Listening Assignments 4.30.07

1. Doves - Snowden - Another mixtape favorite, Doves are simply epic melodic rock in the vein of Snow Patrol. Ok yes, maybe some Coldplay. Get over yourselves, people! [from Some Cities|buy]

2. Ticonderoga - Snakes - This was one of my original assignments over two years ago, when maybe 5 people listened a week, but it remains one of my favorite songs. It's got one of the best building sequences in music, adding layers on layers of unexpected sounds and melodies. It's really a song like very few others. [from The Heilig-Levine LP|buy]

3. Iron and Wine - The Trapeze Swinger - One of my absolute favorite i&w songs, which is saying a lot. Beautiful melody/harmony combo with haunting lyrics pounded home by repetition. [from In Good Company Sdtk|buy]

4. Tobias Froberg - Grace - The piano progression sounds like "Easy" by the Commodores, but on the whole, this is just an overly pleasant ballad by a silken-voiced Swedish crooner. And seriously, I "awwww"-ed at the album title. [from For Elisabeth Wherever She Is|buy]


Rogue Helicopter Pilot

This clip is amazing and an instant classic.


A Live Saturday

photo by Wes Mason at my suggestion :)

It's a lazy Saturday (no, not a lazy Sunday Mr. Parnell), and quite simply put, I'm in the mood to listen to some great and fairly rare live tracks by some talented people. There's not much more to it than that. Muah muah muah. Be safe, kids.

Radiohead - Fog (Again) (live)
Andrew Bird - Masterfade (live)
My Morning Jacket - Golden (live acoustic)


Dear and the Headlights

I've been sitting on Dear and the Headlights for a few weeks and today just feels like the day. Somehow, this tight indie rock outfit calls Equal Vision Records its home. It's not completely staggering, but EVR is typically home to heavier, grittier, and more angular bands (Circa Survive, Coheed and Cambria, Fear Before the March of Flames, Olympia). It's like when Doghouse Records (Motion City Soundtrack, All American Rejects, Say Anything) put out the Honorary Title out of nowhere two years ago. It's definitely not a bad thing. Hell, I'm all for label diversity because it speaks to the capability of an individual to appreciate and enjoy multiple genres.

Alright, back to business. These guys bring the goods. In this case, the goods are feel-good, fantastically woven pop ditties. Oh yeah and the singer sounds like the dude from Better than Ezra and occasionally meanders into Adam Duritz territory. If that's the kind of statement that scares you, I suggest you buck up, kiddo.

I'm Bored, You're Amorous
It's Gettin' Easy
[from Small Steps, Heavy Hooves|buy]


McSweeney's Lists

If you're unfamiliar with these juicy bits of clever humor, you can feel free to mail notes of your appreciation to 3910 Bowden's Ferry Rd. #2 Norfolk, VA 23508. McSweeney's is only the best intelligent humor magazine/collective that I can think of, behind such brilliant things as The Boring Store and Wholphin, and the brainchild of Dave Eggers (author of the incredible memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which is just that). McSweeney's is both a quarterly journal and an online journalistic entity, both classic and cheeky, and you should read their FAQ because it'll tell you everything I want to, but in a way that will make you smile. But my favorite McSweeney's feature is the subject of this blog: the lists. They're short, easily digestible, highly quotable, range from impossibly smart to totally dumb, and are all worth reading when you have a minute or an hour to spare. The total list can be found here, but I'll post some of my favorites to whet your appetite.
Failed Ben & Jerry's Flavors
by John McMurtrie

Noam Chompsky
Peppermint Thai Stick
Alice Scooper
Newark Super Sludge Chunk
Kucinich Spinach
Hall and Oatmeal
Heavenly Hashish
Coffee Annan
Cookies 'N' Hemp

and more...

An Oversimplified list of Options in Iraq
Words Never Used in Remotely Good Movies
Mildly Disturbing Greeting Card Messages

Considered but Discarded names for the indie band Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin
Ineffective Lines Deleted from Final Revisions of Violent Box-Office Hits
Four Things I Would have said to Sylvia Plath if I had Been her Boyfriend
and probably my favorite:
Cancelled Regional Morning TV Shows

So there it is. McSweeney's. Bookmark that puppy.

The Kissaway Trail

The Kissaway Trail is the latest in a list of impressive artists put out by UK label Bella Union (The Dears, Fionn Regan, Midlake, Explosions in the Sky, Stephanie Dosen). The backing tunes would be right at home on a Snow Patrol record, but the vocals evoke many things: Brian Wilson, Cloud Cult, Shoegaze pop, and dashes of Arcade Fire timing. These tracks can be both playful and deep, inspiring and fleeting. Every listen yields a new nook to crawl up inside. Another bend in the trail.

Eloquence and Elixer
Bleeding Hearts
[from The Kissaway Trail|info]


Elliott's New Moon

I've shed enough blog tears on fallen heroes like Jeff Buckley/Elliott Smith/Nick Drake for you to know how I feel about them. Elliott has become the most near and dear to me, both for his massive body of work and his complete tragic existence, the peaks and valleys of which play out so poignantly in his music. The fact that there were this many unreleased and amazing songs lying around continues to blow my mind. New Moon is 24 tracks of the journey between 1994-1997 and contains some of my favorite songs: "Angel in the Snow", "New Disaster", "Thirteen", and the original "Pretty Mary K", to mention a few. I feel like his spirit is happy that there are still some of his songs out there that you and I can hear for the very first time.

Going Nowhere
Half Right
[from New Moon (out 5.8)|buy]


The Hood Internet

Unfortunately, thehoodinternet was so cool that it exceeded its bandwidth after coming out of nowhere this month. I'm posted a few mashups before, but on the whole I'm not a huge fan. Things just don't seem to "mash" up smoothly enough to where I don't have to think about it while listening. Until now. The best idea was sampling two of my favorite songs for the music: The Shins' "Sea Legs" and "7/4 (Shoreline)" by Broken Social Scene. If modern hip hop was making backing music like this, everyone would be going nuts for it. You're really going to want to bookmark that link up there so when it's back, you can nab the other great tracks available. Cyndi Lauper and Dizzee Rascal, Li'l Wayne and Modest Mouse, Rhymefest and !!!, Cam'Ron and the Flaming Lips, Jim Jones and Daft Punk, and more. Mash it up.

R. Kelly and Broken Social Scene - I'm a Flirt (Shoreline)
The Shins and Crime Mob - Rock Yo Sea Legs
[more over at Missing Toof]

[thx to gvsb for the headsup]


Listening Assignments 4.23.07

1. Michael Franti - Oh My God - Though 6 years old, this track resonates incredibly. If you're not hooked in the first 5 seconds, you need a check-up from the neck up. "You can make a life longer, but you can’t save it / You can make a clone and then you try to enslave it? / Stealin’ DNA samples from the unborn and then you comin’ after us ‘cause we sampled a James Brown horn?" [from Stay Human|buy]

2. Timber - Criminals - This is my monday morning up-before-noon song, but it's more like an up-before-the-sun song. It feels like an audio rendering of dew-slicked grass, content songbirds, and rustling willows. [from The New Gentleman's Shuffle|buy]

3. St. Vincent - Now. Now. - It's a journey, this song. Things get really interesting at about the 3:20 mark with the sudden introduction of strings, then an out of control guitar solo. It's like late '80s Cyndi Lauper crossed with a less-breathy Bjork. She also happens to be in Sufjan Stevens' touring band and the Polyphonic Spree. [from Marry Me (out 7.10)|info]

4. Gregory Alan Isakov & the Freight - Salt and the Sea - I'm admittedly a sucker for a nice jazz progression and I'm not ashamed of it. That is why I loved the Sondre Lerche Duper Sessions album from 2006. This sounds like that, but more lo-fi. Sounds like the whispering '60s, especially the thread-thin violin that makes a tasteful cameo at 1:56. [from Songs for October|buy]


A Quarter Century

I'm not an attention whore, but it's worth mentioning that I turned 25 today. The fam is taking me out to one of my favorite places (Bardo) and I'm heading over to the house early to help them pack for their move. So this'll be a theme post, nothing more nothing less. Sometimes I feel like I don't know much about anything, but I do know this: This blog has become an extremely necessary and important part in the 25th year of Drew Worden and I wouldn't be able to do it without your readership and support. Thank you.

Cloud Cult - Your 8th Birthday
[from The Meaning of 8|buy]
The Commodores - Easy (Like Sunday Morning)
[from Commodores|buy]


Who Will Save Your Soul?

If I had to put money on it, I'd say Soulsavers are obsessed with just that. There's an old school revival coming to town, 1800s style, with the tent and the pervasive dust and all the rest of it. The town is just a filling station and a baptist church, 300 miles from anything of consequence. The people are hard, their faces set in plaster, something almost sinister in the air. Almost. Here come the Soulsavers down the road, a rising cloud of dust behind them, single file, singing and playing these old-school-spiritual-meets-Johnny-Cash songs. The townspeople come out, the children run alongside the players, they're all smiling. There's gonna be a revival tonight. Lord, there's gonna be a revival.

Kingdom of Rain
[from It's Not How Far You Fall, It's the Way You Land|buy]


New Rufus

I can say one name and you'll know who I'm talking about. How many of those are there? If I said "John", who might I be referring to? Coltrane, Mayer, or Legend? But then I say "Rufus" and your ears, without effort, hear that cascading vibrato spilling through your brain. Rufus Wainwright is the gay man every straight female I know wants to do it with. He possesses one of the most recognizable voices in music and his new album Release the Stars drops May 15th on Geffen Records. Sure, between the legitimately audience-crossing songs (Not Ready to Love, Do I Disappoint You, Going to Town, Nobody's Off the Hook) , it can be a little Moulin-Rouge-cabaret (Tulsa, Release the Stars, Tiergarten), but hot damn if it doesn't rule. Did you expect anything less?

Going to a Town
Nobody's Off the Hook
[from Release the Stars (out 5.15)|pre-order]


The Damnwells - Golden Days

With the documentary on the Damnwells finally at festivals, I figure it's time to talk about it. I can really only speak on the trailer, which is really amazing, and the band itself. I'm glad we're at a point where I can say "The Damnwells" and at least a few people will know what I'm talking about, but without major airplay their only real exposure has been opening for the Fray and word of mouth. Right now they're preparing to sweep the nation with Ari Hest.

The Damnwells are love in liquid form. The music flows like honey, sticky sweet and with deliberate movement. Unfortunately, they straddle an interesting fence: They write incredible ballads...and pretty much have stopped trying to do much of anything else, it seems. It's hard to pull that off commercially unless you're more folk-influenced (see Iron and Wine, Ida, a hundred others). Every one of their songs belongs on a soundtrack, where it can take a film to the next level. Any mixtape would be lucky to include a Damnwells song, regardless of theme. They've got it covered from the making to the breaking of a heart. Maybe this documentary will be another break for them. I know I'll be buying it.

The film, a full two years in the making, just won "Best Documentary" at the Phoenix Film Festival and will be screened again at the Maryland Film Festival (May 3-6).

more info: myspace.com/goldendaysmovie

05/10 - Seattle, WA
05/11 - Portland, OR (Berbati's Pan)
05/12 - Ashland, OR
05/13 - San Francisco, CA
05/14 - Los Angeles, CA
05/15 - San Diego, CA
05/16 - Tucson, AZ
05/18 - Dallas, TX
05/19 - Austin, TX
05/21 - Mobile, AL
05/22 - Birmingham, AL
05/23 - Nashville, TN
05/24 - Atlanta, GA
05/25 - Charleston, SC
05/26 - Charlotte, NC
05/27 - Kill Devil Hills, NC
05/29 - Virginia Beach, VA (Jewish Mother)
05/30 - Alexandria, VA
05/31 - New York, NY
06/01 - Cambridge, MA
06/02 - Northampton, MA
06/03 - Philadelphia, PA
06/05 - Pittsburgh, PA
06/06 - Cleveland, OH
06/08 - Louisville, KY
06/09 - Chicago, IL
06/10 - Ann Arbor, MI

Golden Days (acoustic version)
I am a Leaver (alternate, stripped version)

Ari Hest - Strangers Again - "Long before we ever kissed, long before I ever missed you, I wish we were strangers again." [from Someone to Tell|buy]

[shout out to Heather at I am Fuel, You are Friends, the only other blogger I ever see mentioning this great band.]


Oh No! Oh My!

I don't know about you, but something happy and uplifting would do me some good today. The first place to start is an Austin, TX band with exclamation points in their name. Oh No! Oh My! sound like a catchy mash-up of Cloud Cult and The Polyphonic Spree. As this would indicate, they lift me like hot-air balloons of love. They're charismatic, nigh impossible to find on google (you have to break out the quotation marks), and they don't update their website! Sweet! What rebels! They must be outside playing beach volleyball with your girlfriend. You'd better go join in before it's too late!

The Backseat
Jane Is Fat
[from Oh No! Oh My!|buy]


A Hokie Grieves

I hate network newsmedia. Leaches, wolves, idiots, all. There's blood in the water and the frenzy is already getting old. How can you spend hours of air time without any new information? Why would you do that? Why would you keep interviewing over and over the same kids who had just been shot hours earlier. They don't need you. This interview is not catharsis for them. I got 20 myspace messages yesterday from reporters and gawking strangers asking me for inside details about the shootings and I don't even go to Virginia Tech anymore. I am undone. My heart is broken for these families and my Hokie brothers and sisters. May God hold you and keep you close. I'll keep this list updated as it develops.

Ryan "Stack" Clark
Dr. Kevin Granata
Dr. Liviu Librescu
Dr. G.V. Loganathan
Ross Alameddine
Matthew La Porte
Brian Bluhm
Daniel O'Neil
Leslie Sherman
Maxine Turner
Reema Samaha
Mary Karen Read
Daniel Pérez Cueva
Erin Peterson
Juan Ortiz
Henry Lee
Caitlin Hammaren

Listen: Ida - Don't Get Sad


Listening Assignments 4.16.07

1. Pedro the Lion - Indian Summer - I'm actually surprised I never got too deep into Pedro the Lion, but gems like this one help me understand why a lot of people I know are koo-koo for Pedro-Puffs. This one belongs on a mixtape. Make it happen, people. [from Control|buy]

2. The Cinematic Orchestra - To Build a Home - This sounds like Coldplay's Chris Martin doing a song for a movie soundtrack. Is that bad in any way? Not a chance. [from Breathe|buy]

3. Magic Arm - Outdoor Games - It's no surprise that a dude from Grizzly Bear (Ed writes an excellent blog, by the by) recommended this to the blogosphere. It sounds like a Grizzly Bear b-side. Psychedelic dream-pop with a fantastic knowledge of dynamics and structure. [from Outdoor Games EP (out 6.11)|info]

4. Peasant - Can't Believe You're Believin' - On speakers, the cross-panning of this one is pretty interesting and rocks you back and forth as you listen. On headphones, it drives me crazy. The song itself is really nice with Elliott Smith-esque double-tracked vocals, some beautiful harmonies and a solid chorus. [from The Wind 7''|buy]


Rubber and Soul (Ane Brun)

Amazing artists like Ane Brun make me wonder if Swedish musicians grow up singing English from the womb. There's not a trace of an accent and her lyrics hit like a sock full of nickels. Her quivering voice haunts me. Do you know what an angel sounds like? I think this is it.

Rubber and Soul
[from A Temporary Dive|buy]
Love and Misery (feat Tobias Froberg)
[from Duets|buy]
Are they Saying Goodbye?
[from Spending Time with Morgan|buy]



So Ane Brun was originally going to be today's "dessert", but the more I listened, the more that felt like a Sunday blog. Therefore, today you will fall victim to the smooth stylings of American Analog Set. They made their first appearance in the 3.26 assignments with "Choir Vandals" and I got quite a few responses from readers about their inherent coolness. Their records sound like the wind whispering through the trees above your head. They are the ghost that kisses your eyelids during a nap brought on by utter exhaustion. Set Free could easily accompany a car ride, couch party, or solo run on a misty gray morning. Its shuffling, stuttering drums and heavily breathed vocals all blend together to a swirl of sound that flows through the length of the album. It's cohesive and flowy. It's liquid. For your ears.

Born on the Cusp
Immaculate Heart 1
Cool Kids Keep
[from Set Free|buy]


The Worst Anthem Ever

Just had to be posted...

Jenny Owen Youngs

Jenny Owen Youngs' new album just dropped on the 10th, so I thought it a fitting time to finally tender a review. There's a lot of Alana Davis in this smoky-voiced New Jersey-ite with a penchant for neckties and schoolgirl skirts. No, she's not an Avril wannabe, but yes, I do want to make out with her. I assure you that fact has no bearing on my opinion of the music herein. It's the top shelf of standard female singer/songwriter fare, smacking of longing and angst, sung over dutifully finger-picked guitar and meandering cello. It's like a fine brandy, taken just after dinner. Swirled around the snifter, its bouquet full of maturity and spite, mellow and warm on the palate, velvet heat on the swallow. Tomorrow's blog will serve as dessert.

Voice on Tape
F*ck Was I (ummm, there's profanity in this one, but if you don't mind, it's pretty amazing)
[from Batten the Hatches|buy]


The Tide that Binds

I'll say this: it takes some serious gravitas for a band to say something like "If Coldplay can be called the new U2, I think we are the new Coldplay." Though the musical comparison wouldn't hold up, it's the kind of brashness I'd expect out of Say Anything's mentally unstable frontman Max Bemis, not from an almost-unknown indie band hailing from the burgeoning metropolis of Grand Rapids, Michigan. You say something like that within earshot of anyone and you'd better put up or shut up. Surprisingly, the Tide put up. Sure, it's more Coldplay itself than "the new Coldplay", but it's seriously not bad. It's better than not bad. It's highly decent middle-america indie-pop. There are some interesting rhythms, soaring choruses (chorii?), and safe but fantastic melodies. It's nothing new, but it feels fresh. It brims with optimism and youth and just enough confidence to shake people into lending an ear. Lend yours?

[and if not for indiechristoph, I never would have heard of them. props.]

Lonely World
[from Oh My God, I'm Not Free|buy]


Open my Bright Eyes

There was a very long time that everything about Bright Eyes made my stomach turn. The hair, the forced vibrato, the teen angst, the comparisons to Dylan...everything. He turned a corner for me, however, with the simultaneous release of Digital Ash in a Digitial Urn and I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, a mass of songs with such breadth I couldn't deny it anymore. Dude was growing up. Despite the spotlight and the expectations, a legion of doubters and an even bigger mob of pretentious fans, Conor Oberst kept writing great songs. And hey, maybe they have been great this whole time, but people like me started to take notice again. His new album Cassadaga dropped yesterday and it's another stone in his path to fruition. Stinging strings, playful lap-steel, plucking banjo, and brighter melodies abound in a swirling near-masterpiece. "Four Winds" might actually get airplay, another notch in the bedpost for an artist who has graced the cover of so many music mags by the tender age of 27. Guest players include Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Ben Kweller, M. Ward, Maria Taylor, and Rachel Yamagata.

No One Would Riot for Less
I Must Belong Somewhere
[from Cassadaga|buy ($7.99 on amazon)]


"The Industry" by Steve Albini and John Vanderslice

If you've got a few minutes, here are two really interesting links to read up on.

1. The infamous Steve Albini rant addressed to aspiring bands. Bitter and profound.

"Whenever I talk to a band who are about to sign with a major label, I always
end up thinking of them in a particular context. I imagine a trench, about
four feet wide and five feet deep, maybe sixty yards long, filled with
runny, decaying shit. I imagine these people, some of them good friends,
some of them barely acquaintances, at one end of this trench. I also imagine
a faceless industry lackey at the other end holding a fountain pen and a
contract waiting to be signed.

Nobody can see what's printed on the contract. It's too far away, and
besides, the shit stench is making everybody's eyes water. The lackey shouts
to everybody that the first one to swim the trench gets to sign the
contract. Everybody dives in the trench and they struggle furiously to get
to the other end. Two people arrive simultaneously and begin wrestling
furiously, clawing each other and dunking each other under the shit.
Eventually, one of them capitulates, and there's only one contestant left.
He reaches for the pen, but the Lackey says "Actually, I think you need a
little more development. Swim again, please. Backstroke". And he does of
2. The fantastic John Vanderslice giving an interview on the future of media and music. (thanks gvsb)
"At some point, the question has to be: Does spending this money do anything for my career in the long-term? Have you ever bought a record because of an ad or a print review? NEVER! You buy a record because someone you trust tells you the new Field Music or Lil' Wayne record is good.
The goal for any band should be fostering a career, and on the scale of me and my label, and my band mates, and my manager, that means recouping.

If you aren't profitable,
1. Your crew is going to eventually give up on you.
2. You will lose your autonomy and you'll start doing weird things to make money.
3. You'll have to work. This is a big mistake!

The music will eventually suffer, and therefore your career will eventually suffer..."

Brett Dennen: Surprising Soul

Brett Dennen has been resting in my library for a few months, but it took a post from I am Fuel, You are Friends to remind me to write about him. This goofy-looking red-headed mid-twenties whiteboy is dripping with shuffling Ben Harper soul. It's the perfect soundtrack for the sun and shadows on my window this afternoon.

When You Feel It
She's Mine
[from So Much More|buy]


Listening Assignments 4.9.07

1. The Boy Least Likely To - Rock Upon a Porch with You - If this doesn't brighten your mood, you have issues. It's a smorgasbord of fun instruments: xylophone, that rippled fish thingy, synthesizer, hand claps, and fake flute! [from the Best Party Ever|buy]

2. Chris Merritt - Dance Karate - Your socks will now proceed to be grooved off of your feet. It's catchy, bouncy, and a robot sings the final chorus. Top that, I dare you. "Do you like this music we've been making?" [from Hello, Little Captain|buy]

3. Normandy - Kentucky Isolation - This easily could have been on the road mix (hey, maybe for v.2). You'll be toe-tapping to the totally sweet signature riff. It's short and sweet at 2:21, about where a catchy up-tempo number should be, in my opinion. [from Alexander & the Awful Horrible Day|info]

4. Buck 65 - Centaur (acoustic version) - You saw the title but you probably didn't expect this song to be about centaurs. You would be mistaken, my friend. This dude is a centaur, so if you had any questions about them, prepare to be enlightened. For instance, his "sex drive is 3 times that of a normal human". Innnnnteresting. [from This Right Here Is...|buy]


The Veils

The Veils are the prime example of how I like my Britpop to sound. Their 2004 debut The Runaway Found is the album I always wished Starsailor would make. Enigmatic lead singer Finn Andrews' broken, emotive voice recalls Starsailor's James Walsh, The Strokes' Julian Casablancas, and even Jeff Buckley on some of the softer numbers. Behind him, a curtain of melodic instruments and solid songwriting create a beautiful backdrop for his unique vocal talent.

The Tide that Left and Never Came Back
Guiding Light
[from The Runaway Found|buy]
Advice for Young Mothers to Be
[from Nux Vomica|buy]

The Definitive Linesthroughlines Spring/Summer Road Mix V.1

Spring is here and Summer's peeking over the mountain tops, you can almost smell it in the air when the wind blows just right. It's almost time for windows-down, flip-flops-pressing-on-the-gas-pedal, sunburn-only-on-your-left-arm, hair-all-poofy-from-the-wind-whistling-through-your automobile kind of weather. So this mix is in honor of those things and it'll get you from Point A to Point B at least 4 hours faster. Guaranteed!*

`1. Broken Social Scene - 7/4 (Shoreline)
`2. Blitzen Trapper - Summertwin
`3. The New Pornographers - Use It
`4. The Changes - When I Wake
`5. Crystal Skulls - No Room for Change
`6. Citizen Cope - Nite Becomes Day
`7. Jamie Lidell - Multiply (in a minor key)
`8. Arcade Fire - Keep the Car Running
`9. Kings of Leon - King of the Rodeo
`10. Modest Mouse - We've Got Everything [mp3]
`11. The Fire Theft - Summertime
`12. Matt Pond PA - Measure 3 [mp3]
`13. Beirut - Elephant Gun
`14. The Kamikaze Hearts - Half of Me
`15. Butch Walker and the Lets Go Out Tonights - Bethamphetamine (Pretty Pretty) [mp3]
`16. The Colour - Devil's Got a Hold of Me
`17. The Format - The First Single (Cause a Scene)
`18. Days Away - God and Mars
`19. The Futureheads - Skip to the End
`20. Ray LaMontagne - Three More Days

The Definitive linesthroughlines Spring/Summer Road Mix V.1 [.zip]

*or your money back


Friday Morning's Regret

I'm back from North Carolina and I'm sorry to have deprived you of new music for 48 hours or so. It's a terrible thing I know. The upside is that I made probably my favorite road mix of all time for the trip. It'll be uploaded for your road-tripping pleasure tomorrow.

On to today's hottness, Friday Morning's Regret. Being that it's Friday morning, I thought it was fitting. I can't wait to buy this record. Gavin Gardiner's deep melancholy voice echoes around the room, accompanied by his acoustic guitar, some piano, cello, violin, harmonica, melodica, a banjo, and probably at least one other strange instrument. This is the missing link between Margot and the Nuclear So and So's and the new Bright Eyes record. This is a good thing and if you're in the right mood, it'll hit you right between the eyes, or another place where you've only felt numbness for as long as you can remember.

The Wooden Sky
The Lonesome Death of Helen Betty Osborne
[from When Lost at Sea|buy]


Back from Iraq

I'm down in Jacksonville, NC to see my brother (Cameron Nelson) who just got back from 6 months in Iraq. I'm unbelievably proud of him and it's amazing to see him and hear about what it's like over there. He also took some incredible pics and I thought I'd share them with you since I'm out of town and can't access my music files.


The Decemberists in Norfolk, VA

In somewhat of a stark contrast to Ben Folds last week, I took in the Decemberists on April Fools Day with my dad, a semi-recent convert to their unique brand of literary indie-folk. I'd seen them once before, back in the summer of '04 (pre Picaresque) at the fantastic Aladdin Theatre in SE Portland, Oregon. They were amazing then and they were even better Sunday night.

Playing to a sold out crowd of 2,000+ despite never having played within 2 hours of Norfolk, the 5-piece sounded as tight as a recording, if only their recordings went to 11. Unlike the Folds show, I didn't care as much that they only played songs from their last two albums because the songs they did play were great choices and the order flowed so well. Of the old stuff, they played "July, July" and "Here I Dreamt I was an Architect" from Castaways and Cutouts, and "The Soldiering Life" from Her Majesty, The Decemberists. That's it. No "Los Angeles, I'm Yours", no "Billy Liar", and certainly no "Red Right Ankle" were to be heard. However, this was made acceptable by stirring renditions of "When the War Came", "The Island, Come and See...", "Yankee Bayonet" (featuring Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond), "16 Military Wives", and fan-favorite "The Mariner's Revenge" to close out the evening. At the end of "When the War Came", Colin Meloy pulled a Jimmy Page and destroyed his electric guitar in a perfect storm of geek and rockstar. He swung it against the stage, splintering the headstock, then pulled off a string and stepped on the neck. I wish I could afford to do things like that. I'm sure he gets all the girls.

Oddly enough, the only part of the evening I didn't go nuts for was their first song of the encore, a Fleetwood Mac cover that I'm pretty sure 90% of the audience didn't even know. It was proven to be moot when the next (and last) song (Mariner's Revenge) urged the entire audience, including myself, to scream their guts out. The lights came up, the crowd smiled below me, and a cloud of satisfaction hung in the air like a fog of invisible nitrous oxide.

They didn't play my favorite song, so here it is. Close your eyes and we can both get transported somewhere between here and wherever you are. Neither far, nor near. Somewhere in between.

and finally this: another amazing song they didn't play.

After the Bombs [b-side from The Crane Wife|buy]


A Friend Passes...

It is with my 200th post that this blog becomes perhaps more personal than it should, but I have no other medium in which to say the things I'd like to say. I couldn't tell you for sure how old I was when I first met Devon Thornton, but I was probably 13 or so. She worked in radio with my dad, eventually co-hosting a morning show with him. Our contact was limited, but I remember that she gave me a promo copy of Live's Secret Samadhi in a manila envelope with my name on it for my birthday one year. After that she moved out of radio and into various other things and disappeared.

A little over a year ago we reconnected by chance when she happened to be meeting friends down at the New Belmont on New Years Eve of 2005, the same night I'd booked Hickey Necklace to play the venue. She couldn't believe how I'd grown and we ended up talking about life for about 2 hours. It was surprisingly grand. She'd gone back to school, taken up rowing, lost 120 lbs, and just looked overwhelmingly happy. She wore a striking red dress I never would have imagined her in, sipped rum and cokes and laughed uncontrollably about every other sentence. We did lunch at Ten Top about a month later and talked about girls and boys and astrology and chicken salad and literature. I recommended Chuck Palahniuk (and loaned her Choke) and she recommended Alex Grey (and printed out "The Vast Expanse"). We e-mailed a few times after that. She'd gotten into one of the bands on a CD I'd made and finished Choke the first day she started reading it. She came to see me play a show in Virginia Beach. Mid-March of 2006, she had invited me to her apartment in Ghent for some steak and salad and bade me bring my guitar. I played Mike and the Mechanics' "Silent Running" for her, she loaned me her only copy of Craig Thompson's award-winning graphic novel Blankets, and we agreed to meet up again in a month or so to discuss more books and progress. It was the last time I saw her.

I woke up today to an e-mail from my dad telling me that Devon had taken her own life. Reasons and details unknown. Her last e-mail to me contained the following passage: "I am trying out being my authentic self with the entities to whom I am drawn and enjoying those connections as I walk the path." I hope she found those connections and I hope they were like gold and silver and music and I hope she's in a better place reading this blog over my shoulder. She deserved a lot more than this. Rest in peace, my friend.

Regina Spektor - Field Below (live on BBC Radio)


Listening Assignments 4.2.07

1. Elliott Smith - New Disaster - The song title is only a half-truth. No disaster is to be found here, only a tiny patch of high ground surrounded by water, writhing and rising but ultimately held at bay by the notes of this long since gone voice. Each note burns me with sadness, but I can't help but smile. [from New Moon (out 5.8)|info]

2. Shapes and Sizes - The Taste in My Mouth - This tastes so sweet, but it's not a sweetness I readily identify. It's a little burned around the edges with tiny hidden veins of longing. Its entire 5:30 length is a continuously uplifting curve, a development that pleases me to no end. [from Split Lips, Winning Hips, a Shiner (out 5.22|info]

3. A Classic Education - Stay, Son - I think it goes without saying that the weight of unsolicited musical material in my inbox usually falls on the side of "waste of my time", but every now and again I get something that I click and really get into. Because it's I've included it in the assignments, this is obviously the latter. This is not unlike the new Arcade Fire record sonically but has a more plaintive alto vocal along for the ride. The strings and the dark reverb are almost theatrical. [from s/t EP|info]

4. Tobias Hellkvist - Step Aside - You'll hear immediate Iron and Wine influences, but less low-fi and more pristine. This is the song that would be playing through those too-little speakers on the tour bus through heaven. [from Transports|info]

*for probably the first assignments ever, if you're interested in buying any of these songs, you're probably up a creek. The first two aren't even released yet and not even available for pre-order yet. The second two are from other countries, in addition to being reproduced in extremely short-run quantities (in this case, zero and 200). So enjoy, tell your friends about the songs and the site and godspeed. ~ drew

Chet Baker Sings and Plays...

Chet Baker was a rockstar of a Jazz musician. He was James Dean and Kurt Cobain with a trumpet. A penchant for beautiful (and usually blonde) women, heroin and cocaine addiction, and his mysterious death all contribute to his persistent infamy, put in perspective by these classic recordings of a man blessed with a talent this pure. This was a guy who, at 25, beat out Miles Davis in the Downbeat Jazz Poll. He was also a guy so helplessly addicted that he got his face kicked in while trying to buy drugs after a show in 1966, ruining his ability to play the trumpet and forcing him to re-learn how to play with dentures. He would never be the same. This was a guy who in 1988 filled himself up with coke and heroin and fell (or jumped) off his balcony in Amsterdam to his death. He was the tragic anti-hero, the Johnny Cash of jazz, and an example of another amazing career arc altered early by the addictive power of narcotics. Say no to drugs, kids!

Someone to Watch Over Me
Let's Get Lost
[from Chet Baker Sings and Plays...|buy]