April 15, 2011

kickstart Cataldo. do it.

Eric Anderson is the core of Seattle’s Cataldo, and I love his music terrifically. I’ve written a few times before about him and included his songs on both my summer and fall mixes last year. There is something in the pointed honesty and cleverness of his lyrics, which when combined with the catchy melodies (banjo! singalongs! quiet handclaps!) reel me right on in. As he writes, the music “hopefully seems like it was composed by a hard worker with a mild taste for adventure,” which is an excellent summation.

His latest, greatest album Signal Flare came out in 2008, so it has been a long wait for some new music. Eric is finally is ready to release another, but needs a Kickstart. He has crafted the Kickstarter packages in finely dashing style too – in addition to the album you can get bonuses like a handwritten haiku, a pho date, a custom cover song, even what is apparently the best ice cream in all of Seattle. This is a man who is having some fun – and you can benefit. Please head over to his page; this is a rich, earthy, thoughtful, poignant album that needs to be heard.

Here is the gorgeous music video that Seattle videographer Christian Sorensen Hansen made of “Deep Cuts,” the opening track from the new album. Sorensen Hansen is the same distinctive director behind The Head and The Heart’s “Lost In My Mind” video — so evocative, his work.

I can’t tell which resonates in my heart louder: the song itself (“let’s begin at the end / of a bad year, with bad things at my back…“), or the combination of the sound of rain falling (!), the blanketing fog, the ocean horizon twinkling with lights, and the rising embers from the campfire:

PS – The new Cataldo album includes a re-worked electric version of “My Heart Is Calling,” which is good because I’ve listened to the version from Signal Flare about a jillion times.

July 13, 2012

my thoughts were upside down

I’d reckon that the Campfire OK show tonight at Seattle’s Crocodile Cafe will involve a healthy dollop more joyful bouyancy, tambourining, and electrically-transmissible energy across the air than the gorgeous quietude here. But this slice of redolence is how I started my morning today as I lay in bed with the window open, and I enjoyed every bit of it.

This rendition of “Brass” (from 2011′s Strange Like We Are) was recorded in an abandoned steel jail cell, just the band and the sunlight. Video-wizard Christian Sorensen Hansen continues to impress me every time he makes a video. I want him to film me brushing my teeth, all dulcet and golden-hazy in rich bathroom light. He could make even that look good, I’m pretty confident.

Campfire OK is playing a set punched through with new songs tonight, from their forthcoming sophomore release (which we’re anticipating in late 2012). I’ll be there. You should come too.

March 1, 2012

so if i ever cross your mind

This happened at my house last night. What an ebullient evening of purity and candor. Thanks, Cataldo.

[and thanks Kevin for taping it]

February 29, 2012

i had a dream last night / everything that happened, had happened

I’ve sat down to write this post about fifteen times and never quite get the words out right, because this song by Cataldo (Seattle’s Eric Anderson) is much more of an impressionistic short story than a song. Trying to write about my feelings for it is kind of like trying to tell someone about a dream, scratchy-voiced as the sun rises: it never comes out right.

It starts with only Eric’s words alone in a room for the first several lines, echoing as he tells us a fleshed out, highly personal dream. Unfolding in a town where everything’s been demolished, it is a story of seeing that person again, finding yourselves in that one house where you lived for the summer, and hesitantly playing a song together (you on an old piano, she on the violin that someone left). It’s that dream where — oh, we’re back in this room again? It’s the deep desire for reconstitution that tries to address those loose frayed ends that our hearts want to knit back together again, so much. Even if only in dreams.

This is my favorite song on the new Cataldo album, Prison Boxing, which some of you helped Kickstart, and is the second Cataldo album that’s been mixed by the intuitive Tucker Martine. It’s now streaming in full over on Bandcamp, along with the past two releases.

Don’t Lose That Feeling – Cataldo

I had a dream last night
everything that happened, had happened

The air cracked in my throat, a dry highway through stubble fields
all the businesses were torn down, flat lots on the left and right

i wasn’t tired or thirsty
i felt almost home

Like probing a wound that we didn’t know was still healing, it’s a dreamworld that puts us back in those places and times we wish we could still inhabit with that person, in that way. It’s one where everything, wonderfully, makes no sense but in that freedom there is finally peace: a version of trust (with no future, no insight, and no guarantee).

We didn’t kiss (everything that happened had happened)
but we embraced
in a way I imagine we will someday

melting what years have hardened

I first listened to this song as I drove over the Continental Divide, through Colorado mountains in a verdant July. I texted Eric to thank him for writing this perfect song, with a perfect crescendo, and incisive truth that just gets me every single time. It keeps getting better, from where the piano comes in, to the achingly sweet violin piercing the song after “melting what years have hardened,” to when the mandolin delicately sings, like the rebirth of hope.

Everything that happened has still happened.

Cataldo plays my house concert tonight. Won’t you come?

[top image of time-lapse fireflies via]

Tagged with .
February 20, 2012

Some pretty rad Fuel/Friends concerts coming up

The wild, celestial scale of musical largesse has tipped off its fulcrum in my favor, and we are currently splashing around in a sparkly, melodic deluge of fantastic upcoming Fuel/Friends concerts that I am hosting in the coming weeks. I feel truly awed and thrilled; all four of these special headliners have been listed in my year-end tops lists before.

You’re invited to all four warm wonderful nights, or if you have friends in Colorado, please let them know. Whoever comes from the farthest will get a song dedication and a hug.


On their way to open for some Blind Pilot tour dates, Cataldo is stopping by my house to fill an evening with music. Eric Anderson crafts plaintive, thoughtful, catchy pop that I have been head-over-heels for since I first heard it. His bio tells you all you need to know, I think: “I want to make beautiful things using people and tools around me. I believe in circuitous, round-about methods, trying as hard as you can, and fucking up as much as is necessary before you get things right. I believe in counter-melodies, gang vocals, and the banjo. Most of all I believe in singing things that are important to me and might be important to you.”

My Heart Is Calling/Following – Cataldo

(@ Moe’s BBQ, Fuel/Friends presents)

Drew Grow is a name you’ve heard me talk a lot about, because I believe in their brand of potent musical gospel. DGPW performed at the very first house concert I did, and the four of them have become my good friends, because they have beautiful hearts that create impassioned music. Their songs are soulful, varied, and incendiary live.

I’m presenting their Friday night show at Moe’s BBQ, before they head out for the month of March with The Head and The Heart; come stand underneath their torrent, feel and believe things, oh — and we can bowl and get BBQ. Nothing could go wrong with this plan.


Bootstraps – Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives

Next Saturday, March 3:
(with John Heart Jackie)

From the first time I clicked play on a Tyler Lyle song, it was musical exhilaration, and I’ve only gotten deeper and deeper into this wonderful record. His debut album was all recorded in one day, just before he moved away from Atlanta for good. Because of that, more than anything this album feels like one exceedingly honest and humble snapshot of a moment of change and loss, without artifice, in the best possible way.

After he plays San Francisco’s Noise Pop this weekend, and after his Daytrotter session recording, Tyler is stopping by to spend the evening with us (joined by Portland’s John Heart Jackie). I can’t wait to see this fresh new voice for myself.

The Golden Age & The Silver Girl – Tyler Lyle
When U Were Mine (Prince cover) – John Heart Jackie

Tuesday, March 20:
(with Motopony)

This is a huge one, folks. Typhoon wowed everyone at SXSW last year, with their approximately three hundred members (okay, thirteen) and their heads-thrown-back jubilance and shimmery, multicolored songs.

After their Letterman appearance and before they head out to play some big summer festivals in 2012, I’ve set them up to play a cool art gallery in town for us, all bedecked in twinkly white lights and with a sound system that can do them justice. I am co-presenting this show with our local NPR affiliate/college radio station, KRCC, and we both love Typhoon’s cavalcade of instruments and voices, and the way it feels truly overwhelming. There’s some of the redemptive waves of orchestral joy and colossal thumping force that we find to love in Fanfarlo. When they all throw their heads back and sing “alleluia, it will be gone soon,” I get chills, every time.

I am also thrilled to get to see Seattle’s Motopony, who I hear off-kilter great things about.

TICKETS: on-sale now at the KRCC studios, and at Venue 515 in Manitou Springs for $10.

The Honest Truth – Typhoon
Seer – Motopony

Let’s listen to some good music, drink a good beer, and revel together.

May 25, 2011

Here we go Sasquatch!

Tomorrow morning I catch a flight to Seattle to prepare for my first weekend at the Sasquatch Festival (celebrating its 10th anniversary this year!). Normally a standing work commitment prevents me from Sasquatching, but this year they were so kind as to schedule my conference in Vancouver starting the day after the festival ends. So some friends I will be packing our tents and diving headlong and happily into the fray.

This has long been high on my list of music festivals to attend, and I have never partaken in the stunning natural beauty of The Gorge (although I sent a writer-friend in 2009). As it has been every year, the lineup is completely marvelous. I jumped into the fest on faith and legacy without closely examining the lineup, and as I sat down in earnest to craft my schedule this week, I was left mouth agape in wordless pleasure. Holy heck do I get to see some great bands I have never seen before!

Here are my recommendations for this Sasquatch weekend 2011. If you are coming as well, please come find me and say hello, or if you are not, you can stream the whole weekend on KEXP. I may also have to get me a poster or two.

Due to several conflicts of scheduling (especially Saturday!), I may also need to find a way to clone myself, okbrb.


Set up camp!
Biffy Clyro, 5:05– 5:50, Bigfoot
Bob Mould, 5:45– 6:30, Sasquatch
Death From Above 1979, 8:00– 9:00, Sasquatch
Foo Fighters, 9:30– 11:30, Sasquatch

Seattle Rock Orchestra (Radiohead tribute!), 12:00– 12:45, Bigfoot
Alberta Cross, 12:00– 12:45, Sasquatch
The Radio Dept, 1:05– 1:50, Sasquatch
The Globes, 1:20– 2:05, Yeti
K-os (goood stuff), 2:00– 2:45, Bigfoot
The Head & The Heart, 2:10– 2:55, Sasquatch
Aloe Blacc, 3:00– 3:45, Bigfoot
Dan Mangan (yayy!), 3:30– 4:15, Yeti
Sharon Van Etten, 4:05– 4:50, Bigfoot
Wolf Parade (last show ever?), 4:20– 5:05, Sasquatch
Wye Oak, 5:40– 6:25, Yeti
Iron & Wine (never seen him, despite my love), 6:45– 7:45, Sasquatch
Bright Eyes, 8:15-9:15, Sasquatch
Robyn, 9:00-10:00, Bigfoot
Sleigh Bells, 10:10– 10:45, Banana Shack (!!)
Death Cab for Cutie, 9:45-11:30, Sasquatch
Bassnectar (fun), 11:30– 12:30, Bigfoot

Typhoon (!!), 12:00– 12:45, Bigfoot
Wheedle’s Groove, 1:00- 1:45, Bigfoot
The Moondoggies, 2:00- 2:45, Bigfoot
Fitz & The Tantrums, 2:10– 2:55, Sasquatch
Basia Bulat, 2:25– 3:10, Yeti
Tokyo Police Club, 3:15– 4:00, Sasquatch
Other Lives, 3:30– 4:15, Yeti
City and Colour, 5:10- 5:55, Bigfoot
Archers of Loaf (Eric Bachmann!), 6:20– 7:05, Bigfoot
Flaming Lips, 8:00- 9:30, Sasquatch
Yeasayer, 9:00– 10:00, Bigfoot
MSTRKRFT, 10:00 – 11:00, Banana Shack

GIVERS, 12:00– 12:45, Bigfoot
Young the Giant, 12:35– 1:20, Sasquatch
Noah & The Whale, 2:00– 2:45, Bigfoot
Chromeo, 2:45– 3:30, Sasquatch
Guided By Voices (!!), 3:50– 4:50, Sasquatch
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, 5:10– 5:55, Bigfoot
Foster the People, 5:40– 6:25, Yeti
Surfer Blood, 6:20- 7:05, Bigfoot
!!!, 7:30– 8:30, Bigfoot
The Decemberists, 8:00- 9:00, Sasquatch
Wilco, 9:30– 11:30, Sasquatch

Whew. Right?!

And then in addition to all that, I also have managed to finagle in a pre-Sasquatch house show in Seattle on Thursday night with both Cataldo and Hey Marseilles (both recent faves of the highest caliber), and a post-festival club show in Vancouver with a favorite fellow blogger to see Bahamas and Noah & The Whale.

I am pretty sure I might collapse into a happy pile of musical satisfaction by sometime next week, so wish me luck. I’m off!

[pretty Sasquatch 2009 stage-view photo credit Dainon!]

Tagged with .
January 1, 2011

Fuel/Friends favorites of 2010

sound wave

And so, another year marches to a close — another fantastic, adventure-filled, technicolor year. It’s the time when all of us start kicking around our neatly-bulleted lists of bests and worsts. For me, the more I read these lists, the more I feel that I missed more albums and artists than I heard this year.

The stats are staggering: in 2002, about 33,000 albums were released. In 2006 that number was 75,000. Last year close to 100,000 albums were released, with only roughly 800 of those albums selling more than 5K. It’s tough out there — to be heard, and to feel as a listener that you have adequately given a shot to even a fraction of a representative sample of one year’s offerings. I always feel this keening bittersweet regret at the end of each year, as so much more music was released than any one human woman can possibly digest or invest in.

That being said, I had a fairly simple time picking what my personal favorite albums were for 2010, of the ones I heard. I absolutely loved what Carrie Brownstein wrote on her NPR blog about these year-end lists.

She muses: “So I’ll admit that I’m not quite certain how to sum up an entire year in music anymore; not when music has become so temporal, so specific and personal, as if we each have our own weather system and what we listen to is our individual forecast. I’ve written a lot about music bringing people together, fomenting community, and many albums still did act as bonfires in 2010 . . . but many of us are also walking around with a little lighter in hand, singing along to some small glow that’s stuck around long enough to make us feel excited to be alive.”

That is exactly, precisely what I feel. And really, what is any top ten list but an assessment of those songs, those artists, those albums that have hit us square in the solar plexus exactly where we are sitting?

These are the albums that lodged deep and sharp into my red heart and made this year richer, smarter, harder and easier, sharper, sparklier, and all the more brilliant. And some of them seriously made me dance.



(Nonesuch Records)

This is just one of the coolest albums released all year — maybe all decade. And I mean the kind of cool that is quintessential, untouchable, badass, just strutting down a sunny street with-your-own-theme-song type of cool. It blends their trademark swampy, bluesy, fuzzed-out guitars with crisp sharp beats that sliced right through that weight the first time I put this album in, on my roadtrip to Missouri. I think I listened to it on repeat through at least two (long, loooong) states and it was love at first listen from that point on.

Additionally – if there is a sicker breakdown all year than what happens here at 1:02, I don’t wanna know about it.

The Go Getter – The Black Keys


dan mangan

(Arts & Crafts)

This album from the Canadian side of the verdant Pacific Northwest was an unexpected discovery this year, recommended to me by a friend who helps arrange the Telluride Bluegrass Festival (another favorite thing of this year, but hey we’ll get to that). Dan Mangan has made a dense, thoroughly gorgeous album, heavy on the intelligent lyrics, his oaky-warm voice weaving in amongst a whole orchestra of instruments. This album is beautifully arranged and well-crafted, one you can swim deeply in during rainy days all winter long (although I discovered it in August and it sounded just as good in the sticky warmth).

Basket – Dan Mangan

(Amigo/Amiga Records)

Drew Grow and his band The Pastors’ Wives hail from Portland, making music that easily straddles and jumps across genres to create something marvelously rich and endlessly interesting. The sound production throughout feels like an old, warm, crackly album (tip: get it on white vinyl while you can) with something urgent to say. From those fuzzy, sexy, pleadingly plaintive blues jams like “Company” to the aggressive push-and-tug of the rowdy “Bootstraps” and the dulcet golden ’50s croon of songs like “Hook,” this album has pleased me completely. Every song is a favorite.

The opening “Bon Voyage Hymn” sets the tone for this album (if it has one) of a sort of rough-hewn, honest, rock gospel as Drew howls, “Sing a shelter over me / With a mighty chorus, slaves set free.” And by that I mean the oldest spirit of gospel, in community and a shared love of singing, with our heads thrown back and our feet stomping — but while the guitar squalls and the dirty drums crash. At the house show they played for me in November, it was like the best kind of church, a jaw-dropping explosion of goodness.

Company – Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives

N.B.: Drew also has a stunning new acoustic EP.



From the first evening back in early summer when I streamed this Seattle six-piece’s songs on my tinny computer speakers, I was reeled in hook line and sinker. The song sang about something that sounds like a hallelujah, the sheer delight of embracing with all of your heart and both your dancing shoes, and no band this year has given me more of that musical enjoyment – whether in a parking garage very late at night, or in the living room of an old house. Amidst the warmth, the uncanny wisdom, and undeniably catchy musical & rhythmic foundations of this band, there is magic. We will be hearing a good deal more from them in 2011, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Sounds Like Hallelujah – The Head and The Heart


(XL Recording)

This is, simply put, a kinetic album. Jónsi blends his native Icelandic language with forays into English, creating the dizzying effect of running fast through a dream forest, not exactly understanding what is being said and not needing to. He’s made an intricate, joyful album of grandeur that is uplifting and challenging without being overly twee or silly. It is a delicate balance to strike. The paint-spatter of colors on the album cover precisely depict what this explosive album sounds like – purple, yellow, deep red, shot through with sunlight.

This album was completely unlike anything else that I heard this year, and made me simultaneously smile widely and furrow my brow. It’s the most imaginative album I’ve heard all year, perfect at evoking things like riding the back of a jet-black dragon over canyons. Yes, and yes. Please.

Go Do – Jónsi

Addendum: I also just laughed very loudly for a good minute and a half after I just connected the mental dots to the possible inspiration for this album, or at least this song.



(Pytheas Records)

I’ve said before that I think Josh Ritter is one of the most important and talented songwriters of our generation; this album is a stellar example of why. Through these thirteen sprawling songs, Josh demonstrates to me again exactly why I love the way that he sees the world. When I interviewed him this summer, he said he admires those who “see what everybody else has seen, think what nobody else has thought.”

Josh pens incisive, piercing, widely-varying folk songs with the comfortable intelligence of one who is in no hurry, yet is passionate in pursuing his muse and getting his stories out into the world. Highlights here like “The Curse,” “Folk Bloodbath,” “Another New World,” and “Lantern” are jaw-dropping. Josh has a remarkable way of teasing out truths about the world (seen and unseen), and poking into the human conditions in my own heart with a greater acuity than most out there.

Lantern – Josh Ritter

That song also contains one of my favorite lyrics of this entire year: “So throw away those lamentations, we both know them all too well / If there’s a book of jubilations, we’ll have to write it for ourselves / So come and lie beside me darlin’ — let’s write it while we still got time.”


(Fat Possum)

From the first time I heard Lissie’s soulful, immensely evocative voice earlier this year on her song “Everywhere I Go,” I was riveted. Who was this slight, freckled blond gal with the echoes of an entire fifty-member church choir in her lungs? Originally from Rock Island, Illinois, Lissie has harnessed both the brilliance of the sunshine of her new California home on her debut album, as well as all the gnarls of her roots. Bluesy, confident melodies and goosebump-inducing howls are here in scads — this is a notably substantial first album from a woman to be reckoned with.

Record Collector – Lissie



(Attitude Records)

“We could start tonight, slide back the deadbolts…” Matt Pond suggests at the beginning of this autumnal album with rich hues that gave me endless listening pleasure this year. I was glad I took him up on the invite. I’d admired the work of the Brooklyn songwriter in spurts and starts over the past few years, but this is the first album of his that I have really immersed myself into his uniquely lovely, thrumming view of the world.

There is a sort of expansive, wide-eyed glow in this album that seems to invite transcendent things to happen. From the specks of silver he sings about in the evening sky and the illumination all around us, I love the way things look like an adventure when I am listening. “First hips, then knees, then feet – don’t think anymore,” he sings. Good idea, Matt.

Starting – Matt Pond PA


(4AD Records)

This is a decimating, gorgeous, elegant album, much like Boxer was but with additional hints of weirdness and unsettled edges that I like. I was ridiculously excited about this album (in a sort of masochistic way, since I know full well what The National are capable of), devouring every word I could read about it before it came out. The single best definition I heard came from Matt Berninger himself when he said they wanted it to sound “like loose wool and hot tar.” In that regard, they completely succeed – their music is dark, burning, sticking to your skin and all your insides.

This is an incredible album full of terse, razor-sharp observations on the worries that wait in the shadows for me and gnaw when they get a chance: I think the kids are in trouble… you’ll never believe the shitty thoughts I think… I was less than amazing… I tell you terrible things when you’re asleep. But I won’t lie when I say I found some of the strongest redemption of my year in this music as well, with the closing track “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” — singing along with lines “all the very best of us string ourselves up for love / man it’s all been forgiven, swans are a-swimmin…” The honesty of the darkness shot through with these glints is what keeps drawing me back to these guys, fiercely.

Conversation 16 – The National


(Dead Oceans)

Kristian Mattson slays me – there are no two ways about it. When he sings on this album, “I plan to be forgotten when I’m gone,” it is almost comical because nothing really seems further from the truth. Mattson’s songs have the kind of heft and intricacy that make me certain his music will be around for a very long time after him. His guitarwork is sparkling, impassioned, and inspired. The words he selects and the way he delivers them are pointed and deliberate. I can’t tell if his lyrics are so sharp in spite of the fact that English is not his first language, or because of it – as if perhaps he can see more clearly through our muddy sea of language to pick out the iridescent rocks from the river.

Also: it’s worth noting that his EP released this year was equally good – serious brilliant work.

King of Spain – The Tallest Man On Earth


cataldo - signal flareCATALDO – SIGNAL FLARE
(self-released, 2008)

I cannot stop listening to Eric Anderson, as evidenced by the fact that I have put him on just about every mix I made in 2010, and listen to this album most days lately on my walk to work. After a chance encounter with his music on a college radio show of a friend, I’ve been smitten by his earnest, unvarnished, incredibly catchy way of looking at the world that simultaneously makes me smile and breaks my heart. You know me. I like that.

He’s got a new album “Prison Boxing” coming out in 2011, according to Facebook. I plan to be substantially more on top of that one.

Signal Flare – Cataldo

Burning Stars – Mimicking Birds [link]
Tell ‘Em – Sleigh Bells [link]
Safe and Sound – Electric President [link]
Six O’Clock News (Kathleen Edwards cover) – Paul Jacobsen [link]
If A Song Could Get Me You – Marit Larsen [link]
Second Mind (live at the SF Independent) – Adam H. Stephens [link]
Fuck You – Cee Lo Green [link]
Carry Us Over – Kelli Schaefer [link]
Baby Lee – Teenage Fanclub [link]

Bringing Jeff Buckley’s music to a new life through Shakespeare [link]
Talking to my Italian musical hero on the Santa Monica Pier [link]

My forays into presenting house shows:
Drew Grow and The Pastors’ Wives with Kelli Schaefer (Nov 4, 2010)
The Head and The Heart (Nov 9, 2010)

Andy Clockwise at SXSW (March 2010)

Joe Pug house show (February 28, 2010)

Tallest Man On Earth (May 19, 2010)

Megafaun and their in-the-crowd rendition of “Worried Mind” (April 12, 2010)

Telluride Bluegrass Festival, holy mackerel.

This one.


I started 2010 with a Polar Bear Plunge and a vow that this year was gonna be ours, a year of intentionally acquiring adventures and memories that would make me smile when I was old and withered.

I think we did it, and these were the things that soundtracked it all.

[Sound Wave” sculpture at top by Jean Shin]

October 15, 2010

Autumn leaves, autumn stays: Fuel/Friends Fall 2010 mix


I’ve been unabashedly reveling in every morning where we evade the chill for one more day, where I can ride my bike to work in a skirt and short sleeve shirt, where I can sit on the porch after dinner and not feel that mercury drop and the gooseflesh form. But hey — all that stopped early this week, with a final burst of indian summer and the subsequent autumn arrival. Time for scarves and cider and music that makes me feel thoughtful, wistful, warm.

Once the inspiration hit, this mix was almost harder than the summer mix I made. Summer mixes are all about toe-tapping fun and driving around with the windows down, singing along at full volume. In examining my iTunes library, I realized that perhaps I am drawn intrinsically, year-round to this sort of autumnal music, those songs with heft and subtle strength and acoustic coziness, maybe of the hippie beards-and-sweaters variety.

As much as I love the hot days of summer, I do look forward to the quiet introspection of fall.


One Of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later) – Bob Dylan
Because, for me, there’s no other artist that evokes autumn for me as thoroughly and immediately as Dylan. The organ crescendo in this song feels like an October carnival, exploding with caramel apples and the smell of leaves burning.

Slow Dance – Coco et Co.
This duo from Montreal has woven together a rich and gorgeous album, the sparse iciness of melody here anchored by the warm Springsteenesque timbre of Andrew Sisk and the interwoven frost of Miranda Durka. It’s autumn and winter in one song. You can get their album here for $5.

Down In The Valley – The Head And The Heart
I cannot say enough good things about these guys. This song from their self-titled debut (easily one of my favorites of the year) is steeped in referential nods to all sorts of old, good country songs and emanates a road-weary ennui. The violin also breaks my heart. I’m presenting their Nov 5th show in Denver: stay tuned for a ticket giveaway next week!

The Gospel Song – Magnet
Magnet (Even Johansen) warms his native Norway nights with this substantial stomping, clapping, banjo-laced gem.

The Dreamer – The Tallest Man on Earth
These days can feel too short, too dark by the time we get off work, and we need a reminder that sometimes the blues is just a passing bird.

All Through Montana – John Craigie
Remember that warm seeping feeling in your chest when you first listened to the magnificent slow burn of “Orange Sky“? This song (from San Francisco songwriter John Craigie) infuses a distinctly Western-landscape haze into that sensation. I love this song.

Bare Bones and Branches – Lewis & Clarke
One original review of this album in ’03 called it “the perfect autumnal album.” I agree.

Sold – Dan Mangan
This gorgeous, smart album and Dan’s oaky, warm voice have been a major part of my last few months and I don’t plan to stop.

The Void – Jay Farrar & Ben Gibbard
This atmospheric song from the Kerouac-inspired ode from Gibbard and Farrar makes me taste fog and smell pine trees on the California coast.

Sin-Eaters (b-side) – The National
A tremendous b-side from the expanded version of High Violet (coming next month), all tension and velvet. This feels to me like a preface to the sadness of “Runaway.”

Five Years Coming – Cataldo
A small, bright spot of sunshine through the grey clouds: “the simple songs of hope I wrote have always been my best.”

Si, Paloma – Sun Kil Moon
A reader suggested this intricate instrumental as the perfect fall song and I concur.

Burning Stars – Mimicking Birds
This Portland trio crafts lo-fi, compelling music that I love. Fittingly recorded in a bedroom, as a home demo.

Transformation (live at eTown) – David Gray
David Gray has always felt like an October artist to me (or maybe January, but that’s another mix altogether). This melancholy piano song is fitting for this time of year when everything is being transformed by the chill.

Unwritable Girl – Gregory Alan Isakov
Boulder’s bright star Gregory Alan Isakov injects a knowing, earnest rusticism into the mix.

What We Gained In The Fire – The Mynabirds
This Saddle Creek band recorded their stellar debut album with lots of whiskey and dancing in an Oregon hillside cabin. That sounds like an excellent fall weekend.

Passing Afternoon – Iron & Wine
Autumn blew the quilt right off the perfect bed she made / And she’s chosen to believe in the hymns her mother sings / Sunday pulls its children from their piles of fallen leaves.” Autumn isn’t autumn without Iron & Wine, yes?

Come Talk To Me (Peter Gabriel) – Bon Iver
Or Bon Iver as well? This cover is from the Record Store Day split 7″ I bought and have surely worn a groove in by now, a slow and haunting cover, with plucking banjo that sounds for all the world like rain on a tin roof.

Paint a Face – Neil Halstead
An acoustic folk album full of slow-reveal hues from this former Slowdive frontman, this was one of my favorites of 2008 and I always pull it out when the leaves start to change.

Helpless (live) – Neil Young
“There is a town in north Ontario”…. sweet jesus, talk about the high and lonesome sound — I think that tinkling piano with the piercing lone harmonica together at around 3:00 on this live version just about does me in for good. “Blue, blue windows behind the stars, yellow moon on the rise / Big birds flying across the sky, throwing shadows on our eyes….”

Rambling Man – Laura Marling
Like a wise Joni Mitchell in fresh 20-year-old skin, Laura Marling wows the socks off me.

Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight (Beatles) – Mumford & Sons
I can go for the Mumford & Sons sound any time of year, but they are coming to Denver at the end of this month and I am looking forward to it as a contender for show of this season (their Telluride one surely was for summer).

Storm Window (John Prine) – Josh Ritter
Folk perfection, the musical marriage of these two. “I can hear the wheels of the automobiles so far away, just moving along through the drifting snow / It’s times like these when the temperatures freeze, I sit alone just looking at the world through a storm window.” [bonus]

We Are The Tide (unreleased, live) – Blind Pilot
Blind Pilot’s smoky, rootsy, bittersweet warmth made them a shoo-in for this mix, and I was excited to find this new song that they’ve been playing live. This was recorded at MusicFestNW in Portland.

November Blue (Scott solo acoustic) – Avett Brothers
This runs me through — every. single. time. (Watch it here)

Post-War – M. Ward
One of the most perfect “slow-dance in stocking feet, finish your whiskey while you rest your head on my chest” songs that M. Ward has ever written.

It All Comes Right (Doe Bay Session) – Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives
This is one of my new favorite bands, and this singalong version of the closing track on their scuzzy, gospelly, phenomenally-good debut album is everything I want in music. Stay tuned this week for details of a house show I am throwing with them on November 4th!


[cover image credit the marvelous Dave Kurtz, from Bocumast Design & Records here in Denver, whom I adore and owe cookies to. But no chocolate.]

July 29, 2010

My heart, my heart is calling


Eric Anderson + a rotating cast of friends make up the Seattle band Cataldo. I don’t think the little kids are in the band (but would likely relate to the unjaded spirit of the songs it if they were). If you’ve sampled and enjoyed my summer mix, you might recognize Cataldo from the handclappy communal campfire goodness of “Black and Milds,” one of my favorite songs on that collection.

If it were possible to wear a groove into a digital stream, I would have surely etched one into their 2008 album Signal Flare by now, as it streams in full on Anderson’s website as my constant soundtrack of these hot midsummer weeks.

You should buy the album. This final song from it gets my highest recommendation if you love to sing and dance along to folks like Ben Kweller and Ben Lee. Which, really, should be all of you:

My Heart is Calling/Following – Cataldo

Eric writes in his charming biography, “I want to make beautiful things using people and tools around me. I believe in circuitous, round-about methods, trying as hard as you can, and fucking up as much as is necessary before you get things right. I believe in counter-melodies, gang vocals, and the banjo. Most of all I believe in singing things that are important to me and might be important to you.” I could not agree more. This is catchy, appealing, intelligently literate pop laced with sunshine and beat.

My friend Katie recommended that song on the summer mix, and has turned me on to their whole, wonderful catalog. I had a chance to see them with Laura Viers and Old Believers in March, and I do believe I failed dramatically by enjoying that second beer across the street instead of getting to the venue earlier. Hindsight!

signalflareAnother favorite song on the album is the fantastic “Five Years Coming.” Over a banjo and piano melody, Anderson sings the truth:

It’s been five years coming and one thing I can attest: that the simple songs of hope I wrote have always been my best.”


Tagged with .
July 1, 2010

Summer Plunge 2010 with Fuel/Friends

fuel-friends summer 2010

This year marks the most fun I’ve had yet putting together twenty songs to soundtrack your summer. The mix came together organically and joyfully while I did summery things, and the contentment I feel lately in these weeks is embedded in the picks. I declared on January 1 (when I did the Polar Bear Plunge) that 2010 was going to be a flippin’ fantastic year, full of new experiences — and it certainly is living up to the promise.

Enjoy these as I have, play them at the BBQs to come, and burn them on CD for your next trip to the beach. Bring enough firewood; don’t forget the sunscreen and the fuzzy blankets. Summer is here.


Bullet – Scarlett Johansson & Steel Train
I adore the two drastically different versions of this song so much that I am declaring them the anthems of my summer, and bookending this year’s mix with them. Starting this mix with ScarJo? Yeah, I’m as shocked as you are. This is actually a cover of the original (see track 19) from an album of all-female covers (Tegan & Sara, Amanda Palmer). When Scarlett croons over that immense, filthy-crunchy beat that she fell in love on the back seat of your car, can you blame her?

Bang Pop – Free Energy
Another song I want to listen to all summer: 100% pure bottled fun from these Philadelphia chaps — like Mentos in a bottle of Coke.

The Diamond Church Street Choir – The Gaslight Anthem
Snapping on the street corner because it’s too hot to go inside? A song that’s all at once immediate and urgent, as well as timeless, from these Jersey boys’ third album. “While I’m just waiting on the light to change / and the steam heat pours from the bodies on the floor.”

Heard It On The Radio – The Bird and The Bee
The lone original on an album of shiny Hall & Oates covers, it’s the standout tune for me, since I could never abide Hall & Oates anything. It perfectly encapsulates those summer crushes soundtracked to that one song on the radio all through August.

Heart To Tell – The Love Language
This North Carolina band (on Merge Records, one of my favorites) has a poppy, effusive, beat-driven sound that fits perfectly in these months. They kind of reminded me of Voxtrot, before Voxtrot stopped trotting.

Kiola Beach – HOT SPA
I know nothing about this band except they made a wonderful video with this song and old home movie footage of beach trips and vintage surfing. That’s enough for me to have a permanently fabulous vision in my mind for this song. They’re Australian, unsigned, and I read about them here.

The Drying Of The Lawns – The Tallest Man On Earth
On last year’s summer mix, Kristian Matsson sang to us about bluebirds flying away, and this year it’s the drying of summer lawns, and waves, rivers, and mirages. I’ve spent the interim twelve months falling completely in love with him, because of songs like this.

Fairweather – Houses
The cover art picture above was taken by my friend Kinsey, the luminous woman in the Denver band Houses. As I was clicking through a few of her quintessentially-summer pictures online, showing a bunch of folks up at Echo Lake lounging on huge boulders in the sun, this song of theirs (from their Summer EP last year) came on randomly. And it was perfect: let’s leave this town behind, let’s go for a drive.

Lost In My Mind – The Head and The Heart
What’s summer if not a little time out of mind? This song shimmers and grows slowly, to the crescendo where the bass drum starts softly thumping, and it sings about the stars all coming out at night. It’s almost like that Fanfarlo track I loved last year, that helped me actually see the way the sky illuminates at twilight, one tiny pinprick of light at a time. I’ve been massively loving The Head and The Heart since I posted that song last week (their full-length album is just out this week). They also remind me delightfully of the Local Natives, if you love them as I do.

I Will Be The Sun – Old Canes

Windchimes and hard-driving clattery percussion that you can dance around to, and this one sails right into the summer mix. The whole Feral Harmonic album sounds this joyous, and I love it. Great for roadtrips and gratuitous steering-wheel drumming.

Black and Milds – Cataldo
My criteria for summer is often a rubric of what songs might sound good sung around a bonfire, if I had exceptionally talented friends who played the banjo as well as they drank. We’ve also got plenty of handclaps here, in this song about missing someone (which surely we all do on occasion, even in the summer). Thanks Katie!

Hard Sun – Indio
The original version of the sweeping epic song from Canadian Gordon Peterson in 1989. Featuring Joni Mitchell on background vocals and an assortment of exotic African-sounding instruments, it just feels radiant.

Flaming Arrow – Jupiter One
NYC’s Jupiter One is a duo with folksy roots and Seventies AM radio leanings. This song is all lemondrops and summer street strolls, over lyrics about burning buildings. What an odd, totally successful juxtaposition.

Unattainable – Little Joy
Man, this entire album is the perfect summer accompaniment — that slightly kitschy, clattery sound from Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti and vocalist Binki Shapiro, along with Brazilian musician Rodrigo Amarante. I had a hard time picking just one track off this album for the mix.

Mirando – Ratatat
The video for this Brooklyn duo’s 2008 song consist of clips from Predator in reverse, so this song feels a bit like humid jungle warfare to me, in some exotic land. But, you know — humid jungle warfare you can dance to.

In The Summertime (acoustic) – Rural Alberta Advantage
I discovered this in the cold of November, and have been waiting for the sun to come and warm things up enough to enjoy it the way I think it was meant to be heard. A bittersweet, piercing, perfect little song, recorded off-the-cuff backstage at the Bottom Of The Hill in San Francisco.

Sunny Sunday Mill Valley Groove Day – The Sir Douglas Quintet
My friend Nick from London said I had to put this on the mix, and when he recommends, I listen. I’d never heard this before but it feels like something captured on a warm afternoon in the studio when the recorder was accidentally kept running. “When there’s nothing left to say, and all the clouds have faded away / And my mind wanders out there across the bay…”

Saturday Night (Pinkhearts session) – Ryan Adams
My friend Brian from San Francisco said I had to put this on the mix, and when he recommends, I listen. There’s something in the aimlessness and lazy midnight humidity of this song that sounds like a perfect summer night when you were a teenager. Also, the saxophone makes it sound for all the world like a cast-off demo from the Rolling Stones.

Bullet – Steel Train
Indie kids doing their best, brilliant shot at Springsteen. As soon as I burn this mix onto a CD, I am hitting the road with the windows open because holy heck how good will this song sound on a summer night with the car windows down?? It’s so good that I had to use this song twice on the mix. My new favorite summer song of 2010. [huge thanks to Brian in Portland!!]

Pursuit of Happiness (Kid CuDi cover) – Lissie
Finally, this one – I love Lissie, and I love how she had to take a shot of tequila before she covers hip-hop artist Kid CuDi’s collaboration with MGMT and Ratatat: “2am, summer night / Hands on the wheel — uh, uh, fuck that….” Ending on a perfect, if dangerous, note.


Go forth and enjoy.

[cover image by Kinsey Hamilton, design by Todd Roeth]

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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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