All Eyes Ahead

When I first heard of its release, The Helio Sequence's Keep Your Eyes Ahead became one of those anticipated records of 2008 for me. 2004's Love and Distance was a unique and likable blend of Nintendo-esque programming, impeccably tasteful guitar licks, and harmonica. It had moxie and youthful exuberance.

It took 4 years to release this and pressure inevitably mounts over time. Sure, other things go on: fatherhood, personal tragedies, side projects, writer's block, voice ailments. But usually after a layoff like that, you're expecting something special to come through your speakers. This record certainly isn't without special moments, though half of them are almost too-Dylan to come across as seriously moving. The opening two-punch of "Lately" and "Can't Say No" start it off with serious intentions, refining L&D's sound into something more mature with more than a little longing along for the ride. Beginning to end, this record is very well balanced, probably moreso than the last one. It's growing on me with every listen. I hear a lot of influences here, some more blatant than others. Josh Ritter, Rogue Wave, Bob Dylan, The Shins, Bruce Springsteen, Joy Division...company we'd all be honored to keep. I guess I just miss the spunk and originality of the Helio Sequence. That said, keeping my eyes ahead, I can see this is a stellar LP.

It's rhyme time.

Can't Say No
Broken Afternoon
[from Keep Your Eyes Ahead|buy]


Ida's Prayer

Oh Ida, you hurt so good. You are full of light and love. Full of longing and loss. Your edges are rounded by time, your teeth ground down like river stones, over which water whispers eternal lullabies. You are the lonely songbird winging overheard, calling out to her missing lover. You are snow descending on branches outstretched, muting the whistling wind and forming a blanket of white noise to drown out the world.

Lover's Prayers comes out today, Ida's first record since 2005's amazing Heart Like a River [info]. It is engagingly fresh, both endearing and enduring. Much like Stars' Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan, Elizabeth and Daniel Littleton were made to sing together, melody and harmony becoming one soaring entity, indistinguishable.

"You were right about me, I'm weaker than you."

Lover's Prayers
The Weight of the Straw
[from Lover's Prayers|buy]


Listening Assignments 1.28.08

1. Via Audio - Enunciation - I'm fairly sure there are multiple points in this song where you'll think you know where it's going. Then, 10 seconds later, you're wrong. But you're not upset about it; you revel in it. You listen to it on repeat. [from Say Something...|buy]

2. The Basics - Baby, Let Me In - Wally De Backer (Gotye) has those golden pipes and the rest of this Australian 3-piece has the '60s groove down pat. It's a short little ditty that'll make you feel pretty. [from Call it Rhythm & Blues|info]

3. Kid Dakota - 10,000 Lakes - This may have been an assignment back before the blog existed, but regardless, it's here now. It's pretty nippy outside recently, enough to make me feel like I'm traversing the open plains, crossing frozen lakes and covering myself in assorted pelts (faux-fur, I assure you). This song is about how I feel on those days. But the real reason it's an assignment starts at the 3:46 mark. [from The West is the Future|buy]

4. J. Tillman - Restlessness - The haunting sound of one J. Tillman has been documented here before, but I see no reason to stop there. Consider this part 3 of your downtempo lesson that began with Idaho and Hayden last week. This plods along like a heartbeat, an ebbing and flowing tide of melancholy. Not always sad though, just always slow. Slow enough to realize that you're breathing slower, along with him. Hanging on every whisper. 4:23 is especially sweet. [from Minor Works|buy]


I still love you SSLYBY.

Don't have long today, as I'm playing in my high school's Alumni Basketball game as part of Homecoming weekend, then driving to Nag's Head for the evening.

But, as a token of my love, and thank you to the cutting edge individuals over at Stereogum, I present to you the newest track from Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin's upcoming record Pershing (out 4.8). Their catchy and endearing indie pop is only getting better with age.

"She could make your tongue stick to the sun."

Glue Girls
Half-Awake (Deb)
[from Pershing|info]


Hayden and the Love Long Gone

In part two of our two-day slowcore mini-series, I present to you Hayden. Again. He's back with his first new album in 4 years and damn if it isn't heartbreaking and beautiful.

Idaho and Hayden hit me in a similar place, right in the chest. Delicate gossamer voices, wistful pianos, love long since lost. And baby it's never coming back. But somehow it's not a downer. Somehow, in places like the 2:26 mark of "Damn This Feeling", a ray of sunlight pierces the canopy and illuminates a path out of the murky woods. Somehow it feels like you're drowning slowly in a pool of her perfume, but you're welcoming it. Because you know the only way to move on is to drown, sink lifelessly down the the bottom, right on through the reeds and mud, down through all the weight of the water and world. You need to die and wake up on the other side, anew.

"I'm gonna miss how bad this has felt..."

Damn This Feeling
The Hardest Part
[from In Field & Town|buy]


Classic Idaho Re-Issue

One of the hardest parts about writing about artists multiple times is that sometimes the first thing I said was especially accurate and tough to improve upon. This is especially true with Idaho's initial entry, late November 2006. Add in the fact that this new LP isn't new at all and it's difficult to voice a new emotion. Mostly because there are so many...

The Forbidden EP/Alas is a re-issue of two previous recordings, released in '97 and '98, respectively, smooshed into one streamlined record this time around. The tracklist plays in the exact order of the former records back to back and concludes with an incredible previously unreleased track "The Sun Is All There Is", one of Jeff Martin's more upbeat numbers with a surprise duet ending. Splendid! I can't help but think if Idaho were a new band, he'd be gracing the cover of Paste alongside Sam Beam and Conor Oberst, critics and fans fawning similarly prostrate in his wake. This chill is transcendent. This is how indie-folk should be. There is a reason you find yourself at this place. Press play and take the road less traveled. (It leads to Idaho.)

Hold Everything
The Sun Is All There Is
[from the Forbidden/Alas|buy them*]
*I can't find an online location to buy the re-issue yet, but when I do, these links will be replaced.


Listening Assignments 1.21.08

1. The Battle Royale - Shook Up - Immediately gripping and sounding like a glorious team-up of Page France and Cloud Cult, this Battle is laying their cards on the table up front. It's an acoustic sing-a-longer with a nice unexpected piano bridge. I doubt this song will ever feel dated. [from Wake Up, Thunderbabe|buy]

2. The Parson Red Heads - Crowds - This is lovely, and it reminds me so much of The Arts & Sciences, a band I'm 98% sure that none of you have heard of. A kind of melding of seminal influences from the Beach boys to Crowded House, this track a downtempo and smoldering example. [from n/a|myspace]

3. Half-Acre Day - Brown - Heather over at IAF,YAF often tips me off to something new and exciting, and this is no exception. Somehow, I conjure images of bunnies running through wooded areas and squirrels singing in the trees in impromptu choreography when I hear this song. It's soft, spunky and likeable. Just like a little bunny! [from Fourteen Trips Around the Sun|buy]

4. SS Cardiacs - Age of Navigation - It is merely a coincidence that the Cardiacs' lead singer Jessie Stein is a part of the live incarnation of my current guilty pleasure Miracle Fortress (who appeared in last week's assignments), but the coincidence speaks to something here: I'm a sucker for wurlitzer and a great melody. Suck. Er. [from Fear the Love|buy]



Note: This reference list is as much for my benefit as it is yours. These records have recently been released or are coming out in the next few weeks and will be talked about on ltl.

The Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride (2.18.08)
Ida - Lover's Prayers (1.29.08)
Idaho - the Forbidden EP (actually an LP) (1.11.08)
Hayden - In Field & Town (1.15.08)
Chris Walla - Field Manual (1.29.08)
The Helio Sequence - Keep Your Eyes Ahead (1.29.08)
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago (jagjaguwar wide re-release 2.18.08)

If you've got any that you're excited about, let me know in a comment and I'll check it out!


Colours Revolting

It's been awhile since the fabulously named Colour Revolt graced the front page of linesthroughlines, but this Mississippi fivesome will finally be back on the musical map with their first full-length LP Plunder, Beg, and Curse (out April 1st on Fat Possum Records). If the first single is any indication, this record is going to kill. "Naked and Red" harnesses the raw emotion that pricked '06's s/t EP and channels it into a focused and hypnotic rock build. It is decreed: Dirty guitar licks will be bent all to hell, God will be drunk in a liquor tree, and you will be anticipating April 1st after today.

Naked and Red
[from Plunder, Beg, and Curse (out 4.1)|info]
Mattresses Underwater
[from Colour Revolt EP|buy]


Another Bag of Items...

In honor (and because of) my new Seagate FreeAgent 320gb external hard drive, there will be no music today (I'm in the midst of transferring all my music files to it, a grueling 4 hour process). There will, however, be a list of things that float my boat, including said hard drive.

1. Instant classic video interview of an Aussie kid who threw a huge party while his parents were out of town. His glasses are famous.

2. Cherry. Chocolate. Diet. Dr. Pepper. It's money.

3. If you pre-order the new Chris Walla LP, you get instant access to 3 bonus tracks. Earlier versions of two album tracks ("Sing Again" and "Our Plans, Collapsing") and one unreleased track ("Like a Spark").

4. La Fin Du Monde: my favorite beer of the moment.

5. Lagunitas Brown Shugga: my second-favorite beer of the moment.

6. And while we're on the tasty subject. You can buy hard-to-find beer online @ beeronthewall.com.


Collections of Colonies of Bees

Thanks to an e-mail from a stranger, I was reminded of a band that piqued my interest right as I was getting into experimentive indie rock, specifically Polyvinyl Records' catalog. Collections of Colonies of Bees is a mouthful of a band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin whose 2003 release Customer turned heads across this great land with its ambitious instrumental rock sound. It sounds like what +/- would sound like if there were no singing and about 3x as many experimental sounds. The pitterpatter of rain, clean acoustic loops, skittering tambourines, knife sharpening, and pots-n-pans mish-mashed with an array of digital blips, beeps and electronically manipulated organic noises. It is a peaceful, relaxing brand of chaos, a soothing massage of your frontal lobe. Falling asleep to this music will surely inspire the dreams you're hoping for.

Flocks III
[from Birds (out 1.22)|info]
Fun (#2)
[from Customer|buy]


My Monday with the Owls

I know. I know it's not Monday. I know the first song on this post would be ideal for a Monday, but here comes the science: Tuesday IS my Monday. I'm always off Monday, I always work Tuesday. Monday is like my Sunday. So when I press play on "Welcome to Monday" on a Tuesday like today, it takes an angel's weight off my shoulders.

The Owls, not to be confused with Wow!Owls, Mezzanine Owls, The Grizzly Owls, or A Band of Owls, are really cute in a grown up way. It reminds me of the soundtrack for The Science of Sleep, chock full of brushed snares, one-finger piano riffs, and adorable female/male vocal interaction. This sounds like I imagine clouds sound, floating smoothly atop the horizon, rubbing elbows with mountaintops, crumpled sheets of tissue paper absorbing the sky.

Welcome to Monday - "Welcome to Monday, we hope you are working hard again...we sent you a card to let you know we were thinking of you."
Peppermint Patty
[from Daughters and Suns|buy]


Listening Assignments 1.14.08

1. Miracle Fortress - Next Train - I'm going to pretend that this Monday, you're down. Maybe you're starting your first day back at a prestigious university after a lengthy break you wish could have continued for just another day or two. Maybe you have a proposal due at work and you stayed up all last night finishing it. Your girlfriend/boyfriend is growing distant by the second, you're broke, and it just started to rain outside. I'm going to pretend that this Monday, you're just in need of a spark, something to give you hope, something to give you peace, if only for 4 or 5 minutes. Here it is. "I'm on the next train to Carson, to you."[from Five Roses|buy]

2. Helvetia - Old New Bicycle - This song is amazing, but the first :46 seconds really set the tone. It sounds like a recording from 1960s, with audible vinyl hiss and reverb-wracked vocals, but mostly because of the frequent stabs of beautiful vintage guitar licks. They just keep coming, every 15 seconds or so, increasingly hip, all draped over this fantastic roll-snare-kick combo. [from The Acrobats (out 3.1)|buy]

3. AA Bondy - Rapture (Sweet Rapture) - This dark little number smacks of Ryan Adams, though I'm sure he tires of that comparison. He first popped up here in early October, and he's back. He wants a rapture. He wants it to be sweet. And he wants it to have hands. [from American Hearts|buy]

4. Andrew Bird - Heretics (Early Version) - "Thank God it's fatal, thank God it's fatal." It's easy to write about Mr. Bird, a master songwriter/violin player/loop pedal manipulator/whistler who is finally getting his due in the public consciousness. "Heretics" is one of the best tracks from '07s Armchair Apocrypha, and this early version strips away everything but the melody and acoustic guitar. Awesome. [from Soldier On (European Tour Only EP)]


NFL Playoffffffffffffz Pt. 2

If the shoe fits...

Meyton Panning



Did you know Eli Manning's real name is Elisha? Beat Dallas, that's all I'm asking you.


NFL Playoffffffffffffz

In honor of today's NFL match-ups, I thought it'd be fun to find the creepiest pictures of the stars involved. You're welcome.

Jamie Lidell - Game for Fools
[from Multiply Additions|buy]


Thao Nguyen gets down, stays down.

She is an insanely likable combination of Cat Power, Asobi Seksu, and the lead singers of Cloud Cult and Menomena. She's from Falls Church, VA, but her record is being released Kill Rocks Stars (Portland, OR) on January 29th. She is/they are Thao Nguyen & the Get Down Stay Down, members of which are from Richmond's The OK Bird and Murphy's Kids, to name a few. It's disarming, adorably fragile, bluesy indiefolk with the occasional blip of pop flavor, and it's really nice way to kick off 2008's new music features here at linesthroughlines. Stay tuned...

Swimming Pool (removed)
Geography (removed, but here's a sweet video of it!)
Beat (Health, Life, and Fire)
Bag of Hammers
[from We Brave Bee Stings and All (out 1.29)|buy]


The Desert Island Top 10: Aloha

Back to the Desert Island 10 and onward to #7...

Aloha - Sugar

Aloha has received plenty of mentions here, though more for Some Echoes ('06) and Light Works EP ('07) than for their brilliant second album Sugar ('02). I only mentioned it at length in one of the very first mp3 posts on this blog, way back in September of 2006. Thankfully, we're in the middle of this series of self-discovery and sharing so I get to talk about it again, this time with an audience.

This record is in the top 10 because it changed my ears. From the moment I heard "Let Your Head Hang Low", I knew I wouldn't hear anything the same afterwards. This is hook-friendly pop for the Flaming Lips set. This is a loose chaos of vibraphones, wurlitzer, and fuzzy guitars. There's a lot of crash cymbal herein. This record is a schizophrenic siamese twin, joined at the heart, pulling in different directions but staying in the same place. It is perfectly flawed, balanced in its randomness, and a reminder that new music is, indeed, still being made in select places of this green Earth. Sugar is a beautiful sonic accident, perpetrated to change my life. And possibly yours, dear reader.

Let Your Head Hang Low
It Won't Be Long
[from Sugar|buy]

Previous entries in the Desert Island 10:
#8 Jonatha Brooke & The Story - Plumb
#9 Iron & Wine - Our Endless Numbered Days
#10 Lovedrug - Pretend You're Alive


A Bag of Items for you Bill Murray

I'm doing laundry and unpacking the bedroom at the moment, though I'm hoping to make a music post before I have to go to work at 5. In the meantime, I've been meaning to post a few random items:

1. Entertainment Weekly has an exclusive stream of "St. Modesto" from Chris Walla's forthcoming LP Field Manual, which drops Jan 29th. Both tracks I've heard from this record are amazing.

2. The oft-hilarious Dave Barry wrote an oft-hilarious overview of 2007 for the Miami Herald. If you've got 5-10 mins to kill, this is well worth it.

3. And finally this, an article I meant to link to months ago on some of the negative impact blogging can have on a band. Idolator focuses on the "success" of Black Kids, a band my boy Kyle over at the Late Late Rock Show just wrote about and reminded me of. I don't know much about Black Kids, but I do know 25 other bands you could easily substitute and come to the same fairly sad conclusion.


Listening Assignments 1.7.08

1. Neil Finn - She Will Have Her Way - Now that his son Liam got a mention a few weeks ago, I figured it was time for the patriarch to get some face time. This is soooo 1998 and that's why I love it. A great melody never sounds dated. From a criminally under-appreciated album by one of the best pop songwriters of the past 30 years. [from Try Whistling This|buy]

2. Red Admiral - The Astronaut Song - Boy this song takes me back. Red Admiral was one of the first local/indie bands that I ever got into and they never really got a fair shake. This was easily their poppiest, most approachable song, a musical junction of influences like The Fire Theft and Jimmy Eat World. They've all but disappeared from the interwebs as well. Only here, ladies and gents. Get them while they're hot. [from Sounds Good in Stereo]

3. Radiohead - Last Flowers to the Hospital - This gem off the bonus disc from the In Rainbows box set is a flashback to OK Computer's "No Surprises", with cold piano/vocals and a haunting melody. God, I missed this side of Radiohead. [from In Rainbows (CD 2)|buy]

4. Shapes and Sizes - Island's Gone Bad - Love love love this song for three reasons. First, it sounds like one of my favorite Deathcab songs ("Title Track") in a higher key. Secondly, the strings and almost-frayed voice bring a really sweet humanity to this great melody. And just when you think you know where it's going, it changes up on you. Oh, you keep me on my toes, S&S! There is a ridiculous (preposterous, even) sax part at 3:40 and onward. [from Shapes and Sizes|buy]


The Desert Island Top 10: Jonatha Brooke

The Desert Island 10 continues with #8...

Jonatha Brooke & the Story - Plumb

This one's been a long time coming. I was 13 when Jonatha Brooke released Plumb, the follow-up to 1993's acclaimed The Angel in the House, which has sold in excess of 500,000 copies. My dad and I listened to Plumb practically every time we were in the car, my young mind unable to wrap around concepts like devastating heartbreak ("Inconsolable") or the casualties of war ("War", a duet with the inimitable Bruce Cockburn), but memorizing every word just the same. Later, on my own, I purchased the remainder of her catalog: 1991's Grace in Gravity, the aforementioned Angel, and later 10cent Wings, Steady Pull, Back in the Circus, Careful What You Wish For, and her first live record, aptly named Live.

A little over a week ago, I had the chance to open for Jonatha at a private house concert for a charity run by my dad. I'll tell you these things: She's a world-class hugger, her live voice might be even better than her recorded voice, and her amazing ability to make beautifully dissonant chords and melodies are incredible to witness in person. She is simply one of the most underrated songwriters of our generation, a huge influence on my musical output and taste, and a damn fine human being in the process. If this is your first Jonatha experience, don't let it be the last...

"A man's skin will be blown back with time and confusion
'Til it gathers by his ears, in the same human shallows
Like sand at the sea..."

Is this All?
[from Plumb|buy]


Sara then and Now

Back when the lovely Sara Bareilles made her blog debut, few people knew her name let alone how to pronounce it. These days, she's all over TV commercials and shows, has the #4 Album and #2 song on iTunes, and at least one person a day finds this website through a search about her. That smells like momentum, methinks. A welcome breakthrough as well, coming from a self-taught, self-made female singer-songwriter with spunk to spare. At her best, she brings the off-balance piano jazz arrangements that would make Regina Spektor proud and at her worst, she's singing a perfect commercial pop song. Do your worst, Sara. This is from her album previous to Little Voice. I prefer this version of "Fairytale" to the polished, over-produced version on the current record. In case you were curious.

[from Careful Confessions|buy]

The desert island 10 comes back tomorrow!


So this is the New Year...

Damn you New Years Eve/New Years, for falling on a Monday (assignments), for falling on the last day of the last month of my lease (aka Moving Day), for being the only holiday that lasts less than a second, putting all that preparation and excitement to waste. Whelp, it's here. 2008. It's like a birthday, we certainly don't feel older, and though we can't remember the details, we're pretty sure that something big happened last night, judging by the pounding headache and the big mess left behind. I've never been to NYC for the ball drop, but I'm wondering how all the people who are crammed in Times Square like a massive shipment of illegal immigrants feel about 2 minutes after the big event. "Oh great, now it's over and we're never getting out of here." It's not a feeling I'd relish. I'm perfectly happy with watching the ball drop on the television, even muted, with a group of friends, raising glasses, counting down from 10, and making one big ridiculous swell of noise at 12:00:00. All the money spent on every bulb in that ball could probably have purchased something far more worthwhile. Ditto for the paper that made all the confetti that spilled down like a cloud of poisonous gas onto the streets of New York, still being cleaned up I'd imagine. New Years is a joke, an excuse to make a promise 95% of us won't keep, a reason other than high school graduation to wear those ridiculous glasses that look like "2008".

All of that aside, it's symbolic. It can mean something. I'm in a new house today, my stuff piled up around me like I'm some kind of packrat. I have no idea where it'll all go. But I can put my headphones on, turn them up loud, and dream about the changes I wish I could make in my life. All the people I want to know that I love them. And I start to think maybe this year could be something new after all.

The Mountain Goats - This Year
Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start - New Year