Favorited ex.fm Songs

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sam Cooke's birthday

Today would have been soul singer Sam Cooke's birthday were he still alive. He has long been one of my favorites, so now seems as good a time as any to listen to a few of his songs. Enjoy!

First, one of his most well-known songs, the civil rights anthem "A Change Is Gonna Come." Allegedly he was inspired to write the song after hearing Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind."

Here's a short clip of him performing "You Send Me" on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Lastly, it may not be the best quality, but I love this cover of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind"

And as an added bonus, here is Colin Meloy (of The Decemberists) covering "Cupid" along with Laura Gibson.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Musical globetrotting

One of my favorite music things on the internet is the monthly mix from the Music Alliance Pact, which is a group of around 30 music blogs from different countries across the world. Once a month, each blog picks a song from an artist in their country, and all the songs get put together into a big mix that can be downloaded for free. The most recent one is here. I've fallen way behind on these posts, but I wanted to highlight some of my favorites that I've run across recently. They serve as a pretty great reminder that awesome music is being made all over the world.

* The awesomely named Anarchicks are a four-piece female group from Portugal. The band can rock as evidenced by the track "Restraining Order." I love the guitar on this track. They also have a free cover of The Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" over on Soundcloud that you can get here.

* On Your Horizon is a Turkish post-rock band similar to Explosions in the Sky. You can download a free five song EP here. The first track is below if you want a taste of it. I love music like this or Explosions in the Sky for when I'm studying. I love it the rest of the time too, but particularly then.

* And from down-under, we've got Courtney Barnett. Australian music blog Who The Bloody Hell Are They? (also awesomely named) describes the below track as "a perfect summary of the earnest freewheelin' and rambling wit that makes music from this end of the world just so great." As a bonus, I've included a newer track of hers called "Avant Gardener" as well. The cadence of the vocals remind me a bit of Foxygen's album from last year and the song ambles along similarly to Kurt Vile's excellent release.

* The Fundamics are a Finnish funk/hip hop group. I don't usually associate funk/hip hop with Finland, but with the world being so connected, anyone anywhere can make any type of music, which is a lot of fun. They have a full album that can be downloaded for free from Soundcloud. I particularly enjoy this instrumental track though:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Music Roundup - Mary Lambert, First Aid Kit, and more

One of my goals for 2014 is to post a bit more often on this blog. That may mean more miscellanea posts such as this one.

* Back in July of 2012 I wrote about Macklemore's same sex marriage anthem "Same Love." Mary Lambert, who sings the chorus of the song, adapted that chorus into a full song of her own, and it is absolutely gorgeous. She recently performed the song, titled "She Keeps Me Warm," for NPR, and here's the video.

* Nick Waterhouse released an excellent debut album in 2012 that wouldn't have sounded out of place if it had been released 50 years ago. If the first track off his sophomore album, "This Is A Game," is any indication, he's ready to build on that success.

* This blog is slowly turning into a Charles Bradley blog, but he keeps releasing things I want to post, so oh well. The most recent of these is Charles Bradley's cover of the Black Sabbath tune "Changes." I'm unfamiliar with the original, but I'm pretty confident it sounds nothing like Bradley's version. I mentioned this song in my write up about his album, but I wanted to get a chance to embed it, so here it is.

* And last but certainly not least, First Aid Kit posted a cover of themselves performing "On The Road Again" in honor of their upcoming tour. The Swedish sisters made my favorite album of 2012, and I'll take any excuse I can get to post more of their amazing folk/country music.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

My Favorite Albums of 2013 (1-10)

If you missed the first two installments of this list, here are a couple links: 11-20 and 21-30. The ten albums that are left are all albums that I grew to love over the course of 2013. At one point or another, each of these albums had me obsessed and listening to it repeatedly.

10) Josh Ritter - The Beast In Its Tracks

This is my favorite Josh Ritter album since his incredible 2006 album "The Animal Years." The album was written in the wake of his divorce to fellow singer/songwriter Dawn Landes (who has her own album coming out in February). Rather than writing a "woe is me," vindictive album, Ritter has managed to write an album that is introspective, honest, hopeful, and often times funny. "New Lover" hits all of these themes as he looks back on his past relationship while musing on a new one. Throughout the song, he wishes his ex well, hoping she's found someone new to treat her well. However, before the song ends he admits "if you're sad and you are lonesome and you've got nobody true, I'd be lying if I said that didn't make me happy too." Breakups are tough.

9) J. Roddy Walston and The Business - Essential Tremors

This list spans quite a few genres, but I tend to gravitate toward folk-y stuff a lot. However, if you're looking to rock, look no further than J. Roddy Walston and The Business. Essential Tremors is an album full of rockin' guitars, forceful drums, pounding piano, and Walston's howling and shrieking. This is a foot stomping album to be sure. This album was my first time hearing J Roddy Walston and The Business, but I imagine the band puts on an incredibly fun live show. One newpaper wrote that the band's live shows "make James Brown look lazy." I'm thinking I'll have to try to get to one of those in 2014.

8) John Moreland - In The Throes

John Moreland has written several other albums, but this was my first exposure to the Tulsa, Oklahoma native, and I am a full on convert now. In The Throes is an incredible folk/americana album with great songs from beginning to end. His lyrics are a big part of what makes the album great. Because of that, the album may take a few listens to sink in, but it's well worth it. Fortunately Moreland's talent seems to have been recognized somewhat in 2013 as the year saw him opening a small handful of shows for Jason Isbell and getting a couple of his songs ("Gospel" and "Your Spell") featured on the show Sons of Anarchy. In addition to those two songs, "Nobody Gives A Damn About Songs Anymore" and "Oh Julia" are two more favorites of mine. Here's to hoping John Moreland keeps making incredible music and being rightfully recognized for doing so.

7) Suburban Dirts - A Tiny Little Island In The Big Bad Sea

I've written about Suburban Dirts a few times on this blog and for good reason since they keep putting out excellent music. Last year, I ranked the band's debut album as my 10th favorite of the year. I had assumed they'd play a bunch of shows this year, maybe put out an EP, and get ready for another album in 2014 or 2015 like most bands would. Well it turns out they aren't like most bands because instead they released a second full length that I like even more than their impressive debut. You can read more of my review of the album here but the short story is that they mix folk, rock, blues, and country as well as just about anyone else around. A Tiny Little Island In The Big Bad Sea is an absolute treat of the album. If you enjoy what you hear from the preview below, please support them and buy their music so they can continue to do what they do so well.

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

The second album from the New York quartet features an album full of hook-heavy rock/pop songs that are a joy to sing along to. This album is a really fun road trip record with song after song of catchy choruses that can be belted out. In their review of the album, AllMusic sums up the album better than I could hope to, saying "what impresses isn't the hooks themselves but how The Postelles craft the riffs and melodies into songs, how they retain a brightness to their punch without ever seeming saccharine, how they seem to celebrate exuberance, not detachment." My favorite tracks are "Pretend It's Love," "Caught By Surprise," and "Running Red Lights."

5) Kurt Vile - Wakin On A Pretty Daze

This may be the antidote to the cheeriness on The Postelles record, but man is it good. Over half the songs on this record surpass the six minute mark, several going well past it. Vile's style has been referred to as "slacker rock" but that in no way does justice to the precision that somehow seems to underlie the rambling nature of the songs. The album opener, "Wakin On A Pretty Day" is probably the song I became most obsessed with this year. Somehow despite being almost 10 minutes long it always seemed too short. The lyrics, combined with Vile's delivery, have made me actually chuckle out loud at times with lines like "Rising at the crack of dawn, I gotta think about what wise crack I'm gonna drop along the way today" and "Phone ringing off the shelf, I guess somebody has something they really wanna prove to us today." Really though, my review won't be able to do justice to this song or this record. I recommend you find a way to listen to it on headphones while wandering through a city. Somehow that's when it always seemed most perfect to me.

4) Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse

The Scottish indie rocker's Midnight Organ Fight is perhaps my favorite album ever and their follow up, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, was my second favorite album of 2010. That is to say that expectations from me are sky high whenever they put out new music. Fortunately, Frightened Rabbit are up to the task and have put out another incredible album of indie rock with excellent lyrics and Scott Hutchison's infectious Scottish accent. This is probably the band's most polished sounding record to date (and their first on a major label) and it shows that they are able to adapt while still retaining what makes them so good. The album closer "The Oil Slick" is my favorite song off the record. When I got to see the band live earlier this year, Hutchison told the crowd the song was sort of an apology for some of the things he'd said in other songs. How could anyone stay made at someone who can write lines like "How can I talk about life and warmth? I've got a voice like a gutter in a toxic storm. All the dark words pouring from my throat sound like an oil slick coating the wings we've grown."

3) Sallie Ford and The Sound Outside - Untamed Beast

Over the past couple weeks, I think I've had each of these top three albums in the number one spot for a bit, so the order is pretty arbitrary since I'm sure it'd change in a week. 2013 was a bit of a mixed bag for fans of Sallie Ford and The Sound Outside. Back in  February, Untamed Beast was released, and it has remained in rotation for me all year. According to Last.fm the band is my most played artist over the past year. Ford's voice and attitude are absolutely incredible as she can belt out defiant songs (like "They Told Me" and "Bad Boys") or croon about love (like on "Paris" and "Roll Around") without either sounding out of place or insincere. Unfortunately, a couple weeks ago the band announced they were going their separate ways in 2014. Everything is amicable, but it's sad to see after they put out such an incredible record (as well as a really, really good EP) this year. Sallie Ford has recently put together an all female band and plans to keep making music, so I'll certainly be following along with that.

2) Small Houses - Exactly Where You Wanted To Be

This may be the album I've listened to most this year and it certainly holds a special place for me. Small Houses (aka Jeremy Quentin) has put together a touching folk record that I couldn't help but listen to over and over again. I made my second road trip to Sasquatch Music Festival this summer and after each of the days jam-packed full of music, I found myself returning to my tent and listening to this album on repeat as I fell asleep. There's something comforting and soothing about the composition of these songs that makes me feel at home wherever I am. The only complaint I have about this album is that it comes in at a little under 30 minutes long, which is nowhere near as long as I wish it was. I guess that's why it just finds itself played on loop.














1) Typhoon - White Lighter

This is just an absolutely incredible album from the 14-piece Portland, Oregon band. There is so much to love on this album that I don't really know where to begin. Many of the lyrics are inspired by lead singer, Kyle Morton's battle with Lyme disease that caused several of his organs to fail and led to his dad giving him a kidney. Many of the songs muse on life and death in its many forms, including "Possible Deaths" sees Morton singing that "every star is a possible death." However, the lyrics are just icing on a delicious musical cake because I didn't know any of the back story when I had already fallen in love with this album. Instead it was the sounds that this 14-member band was putting together (again without me realizing they had that many members). They show all sorts of restraint, never forcing more into a song than belongs there but filling up your ears with enough to keep you discovering new things with each new listen. Several songs caught me off guard when I first listened, bucking the expectations my ears had grown to expect by employing different time signatures. It's rare to hear an album that simultaneously challenges you and satisfies you at the same time. This may all just be rambling at this point, but I highly recommend this album to anyone unfamiliar with it. Make sure you listen a few times and make sure you aren't too distracted while you do because there is just a ton to like.


So that's the list, my 30 favorite albums of 2013. I'd love to hear what other people enjoyed, either that I'm missing or that they agree with. I've made a Spotify playlist of all 30 albums if you want to listen to them. You can find that by clicking ---> here.

As with the last two posts, here are a few songs from albums 1-10 to get a taste of them. I think all of these are all best listened to from beginning to end though. At least one song ("Bad Boys" by Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside) is possibly "not safe for work", so bear that in mind.

And since I can't find Kurt Vile on Soundcloud...

There was a lot of music to love in 2013, and I'm already looking forward to several 2014 releases.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My Favorite Albums of 2013 (11-20)

I know it's 2014 now, but I'm gonna focus on 2013 for just a couple days more. If you missed albums 21-30, you can find them here. As of this moment, a bunch of these albums can be downloaded over at Amazon for only $5, so check that out if you're looking to buy any of them. Otherwise, it's on with the list!

20) Telekinesis - Dormarion

Dormarion is the fourth full-length album released by Michael Benjamin Lerner under the name Telekinesis. By now, the Seattle native has figured out how to mix indie rock and power pop to craft songs that beg to be sung along with. The album opener "Power Lines" lulls you into thinking your speakers somehow got turned down somehow before cranking up the noise a little over a minute in. Additional fun fact: if Wikipedia is to be believed, his dad voiced Fox McCloud in Star Fox 64 game.

19) Wooden Wand - Blood Oaths of the New Blues

I wrote about Wooden Wand in my first post of 2013. As I said then, this is just a really nice americana/folk/country album. The track "Outsider Blues" shows off James Jackson Toth's knack for storytelling/song writing and is one of my favorite songs of the year.

18) Bastille - Bad Blood

Bastille are an English indie rock band that first came to my attention when I saw they had a song named "Laura Palmer" (a character from the show Twin Peaks). Their synth-heavy debut, Bad Blood, is filled with catchy, anthemic songs. "Laura Palmer," "Pompeii," "Icarus," and "Flaws" are some of my favorite tracks.

17) CHVRCHES - The Bones of What You Believe

Number 17 is another synth-heavy band releasing their debut LP. CHVRCHES (pronounced churches) had garnered a good deal of buzz by releasing a couple tracks before this album. Fortunately, The Bones Of What You Believe does not disappoint. "The Mother We Share" and "Recover" are both exceptional songs that were released before the album, but the band has surrounded them with plenty of other enjoyable tracks. This is a band that I imagine we'll be hearing a lot more in the future.

16) Los Campesinos! - No Blues

The enthusiastic Welsh band Los Campesinos! released their 5th full length album in 2013. Time has not sapped any of their energy as No Blues is packed full of songs just bursting at the seams. The band could come off as too cute (they refer to themselves as all having the last name Campesinos!) if their songs weren't so catchy and fun.

15) Local Natives - Hummingbird

This sophomore album from Local Natives is much more dreamy and atmospheric sounding than their debut. The lyrics are largely inspired by the departure of a band member and the passing of a mother of one of the members. These two different forms of loss may have led to a less sunny sounding record than their debut, but it certainly didn't affect the quality of their music.

14) Jason Isbell - Southeastern

How the work of Jason Isbell has slipped past me to this point in my life is beyond me. My new year's resolution may have to be to better familiarize myself with his previous solo output and his work with the Drive-By Truckers because Southeastern was an album that grew on me more and more each time I heard it. The album was recorded after a stint in rehab, and Isbell's twangy guitar perfectly backs emotionally powerful lyrics about his recent sobriety. In the process of writing this, I moved the album four spots up my list. If I revisited this list in another few days it may move up even higher.

13) Har Mar Superstar - Bye Bye 17

I guess this is the "What have I been doing?" section of the list. Despite having released several records and hailing from my home state of Minnesota, I didn't know the music of Har Mar Superstar until checking out Bye Bye 17. It turns out I've been missing out. Sean Tillman may not look the part, but this album is full of really wonderful soul/r&b/pop gems. Make sure to check out "Lady You Shot Me" and "Prisoner."

12) Volcano Choir - Repave

Repave is a gorgeous sophomore album from Volcano Choir (a collaboration between Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and members of the post-rock band Collections of Colonies of Bees). The rest of the band has done a wonderful job surrounding Vernon's voice with sparse guitar, piano, and drums throughout most of the album. Repave didn't click with me right away, but sitting here and just letting the sound wash over me now seems pretty perfect.

11) The Shouting Matches - Grownass Man

Justin Vernon may not be giving us new Bon Iver music anytime soon, but he's sure giving us a lot of other really good stuff. The Shouting Matches is a blues-rock trio consisting of Wisconsin natives Vernon,  Phil Cook (of Megafaun), and Brian Moen (of Peter Wolf Crier). The album is really enjoyable and if you've ever been curious what Vernon sounds like not singing in his falsetto, this record answers that question.

Here's a song from each of the albums so you can get a taste for yourself.

Tomorrow I'll post my top 10 favorite albums from what was a very strong year for music.