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Archive for 2012|Yearly archive page

Love Greatly

In Folk, Soul on March 4, 2012 at 5:33 pm


Where to begin. A thing happened in Virginia Beach, VA in mid February that doesn’t usually happen in Virginia Beach, VA, regardless of the time of year.  It was a living room show, a potluck, a gathering of singing, songwriting friends, which seems normal enough. But there was also a laptop computer, running dutifully, and a microphone to capture these moments, as pristine as they are raw.  Squeaking strings, some slightly off their intended tuning, knocks at the front door, crowd banter in the background, they all combine to create this world of intimacy and realness.

On a project like this, you might expect some clunkers, but you will not get any here. You might expect a general ceiling on how good the best songs might be, too. Wrong again. Instead, this collection serves to shine a light on a few truly amazing songs that will be resonating through my speakers for an indefinite amount of time.

Ian Thornton has to be considered the highlight of the bunch. His rough-hewn old soul voice and fingerpicked guitar arpeggiations hypnotize with ease. They sweep and swirl with slow-burning emotional restraint and with the aplomb of a seasoned road warrior.  I will now be requiring a full-length recording immediately, thank you. Twins Jenni & Jessi Hunt provide another transcendent moment with “Subject to Sink”. Two members of a 9-member folk-singing family band The Hunts, they stepped on their own to the forefront here with this beautiful duet.

Listen and enjoy:


The album is as cheap as free and as expensive as you deem worthy.
[get it here]

“Lost in the Light”

In Folk, Indie, Soul on January 31, 2012 at 3:43 pm

A sleepy, smoky bar. Tall tables and ashtrays, scattered and half-full. A few barflies bellied up, backs turned to the stage. A golden guitar appears before the microphone.  The speakers bark as the cord slides home and one of the silent strangers glances over at the guitar. A pale hand grips the fretboard, its partner poised above the pickups. Twang, CHK, twang, CHK. Every chord, a heartbeat. Every heartbeat, a breath. Every breath, an ascension. Bar stools slowly swivel towards the spotlights. The barkeep has stopped sweeping up yesterday’s dust, his hands and chin resting on the end of the broom. The golden guitar speaks softly. Twang, CHK, heartbeats align, the room breathes in, the room breathes out.  The beats, the breaths, and the dust the only sounds, cutting away the darkness.

Bahamas is the soundchild of Feist’s touring guitarist, Toronto’s Alfie Jurvanen. Barchords is out February 7th on Brushfire Records. Stream the whole thing over at Paste.

White Rabbits “Heavy Metal”

In hype, Indie, Pop, Rock on January 30, 2012 at 4:32 pm


I couldn’t not post this new track from White Rabbits, because the video is super rad and the song might be even better. These guys have come a long way since their Cold War Kids-esque “Percussion Gun” period. Here the beat slips into a slick groove and never comes back out, the perfect hype track that leaves you wanting so much more. Their third long-player Milk Famous drops on March 6th.

Download “Heavy Metal” here free.

[via mp3med/npr]

Gayngs vs. Romy & Michelle

In Bon Iver, Soundtrack on January 25, 2012 at 3:36 pm


Gayngs – Cry – This project isn’t new, but I’m finally listening to Jagjaguwar uber-band Gayngs.  Members of Bon Iver, Megafaun, The Rosebuds, and Solid Gold combine with rappers, songstresses, and a jazz sax player to create a 69bpm experiment in sound and collaboration.  The record, as you’d imagine, is pretty schitzo, but the successful moments are pretty special.  At the moment, I’m substituting this song for “Time After Time” at the end of Romy & Michele [watch it, muted, as you listen to this song].  It’s a beautiful, lurching slow dance. Time dragged to nearly to a halt. The camera spins, panning slowly across a sea of friends, then starts to ascend. As the screen fades to black I wonder to myself if everything in the world is suddenly right, or gone woefully wrong? [from Relayed|buy]

Listening Assignments 1.17.12

In Uncategorized on January 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm

1. Jim Guthrie – So Small – intimacy. delicacy. aplomb. whimsy. harmony. eloquence. this one is for you, Jeff. Love you, buddy. [from Now, More than Ever|buy]
2. Haywood – Plow – Wow, this song is 10 years old, a fact that I find easy and hard to believe simultaneously.  I miss music like this. It’s hard to believe I’m 29. This song is about plowing snow, but it doesn’t have to say so lyrically for you to feel it. Maybe it’s that Weakerthans-esque air lying coldly between the lines, the sparse arpeggiation of a clean guitar, the simple and straightforward vocals speaking warmly into your ear. A tribute to a memory frozen in time. [from We Are Amateurs, You and I|buy]
3. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – How Can You Love Me? – ahh, another unfair omission from my top 25. I was rather sloppy this year, wasn’t I? Oh well, no regrets. Neo-funk, squished through two tinny 1” speakers. Old becomes new, love becomes lost, fuzz becomes clear. It’s short and sweet, but bordering on profound. [from Unknown Mortal Orchestra|buy]
4. Bon Iver – Beth/Rest (piano version) – If the past is any indication, the closing track from every Bon Iver record will continue to be sprawling epics of raw emotion that will destroy me, each in their own little ways. The album version has gotten flak for being too Journey/Bruce Hornsby, but I’d consider myself a Journey/Bruce Hornsby fan, so… This version reveals just how amazing the song actually is. Gone are the electric keys and saxophones, the layered vocals and undecipherable falsettos. What remains can only be described as beautiful. [from Bon Iver|buy]

25 Songs: 2011

In Uncategorized on January 15, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Every year, I look back at previous years’ lists and without fail I’ll see a song that I had at #63 that, over time, has definitely wiggled its way into the top 20 for that year. There are often top-15 songs that have fallen completely off my radar. These things happen. It’s an emotional, subjective, impulsive and inexact science. With the birth of our now-11-month-old daughter Asher in February, our month-long move from Norfolk to Portland in December, and a hundred little things in between, the blog has obviously grown fallow. I’ve listened to less music (or, at least, had less time to discover new music) this year than any previous year of this blog. I listened to my favorite songs and albums a LOT. The other stuff, notsomuch. Instead of 80+ tracks, I’m just going to give you 25 of my favorites. It’ll be shorter, sweeter, and hopefully you’ll find some gems of your own along the way. Hope you enjoy…

[Listen to the whole thing on a Spotify playlist here]

**added 1/16: Gotye – Somebody I Used to Know – This was my fifth-most listened to track of 2011, but somehow never ended up in my ‘Best of’ playlist that I compile over the course of the year. And then I forgot about it yesterday. The list is the list, so I’m not going to kick anyone out, but I thought I’d mention it. If you just found out about Gotye this year, you can read two pieces I did on him back in 2007 [here and here]**

25. The Civil Wars – Poison & Wine
24. Theophilus London – Why Even Try (RAC remix)
23. The Forms – Steady Hand
22. Jamie Woon – Waterfront [listen]
21. Kavinsky & Lovefoxxx – Night Call
20. NewVillager – Lighthouse
19. The Lonely Forest – Turn Off This Song and Go Outside
18. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Morning Thought
17. Mute Math – Cavalries
16. Son Lux – All the Right Things
15. Gillian Welch – The Way It Will Be
14. Wye Oak – Civilian
13. David Bazan – Virginia
12. M83 – Midnight City
11. The Hood Internet – Without Kimmi (Usher vs. Twin Sister) [listen]

10. Keegan DeWitt Thunder Clatter | there’s a giddiness about this song and I quite enjoy. It smacks of bright raindrops on rooftops, of children spinning hands-held around a fire. The guitar was giggling; the leaves were rustling; it was written in the fall…

9. Penguin Prison Don’t Fuck With My Money | it seems every year, I go gaga for a Prince wannabe (Fyfe Dangerfield and The-Dream in 2010, Sam Sparro in 2008) and PP is this year’s entrant. It’s simple, really. Just take some emphatic synth, a booty-wiggling beat, some uber-exuberant vocals, and a ridiculously catchy chorus and you’ve got $$$. And don’t fuck with it!

8. Phantogram Don’t Move | every little thing clicks in this song, even the click itself at the end of every measure. Random samples come together in harmony. Electrofuzz can be a little annoying and in-your-face these days, but this is decidedly restrained and refined, plus it’ll make your toes want to tap in defiance of the song’s title.

7. James Vincent McMorrow We Don’t Eat | despite all the hype James Blake received this year, I prefer the raspy bare soul of this scraggly-bearded Irishman. A single piano note resounds throughout, lending context to the growth around it. [listen]

6. Miracle Fortress Everything Works | i do not fault (and rather enjoy) Miracle Fortress’ usual dreamy harmonized, beach boys-meets-the-clientele fair, but this is decidedly more straight-forward. With a beat, an arpeggiation, a hand-clap, and an overt channeling of Talking Heads, magic can happen. [listen]

5. Bon Iver Holocene | descriptions for Justin Vernon’s frigid falsetto folk have long since passed the point of hyperbole. He’s revealed before that he writes some songs mad-libs style, plugging in words for no other reason than because they sound good. Sometimes the multi-tracked whisp-like vocals unravel just enough to render the lyrics unintelligible anyway. But sometimes, there’s a line, or a word, or a breath, that cuts through the fog, through my skin, through my heart. And I realize the rest just doesn’t matter.

4. Scattered Trees Bury the Floors | Nate Eiesland has sung eloquently about grandparents passing before. I don’t know exactly what he’s speaking about here, but all I can think about is my own grandmother.  I imagine the pace-like tambourine to be her footsteps alongside mine. I can’t help but be moved by the melodically droning organ, the gravelly crescendo of harmonies, and “the stars, the stars, and the light on your face, replace the words on a page, to remind me, to remind me of…” [listen]

3. Beyonce 1+1 | before she debuted this song on Idol, Beyonce introduced it as “her favorite song” and I’ve got to admit that it’s mine too (of hers, anyway). Co-written by The-Dream (figures), it’s simply an incredibly moving expression of emotion from one of the signature voices of our generation.  This is “I Will Always Love You” with some serious gravitas. Kevin Costner would have had no shot with this lioness.

2. Bombay Bicycle Club Shuffle | “once you get the feeling, it wants you back for more…” this song put ants in my pants and made me do the boogie dance (all the way to france?). The recurring piano sample, the babbling bass and dancing vocals, the swirling insistence of it all literally propel me towards euphoria. [listen]

1. Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues | from the first furtive strum to final sigh of the guitar, this song spins gold from the plain straws of our common existence and laying claim to a place amongst its tiny recesses. Even in my heart, I could never have as accurately expressed the doubt and wonder at my future as this song so easily and beautifully does. [listen]

*view my lists for 20102009, 2008, 2007, and 2006.