A Christmas Photoblog

^On the grayest Christmas Day I can remember, this family of ducks did their own beautiful thing

^Our tyrant of a puppy Bella looking mischievous

^Bella the Destroyer looking curious

^The docile, regal, and amazing Beaumont

^Beaumont looking adorable

^A blurry Aggie yearns for the rubber toy

^A beautiful mountain sunset

^A beautiful mountain pre-sunset

^The sunset without the sun

^My view from the loft of the cabin

^A forest of trees

^An expanse of sky


Free Days Away

Yep, it's a rewind post. This record came out in 2005, but if you haven't heard it, you're missing out on one of the best melodic rock albums of last year. Stuck on a label that didn't know how to market a band if it wasn't wearing makeup or costumes (Fueled By Ramen), Days Away is finally free. Mapping An Invisible World will remain the album that should have been. I hope the next one finds a better place in the market.

God and Mars
T.Cline's Decline
[from Mapping An Invisible World|buy]


Merry Christmas! Assignments 1225!

1. Blinker the Star - Pretty Pictures - As Idolator recently pointed out, this 1999 album ended up by the wayside and it was a damned shame. This is timeless pop in the vein of Jellyfish. Lofty praise, well deserved. [from August Everywhere|buy]

2. The Acorn - Blankets - This band's entire catalog is filled with fantastic songs such as this. It begins with a Sufjan-ese intro before morphing into a powerful Anathallo-ish anthem of goodness. [from Blankets|buy]

3. Colour Revolt - Blood in Your Mouth - This band from Hotlanta is poised to make serious noise in '07, both literally and figuratively. Tons of emotion, breathless dynamics, and an amazing live show. Oh yeah, and being on Interscope Records doesn't hurt. [from s/t|buy]

4. Mojave 3 - Most Days - Like Mark Kozalek, Mojave 3's lead singer has that silky voice you could listen to for hours in the background and it would quietly iron out the folds in the sheet of your body. soul. spirit. [from Puzzles Like You|buy]

Happy Holidays

I'll be out of town tonight through Thursday night, so no internet or blog-action for the Drew. Feel free to browse around a bit if you're new. I hope you all have a safe and blessed holiday.


Calexico and the fake golden sunset.

A lot of adjectives could be used to describe Calexico. creative, inspiring, twangy, lush, and sprawling. The only one(s) that really matters to you is (as always): awesome. and awesomer. and awesomest. Come on, you knew that was coming. These Tuscon, AZ boys are absurdly diverse, blending folk, slide guitar, blues, '50s jazz, and some creepy carny music into a cohesive and flowing sound entirely their own.

Quattro (World Drifts In)
Black Heart
[from Feast of Wire|buy]
Sixteen, Maybe Less (with Iron and Wine)
[from In then Reins|buy]


Mark Kozelek is alive.

I've been sitting on this album for a few weeks, waiting for a day when it felt right. I haven't seen much about it online since its release, probably because it's a pretty rare and limited edition record. Mark Kozelek has a voice you'll never get tired of. It'll remind you of the faceless narrator of your dreams. It'll make you miss things you never knew you forgot about. Today is kind of gray, the kind that makes you wish for snow, Christmas is just around the corner, and I wish I had a small fireplace to curl up next to. I'd put this record on, stare into the black behind the flames and get lost someplace neither here, nor there. Thanks, Mark.

Carry Me, Ohio
Salvador Sanchez
[from Little Drummer Boy:Live|buy]


The Acorn is totally nuts.

The Acorn is new to me as of yesterday, but I can't stop listening to them. This is likely because they totally rule. A more likely reason is that they totally rock. The most likely reason is that they are totally awesome. Are you picking up what I'm putting down? I hope so. They really remind me of plus/minus with less electronic elements and can go from delicate acoustic to long winters-esque indie power-pop as quick as you can say bob's your uncle. Say it. I dare you.

Spring Thaw
Brokered Heart
[from Tin Fist|buy]
Plates & Saucers
[from Blankets|buy]

Grizzly Bear - Shift

this video completely kills me.


Listening Assignments 12.18.2006

First, I'm inclined to share that this is post #100 for linesthroughlines and I think that's pretty stellar. I can assure you if you weren't here reading this, I wouldn't be here writing this. Thank you for that.

1. Aloha - Ice Storming - A decidedly cold offering from one of this year's most criminally overlooked albums. The wurlitzer has a knack for finding that beautiful coldness within its vibrating tremolo and it comes through masterfully here. [from Some Echoes|buy]

2. Some By Sea - The Saddest Christmas - Despite its title, I assure you this song can be listened to without repercussion throughout the year. It happens to be a poignant, bittersweet arrow aimed at some of the pageantry that accompanies a family gathering at Christmas, and yes, there are sleighbells throughout, but it's totally a great song in its own right. [from on fire! (Igloo)|buy]

3. Beirut - Elephant Gun - This guy is 20 and released one of the most blogged about records of 2006. I'd say that's a good start. Lots of horns here. Lots of accordian. Lots of Europia. That's not even a word! [from Lon Gisland EP 2007|info]

4. Josh Rouse - The Last Train - He's always one of those critically acclaimed musicians who very few people out of certain circles have ever even heard of. And to be honest, for a long time I never saw what all the fuss was about. It was lush, slightly jazzed out acousticky ballads and what not. Not bad by any stretch, I just didn't get it. I still feel that way about most of it, but there are a few really rewarding tracks in his catologue. Like this one. [from Bedroom Classics Vol. 2 EP|buy]


Stephen Colbert: Stalker, Dueler

I'm sure you've all heard about the upcoming air guitar battle between Stephen Colbert vs. Chris Funk of Decemberists. Well Mr. Colbert has some chops of his own.

Stephen and the Colberts - Charline (I'm Right Behind You)


Live/rare Grizzly Bear

This is going to be quick and dirty, but oh-so-good. Here's some unreleased/rare/live Grizzly Bear action for your face.

Reprise (Paris Acoustic Sessions)
Colorado (live on BBC Radio 1)


top 20 albums of 2006

Just Missed : Joanna Newsom - Y's, Eef Barzelay - Bitter Honey, The Decemberists - The Crane Wife, Mutemath - s/t, Snow Patrol - Eyes Open, Snowden - Anti-Anti, Scatteredtrees - Song For My Grandfather, Gomez - How We Operate, Anathallo - Floating World, Far-Less - Everyone Is Out to Get Us, Owen - At Home with..., The Format - Dog Problems

and now the top 20...

20. Sondre Lerche & The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
19. Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
the Avalanche [mp3]
18. Aloha - Some Echoes
Brace Your Face [mp3]
17. Beirut - Gulag Orkestar
the Canals of Our City [mp3]
16. Phoenix - It's Never Been Like That
15. Josh Ritter - The Animal Years
14. What Made Milwaukee Famous - Trying to Never Catch Up
13. Copeland - Eat, Sleep, Repeat
12. Ray LaMontagne - Til The Sun Turns Black
11. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Broom
10. The Long Winters - Putting the Days to Bed

Who doesn't love geeky indie rock bands who can't NOT write a catchy pop hook? John Roderick is (in my opinion) one of the best frontmen/songwriters out there.
Fire Island, AK [mp3]
9. Margot & The Nuclear So and So's - The Dust of Retreat

This album is so diverse and dynamic, it's a wonder it wasn't bigger.
Barfight Revolution, Power Violence [mp3]
8. Some By Sea - on fire! (Igloo)

Probably the second CD I heard this year that I immediately said "this is ending up in my top 10, period. The lyrics to this record are raw and poetic and the reckless ambition of the whole thing more than makes up for its flaws.
A Night Without a Cineplex [mp3]
7. Maritime - We, the Vehicles

The FIRST record I heard this year that I knew would be in the top 10. In any other year, this would be an easy top 5 pick. I have big expectations for this all-star band (ex-Dismemberment Plan and The Promise Ring) in 2007.
We Don't Think, We Know [mp3]
6. The SLIP - Eisenhower

A worthy (semi-)latecomer to the mix. Every song I heard was amazing, so I caved and bought the whole thing. The hype is real. Solid creative indie rock with a Secret Machines edge.
Children of December [mp3]
5. John Mayer - Continuum

Honestly, this was a surprise. Not to say John Mayer wasn't always immensely talented, but this record is an immaculate collection of songs where his soul finally feels like it's on display. Sure, there is a "radio" single (which always felt out of place to me here), but it's still solid and the remainder of the album is modern blues done flawlessly.
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room [mp3]
4. {+/-} - Let's Build a Fire

I wanted this album to be amazing long before I knew it was coming. Honestly, it's better than I'd even hoped. They (mostly) ditched the drum machine (tasty and unique as it was), focused on their real instruments, and totally crushed this recording. The entire thing is a cohesive and rewarding experiment in timing and arrangement.
Steal the Blueprints [mp3]
3. Say Anything - ...is a Real Boy

I doubt many other bloggers have this in their top 10 of 2006 (I haven't seen any), but ...is a Real Boy is a masterpiece. It was re-issued this year with a 7 song addendum on a major label so I'm counting it this year. It's a veritable rock opera with one of the most enigmatic singer/songwriters imaginable (Max Bemis spent time in a mental hospital while recording this album for legitimate reasons). If Queen met up with Pinocchio and made a record with lots of sexual frustration throughout, this is what it would sound like.
Alive w/ the Glory of Love [mp3]
1b. Grizzly Bear - Yellow House

This is hands-down the most beautiful record of the year and it's actually hard for me to even hear any arguments to the contrary. This album completely blows my mind. I have no idea how these boys in their 20's wrote this record. Actually, I don't know how anyone could write this record. The strings are soaring and heartwrenching, the harmonies omnipresent and uplifting. This record is timeless.
Lullabye [mp3]
1a. Midlake - the Trials of Van Occupanther

How can anyone beat Grizzly Bear? To be honest, it's not possible. I'm calling it a draw. Still, Midlake has constructed a near-perfect collection of sparkling songs that sound straight off the AM dial. There are woodwinds and syrupy vocals. Seriously, this sounds like modern music recorded in the '70s. Finding "Young Bride" on a blog was actually the impetus for making my own. That's a pretty big deal.
Young Bride [mp3]


the Top 50 Songs of 2006

So here it is, the top 50 Songs of 2006. I try my absolute hardest to not include more than one song by a band in it because after the top 10-15, the rankings are mostly arbitrary and based on feel. There are so many amazing songs, it's practically impossible to actually rank them. Still, Midlake and Say Anything both have two appearances and I'm happy with it. The top 3 could also be interchanged at any given time and still ring true. I'm not going to go into depth describing these songs simply because they've all made appearances in this very blog over the last year and I don't want to get redundant. In my opinion, 2006 was the best year for new music that I can remember and judging by what I've heard of upcoming 2007 releases (the Shins, Of Montreal, etc), next year may be even better.

50. Canasta - Imposters
49. Donovan Woods - My Cousin has a Grey Cup Ring
48. Snow Patrol - Make This Go On Forever
47. Snowden - Walk Like Bullets
46. Gomez - Charley Patton Songs
45. Mutemath - Noticed
44. Owen - Bad News
43. Jeremy Enigk - Burn
42. Ingrid Michaelson - Breakable
41. Jolie Holland - Springtime Can Kill You
40. The Format - She Doesn't Get It
39. Damien Rice - Elephant
38. Annuals - Dry Clothes
37. Philip Uster & The House Floor - Rebel Eyes
36. Some By Sea - A Night Without a Cineplex
35. Memphis - I'll Do Whatever You Want
34. Boy Kill Boy - Suzie
33. Tacks, the Boy Disaster - Forget-Me-Not
32. Say Anything - Wow, I Can Be Sexual Too
31. Marit Larsen - The Sinking Game
30. Margot & The Nuclear So and So's - Barfight Revolution, Power Violence
29. Thom Yorke - Black Swan
28. Aloha - Brace Your Face
27. Copeland - When You Thought You'd Never Stand Out
26. Eef Barzelay - Thanksgiving Waves
25. Scatteredtrees - Most Beautiful Song
24. Josh Ritter - Girl in the War
23. Ben Kweller - Nothing's Happening
22. The Decemberists - After the Bombs
21. Beirut - The Canals of Our City
20. Regina Spektor - Fidelity
19. The Long Winters - Fire Island, AK
18. What Made Milwaukee Famous - Sweet Lady
17. French Kicks - So Far We Are
16. Sufjan Stevens - Dear Mr. Supercomputer
15. John Mayer - Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
14. Ray LaMontagne - Three More Days
13. Slow Runner - Break Your Mama's Back
12. Phoenix - Consolation Prizes
11. {plus/minus} - Leap Year
10. The SLIP - Children of December
9. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - House Fire
8. Anathallo - Hanasakajijii - Four: A Great Wind, More Ash
7. Grizzly Bear - Lullabye
6. Gotye - Learnalilgivinanlovin
5. Maritime - Tearing Up the Oxygen
4. Midlake - Roscoe
3. Say Anything - Alive with the Glory of Love
2. Midlake - Young Bride
1. Fionn Regan - Black Water Child

Top 20 Albums of 2006 coming tomorrow! Stay Tuned...


Assignments are for Mondays (12.11.06)

1. Gotye - Heart's a Mess - This strangely-named and talented artist is shrouded in weird mystery. Something feels antique about his recordings, they don't sound like they were made in the last 10 years. This one is vaguely tribal, a chilling reverb hiding behind the vocals, and slowly burns to a fabulous climax. And who doesn't love those? [from Like Drawing Blood|buy]

2. Chet Baker - I Get Along Without You Very Well - Oh Chet, you can do no wrong. This is always the song I think about when I hear this crooner's name and it's totally classic. It reminds me of Christmas somehow, so it's a perfect fit to accompany the frost on the edges of my front window. [from The Best of Chet Baker Sings|buy]

3. Casey Dienel - Doctor Monroe - Tell me this doesn't smack of Regina Spektor, I dare you. Casey doesn't possess the amazing vocal acrobatics of Ms. Spektor, but channels the quirky piano playfulness that is no less intriguing here. It's jazzy and it'll make you smile. [from Wind-Up Canary|buy]

4. Menomena - Wet and Rusting - I love how this song sounds so...disconnected from itself. It almost sounds like it was recorded in full all in time, then to experiment the recording engineer scooted the guitar track over a beat to the right, then followed suit with the layered pianos and effects and ended up with this swirling song that is somehow cohesive in that disconnection. Neato. [from Friend and Foe (2007)|buy single]


The Lymbyc System

I often find myself knee-deep in bands who want to be Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, or Godspeed! You Black Emperor. I've many times been of the opinion that making instrumental music was a lot easier than making music with vocals and in that statement, I still think I'm half-right. The clarification lies in this: While making mediocre instrumental music is easy, making good instrumental music is as hard (or harder) than its vocal counterpart. It's easy to play something simple exceptionally slow, layer a few more slow parts on top of it, pile on the reverb, and call it a day. In short, it's really easy to be a mediocre instrumental band, which explains the immediate acrid taste in my mouth when I read a blog touting "the next ___". However, the Lymbyc System does not qualify as one of those. The more I hear of this Tempe, Arizona duo, the more I want to hear and the more I think they belong listed alongside the above-mentioned greats. I hear tastefully sampled live drums, organic pulses, and arrangements that truly have heart. I want to live in these songs.

Astrology Days
[from Love Your Abuser (out 1.23.07)|pre-order]


A link Update!

I'm heading to Richmond for 24 hours so I don't have time for a new official music post, but I've been working feverishly on my top 50 songs of 06 list as well as my top 20 albums and will begin to post them upon return. I plan on offering the top 20 songs for download. In the meantime, here are some amazing sites that have inspired me recently:

1. Marmaduke Explained - Creator Joe Mathlete explains in plain english exactly why (or why not) this cartoon is funny.

"Marmaduke is wearing a pair of specially-modified dog skis on his daily walk through his neighborhood, where it has recently snowed. His owner-lady pleads with him not to get carried away and attempt any dangerous maneuvers, but truth be told, Owner-Lady forfeited any and all rights to her own physical well-being the moment she allowed herself to be dragged behind a monstrous Great Dane on skis who lives to torment and humiliate her. The shit-eating grin on Marmaduke's face indicates that fancy slalom stuff was a foregone conclusion."

2. Indexed - I'm not sure who is, but I do know he/she is a genius. Daily diagrams on index cards of hilarious and profound situations.

3. 30 days of Threadless - This is the mother of holiday t-shirt sales with new designs out every single day, all on sale for only $10. For instance:


The Beautiful Jonatha Brooke

Jonatha Brooke and I go way back, she just doesn't know it. She was the inspiration for my first AIM screenname (JBrooke710) and one of the first artists I can remember having an active need to own their entire catalogue (I do.) Hands down one of the finest songwriters alive, a quintessential songwriter's songwriter, and a lightning rod in the world of female musicians. She even started her own record label, so she's about as indie as it gets. I found these stellar live recordings recently, so I'm putting those up-front. Then a few other must-listens I happen to have on the computer. Enjoy.

New Dress [Live in Studio 4A, original on Steady Pull|buy]
So Much Mine [live in Studio 4A, original on The Angel in the House|buy]
The Angel in the House [from The Angel in the House|buy]
Back in the Circus [from Back in the Circus|buy]

[ed. note: Grace in Gravity, Steady Pull and Plumb are amazing and highly recommended albums, but my computer refuses to rip them for some reason.]


Ida. Minus the Ho.

There's something inherently soothing about everything Ida touches. I can never decide if it's due more to the slipperysoft female/male harmonies or the perfectly arranged mostly-acoustic arrangement that deftly dances around the melodies throughout. Either way, it always hypnotizes me. Last year's Heart Like a River was one of my favorite albums of 2005, but for whatever reason, my computer won't recognize it and I can't rip it. Therefore, you get an equally beautiful helping of 2000's Will You Find Me. Don't be ashamed to lick the bowl when you're done.

Man In Mind
[from Will You Find Me|buy]