Last week my pal Ian handed me St. Paul & The Broken Bones‘ debut record, and emphatically told me it was his favorite album of the year so far. The next morning, in a quiet hotel room in Indianapolis, I finally got a chance to listen — and I do believe I yelped out loud from joy.
With a disarming voice that channels the slightly feminine, unfuckwithable soul of CeeLo and the best high lonesome wails of Otis Redding, I can’t stop watching videos of them performing. You do not picture that voice coming out of that baby-faced white dude, as he raises his arms like a Baptist preacher and fluidly shuffles his feet across the stage.
Along with his badass Broken Bones band, Paul Janeway is signed to Single Lock Records (a label founded by John Paul White of The Civil Wars and Ben Tanner, keyboardist in the Alabama Shakes). The album was recorded in Muscle Shoals, AL – that mecca of so many things funky and delicious. You can read Ben Tanner (the producer)’s notes on the recording sessions here. Their album Half The City (out now) has quickly become a near-constant soundtrack on the big old stereo in my house, always turned up loud — and enticing my friends who come over to ask, “Who IS that?”
SHOW ANNOUNCEMENT! My next step after listening to the record was to immediately see if we could book them at our Ivywild School in Colorado Springs — and yep. April 14! I absolutely cannot wait. Yeah, it’s a Monday night. Yeah, you’ll be really damn glad you came out for this one.
Not only is a restored elementary school-turned-brewery a perfect throwback sort of place to see these guys, I feel like this band has the kind of kinetic energy and irresistible sound (those horns!) that is going to lead them onward to a very, very good year.
See you April 14.
(or one of these other upcoming tour dates, should you be further afoot from me:)
ST. PAUL & THE BROKEN BONES SPRING TOUR
Mar 6 – Savannah, GA – Savannah Stopover Festival
Mar 7 – Columbus, GA – The Loft
Mar 8 – New Orleans, LA – One Eyed Jack’s
Mar 9-14 – SXSW – Austin, TX
Mar 15 – Mobile, AL – Callaghan’s Irish Social Club
Mar 20 – Athens, GA – Georgia Theatre
Mar 21 – Charlotte, NC – The Chop Shop
Mar 22 – Charlottesville, VA – Southern Cafe & Music Hall
Mar 25 – Allston, MA – Great Scott
Mar 26 – New York, NY – The Bowery Ballroom
Mar 28 – Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s
Mar 29 – Washington, DC – Rock & Roll Hotel
Mar 30 – Pittsburgh, PA – Club Cafe
Apr 1 – Columbus, OH – Rumba Cafe
Apr 2 – Indianapolis, IN – Radio Radio
Apr 4 – Saint Louis, MO – Off Broadway Nightclub
Apr 5 – Jackson, MS – Duling Hall
Apr 9 – Houston, TX – The Continental Club Complex
Apr 10-11 – Driftwood, TX – The Old Settlers Music Festival
Apr 12 – Dallas, TX – Club Dada
April 14 – Colorado Springs, CO – Ivywild School
Apr 15 – Denver, CO – Hi-Dive
Apr 16 – Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
Apr 17 – Boise, ID – Neurolux
Apr 19 – Seattle, WA – Tractor Tavern
Apr 20 – Portland, OR – Soul’d Out Music Festival
Apr 22 – San Francisco, CA – The Chapel
Apr 24 – West Hollywood, CA – Troubadour West Hollywood
Apr 26 – Phoenix, AZ – Last Exit
Apr 29 – Oklahoma City, OK – Bricktown Music Hall
Apr 30 – Fayetteville, AR – George’s Majestic Lounge
May 2 – New Orleans, LA – Tipitina’s
May 3 – Memphis, TN – Beale Street Music Festival
May 21 – London, GB – Oslo
May 22 – Islington, GB – Electric Ballroom
May 23 – Manchester, GB – Dot to Dot Festival
May 24 – Bristol, GB – Dot to Dot Festival
May 25 – Nottingham, GB – Dot to Dot Festival
Jun 5-8 – Ozark, AR – Wakarusa Music Festival
Jun 12-14 – Manchester, TN – Bonnaroo
Check this, the title track from their new album (!!):
COME ON. Noah Gundersen (here with his sister/kindred spirit Abby) just continues to blow me away no matter how many times I see this song. This rendition comes via La Blogotheque folks; Colorado, Noah plays Denver on Tuesday night at the Soiled Dove. You should probably definitely be there.
As I wrote with this song on my Autumn 2013 Mix: One of the finest, truest duos together, this brother and sister detonate the emotional heavy artillery, but make it so smooth that you almost don’t notice until you look down and a chunk is missing.
Ledges came out earlier this month and it is exquisite. Get it.
NOAH GUNDERSEN SPRING TOUR
Feb 23 – The Rhythm Room, Phoenix, AZ
Feb 25 – Soiled Dove, Denver, CO
Feb 26 – Slowdown, Omaha, NE
Feb 27 – The Maintenance Shop, Ames, IA
Feb 28 – 7th St. Entry, Minneapolis, MN
Mar 01 – The Frequency, Madison, WI
Mar 02 – Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI
Mar 04 – The Demo, St Louis, MO
Mar 05 – SPACE, Evanston, IL
Mar 06 – Musica, Akron, OH
Mar 07 – Rumba Cafe, Columbus, OH
Mar 08 – Do317 Lounge, Indianapolis, IN
Mar 09 – High Watt, Nashville, TN
Mar 18 – Bottletree, Birmingham, AL
Mar 19 – Eddie’s Attic, Decatur, GA
Mar 20 – The Evening Muse, Charlotte, NC
Mar 21 – Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro, NC
Mar 22 – Jammin’ Java, Vienna, VA
Mar 23 – World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, PA
Mar 25 – Rockwood Music Hall, New York, NY
Mar 26 – The Red Room at Cafe 939, Boston, MA
Mar 27 – PETIT CAMPUS, Montreal, Canada
Mar 28 – The Drake Hotel, Toronto, Canada
Apr 12 – Starz Center: TECO Theater, Tampa, FL
Apr 13 – Club Downunder, Tallahassee, FL
Apr 15 – Mud & Water, Baton Rouge, LA
Apr 16 – Gasa Gasa, New Orleans, LA
Apr 17 – Grand Stafford Theater, Bryan, TX
Apr 18 – Three Links, Dallas, TX
Apr 19 – Cactus Cafe, Austin, TX
Apr 22 – Bricktown Music Hall, Oklahoma City, OK
Apr 26 – Headliners Music Hall, Louisville, KY
The initial lineup for the second Timber! Outdoor Music Festivalin Carnation, Washington was announced today (from the folks who bring you the incredible –and now incredibly hard to get tickets for– Doe Bay Fest). I am pleased to be heading to the festival again this summer with a commune of good music-loving friends to listen to songs under trees and float in the river. Last year was tremendous; we even saw a bald eagle. You can’t make that shit up.
Timber! Fest is July 24-26 this year (going home on the morning of the 27th, if you are a camper/yurt-dweller like us) and the initial lineup is ridiculous, with more artist announcements to come:
…and a bunch more bands impeccably curated by the Artist Home folks. One thing I so appreciate about Kevin Sur and his team is that for each one of their festivals I have attended, I show up only knowing maybe 1/3 of the artists playing, but I leave with a whole bunch of new favorites. They’re onto something magical and worth trusting here.
All that for $65?! Yes please. Tickets go on-sale February 25 (next week!) and I hope you will join us.
Many of these artists playing you may know from my blog and others’, but to draw attention to one lesser-known group (outside of the Seattle area/West coast): I’ve been meaning to post this song for months and months. Mikey & Matty Gervais are brothers who played in well-loved Seattle band Curtains For You, and whose album includes guest violin playing by Charity Thielen (of The Head and The Heart).
This recording is just such a joyous explosion, from last year’s Doe Bay Fest. I like how the song just cartwheels off on its own — it sticks in my head for days.
There’ll be moments like that x100 at Timber! Fest this summer, I am sure. Get a group together, and get early tickets. It will be one of the best festivals of the season; small, intimate, laid-back, and full of good people and wonderful music in our own little Eden.
Today I ducked out of work for a long lunch and accompanied Josiah Johnson (from The Head and The Heart) across campus to our local NPR affiliate/college radio station KRCC for some wonderfully insightful interview questions, facilitated by your friend and neighbor Vicky, with three new songs performed by Josiah.
You may recognize the first (“I regret not leaving the light on”) from a video Jos and I made last summer in a parking garage in Boulder. That song has morphed to also have the chorus from the song “In The Summertime” from the very first chapel session I ever did (with them and in general).
As Josiah said today in the interview:
“The parking lot version of that that we recorded is half-done, and I actually finished it with a song that I wrote when I was in Colorado Springs in, like …November of 2010. I loved the chorus of this song ‘In The Summertime’ from a Fuel/Friends Chapel Session, and didn’t think much of the verses, and realized that the themes of this and that meshed well together.”
It’s nice seeing that synthesis of songs, and to get a good recording of it in the place it was mostly all born.
All three of these songs were previously unrecorded as far as I can tell, and the second two are also pretty new at being out in the world. I just heard the second and the third songs for the first time this weekend at the Ivywild show.
The second song, “Take Me With You,” was inspired by a collage that fellow musician/visual artist Damian Jurado made, and it floored me when I saw it this morning — after my ear had already been so captured by Josiah’s song:
I have been waiting since the end of October to see and hear this again; Phosphorescent played a gorgeously stripped-down set in their eTown taping with Laura Marling, and I placed myself front and center and pretty much wept on and off throughout.
The setting was the converted church on Spruce Street in Boulder that eTown has taken over, and the timing was that it was the day after Lou Reed died. This was their last song.
An interesting story that I learned on this evening: eTown host Nick Forster was running into local planning regulations that hindered eTown from buying the church for their radio show, so he became ordained. The first couple he married was Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson in a Boulder backyard in May of 2008.
I keep reading this wonderful farewell that Laurie penned to Lou in Rolling Stone. I printed it out, because I love love love the way she describes their life together, and the difficult and wonderful work of ever trying to pair with anyone.
“Lou and I played music together, became best friends and then soul mates, traveled, listened to and criticized each other’s work, studied things together (butterfly hunting, meditation, kayaking). We made up ridiculous jokes; stopped smoking 20 times; fought; learned to hold our breath underwater; went to Africa; sang opera in elevators; made friends with unlikely people; followed each other on tour when we could; got a sweet piano-playing dog; shared a house that was separate from our own places; protected and loved each other.
…Like many couples, we each constructed ways to be – strategies, and sometimes compromises, that would enable us to be part of a pair. Sometimes we lost a bit more than we were able to give, or gave up way too much, or felt abandoned. Sometimes we got really angry. But even when I was mad, I was never bored. We learned to forgive each other. And somehow, for 21 years, we tangled our minds and hearts together.”
“I’m strong for my size, but I’m small / …and I don’t want to carry your load anymore,” Desirae Garcia sang these words as her opening lyrics for this chapel session at the La Foret campgrounds during the Meadowgrass Music Festival last year (same day we recorded Dawes). The words are indicative of how effortlessly direct her songs can seem in their simplicity, but one listen will show how those unassuming songs pack a punch through their quiet and insistent assertion.
I first wrote about Desi (who is also 1/5 of the celebrated Colorado Americana outfit The Haunted Windchimes) on my springtime mix, with her song “Hardly Are You Lonely,” off her Ill-Fitting EP (Blank Tape Records). I marveled at how her songs navigate dark waters with fearlessness, a flower on the ocean floor. Desi also sings with Planes, who contributed a hummably retro track to my summer mix this past year.
Her work with the ‘Chimes is wonderful, but I’ve so enjoyed watching her bloom through songs all her own, and this chapel session is long overdue for such a light. All through her leanly-sculpted melodies shines a beautifully resolute voice.
This is a simple session that I think will stick with you.
FUEL/FRIENDS CHAPEL SESSION #28: DESIRAE GARCIA May 25, 2013 – Taylor Memorial Chapel at La Foret
Meadowgrass Music Festival
The songs that Desi pens are ephemeral in the sense that you could almost dismiss them in a wisp, in a moment. But Desi doesn’t let them, or herself, be dismissed. The songs sometimes seem unfinished and stop abruptly, or pause like a thought you lost — but that’s my favorite part, because they just drive you back to listen again. This is indeed an honest song. video is here
Bed of Roses
This song is from her Ill-Fitting EP, from where the collection of songs draws its name. “You weren’t listening to a word I had to say and now I’m ill-fitting…” she sings, with the sweet additions here of a delicate Casio melody from Alex Koshak (a multi-instrumentalist and drummer in town who plays with roughly 27 bands) and Desi’s bandmate Inaiah Lujan from the Haunted Windchimes on guitar and vocal harmonies.
I like this thing there where Desi sings and two talented gentlemen croon her gentle backup harmonies. For a song that honestly addresses things like flaws, struggles, and enemies, it sounds damn charming. video is here
Dances Fantastic (Nena Dinova cover)
This is a pretty amazing cover, of a 2002 song originally by Neva Dinova (Saddle Creek). Where theirs is sonically spacey and full of weird wonderful sounds, Desi’s version is sweetly direct, but with that hint of darkness. The effect is a bit unnerving, like some David Lynch soundtrack contribution. Wonderful.
Second Hand Love (Connie Francis cover)
Finally, Desi gave us a bonus cover song, because we couldn’t decide which one we wanted. We’ll take both, definitely. Desi’s rendition of this 1962 top-ten hit single turns it from a shuffling two-step dance number over to something spare and much more sad. video is here
Also, good news from the chapel and the mixing studio! We are working concertedly to get caught up with releasing all the wonderful sessions we have recorded in the last few months. You have the following to look forward to:
Vandaveer (with Ark Life joining for one song)
David Wax Museum
Alex Dezen (of The Damnwells)
Gregory Alan Isakov
Yeah! Those are coming in that order, in the coming weeks and months.
I’ve been thinking often about the wide warm spaces of Texas, the humidity in the air as you head towards the coast. Perhaps spurred by the Northern Lights’ foray into Colorado that I witnessed last week, I’ve been picturing another roadtrip to see the Marfa Lights, to wander a bit. I’ve been listening to this song, a great song, while I do this daydream roaming.
When I was in Austin in November, and found myself in a hat shop on a Sunday afternoon. Playing their everloving hearts out in the center of the hat shop was a band called Quiet Life, in town to open the shows we were attending with our friends in The Head and The Heart. The band is also labelmates with Widower (one of my top ten albums of last year), over at Mama Bird Recording Co, so it’s a wonder it took me so long to listen.
This is simply a GREAT song — rich with both lament and sweet longing, it’s a lonesome late night song, it’s a community hymn. It’s one of those immediately quietly-anthemic songs that feel like you’ve always known it for the last few decades, and yet it is all its own. As they wound down playing it in the hat shop, I whispered to my friends – “Now THAT is a great, great song.” I have listened to this song probably four dozen times since then. I hear they just re-recorded a version of this a few weeks ago, and I also cannot wait to hear that one.
That version was released by Sean on this lovely demo EP, and will also be on his solo record coming out in April, called September Rose. The full band version of “Shaky Hand” will be out in March on the new Quiet Life record.
(this picture was taken in Austin post-hat-shop, since I recognize all their new hats they scored. Classy! photo by Daniel Cavazos)
Oh, what a year this was. 2013 was a year when I tried to slow down some (or, more truthfully, grad school & work & adult responsibilities often conspired to force me to slow down, in a very non-rock-n-roll but nevertheless badass way). In some of that stillness, though, was a gratitude — as I look back on 2013, I think I did a better job of enjoying things more deeply and with a greater attention of the heart and soul. This extended not only to people in my life, but to experiences, and also to music. Each of the eight years I’ve been writing this blog has clocked in a bit richer, more settled, probably older and wiser and less frenetic.
These are my ten favorite records of the year by a long shot, and this list is not surprising to anyone who has been following me and my passions this year. These are the easy clear winners that I spent a whole hell of a lot of time listening to, seeing the musicians perform the songs live, hosting some of these folks in my home and sitting up singing with them into the night. These records have nourished my year.
I recommend that you obtain them and let them do the same for you, if any of these flew under your radar. These are not ranked in order of love, they are ranked in order of alphabet, to be clear. Here they are, my favorite records of the last twelve months.
This is just a little wisp of two-song vinyl single, but it represents the only recorded output this year that Denver’s favorite son Nathaniel Rateliff released with his burning-soul outfit, The Night Sweats. Back in April, I called them “the best band in Denver,” and it’s not hard to see why. Even watching that video now gives me chills. This is on the list because these two songs are so damn good, better than some full albums in 2013. I listened to them about a bajillion times and hope Nathaniel releases a full-length with the Night Sweats in 2014.
I am thoroughly taken by this narcotic, melodic speedball of record, all dark hues and complicated beauty. The National is one of my favorite bands, and I’ve waited three years for this. From the understated opening notes and breakingly delicate vocals, this record is magnificence that was absolutely worth the wait. (from the original review, here: God loves everybody, don’t remind me)
The songs here, like all of what I love most about The National, are tangled and conflicted and in that honestly there is beauty, for me. Seeing them live at Red Rocks in September was one of my favorite musical experiences all year — these songs grow and take on a whole new, even richer life with the visuals and lights they are traveling with. The National wedged their way even more firmly into the sharp and soft parts of my soul this year.
From the opening a capella track that is just bleeding and raw with vulnerability (“I know you get lost sometimes, man, I know you get lost…”), it is clear that this is a special and rare record. Winston has an otherworldy quality to both his voice and his person. This record rambles and pours out with little concern for anyone other than exorcising the demons of one Winston Yellen, the man behind Night Beds. Stylistically you can hear his love of old female jazz vocalists (and the way his voice uncannily resembles one — well, that or a spectre), as well as hues infused by the country cabin setting where it was recorded, with broad strokes of sparkly redolence throughout.
This is a damn fine record for such a young kid. It’s just flat out gorgeous, and honest, and brave. I remember from the interview I did with Winston almost a year ago exactly, how struck I was when he said how sometimes in the studio everyone would be crying at the end of a take. I’m so over posturing. That kind of honesty in art takes bravery, and strength.
I’ve struggled with writing this part of the post, and am still struggling. This record has blown me to bits moreso than any record I can remember in a very, very long time. There is something riveting and unsettling and deeply satisfying in the way that Matthew Houck writes songs. It is a very specific, self-effacing, hopeful, visceral-and-eviscerating language that I exactly understand. In addition to what I wrote about The National this year, this piece I wrestled out about the new Phosphorescent record (and it was a bloody battle) is one of my other favorite things I wrote in 2013:
This record wrestles with divergent, simultaneous truths about the brokenness and the bruises. “I am not some broken thing,” Houck howls pointedly in the second track, the stunning “Song For Zula” (which is hands down my song of the year), but two short songs later he is singing this simple line, that absolutely breaks my heart every time he says it: “And now you’re telling me my heart’s sick / …And I’m telling you I know.” It’s exactly that messiness (and the direct engagement with it) that spills out of this record to draw me in, underneath the timeless country veneer, under the old-time two-stepping and the lonely desert songs. Everything is tangled; everything is fucked up and bleeding, aching and glowing in the summer.
Man. And if the record itself weren’t enough, towards the end of this year a deluxe version of Muchacho was released, with a companion disc called Muchacho de Lujo. The bonus disc is a collection of songs from Muchacho and a few from previous albums, and it is just Matthew Houck and his partner Jo on piano, in the cavernous and gorgeous St. Pancras Church in London before an audience of 150 people. It is completely breathtaking — as in some moments of the recording are hard to breathe while listening to. The first time I heard the recording of “Wolves” on this bonus disc, I had to pull my car over, as he loops his voice to become a ravenous cacophony of surrender to animalism: “They tumble and fight / and they’re beautiful.” Usually a deluxe edition seems wasteful to me, but this is a rare exception where the bonus disc is every bit as valuable to me as the original album it accompanies. If you buy ONE album from this list, I would recommend this one. It’s one I will listen to for my next few decades.
This entry on the list bucks convention since the Confetti EP was a physical disc available at shows this year (in a neat little handmade envelope with a wax seal), but it is also a video EP online. If you didn’t catch them live this year, I am not sure if you can get this record, but you can enjoy the video (I recommend over and over), and some of the songs from it are heading towards their new album in 2014. “Barside” was on my Autumn Mix you can still download, too.
Phox creates malleable music: effervescent and smoky at the same time, with shimmery layers of creative instrumentation anchored by the stunning voice of Monica Martin. Listening to her voice radiantly inhabit and effortlessly anchor each song, it is hard to believe that she is a young woman just discovering very recently that she could sing. The percussion is playful and fascinating, with constantly changing time signatures and handclaps and shuffles. I love this record, every moment on it – so fresh and surprising.
We have a chapel session with PHOX coming out soon, recorded this fall when they were in town to play at the new Ivywild School I am booking live music at, and I cannot wait to share that with you. That mellifluous, honeyed voice in that cathedral was something else.
This feels like a very old record to me. Or, maybe, more timeless than old — the sepia-stained hue that our favorite memories take on as we play them over and over in slow motion. It could be the way he smiled at you this morning on the couch over coffee, but the reels clack slowly as if the memory was already somehow a hundred years ago. Jeremy Quentin (Small Houses) sings about Sarah and Karen as if we know them, as if we can see them look up from their work on the porch, as if we can hear the screen door clattering and our homes and photographs come back to life.
He also has a forthcoming chapel session recording that we did this year, so be excited to hear that – him on the big grand piano with the afternoon sun streaming in the stained glass windows. It’s where this record and these songs sounded even more perfect. His piercing, simple sweetness totally disarmed me.
One year ago in a living room in Portland, I sat down with some of the folks in Typhoon to listen to rough mixes of the songs on White Lighter. Even in their unfinished state, my reaction was immediate, and physical. I remember distinctly how my brain lit up and struggled in the best way possible, from the get go, with the dissonant fighting combination of sounds. I sat there shaking my head sharply to the side the way one does when you’re trying to clear out a dizziness. The sonic palette on this album is incredible; there are so many things happening, and it is never chaotic – it’s like this enormous organism with tentacles and razor spikes and glistening softness that is somehow all part of the same beautiful creature.
I have wanted to write about this album so many times this year, and I never have been able to. It’s so big. It’s a Sisyphean epic odyssey of an album. It’s a seamless journey and a massive battle, all the way through, the arc of a story of Kyle Morton’s life as he struggled with chronic illness. I am listening to this vinyl on my new turntable as I write this, and that is how this record is meant to be heard — all the songs bleed into one another. Themes repeat, as do codas and lyrics. The closing dual violins move me to tears in their purity, and in their wordless assertion of a sort of calm peace and beauty as we move into the next chapter. They are elegiac.
Kyle wrote, “The record is a collection of seminal life moments, in more or less chronological order, glimpsed backwards in the pale light of certain death, brought to life by a remarkable group of people who hold as I do that the work is somehow important. When we started working on White Lighter, I had reason to believe that it would be the last thing I ever did. It is now six months since we finished. I’m still here and there’s still work to be done.”
All through the autumn, as nature dried and fell, this compelling and unexpected record was my soundtrack. Justin Vernon blends the stark folk hymns of his first album as Bon Iver with explosive shiny metallic synths and even a potent Bukowski poetry sample. Along with a handful of his musician friends from Wisconsin, these anthems are crafted to somehow juxtapose vocoders with intricate acoustic guitarwork, needling blips with resonant piano, all punctuated by shouted choruses and singalong connections of human voices — in one of my most surprising loves this year.
Paste Magazine described it so well when they wrote, “It’s a musical and lyrical masterwork that builds and blooms in all the right places—and in places you’d never expect.” I saw Volcano Choir perform these songs live at First Ave in Minneapolis in October, and that building and blooming happened over and over in dazzling color (side note: the same folks doing the visuals behind The National on this tour did the Volcano Choir show lights as well). You have to watch this explosive, redemptive moment, one of my favorite live concert moments of 2013. The way that video looks is how this whole album feels to me.
This record is a finely-crafted, understated gem that I’ve been listening to constantly for these last few months, and yep: I just realized that it came out in 2011 and I don’t even care -damn everything. I am including it on this list anyways because this is a 2013 discovery for me, and it should be on your radar. That I am two years late is immaterial. Also, this is a blog so I can do what I want.
Tamara Lindeman is a Toronto musician, and kismet brought her into my orbit in November at the Denver Music Summit to see a late-night art gallery performance of her songs, under the band name The Weather Station. She sat in the center of a circle of white lights in front of the photographs hanging on the walls, and I was transfixed by her restrained, wonderfully droll delivery of these finely-wrought folk songs. She reminded me strongly of another Canadian, Joni Mitchell, or perhaps Laura Marling. I have been listening to this record on repeat, and it keeps yielding up new quiet layers. Get this album; better late than never.
I first listened to this record from Kevin Large (Widower) in Portland in January on cross-town bus rides for school, watching the grey buildings and pastel clapboard houses flick past on wet streets. It was love at first listen. Maybe it is because of the setting where I first heard it, but to me, Fool Moon is a loamy record that feels like a waterlogged seaside town smelling of salt and rust — like forgetting. Or being forgotten. This is a melancholy collection of songs that wrestles to balance beginning-again with battlescars, while being punched clean through with regrets. The night I first heard it, I listened to it once, and then three times more in quick and complete succession; it felt like an oil lamp smoldering the banish some of the damp greyness around me.
Despite some wide open big-sky moments on the album, like on the opening song “Jumper Cables” (on my Spring mix here), or the sweetly wheeling “Oh Catherine, My Catherine,” there’s this gorgeous hesitancy woven through this record on most of the songs. This year, even now, that is perfect for me and what I need.
I also wanted to end this post with my song to welcome in 2014. Curt Krause (frontman of the band Edmund Wayne) was one of the wonderful soul-connections I made this year through music when he came to my house recently to play a house concert. This new song, “1616,” briefly appeared online two weeks ago, and I recognized it as one that blindsided me in the best way at the house concert.
It’s a real nice way to welcome in this new year. Here’s to 2014.
Give me a good day
one without the heaviest load
and pockets of something
doesn’t have to be money or fame, all wrapped in cellophane
a heart, or two hearts on a boat
sounds like a good day…
a good day
Howling brass-band chapel session alums Mike Clark & The Sugar Sounds are going to soundtrack our final hours of 2013 in the gym of Colorado Springs’ freshly restored Ivywild School, along with the explosive melodic Ark Life, who just wowed Denver in their two nights opening for the sold-out Head & The Heart shows.
Conor Bourgal from The Changing Colors is also gonna start us out with a retro-soul dance party DJ set from 8pm doors until 9pm showtime, and The Principal’s Office bar is mixing up some special fancy cocktails across the hall. My school was never like this.
See you there. I’ve got my dancing shoes all picked out.
Coming in juuust under the wire with mere days left to go before Christmas (hey, I haven’t done any shopping yet either!), the holiday spirit finally bit me the other night in earnest, sitting by the tree with eggnog and delving through the songs I was considering assembling into this year’s mix. I wasn’t sure I would get a mix done this year, but I started marveling over the really solid crop of songs to choose from this year and it quickly became a no-brainer of wonderfulness.
I’m so thankful for so many things this year, including all of you, and I love being part of your holiday celebrations. Here’s to all the non-annoying seasonal tunes out there — the ones that light up the darkness on this, the longest night of the year. Hang a string of lights, strike a candle, and let’s banish some of this darkness together. Merry Christmas.
It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop (choir version) – Frightened Rabbit
The original version of this song appeared on my Christmas mix in 2008, when I was listening to a lot of Frightened Rabbit and being very sad about things. I’m just hearing this celestial b-side rendition, and is almost 100% just simple choral magnificence. Wayy better psychological ramifications.
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – Sleeping At Last
Ryan O’Neal puts out an entire Christmas song collection every year (“Snow” was last year’s terrific contribution to this mix), and his Lennon cover is a standout of 2013′s. With every passing year, I am more strongly drawn to the simplicity in this song, especially the way Ryan sings it. Two songs into the mix and I already have something in my eye.
Mvmt IV, Every Bell On Earth Will Ring – The Oh Hellos
Stop reading this right now and go download the new Oh Hellos Family Christmas EP right now. It is the best thing out there this season, free or otherwise. They’re playing a few Colorado shows around the holidays, guys. I want them to come to my house because — listen to this.
I Believe In Santa Claus – Dr Dog
From their marvelous little new EP of original Christmas songs that you must get right away. Quirky, melodic goodness, as one would expect from these gents.
Tennessee Christmas – Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives
Dude, Drew — circa 1983 Amy Grant covers? Bold. Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives are now reincarnated as Modern Kin (with an excellent album this year), but this is an old recording from a few years ago. When Drew sings those lyrics about Colo-raaaa-do and our deep snows, I have to swoon.
Silver Bells – Edmund Wayne
Curt (frontman of Edmund Wayne) is one of my favorite souls I’ve hosted for a house show – a pure and piercing presence, with gorgeously-crafted songs. This quiet lo-fi Christmas EP fell in my lap yesterday, and not only includes this song, but you must must must check out “1616” (it made me cry at my house show last weekend / a perfect song).
Maybe This Christmas (Ron Sexsmith) – Paul Jacobsen & The Madison Arm
I feel lucky to have a wonderful community of folk musician friends in Salt Lake City (backstory/mix), and some of them got together to do up a richly sweet cover of Ron Sexsmith. Sarah Sample also joins in here on vocals – she’s got a lullaby album in the making, too.
You Never Come Home For Christmas – Caitlin Rose & Keegan DeWitt
Caitlin’s not yet a friend, but we have a lot of folks in common, so I took a special listen to her playful duet here with her neighbor Keegan, which delivers a zing of a lyrical punch: “You never come home for Christmas — and maybe it’s better that way.”
Are You Coming Over for Christmas? – Belle & Sebastian
The feyest of all fey Christmas songs, in such an endearing way. Yes Stuart, I am coming over. Keep the fire in the kitchen going.
O Holy Night – Kalai
I have listened a hundred times or more to the only other Kalai song I have, a James-Taylor doppelganger ballad that exudes a simple grace. So I was excited to see him on the free MetCom Studios Eggnog Sampler this year with a cover of my favorite Christmas carol.
Merry Christmas, I’m Yours – Prairie Empire
This time last year Brittain Ashford of Prairie Empire came through Denver and treated a small lucky group to a special subterranean show that I remember well. This breathy song is from last year’s free Auld Lang Syne EP.
Christmas Must Be Tonight – The Band
There are a lot of covers of this song floating around out there, but somehow I’ve never posted the original and it is still my favorite.
Xmas Eve – The Damnwells
I used this song on my mix way back in 2007, but I have been revisiting it on the regular in the last few weeks, since Alex Dezen of The Damnwells graced us with a tremendous house show. This is just a really good song, Christmastime or no, and I always appreciate those contributions to this mix. I am glad the original lineup is making a new album.
I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Elvis Presley
You can’t not feel a pang in your chest when you hear this one, especially the way Elvis croons it.
[the mix cover art, as usual, by the wonderful and generous Ryan Hollingsworth, from a photo I took last Christmas under lights at the Broadmoor Hotel with Megan from the Music vs Misery blog, Winston from Night Beds, Adam from Songsfortheday, and my good friend Andrew. Here's to warm twinkly nights and another beauty-filled year.]
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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