MTV News Staffers Pick Their Under-The-Radar Rock Releases For 2009

Starting today, and continuing throughout the week, we’re bringing you a look at rock music in 2009. Today, we kicked off Rock Week by taking a look at some of the most-anticipated rock albums of 2009, which wasn’t exactly an easy task, given that our rock tastes here in the Newsroom go from mainstream to very obscure.

So, rather than include every release scheduled for 2009, we figured we’d bring you a look at some of the under-the-radar releases that our staff is most looking forward to in the upcoming year.

Rya Backer, production assistant
Albums: Battles, TBD; Rival Schools, TBD

I’ve heard whispers of my beloved Battles going into the studio early this year to presumably release something in ’09. I’d probably give up my second-born to witness this experimental, (dare I say) math-rock supergroup in the studio, because they’re brilliant geniuses, and everything they record is inventive, complex and very fun to listen to. Another group that includes members of legendary bands — post-hardcore rock outfit Rival Schools (fronted by Walter Schreifels, member of such legendary hardcore and rock acts as Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand and Walking Concert) — has reunited ( … by fate? Three people will get that joke). The rockers are putting out a record later this year. Hopefully, it will include the new tracks they debuted during their slew of shows late last year.

Matt Harper, associate producer
Album: The Thermals, Now We Can See (April)

Most-anticipated rock album of 2009 for me? The Thermals’ Now We Can See,hands down. For a hot second in 2008, the future of the Portland semi-punk band seemed up in the air. They had parted ways with their drummer and their label and seemed to be quietly biding their time. Well, it turns out that Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster had been holed up in their Portland studio crafting a suitable follow-up to their 2006 opus, The Body, the Blood, the Machine. Way back in May, a fellow producer and I got the chance to meet up with Hutch and Kathy at their practice space and preview “I Let It Go” and “You Dissolve” from Now We Can See. Bear in mind that this was before they had a replacement drummer (Westin Glass, formerly of Say Hi), and the songs were still in the working phase. But after hearing these two tracks from Now We Can See, I got, and remain, supremely psyched. Here’s looking forward to a Thermals resurgence in ’09.

Dan “Monty” Montalto, segment producer
Album: Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (spring)

With the release of It’s Never Been Like That, French pop-rock quartet Phoenix dropped one of the catchiest albums of 2006, but the album never quite found the wide audience it deserved. Songs like “Consolation Prizes” and “Long Distance Call” should have made Phoenix hugely popular Stateside. Now, three years later, Phoenix are back with their fourth album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which means absolutely nothing to me but sounds pretty cool. Right now, there’s not much out there to get a sense of what to expect from this album, but the band’s Web site has an ominous intro promoting the new album that is strangely reminiscent of the “Halloween” theme song. Here’s hoping the guys continue down the path they took with It’s Never Been Like That and don’t start scoring low-budget French slasher flicks.

James Montgomery, rock editor
Album: Mastodon, Crack the Skye (spring)

The album I’m most looking forward to this year is Mastodon’s Crack the Skye, for the following reasons: A) Mastodon are awesome; B) There is a 50 percent chance Skye is a concept record about the life of Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin, who was near invincible (Russian imperialists attempted to poison, shoot and beat him to death, but when all those failed, they clubbed him, tied him up in a sheet and tossed his body into a frozen river); C) There is a 50 percent chance the album is about astral travel, Tsarist Russia, wormholes and/or the theories of Stephen Hawking; D) The countdown clock Mastodon posted on their Web site (which eventually revealed a trailer for Skye that contains doomy chords, the phrase “I Flew Beyond the Sun Before Its Time … ” and says the album is apparently “Rated R”; E) The fact that Mastodon chose the Olde English spelling of “Skye.” Did I mention Mastodon are awesome?

Joseph Patel, senior producer
Album: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, S/T (February)

Aside from the unwieldy — though, some would say, poetic — name, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart blew me away the first time I saw them last summer. They were beautifully chaotic, delightfully at ease and reminded me of my favorite shoe-gaze bands of the early ’90s (Lush, the Lilys, Drop Nineteens, et al). I’m cheating a bit, as I’ve heard their debut already (appropriately, on Slumberland), but I’m eager to hear what other people think of them when the album is properly released.

Christopher “CJ” Smith, segment producer
Album: Dan Deacon, Bromst (March)

The one album I can’t wait for is Dan Deacon’s Bromst. Due in March, Deacon’s sophomore effort looks to build on the already-epic electro-freak dance music that Deacon created on 2006′s “Spiderman of the Rings. It should nicely complement the experimental electronic-pop landscape that this year’s Animal Collective album already highlighted (coincidentally, both artists find their origins in Baltimore). We got a listen to some Bromst material back in December — and briefly profiled Deacon in the process.

Kim Stolz, on-air correspondent
Album: Black Lips, 200 Million Thousand (February)

From their live performances to their takeover of both the Atlanta rock scene and the garage-rock genre, the Black Lips have been redefining the industry. They are able to create a flower-garage-rock sound with the catchy hooks of a pop song and have been able to sustain respect in an industry that has a way of trashing a band once they become popular. I look forward to the new album continuing this trend.

What under-the-radar rock albums are you looking forward to this year? Let us know below!