Favorited ex.fm Songs

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Decemberists and Justin Townes Earle Concert

Last Monday I saw The Decemberists and Justin Townes Earle at the IMU in Iowa City (the same venue where I saw Wilco last year). I reviewed The Decemberists album a few months ago in my third ever post, but I haven't discussed Justin Townes Earle yet on this blog.

Justin Townes Earle is the son of country rocker Steve Earle and was named after musician Townes Van Zandt, so it's little surprise that he made his way into music. His music is a mix of folk, country, Americana, blues, and whatever else he can fit in there. The crowd didn't seem to be too familiar with his material, and he only played for about 30 minutes, but he got the show off to a good start. Most notably (at least to me thinking back on the concert a week later) were his performances of "One More Night in Brooklyn" off of his 2010 release Harlem River Blues, and a cover of a blues song that I can't remember.

For a good chunk of my time as an undergrad, The Decemberists were one of my favorite bands, but sometime in between their releases of The Crane Wife in 2006 and The Hazards of Love in 2009, I drifted from the band a bit. However, their 2011 album The King Is Dead is one of my favorites of the year, and this concert really reminded me how much I love their older material. The band is far from your average indie folk/indie rock band, with many of their songs telling stories instead of being pseudo-autobiographical songs about failed relationships (as seems to be the norm in lots of other music I listen to). The band also captures my heart by using a wide variety of instruments that you don't find everywhere, and not only that but doing it well. During their set they incorporated violin, accordion, organ, upright bass, harmonica, lap slide guitar, and banjo (and possibly some that I missed?).

Lead singer Colin Meloy also did a wonderful job of captivating an audience with a combination of story telling between songs and crowd participation during songs. At one point, for a reason that wasn't entirely apparent to me, he described in great detail what he imagines to be the genesis of the Phil Collins song "In the Air Tonight" (pardon the pun). He pointed out how happy the band was to play in Iowa City, on the banks of the Iowa River, just down from Iowa street, in the state of Iowa (before saying we GET it. You like Iowa...). Later during a song that involved crowd singing, he attempted to split up the singing by majors (assuming a large portion of the crowd to be students).

The highlight of the show (for me anyway) had to be the band's performance of "The Mariner's Revenge Song". The (short summary of the) song is a story of a boy whose mother was wronged by a gambler, womanizer, etc. The boy vows to find this man and ends up finding him out at sea, when both of them are swallowed by a whale (killing the rest of the crew). The band performs the song as if on a ship out at sea and encourages the audience to scream as loud as they can like someone getting eaten by a whale at the climax of the song. It really is just a wonderful experience. I encourage anyone who gets a chance to check the band out if they tour near you, or to listen to their music if you're unfamiliar with them. The whole set made for one of the better shows that I have been to in some time and rejuvenated my love of The Decemberists.

Below are my favorite songs from both artists. First up is "The Engine Driver" by The Decemberists.

I am a writer, a writer of fictions
I am the heart that you call home
I've written pages upon pages
Trying to rid you from my bones

My favorite Justin Townes Earle song is actually a cover of Dolly Parton's "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?" that he recorded with Dawn Landes. The song was a free internet download (that you can get here) that hasn't been formally released by either artist.

As always, enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Reel Around the Fountain

Yesterday, I saw news that Morrissey was working on an autobiography and that he had just finished the first draft. The article contains an oh so perfect Morrissey quote: "I just wonder if 660 pages are too much for people to bear. And then I sit down and think, well, are six pages too much for people to bear?" If that doesn't just sum up his music too, I don't know what does. Combine that news with a gloomy, overcast morning, and I was ready to listen to some Smiths this morning.

I looked through what I had on my iPod and decided on The Smiths self-titled 1984 album because it contains "Pretty Girls Make Graves" and "This Charming Man," two of my favorite Smiths' songs. What I didn't remember is that the lead track "Reel Around the Fountain" is pretty awesome too. I know most people think of The Smiths as sad, melancholy music for when you're feeling depressed or something like that, but songs like "Reel Around the Fountain" just put me in a good mood. The chorus features some phrase similar to "15 minutes with you, I wouldn't say no. Oh people see no worth in you, but I do." Combine that, The Smiths' typical sound, and a use of the phrase "the bee's knees" at the end, and you've got a recipe for a pretty great song. Not my favorite song by The Smiths, but it was exactly what I was hoping for when it came on.

Experiences like this are what I love about music. I've played the track 10 times before (according to iTunes), but this morning I'm hearing it in a different way, appreciating things I missed up until now. Anyhow, here's a video of the song:

If you're looking for more music by The Smiths, I highly recommend the songs "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out," "Panic," and for something a little calmer "Asleep"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I'm a pizzaterian

I haven't had time lately to write any of the other posts that I've been meaning to, but I just finished grading an assignment that had me beyond frustrated. That frustration combined with the relief of being finished (until next week) made for the perfect time for "Your Honor" by Regina Spektor to come on iTunes. A wonderful mix of anger and excitement all wrapped up in one tidy 3 minute song. Hopefully it can find some of you at the right time too. Enjoy!

Also, if you're unfamiliar with Regina Spektor's work, it can be rather strange at times, but both "Soviet Kitsch" and "Begin to Hope" are fantastic albums (with "Begin To Hope" being the more accessible of the two). Check them out!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bright Sunny Day Music from She & Him

There are very few artists who seem as perfect for a sunny day as She & Him. A while ago, I posted that Otis Redding was one of my sunny day artists, and She & Him is right up there with him. Today we had temperatures pushing 70, which was a welcome change from a gloomy day before. That combined with a Twins win over the Yankees (an oh so rare occurrence) has me in a perfect She & Him mood.

She & Him are a (grammatically disastrous) collaboration between actress Zooey Deschanel (a personal favorite of mine) and M. Ward (my favorite musician), so it's little surprise that the pairing is a favorite of mine as well. The two met on the set of the movie The Go Getter, which starred Zooey, and featured a soundtrack by M. Ward. They teamed up for a cover of a song called "When I Get To The Border" that ran over the closing credits. Zooey revealed to M. Ward that she had recorded some songs on her own, and he wanted to properly record them, and thus the group was born. I will have what will likely be an exceedingly (and to most people unnecessarily) long M. Ward post at some point, but for now, just enjoy the video below for the song "In The Sun" and think about happy, sunny times with lots of Twins victories over the Yankees!

She & Him - In The Sun from Merge Records on Vimeo.

Hopefully writing this is enough of a positive distraction after the Twins game. Back to homework!

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Lookback at January - March New Music

We're 1/4th of the way through the year, so I figured this would give me a good chance to talk about some of my favorite albums and songs so far this year and some of the albums that I am most looking forward to in the coming months.

Top Albums January - March 2011

1) Middle Brother - Middle Brother (less than $5 on Amazon)
2) The Decemberists - The King Is Dead ($8 on Amazon)
3) Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde ($8 on Amazon)
4) Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean
5) The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Belong ($8 on Amazon)

The Best of the Rest

Telekinesis - 12 Desperate Straight Lines
Destroyer - Kaputt
Tennis - Cape Dory
Devotchka - 100 Lovers
The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck

Middle Brother is my clear favorite album right now. Everything I wrote in my review of the album still holds true even after many more listens since then. It's the only album that I repeatedly return to even if I just listened to it. The remaining of the top 5 could be arranged in almost any order, but they are all solid efforts. The best of the rest are albums that I have listened to a bit but not enough to form a real solid opinion (although I have enjoyed what I've heard).

Albums I Am Looking Forward To In The Next 3 Months

4/5 - Ezra Furman & The Harpoons - Mysterious Power
4/5 - The Kills - Blood Pressures
4/26 - Thao & Mirah - Thao & Mirah (This is a collaboration between Thao Nguyen of Thao and the Get Down Stay Down and Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn of Mirah)
4/26 - Explosions in the Sky - Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
5/3 - Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
5/10 - The Antlers - Burst Apart
5/31 - The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From the Vaccines? (This band has been blowing up in the blogosphere and it appears to be for good reason. Their album is streaming here.)
5/31 - Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys (I've recently grown to appreciate Ben Gibbard all again from all of his baseball related tweets. Gotta love an unabashed baseball fan who is also married to Zooey Deschanel.)
5/31 - My Morning Jacket - Circuital
6/7 - Sondre Lerche - Sondre Lerche
6/?? - Bon Iver - ??? (This album has really big shoes to fill...)

And As For Those Songs That Strike My Fancy...

8tracks.com is a website that allows users to upload songs, create mixes, and make those mixes available for others to stream. I made a mix of my favorite songs from the year so far, and they can be listened to below: