Monday, November 30, 2009

if i can find you, you'll be the very best thing i've found

While I was running around preparing to enter into the non-cartoon equivalent of the Cave of Wonders...also known as the Portland airport...I finally stumbled upon an album that would have been of great use to me while wandering the gray and drizzly streets of Oregon. And I found it approximately five minutes before I heaved my suitcase into my aunt's car and dove carry-on first into the doomed pit of despair headed by the TSA. Luckily my iPod was able to cram it in before I had to unplug quite unceremoniously.

When I made it past security, I got out my approved electronic device, turned to Doveman's October released album, The Conformist, and kept walking...up and down concourse C...back down to concourse A...back around the free standing magazine jungles, past the mini-Starbucks whose baristas have to deal with the crankiest of all people, and around and around. I actually set an alarm on my phone to make sure I wouldn't miss my flight. I couldn't stop moving. I felt that if I stopped moving, the music thrumming in my chest and head would make me melt into the oddly mesmerizing turquoise carpet and claim me as its own.

So I kept walking...and kept breathing very slowly...trying intently not to let it show on my face that I had found the exact music that I wanted.

Thomas Barlett's voice never raises above a misty whisper. Matt Berninger's comforting and familiar vocals appear on some choice tracks, along with some other The National players, who owe him after he played keyboards for them so nicely. Norah Jones' contributions took me by surprise, but then again...apparently there was definitely a notable cast of characters on this album. Nico Muhly (who has been a wonderful contributor for both Philip Glass and, on a different note, Grizzly Bear), Sam Amidon, almost all of The National, Glen Hansard, and Martha Wainwright contributed in one way or another.

I love this collage of ringing and quietly capturing music. I love it so much I'm sitting during a layover in Sacramento playing it over and over...feeling like a butterfly with blue skies overhead. I'd recommend listening to the whole darn thing, but to whet your ears...(whet willy?), here are the first two tracks of the album that propelled my legs all over PDX this morning. As Anne Lamott wrote, "How come you can hear one chord, and then another chord, and then your heart breaks open?"

Breathing Out- Doveman

The Best Thing-Doveman

Another stand out track for when you get the WHOLE THING, is Hurricane.

P.S: Doveman recently opened for The Swell Season. Who Josh Ritter is opening for very soon. Maybe I should just start relying on that terribly clever duo for musical recommendations.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

hey rosetta! is awfully swell

I was supposed to see The Swell Season tonight in Denver...but my family decided to make the return trip tomorrow. Instead, I am left to dig around for some mind blowing rock all on my own. So I listened to The Frames... because I wanted to hear Glen Hansard's voice tell me about what he's lost and gained and loved so deeply that even his guitar strains to give meaning to it all. And then...I listened to a band called Hey Rosetta!, that I heard about briefly but never sat down and listened to properly. A friend of mine likened them to The Frames, and I was hesitant to believe that a Canadian rock group could even compare!

(Kidding. I have no anti-Canadian vendetta. I, in fact, love moose. And Dudley Doright. Though you have to admit Snidley Whiplash's mustache qualifies him for Most Dapper and Pointy Bad Guy Ever.)

Hey Rosetta!'s most recent album was put out about a year ago, and when I gave Into Your Lungs a real chance, I was almost sad I missed them instead of Marketa and Glen (who I am still very sad to be missing...don't worry, guys...I'll see you someday).

Tim Baker's raw voice yearns to make us feel what he feels; and he often succeeds. The heavy guitar more often than expected gives way to sweet string breaks, and right when you're lulled into the quiet, a searing riff opens back up into an electrically charged maelstrom of honest to goodness ROCK AND ROLL. And that's just some of what they can do with pure genius. Truly, this album of theirs left me baffled, and happy, and energized, and a little tired. It's exhausting to be taken to a million new places, whizzing through highs and drifting in silence through lows, through sadness and exhilaration...all in under an hour.

So if you're loving Glen Hansard's total musical honesty and presence, I would urge you to give Hey Rosetta! a try. You can't help but love a man who will lay it all out there, show you the callouses burned on his fingers, and tell you that he has rough edges.

(Warning...I have had this song stuck in my head for nigh on two days now. Proceed with caution and well developed air guitar skills.)

I've Been Asleep for a Long, Long Time- Hey, Rosetta!

Friday, November 27, 2009

i'm a bluebird free of my cage...thanks to the avett brothers

There are songs that I wish were written about me.

The obvious one is Kathleen, by the forever brilliant Josh Ritter. But today I am drawn in by my favorite Southern gentlemen...The Avett Brothers. Now their recent release, I and Love and You, totally captured me this fall. Especially Head Full of Doubt. Oh it does slay me. But the song that I wish I inspired is actually from their 2006 album, Four Thieves Gone.

Famous Flower of Manhattan... about a Southern country boy moving to the city and finding a girl so beautiful growing from the sharp edges and right angles of the city. And she softens things. And she makes him feel at home, and real, and she fills him with light. I'm sure he's nice for her, too. But when he thinks of taking her back with him, he realizes that part of her beauty lies with where she chooses to live her life. That urge we all have to bottle up wonder and take it on the airplane almost destroys what we want to have in the first place.

I find this song so gorgeous. It's a true love song. The realization that a person never fits just like your Saturday jeans. Part of love is seeing a person for all they are...including how their indescribable beauty comes from parts of life that you may never understand. And to love someone is to let those sides contribute to the whole person...and to let the whole person never have to compromise what makes them truly radiate in a world of weeping, flickering lights.

Crap, I love The Avett Brothers. Will they never cease to make me stare out a foggy window and feel companionable with the voices swimming into the coves in my heart that hold all the endangered feelings of my being? No. They will never cease. I refuse to let them.

And I found a flower in a field
A field of cars and people; rows of concrete, paint, and steel
Manhattan is where it grew

And I thought to cut it from its stem
And take it from the cracks between bricks that it lay in
And save it from city strife
Away from the city life

Then someone they whispered in my ear
A county girl can't be made out of anybody here
Don't touch it, it loves you not
Don’t touch it, it loves you not

Cause blue birds don't fly without their wings
And when we put them in a cage the world can't hear them sing
So selfish when greed sets in
Possession, the king of sin

And people don't ever let you down
Forever find a way to kill whatever life they've found
A heart beat and I want it too
Manhattan is where she grew

So I left and I let the flower be
And yesterday saw the flower on cable TV
Much prettier than here with me
For all of the world to see
Much prettier than here with me

Though I have never lived in Manhattan, I like to think of myself as a flower stretching toward the sunshine in a place maybe only precious to me. And the fact that some things are only lovely to me makes them even more sacred to my publicized thought patterns.

We're all blossoming exactly where we need to blossom. I refuse to be sold for 10.99 at Safeway. Unless it's to the Avett Brothers. Ten minutes in a vase while they practice might be worth it...if not hypocritical.

Famous Flower of Manhattan- The Avett Brothersk

Thursday, November 26, 2009

up to my neck in whiskey/ up to my neck in wine

I don't know if you could tell by reading this blog, but I am a huge hair metal fan. You know. Poison. RATT. Quiet Riot. Scorpions. And...of course. AC/DC. They cornered the Catholic uniform market far before Britney decided to tie her shirts up in ways that I tried to imitate for most of my pre-pubescent years.

Hair metal and glam rock have actually never really been my bag, baby. So when I heard that Mark Kozelek released an EP last December of mostly covers, I didn't expect the Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon frontman to shock me with his cover choices. I had to see who the delightful songwriter that smoothed over many an abrasive day would choose, though. He chose Bon Scott. A B-Side AC/DC song, no less. But he did what I had hoped he would do. He took the painfully unsubtle tone of the original, and abandoned it to dig deep. What he made turns Up to My Neck in You into a poignant, dreamy, lyric focused song about the things that we think can save us and end up overtaking us.

Well I've been up to my neck in trouble
Up to my neck in strife
Up to my neck in misery
For most of my life
I've been a fool
And you know what a fool can do
I'm telling you
You came along when I needed you
Now I'm up, I'm up to my neck in you
And I've been up to my neck in pleasure
Up to my neck in pain
I've been up to my neck on the railroad track
Waitin' for the train
To cruise on through
Well baby my time is due
Oh it's way overdue
You came along and you pulled me through
Now I'm up, up to my neck in you
Well I've been up to my neck in whiskey
I've been up to my neck in wine
I've been up to my neck in wishing
That this neck wasn't mine
I was a loser
You weren't lost
Baby you were too good, too good to be true
What you've got no one else could do
Now I'm up, I'm up to my neck in you
Yeah you came along when I needed you
Oh I'm up to my neck in you

Up to My Neck in You (AC/DC)- Mark Kozelek

So what am I thankful for today, this great AMERICAN holiday?

I'm not going to tell you. That's not what this post is about. Come on. I'm nothing if not unpredictable.

I'm thankful for new things being built out of old things. For not throwing away the past, but building something real and wonderful and sad and strange and relatable from it.

Also my mom's stuffing.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

he scraped against time/ and time scraped back

There are those days when I just can’t bring myself to get off the front porch steps and into the constant swirl of people and ideas. I’m over stimulated. I’m stretched too thin. The kind of day where I need to remember exactly how to breathe.

It’s lucky that I have a friend who knows how to supply me with instructions on how to do just that. Ryan Rebo, a Seattle native, Montana raised gem of a musician, recently recorded a second EP, Lonely Scientist. When I got to hear it the first time, I felt those braided muscles in my shoulders shiver and release, ending tension that was so on going I had forgotten it was there.

That’s what Lonely Scientist is like. It’s like the outward sigh after a long day. The pint of beer with a buddy who doesn’t mind you being a little run down. And yet, it’s a pat on the back. It makes me feel all right being too tired to dance around, but leaves me more optimistic than ever.

As for the sound; it’s a layered, reaching, subtle thing. Everything reverberates without a cheese factor. Guitar saunters and wanders through melodies that bring you along ever so gently, and occasionally the unexpected sound of a buttery cello will swim above it all. Rebo’s voice stretches over a thoughtful and honest narrative, saying things that are the hardest to say.

Lonely Scientist hasn't been released yet, and I can't wait until it hits the general public. So keep an ear out, and check out his EP Dizzy American, released this summer, in the meantime.

I know we are all approaching the holiday season. It’s a time where we’re bombarded by sparkling lights, and the same eighty songs begging to be appreciated like they are saying something new. And sometimes it’s just too damn hard to be in a toothpaste commercial all the time. If you’re in the sort of mood to be happy without having to try to impress anyone, I invite you to indulge in Ryan Rebo’s music. And also maybe some pumpkin pie.

Now listen to the title track off his unreleased EP, Lonely Scientist.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

and the sweat will roll down our backs

I have no voice. Probably from me yelling at the Broken Lizard show that I was so lucky to see this past week. No matter the reason, I am now at the mercy of my favorite artists to supply what I am feeling with noise and substance and banjo rolls.

Luckily there is no shortage of beautiful surrogates for my static laden vocal chords.

Mountain Man is a band from Vermont... which is actually a state I would have pegged for incubating homespun, apple-pie-with-a-kick-of-whiskey sort of folk rock. I did not think it would come in the form of three women called Mountain Man, but I stand corrected. While I'm standing corrected, you can press play on the song Animal Tracks, listen to the floating and thoroughly potent harmonies, and knock me over with a feather.

Their honesty and rapture with music comes through with each deliberate melodic phrase. They are more than welcome to stay in my ears, and I hope to see them on a porch soon underneath a starry sky so they can hum sweetness into the firefly heavy air once summer mercifully arrives.

Animal Tracks- Mountain Man

Monday, November 16, 2009

freelance whales are better than prozac

I braved the random Colorado snow storm to go see one of my new favorite musical delights, Fanfarlo. And, of course, they were incredible. For more on their penchant for awesome, please see I am Fuel, You are Friends. Worth it.

Normally I am so impatient for the main act I want to help with the set break and get the show on the road, but I was stopped in my nervous energy by a burst of sparkling energy from Fanfarlo's supporting band, Freelance Whales.

From Brooklyn, this multi-instrumental troupe displays a gleeful abandon tempered by some genuine talent. With such a crowded stage (I counted several instruments, each one being played by a different person every song) I was surprised that they didn't A) fall off, or B) suffocate the small venue with a black cloud of noise.

Instead Freelance Whales delivers indie pop with a touch of synthesized goodness, while still providing real, flesh and blood people playing some truly captivating and joyful music. And so, as this band spreads its lovely exuberance before every Fanfarlo dance party, I would implore you to find a show near you to lift some winter sadness, or to dance away a turkey coma you'll find yourself in very soon.

This track, from their positively wonderful new album, Weathervanes, reminds me of Sufjan's playful rhythms and rhyme patterns. Them New York kids know how to make me smile.

Hannah- Freelance Whales

Oh! They totally crocheted their band symbol onto a pin; a tulip. It will grace my cardigan forever. Or until I have to wash it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

some pre-friday preferred listens

I've been sitting on my black hole of a couch with my headphones on for the past couple hours since the dog and cat so rudely decided to wage a battle on top of my head. It's been a few hours of watching the cloudy continents pass across the picture window, and the light throw shadows through the skeleton trees on my block. The right music is key for these cold toe hours.

The XX is a London band that first released their debut this past summer. They stir me. They do things with tension, kick drum and whisper-singing that I can't help but get drawn into. The world seems to slow to the pace of their songs when I stare at the scenes outside.

We live half at night/Watch things on the VCR with me/ And talk about big love


DM Stith's seasonal track, Thanksgiving Moon, is a nice relaxing layered casserole of ambient folk.

Thanksgiving Moon- DM Stith

Take it easy today everyone, I certainly will. No reason to get worked up on a Pre-Friday.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

land of enchantment

You know what music I don't blog about enough?


Bottom line: I'm in New Mexico for another go 'round at this wonderful, quirky, siesta-inducing state until Tuesday.

I lost my iPod for the flight down so I brought my Discman instead (woahretrocool), and I'll tell you the albums I brought.

Fanfarlo- Reservoir
Elizabeth and the Catapult- Taller Children
A. Ballad Nightly- All in Good Time
Via Audio- Say Something

Good stuff!

I'm going to go shake to the maracas.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

your spoon is leaking

Last night I was listening to Taller Children by Elizabeth and the Catapult, a band I've become quite fond of recently. Jim Eno helped produce the title track, and it (of course) turned out like a technicolor dreamworld. I was thinking about how Jim Eno has been quite the helper when it comes to other bands, and I wondered how his main squeeze Spoon was doing. I have been missing Britt's buttery voice slipping from my speakers in unexpected melodies.

Three cheers for this, friends: Transference, their newest album, is set to be released January 26 (just three days before my birthday...awww thanks, Spoon), and a wee sample of the new album has been leaked into the swirling depths of the musical interweb. It starts late and cuts out early, so I wouldn't recommend it for getting a real feel of what Transference is all about (which should undoubtably be awesomeness), but a few live tracks reveal a little more of a hope for Spoon's newest endeavor.

It sounds like the new tracks have continued with persistant, thrumming beats and super-rhythm guitar. I'm pretty excited with just the few things I've heard from it so far, and am having a blast constructing imagined albums from the snippets floating around. My imagination predicts wonderment.

Geez, guys, it's been long enough.

Thanks to Stereogum for the live tracks.

Mystery Zone- Spoon

Is Love Forever? (Live)- Spoon

Writing to You in Reverse (Live)- Spoon

Monday, November 2, 2009

megafaun is megafun

Bwahahaha! No, please don't laugh at the title of this blog. Also don't judge the content based upon my horrifying sense of humor that I clearly genetically inherited from my dad. If I start telling long, drawn out stories about something the neighbor was doing in the backyard feel free to give me a stern talking to.

I was given a link to a new band, Megafaun, a couple weeks ago, and told to listen to a little ditty called Kaufman's Ballad. By "little" I mean "epic," and by "ditty" I mean "sound party." Starting with a banjo roll that took my folk loving breath away, it swept into dreamy vocals that remind me of Simon and Garfunkel having a freaky jam session, or Robin Pecknold and that band of feisty Fleet Foxes.

From North Carolina, this band o' three were first involved with another delightful musical gentleman (read on for more) before they went on and formed this folk explosion. They're gathering speed and an enthustiastic fan base (that now includes me!) with their second album, Gather, Form, and Fly.

Here are some beautiful Megafaun tracks. Including a wonderful, golden, shimmering song from the former band they were in with...Bon Iver (and we all know how he can polish up a sorrowful day into something you can see yourself in) back when they released one EP before splitting up. That one group was called DeYarmon Edison, and though Justin Vernon and the now-Megafaun members went different directions ...they left us some wonderful music, and are still making even more on their own.

This is an age of some rocking electronica, and I accept that. I even love a lot of it. But I maintain that nothing is as good as someone taking instruments that still smell of the ground they grew from, and making a tribute to what came, what is, and what we all hope can be.

Kaufman's Ballad- Megafaun

The Fade- Megafaun

Love Long Gone- DeYarmond Edison