song obsession friday!

March 9th, 2012

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):
The Black Keys – Lonely Boy (mp3) (buy)

The DJ before me on KZSU played the Black Keys in 2004 and I’ve heard them off and on since then, but I’ve really never been impressed with them. The other day, though, I found this song–”I’ve got a love that keeps me waiting//I’m a lonely boy”–stuck in my head for hours at a time. And then I saw this video for the first time, and, wow. It’s just amazingly charming. Derrick Tuggle, you’re a champion.

The Lumineers – Slow It Down (mp3) (download it with subscription)

“Slow it Down” by The Lumineers from Look Sessions on Vimeo.

Natalie’s pick last time got me interested in this song, but this video is what really got me watching/ listening to the song on repeat. What a great song–such a nice combination of lyrics and music. This particular arrangement, with the earnest vocals and rough-but-accomplished musical performance, of it is particularly lovely. Watch it now!

Keith:
Northern Picture Library – Skylight (mp3) (buy)

In the pantheon of sad girl songs this one hits me the hardest not only because Robert Wratten prefers to infer rather than detail the source of his subject’s blues but also because of the unresolved ending that leaves us wondering the next series of bland slights she will be forced to endure.


Shawn:
The Twilight Sad – Walking for Two Hours (mp3) (buy)

Music, my favorite music, always always always commands me back to a particular time and place. It was a cold October afternoon in a Reykjavik hostel last year when these Scottish art-ramblers hit me for the first time. My face properly rocked, I was compelled to see them again the night following, and the second performance easily trumped the prior. Wandering the Icelandic streets, sharing drinks from a flask, conducting 5am conversations, missing home but not missing home at all… these are the things I recall when Walking For Two Hours finds its way to my ears, as it has repeatedly in the past couple of weeks. Loads of bands claim to be emotional, sure, but this group has recently done a commendable job of tapping my emotions. They’ve got a new album, and it’s not as visceral as their first two, but I’ve been loving it all the same. Keep spinning that brogue, fellows.

song obsession friday! (around leap day)

February 24th, 2012

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):
Geographer – Original Sin (On Airstreaming session) (mp3) (buy original)

Geographer live >> Geographer on record. That’s just a fact. And, personally, I like their stripped versions (find another here) more. I found this video last week and just kept hitting repeat on it. There’s something about it, between the catchy original song, the compelling presentation, and Mike’s vocal acrobatics at the end of the track that does it for me.

Andy:
Geotic – Riding Thermals (mp3) (download free)

I’ve been slowly moving towards melodic ambient music for a while now – it seems a logical outgrowth of my love for both sad bastard and instrumental music. I saw Geotic open for The One Am Radio and Dntel when they were in town, and liked him immediately (incidentally, I’m not as interested in his “main” identity of Baths, but whatever). I got home late that night, downloaded a lot of his stuff, which he offers for free, and went on a binge of dreamy drone.

This track has become my favorite of his – I think it’s a combination of the simple melodic movement, and the more subtle guitar texture in the background. He tells the story of having had it looped for 4 hours one morning – I find myself wishing that I could set loop in/out points in iTunes, so I could do the same.

Sandy:
Al James – Cloudy Shoes (mp3) (download, pre-order the Jurado version)

Leading up to the new Damien Jurado album “Maraqopa” the Seattle Times did a feature of local Seattle artists covering one of their own. Al James covered the Jurado track ‘Cloudy Shoes’. Since Dolorean has not so slowly been becoming one of my all time favourite bands, in turn covering someone who is already one of my all time favourites found me listening over and over again. Why wouldn’t this one be stuck on repeat? It really is a no brainer for me… it just feels right/normal to listen to this song as it seems eerily natural for me just to play it and without a thought just clicking the back arrow to hear it again. I like to think of it as a tribute to the original but will settle for calling it a “cover” if I must…

Dave:
Cinematic Orchestra – Build a Home (mp3) (buy)

I saw this video a couple weeks ago and the song really grabbed my attention. I like the sparseness of the piano, strings and vocals, it just works really well.

Natalie:
The Lumineers – Slow It Down (mp3) (download with subscription)

I really can’t wait for their album release in April. Until then, this Daytrotter version will do.

song obsession friday! (nearish Valentine’s day)

February 10th, 2012

damien jurado
Damien Jurado’s “Working Titles” was my song obsession this time

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):
Damien Jurado – Working Titles (mp3) (pre-order)

I’d heard a couple tracks from the forthcoming Maraqopa and they were good, but when I heard this one (via Heather) I was in love. A waltz-time break-up song about someone writing a song about you, it swings and soars in a lovely way that reminds me of songs from the ’50s. But it also has Jurado’s keenly written lyrics; this is filled with amazing lines. “If I show up in the titles of your songs// I only hope someone requests it.”

Andy:
Sprites – Follow Her Around (mp3) (buy)

Following Her Around is a tune that hits the spot for me in a lot of ways. Jangly 90′s indiepop, nostalgia for your early 20′s, and the dream of a girl with perfect taste in movies and music. Plus, any song that name drops the Karmann Ghia is alright in my book.

Sandy:
Great American Desert (formerly South of Lincoln) – Thirteen (mp3) (buy)

The song is old testament good. This is essentially speaks of becoming an adult at the ripe old age of 13 and haunts you with the rough and challenging life many (hopefully that of others) live. The stark acoustics and slight drawl in the vocals of Max Holmquist make this a cautionary tale of times that might not be so long lost. Oh, and it just guitar stumming just echos in my head as I play out this soundtrack of a father/son power struggle.

Dave:
Delay Trees – Gold (mp3) (buy)

I heard about this finnish group when listening to NPR Music’s year end (2011) wrap-up and made note of them, but didn’t listen more until a couple weeks ago. I’m now a bit obsessed with this whole album actually, but the lead-off track really stands out. ‘Gold’ has a perfect build, rising to a soaring, Explosions in The Sky-esque peak, then releasing suddenly and transitioning smoothly into the second track. It must be the combination of pop and post-rock that really gets me, because I just keep hitting repeat.

Keith:
Blouse – Into Black (mp3) (buy)

First heard this one on a PDX Now! compilation and now that their debut album is out it’s official that this track is the retro-gothy standout. The bass guitar riff mates mouth-watering flavor with a downbeat tempo and even more importantly resists the temptation to dominate the proceedings, giving way to a glossy chorus that provides a precisely uplifting counterpoint.

charles bradley & his extraordinaires @ the brighton music hall (review, photos)

February 7th, 2012

charles bradley

Charles Bradley says “I love you all” and I believe him. We all believe him. Then, as if there is any doubt, he walks to the edge of the stage, looking for a moment like he’ll take a stage dive, climbs off the stage and starts hugging people. He makes his way through the crowd for what seems like a long time, just hugging his now fans.

charles bradley

63 year old Charles Bradley, after years of poverty, living on the streets, being a chef in Alaska and a handy-man in New York, and occasionally playing a James Brown-like show as “Black Velvet”, finally released his debut album No Time for Dreaming last year. (He also released a few 7″s starting in 2002.) It was among the best debuts of 2011 and one of the best entries in the retro soul genre of bands recalling the sounds of R&B in the ’60s and ’70s.

charles bradley kneeling

Walking off the college-student-filled streets of Allston, into the sold out Brighton Music Hall, I saw DJ PJ Gray spinning some slamming soul 45″s on his turntables near the soundbooth. I took this as a good sign. Finding my way through the mostly young, mostly white crowd, I found a spot near the front on the left side of the stage. The Extraordinaires, Charles Bradley’s backing band–guitar, bass, drums, organ, tenor saxophone and trumpet–for this tour, took the stage to average applause. All young and mostly white, they launched into an instrumental groove that quickly dispelled any doubts if they could play authentic soul and funk–these were obviously kids who were not only talented at their instruments but were well versed in the classics they were emulating.

charles bradley horn players

After a couple instrumental numbers, the organ player came to the main microphone and, in soul show style, played the hype man and introduced the singer, ending with “Give it up for ‘The Screaming Eagle of Soul’, Charles Bradley!” The room filled with cheers.

Bradley, smiling and wearing a ’70s style three-piece suit, greeted the crowd as the band launched into the next song. Rhythm section grooving, organ adding accents and horns nailing backup lines, Bradley’s voice quickly soared above it all. With James Brown-like screeches and wails, he blew through songs, full-voiced and using a deep well of emotion and experience to give appropriate and fantastic weight to his words. By the third song, I turned to my girlfriend and said, “This is why I go to live music.” This is that once-a-year (or more) live show that buoys the spirit and leaves one with new respect not only for the artist but music in general.

Bradley sang and gestured and balled up his fists against his chest, but he also knelt, pantomimed his cross to bear using the microphone stand and, of course, danced–sometimes slick, practiced moves and others that seemed like he came up with on the spot. He did fast feet, went down in splits, and ground his hips.

charles bradley

Midway through the show, Bradley left the stage while the band did another instrumental groove. Bradley reemerged having gone through a costume change–shiny pants and an African-print vest that split open at the bottom to reveal his slight gut.

As the show went on, the band hit their hard notes harder, their soft notes softer and Bradley’s anguish, pain–one song is about his brother being shot and killed; another about drifting around trying to find a job–and joy all worked themselves out simultaneous. Here was a man who had led a tough life, struggling and striving to be a performer for years, finally getting his chance to perform in front of sold out audiences. And this audience accepted this and returned with an ecstatic atmosphere–cheers, shouts, hands-in-the-air.

charles bradley mic stand as cross

The set ended in a frenzy with the band in a loud, hard groove and Bradley on one knee talk-singing the words to the Lord’s Prayer, transported perhaps somewhere between the Lord and the audience for that moment. He stood up, declared his love for all of us and went into the audience for that multitude of hugs.

The show seemed over, the band left the stage and Bradley was somewhere in the crowd, but eventually the loud cheers brought the band back to the stage. After one last, quick instrumental, Bradley returned to the stage for “Why is it So Hard,” the anguished burning ballad from No Time for Dreaming, letting his own anguish pour out, leaving the audience nearly speechless.

At the end of it all, there was only one thing that could be said: I love you, too, Charles Bradley.

charles bradley

See the full set of photos on flickr.

Enter a contest to have Charles Bradley serenade your loved one for Valentine’s day.

Tour dates for the US, Canada, Australian and Europe after the jump. I highly recommend trying to see him if you can.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

announcing! october 2011 mixtape

October 14th, 2011

It’s only been a little while since my last mixtape, but really September and October can be seen as part one and part two of the same mix. This one starts out with some soul and then movies into indie rock and folk. It’s a good one…

Go ahead and check out the playlist (below) or the liner notes.

Adrian’s October 2011 Mixtape (zip file, megaupload link)



You can download the zip file with the following:
1. mp3s of the songs
2. liner notes (pdf)
3. playlist files (iTunes txt file and an m3u file)

(for the iTunes file, simply add all the songs to your library and then go to File->Library->Import Playlist and then select the song list (the txt file). you should now have the playlist 2011October in your iTunes with all the songs in the correct order).

October 2011 mixtape:

  1. Raphael Saadiq Heart Attack
  2. James Brown Think
  3. Charles Bradley The World (Is Going Up In Flames)
  4. Adele Someone Like You
  5. Otis Redding Security
  6. The Womack Brothers Yield Not To Temptation
  7. Pickwick The Round
  8. Two Sheds Let her dance
  9. The Tree Ring Wore It Deep
  10. Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love My Ears Are For Listening
  11. BOAT Lately
  12. The Head and the Heart Winter Song
  13. An Heart Dressed Sharply
  14. Aimee Mann The Scientist
  15. Eef Barzelay In The Aeroplane Over the Sea
  16. Leslie Sisson Blues
  17. Beirut East Harlem
  18. Crooked Fingers Typhoon
  19. Low Try To Sleep
  20. Delorean Country Clutter

If you like the artists or songs, I suggest supporting them by buying their music, going to a show, buying merchandise from them. And tell other people about the artists!

announcing! september 2011 mixtape

October 2nd, 2011

I haven’t done a monthly mixtape in a long time even though I’ve been wanting to get back to them. Here’s my first and if you stay tuned for a couple of days, I’ve got part two of the mix, October 2011, coming up. I hope you enjoy it–there’s a nice mix of music here.

Go ahead and check out the playlist (below) or the liner notes for it.

Adrian’s September 2011 Mixtape (zip file, mediafire link)



You can download the zip file with the following:
1. mp3s of the songs
2. liner notes (pdf)
3. playlist files (iTunes txt file and an m3u file)

(for the iTunes file, simply add all the songs to your library and then go to File->Library->Import Playlist and then select the song list (the txt file). you should now have the playlist 2011september in your iTunes with all the songs in the correct order).

September 2011 mixtape:

  1. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists Parallel or Together
  2. Frightened Rabbit Fuck this Place (ft Tracyanne Campbell)
  3. Matt & Kim Block After Block
  4. The Morning Benders Last Night
  5. Tune-Yards My Country
  6. WHY? These Few Presidents
  7. David Bazan Eating Paper
  8. Fanfarlo The Walls Are Coming Down
  9. Bon Iver Holocene
  10. Typhoon Summer Home
  11. John Statz Tired of Telephones
  12. the Wooden Birds Two Matchsticks
  13. Fionn Regan For a Nightengale
  14. Josh Ritter Good Man
  15. Strand of Oaks Ohio
  16. the National Think You Can Wait
  17. Vandaveer Dig Down Deep
  18. A Weather Giant Stairs
  19. Explosions in the Sky Look Into the Air

If you like the artists or songs, I suggest supporting them by buying their music, going to a show, buying merchandise from them or at least telling other people about them.

jeff mangum @ sander theatre (review, setlist, etc) + new neutral milk hotel box set to come

September 14th, 2011

On Friday I saw Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, recently out of his self-imposed reclusion, play an acoustic set at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge.

In the Aeroplane over the Sea is an album of great importance–perhaps so Important that it needs to be capitalized–to me, as it is to many people, so you would think that I was unbelievably excited about this show in the days leading up to it.

I was excited but I tried to keep things realistic. Jeff Mangum is a guy that wrote some songs–they happen to be very very good songs–but they’re still just songs. I read some reports from earlier shows and it seemed like he might not actually be every fan’s hermit-savior, despite how nice the mythology of that idea is.

ACME, a string quartet opened the show. They played a nice version of the Erik Satie’s lovely Gymnopédie No.1 and an extended version of Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet. Perhaps in a different setting I might have enjoyed them more but I was getting antsy for the main act.

Sanders Theatre is a 1166 capacity wooden theater inside Memorial Hall–a list of all the Harvard students to die in the Civil War is etched into the stone of the lobby–on Harvard’s campus. Completed in 1875, the wood has the weight of history in it; it also was built for an era prior to amplification and the natural acoustics of the space are pretty amazing.

During the time between the string quartet, the anticipation built up in the theater. With tickets selling out within a few minutes of going on sale six months ago, you knew the people in the theater were true fans, perhaps even in the original fanatical meaning. Minutes away, one of my and their favorite artists was coming out to play his first songs[1] in the area since Neutral Milk Hotel’s July 24, 1998 show at the Middle East.

Mangum came out to thunderous applause with some people even giving him a standing ovation before he even played a single note. He sat down in a plain chair surrounded by four acoustic guitars and with a small music stand just to his right. Wearing a brown-and-white plaid shirt, brown corduroys and a black fisherman’s hat over his chin-length hair, he looked not too different from what he did thirteen years prior in the few promotional photos now floating around the internet.

As the applause died down, he started into the somber epic “Oh Comely”, which lasts 8+ minutes on In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and ends with someone in the studio yelling “Holy Shit!” While the performance was immediately good–deft guitar playing and singing in a clear but slightly nasal voice–the expletives likely to be going through audience members’ heads was about seeing Jeff Mangum live rather than about this particular song.

That quickly changed for me on the second song, “Two Headed Boy, Part II.” On the album version (as well as some live versions like that on Live at Jittery Joe’s) he sings in a fragile, almost-broken voice which was lacking on Friday, which left me initially disappointed, but by the time he sings “In my dreams you’re alive and crying// As your mouth moves in mine soft and sweet” I had chills and I was forgetting any comparisons to the album.

Much like the rest of the night, the end of the song was met with a loud round of applause and shouts which seemed to bring out a big grin on Mangum’s face.

After a disappointing miss with the Roky Erickson cover “I Love the Living You”, he invited the audience to sing along to “In the Aeroplane over the Sea”. In a cathartic moment for me and likely many others, we sang along, knowing all the lyrics notes and inflections by heart. (We even sang the fluegelhorn solo later in the song.)

A man from the balcony yelled “I can now die happy!” Mangum had him repeat it twice more, apparently not able to hear him. After considering for a moment, he said he was singing well that night and that he could also die happy.

After the On Avery Island opener “Song About Sex”, he played another track from that album, “Baby for Pree”. With some feedback and some issues with too much reverb on the vocals, the sound hadn’t been perfect all night, but it reached a new low during this song when the microphone cut out immediately. Jeff turned this potential problem into perhaps one of the most awesome moments of the night, walking to the front of the stage while continuing to play, taking a knee and finishing the song unamplified. The acoustics of the hall proved to be excellent as I could hear clearly from my 3rd-to-last-row seat in the balcony.

The set continued. He played a long-time favorite “Naomi” and had us sing along at the end of “Gardenhead”. “King of Carrot Flowers, Parts I-III” quickly became a singalong, with more people in the 20s and 30s hipster set heartily singing ‘I Love You Jesus Christ’ than has probably been seen in a long time. He finished the set with the favorite “Holland, 1945″ which lacked a little bit of the urgency (and all of the distortion) of the recording, but still sounded great.

After leaving the stage and a short amount of booming applause, he returned to play “Holland, 1945″‘s b-side, “Engine”. Then he left the stage again to loud applause.

He obviously hadn’t planned on playing a second encore, but the applause continued. After a few minutes, they brought up the house lights. The applause continued. After a couple more minutes, they started playing some music over the house speakers. The applause continued. It continued, in fact, till Mangum probably had few other options but to return to the stage.

He grabbed his chair and a guitar and brought them to the front of the stage to play a song unamplified. The audience’s focus was intense as he played “Two Headed Boy”. People sang along but quietly. Even in the balcony I could hear his voice ringing out with a supporting chorus of a thousand fans all pleading a surreal story of freaks and sex and love and World War II atrocities. Getting quiet to hear the end, Mangum told us “sing it” and we did. “Dah dee dah dee dee dee// Dee dee dah dee dee dee dee deee// Dee dee dah dee dee dee dee dee deee.” And then we walked into the night, hearts swollen and satisfied, seeing the moon a bit bigger and the sky a bit closer.

Jeff Mangum @ Sanders Theatre, September 9, 2011 setlist:

  1. Oh Comely
  2. Two Headed Boy, Part II
  3. I Love the Living You (Roky Erickson cover)
  4. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (singalong)
  5. Song About Sex
  6. Baby for Pree/ Glow Into You (finished unamplified after mic went out)
  7. Naomi
  8. Ghost (singalong at the end)
  9. Gardenhead
  10. King of Carrot Flowers, Parts I-III (singalong)
  11. Holland 1945
  12. [Encore 1]
    Engine
  13. [Encore 2]
    Two Headed Boy (unamplified, singalong)


Here’s a video of the second encore from this show. Definitely worth watching.

For coverage of the other Boston-area show and some audio, check out this site. Pitchfork also has audio from the Toronto show.

If you haven’t heard, a vinyl box set with all of the release Neutral Milk Hotel along with 16 unreleased tracks will be out in November. (The unreleased tracks will also be available for digital download.) You can pre-order it now (and hear an unreleased track) at the Neutral Milk Hotel website.

[1] Not entirely true: I saw Mangum play with Circulatory System at the Middle East Upstairs in 2001.