Favorited ex.fm Songs

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My First 2012 Obsession

It seems like the first couple weeks of the year are always light on new releases, but they are starting to come out in full force now. Kathleen Edwards, who is apparently dating Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, released a record last week that I've really enjoyed. This week, Craig Finn of The Hold Steady released his first solo record, Rodrigo y Gabriela released another strong album, and Chairlift (aka that band from that one iPod commercial) released a well received album. I've also been really getting into Hospitality's self-titled debut on Merge Records that comes out next week and is currently on Spotify.

However, the one record that has me the most excited so far is The Lion's Roar by First Aid Kit. The band is a pair of sisters from Sweden that make infectiously sweet sounding folk/country songs. There are certainly artists and albums that I listen to more than others, but I usually like having variety, and I rarely put an album or a song on repeat like I know some people do. However, today after finishing the album, I just couldn't think of anything else I wanted to listen to more, so I just started right back at the beginning. All of this tells you very little about the actual music, so you can read a much more nuanced and musically descriptive review here if you're so inclined. That blog is also my new favorite blog. I've gotten sick of various blogs being so negative about almost everything, and it's refreshing to see a site that is willing to talk about just how much they like a song/band/album.

I don't have a ton of time to write, so I'll just let the music speak for itself at the bottom of the page. I couldn't decide which of the first two tracks from the album to include. After going back and forth between the two I wondered why I was even trying to pick just one of the two. The two tracks are a bit different, with the second one being a bit more country and paying homage to Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, and June Carter and Johnny Cash in the chorus. Check out both of the songs and support the band if you like them!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hide and Seek

I don't have time for much of a post, but "Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap came on my iPod on my drive home today, and I couldn't resist putting it on here. I got a huge nostalgia boost out of it at the time.

While I never watched The O.C., the song become fairly popular after airing on that show. I remember my friend Mitch making me listen to the song after that. I really don't know any other songs like it, but it always sucks me in when I hear it. Today, I had to listen to it two more times after it ended because I just couldn't turn it off.

If you haven't heard the song before, do yourself a favor and listen below.

Does anyone else have songs that they don't hear that often but that really suck them in whenever they do hear them?

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Blog Turns 1 Today

Today is exactly one year from my first blog post on here. At the time, I had no idea how the blog would work, what I would talk about, or whether anyone would even read it. Well, with one year under my belt, I've really enjoyed the experience. Obviously, this blog isn't any huge internet destination or anything, but it seems like at least a handful of people read most of my posts, and that in and of itself is pretty neat.

Most people who know me know that I studied statistics and philosophy in undergrad. I loved the experience because it allowed me two different fairly different avenues to go down when I was studying (although I maintain that they are much more closely related than most people think). If I felt like reading or writing, I could work on my philosophy homework. If I was more into problem solving or programming, I could work on statistics. Now that I'm two and a half years into grad school studying statistics, I don't have that same philosophy writing outlet that I used to have. Writing on this blog has been a good way to still be able to write occasionally (even if it is in a much different manner).

While this blog doesn't have any grander intentions than just being an outlet for me every now and then (as should be evidence by how sporadic posting can get), I've been really grateful for everyone that has stopped by at any point over the last year. I've had a few people tell me they discovered artists through the blog that they've really enjoyed. Honestly, there are few things I'd rather hear about the blog. My writing won't be winning any awards, but if people are able to find an artist that they can connect with and add to their favorites, that is good enough for me. I also really appreciate those of you that have shared certain posts you've enjoyed with others. Knowing that people are getting anything worthwhile out of reading these make me feel not so crazy for spending long chunks of time working on posts that may only reach a dozen eyes. One of the cooler moments over the last year was when an artist I placed on my top 40 albums of the year list re-posted the list on Facebook for his followers. That post actually became my most viewed post I've made (shortly ahead of a post about Otis Redding that I think people just stumble upon by googling him).

I went back and read my first post that I made, and I had to laugh when I read that I apparently decided to start the blog while driving home from a weekend in Madison (which is exactly what I just did earlier today while planning this post). I guess things don't change too much. In honor of that post, I suppose I should post a song that I really enjoyed from my ride home today. Somehow, I've managed to go an entire year while only posting one song by Swedish folk-singer The Tallest Man On Earth. He has released two full-length albums. His debut album, "Shallow Grave," in 2008 was my #3 album of the year, and his second album, "The Wild Hunt," in 2010 was my #1 album of the year. For whatever reason though, I haven't really covered him much here.

I've seen The Tallest Man On Earth 3 times now I believe. One of those times, I went to see him by myself in Minneapolis despite having to wake up at like 4:45 the next morning to work. Not all concerts leave a lasting impression on me, or are easily recalled years later, but I still remember one specific song that he played that night. If I had been blogging back then, I would have gone home from the show and instead of sleeping, immediately found this (then unreleased) song to post on the blog because I remember being in love with it right away. I was a little annoyed that I had to wait for him to release his next album to hear a studio version, so I just listened to a crappy live version I found on YouTube over and over again. The song was the wonderful "King Of Spain," which you can listen to for yourself below.

And once again, thanks for reading, and I hope to be checking back at the same time next year.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How I Find My Music

I've been asked quite a few times how I find the artists that I listen to. There really isn't a great answer to that always because there are so many different ways to do it in this day and age. However, after stumbling upon a couple new ways recently, and realizing I've got a blog that would be a great platform for sharing outlets that people may not be aware of, I thought I should dedicate a post to this topic. I'll just list a bunch of my sources of new music in no particular order below.


Ex.fm is a site that I remember hearing about a while back, but I never checked it out until yesterday. I'm pretty excited about this one though as it has already become the newest feature of this blog. If you look down in the bottom right hand corner, there is a little music player that says exfm. If you click on it, you'll be able to hear tracks that I've recently favorited on the site as well as some that I've posted on this blog recently. I'd love to hear from people that try it out what they think of it. The actual site has various ways to discover new music. You can see what other people are favoriting or listening to (like me here), you can check out the site's artist of the week or featured mixtape, you can see which songs are currently popular, or you can just search/browse. I'm already pretty hooked to the site and excited to look into it more.


Last.fm is a long time favorite of mine. Whereas I'm brand new to ex.fm, I've been using last.fm for almost 7 years now with no plans of stopping anytime soon. The basic idea of the site is that it will catalog (or "scrobble" in their terminology) what you listen to on iTunes (or at this point almost anything else), and keep a record for you. This can be used to create a customized playlist from your "library" that you amass. You can also listen to mixes from the libraries of other people on the site (again, I'm here), listen to stations similar to artists of your choosing, or just have fun browsing various profiles and artists. It's sometimes hard to perfectly encapsulate the appeal of these sites in writing, but I consider last.fm to be almost indispensable to anyone that listens to much music on their computers or iPods.


Spotify has really filled a void for me that was left when Lala was bought up by Apple (I've basically boycotted the iTunes music store since that happened). With Spotify, you download an application that then gives you access to tens of thousands of songs at your fingertips. They don't have everything, but usually it seems pretty darn close. You can choose to listen to anything you want for free with periodic commercials, or you can pay $5 a month and do away with these pesky commercials. This article alerted me to the fact that you can only do the free streaming for 6 months before a cap is put on your number of hours, but really in terms of just listening to whatever you want, this is the best of the bunch (in my opinion). For someone who likes to check out new artists but doesn't always want to pay for an album without hearing it first, it is perfect. You can also make playlists and share songs with friends. Here is a playlist of songs I've blogged about for people using Spotify.

Hype Machine

I go through phases of which sites I use, and Hype Machine is one that I actually haven't used in a while, but it used to be a favorite of mine. The site aggregates a whole bunch of blogs and compiles the songs that you can then stream (and sometimes download depending on the post). I follow several individual blogs, and most of them I found through this site as ones that kept popping up with songs I enjoyed, so I was more willing to check out other artists they wrote about. You can also search for artists or songs. You're not going to want to (or realistically be able to) listen to everything they post, but with a little discretion, you can find some really good things.

Individual Blogs

In alphabetical order, here are various blogs I've stumbled upon at one point or another that often lead me to great new artists or remind me of great old artists. I don't know any of these people, but I've enjoyed reading all of them:

All Things Go, Everybody Taste, Seattle radio station KEXP, Milwaukee based Muzzle of Bees, Rollo & Grady, Tympanogram.

These are a few of the main ones along with bigger sites like Pitchfork and Stereogum. These particular sites may not be for you, but there are plenty of really great music blogs out there if you look for them.


Daytrotter is such a cool site that I know I've plugged several other times on this blog. For years, they brought artists into their studios and had them record sessions that they then released for free. Oftentimes the songs were just tracks from their albums, but occasionally you would get a cool cover or song from an upcoming album as well. Unfortunately, they are no longer able to offer this great service for free, but they've actually upped how many artists they have (to 3 per week day I think) and it is only $2 per month. I've held out for a little bit because I'm always hesitant about spending money on something, but that's about one day of my coffee budget, so I plan on signing up just as soon as my free 7-day trial runs out. I highly recommend getting your own trial and signing up if you enjoy it. In just the last week, they've had sessions by Laura Marling, Smith Westerns, Collections of Colonies of Bees, and other artists that may just be great too.


Turntable.fm is another site that I haven't used in a while, but it is a pretty cool idea. You choose a room based on a genre or some other criteria and then up to 5 people take turns playing tracks for everybody else in the room. I actually learned about a cool alt country type band from Fargo called Little Winter while chatting with people in an indie folk room a few months back. I'll probably head back and spend some more time on the site sometime because it really is a neat idea and a fun way to either casually listen to music or to play music for others.


Pandora is likely the most well known of those listed here. However, part of that reason is because they do a really good job. Twice in a week I learned listening to Pandora that musicians I thought I knew well (Colin Meloy of the Decemberists and Elliott Smith) had been in other bands before their ones I knew. Several of these other sites allow more exploration on your own, which I enjoy, but Pandora does a good job if you just want to put some music on and do other things.


I almost forgot about 8tracks, which should be a pretty good indication of just how many great sites there are out there. If you've read the blog before, you may notice the name. I've used 8tracks a few times before to post mixtapes on the site (for my quarterly round-ups and my Halloween mix). The idea of the site is that you can upload your own music and use that to make mixtapes for yourself or others to enjoy. You can search for mixes by artist or description, which is a great jumping off point for seeing what other people may view as similar. It can be a pretty fun diversion now and then.


There are plenty of other avenues of discovery too. Getting recommendations from friends is still one of the best ways. SoundCloud lets you stream and occasionally download songs from various artists, record labels, and fans. I've posted tracks from that site on here several times. I know some people enjoy Grooveshark, but I've never really used it much. Various bands and record labels share thoughts, news, recommendations, and music on Twitter if you're on there.

Once you've found the artists and you want to buy their music, eMusic is a monthly subscription site that I've used for a couple years now. Albums are often cheaper to download than on other sites, and if you are on Twitter, make sure to follow @emusic because they are known to give away credit at various times on there. Just last month I got $9 in credit for telling them my album of the year or something. Most of the rest of my music I get from Amazon. They put 100's or sometimes 1000's of albums at a time on sale for $5 or less and are an amazing place to stock up on music on the cheap.

I'm sure I've left off sources that I use, but really the whole point is there are so many great resources for finding great music if you're looking. If anyone has others that they'd like to share, I'd love to hear them!

And since I like to try to include a track with every blog post, here's one that seemed thematically appropriate. "Can You Discover" by Discovery (a side project collaboration between Vampire Weekend and Ra Ra Riot members).

Discovery - Can You Discover by PopTarts

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Artist Spotlight: Mimicking Birds

Just a short post today on an artist I've been getting into the last few days. Mimicking Birds are an indie folk/indie rock trio from Portland. The best way I can describe the sound is a folkier version of Modest Mouse. The Modest Mouse influence is clear from the vocals on several tracks (and understandable since Isaac Brock, lead singer of Modest Mouse, signed the band to his record label and the band opened for Modest Mouse). However, where Modest Mouse can be too aggressive or chaotic sounding for some people (see "Dance Hall"), several of Mimicking Birds' songs feature sweet guitar playing and more hushed vocals that are more accessible to a wide base.

As of this blog post, I actually only have 2 of the band's song, both acquired back in 2010 and sparsely listened to since then. However, thanks to the magic of Spotify, I was able to listen to the whole album a couple times, and I'll be buying it shortly. From a quick Google search, it's actually pretty hard to tell if Mimicking Birds is still a band. Most of their associated web pages don't appear to have been updated since 2010 and the band isn't currently touring. It would be disappointing if this is all we will ever hear from them, but even if the band is done so quickly, their self-titled 2010 record is really enjoyable and a great addition to the collections of indie folk and/or Modest Mouse fans.

Below is my favorite song from the album, a track called "Burning Stars." Enjoy!

All we are is burning stars
Shining brightly, making sure you dont float too far
I'll keep an eye on you if you keep one on me
And then what happens, we'll see
And then what happens, we'll see

Mimicking Birds - Burning Stars by Glacial Pace

Monday, January 9, 2012

Freak Out, freak out, freak out!

I needed to take a little bit of time off to reboot after all of the album of the year posts, but the blogging bug hit me tonight, so I'm back with my first post of 2012.

I hope everyone has had a wonderful year thus far. Hopefully not too many resolutions have been blown yet. I was feeling in a pretty good mood tonight, so I wanted to pick an upbeat song to write about. We aren't too far removed from 2011 yet, so I went to my playlist of songs released in 2011 and sorted by play count. Most of the names that popped up near the top were artists I've spent plenty of time talking about like Middle Brother, The Decemberists, and Bon Iver. However, one song stuck out as a track that I had listened to almost 20 times despite not having heard the rest of the album or mentioning this track at any point on the blog (although I remember planning to write a post about it several months back).

Well that was the infectious indie rock track "Freak Out" by Tapes 'n Tapes. I actually recall the band getting a lot of publicity (at least in the online circles I was following) around the time of their 2005 release "The Loon," but they were never a band I really latched onto. Given that the band is from Minnesota (and apparently formed at Carlton College), you'd think I would have given them more of a chance, but they were mostly off my radar again until early this past year. I remember hearing "Freak Out" sometime last year and actually listening to it several times in a row marveling over how fun and catchy it was. Why that never translated to me seeking out the rest of the album or thinking much about the track for the rest of the year is beyond me, but it is better late than never. Therefore, I'm making my first resolution of 2012 (I never make them around New Years, so this will have to do) to spend some time listening to their album "Outside." My early impressions while writing this are definitely positive.

I don't have any insight to add to the band or the song as I'm mostly discovering them now. The song is just a fun, upbeat, catchy indie rock tune, so check it out below and hopefully you'll enjoy it too!

Freak Out by tapesntapes