song obsession friday! (for the last week in January)

January 27th, 2012

This is the second in the relaunch of the song obsessions posts, two and a half years after my last regular song obsession post.

Song obsessions are those songs that get stuck in your head. This series of posts isn’t about what I or the other panel members think is best, but what our brain latches onto, those ear worms that loop around and around in your head.

Adrian (me):
Tyler Lyle – The Wine Maker’s Love Song (mp3) (buy)

On Heather’s suggestion I checked out this album and I’ve been hooked. It’s almost too earnest and almost too much of a snapshot–the story goes that it was recorded in one day after a break-up and before moving across the country–but as long as my cynical side is at bay even a little bit, I’m on board with these melodic and wonderful songs. And the banjo doesn’t hurt either.

Sean Kingston – Beautiful Girl (video)

Sometimes earworms are not the best songs; they’re just catchy. I don’t hate this song, but I don’t love it either. However my girlfriend’s shampoo is “Beautiful Curls” which has gotten me singing this song/ a slight parody in my head a lot recently.

Natalie:

Noah Gunderson – Ledges (live) (mp3) (unreleased song, buy other songs by the artist)

I was lucky enough to see this house concert while visiting Seattle a few weeks ago. Noah Gundersen is one of my new favorite artists, and since this house show, I haven’t been able to stop listening to his music. This is the song that most often hums in my brain.

Andy:
Molina and Johnston – Almost Let You In (mp3) (buy)

For me, this song is the standout on the Molina/Johnson record. Every bit of the production is perfect. Every sound contributes to the atmosphere of sparse loneliness. I love the guitar sound, the piano, the understated kick drum, and especially the harmonies. It’s a simple, beautiful song.

Keith:
Industry – State of the Nation (mp3) (buy)

A favorite sub-genre of authentic new wave is the anti-war/nuclear paranoia song. Not just because every band delved into this pot, but because it takes superior skill to polish up a strident political message with a pop radio sheen. This obsesso-worthy example dares you to care about the message in the music, as the bubbly synths and popcorn lite chorus dress up a thanklessly bitter defense for the cannon fodder.

Dave:

The Black Keys – Gold on the Ceiling (mp3) (buy)

This foot tapping, hand clapping, head bobbing ear-worm has just about everything that usually gets me obsessed with a song. Danger Mouse’s production brings a fullness of sound that is a long way from The Black Keys’ early albums, but is welcome evolution, taking them in new directions without forsaking their signature rawness. This song is still just good ol’ Rock ‘n Roll.

Also of note, a photo of mine is featured on NPR’s website. It’s a worthwhile list to check out anyway.

song obsession relaunch

January 13th, 2012

Two and a half years after my last regular song obsession post I’ve decided to relaunch the series, this time as an every-two-weeks affair. I just found it was a great way to ask my friends and fellow music fans what they’re really obsessing about at the moment.

Song obsessions are those songs that get stuck in your head. This series of posts isn’t about what I or the other panel members think is best, but what our brain latches onto, those ear worms that loop around and around in your head.

Adrian (me):
Frightened Rabbit – Music Now (mp3) (buy)

I have about two hours a day on public transit and walking and sometimes I’ll just select one artist on my ipod and just keep listening till I get sick of them. The other day I listened to Frightened Rabbit until song 42 (out of 67)–after Daytrotter, Liver! Lung! FR! and Midnight Organ Fight but before The Winter of Mixed Drinks–and when I heard this song, I just got stuck on it. The beginning chant is so insistent and immediate. It’s almost demanding:”I demand music now.” I do, too! Thanks for delivering it, Scott and co.

Sandy:
Carly Maicher – Worry (mp3) (buy)

This track is my current song obsession due to it being such a surprisingly rich & rewarding recording. Not having any previous knowledge of Maicher and then hearing the album “out of the blue”, I immediately pined for a back catalog of albums just to have more from this young Canadian talent.

The Track “Worry” with it’s steady cadence supplied by the “beat” via acoustic guitar, the track is purposeful and it leads you along it’s 3 minute lament easily. Maicher’s powerful vocals in contrast with the stark acoustic track brings the right amount of juxtaposition to not allow you to brush the song into the background but focus on it front and center. I recently had the opportunity to see Maicher in a very intimate house show and the album, and this song especially (which opened her ‘set’), truly blew me away. When the subtle finger picked banjo comes in just past the midway point, it clinches it for me. This album is a must have, let “Worry” be your invitation to it.

Natalie:
Sleeping at Last – January White (mp3) (buy)

There’s a bit of an Arcade Fire urgency to this song, but the thing that got my attention was the line, “The past will be the past/But the future is brighter than any flashback.” It’s the perfect song to start out a new year, even if there’s not a lot of January White in San Diego. (hat tip to Adam of SongsForTheDay)

Andy:
Milo Greene – Silent Way (mp3) (buy)

I heard Milo Greene as part of a year-end segment on All Things Considered. The NPR Music interns were discussing their favorite songs that had not been featured on the show. One of the interns chose “1957,” which I found fairly catchy. After listening to their 4-song EP on bandcamp, I found I really enjoyed “Silent Way.” Lots of reverb, some banjo, a great loose snare sound, and good boy/girl harmonies. More often than not, that’ll do it for me.

Keith:
Yuck – Get Away (mp3) (buy)

Might as well lead this off with my top obsession of 2011, a note-perfect recreation of a Tuesday night opening act for the likes of Small Factory, Dinosaur Jr or Archers of Loaf. Yes, it’s 1992 again and I can smell the cigarette smoke and feel the flannel flying from this modest group of crunchy musicians fraught with furious fuzz pedals, overmodded vocals and erroneous energy. Nostalgia just might mean everything to me.

Shawn:
Red House Painters- Katy Song (mp3) (buy)

I’ve always been a slowcore junkie, but somehow, an honest study of the Mark Kozelek catalog had heretofore escaped me. I’ve started at the beginning, as that tends to be a good place to start — and although the vast majority of their first eponymous album compels me, there’s something that absolutely grabs and holds me in Katy Song. Whether it’s the meandering arpeggios of the first few verses that pair seamlessly with the (apparently) trademark pathos of Kozelek’s glacial prose, or the delayed wall of guitars that drive the endless outro, something demands a trip back to the beginning for another ride around. “Can’t go with my heart / When I can’t feel what’s in it” might be a ham-fisted line in any other song, but it’s hard to deny when sandwiched here amongst so much other heartfelt construction. In other words, it’s a sublime composition from which my ears most likely will never tire.

Real Estate – Wonder Years (mp3) (buy)

I have a hard time listening to the “new musics”; for those keeping score at home, that’s any song written after 2005. And I don’t throw the word “timeless” around very often (though obviously, I’m a spendthrift when it comes to “air” “quotes”), but something about the most recent record by Real Estate has wormed its way into my cold, conservative iPod of a heart — and it’s driven most notably by the timeless refrains found in Wonder Years. There’s nothing here that you couldn’t find on any number of records penned in any number of decades, and yet their assembly of loose guitar pop somehow comes together in a manner without much parallel amongst the band’s many, many peers. “No I’m not okay / But I guess I’m doing fine” refuses to leave my brain, demanding to be sung under my breath as I undertake virtually any daily activity. My mind is not blown but comforted when I queue this song for yet another listen; rather than fade out, I wish the outro would cycle forever.

Wow, what a great way to start off the relaunch. I hope you enjoy these tracks!

top song obsessions for 2011

January 9th, 2012


The Tree Ring @ San Diego Women’s Club by Natalie Kardos. The Tree Ring top my list of top song obsessions for 2011. Frontman Joel P West also appears on the list.

Song obsessions are those songs that your brain picks for you, those ear worms that get stuck in your head and have you singing them to yourself or going back to hit repeat on your ipod. I like the idea of reporting what my brain got stuck on each year. Here’s the list of the songs that were stuck in my head the most in 2011.

If you want to read through past years’ lists, here are my top song obsessions from 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007.

  1. The Tree Ring – Wore It Deep (mp3) (buy)

    Wore It Deep (The Tree Ring) from Destin Daniel Cretton on Vimeo.

    From the first time I saw this video, I was in love with this song. It’s beautiful and calm, yearning and plaintive. Lovely, somewhat abstract lyrics. “The morning sang slowly to a different tune// With the sky tired in a blustery blue// We woke up tired and blustery too.” The video is something to talk about as well, with the light coordination and confetti snowfall all timed to perfection.

  2. Adele – Someone Like You (mp3) (buy)
    In some ways this seems like an attempt to capture the magic of her previous album closer, “Hometown Glory”, but in some ways it’s a completely different song, with much more pain in it. Here she captures something universal about lost love without seeming trite or chiche. (Be sure to watch her performing a knock-out rendition on the VMAs.)
  3. Bon Iver – Holocene (mp3) (buy)
    One of my most anticipated albums of the year was Bon Iver. While it was almost guaranteed to not be the transformative album that For Emma, Forever Ago was, it is a great album. This song is clearly the strongest on the album with all the qualities that make Bon Iver great. I’ve spent many hours sitting on my couch while this song spins around on the turntable.
  4. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – Parallel or Together (mp3) (buy)
    Ted Leo is a gifted man, creating unique songs that fuse the melodies of indie rock with the energy and overall aesthetic of punk. I’m a big fan, but somehow I’d never heard this song until this year. When a friend introduced me to this song, I literally listened to it eleven times in a row. I couldn’t get enough of it on that day; and every time I’ve heard it since, it’s put a smile on my face.
  5. Bombadil – I Will Wait (mp3) (buy)
    There’s something about old hymns like “Be Thou My Vision” and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” that have a draw for me: traditional folk melodies pared with straight-forward but beautifully composed lyrics. The first time I heard this Bombadil track, I thought it sounded old and actually searched around on this point only to find it is a Bombadil original. Just a little haunting and with a beautiful melody, this song had me pressing repeat many times this year.
  6. Archers of Loaf – Harnessed in Slums (mp3) (buy)
    Seeing the reunited Archers, a love of mine from my high school and college days, burn through this song on Jimmy Fallon back in June really got me into this song again (and it made me want to be in a rock band again). Both in the studio version and the Fallon version, Eric Bachmann and company weave distorted guitar guitars together in a soundbed under Bachmann’s choked vocals. Classic indie rock!
  7. Pickwick – The Round (mp3) (buy)
    Perhaps my favorite find of this year is Pickwick. I saw them years ago when they were a mediocre folk band, but they’ve really discovered something interesting in the intervening time with a great soul-pop sound. This is my favorite song of the lot.
  8. The National – Think You Can Wait (mp3) (buy)
    Win Win is an enjoyable film about a lost wrestling coach and a lost kid finding each other and making each other’s lives better. I’m not sure what the National has to do with it, but when I heard this song as the credits rolled, I knew I had to get it.
  9. Hoodie Allen – Joy & Misery (mp3) (download mixtape)
    I liked this Hoodie Allen mixtape and listened to all of it quite a bit, but this song really stuck out. The sampling of both the Cold War Kids’ and Florence and the Machine’s versions of “Hospital Beds” along with Hoodie Allen’s youthful, self-consciously clever rhymes over it had me listening to it over and over.
  10. Ben Franklin Cult – Dirt off Your Locks (mp3) (not for sale, no known artist website)
    I’m not sure what the story with this song is, but its apparently off of a mash-up album pairing Josh Ritter with Jay Z. I didn’t know the original Jay Z song very well, but it fits great over an aggressive sample from Ritter’s “Rattling Locks”. And remember, “Ladies is pimps, too.”
  11. Matt & Kim – Block After Block (mp3) (buy)

    In the early days of Mates of State, I would go see their shows and come out in awe of the joy and fun that was exuded out of them and their instruments during the shows. Few bands have captured that sense since then, but I would watch this Fallon performance, dance around grinning, and repeat.
  12. John Statz – Old Old Fashioned (demo) (mp3) (studio version available soon here)
    John Statz caught my ear this year, but this Frightened Rabbit cover (in demo form, the studio version will be on his forthcoming album Old Fashioned) really cemented it for me. It seems so fast and loose, perhaps recorded for fun, but as the voice at the end says “That’s some sweet shit!” It’s a lovely and new rendering of an already familiar song.
  13. Matt Pond PA – Bring on the Ending (mp3) (buy)
    I listened to Matt Pond PA on and off for most of the first part of the last decade, but somewhere along the way, they slipped off of my heavy-rotation band list and got to the point where I rarely listened to them. Then my friend Shawn toured as their cello player in March–I went to their show to see the band but mostly to hang out with Shawn. During the show I realized there were all these great songs of theirs that I wasn’t listening to. Since then they’ve been back in my rotation, no song moreso than this one.
  14. Lykke Li – Get Some (mp3) (buy)
    The very beginning of this year was dominated by this song. Driving and barely restrained in its urgency, this song was the soundtrack to many solitary walks, workouts at the gym and subway rides to job interviews. Can you do anything after listening to this song? Probably not but try to tell the song that. (Trivia: the song was inspired by Murakami’s Wind Up Bird Chronicle.)
  15. Joel P West – Ocotillo (mp3) (buy)
    Joel P West, who also leads the Tree Ring (and who I have featured before) came out with a nice EP at the end of the year. Once again, beautiful melodies are paired with nice turns of phrase. “The cactus survives just by the dew// And in truth I am mostly water too.” So am I, Joel.
  16. Two Sheds – Let Her Dance (mp3) (unreleased, get it here)
    How great are Two Sheds? I’ve spent a lot of time with their previous album and EP. This year I discovered that they’ve been posting demos and covers. I didn’t know the original oldies song (which is worth checking out), but this is a fun version that had me going back to it over and over again.