November 24, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

As excited as I am to bust out my near-expert turkey skillz this week, I kinda hate late November. Around this time of year I suffer from unrelenting twinges of anxiety every time I listen to part of a new album, because great is my worry about excluding a late-year release for consideration as one of my favorites of the year. What if I just don’t know it yet, and mistake that for not loving it? Will I adore it come February? What kind of a huckster am I?!

I’m reprising my talking head role (like Max Headroom) on NPR’s World Cafe this year, and I am so aware of all the wonderful music this year held, and the inverse proportion to my amount of listening time. Sigh. I think I have 8 of the 10 favorites nailed down with two dark horse spots left to be filled. Wish me luck. What are your favorites of the year?

A few more tunes from 2008 that are very good:

City of Electric Light
Chad VanGaalen

The opening lines of this song are among my favorite this month: “And I thought you were the moon in the sky, but it turned out you were just a streetlight, you were burning like a hole in the night.” Ah, the old story of mistaken identity; an error that many of us make. This track traces the journey from infatuation to disillusionment, and uses what sounds like xylophones. You cannot go wrong. Calgary’s Chad VanGaalen makes shiny, multi-instrumental homespun recordings, with his newest release Soft Airplane out now on Sub Pop.

Not The One
Francois Virot
My NYC friend Cara posted this track from Francois Virot out of Lyon, France, saying that he had a “sort of shambolic happiness, a violent acoustic guitar player type. he’s got the right kind of crazy going on in his voice.” I love the torrent of strumming acoustic guitar as percussion, and the way he flirts with an untamed edge throughout this song. As he repeats, “It’s over now; I’m not the one, not the one, not the one…” it’s as if he is primarily trying to convince himself. Virot has a bunch of tour dates coming up, but mostly all in France. My brother is teaching English in Calais for the year, so maybe he can scrape together the funds to see this guy — this kind of passion would be amazing live. Yes or No is out now through Red Eye Distro.

To Ohio
The Low Anthem
Hailing from Providence, Rhode Island, The Low Anthem has made a fantastic album that friend Bruce says sounds like a night ride home in Joni Mitchell’s car. That’s the best way I’ve heard yet to capture what this song feels like, from a band who hand silk-screens their CDs with love and says their ethos is “not entirely jaded yet: music that really is music, not an advertisement. Imagine that.” Citing influences in the vein of Dylan, The Band, Tom Waits and Neil Young, they vacillate between stripped-down acoustic arrangements and a more rollicking jam that echoes modern contemporaries like The Felice Brothers. The female vocal harmonies on this song also add such a warm and bittersweet undertone. The band is currently unsigned, and their album Oh My God, Charlie Darwin is out now.

The State I Am In (live on BBC)
Belle and Sebastian
From 1996-2001, Glasgow’s twee extraordinaires Belle & Sebastian recorded five sessions at the BBC for folks like John Peel, Mark Radcliffe, and Steve Lamacq, and they are now releasing this look into their early years as a band. If it’s possible for the songs to take on an even more vulnerable timbre, they do here. I enjoy hearing the intimacy of these sessions, the acoustic takes on favorites, and the four previously unreleased songs. The BBC Sessions is out now as double-disc on Matador (second disc is a live gig from Belfast in 2001).

The Features

In 2005, I fell in love with the awkward indie pop of Nashville’s The Features, with their song “Blow It Out” (celebrating sitting between a pair of speakers and playing vinyl very loud) making it onto pretty much every mixtape I created that year. This first single from their new album Some Kind of Salvation pulses with darker textures, and surprisingly reminds me more of The Killers. How did that happen? It’s an interesting development for this ebullient band.


  • one of my favorite albums this year was Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt by Augustana. Also, I just bought Furr by Blitzen Trapper yesterday (after I saw them live the other night) and I’m sure it will make my favorites list, because it’s phenomenal.

    allison — November 24, 2008 @ 3:43 pm

  • I still can’t stop listening to “Lucky” by Nada Surf. Love that album.

    lindsayjean11 — November 24, 2008 @ 4:20 pm

  • “Seldom Seen Kid” by Elbow is still on high rotation and is the best thing I have heard all year.
    After seeing MMJ live, “Evil Urges” became a lot more enjoyable. “Midnight Organ Fight” by Frightened Rabbit would be in my top 5 for sure (I expect to see it in your bestof as well). If EP’s are allowed, “The Second Gleam” by The Avett Bros is outstanding.
    I agree with lindsayjean11 about “Lucky”. See these Bones is an exceptional song.
    “In Raindows” by Radiohead is up there. (Amazon list it as being released on 1/1/08)
    Finally, The Clash Live at Shea Stadium is top shelf. I was never fortunate enough to see them live but this album does its best to put me there.

    Looking forward to your list.

    Tawriffic — November 24, 2008 @ 6:59 pm

  • Go with the Low Anthem for your top 10! I’ve been listening to that record every day for awhile now. My only problem is trying to decide which song to put on my annual year-end mix that I share with friends. “Charlie Darwin,” “To Ohio,” or “(Don’t) Tremble.” Is “To Ohio” your fav since you featured it here?

    JW — November 25, 2008 @ 8:35 am

  • Really digging The Features. They have a great song, Leave It All Behind- very bouncy and poppy. Different from this.

    Digging For Days

    Kip — November 25, 2008 @ 8:59 am

  • I’m really diggin’ Pershing by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Alphinisms by School of Seven Bells and Mending by The New Frontiers. But, that’s just a few of the ones I really dig for the ’08.

    Bona Fide Darling — November 25, 2008 @ 9:50 am

  • Chad Vangaalen’s new album is fantastic. I really like “TMNT Mask” and “City of Electric Light” but the whole album is really solid.

    Other albums that will probably make the top ten this year:

    Blitzen Trapper – Furr
    Elliot Brood – Mountain Meadow
    Okkervil River – The Stand Ins
    Black Mountain – In the Future
    Islands – Arms Way

    Adam Coombs — November 25, 2008 @ 10:49 am

  • I’m more interested in your top 10 live shows. Any chance we’ll see that list?

    kcortez — November 25, 2008 @ 3:13 pm

  • shambolic happiness! yeah.

    c — November 25, 2008 @ 8:33 pm

  • Of Montreal-Skeletal Lamping is going to rank pretty high on my list.

    -tom — November 26, 2008 @ 7:42 am

  • hacienda – their album loud is the night is EXCELLENT!!!!! definitely worth a listen.

    Anonymous — November 26, 2008 @ 7:47 am

  • There was a few but I really loved Evil Urges by My Morning Jacket, off the top of my head :)

    Caz — November 26, 2008 @ 10:15 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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