Favorited ex.fm Songs

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Favorite Albums of 2013 (21-30)

With 2013 coming to a close, I've compiled another favorite albums list. Last year I published my 50 favorite albums and made note that I kept making my list longer every year. This year I've consciously decided I need to show just a small amount of restraint, so I'm limiting myself to "only" 30 albums this year. I think there's a pretty good variety on here, so hopefully there's something everyone can enjoy. Without further ado, onto the list...

30) Charles Bradley - Victim Of Love

Charles Bradley's second album finds him belting out love songs with an energy few 60+ year olds possess. My knowledge of the soul genre is limited, but he's one of my favorites and his story is as good as any you'll find. A few weeks ago he released a really cool cover of a Black Sabbath tune too that I recommend checking out. You can find that one here.

29) Great Apes - Thread

Great Apes are a punk band from San Francisco fronted by Hanalei singer/songwriter Brian Moss. I've written before about my love of Hanalei. While the music of Great Apes is decidedly different from the folkier Hanalei, Moss' influence and voice are still present and "Thread" is a very solid punk record. It's well worth checking out if that's your kind of thing.

28) The National - Trouble Will Find Me

The National seem like a pretty divisive band. Some people love their music and other people think it's boring and that the people who love it are crazy. I side closer to the former. They aren't my favorite band in the world, but Matt Berninger's baritone voice can be intoxicating at times. If you've enjoyed one of the band's previous five albums, I imagine you'll enjoy "Trouble Will Find Me" as well.

27) Unknown Mortal Orchestra - II

"So Good At Being In Trouble" is one of my absolute favorite songs released this year. Throughout the year, the song's chorus has repeatedly just popped into my head out of nowhere. The album's lo-fi/psychedelic indie rock took me a bit longer to get into than some albums, but I've definitely come around on it. Plus any band that can write a song as good as "So Good At Being In Trouble" has my attention.

26) Lady Lamb The Beekeeper - Ripely Pine

I saw Maine native Aly Spaltro (aka Lady Lamb The Beekeeper) open for Kaki King a couple months before her album came out. At the time, I was intrigued by how well she could fill up a room with sound using just her voice and a guitar. The album does a really good job of showcasing her talents while adding a few more instruments to the mix. It is a fantastic debut, and I look forward to seeing what she can do with her career.

25) Foxygen - We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic

Foxygen sounds a bit like a band out of place in 2013. Their music has a clear 1960's sound. The Velvet Underground is the biggest comparison I hear, but that's probably because I'm more familiar with them than other artists. I've seen some criticism from people claiming the band is just copying other bands before them. However, I feel like all bands do that to an extent, and Foxygen is at least really good at it. If you go into the album with an open mind, it's a pretty enjoyable 40 minutes of music.

24) Mikal Cronin - MCII

Following up his self titled debut with "MCII", Mikael Cronin is giving labelmates She & Him a run for their money for least creative album titles. Fortunately, Mikal Cronin is just another in a long line of really good artists releasing music on Merge Records, and everything else about the album is pretty good. I've actually listened to this album less than most of the other albums on here, but each time I have, I've found myself nodding along to his blend of pop/rock.

23) Hey Marseilles - Lines We Trace

Seattle-based Hey Marseilles first introduced the world to their orchestral folk/pop on their debut album in 2008. We've had to wait a long time, but 2013 finally brought the follow up to that album and it does not disappoint. Hopefully we won't have to wait another 5 years for the third album.

22) Kevin Devine - Bulldozer

A quick look at the blog archives indicates that I've somehow only written about Kevin Devine once on here. That's a real shame because he's one of my favorite lyric writers. One day I'll have to dedicate a post to him. This year, he ran a Kickstarter campaign that was funded in less than one day. The product of that campaign is this solo album as well as an album with his backing band. Both albums are really good, but I found myself coming back to the solo one a bit more.

21) Streetlight Manifesto - The Hands That Thieve

I don't listen to much ska music anymore, but I've got a real soft spot for it (dating back to my days of playing saxophone for a ska band in high school) that is likely never going to go away. Streetlight Manifesto was always one of my favorite bands, and "The Hands That Thieve" is a good indication of why that is. It's pretty close to physically impossible for me to listen to their horns without whistling along. Combine the catchy horns with Tomas Kalnocky's singing, and I'm hooked. If you want something with a lot of energy that's gonna get your foot tapping and your mouth whistling, then look no further.

I should be back tomorrow with albums 11-20. Until then, you can sample each of the albums from this portion of the list with a song below.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bob Dylan makes coolest music video ever

Bob Dylan, apparently not content to rest on his laurels as one of the greatest songwriters ever, decided to make one of the coolest music videos ever. The video, for "Like A Rolling Stone," allows the viewer to surf through 16 different channels while the song plays. You can watch sports highlights, shopping shows, cartoons, The Price Is Right, or a number of other things, but the catch is that regardless of which channel you turn to, the people are mouthing the words to the song. The video doesn't appear to be embeddable, but you can click here to watch it. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A bit of new music from the interwebs

It's been a little while since I've been able to post, but I had a chance to poke around a bit the last couple days, and I discovered some new songs I thought I'd share.

First off, Charles Bradley continues to make fantastic soul music as evidenced by a new song called "Ain't It A Sin." The weather has gotten pretty cold here in Iowa the last few days, but some nice soul music can sure warm up a room. I may have to return to Charles Bradley pretty often this winter. If you're interested in Charles Bradley, there was a documentary made about him called "Charles Bradley: Soul Of America" that was really interesting. He's had a pretty incredible life, and it's a good thing he was finally able to share his music with the world. The documentary is streaming on Netflix, so check it out there if you have access.

Hospitality put out an excellent self-titled debut album in 2012 on Merge Records. The band has announced that their sophomore album, "Trouble," will be released on January 28. In the meantime, the first track released from the album is the delightfully titled "I Miss Your Bones." The track has definitely whet my appetite for the rest of the album in January.

I didn't expect to find myself enjoying an artist that is opening for Black Sabbath, but then I heard Reignwolf. I first encountered Reignwolf at Sasquatch this year where he put on a really solid set. He has currently only released two songs, but I'm looking forward to hearing a full length album sometime in the future. It's sure to pack plenty of punch whenever it comes out.

And lastly, I really enjoyed the open letter Lorde wrote on her 17th birthday. I haven't really listened to her music because I'm not too up on pop music, but she sounds a lot more mature than a lot of people older than her. I'll be rooting for her success in the future. The letter can be read here.

Hopefully I'll be able to start posting my favorite albums of the year list before too long and then maybe update this thing a bit more often.

Monday, November 11, 2013

New Suburban Dirts Music - Spoiler... It's really good!

English folk/blues/rock/country band Suburban Dirts released one of my favorite albums of 2012 (ranked #10 here, but probably higher if I remade the list now). Since then, they've added Ryan Davies (of previously blogged about Marching Donald) and apparently been hard at work making even more music. In a week (on November 18) they'll show everybody that the first album wasn't just a fluke when they release their follow-up "a tiny little island in the big bad sea."

I had the pleasure of getting to hear the new album early, and after about a dozen listens, I think I may actually prefer it to their debut. The album kicks off with a foot-stomper of a song in "Fire On The Campsite" that lets you know you're not going to be able to sit still while listening to this album. The second track, "Hose Ban Blues," keeps the energy up and adds in some excellent harmonica by Judd Lander, the guy who played harmonica on Culture Club's "Karma Chameleon." "Hose Ban Blues" also features some excellent lyric work with lines like "Am I killing time or is time killing me?" and "Even Schrodinger's cat eventually died, but don't quote me on that, he could still be alive." I'm not sure if I glossed over the lyrics while listening to the first album because it was so catchy, but I really noticed them quite a few times here.

The third track, "Everybody's Friend," is one of two that has been made available for listening before the album's release. Check it out here to get your own taste of the album:

"Punchball Blues" is a Dylan-esque rock & roll romp akin to "Lost In Transcription" from the band's debut album. It also marks the end of what the band describes as a shift from the playful confidence of the first five tracks to the uncertainty and fragility displayed throughout the last six tracks.

This shift in tone is on display in the second song the band has made available, "Any Other Morning," which also happens to be one of my favorite songs of the year. The emotional weight of lead-singer John Wheatley crooning "The last thing that I want to hear you say is 'I'd go with you on any other morning, but I just can't do today'" hits me every time I hear it. You can stream or buy the song here:

The penultimate track, "Queen O'Pity" features more of Judd Lander's fantastic harmonica work and is another second half highlight. Album closer "All Of This" slows things down again and offers time for reflection as John Wheatley sings "I know I'm gonna miss all of this someday" in a nice finish to the album.

"a tiny little island in the big bad sea" can be pre-ordered from Amazon or iTunes. If you missed the band's first album make sure to go check it out on Bandcamp. If you want to support an up and coming band that is making some awfully impressive music, check out their various pages below and/or buy an album (or go to a show if you're lucky enough to live nearby). Regardless, enjoy!

Want to check out Suburban Dirts? Of course you do...

Band website

Monday, October 28, 2013

R.I.P. Lou Reed (1924 - 2013)

Lou Reed passed away yesterday. Obviously The Velvet Underground had a huge impact on rock musicians far and wide. Brian Eno famously said "The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band." You can read plenty of articles about his life and death here, here, or any number of other places, so I'll just post a few of my favorite songs.

What I assume is the most well-known Velvet Underground song

 Another favorite of mine

And because I'll sneak M. Ward in any place I can... M. Ward covering "Pale Blue Eyes"

And the first Lou Reed song I remember hearing. I remember my parents playing this song in the car when I was young, which in hindsight is kinda weird...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Free music: new Hilang Child!

Back in January, I wrote about Hilang Child's debut EP. It remains one of my favorite EPs (along with Hayden Calnin's City EP) that I've heard in quite some time. It's not currently available to buy or download, but I've been told an updated version should be available in a month or two. Fortunately though, Ed Riman's project Hilang Child is back with two brand new tracks to whet our appetites for a while longer. You can stream them below and download them free via the widget.

Again the songs are gorgeous compositions having an ethereal quality that is perfect for headphones and a repeat button. In both songs, Riman's voice seems to just float somewhere above the instrumentation. "Gold Isle" is a bit more layered with sounds while "Green Arrow" remains sparser focusing mostly on the piano. Regardless, they are both excellent additions to last year's outstanding EP. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for future developments for sure.

When you're done downloading these two tracks, go head over and like his Facebook page to be reminded of future releases. It's ridiculous that he only has 200 likes.

Want to check out Hilang Child?


Monday, September 9, 2013

Otis Redding's Birthday

The King of Soul, Otis Redding, would have turned 72 today if he were still alive. Unfortunately, he tragically died at the age of 26, but he put out a quantity and quality of music that few can aspire to. To celebrate his life and the music that he did release, here are a couple songs of his to enjoy.

If you don't have any Otis in your collection, you can pick up the CD of "Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul" for only $4.99 on Amazon right now.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New releases from April - June 2013

The blog has gone relatively quiet lately, so I'm posting this almost two months later than I planned, but better late than never. So without further ado, my favorite albums from the second quarter of 2013:

My favorite albums released April - June 2013

1) Kurt Vile - Wakin On A Pretty Daze

I'll just leave this to my previous write up about the album.

2) The Postelles - ...And It Shook Me

Back in January, I posted about the track "Pretend It's Love," which was my first exposure to The Postelles. At the time, I was unsure what to expect from the album, but fortunately the rest of the album is also a ton of fun and has more than lived up to any expectations I had. The New York rock/pop band has mastered the catchy hook. If you enjoy this album, make sure to also check out their self-titled album, which you can get for $6 on their website. As for this album though, "Caught By Surprise" and "Running Red Lights" are two of my other favorite tracks. The whole thing is a great warm weather album to play loud and sing along to.

3) John Moreland - In The Throes

Switching gears a bit from the upbeat, hook heavy music of The Postelles, John Moreland has crafted an excellent americana/folk album that has grown on me more and more with each listen. "Nobody Gives A Damn About Songs Anymore" is my favorite track, but there's a ton to like here. John Moreland, along with Small Houses and Wooden Wand have made this a darn good year for folk music fans.

4) The Shouting Matches - Grownass Man

Justin Vernon is a busy man. While he is perhaps best known for his solitary retreat into the woods to write the first Bon Iver album, Vernon seems to revel in the art of collaboration. Since that album was released five years ago, he has released another EP and (a much more collaborative) full-length as Bon Iver, he released albums as part of Volcano Choir and Gayngs, he guested on several songs of Anais Mitchell's 2010 album, and he even found time to team up with Kanye West for a few songs. His latest project is a blues-rock trio called The Shouting Matches with two friends from his hometown of Eau Claire. I know some people lament the fact that he's focusing on these other things instead of Bon Iver, but I love seeing him spread his creativity as far and as wide as he sees fit and is able to. The Shouting Matches is a catchy album of blues-rock that shows another side of what Justin Vernon has to offer. If that's not your thing though, just wait around until September for another release with Volcano Choir.

5) Har Mar Superstar - Bye Bye 17

Har Mar Superstar is the recording name of Sean Tillmann. How this Minnesota based soul/r&b singer slipped under my radar is a mystery to me. While he seems to be known a bit for his theatrics (like performing in close to nothing, and claiming that Har Mar Superstar is his twin brother Harold Martin Tillman), his songs speak for themselves. "Lady, You Shot Me" and "Prisoner" are two of my favorites from this record, but listen to the whole thing if you're at all inclined to like soul/r&b/pop.

6) Telekinesis - Dormarion

And now for the condensed versions... Telekinesis is the project of Seattle based musician Michael Benjamin Lerner. His music is driving indie rock and Dormarion, his third album (all on Merge Records), is a solid follow up to the very catchy "12 Desperate Straight Lines."

7) Charles Bradley - Victim of Love

60-something year old Charles Bradley is back with more soul, funk, and love. I haven't watched it yet, but there is a documentary about him on Netflix Instant called Soul Of America.

8) Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City

Vampire Weekend keeps doing what they do well for their third album, which has received pretty universal praise.

9) She & Him - Volume 3

Also, releasing their third (non-Christmas) album is the duo movie/tv star Zooey Deschanel and indie folk musician/guitar extraordinaire M. Ward. If you liked volumes one and two, there's no reason you shouldn't enjoy Volume Three.

10) Fitz and the Tantrums - More Than Just A Dream

This final spot was a bit of a wild card, but the energetic soul/pop of Fitz and the Tantrums won out. The lead track "Out Of My League" is my favorite.

Other albums I've enjoyed (in alphabetical order)

Bradford Loomis - Into The Great Unknown (folk music)
Camera Obscura - Desire Lines (Scottish indie pop)
Cayucas - Bigfoot (sunny sounding indie pop)
Daughter - If You Leave (British indie folk/indie rock)
Future Bible Heroes - Partygoing (project of Magnetic Fields frontman Stephin Merritt)
Iron & Wine - Ghost On Ghost (embraces a bit more jazzy sound than before)
The Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra - The Benevolence of Sister Mary Ignatius (old-school ska)
Ola Podrida - Ghosts Go Blind (Texas based indie rock)
Smith Westerns - Soft Will (glossy indie rock/indie pop)
Streetlight Manifesto - The Hands That Thieve (new-school ska)
Treetop Flyers - The Mountain Moves (British folk-rock, newest release from Partisan Records)

My favorite EP

Shooting Stansfield - We Know Not What We Do

This was the only EP that jumped out at me from the second quarter of the year. The indie rock band is reminiscent of their fellow Scottish countrymen Frightened Rabbit, which is always a good thing. I'll be excited to hear their debut full-length when they get around to it.

Some of my favorite songs from April - June 2013 releases

And as is tradition, here are a couple (slightly different) mixes of my favorite songs from the second quarter of 2013. Anyone should be able to play the first one (although the order will be random if you play it a second time I believe) and the second one can only be played if you have Spotify. Enjoy!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Free music update - Minnesota edition

Today's free music update comes in the form of a free download from St. Paul, MN based band Bad Bad Hats. In January, the band released their second EP, "It Hurts," which you can listen to below or download for the exceptional price of nothing! The first EP is also available on Bandcamp for whatever you choose to pay. Lead singer Kerry Alexander has an infectious voice that along with the lo-fi indie pop/indie rock sound of the band is a great summer soundtrack. I'll be anxiously keeping tabs on what Bad Bad Hats does in the future, but for now I'll content myself with enjoying "It Hurts" over and over again.

If you're in the Minneapolis / St. Paul area, the band has several upcoming shows to check out on their website.

Interested in checking out Bad Bad Hats?


While I'm at it, I figured I should link to now defunct Minneapolis group Big Strong Men and their free EP. It's a shame they parted ways because I've gotten a ton of mileage out of this EP. It's an excellent way to inject a little energy into any day. You can stream / download it below:

While the Big Strong Men have gone their separate ways, the members can be found in new bands Wild Cathedral and Savanna and The Saviors. Click on both of those band names for even more free music.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Song of the Day: So Good At Being in Trouble by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

One of my favorite songs of 2013 has been the excellent "So Good At Being In Trouble" by Unknown Mortal Orchestra off their creatively titled second album "II". I actually think it may have prevented me from getting into the rest of the album more because as soon as that song plays I can't get it out of my head and fully focus on the rest. Oh well... It's a good problem to have.

Today, while reading through music blogs that I had fallen behind on, I stumbled upon this equally amazing acoustic version of the song. I've posted the video for it here as well as the original track below for comparison. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Wakin On A Pretty Daze by Kurt Vile

Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside's amazing second album was my runaway favorite from the first part of the year and Kurt Vile's "Wakin On A Pretty Daze" is looking like the clear favorite to take that title for the next part.

Sometimes an album seems to be released at just the right time of year and I always wonder if that's by design or if I just associate that time of year with the album because of its release. It could be a chicken and egg type problem that I'll never get to the bottom of, but Kurt Vile's "Wakin On A Pretty Daze" has been the perfect soundtrack for those lazy days in between winter and the nice weather of Spring/Summer. The songs never feel like there is a real sense of urgency, which normally might seem like a bad thing, but they manage to convince you that there's no reason for urgency. Life will move at whatever pace you want, and while you're listening to Kurt Vile, it's darn sure going to slow down and take its time because the journey is just as important as the destination.

The clear album highlight is the opening track, "Wakin On A Pretty Day," which sets the tone for everything to come. It's rare for an almost 10 minute long track to seem too short, but somehow I'm always looking for more when "Wakin On A Pretty Day" reaches its conclusion. Fortunately, there's an entire album to follow even if that song has to cruelly end. Vile mixes acoustic and electric guitar expertly to create a hazy backdrop for his similarly laid back vocals. At the 4:20 mark in the song, he sings:

Risin at the crack of dawn
I gotta think about what wisecrack
I'm gonna drop along the way
Despite hearing it countless times by now, the delivery of that line never fails to draw a smile to my face. This album has just become part of my daily routine at this point, rearing its face at some point to get me through each day.

You can listen to / download another track here.

If you enjoy the tracks, I highly recommend picking up the album since the whole thing is amazing. Once you do, either give it a spin while driving in the car or with headphones while walking around outside, and you won't regret it. And if you're anything like me, you'll find yourself repeating the process over and over and over again.

Interested in checking out Kurt Vile?

You Tube

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

New Releases from January - March 2013

Well we're a quarter of the way through 2013, so I thought I'd compile a list of a bunch of my favorite releases so far this year.

My favorite albums released January - March 2013

1) Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside - Untamed Beast

I wrote about this album a few weeks ago and I still cannot get enough of it. I had the pleasure of seeing the band perform this week, and they didn't disappoint. The band is a bit of a throwback to good old fashioned rock and roll, with several of the songs having a surf-rock vibe. Regardless of what they're playing, Sallie Ford's commanding vocals and no-nonsense lyrics steal the show. This is almost certain to remain one of my favorite albums of the year.

2) Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse

After releasing maybe my favorite album ever in 2008 and releasing my second favorite album of 2010, my expectations were set extremely high for Pedestrian Verse. While that could have left me in danger of being let down by this record, Frightened Rabbit delivered yet again. I wrote more about the album when it came out, but the Scottish indie rockers have continued to impress. Scott Hutchison remains one of my favorite lyricists and that voice of his is just wonderful. I also got to see Frightened Rabbit perform a few weeks ago, and they were great. Hutchison prefaced the song "Oil Slick" by telling the crowd that it was written as sort of an apology for all of the things he had said about someone in previous songs. Lines like "How can I talk about life and warmth? I've got a voice like a gutter in a toxic storm" show that he can do self deprecation with the best of them. If you're unfamiliar with the band, Pedestrian Verse is probably a pretty good entry point, but make sure you go back and check out Midnight Organ Fight and The Winter of Mixed Drinks after.

3) Small Houses - Exactly Where You Wanted To Be

I've been meaning to write about this Small Houses (aka Jeremy Quentin) album for a while now and just haven't found the time to do it. Despite being a relative unknown (fewer than 1,000 likes on Facebook), he does alt-country / indie folk as well as anyone. I'm always a sucker for harmonica in songs, but everything works here. You can stream / download several songs including the incredible opening track "Oh, Hiding Out" here, but if you like it I highly recommend helping out an artist (hopefully) on the rise and buying the whole thing. If you listen to it even a fraction as much as I have/will you will more than get your money's worth.

4) Local Natives - Hummingbird

I wrote a bit about this album last month. The album marked a bit of a sonic change from Local Natives' last album, this time seeing the band eschew the more catchy tunes for something more atmospheric and dreamy. The vocal harmonies that helped carry the last album are still present, just now wrapped inside something new. While the last album was enjoyable, this album seems much better as an album to me and is a big step forward for the band. That's also not to say there aren't songs that stand out on Hummingbird. "Heavy Feet" is one of my favorite songs released so far this year. "Breakers" and "Ceilings" are other standout tracks.

5) Hey Marseilles - Lines We Trace

The Seattle based band picked up right where they left off with this album. Their Facebook page uses the wonderful term "folkestral" to describe their brand of folk music performed with a cello, viola, accordion, and mandolin along with the standard fare. I got to see Hey Marseilles perform at Sasquatch Music Festival last summer and they just seemed like a band that loved doing what they do. While that's probably true for most bands that warmth and enjoyment seems to come through in their music.

6) Wooden Wand - Blood Oaths of the New Blues

While everyone else was waiting until a few weeks into the year to release their music, Wooden Wand was nice enough to throw me a bone with his album in early January. I wrote about it when it came out at the beginning of the year, and it still remains an album I'm returning to. "Outsider Blues" might be my favorite track of the year. I love a good story song, and this is one, which chronicles a trip to the Outsider Blues music festival, is one of the better ones. He can paint such a vivid scene of what's going on that it feels like I'm watching everything unfold while listening to the song.

7) Pascal Pinon - Twosomeness

Pascal Pinon is a pair of Icelandic twins who craft some pretty great indie pop tunes. Some of the songs are in English while others are in Icelandic. Having no idea what the Icelandic songs are saying, doesn't stop me from enjoying them just as much as the English ones. The lead track "Ekki Vanmeta" (which Google tells me means "do not underestimate") might be my favorite of the bunch. I actually haven't listened to this as much as the albums above it, but listening to it right now while writing this is telling me that may be a mistake that needs to be rectified.

8) Lady Lamb the Beekeeper - Ripely Pine

I was first exposed to Lady Lamb the Beekeeper (aka Aly Spaltro) when she opened for Kaki King here in Iowa City several months back. You don't see many solo artists playing electric guitar, but what she was able to do by herself on stage was impressive as was the confidence on display in both her singing and playing (all the more impressive since she's only 23). After several years of self-releasing home recordings, her first studio album does an excellent job of capturing the energy and confidence on display that night. It's certainly an impressive "first" release that sees her effortlessly passing between all different types of songs and vocals. Check out the track "Bird Balloons" to get a taste of what she can do. It'll be exciting to see what the future holds for the young songwriter.

9) Jim James - Regions of Light and Sound of God

This is the first proper solo album by My Morning Jacket front-man Jim James, and it is very much a solo album as he played all of the instruments, did all of the vocals, and produced it on top of that. On the album, James continues to explore spirituality (as you may expect based on the album title) as he has been in recent releases such as the one with Monsters of Folk. Most of the time Jim James the instrumentalist gets out of the way and lets Jim James the vocalist shine with that haunting voice of his. This is best carried out on the excellent track "A New Life." While the album lacks the rock / punch of a My Morning Jacket release, the album does quite well forging its own path.

10) Foxygen - We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic

Rounding out the top ten is Foxygen. The band seems to be a divisive one among music blogs, but putting away any pretensions of what bands should sound like or anything like that, they just flat out made an enjoyable record. The California artists where their influences on their sleeves with tracks that sound straight out of the 60's and 70's pop scene (albeit with modern day production). Listening to the album you'll hear shades of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground, and plenty of others. The argument in the blog community seemed to be why you should listen to Foxygen's homage to those artists when you could listen to those artists do their own thing. If that's your mindset, you can probably pass on this release, but otherwise I'd say it's worth checking out.

Others I've enjoyed that I need to listen to more

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - II ("So Good At Being In Trouble" is a great track)
Hollis Brown - Ride on the Train
Kingsley Flood - Battles
Night Beds - Country Sleep ("Ramona" is a great track)
Ivan & Alyosha - All The Times We Had

And I couldn't decide on where to put some of the EPs amidst the full-length albums, so here's a separate group for them.

My favorite EPs

1) I Build Collapsible Mountains - Carousel EP

Continuing the trend on this list of solo artists recording under band names, longtime blog favorite I Build Collapsible Mountains (aka Luke G Joyce) throws his hat in the ring. This EP follows up on last year's "Songs From That Never Scene" with the lead track coming from that album accompanied by five new tracks. It's just another solid release from I Build Collapsible Mountains doing his indie folk thing that he does so well. I can't exactly put my finger on what it is that separates Joyce from other artists, but there's something about the guitar and vocals in these songs that feels like home despite coming from all the way over in Scotland.

2) Wake Owl - Wild Country

Vancouver based singer/songwriter Colyn Cameron has put out a really catchy alt-country EP that keeps finding itself stuck in my head. It sounds like Cameron has been making music for a while, but this is the debut under the name "Wake Owl" and it is an excellent start. I can't wait to hear a full-length at some point in the future.

3) Miracles of Modern Science - MEEMS

Much like Hey Marseilles, Miracles of Modern Science (or MOMS) has a bit of a non-traditional lineup featuring cello, violin, mandolin, double bass, and drums. While Hey Marseilles writes what the call folkestral music, MOMS is more indie rock played with classical instruments. One of the highlights is the song "The Singularity," which sings of a skepticism that we will all have to die someday due to science reaching the singularity where we can fix things like neural decay. This decidedly nerdy subject shouldn't be surprising from a band that formed while the members were at Princeton. While this all may seem a bit gimicky, the music more than stands on its own, and the EP is a lot of fun. The EP is currently "pay what you want" here, so really there's no reason not to go check it out!

4) Indianna Dawn - Rookie

Indianna Dawn wrote one of my favorite albums of 2011. Unfortunately, I didn't discover the album until 2012, so I didn't get a chance to put it on my year end list. I wrote about the Danish indie folk/alt country group a bit here if you want to check that out and listen to a couple tracks from their full length. I haven't listened to the new EP much yet, but it seems pretty enjoyable and a good way to tide me over until their next full length is released. Maybe in the meantime I can learn Danish so I cant actually understand the updates on their Facebook page.

Some of my favorite songs from January - March 2013 releases

I can't very well tell you about this much new music without sharing some of it with you, so here are two playlists of some of my favorite songs released in the first quarter of 2013. The Spotify playlist is a bit bigger since it doesn't have to be songs I own, but the 8tracks playlist also has some things that aren't available on Spotify (like an awesome Alabama Shakes song that the band released for free online). You can probably just choose whichever service you're more comfortable with and get the gist of things though. If you don't use Spotify and don't want to create an account, anyone should be able to stream the 8tracks playlist below. Anyhow, enjoy and let me know if there are any albums or songs I seem to be overlooking!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Song/Video of the Day: Explosions in the Sky - Postcard From 1952

The posting here has been pretty non-existent thanks to first my computer dying for a week and then all aspects of life teaming up to make me extra busy. I'm working on a post recapping the first third of 2013, but in the meantime I thought I'd write something quick.

One of the current things making my life busy is a presentation I'm working on for a class. Reading and processing statistics papers doesn't work too well when listening to music with lyrics, so one of my go to artists in these cases is Explosions in the Sky. I wanted to post the song "Your Hand In Mine," which came on while I was working this afternoon, but apparently I already posted it here. Instead, here's a song called "Postcard From 1952" off of the band's most recent release. The video is a collection of moments and life events that might have been included on a postcard from that year. Like many of the band's songs, it takes a while to build, but the payoff is worth it. I know guitar driven instrumental post-rock isn't for everyone, but I highly recommend spending some time with Explosions in the Sky. The quiet moments before the build up tend to put me in a place of perfect contentment where nothing else seems to matter. I love walking around in cool weather, just zoned out listening to them. When the sound starts to swell, the epic nature of it makes me feel on top of the world and like anything is possible. I made a comment on Twitter the other day that I wanted to nominate Japandroids for "band that most makes you feel like you can do anything." I'd also have to add Explosions in the Sky to that list now. Any other suggestions?

Anyhow, I'm off to continue being busy. Enjoy the video:

Interested in checking out Explosions in the Sky?

Band website

Or just watch the wonderful Friday Night Lights TV show, which they soundtracked

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside

Wow. Just wow.

Every once and a while an album comes around that just stops you in your tracks. That was my reaction the first time I heard the new Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside album, "Untamed Beast," a few weeks ago. Lead singer Sallie Ford brings energy and unbridled brashness that isn't seen very often. In the wrong hands, those two things could go off the tracks and lead to a chaotic mess. But Ford knows exactly what she's doing and oh boy does she do it well. The band's website quotes her as saying "It's time for a girl to infiltrate the boys world of rock 'n roll and grab it by the balls. To me rock 'n roll isn't a genre, it's an energy." Whether it's a genre or an energy, it should consider itself infiltrated and consider its bar raised. Everyone else, the standard has been set.

Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside is coming to Iowa City at the beginning of April, and I cannot wait for that show. In the meantime I'll just continue to listen to Untamed Beast over and over and over and over again.

You can stream the entire album here. But if you want a taste first, here's a track from the album:

Interested in checking out Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside?

Artist website

Another thing I failed to mention is that this album has finally convinced me that Partisan Records is a label to be reckoned with. In 2011, Partisan released Middle Brother's debut, which was my favorite album of the year. In 2012 they followed that up by releasing Field Report's debut and Heartless Bastards newest album, which were my third and ninth ranked albums of the year. I expect to see Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside very high on this year's list. Plus, now with this revelation, I've got a lot of Partisan Records' back catalog to comb through for gems I've missed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Free Music Update - 2/19/2012

A bunch of really good free music has been popping up lately, so I thought I'd round some of it up into one post for people who are interested.

First, Hanalei, one of my all-time favorite artists just decided to release all of his old albums along with a new album of miscellaneous covers and alternate versions of tracks for free on a new Bandcamp page. Click here to check it out. I wrote about Hanalei a while back if you're interested in reading that. If you're looking for a place to start, "Parts and Accessories" and "We Are All Natural Disasters" are two of my favorite albums (and not just by Hanalei). The former has an alt-country feel with moments of rock interspersed. It also features some of my favorite lyrics of any album. Very few artists can't paint a picture of a time and place as well as Brian Moss does. Often the songs just feel like tiny movies that you're living inside of. "Parts and Accessories" is one of those albums that I could listen to anytime anywhere. Almost anytime I'm in the car for more than an hour or two it gets a listen. On the other hand, "We Are All Natural Disasters," Hanalei's first album, was a solo project that is a bit more in the indie pop vein. Electronic elements make it just a little bit reminiscent of The Postal Service. It was the album that originally made me fall in love with Hanalei.

Next up is Beat Radio, who a couple days ago released a free EP in anticipation of their new full-length which came out today (for the more than reasonable price of $4). The EP, which you can pickup here, features an excellent cover of "The House That Heaven Built" by The Japandroids. While The Japandroids version is a high energy anthemic romp, Beat Radio strips the song down into just acoustic guitar and vocals. While that approach would seem to risk losing the energy of the original, it works surprisingly well, instead highlighting the vocals. That cover was my first exposure to Beat Radio when I heard it a couple months ago, but it instantly turned me into a fan.

Miracles of Modern Science, a New York based orchestral pop group, has released their new EP (here) today as a "pay what you want" album. I was introduced to the band about three weeks ago by We Listen For You. Rather than your standard guitar, bass, and drums, they use mandolin, violin, cello, standup bass, and drums. At the time We Listen For You shared the track "Singularity," which was a great introduction to a band exploring what pop music beyond the usual fare. The album is worthwhile on its own merits, but the fact that their doing something different gives even more reason to check it out.

Today I also got an email that Eric and Magill, an indie folk duo originally from Wisconsin, are releasing a free EP (via Bandcamp). I know I've heard the duo's music before, but I just realized today that one of the members is from the now defunct Decibully, another band I used to listen to. I haven't given the new EP a listen, but you can't beat free, and I'm guessing it should be an enjoyable listen.

Lastly, if you haven't picked up the Hilang Child EP that I talked about last month, what are you waiting for??? The EP would almost certainly have made my top albums list last year if I had found it before the year ended. As is, it's one of my go to late night albums when I'm unwinding before bed. The Hilang Child facebook page (which is up to 152 "likes" after being under 100 last month!) has mentioned that they have a couple live acoustic videos coming up soon. I'll continue anxiously awaiting anything new to come from them.

This should be enough free music to tide those of you cash-strapped music lovers over for a little while. There is a lot to enjoy there, so hopefully everyone can find something of interest.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day with The Magnetic Fields

Being single, Valentine's Day doesn't do much for me, but it is a great excuse to listen to The Magnetic Fields' ridiculously ambitious three volume album "69 Love Songs." As frontman Stephen Merritt (quite correctly notes), the album isn't an album about love but rather an album about love songs in all of their many forms. Just from song titles like "I'm Sorry I Love You," "Nothing Matters When We're Dancing," "Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits," and "I Don't Believe In The Sun" you can already tell the album runs across a wide range of emotions and states related to love in its many different forms.

A few months back, I read the exceptional "Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records" by John Cook. The book proceeds somewhat chronologically through the history of indie label Merge Records, usually while focusing on one band at a time and largely doing so through interviews and pictures. The Magnetic Fields had a chapter focus on them, as did bands like Spoon, Arcade Fire, Superchunk, and Neutral Milk Hotel. In the Magnetic Fields chapter, the origin of 69 Love Songs is discussed. Apparently Stephen Merritt was drinking by himself at a piano bar when he decided he would write a musical revue called 100 Love Songs that would cover every kind of love song. When he realized that would be too difficult logistically, he decided to do it for an album, and eventually whittled the number further to 69 love songs.

When the idea for 69 Love Songs (at this point including a 76 page full color booklet) was pitched to Merge Records, there was conflicting excitement and worry between the two heads of the label (two members of the band Superchunk). The Magnetic Fields' previous album had sold only 17,000 copies, so trying to produce and actually sell such an ambitious project with a base audience of that size seemed pretty optimistic. As a compromise, Merge offered to sell the discs separately with only 2,500 box sets made, which included all three of the albums and the booklet. However, the idea and finished product garnered a good deal of media attention, and the album (both versions) ended up selling out almost immediately.

The whole story, along with other anecdotes about The Magnetic Fields, Merge, and their many amazing bands is worth the purchase of "Our Noise". The album has also inspired plenty of other creative homages. The picture on the right is one panel from a comic by Huw "Lem" Davies from a site called 69 Love Songs, Illustrated, which has endeavored to have various artists illustrate each of the songs on the album. I chose this one because it has one of my favorite lines "The only stars there really are were shining in your eyes // There is no sun except the one that never shone on other guys // The moon to whom the poets croon has given up and died // Astronomy will have to be revised." The whole thing is an incredibly cool project to look through, and I could spend countless hours doing so. Most of the songs have been completed and they are hoping to finish the project this year. If they ever get the rights to sell this as a physical book, I would love to buy a copy.

In another project, 69 Minnesota musicians each recorded a song from the album. You can actually download the whole thing for free here. I just discovered the project and haven't had a chance to listen yet, but you can't beat free!

Lastly, there is a series of books called "33 1/3" in which authors pick a classic album and discuss it in a short book. There is one about this album (here) that I'm sure would be an interesting read. Another thing to add to my list.

And since we've made it this far without any actual music, here is "The Book Of Love." Enjoy your February 14th.

Monday, February 11, 2013

This week in music (week of 2/5/2013)

It'll be a short post this week (Note: Now that I'm done, it did not end up being short. One day I'll learn how to just post quick and move on.) even though there was a bunch of great new music.

New release of the week - Pedestrian Verse by Frightened Rabbit

Frightened Rabbit is one of my five or so favorite artists, so there is little doubt that I would enjoy this album. However, just how much I've enjoyed it has caught me a bit off guard. Their 2008 album "Midnight Organ Fight" has an argument as my favorite album ever (along with M. Ward's "Post-War"). In 2010 I named "The Winter of Mixed Drinks" my second favorite album of the year, so you can see that expectations were sky high for me. Despite that, this album fits very well within those expectations.

For those that don't know, Frightened Rabbit is a Scottish indie rock band. I can't remember where I read it, but lead singer Scott Hutchison said he wrote "pedestrian verse" on the cover or a notebook that he used for the lyrics to this album. Seeing that motivated him to avoid trite lyrics. As he explained it, if you call your album "Pedestrian Verse" and the lyrics really are pedestrian, you'll be called out on it. The first line on the album is "I am that dickhead in the kitchen giving wine to your best girl's glass," so I'd say he has avoided regurgitating generic lyrics at the very least. The delivery of his lyrics in that wonderful Scottish accent mean he probably could spout pedestrian verses and I'd still enjoy it. Fortunately that's not the case.

The album is full of potential favorite songs (like both of their last two albums were). Early on, I'm really enjoying "The Woodpile," "The Oil Slick," "State Hospital," and "Holy." My favorite song on "The Midnight Organ Fight" has probably changed dozens of times, so I'm sure if you ask in a couple weeks I'd give you a different list of favorites. Here are three songs from the album if you want to sample it:

Runner-up of the week - Regions of Light and Sound of God by Jim James

This is the first full-length released by Jim James (lead singer of My Morning Jacket, member of Monsters of Folk) under his own name. While I've always enjoyed My Morning Jacket, it has never been a band that I got too into. This album may make me go back and spend some more time with those older albums though because it is just growing on me more and more with each listen.

Most importantly though, everyone should take a few minutes to watch this performance of "A New Life" by Jim James on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. He is backed by The Roots along with a string section and perhaps some other additions as well. The steady build of the song and adding of more members along with the camera/light/whatever else work is amazing. I know Jimmy Fallon can rub some people the wrong way (I used to dislike him but have since been converted), but what he and The Roots are doing with music on their show is fantastic. They refuse to just do what everybody else is doing, and it's great for music / tv. I can't think of another show that would give you a performance like this.

Miscellaneous Links, News, and Notes

* Over the weekend I finally got around to watching Searching For Sugar Man, an Academy Award nominee for best documentary this year. I'll probably write a longer post about it later, but for now I highly recommend checking out the film and the soundtrack. As good as the movie was, the soundtrack is even be better (it's only $5 on Amazon right now). It's a shame Rodriguez never took off as an artist and that we are limited to only two of his albums.

* This weekend, I went to a local record store and saw Velvet Underground's classic album with Nico and the Andy Warhol banana on the front. However, in this version the banana was green, which caught me off guard. After some Googling on my phone, I found out that this version (called "Unripened") was what was originally presented to the studio and in turn rejected along with the note "You have got to be kidding me". I'm waiting for a record cleaner I ordered to arrive before listening, but it sounds like the tracks are re-ordered and several versions of the songs are a bit noisier / rougher around the edges. Regardless, I'm pretty excited to add this to my slowly growing vinyl collection and to get a chance to hear it soon.

* I agree with a lot of what was said in this post about the cheapening of the music industry. It is well worth a read. Don't worry, it's pretty short.

* Dawes is set to release a new album in April. A few days ago they gave us the first taste of the album:

* Sasquatch Music Festival announced their lineup a couple weeks ago, and it was something to behold (including The Postal Service, Sigur Ros, The xx, The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and just a ton more great acts). Because of this, I expected tickets to sell a bit faster than the couple months it took last year. What I didn't expect was for them to sell out in just over an hour. Here's hoping I can still find a not too expensive ticket on Stub Hub or something and can make my second trip to George, Washington this summer.

Friday, February 1, 2013

This week in music (week of 1/29/13)

The first couple weeks of the year are usually pretty slow in terms of new releases. Outside of the Wooden Wand album that I wrote about a couple weeks ago, not too much has caught my ear. That is until recently when things have really started to pick up.

Album of the week - Hummingbird by Local Natives

I mentioned this album in my last "This week in music" post. At the time, the band had just released the song "Heavy Feet." I still can't get enough of that song in particular, but the rest of the album is wonderful as well. If you're familiar with the band's excellent debut "Gorilla Manor," you're in for a bit of a sonic change. While their last album was full of catchy sing-a-long songs (like "Wide Eyes," "Sun Hands," "Camera Talk," and "Cubism Dream"), this album feels a bit more cohesive as just that, an album. It reminds me more of someone like Grizzly Bear (who I actually haven't gotten that into, but that's beside the point). "Gorilla Manor" had numerous songs that would make me perk up whenever I heard them, but as a whole, the album wasn't one that I really found myself listening to repeatedly. With "Hummingbird," Local Natives seem to have found a way to make an album greater than the sum of its parts. That's not to say there aren't standouts here too, it just takes a little while to find them. Part of it may be that "Heavy Feet" lodged itself in my ears and wouldn't allow me to move on to other songs for a while, but "You & I" and "Breakers" are other standout tracks. The album has been well received pretty universally, and it is for good reason. I've already listened to this album more than any other album this year, and I plan on listening to it quite a bit more in the coming weeks/months.

For the next week plus, you can stream the album here if you want to hear it. Since I already posted "Heavy Feet" a couple weeks ago, here's a taste of the album with the lead track "You & I".

Other albums of interest...

* Amor de Dias had two things going for them that made me check out their new album, "The House At Sea." The first is that one of the members is from the British dream pop group The Clientele. The second, more important, reason is that they released this album on Merge Records, a label that rarely lets me down. Shades of The Clientele are definitely still present (like in that unmistakeable voice), but the album spans all sorts of other genres and styles too. There are folk, . I'll have to listen to it a few more times, but initially, I'm really enjoying it. You can sample a song here, and download it if you enjoy it.

* I just stumbled upon this one today, but the debut EP by Wake Owl is on repeat for me right now. I can't quite put my finger on who it reminds me of (maybe Blind Pilot?), but the mix of country/folk/pop is carried out excellently regardless. You can stream the whole EP from Soundcloud just below.

Misc news, notes, and whatnot...

* A couple days ago, M. Ward / Zooey Deschanel project She & Him announced the release of their third (non-Christmas) album, "Volume 3" due out in May. They also announced a slew of tour dates to accompany the release. In even more exciting (albeit less official) news, the world will be getting a second Monsters of Folk album (M. Ward, Conor Oberst, Jim James, and Mike Mogis supergroup)! 2013 is shaping up to be a good one.

* Pre-release album streams seem to be the new hip thing. It's probably a way to discourage people from illegally downloading leaks. Whatever, the motivation, it's a very welcome trend. Just this past week or so Frightened Rabbit, Jim James (of My Morning Jacket and Monsters of Folk), Eels, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Thao & The Get Down Stay Down all made their albums available for streaming (click the band name to head to the streams).

* Joe Pug posted a live video of his slowed down version of "The Great Despiser." When I saw him perform a couple months ago he told the audience that they wrote the song this way, but when they got into the studio they thought they were Tom Petty and ended up with a more rockin' version. Joe Pug is one of my favorite artists around, so I think both versions are pretty great. Here's the new one:

* Morrissey is currently touring and had to cancel some dates due to what was deemed band member illness at the time. Minneapolis record store The Electric Fetus had the best reaction to the show cancelations on their Twitter and Facebook pages: "Heaven knows Morrissey fans are miserable now." It turns out it was actually pretty serious and Morrissey himself was hospitalized for a bleeding ulcer. Here's wishing him a speedy recovery.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Free (and wonderful) music alert

First up is an artist named Ed Riman, who records under the name Hilang Child. He released his debut EP First Writings (which you can stream or download in the widget below) in November. I just stumbled upon it now after a review on Everybody Taste, but since then I've been returning to it almost daily. The first track "Chaturanga" reminds me a bit of Fleet Foxes. The second track, "At Rhossili," is equally as gorgeous as the first but more sparsely textured outside his voice. As Everybody Taste mentions, its a great winter record, so start listening now while the weather remains chilly and dark. The Hilang Child Facebook page (which somehow has fewer than 100 "likes") mentions a possible second EP in the works. I can't wait to hear it because I will have almost certainly played the heck out of the first one by then. Check it out below.

If you want to check out Hilang Child...


When I haven't been obsessively listening to Hilang Child, I've been obsessively listening to a new song by The Postelles featuring Alex Winston. This track was a discovery from the blog All Things Go. The band apparently released their first album in 2011, but this is the first I've heard them. The below track, "Pretend It's Love," is from their upcoming second album "...And It Shook Me," which will be out in April. The Postelles are a garage rock group from New York whose first album was by a member of The Strokes, but what really makes "Pretend It's Love" work  is the back and forth between lead singer Daniel Balk and guest Alex Winston. I don't know what to expect from the rest of the album when it comes out, but I'm certainly intrigued and will be checking it out as well as looking for previous music by both of these artists. At the very least, they've created an absolute gem of a song in "Pretend It's Love" that is already looking like it could be one of my favorites of 2013. You can stream the track below or download it below.

If you want to check out The Postelles...

Artist website

If you want to check out Alex Winston

Artist website

Monday, January 14, 2013

This week in music (week of 1/8/2013)

I haven't done one of these posts in a while, and this week's is a bit late, but there was a new album and several other things I wanted to mention, so better late than never.

New release of the week - Blood Oaths of the New Blues by Wooden Wand

I took a couple weeks off from listening to new music after burning myself out at the end of last year. The first album of 2013 that I listened to was "Blood Oaths of the New Blues" by Wooden Wand (aka James Jackson Toth), and it was a great way to get back into things. A ton of stuff I loved came out last year and if Wooden Wand is an omen for whats to come, 2013 should be a treat as well.

I'm not familiar with any of Wooden Wand's previous material (and apparently there is a lot of it), but this album mixes americana, folk, and country with rock and blues elements. Right away you know this isn't your typical record. The album opener, "No Bed for Beatle Wand / Days This Long" kicks off at almost 12 minutes long and plays for more than three minutes before the vocals join. In this day and age of short attention spans and instant gratification it takes a lot of confidence in what you're doing to start an album like that. Once the lyrics do come in, he sings "Nothing's for certain, but I know a girl who's perfectly worth waiting for," summing up the wait for his vocals at the same time. The second track, "Outsider Blues" chronicles a trip to a blues festival with a woman named Christie and is a true lyrical treat. "Jhonn Balance," the second to last on the album is another favorite, but the album isn't really meant to be listened to in single form. Here's a track to get a taste of the album, but I highly recommend just playing the whole thing on Spotify (or whatever your preferred method is) and then repeating that process over and over until 2013 gives us our next gem of a release.

If you want to check out Wooden Wand further, here are some links:

Band website
Album on Amazon

Miscellaneous Links, News, and Notes

* Local Natives released another new track, and based on that and the strength of their last album, I'm really looking forward to their next album.

* Telekinesis (aka Michael Benjamin Lerner) also released a new track this past week. Like Local Natives, I'm really excited for his album Dormarion to come out (due 4/2).

* Father John Misty, who released one of my favorite albums of last year, may have already been part of one of my favorite live performances of 2013. This (NSFW) version of R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" is just wonderful.