The Desert Island Top 10: Lovedrug

After mentioning my "desert island top 10" here, I really feel like getting back to some of the roots on why I started this blog in the first place. Other than the pitiful burst of self-importance that leads anyone to write about or put pictures of themselves online, I started it because I, like all of you, am the sum of my musical parts. There was a road that got me to this place I occupy now, one that meandered and doubled back on itself, dotted with diners and discotheques, and ended up here. It occurred to me that maybe some of you don't just come here to pilfer the newest tunes, but perhaps because you may subscribe to all of a portion of my tastes. I figured we might learn even more about each other if I revisited some of the landmarks on that path. I can reminisce and you might even discover something. Onward to #10...

Lovedrug - Pretend You're Alive

I picked up this album at Relative Theory Records (RIP) in early 2004 after hearing the title track on the band's myspace via my good friend Kevin. The copy I bought had been punched as a promotional copy and the record wasn't even supposed to be released for another two weeks, but I wasn't going to complain. Coincidentally, I'd also just acquired Stephen King's Needful Things, a masterpiece of a novel starring the devil as a small-town shopkeeper selling the townspeople their wildest dreams in exchange for their souls. It's now my favorite King novel, perhaps due to this album serving as the soundtrack. On repeat, I played this record while I poured over the pages. Never have I heard darkness and beauty so excellently juxtaposed. Imagery of angels, heaven, and halos is countered by that of demons, rats, and ghosts, an ideal companion to this story of macabre.

I can't hear this record without thinking about that book. Without feeling a swelling in my heart, the rise and fall of something dark. It's like a blood lust. When I hear the opening notes of the first track, I'm transformed into something with teeth, something that smells your heart through the night.

Pretend You're Alive


Moving Links with Jose


2. I'm moving out by Friday. Therefore, I don't have time to scour the intertubes for new ear candy. But I do possess an inordinate amount of it myself, so I just typed "move" into my iTunes search. Jose fits the bill. What a great album.

Jose Gonzalez - Slow Moves
[from Veneer|buy]

3. Kevin Barnes (of Montreal) wrote this totally hot essay on selling out.

"Are you a sell out? Yes. Don't let it bother you though, cause apparently I am also a sell out, and so are your parents and everyone you've ever known. The only way to avoid selling out is to live like a savage all alone in the wilderness. The moment you attempt to live within the confines of a social order, you become a sell out. Once you attempt to coexist you sell out. If that's true, then selling out is a good thing. It is an important thing. If we didn't do it, we'd be fucked, quite literally, by everyone bigger than us physically who found us fuckable..."

4. This awesome Flickr photoset of Portland, OR. One of my favorite places on the planet.

5. 2 Guys, 1 Cup. Amazing video of John Mayer parodying one of the grossest videos of all time.


The Light Works of Aloha

It's no surprise Aloha was one of my first blog subjects here. They're a part of my personal pantheon of rock-n-roll and had a great album that came out last January. Considering that was almost two years ago, it's about time some new material materialized. And here it is.

This EP (at 30 minutes long, definitely closer to an LP) is inviting and warm, a work of shimmering pages with gilded edges. Built more organically than their other proper albums, Light Works is layered with acoustic guitars and resonating piano, though almost completely absent are the vibraphones that became a welcome Aloha trademark. This is still the same band, however, possessing the same unrivaled grasp on melody and structure. It's an adequately named piece. A sweet coating makes it easy to swallow, but unknown depths exist below.

Gold World
Body Buzz
[from Light Works (out 12.4)|buy]
I Wish No Chains Upon You
[from Sugar|buy]


Listening Assignments 11.26.07

1. Lily Allen - Don't Get Me Wrong (Pretenders cover) - This classic song is always worthy of a listen, especially when hipped up by the sassy Ms. Allen here. Instant dance party and/or nostalgia overload. You decide. [from Radio One Est. 1967|buy]

2. Veda - Still Standing - It occurred to me today that I've never put any Veda (now called Vedera) in the blog (other than a mention here). This is so 2005, back when the assignments were heard by only a handful of fabulous people. They've now been passed up by acts like Eisley and Paramore in the genre of female-fronted pop friendly indie rock, but I was sold the moment I first heard this album. File under "Where are they now and why did they go there?" [from The Weight of An Empty Room|buy]

3. The Go Find - Dictionary - This song is deliciously understated. It reminds me of Stars covering a song off the fantastic new Radiohead album. A smart beat in the background, simple arpeggiation of a clean guitar, dreamy vocals, occasional synth strings that swell into the chorus. The ideal track for a chilly Monday such as this. [from Stars on the Wall|buy]

4. Cocoon - June - I first wrote about them here, and everything's still in French. Since it's nigh-impossible to find, you deserve a second taste. You're about to close your eyes and drift off somewhere else entirely. [from From Panda Mountains|info]


Black Friday Presents Via Audio

So it's that scary day where you are afraid to go pretty much anywhere. BLACK FRIDAY OOOOH. The post office is swamped. Why is this? Christmas is over a month away. People are ridiculous. The mall's a zoo, though I don't necessarily blame people, what with stores like KOHL's opening at 4am and making their whole inventory 40% off. We've created a monster. What makes little sense to me is that physical shopping for presents is largely a waste of time, in my opinion. I'll go to the mall and spend 3 hours there and come away with three presents that are actually well thought out and relevant to the eventual recipient. There's so much stuff with so little character, all spread out over a mile of walkways and at mostly outrageous prices. Malls are the reason I (and probably all of you) received countless striped sweaters, polo shirts, and slacks for Christmas from relatives over the years, rarely wearing any of them.

Let's end this scourge! Buy online.

Etsy.com - the craft mafia strikes again. something for absolutely everyone.
threadless.com - $10 t-shirt sale runs through Dec 16th.

Via Audio - Presents
[from Say Something|buy]


Thanksgiving 2008

50 Things I'm Thankful For:
1. Amity Louise Crockett
2. Cottonwood Brewery (Boone, NC). Low Down Brown. Endo IPA. Scottish Style Ale. The Best Pumpkin Beer in America.
3. Jay's Delicatessen.
4. Magic Hat #9, the not-quite-pale-ale
5. I Love Lampl, I still miss you.
6. etsy.com

7. Copeland - Thanks to You [from Dressed Up & In Line]
8. Eef Barzelay - Thanksgiving Waves [from Bitter Honey]
9. The Acorn - Plates & Saucers [from Blankets EP]
10. Chuck Palahniuk. For making it impossible to choose a favorite.
11. Hot Coffee on a cold morning
12. My brother, already been to Iraq and baq.
13. The privilege of being American.
14. Hummus. Sunflower Seeds. Duckpin Bowling. New Addictions in General.
15. A Blank Canvas
16. Barsuk, Polyvinyl, and Sub Pop Records
17. Cogan's Pizza: It's a love/hate thing
18. Relative Theory Records. [RIP]
19. My brothers in rock, The Editorial We
20. Alpha Music
21. Threadless.com
22. My amazing friends and family
23. Demo Jail
24. Mashed Potatoes
25. Whole Cranberry Sauce
26. Top 10 Lists
27. The Mix CD
28. Acoustic Instruments
29. Recycling
30. Living and Learning
31. American Football
32. Rivalry Games
33. Freedom of Speech
34. A good debate
35. Mutual Admiration Society
36. Seattle, Portland, Ghent.
37. High Fidelity, Quentin Tarantino, Charlie Kaufman.
38. Pro-tools, for allowing anyone to pursue what they love in music.
39. String Arrangements
40. 4-part Harmonies
41. Photo Albums
42. March Madness
43. linesthroughlines
44. fark.com
45. The tremendous blessings I've been given through no act of my own.
46. The evolution of the independent film.
47. Conspiracy Theories
48. Elbo.ws and the Hype Machine
49. The smell and feel of Fresh laundry
50. My sheets, my bed, my dreams.


The Trees Community

1. Thanks to Hand/Eye records via GvsB, I got to wrap my ears around The Trees Community's 1975 masterpiece The Christ Tree. It's incredibly uplifting, sweeping between mountaintops of serenity on a choir-like breeze. The fantastic harp work easily reminds me of Joanna Newsom, the rest resembling a more angelic Polyphonic Spree. It's 12:26 long and filled with the welcome crackle of recorded-from-turntable goodness. Multiple movements and a really great find.

Psalm 42
[from The Christ Tree|buy]

2. My brother is in town for the holiday. We're going to see No Country for Old Men. You should too.

3. And if you're not doing any christmas shopping on Etsy.com, you're missing out plain and simple. Make it happen.


Listening Assignments 11.19.07

1. The Lionheart Brothers - 50 Souls and a Discobowl - This one is lightning in a bottle. Pop enthusiasm that rivals Blinker the Star, The Grays, Ben Folds, even Brian Wilson. Bombastic horns and a soaring melody carry it. [from Dizzy Kiss|buy]

2. Chris Walla - Sing Again - No, not Dishwalla. The one from Deathcab for Cutie. His long awaited solo album Field Manual is set for a late January 2008 release on Barsuk Records. This lead single has been touching all the bases online (rollingstone.com, Spinner, etc) and it's worth the hype, with a herky jerky head-bobbing rhythm and a chorus that's scary addictive. [from Field Manual (out 2.29.08)|info]

3. American Music Club - All the Lost Souls Welcome You to San Francisco - I keep getting welcome flashbacks to one of my favorite bands (The Pushstars) while listening to this. It's smooth. Maybe a little too polished. Soundtrack material, fo' sho'. It's hard to believe Mark Eitzel & Co. have been making music almost since I was born. [from The Golden Age (out 2.18.08)|info]

4. Ohbijou - St. Francis - It's nice to have an airy-voiced female here to balance things out. It's pleasant, smacks of most Canadian indie-pop, and today that's enough. May Feist be with you (and also with you, Ohbijou) [from Swift Feet for Troubling Times|buy]


Peace on Earth, a Charity Holiday Album

Peace on Earth, the season's first Christmas compilation (that I've seen anyway), was just released. For many of us, I'm sure the burn marks from other disappointing comps are still fresh. It's not hard to imagine a reality in which this one would join them, but thankfully I'm here to tell you that this is one of the best of its kind. Caleb Palma over at Hard to Find a Friend pulled this rabbit out of his hat, convincing an all-awesome cast of musical misfits to contribute a holiday song each, all in the name of charity. Every dime from the sales of this 13 track digital album will benefit Toys for Tots. The Long Winters, Chris Walla (of Deathcab), Rosie Thomas, American Music Club, Via Audio, Great Lake Swimmers and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin headline with solid tracks all, but surprise offerings by surprise musicians like The Winter Jazz Routine, Ohtis, Aaron Robinson, David Karsten Daniels, Johnny Bertram, and The Cotton Jones Basket Ride (Michael Nau of Page Frace) really make this compilation a winner. This album is only $7, but it's easily worth three-times that much, and it's for charity! If you like these songs, you should plop it down. It'll make a great gift and it won't disappoint. Thanks, Caleb. I don't know how you did it, but thank you.

The Winter Jazz Routine - Through the Snow - "have you spent all day gathering fleeting things that don't last at all?" (link removed per Caleb's request, buy the album!)
The Long Winters - Sometimes You Have to Work on Christmas (Sometimes) - "my vodka and snow is melting, the alcohol isn't helping..."
[from Peace on Earth|buy]


I'm Wally's Backer

Wally De Backer (Gotye) is one talented mofo. Only 27, he just procured his first Australian ARIA award (like a Grammy) for Best Male Artist, got a new (since I last checked) website, and released a remix album. He's sitting on top (errr, the bottom) of the world. If only he'd tour the states. If only his stellar album was available here. I had to shell out $30 to buy one imported, a steep price for anyone not named Radiohead, but I was desperate. But you literally can't find it anywhere, not iTunes, not P2P or torrents, not other blogs (aside from the 2 or 3 officially released singles). I'm wondering if anyone outside of Australia actually has this stellar LP. So here's your taste. And a re-post of his best video. I'm trying to assemble a small army to kidnap him if he sets foot on American soil. You in?

The Only Way
Thanks for Your Time
[from Like Drawing Blood|buy]


Sufjan Song Exchange

The Great Sufjan Song Christmas Exchange! I think ima do it.

I Saw Three Ships
[from Songs for Christmas|buy]


Listening Assignments 11.12.07

1. The Clientele - Bookshop Casanova - It's nothing if not jangly. Violins sing alongside this '70s -style number from a band rapidly breaking their comparisons w/ the shins. I love the very ending. [from God Save the Clientele|buy]

2. Kings of Leon - Fans - His voice cracks and wheezes adorably. You want to bite your lip and bob your head. You know you do. [from Because of the Times|buy]

3. Sam Sparro - Black & Gold - Sam's got soul hottness to spare. He sweats in style, dripping from his chin onto tiny paper synthesizers. It brings them to life. [from Because of the Times|myspace]

4. Bright Eyes - First Day of My Life (live) - Sweetest Bright Eyes song ever. Just hold me. [from I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning|buy]

[here's what I wrote about a calendar year ago.]


Rachel Ries, a chilly Sunday companion

Sundays are universally chill and, this time of the year, chilly. A few things are comforting. Blankets. Family. Cocoa. Rachel Ries. The Chicago via South Dakota native sounds like a slowly smoldering fire, creeping across empty prairies. Timid enough to warm your hands around, but strong enough to withstand the sweeping winds hellbent on putting her out.

Here We Lie in Wait
Hands to Water
[from Without a Bird|buy]


Dan in Real Life

I peeped Dan In Real Life yesterday and left with a nice little feeling in my cheeks. It was adorable in spite of itself. The oft-amazing Steve Carell and always alluring Juliette Binoche (Chocolat) carried the film with a believable chemistry while his large family provided a diverse (somewhat predictable) blanket of comedy relief behind them. The film even survived (perhaps even benefited from) the casting of Dane Cook (great comedian, terrible actor to this point) as Carell's brother. It included an enjoyable and cohesive soundtrack from linesthroughlines fave Sondre Lerche, some nice twists, and the usual warm and happy ending.

I say "in spite of itself" for a few reasons. Casting Cook was ballsy and it worked, so congrats. He's far better as a supporting role than as a headliner. But there were a few moments where I found the plot to be reaching and underdeveloped. Carell improbably playing guitar and singing during the emotional climax of the film was a stretch. At least twice (originally I was going to say thrice, but I can't remember the 3rd occasion), I had flashbacks to Judd Apatow's recent bevy of hits that Carell is certainly no stranger to. A wedding scene easily harkens to the finale of Anchorman and a yard football scene is reminiscent of Wedding Crashers. Also, for most of the movie, his three little girls hate him. And how could anyone hate Steve Carell!? As if girls, as if.

See it with a special person, family or otherwise. Smile. Etc.

Hell No (w/ Regina Spektor)
Let My Love Open the Door (Pete Townsend Cover)
[from Dan in Real Life OST|buy]


Greetings, Grey's Anatomy Producers

Greetings, Grey's Anatomy producers. Thanks for visiting my blog! I'm onto you. You come in here and sift through my musical musings, searching for that perfect segue song. The ideal track to fade in right at the emotional high. I'd planned on writing this for some time, but I wanted to build up a solid case, which inevitably developed. You stealthy sneakers!

Now it's getting shameless. Last Thursday, it was "Merry Happy" by Kate Nash, courtesy of September 17th's listening assignments. A few weeks ago it was The Bird & the Bee's "Polite Dance Song" mere days after I posted about them. Were you on a tight deadline? It was a good thing I was here, producers. Before that it was the Cinematic Orchestra, and don't even get me started on Ingrid Michaelson. I post "Breakable", predict your pilfering, and two weeks later it's on the show. I think she might owe me a check, now that those Old Navy dollars are rolling in thanks to you via me.

Honestly, I'm not upset. It's flattering. But I have to tell you I was so disappointed in the opportunity you missed in last week's episode. There was a heart patient who was allergic to the anesthetic, so he had to undergo surgery awake, numb from the neck down, thanks to an upper spinal epidural. He was an eccentric old fellow and, it comes out, an avid birdwatcher. He began to tell the origin of his dream bird, the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, how it was thought to be extinct but was found in a tiny swamp in Arkansas, how he'd scout that bird the first day out of the hospital. And the whole time I'm getting giddy because Sufjan Stevens wrote an amazing song about that bird, special to NPR, and it would have been perfect for the surgery when Izzy is comforting him. I began to think you'd written that plotline solely to be able to include that beautiful song by one of indiefolk's leading figures. But the time came and went and I started thinking about this column. This is your mulligan, Grey's. This is what you missed out on.

But thanks for coming anyway. :)

Sufjan Stevens - The Lord God Bird


Grizzly Bear Re-Born

Don't have a ton of time at the moment (impromptu cleaning "party" at work), but a really great record came out today in Grizzly Bear's Friend EP. They're calling it an EP because it's not really a proper LP. Re-mixes, new arrangements, covers (by band of horses, CSS, and others) and entire re-dos highlight this 10-song album. As I looked down the tracklist, these two immediately caught my eye. Yellow House is still one of my top 3 albums of last year, but I liked it a lot more than 2005's Horn of Plenty. "Shift" was one of my favorites from that LP, but the live version from La Blogotheque totally hooked me. This is the studio version of that incredibly beautiful version. The "Alligator" from Horn is barely more than a minute long, a strange AM-radio effect on the vocal. This rendition, with the help of Beirut and Dirty Projectors, immediately transforms into one of Grizzly Bear's best songs. It's a proper track now, 5:15 long, and filled with transcendent melodies and rapturous swells. Grizzly Bear, you kill me.

Shift (alternate version)
Alligator (choir version)
[from Friend EP|buy]


Listening Assignments 11.5.07

1. The Physics of Meaning - Small Towns and Invisible People - This opens like early-era Deathcab so I'm hooked. "Down at Columbia and Cameron" was one of my favorite songs of 2005, but I hadn't heard this gem til last week. A little Weakerthans-esque as well. [from The Physics of Meaning|buy]

2. Le Concorde - Parallel Lines - With a name like Le Concorde and a sound straight out of classic 70's pop, I thought they were French. Chicago, IL puts out some pretty awesome stuff. [from Universe and Villa|buy]

3. The Silver Seas - The Country Life - If Le Concorde is '70s pop, this is almost '60s. It's shiny and happy, and people. Woodstock-era-ish people. Love it. [from High Society|buy]

4. Samamidon - Saro - Sam's voice hypnotizes me. This fantastic arrangement and performance of a traditional folk song will stir something in you. Something smiling or something warm. [from All is Well (out 2/08)|info]


Wild Sweet Juicy Tasty Orange

There's nothing like a hairy man holding a baby to get your attention. If you don't know Wild Sweet Orange yet, rest assured that you will. Well technically if you just read that, you already do. I just heard them over on the always-classy MOKB and I'm hooked. They sound like a really organic Blitzen Trapper meets The Snake The Cross The Crown kind of band. They'll take you from a toe-tapping heel stomper (think an electric Sunparlour Players) into a grinding bluesy rocker, then slide into a smoldering heartwrenched ballad. Oh yeah and Grey Anatomy played them last March, racking up almost 29k plays of their track "Land of No Return" on le'space. Probably a big reason they got signed by Canvasback/Columbia Records, who is set to release The Whale EP in 2008. I think it's time to tilt your head, open your ear, and squeeze this Orange into it.

Wrestle with God
[from The Whale EP]
House of Regret
[from House of Regret EP]


Knockin' on Dylan's Door

Bob Dylan has almost always treaded the line between worship and annoyance. I don't know anyone that isn't fairly polarized for or against him, mostly due to his voice, or lack thereof. But there are two things most people agree on: That he changed music and that the songs themselves are special. Dylan as a figure is fascinating. The never-ending tour, the years in the spotlight, the immense expectations and various incantations of a legend.

I'm Not There, a Dylan biopic from the brain of Todd Haynes, addresses those incantations literally by casting Heath Ledger, Richard Gere, Christian Bale, Ben Whishaw, Marcus Karl Franklin, and even Cate Blanchett to play the troubadour at different stages of his life. Supporting that ensemble is another ensemble made up of David Cross, Charlotte Gainsbourg (Science of Sleep), Julianne Moore, and Michelle Williams.

Most importantly, any musical biopic is going to have a soundtrack of the subject's catalog, and this one is miles away from disappointing. This two-disc album is fantastic. Sufjan Stevens, Cat Power, Calexico, Iron & Wine, Eddie Vedder, Karen O, Antony and the Johnsons, Yo La Tengo, The Hold Steady, Sonic Youth, Stephen Malkmus, The Black Keys, Los Lobos, Jack Johnson, Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova, Jeff Tweedy, Mason Jennings, and of course, the father of folk himself. So basically, it's a clusterf*ck of awesome. Some do the songs straight up, some add their own twist. Sufjan's is probably my favorite, no surprise there.

I've always felt that most (not all) of Bob Dylan's music would sound better with someone else at the helm. This album doesn't confirm that theory entirely, but it does scratch that itch for all of us. I think we can enjoy it for that.

Sufjan Stevens - Ring Them Bells
Antony & the Johnsons - Knockin' on Heaven's Door
[from I'm Not There OST|buy]