, and this was the only alternative in the car to his reggae mix.) But no matter the circumstances one hears this foursome from Copenhagen, their dark noise-shrouded punk is immediately arresting.

Thee Oh Sees
Carrion Crawler/The Dream
In the Red

On Thee Oh Sees’ latest release, this prolific four-piece from San Francisco creates some of the best noisy rock & roll around. Vocals range from a near falsetto on tracks like “The Dream” to a swaggering tone on “Crushed Glass” to B-movie ghoulish glee on the first track, “Carrion Crawler.” The latter is much cooler than a song named after a Dungeons and Dragons monster (thanks, Google) should be.

Zola Jesus
Sacred Bones

The soaring voice of operatically trained Nika Roza Danilova (a.k.a. Zola Jesus) has threatened to burst the seams of the songs it inhabits since her first release only a few years ago. Electronic effects, soaring synth and booming, primitive percussion woven through the latest record provide a fuller, more pop-driven sound to complement her vocals, which manage to somehow always convey technical strength and emotional vulnerability. From the steady build of “Ixode” to the minimalism of the piano ballad, “Skin,” Conatus is Zola Jesus’ strongest record yet. While tracks like “Seekir” and “Vessel” are reminiscent of Siouxsie Sioux, Zola Jesus has a still-evolving modern goth sound and aesthetic all her own.

Top 12 Concerts

NYCB Theatre, Westbury, May 18

Had I not been too frozen during the freak snowstorm to venture out again on October 29, I’m sure the Danzig Legacy show, which included Samhain and Misfits songs, would be on this list. Yet this performance in Westbury, Long Island, gave me my first opportunity to see Danzig play songs like “Mother,” “Dirty Black Summer” and “How the Gods Kill” live, as well as what I called “Danzig in the Round,” since the NYCB Theatre is one of those old round theaters. Even Danzig himself remarked on the oddity of it.

Gruff Rhys
Rockwood Music Hall, New York, January 13

A corner table perched above the stage of Rockwood Music Hall on the Lower East Side was the perfect way to spend a cold January evening. After a solo set by Eleanor Friedburger (Fiery Furnaces), Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys set up an array of musical contraptions and played songs from Hotel Shampoo and Candy.

Mark Eitzel
Knitting Factory, Brooklyn, December 6

With his beard and hat, American Music Club singer-songwriter Mark Eitzel looked a bit like a hobo, albeit a hip one. (In fact, he joked about the hat, lamenting that only “douchebags” wear them and joking about being “the original douchebag.”) Mostly, however, Eitzel told his tales through his songs and remains an unparalleled storyteller, as evidenced by such classics as “Western Sky” and “No Easy Way Down.”

The Church
BB King’s, New York, February 17

The first half-hour I was at this show, I thought I would wake up at any moment and tell friends, “I had a dream I was in Times Square, then I walked into a dinner-theater type of place, and The Church was playing. Weird.” By the time former MTV veejay Matt Pinfield walked out onstage before the band, I was absolutely sure I was dreaming. In the surreal setting, the band played appropriately dreamy pop, covering 2009’s Untitled #23, 1992’s Priest=Aura and 1988’s Starfish in their entirety.

Mi Ami
Glasslands, Brooklyn, March 26

The duo of Daniel Martin-McCormick and Damon Palermo brought their feverish electronic post-punk to Williamsburg, proving that two guys behind keyboards can create an energetic live dynamic. Martin-McCormick sang and screeched with maniacal fervor over the dance rhythms, to which he and some of the audience members impressively contorted.

Edwyn Collins
Bowery Ballroom, New York, March 14

Despite suffering a devastating stroke in 2005 that affected his speech and ability to walk, Scottish crooner Edwyn Collins still looked somewhat boyish on the Bowery Ballroom stage. His voice was unmarred as he performed songs such as “Falling and Laughing” from his days with Orange Juice, his hit “A Girl Like You,” and tracks from his latest record, Losing Sleep.

Peter Murphy
J&R Music, New York, June 7

Peter Murphy and I have had a long, one-sided history, starting with a trip to Chicago to see Bauhaus in 1998. He called my apartment once, but not for me—for an Agit Reader interview with someone else. So I was pretty excited to attend the autograph signing at J&R in lower Manhattan, though of course I just smiled dumbly as he signed his latest record, Ninth, for me. The autograph session was cut short, but for a good reason, as he played a surprisingly long set of mostly songs off the new record, as well as some lines from Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.”

Guided By Voices
Irving Plaza, New York, December 31/January 1

Ending 2010 and beginning 2011 on a high note, Guided by Voices played a New Year’s show at Irving Plaza with their classic line-up. Of course, there were scissor kicks from frontman Robert Pollard and a lot of merry man-hugs and singing along from the crowd as the band played classics like “Salty Salute.” At one point in the wee hours of New Year’s Day, Pollard uttered a common phrase, “I’m drunk,” with a laugh, before launching into another song.

Zola Jesus
Ace Hotel, New York, October 19

Zola Jesus at the Ace Hotel wasn’t exactly a proper performance—something that I have yet to see, regrettably. But her Free Yr Radio/KEXP Showcase gave a four-song taste of her live show, her powerful voice defying her ethereal fairy princess look. In front of sleepy morning audience, she played several songs from her latest release, Conatus, including “Vessel” and “Hikikomori.”

Psychedelic Furs
Tanner Park, Copiague, August 5

This year, I got to see a good representation of the Pretty in Pink soundtrack, including the Psychedelic Furs oceanside at Tanner Park for free. (I attended an Echo and the Bunnymen concert that didn’t make this list too.) A show like this in a suburban picnic setting always has the potential to be sad, but not with the talented Furs onstage. Energetic frontman Richard Butler jumped and danced his way through the set, from the early-on “Pretty in Pink,” through hits like “Heartbreak Beat,” “The Ghost in You” and “President Gas,” a political tune that is oddly still relevant. By the encore, the band brought the crowd to their feet, looking (in the dark, at least) like the final scene in a John Hughes movie.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Irving Plaza, New York, September 21

Most famous for Pretty in Pink’s “If You Leave” (ubiquitous at ’80s nights since those nights were actually in the ’80s), Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark put out the underrated History of Modern out last year. The band proved that not only can they still put out good records, but amazing shows as well, playing songs from the latest record and throughout their career, with an encore that included the “Electricity” from their earliest days.

The Cure
Beacon Theatre, New York, November 25

When The Cure took the stage at the Beacon Theatre for the first of a three-night engagement, Robert Smith jokingly checked to make sure we understood that the band was going to play its first three albums in their entirety. Starting with the rudimentary Three Imaginary Boys, the Cure followed with the sparse melancholy of Seventeen Seconds and the haunting gloom of Faith. If that wasn’t enough, the three encores offered almost an entire concert’s worth of material, including “Boys Don’t Cry,” “Jumping Someone Else’s Train,” “Charlotte Sometimes” and “In Between Days.” Throughout, The Cure never hit a sour note. I do have one request, though: Pornography, The Top and The Head on the Door next year?