Favorited ex.fm Songs

Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Top 40 Albums of the Year (1-5)

The long awaited final installment of the countdown is here! For the previous parts go here: 6-10, 11-20, 21-40.

I didn't put too much thought into the groups that these were divided into other than breaking things into manageable parts to write about each day. However, the top five do break away really nicely because I love all 5 of these albums. So with that said, onto the countdown...

5) Mates of State - Mountaintops
For those that don't know, Mates of State are a husband and wife indie pop duo. Both sing while Kori plays keyboards/synthesizer and Jason plays drums. I used to be a pretty big fan back in the day, but I haven't listen to the band too much in the last couple years. Because of that, I didn't really have any sort of expectation when I listened to the album. Thankfully I did actually listen though because I was hooked almost immediately. The first track, "Palomino," is really the band at its best. If this had been the only stand out track, I would have been more than satisfied, but "Sway" and "Mistakes" are two other favorites that along with solid tracks all around them make Mountaintops one of the best albums of 2011. This is the band's 7th full length that I own, and in my opinion it is absolutely their best album to date. Consider me fully back on the Mates of State bandwagon and eagerly awaiting anything they choose to record in the future. I really wanted this Mates of State album to be higher for all of the reasons described above, but the four albums above it are great too, so it ended up at a very respectable number 5.

4) The Decemberists - The King Is Dead
While I hadn't strayed from The Decemberists quite like I had for Mates of State, their last album, an ambitious attempt at an indie rock opera, was my least favorite of their releases to date. However, as I discussed on the blog right after "The King Is Dead" came out, this year's album was a wonderful return to an indie folk style that is much more akin to my liking. I've actually already written posts about "Don't Carry It All," "Calamity Song," and seeing the band in concert in April, so I don't have too much more to add. I loved the album in January when I picked it up, and it has remained one of my favorite albums throughout all of 2011.

Since I've already written about "Don't Carry It All" and "Calamity Song," check out "June Hymn" below.

3) Tom Waits - Bad As Me
Obviously, the blog name alone can assure you that I'm a pretty big Tom Waits fan. When this album was first announced I had a post expressing my excitement. After the album was released, I outlined a post that would have been titled "Tom Waits On Life" or something of that sort and that would have used lyrics from the album to give life lessons, but unfortunately school and life (but mostly school) got in the way. Maybe I can still write it at some point, but for now I can just say that even a 62 year old Tom Waits can still write phenomenal music. Most of the songs are short and characterized by his gravely voice and experimental instrumentation that fans have grown to love over the years. The impetus to do a wisdom of Tom Waits type post was lines like "Everybody knows umbrellas will cost more in the rain" (a good description of supply and demand) and "Heavens to murkatroid, miners to coal. A good woman can make a diamond out of a measly lump of coal." If his voice turns you off, you obviously won't enjoy the album. On the other hand, if you like a unique sound from a legend with witty lyrics this will be an album for you, and it is an excellent addition to the over 20+ albums that Tom Waits has recorded in the past almost 40 years.

The song below, "Bad As Me" is my favorite song off the album. Also check out the song "Satisfied," which features Keith Richards on guitar.

2) Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver
It seems like Justin Vernon of Bon Iver has been everywhere since his 2008 album "For Emma, Forever Ago" burst onto the scene. Since then, he formed Volcano Choir with members of Collections of Colonies of Bees (also from Wisconsin) and recorded an album with them. He also recorded a Bon Iver EP, recorded an album with a collection of 20+ musicians called GAYNGS, guested on a couple tracks of Kanye West's 2010 album that saw rave reviews all over, and guested on various other albums and songs. Also during that time, Justin Vernon joined his old high school jazz band for a concert to help raise money for a trip the band was taking to New York for a jazz competition. I actually had the pleasure of attending that concert at Eau Claire Memorial High School, and it might just be the best concert I've ever attended. The uniqueness of having a well-known artist sing his own songs with a jazz arrangement and covering old jazz classics was truly a unique experience that I'm so glad to have experienced. It was really cool seeing an artist that had gained fame so quickly return to his roots and come across as so humble and grateful for everything he had achieved. Thankfully the concert was recorded and released as an album called "A Decade With Duke" that can be purchased from Amazon or various other music vendors.

I imagine there are few things tougher for an artist than following up a well-received debut album. Some artists will try to duplicate what made their first album successful only to fail to catch lightning in a bottle twice. Rather than trying to replicate his previous album, Justin Vernon took some chances, and came up with another brilliant album. The music is beautiful, and it is great hearing a hard working artist evolve and get noticed for it (although The Grammys listing him in the "Best New Artist" category is kind of a joke). Anyhow, the music speaks for itself. The songs are sort of ambient too and this is another great headphones album.

I could have sworn that I had posted the video for "Holocene" previously, but I don't see it, so here it is (again?).

And now...

The dramatic reveal...


the number one album of 2011...

1) Middle Brother - Middle Brother
Middle Brother is an alt country/indie folk collaboration of one member each from the bands Deer Tick, Dawes, and Delta Spirit. "Super groups" can be a risky endeavor and often don't live up to the sum of their parts, but Middle Brother appears to be the exception. (Side note: I really like the Monsters of Folk collaboration too, but probably not as much as I liked M. Ward or Bright Eyes individually). I wasn't too familiar with any of the originating bands when I first heard the album back in March. Usually I will wait until I can find an album on sale to buy it if I'm not already a fan of the artist, but after listening to two tracks from a free stream I stopped and immediately purchased the album because I was already sold. Since then, I've listened to the album at least a couple dozen times, and the luster has hardly worn off at all. Many of the songs are played loose and fast, having the sound of a band already a few drinks in during their set.

It was close for me between Bon Iver and Middle Brother for album of the year, but when it comes down to it, I think I've returned to this Middle Brother album more often. That coupled with the initial thrill when I first discovered them, and the persistent joy the album has brought me throughout the year make Middle Brother's debut album my album of the year for 2011.

Here is the track "Middle Brother" from the album Middle Brother by the band Middle Brother. Got that straight?

I hope everyone enjoyed the countdown! I'll have a post with some other miscellaneous favorites in the next day or two and then it is on to 2012. I'd love to hear from others what albums (or anything else) they enjoyed from 2011 and what they are looking forward to in 2012.

Thanks to anyone who read this blog over the past year, and I hope everyone starts 2012 off with a bang.

Friday, December 30, 2011

My Top 40 Albums of the Year (6-10)

If you missed the first 2 installments of my top 40 albums, you can check out albums 21-40 and 11-20. And now onto the first half of the top 10.

10) Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean
I wrote about this album almost a year ago in one of my first posts on the blog here. Really not much has changed since then. As I noted before, the album is a bit of a deviation from his normal hushed, acoustic style, but in my opinion the change is welcome and really well executed. I listened to the album a lot more in the first few months of the year than I have lately, but it is still a very enjoyable listen when I do get around to it.

9) Explosions in the Sky - Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Explosions in the Sky is another band I have previously covered here. This time it was due to their name's tie to the Fourth of July, rather than to talk about their new album however. That being said, there isn't a whole lot new to be said about the album (at least by me). If you're familiar with their instrumental post-rock style, you won't be too surprised by anything on the album. It's just another great addition to their catalog. When discussing The Antlers' "Burst Apart," I said that they would be first or second on a list of the best artist albums to lose yourself in while listening on headphones. This Explosions in the Sky album would take the other one of those top two spots.

8) Childish Gambino - Camp
Childish Gambino is the hip hop altar ego of actor/writer/comedian/all-around extraordinaire Donald Glover. Allegedly he came up with the name using a Wu-Tang Clan name generator, which if true, is wonderful. If you've read entries 40 through 9 on this list, you can tell I don't listen to a ton of hip hop, but Donald Glover brings something different that I find myself enjoying. He's not Will Smith, he still swears and boasts about his sexual conquests, but he also uses lines like "No live shows cause I can't find sponsors for the only black kid at a Sufjan concert" and "I ain't Mumford, I ain't tryin to have sons." References like that as well as his general wit and humor separate him from other artists for me. I still didn't expect to enjoy the album as much as I have, but I've found myself returning to it quite a bit over the last month or so, especially when I need something to pump while driving alone.

7) Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
This is the second album by Smith Westerns, but it is the first one to come across my radar. It is a slight deviation from the type of music I prefer (classified on Wikipedia as glam rock), but the guitar riff that kicks off the album on "Weekend" is one of my favorite album intros of the year. I'm really not sure I can add much of value to any discussion about this album. I enjoy the guitar play and find the songs to be catchy, but that's just me. And like I said, I know nothing about this mysterious genre of glam rock. So my advice is to check it out. Maybe you'll like it. Maybe you won't.

6) Wilco - The Whole Love
Wilco has been making albums since 1995, and this album ranks among their best. The album kicks off with "Art of Almost," an over 7 minute long track that ends with a pretty rockin' guitar solo that showcases Nels Cline's fantastic abilities. If you get a chance to see the band live, his guitar playing along with Jeff Tweedy's singing and stage banter are more than worth the price of admission. The album is bookended by another long track, the 12 minute long "One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)," another favorite off the album, and a more sweet sounding track than the dissonant opener. The albums most immediately accessible track is likely the first single, "I Might," which can be listened to below and comes in at a less time-consuming 4 minutes. I've enjoyed each of the last couple Wilco records, but all in all "The Whole Love" is a nice return to previous form and a really excellent record.

Below are three of my favorite tracks from these 5 records.

"Walking Far From Home" by Iron & Wine

Weird video but great song. "Weekend" by Smith Westerns

"I Might" by Wilco
Wilco - I Might by antirecords

Tomorrow I'll have my top 5 albums of the year, and I hope to have a miscellaneous round-up posted on New Years day or shortly after along with a look ahead to 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Top 40 Albums of the Year (11-20)

Without further ado, here is the second installment of my top albums of the year. Albums 21-40 can be viewed here. Just like yesterday 8 of these 10 albums are $5 or less on Amazon, so get buyin!

M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
M83 is the second French band on my countdown (along with Jamaica). While DJing on a car ride home from my grandma's house for Christmas, my dad asked how they got their name, so I can now tell you they are named after Messier 83, a spiral galaxy in the constellation Hydra. Do with that info what you choose. The album has a kind of ambient electronic/indie pop sound. I'm not familiar with their earlier work, but I plan on looking into their back catalog after really enjoying this album. My favorite song on the album is "Raconte-Moi Une Histoire" (or "Tell Me A Story"). I don't think I could do it justice with any explanation, so you'll just have to listen to it below. If you can't quite get behind a kid telling a story for a song, I can assure you their other tracks are voiced by adults.

19) Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears - Scandalous
Black Joe Lewis is a soul/blues artist from Texas. I remember hearing him get a lot of buzz from some of the blogs I read when he released his debut album two years ago. I tend to gravitate toward a lot of more folky music sometimes, but if you're looking for something to get you bobbing your head and dancing around, you could do worse than giving Black Joe Lewis a listen.

18) William Elliott Whitmore - Field Songs
Nobody has accused Iowa of having a booming music scene, but fortunately they do have William Elliott Whitmore. In 2009 his "Animals in the Dark" was my #1 album of the year. That was my first exposure to WEW and unfortunately that's an awfully tough act to follow. This album is more in keeping with the sound of some of his releases before "Animals in the Dark". It's not quite up to the high bar of greatness that he set, but he still knows how to use that absolutely wonderful gravely voice to play some really solid rootsy music.

17) Death Cab for Cutie - Codes And Keys
I'm having a hard time figuring out what to say about a band like Death Cab For Cutie. For the first year or two of undergrad they were my favorite band, and I swore by them. There are only probably 5 or 6 artists over my life that have had a sustained run as an unquestioned favorite (which will probably end up being a blog post at some point). So while I'm not the fanatic I once was, I still have a soft spot for them. Thankfully Ben Gibbard and company have done a really good job over the years churning out solid albums and this one is no exception. They may not be my favorite artist any more, but I still enjoy almost everything they release. If you're not already a fan, I doubt this album will change your mind, but if you are, it should a welcome addition to your collection.

16) Blind Pilot - We Are The Tide
Blind Pilot are one of the lesser known artists to me on this list. I know that they are an indie folk/indie rock band out of Portland, but that's about the extent of my knowledge. On my first couple listens to this album I enjoyed it, but nothing really stuck out too much and I sort of dismissed it. Fortunately I came back to it enough times to allow it to really grow on me and to see it steadily climbing my list of favorites for the year. I've found myself going back to this one more often than several others by artists that I've enjoyed for years. Blind Pilot can consider me a new fan eagerly awaiting their next release.

15) JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound - Want More
I don't keep up with the soul or blues or R&B scenes like I do the indie pop/indie rock/etc scenes on various blogs. Fortunately JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound has come onto my radar (along with Black Joe Lewis and #11 on this list). In this case, it was because of a meeting of these various scenes. Sometime last year JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound released a cover of Wilco's "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart," which is one of my favorite songs from an all-time great album "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." Since then, I've decided to keep tabs on them, and I'm thankful I did because this album is a real joy for the ears. I've put a video of that cover below so that others can become exposed in the same way that I did, but I also HIGHLY recommend checking out the song "Want More" as well as the whole album by that name.

14) The Antlers - Burst Apart
Few bands can bring about as emotional of a response to their music as The Antlers. In 2009, they released the album "Hospice," which contained "Two" and "Bear," two of the most emotionally intense songs I can recall recently. That whole album was fantastic, and I feel like sometimes I don't rate them highly enough because it's hard to just put the songs on and sing along and listen in the background. So keep in mind that if this album were about 10 places higher, it wouldn't be out of place. "Burst Apart" took me a while to get into because it is a slight departure from "Hospice." Since music can be experienced in so many ways and has so many sounds, it's hard to compare across these elements. If this were a list of the best albums for putting on headphones and just becoming lost in the music "Burst Apart" would likely find itself in the top one or two spots.

13) Ezra Furman & The Harpoons - Mysterious Power
I know exactly two (maybe two and a half) pieces of information about Tufts University. Guster was formed there and Ezra Furman & The Harpoons was formed there (the half is that I think it is somewhere on the east coast). I think Ezra Furman can be a bit hard for some people to listen to at times. The music can sound chaotic and his voice can seem shaky, raw and nasally. But I think that's a lot of the charm also. The songs are full of energy, every once in a while you'll get a Little Richard like howl, or a scream of some sort. It may not be the type of thing I always want to listen to, but at times there is nothing better than just putting this band on and singing along at the top of your lungs.

12) Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
It's amazing to me that a band could manage to succeed in this world while making it almost impossible to Google them. Their debut album in 2009 was called "Album." If you're not already popular, I don't know how someone types in "girls album" and comes across your band. Well, it seems to be working out for them anyhow. They suffer from the same thing as some of these other bands on the list for me. I'll rarely go out of my way to listen to this record, but whenever I find that I am listening to it, I really enjoy it. With that being the case, it couldn't crack my top ten, but there is no shame on being just outside of that.

11) Charles Bradley - No Time For Dreaming
Charles Bradley's story has been told over and over in various places this year. I don't think I could do it justice in such a small recap, but I would suggest heading over to his website and checking out his bio here. Just know that life hasn't come easy for him, but at the ripe old age of 63, he was able to release his debut album this year, and the world is a better place because of it. If you're at all inclined to enjoy soul/funk/R&B, make sure you give this one a listen. At the bottom of this page is a link to his song "No Time For Dreaming," which is one of the catchiest songs I've come across this year. After listening to it yesterday afternoon, I found myself just periodically loudly bursting into the chorus of the song throughout the rest of the day.

And just like yesterday, if you made it all the way to the end, enjoy some of my favorite songs from these releases.

A great cover of Wilco's "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" by JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound.

As promised above, M83's "Raconte-Moi Une Histoire"

A wonderful song from soul singer Charles Bradley's debut album
Charles Bradley - No Time for Dreaming by isaidahip

Same time tomorrow for albums 6-10!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Top 40 Albums of the Year (21-40)

Well school really got the better of me these last few weeks, but I'm back with some end of the year round-ups. I've got a top 40 albums list planned that will be broken into 4 parts over the next 4 days and then some other miscellanea the first day of the new year if all goes to plan.

This is the first year I've had this blog, but I've actually posted end of the year lists before over on last.fm (2008, 2009, 2010). Those lists are a good reminder that these end of the year lists are completely subjective and a product of a specific time. If I remade this list a year later (or even a month later), it would probably be fairly different. This is just meant to be a snapshot of how I feel about the year's releases as 2011 winds to a close. So with that out of the way, enjoy! (And let me know in the comments which albums you think I've left out or just if you want to chat about some of the ones that are on there).

Also, I should note that this is a great time to bolster your music collections. 18 of the 20 albums on this list are currently available for $5 or less over at Amazon, so go check some of them out.

40) Carlos Forster - Family Trees
This was the debut album by one of M. Ward's friends. M. Ward also produced the album, which isn't a surprise when you listen to it.

39) The Horrible Crowes - Elsie
This is a side project of the lead singer of The Gaslight Anthem. It didn't catch me as much as their last two albums did, but it is a good listen.

38) Beirut - The Rip Tide
This is the 3rd album by Zach Condon, who apparently is younger than me.

37) Memphis - Here Comes A City
Memphis will probably sound familiar to anyone who likes the band Stars. One of the two members, Torquil Campbell is also one of the Stars singers. This album could have been placed higher. I always come away thinking I really enjoyed it when I finish listening.

36) North Highlands - Wild One
I admit to not knowing much about this band or album. I only gave it a couple listens, but it came across as really catchy when I did. It is one I'll return to in the new year, which could send it moving up or down this list.

35) Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness
Hello Sadness is the follow-up to the similarly well-titled Romance is Boring from last year. Their albums have some infectious energy that make listening to them a fun experience.

34) The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
This is my favorite album title of the year due to the fact that it is their debut album. "If You Wanna" and "Norgaard" are two infectiously catchy songs among my favorites of the year, but the album as a whole dragged a little too much to be placed higher.

33) Blink-182 - Neighborhoods
I actually haven't listened to this album more than a couple times, but it seemed enjoyable when I did. Maybe I'm still just giving them some good will for how much I loved their last release, their self-titled album back in 2003.

32) Okkervil River - I Am Very Far
As has been the case for most of their releases, I enjoy it, but I don't find myself craving it ever.

31) Dawes - Nothing Is Wrong
Early in the year I discovered Middle Brother, a band composed of members from Dawes, Delta Spirit and Deer Tick. This led me go back and listen to those originating bands. Dawes may be my favorite of the bunch, but none of them have quite lived up to that initial excitement I got listening to the new Middle Brother record.

30) Tennis - Cape Dory
Tennis is a husband/wife duo that according to Wikipedia met while studying philosophy in college. I knew there was a reason I liked them.

29) I Build Collapsible Mountains - The Spectator & The Act
This is the indie folk solo project of a Scottish musician who got his start in a post-rock band called The Gothenburg Address. He also put out a really good self-titled EP this year.

28) The Black Keys - El Camino
I just bought this album about a week ago. My initial impression is that I don't like it as much as Rubber Factory, their only album I am super familiar with, but it is enjoyable nonetheless and may grow on me more.

27) Destroyer - Kaputt
This album has one of the more unique sounds I heard this year, blending indie pop with jazz. The saxophone gets a bum rap in popular music, but Destroyer did their darnedest with this album to change that. For that, I commend them.

26) Jamaica - No Problem
Jamaica is actually a French band. This is a good upbeat electronic/indie pop or indie rock album. There are some pretty catchy tunes on here.

25) Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know
Ideally I would have talked about Laura Marling in a post already. I was unfamiliar with her until I saw her open for M. Ward a few weeks ago, but she really won me over by being charming and delightful on stage and playing some really good songs.

24) The Head And The Heart - The Head And The Heart
The Head And The Heart is an indie folk band from Seattle. Technically they originally released this album two years ago, but it just got a national release through Sub Pop this year, which is the first I'm hearing it, so it goes on the list.

23) The Kills - Blood Pressures
I've enjoyed The Kills before, but I think this is the first album that I enjoyed the whole way through.

22) Kathryn Calder - Bright And Vivid
Kathryn Calder is a member of The New Pornographers, and apparently she released an album last year too, but this is my first exposure to her. I was sold on her from the very first song on this album. I'm not sure what it was, but it really kept my attention.

21) Telekinesis - 12 Desperate Straight Lines
If I redo this list in a month or two, this album may end up 10 places higher. After every listen I come away thinking just how great and catchy and well-crafted the album is, but for some reason it still isn't one that I find myself going back to over and over and over again, so for now it is stuck on the outside of the top 20 looking in. Fun Wikipedia fact: Telekinesis is apparently the brainchild of one guy from Seattle but on tour he is joined by Cody Votolato, younger brother of Rocky Votolato (an old favorite of mine).

Congrats to anyone that made it all the way through that! Here are a few videos of some of my favorite songs from this part of the list.

A great regretful break-up song by The Vaccines.

Dawes performing a live version of album closer "A Little Bit of Everything" for Minneapolis radio station, 89.3 The Current.

And a song from Telekinesis, the top band on this part of the list:

Come back tomorrow for albums 11-20.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Countdown to M. Ward: 1 Day

We're almost there guys! Today's album is "Post-War" which was released in 2006. I love every M. Ward album, but Post-War may just be my favorite album ever. Now obviously, I'm an M. Ward homer, but it received pretty universal acclaim when it was released, so I'm not thinks Post-War was a great album. The album is certainly his most accessible and is where I would recommend those new to his music start before branching off into his other releases.

I've previously (sort of) written about the songs "Chinese Translation" and "Poison Cup", so I'll move in a different direction today. That being said, more than half of the tracks either have a 4.5 or 5 star rating on my iTunes, so there is no shortage of good ones to choose from, which means due to my indecisiveness, I won't be able to pick just one.

The first track is a song called "Requiem," which is one of the more upbeat songs he has recorded. Lyrically the song is exactly what the title suggests, a requiem for someone who "was a good man and now he's gone." The video feels just as nostalgic as the music. Check it out!

The second track is one of my favorite short songs ever. It clocks in at under 1:45 and leaves you wanting more when it ends. The song is "Magic Trick." The actual track has the feeling of a group of people getting together and just starting to have fun messing around playing something they all know. In it the refrain is:
She's got one magic trick
Just one and that's it
She disappears
I found a live version on YouTube in which he changes this from third person to first, which I love. I'm sure everyone has known someone that seemed that way and most people have probably felt that way about themselves at time. I know I'm guilty of "disappearing" a lot. The acoustic version is really slowed down and a very different song, so I really recommend finding the original to listen to as well. In all honestly you'll probably like it more than this acoustic one, but I feel like posting this one now. Anyhow, enjoy and come back tomorrow for the final installment in the "Countdown to M. Ward" series when the countdown hits zero!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Countdown to M. Ward: 2 Days

Thursdays are a bit too busy, so I won't be able to do much more than post a song today, but we're down to 2 days!

Today's song is from the 2005 album "Transistor Radio." I debated between two different songs to post, but I'm going to have to go with "Paul's Song." The song features a great pedal steel guitar and seems to be about life on the road. The song features the great refrain of:
"Well every town is all the same
when you've left your heart in the Portland rain."
It's a feeling that is plenty easy to relate to for anyone who has been traveling or just far from somewhere that they wished they were instead. I've only been able to visit Portland once in my life, but I loved it, which probably contributes to my enjoyment of this particular song. Anyhow, give the song a listen because it is a great one!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Countdown to M. Ward: 3 Days

The countdown is down to just 3 days! Today's album is M. Ward's 3rd studio album "Transfiguration of Vincent." As Wikipedia (and I'm sure countless other outlets) has pointed out, the title is a nod to John Fahey's 1965 album "The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death." M. Ward has drawn more inspiration than just album titles from Fahey. His style of guitar playing, especially on instrumental tracks that show up on each of his albums to date, is very reminiscent of Fahey's style. I was unfamiliar with Fahey until a few years back when I explored his music after seeing articles referencing him as an inspiration for M. Ward. If you're looking for a good example of this style, check out M. Ward's "Duet for Guitars #3" from this album or John Fahey's "On the Sunny Side of the Ocean" from his previously mentioned album.

Transfiguration of Vincent is also M. Ward's the first album to feature a band. Many of the songs are still pretty subdued, which I know can turn off some people, but there are enough foot-stompers in there too. Best I can tell, this album also started a trend of M. Ward placing one or two cover songs on every album. This album features a neat version of David Bowie's "Let's Dance." I'm not overly familiar with Bowie's work, but M. Ward does a great job transforming this particular song.

I said yesterday that the name O'Brien would reappear today, and I'm nothing if not a man of my word. The song I'm choosing for today is "Vincent O'Brien," my favorite track from the album. If you're starting to put the pieces together, you might realize that the album title is probably a reference to the same friend of Ward (just as yesterday's track was). But since I have no real inside knowledge of what these songs or albums are actually about, there's no point speculating. What I do know is that "Vincent O'Brien" is one of his catchier songs and does a great job of showcasing what M. Ward is about vocally, instrumentally, and lyrically.

If there are any other M. Ward fans out there, I'd love to hear what songs are your favorites from these albums, or if there are other songs these remind you of, or really anything. These comments sections must feel awfully lonely rarely being visited. Anyhow, enjoy "Vincent O'Brien"!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Countdown to M. Ward: 4 Days

With the countdown down to 4 days, we continue on to M. Ward's second album, 2001's "End of Amnesia." For some reason this album actually took me a lot longer to get into than some of the others. Just like "Duet for Guitars #2" before it, "End of Amnesia" is a mostly stripped down sound with just M. Ward and his guitar. Despite M. Ward hailing from the Pacific Northwest, I can't help but feel like this album would be a perfect soundtrack to a lazy afternoon in the rural south. It's the type of album that I can put on and just get lost listening to, really not having a care in the world while it plays.

I wrote a short little post last month about the song "Carolina" from this album. Despite taking a while to warm up to the rest of the album, that song has been one of my absolute favorites since I first heard it.

Another favorite is the album closer "O'Brien/O'Brien's Nocturne." The name will come up again in tomorrow's post. I've read before that O'Brien was a close friend of his that passed away (although I'm not sure where I read this). In the song, M. Ward reminisces about times with his friend and remarks that O'Brien could "always make a string buzz like it was still 1989." That quality of making music that takes you back to an older time is something M. Ward has clearly picked up on himself and is one of the reasons it is so easy to listen to his songs again and again.

Below is a live version of the first part of the song that he performed on Austin City Limits with Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes. It's a really beautiful version of the song. I'd recommend checking out the full version somewhere too that features an instrumental outro. Til tomorrow... enjoy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Countdown to M. Ward: 5 Days

I'm going to see M. Ward in Rockford, Illinois this Saturday. As he just so happens to be my favorite artist, and I've only seen him live once (plus one time with Monsters of Folk), I'm pretty excited. Therefore, I decided to do a countdown to the show, with a new song each day from each of his 6 full length albums. The posts will likely be short since I'm still pretty swamped with school right now, but hopefully they'll be a nice short diversion each day.

M. Ward's first full-length release was "Duet for Guitars #2" in 1999. The album is a pretty stripped down, lo-fi, folk sound of just Matt and his guitar. It wasn't until 2006's "Post War" that he really added much more instrumentation. Because of that I know some people find his early music too slow and boring. In terms of being introduced to his material, I wouldn't recommend starting with this album, but that voice and the sweet guitar playing should be enough to keep you hooked and coming back if you're already a fan.

It appears that one of my favorite songs on the album is actually a bonus track that may not have been on the original album, but oh well it's on there now, so it still counts. Below is "Were You There?" The song is a back and forth between the singer and an unknown person (or being) in which the singer asks if the person was around for various moments of the earth's creation. I'm not sure if there is a deeper meaning to it all, but either way I find it to be a catchy little ditty. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"It's what you've become and it's what you'll stay"

I can't write a long post, but I've got this Kevin Devine song stuck in my head. It's an excellent example of why he's one of my favorite lyricists. He really doesn't shy away from being introspective even if it may not make him look great. In light of so many things going on in the world right now, it's a good reminder that nobody is perfect. Everyone's flawed, some less so than others. Anyhow, here's the track.

**There is a little bit of "colorful" language, so feel free to skip this one if that's not your thing**

Kevin Devine - 'Ballgame' by RockSoundMagazine

Because I'm selfish enough to want to get better,
but I'm backwards enough not to take any steps to get there.
And when you realize it's a pattern and not a phase,
it's what you've become and it's what you will stay,
that's the ballgame.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Old school No Doubt

Sometimes I forget that No Doubt was actually pretty darn awesome back in the day. Their first album, self-titled and released in 1992, is good old fashioned unabashed ska music. They retained some of those ska elements on their second album, which had "Spiderwebs" and "Don't Speak" on it, but they had already started to get away from them a bit. Today their debut album came up on shuffle, and the song "Doormat" is one that stuck out to me as a good example of their early music. It's got super catchy horns, great Gwen Stefani vocals, and a sweet bass riff near the end of the song. If you enjoy this song, I really recommend checking out the whole album. It's albums like this one that remind me that I shouldn't go so long without listening to some ska music here and there. It really makes life more enjoyable.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Here's a short Halloween mix to celebrate the day. Just like my last post, you can listen through 8tracks.com or Spotify. I tried to pick songs that for the most part fit in name and at least to some extent in sound. Without further ado...

Spotify playlist

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Lookback at July - September New Music

I'm a little late on this post, but I figured better late than never. You can check our my recaps from the first and second quarters of the year if you missed them.

Top Albums July - September 2011

1) Wilco - The Whole Love (Art of Almost)
2) Mates of State - Mountaintops (Palomino)
3) William Elliott Whitmore - Field Songs (Everything Gets Gone)
4) Blind Pilot - We Are The Tide (Keep You Right from band website)
5) Carlos Forster - Family Trees (I Walk I Talk)

I've really enjoyed the new Wilco album a lot, and it will definitely be near the top of my year end list. The Mates of State album caught me a little bit by surprise. They used to be one of my favorite artists, but I really haven't listened to them much in the last few years. That being said, I've enjoyed their new album quite a bit too. William Elliott Whitmore's album hasn't grabbed me as much as his last album, the absolutely phenomenal Animals in the Dark, but that was a pretty high bar, and it is still really good. I don't know much about Blind Pilot, but they come from Portland, home of many of my other favorite artists, and their album has grown on me. Carlos Forster is an old friend of M. Ward. His album was produced by M. Ward, and I am beyond excited to see the two of them perform in the beginning of December in Rock Island, Illinois.

The Best of the Rest

The Horrible Crowes - Elsie
***This album is by the lead singer of The Gaslight Anthem
Eleanor Friedberger - Last Summer
***This album is by the lead singer of The Fiery Furnaces
Beirut - The Rip Tide
Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
A.A. Bondy - Believers

Albums I Am Looking Forward to in the next 3 Months (as of October 1)

10/4 - Feist - Metals
10/11 - I Build Collapsible Mountains
10/11 - Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire
10/25 - Deer Tick - Divine Providence
10/25 - Tom Waits - Bad As Me (post coming soon)
10/25 - She & Him - A Very She & Him Christmas
10/25 - JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound - Want More
11/1 - The Decemberists - Long Live The King (EP)
11/8 - Florence + The Machine - Ceremonials
11/15 - Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness
12/6 - The Black Keys - El Camino

A Mix of My Favorite Songs From the Past Quarter of the Year

Just like in the last two quarter-year round-up posts, I'll provide a way to stream a mix of some of my favorite songs on 8tracks.com. However, I've also been spending a lot of time using Spotify lately. For those of you that also use it, I'll also provide a link to a mix there. The mixes will be slightly different due to different rules about what you can and can't play on the sites, but they should be relatively similar. As always, enjoy!

Spotify Version (hopefully this link works, but I haven't done this before, so let me know if it doesn't)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Christmas Came Early This Year

I mentioned it on Facebook when I first downloaded the She & Him Christmas album, but usually I'm opposed to Christmas music before December. This has nothing to do with me being anti-Christmas or anything like that. It's actually pretty similar to why I don't listen to the radio much. Stores and restaurants start pumping Christmas music in around Halloween, which means everywhere you go you end up hearing the same songs over and over again for 2+ months. If they did this with any other type of music, I'd probably be annoyed by it too.

With that out of the way though, I can make an exception to this usual rule when it involves listening to new music by She & Him. The album, A Very She & Him Christmas, consists of 12 covers of Christmas songs ranging from the classics you'd expect (like Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, The Christmas Song, and Sleigh Ride) to a couple others that are less familiar (or at least were to me, like The Christmas Waltz and Christmas Wish). Most of the songs feature Zooey Deschanel singing, but M. Ward gets into the mix on a few tracks too (which you may have guessed are my early favorites). If you enjoy She & Him, or just have a soft-spot for Christmas music, the album should be a welcome addition to your listening rotation.

Below you can listen to (and I believe download), The Christmas Waltz, the lead track on the album.

She & Him - The Christmas Waltz by MergeRecords

If you want to hold off on listening to the album until closer to Christmas, I won't hold it against you. However, you can currently download it for only $5 at Amazon, so I'd recommend at least buying it now if you'll want it for Christmas time. If you're more interested in the physical album and some other goodies, you can get that along with She & Him wrapping paper or a hat and mittens in the Merge Records store. And in keeping with the Christmas spirit, a portion of the proceeds go to 826 National, a non-profit organization that runs writing and tutoring centers in cities across the US that also help encourage creativity among the nation's youth. So basically, you can't go wrong buying the album.

I've already wracked up 3 listens in as many days. I obviously won't listen to it every day between now and Christmas, but the album is sure to get regular listens and become a Christmas favorite of mine for years to come. So whether you listen now or later, hopefully it'll bring you a little Christmas cheer!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Carolina by M. Ward

I can't do a real post because I'm working on homework that will still take me a while more. However, I've been listening to a bunch of M. Ward while I work, and when Carolina came on it made me stop to listen. It has always been one of my favorites, and it sounded extra good tonight, so I thought I'd post it quick.

Carolina is from M. Ward's "End of Amnesia" album, which I used to not care for too much (even though I was obsessed with everything else he had done), but the album has really grown on me over the last year or so. Anyhow, I'm back to work. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I'm not dead! (even though I'm blogging like I am)

It turns out that being in a Phd program and writing a music blog don't go very well together. I have kind of a log jam of posts I want to write (including my July-September 2011 wrap up post), so we'll see if I can get a few of them out in the next several days.

One artist I've wanted to mention is the Scottish artist I Build Collapsible Mountains. The name is a moniker for folk singer/songwriter Luke G Joyce, who apparently has his roots in post rock.

I think I was first introduced to his music a couple months ago by one of the music blogs I read. I liked the song I heard, and he was offering a 5-song EP on his Bandcamp page for only $1, which seemed like a no brainer. Just recently, he also released a full-length on his Bandcamp page for only $5 (and $2.50 if you previously bought the EP). The albums are nothing too flashy, but I've found them really growing on me with repeated listens. Then again, I'm a sucker for indie folk singer/songwriter stuff. Regardless, it's cool to see artists putting their stuff out there at affordable prices for people to hear. Check it out if you get a chance, and support him if you enjoy it!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New and Old Wilco

Real quick post since I'm just procrastinating from my homework.

Wilco released a new album today that I am really enjoying. It's only $5.99 on Amazon (and one of the tracks is free), so I recommend heading over there to grab it if you're interested. The first song features a pretty rockin' guitar solo, and the album is definitely one of their strongest in a while. Since I'm not too familiar with the new album yet, I'll hold off on posting a song from it.

However, with the anticipation of the new album in my mind, I got the song "Reservations" off the phenomenal Yankee Hotel Foxtrot stuck in my head earlier today. The song features one of my favorite lines in the chorus with: "I've got reservations about so many things. But not about you." Anyhow, below is the video:

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is currently only $5 on Amazon too. It's probably one of my 10 or so favorite albums ever, so I'd recommend checking that out as well. If you don't trust me, when compiling top albums of the 2000s lists, Paste Magazine had it 2nd, Rolling Stone had it 3rd, and Pitchfork had it 4th. If you don't trust them either then I suppose that's fine too.

Alright, back to the books. Thanks for the diversion blog-universe.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The glove compartment isn't accurately named

Today, on my drive down to campus a green light with a picture of a key kept flashing. I had no idea what the light meant, so I tried to find the car's manual in the glove compartment. Unfortunately, all I could find were about 30 maps, and a whole bunch of napkins. This ordeal led to the song "Title and Registration" by Death Cab for Cutie getting stuck in my head. The song starts out with the line:

The glove compartment isn't accurately named.
And everybody knows it.
So I'm proposing a swift, orderly change.
Because behind its doors there's nothing to keep my fingers warm.

Based on my experiences today, I think the map/napkin box is the more appropriate name. Anyhow, here's a video of the song from 2003's "Transatlanticism" album, which I remember listening to incessantly my freshman year of college.

P.S. From some quick Googling, it sounds like the light means the car isn't recognizing the key for whatever reason. On my drive home, my second set of keys worked just fine, so I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for a while in hopes that the issue doesn't arise again.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My 100,000th Scrobble on Last.fm

This milestone kinda snuck up on me. I knew it was coming up, but when I plugged in my iPod it had 130 or so backed up which left me 17 short of 100,000. Despite there being little logic, reason, or real importance behind it, I decided I should make sure my 100,000th song was a good one. However, deciding on one single song to take that importance was too much for me to handle, so I figured I'd pick 5 songs I love by artists I love to sandwich #100,000. So... here they are:

99,998 - Skinny Love by Bon Iver
This song was the song that inspired my first ever blog post. It's my most scrobbled song on Last.fm, and just a song that makes me stop and take notice every time I hear it. I still hate that I haven't seen Bon Iver perform live, but I did see Justin Vernon perform with his old high school jazz band a few years back, which remains to this day my favorite concert I've been to. All in all, a perfect song from a perfect album.

99,999 - The Gardner by Tallest Man On Earth
This song is apparently my 6th most scrobbled. It's my favorite song by Tallest Man On Earth, and I'm sure I could just listen to it on repeat and never get tired of it. I love the progression of the lyrics throughout the song. It was also one of the first several songs I based a blog post around.

100,000 - Poison Cup by M. Ward
The big round number... Well it pretty much had to be by M. Ward. I've played his songs more times than my second and third most played artists combined. He is without a doubt, far and away, absolutely, positively my favorite artist (I thought about throwing more descriptors in there, but was having a hard time coming up with them). I've got plenty of reasons for that, but the rest of it is just one of those things that probably can't be explained. His music just connects with me in a way that no other artist's music does. My favorite song of his changes from time to time (with about 10 other potential #1s), but Poison Cup is such a fantastic lead track on Post-War, which just so happens to be my favorite album. A more than deserving track number 100,000.

100,001 - The Twist by Frightened Rabbit
I guess this one is a little bit of a dark horse here in the big 5. It is (only?) tied for 19th among my most played songs. With that being said, Frightened Rabbit really forced its way into my top artists over the last couple years. Midnight Organ Fight is in my top 3 or so favorite albums ever and at times feels like it could be #1. I think I've listened to it on every car trip over 3 hours or so that I've made in the last 3 years (and there have been a lot of them). This is another album where my favorite track changes all the time. There are 5 others I could have chosen to represent Frightened Rabbit that would have seemed just as appropriate.

100,002 - Tangled Up In Blue by Bob Dylan
Picking 5 songs instead of one was supposed to make this an easier endeavor, but I still feel bad not including Tom Waits or Hanalei, but at least Waits got the blog named after one of his song. As for Hanalei, until he/they can come up with a reliable way of convincing me they are still a band, they'll have to deal with it. Anyhow, I got introduced to Dylan in undergrad and shortly after really jumped right in with my listening. Obviously I didn't get to experience growing up during the height of Dylan-mania (which I like to think I would have been drawn to instead of The Beatles or Stones or whoever else), but I find myself endlessly fascinated by the man (which I satisfied through books and movies) and the music (which I satisfied through, well, the music). Getting a chance to see him perform last year was really fantastic even if he is getting on in years. There are other Dylan songs I could have picked, but I didn't. Tangled Up In Blue it is.

If anyone managed to stick around through that, thanks for indulging my overinflated sense of significance that I assign to something so trivial as a number on a web page adding another digit.

If you guys had to choose 1 song, or 5 songs (or any other number that you deem to be appropriate), which songs would you choose?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New Mates of State

Unfortunately, it's starting to look like school beginning means blogging here will be very sparse. With that in mind, I'm hoping to maybe just throw shorter posts up every now and then, but I tend to want to ramble, so who knows how that will go.

On to the music! A bunch of albums have come out recently that I've been excited to hear. One of those albums is by husband/wife indie pop duo Mates of State. During my first couple years in undergrad, Mates of State was one of my favorite bands, but I really haven't listened to them much over the last few years. However, now that I've gotten into Spotify and can once again sample full albums before buying them (R.I.P. Lala.com), I was able to give their new album, Mountaintops a listen. I have to say that I've really been enjoying it. It might necessitate a trip back through their oldies. After hearing the new album, I'm hoping to catch the band, along with Ra Ra Riot, when they swing through Iowa City in November.

And if you came for the music instead of my ramblings, below is the mp3 for the lead track off of their new album (courtesy of 89.3 The Current), and below that is the video for the same song from NPR.

Mates of State - Palomino

The band also did a free session for Daytrotter in 2006 that you can pick up here.

Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The wonders of the iPod's album shuffle feature

One of my favorite things about the iPod is the album shuffle feature that it has. I've made a huge playlist of over 900 albums, and a good chunk of my time with my iPod is spent putting that list on album shuffle and just listening to whatever comes up. Sure I could just choose to listen to any of these albums on my own, but there are so many that I just never gave much of a chance to, or that I've just forgotten about because it's so much easier to gravitate to albums I know I love.

Today, the third album that came up while using album shuffle was "So Sudden" by Illinois band, The Hush Sound. I admit to knowing almost nothing about them. They remind me a little bit of Straylight Run, an indie rock group that can slow down and go mellow and that features both male and female vocalists. My iTunes says I haven't listened to any of their music since 2009, so a visit to their discography was long overdue. Below is a song called "The Artist" that I loved a few years back but that had completely fallen off my radar.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Tom Waits album announced

I was all set to continue with my music video theme this week, but when Tom Waits announces a new album, everything else gets pushed aside. Today, after hinting at it last week, Tom Waits announced that he has a new album coming out on October 25th, in a way that only Tom Waits can pull off. He released a video on his website of a "private listening party" to debut the album. I don't want to spoil it before you watch, but watch all the way to the end to find out his solution to the internet not being private enough.

After finishing this video, I had to go back and watch his announcement of the PEHDTSCKJMBA tour back in 2008. If only everyone could announce tours and albums like this.

And to get some actual music on here... coincidentally enough his album "Mule Variations" came on my iPod on shuffle earlier today. Here's a video for one of my favorite tracks from that album, the album closer "Come On Up To The House." (Although slight seizure alert as the concept of the video is cool, but man does that camera jump around...):

You can download the first single from his new album from Amazon, iTunes, or probably any other music retailer. Now about having to wait til October for the rest...

Monday, August 22, 2011

I've got more music videos than MTV

Another day, another music video to post. Today's is a brand new video of "Calamity Song" by The Decemberists and directed by Parks and Recreation co-creator, defender of rational thinking in sports writing for FireJoeMorgan.com, Mose Schrute actor, and all around awesome individual Michael Schur.

The video is based on a fictional game in the book "Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace in which children heave tennis balls acting as nuclear warheads at other countries while a boy at a computer calculates the damage. According to a New York Times article, Michael Schur cites "Infinite Jest" as his favorite book and The Decemberists as his favorite band, so the combination is a match made in heaven. Anyhow, here's the video for your viewing pleasure (although given the subject matter, maybe pleasure is the wrong word even if it is a pretty cool video):

The King Is Dead is still one of my favorite albums of 2011, so I highly recommend picking it up. Also, since I'm all about pointing people to free music on this blog, you can get the song "16 Military Wives" from The Decemberists' 2005 album Picaresque along with 19 songs by other bands on the Kill Rock Stars label via Amazon by going here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Really Cool Music Video

With classes starting up tomorrow, I figured I'd try to get another post in before I actually start to get busy and neglect this blog for legitimate reasons.

I've been using the new(ish) site Turntable.fm a lot lately. For those unfamiliar, the idea is that you go into a room with 5 open DJ spots. Anyone can claim the spots (and the rest of the people just hang out and listen to the tunes and chat if they'd like) and then play music that fits the room's theme. Each person will play one song at a time rotating through the spots. I usually choose to hang out in the Indie Folk room.

It's nice getting to hear some new music, but it's also cool being able to talk to people about the artists if you feel so inclined. Last night, someone played the song "Holocene" by Bon Iver, and I commented that it had a really cool music video (which I'll likely post on here at a later date). They watched it, agreed, and then played a song called Her Morning Elegance by an Israeli artist, Oren Lavie, I had never heard of and suggested that I check out the music video for that one.

It is one of the cooler music videos I have seen. The video is "stop motion" meaning that its created by still photographs that are then put together to look like a moving picture. Apparently over 2000 photos and around 48 hours of picture taking (as well as HUGE amounts of prep time) went into it, but it's a really cool finished product. Check it out below:

The video has over 20,000,000 plays, so clearly other people have seen it, I was just late getting to the party, but I wanted to pass it on for anyone else in my shoes. Any suggestions of other great music videos?

If you're interested in more Orin Lavie music, you can hear a couple songs he performed for NPR here, and his album with "Her Morning Elegance" on it is only $5.99 from Amazon here.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pre-Decemberists Colin Meloy

This post falls under the "you learn something new every day" category. A couple of weeks ago I started occasionally using Pandora again, which I hadn't used in a long time. I turned it to an M. Ward station and let it go. A few minutes in, I heard a song sung by someone that sounded an awful lot like Decemberists front-man Colin Meloy. That wouldn't have surprised me that much if a) Colin Meloy didn't have such a distinct sound, and b) I didn't feel pretty familiar with his work, including The Decemberists and his solo stuff. Well when I looked into the band, I learned that he actually recorded music with a group called Tarkio in his home state of Montana before going on to form The Decemberists. The song I heard was called "Keeping Me Awake." It's a bit more alt-country/folkish than The Decemberists stuff, which is right up my alley, so I'm looking forward to digging into their work. Below is the song that came up on Pandora:

You can download one of their songs for free from the Kill Rock Stars label website by right clicking this link and saving the mp3: Tristan and Iseult

I actually had a similar experience with another artist on Pandora that will be a post for another day.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Kaki King and How I Got Lost

Several months ago, I added a movie called "How I Got Lost" to my Netflix instant queue after reading somewhere that the soundtrack was done by guitar extraordinaire Kaki King. However, the movie just sat there since I knew very little else about it. Friday night I wanted to watch something but didn't want to stay up too late, so by virtue of it being only 87 minutes long, I decided to give it a try.

The movie is the story of two men in their probably late 20s in New York after 9/11. Without giving much away, both of them are disappointed with where their lives are and end up taking a road trip. I read a couple reviews of the film that called it aimless and flat, but considering that it was called "How I Got Lost," I'm not too sure what the viewer was expecting. I thought the film did a good job at showing a slice of life of two very different friends trying to figure out their lives.

None of that is really the point though. I watched the film because Kaki King did the music, and it was one of the better parts of the film as well. For anyone unfamiliar with her works, she's a guitar player who originally played drums and has incorporated a lot of percussive techniques into her playing. The video below shows just how different her style is, but she is really just a wonderfully talented musician.

Her first couple records were just solo guitar playing, which may seem boring to some, but with just how varied her sounds are, they can really keep your attention. On her two most recent efforts especially, she started singing on some of the songs, and its amazing that she didn't do it sooner because she has a really good voice and is a pretty wonderful songwriter as well.

Here's an amazing performance of her song "Bone Chaos in the Castle" that really showcases her skills and her unique talent. I have a hard time believing all of that noise is coming from one person with just a guitar:

I was hoping to find some downloadable music of hers to share, and once again Daytrotter has come through for me. Here's a link to a session she did that contains the above song, "Life Being What It Is" (another favorite of mine off her 2008 release Dreaming of Revenge, and two more tracks all for FREE.

Kaki King Daytrotter Session

Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

James Vincent McMorrow on Daytrotter

I ended up taking a lot more time off from this blog than intended, but I'm back with another great free release from Daytrotter. If you like free and legal music, Daytrotter.com should be a regular stop. I've linked to some of their stuff for previous posts, but they have a huge library of tracks that artists have recorded at the Daytrotter studio when they are passing through on tour. Usually artists will record 4 or 5 songs with most of them from previous releases but occasionally with a previously unreleased track or two mixed in.

One of the most recent sessions is by James Vincent McMorrow, an Irish folk singer/songwriter. Some of his music is reminiscent of Bon Iver if that's up your alley. Last year he released his first full-length album, Early in the Morning. He will be doing some touring around the U.S. and Canada in September if you're interested in catching him live. He is stopping at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis on Saturday, September 17, and tickets are only $12.

His Daytrotter session is here and features two tracks from his full length album along with two unreleased songs.

My two favorite songs from the album are We Don't Eat, which you can stream below, and If I Had a Boat, which you can download courtesy of Seattle radio station KEXP by clicking here.

05 We Don't Eat by jamesvmcmorrow

As always, enjoy!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My Favorite Use of Music in Movies and TV Shows

This post was inspired by an article on Paste Magazine's site about 15 fictional music buffs they wish would make them a mix cd. It got me thinking about how I have a soft spot for any movie or TV show that effectively integrates music into the storyline or just uses it really well. What's effective to me is pretty subjective just based on artists I like and whatnot, but oh well, I thought a list of my own would be fun. So, without further ado...

Top 10 Favorite Uses of Music in Movies and TV Shows

10) I Am Sam (movie)
The soundtrack to this movie is entirely made up of covers of Beatles songs by other artists. Some of the songs hit and miss to different degrees, but the movie does a wonderful job of letting them provide the background to the film as well as discussing the Beatles within the movie.

9) The Life Aquatic (movie)
It's been quite a while since I've seen the movie. I don't remember actually liking the movie all that much, but I love the way they had Seu Jorge play a character in the movie who could simultaneously provide a soundtrack by singing and playing his guitar. In this case, all of his songs were Portuguese covers of David Bowie songs, which sounds strange, but it definitely works. Looking ahead on this list, cover songs seem to be a common theme to the bottom four entries.

8) The Blues Brothers (movie)
This movie makes it just for having so many great musicians all present in the movie. Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, and plenty of other amazing artists all make appearances in the film. Some of the songs are classics performed by the "The Blues Brothers," while others feature some of the aforementioned musicians. I saw this after taking an African American Music History class in undergrad which made me appreciate the music in the film even more.

7) Weeds (TV show)
And here's the first TV show on the list. This show would make the list solely for its use of the theme song. The song by itself is a quirky little ditty performed by an artist named Malvina Reynolds. That version grew on me as I watched the show, but the real genius was in the fact that for seasons 2 and 3, the show had a different artist cover the song every week for the opening credits. I've never known another show to do that, but it was really cool hearing all sorts of artists like Elvis Costello, Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists, Regina Spektor, and even Randy Newman cover the theme. Beyond that, the show also did a really good job of using music during the show, and it introduced me to a couple new artists and tracks I had missed by artists I already knew.

6) The Go-Getter (movie)
This one may seem like a stretch for most people, but the soundtrack was done by M. Ward, and the movie stars Zooey Deschanel. Anyone who knows me knows that they couldn't have come up with a combination I would have liked more. The movie was good but not great, but anytime an M. Ward song came on during the movie I could care less how the rest of it was. Bonus points are in order for this movie leading to the formation of She & Him. Zooey and M. Ward recorded a cover of "When I Get To The Border" for the end credits, which led to them discussing music and eventually forming She & Him. Frankly, I'm surprising myself a bit by not putting this movie even higher.

5) Friday Night Lights (TV show)
I actually discussed this show before on the blog when I talked about Explosions in the Sky. The fact that their music scores the show is a huge reason for its appearance here. Their music just fits perfectly in there, and hopefully it has led to more exposure for them. Beyond just that though, the show surprisingly (to me anyway for some reason) does a really good job with other soundtrack songs. Songs by Iron & Wine/Calexico, The Black Keys, Camera Obscura, Jose Gonzalez, and more (those were just from early season 1) all add to my enjoyment of an otherwise wonderful show anyway.

4) Flight of the Conchords (TV show)
I wasn't too sure where to put this show because it isn't like the others. All of the songs in the show are original songs written and performed by the lead actors (and I believe writers). The fact is that Flight of the Conchords have somehow found the perfect formula for making a funny, yet catchy, and just plain old good song. It's a shame that it all added up to just way too much work for the band and that the show ended after two seasons, but they were a phenomenal two seasons.

This is the first song from the show that I fell in love with. It is just so lyrically perfect.

3) (500) Days of Summer (movie)
If I was just picking favorite soundtrack album, this movie would win for sure. It's a really good mix of artists I knew with artists I didn't know but learned I liked. On top of that, I love hearing Summer (Zooey Deschanel) tell Tom (Joseph Gordon Levitt) about how she loves The Smiths and discussing why Ringo is her favorite Beatle. Additionally, Tom dancing through the streets while Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams Come True" plays is one of my favorite movie scenes ever.

2) Garden State (movie)
This was one of the first times I really noticed music in movies. It set the bar for the type of movie/music integration I looked for. Sam (Natalie Portman) telling Andrew (Zach Braff) to listen to The Shins because they will change his life is just pure gold. This film introduced me to The Shins through that scene (as I'm sure it did thousands of others), and came at a perfect time when I was really starting to expand my musical tastes. As I've gotten older, Zach Braff has started to annoy me a bit. I think it's mostly due to his character on Scrubs being way too self-centered (it's probably not a real rational annoyance), but I can't deny that between that show and this movie, he has a heck of an ear for good music.

1) High Fidelity (movie)
I toyed around with the idea of putting something else here, but if we're talking about how music is integrated into movies, what's better than a movie where everything is filtered through a lens that relates it to music. There is talk of making the perfect mixtape, there are live performances, there is a band trying to make it, there are guys hanging out in a record store talking music. The actual songs in the movie aren't my favorite by far. That's not to say I don't like them, but I enjoy the music from spots 2 through at least 6 better. But something about just hearing other people talk about how much they love music is comforting to me, and even if I don't connect with that same music the way they do, I connect with their connection to it (I can't decide if that's more or less confusing than it looks typed out).

(There is way more swearing in this scene than I remembered, but there are just so many things to love in there)


Honorable Mention
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (book)
This one didn't really fit in the list since it was a book, but the main character makes a mixtape during the book. I don't remember much of what was on it anymore, but I recall that the first and last song he put on it was "Asleep" by The Smiths. I didn't know The Smiths at all when I first read the book, but this led to me checking them out, and they are a favorite band of mine now, 8 or so years after first reading the book.

Veronica Mars (TV show)
I just finished watching this show recently, and I really enjoyed how they would throw band posters into the background of scenes in characters rooms and around school and stuff. Also, as I posted a while back, as soon as they played "Poison Cup" by M. Ward they had me.

Juno (Movie)
This is another movie with a large focus on music. I wasn't familiar with Kimya Dawson or The Moldy Peaches before seeing the movie, and I'm still not a huge fan, but I can't help enjoy the songs during the movie due to the character's love of them.


Alright, this post got way too long, and that's all I've got in me for tonight. For anyone that actually made it to the end, what did I miss? Anything you would have put on your own list?