November 29, 2008

Fuel/Friends is three!

Hey guys, remember that time my blog hit the third birthday mark and I didn’t notice? Last week marked three years of Fuel/Friends’ existence, and in those thousand-plus days we have had a lot of fun.

As I say continually and every year around this time, I am humbled that you stop by to see what I am listening to or reading or exploring, and it has been my distinct pleasure to unearth some sonic gems for your enrichment and mine.

In keeping with tradition, here are twenty songs from Year 3 that have been high on my list of radness and worth parading past one more time as we embark on our fourth year. As I began going through my monthly archives I thought the culling might be difficult, but as always, several effortlessly effervesced to the top, and this is a list I feel great about.

Make sure that you didn’t miss these the first time around; burn yourself a CD with these twenty, and let’s celebrate another year.

One Crowded Hour (with orchestra) – Augie March
A few days into Fuel/Friends Year 3, I posted a gorgeous set from melodic and wistful Australians Augie March, playing a set with a full orchestra. I wrote, “Already literate and lavish, their songs become absolutely something else in this setting. ‘One Crowded Hour’ makes me want to climb inside of it even more than before. What an elegant, evocative, soaring song.” Some of the best lyrics of the year, too. [Nov 23, 2007]

Frankie’s Gun – Felice Brothers
Even now, every single time the wheezy opening notes of this song cue up, a wide smile spreads across my face. The Felice Brothers are from the Catskills in NY, and there’s a raw and unfinished sound to their storytelling brand of folk-americana. I wrote that “as you sit with them, the colors of their music start to come out in a warm rich burn, like a campfire at 2am. Very few artists write stories like this anymore, except for folks like Ray LaMontagne or the Hold Steady, in very different-sounding ways. Their vivid music is populated by characters with names like Long-Legged Brenda, and take the listener along on all kinds of wild narratives that echo Dylan in their complexity and seeming unsingability.” I absolutely adore this song; seeing them do it live in SF was a highlight of my summer. [Jan 18, 2008]

Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Oh, Nick Cave had me wrapped around his finger this year. After seeing him throw down the rock ‘n’ roll fire and brimstone in September, I have been converted on a religious-fanatic level. This ace song is a “danceable apocalpyse,” and in order to properly appreciate it, you simply must watch the music video. HOW does he do that? Nick Cave is the most effortlessly cool mofo in music today (and for the last thirty years). [Jan 21, 2008]

Nothing – The Hands
The Hands are from the Pacific Northwest, and there’s something “slightly off and unnerving in the melody and rhythm here – just a half-second syncopated, or too fast. Either way, it feels like about seven cups of coffee in the morning: all jittery and yowling, but anchored by a classic rockin’ feel with those dead-ringer Jaggeresque vocals. I want to keep replaying the opening notes to figure out what’s going on there in those first thirty seconds.” [Jan 28, 2008]

Monk Chant – The Monks
A recommendation from a friend sent me on a historical dig into the music of The Monks from the mid-’60s, American G.I.s stationed in Germany whose sound was leagues ahead of the era and laid the groundwork for the punk and rock I love today. “There’s an urgency and an animal primacy to the music that belies the sweaters and the bobby socks of 1965,” and this crazy tribal chant and electric feedback swamp gets my blood running hot. [Jan 31, 2008]

You Left The Water Running – Otis Redding
One of my favorite dork-concept mixes this past year was loosely based around a kids book called That’s Dangerous!, and following the model of the book, I soundtracked all sorts of bad ideas and the grown-up trouble we can get ourselves into. I wasn’t familiar with this Otis Redding song before, but from the opening countdown and that bewitching thump of melody, this soulful burner is one of my favorites to sing along with when I feel that somebody done me wrong.
[Feb 2, 2008]

Grounds for Divorce – Elbow
I was recently reacquainted with this fabulous song from Manchester rockers Elbow that starts off as a subdued tale about “working on a cocktail called Grounds For Divorce,” then explodes into “a haunting, gospelly blues track with a guttural punch and stomp.” I love being surprised by the way it shimmers with almost-glam overtones. [Feb 11, 2008]

Rat Within The Grain (b-side) – Damien Rice
One day before leap year, I posted one of the best songs Damien Rice has written, overlooked by the world as a b-side but amazingly piercing and terribly sad, soaked in a wistful bitterness. An intensely personal song for me, it “gouges pretty harshly at the softest parts of my insides, as his jaded self-contempt seeps into the tender, almost-hidden professions of a maybe hopeless kind of love. In one long sentence, he goes from wanting to keep her at arm’s length because he knows that parts of him are a turbulent ocean, and wanting so much to be wonderful in her eyes.” [Feb 28, 2008]

Circus of Horror – Quiet Village
“Sometimes a song sneaks up on you and surprises you with the way it insinuates entire cinescapes in your mind. That picture above belongs with another film, but it is a vague representation of the colors, the era, the intrigue that this song (by Quiet Village) conjures up for me. This seems a perfect soundtrack to a forgotten ’60s Italian spy movie — a little campy but sleek, ready for some fast driving down narrow cobbled streets. Or perhaps you can hear a change of locales with a dash of cool saunter down the Miami waterline, scoping out the sinister antagonist.” [April 17, 2008]

Lovely Allen – Holy Fuck
This was the year I finally discovered Coachella for myself, and one of the live highlights was seeing Toronto’s Holy Fuck create this song urgent and perfect inside one of the shady tents. “My mind was sent reeling by their brand of lo-fi improvisational electronica, which was anything but sterile. Watching them pour their hearts into their music, doubled over their machines, radiating intensity — and then hearing the warmly soaring sounds that emerge — made me reconsider what’s possible with that genre.” They closed their set with this marvelous song, and “I know it sounds a bit hyperbolic, but for those final five minutes my soul levitated a little.”
[May 4, 2008]

The Only Moment We Were Alone (live in SF) – Explosions In The Sky
This was also the year I first heard Austin, Texas’ Explosions In The Sky, a band that “tells amazing stories through songs which happen to lack words.” A live recording of their epic show in SF conjured up a half-dreamt vignette in my mind that is still one of my favorite things I wrote this year. Maybe the earth is not a cold, dead place after all. [May 6, 2008]

Gratification To Concrete – Robert Pollard
Former Guided By Voices frontman Robert Pollard made huge waves in my kiddie pool at the beginning of summer with this “monster jam of a summer pop song.” I’m still not sick of this, two seasons later. I originally cautioned that “this will work best if you don’t try to understand Pollard’s lyrics but just enjoy the crunchy riffs at play.” ‘Bout time concrete got some gratification. [May 12, 2008]

Soul on Fire – Spiritualized
“This back-with-a-vengeance song from seminal British space rock/shoegaze ’90s band Spiritualized starts gently over an intimate acoustic strum, with lyrics about being born on a black day shot through with starlight. But before the first minute passes, all the strings swell and rise together and there’s a hurricane in your veins. It’s terrifically stirring yet somehow comforting, as if I’ve heard it a thousand times before and want to be a part of it. It’s a tour-bus singalong, it’s a gospel choir, it’s a ballad just for me.” [June 9, 2008]

Seven Fingers – Black Francis
‘I was born with seven fingers and seven toes, in my dark face sadness always shows,’ claims the thumping, thrumming acousto-punk title track from Black Francis; a tasty return to classic form for the former frontman for The Pixies. It’s only one minute and forty seven seconds long, but it is addictively refreshing as he sings, ‘Tonight I’ll be with you, and in the morning when we’re through, please know that you have helped me with my pain.’ Tunes like this’ll numb it for me too — it makes me feel as happy as I did that summer when I was 14 and listened to the Violent Femmes on cassette nonstop through June and July.” [June 21, 2008]

I Woke Up Today – Port O’Brien
This tune from Oakland’s Port O’Brien is easily one of the most vibrant tunes of my aural year. When I saw it performed without amplification in an SF Diesel Store happy hour in February, “the spirit in the air was nothing less than jubilant. I would even call it riotous as people sang along, the percussion beat at full-force, and the vocals keeled into an almost war chant. That mood of spur-of-the-moment explosion was fitting because it’s a song that feels chaotic and wonderful.” [June 22, 2008]

No Water – Hearts of Palm
Since I first posted this superb song in preview of the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase this summer, I’ve seen it performed live by Hearts of Palm approximately seventeen times in various venues throughout Denver — and it’s always a fantastic uprising of crowd participation. It makes me puff up inside to hear the momentum behind the song, the way everyone sings along above that bouncy bassline, and “how enthusiastically the band gives back to us all.” They always perform with joy, and this is one local band that is going places. [July 17, 2008]

Trees – Everest
In quiet moments for the last six months, the “muted Buddy Holly classic vibe with autumnal colors” of this song from Everest streams through my head on repeat. I’d heard it somewhere and learned it enough to hum the melody, but then forgot to write down who it was and promptly forgot. After rediscovering it, I’ll never let go (Jack). It’s a lovely, humble, halcyon song and I still feel perfect when I am listening to it. [July 28, 2008]

Good Ol’ Fashioned Nightmare – Matt and Kim
“Brooklyn duo Matt and Kim turned in one of the single most enthusiastic performances that I saw at Monolith last year, a cataclysmic explosion of spirited yelling and jubilant rhythm. This shiny song opens with such a sunny simplicity that it could be one of those homemade ditties you would compose on your new Casio keyboard on Christmas morning, using the program function and your siblings’ handclaps for backup percussion.” It also sounds like a whole army of awesomeness stomping their feet and clapping in a warehouse in the “We Will Rock You” of today. [Sept 1, 2008]

Get Yourself Home (In Search of The Mistress Whose Kisses Are Famous) – These United States
“The most recent Colorado show that Washington D.C.’s These United States played was at a farm party for Labor Day out near Nimbus Road and Diagonal Highway in Niwot. I hear the two things that existed in some abundance were farmland and alcohol. This sounds like the kind of band that you could have a lot of fun with in those doses. There’s a rustic folk charm here with a feisty and jittery thread weaving through this that would make M Ward proud.” An excellent album this year. [Sept 22, 2008]

I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt cover) – Denison Witmer
Philadelphia artist Denison Witmer self-released an inspired set of covers this year, and I keep on letting this Bonnie Raitt cover rip into me. It’s worth a few minutes of your time “even if you haven’t given Bonnie Raitt much thought since you (like my sister) sang this song in Girls Choir in high school.” This reimagining of Raitt’s 1991 song “starts with a settling in a room; you can hear the grey empty space starkly bouncing back his plaintive, resigned voice. It is an absolutely devastating song, and especially the way he does it — all void and defeated.” [Oct 13, 2008]

On that note….

And hey — I am absolutely looking forward to year four! Thank you (sincerely) for playing along. What have been your favorite discoveries here this past year? I do so love to hear about it.

November 20, 2007

Fuel/Friends turns two years old today!

[that’s the two-year-old me on the right, celebrating something with my sis in fine style – I think it was a cousin’s birthday]

Two years ago today I started Fuel/Friends, mostly on a lark, to talk about my passion for music and all the other good things in this world. My how we’ve grown, and what fun we’ve had these last two years. I sincerely appreciate each of you guys who stop by each day to see what I have to say, and the attention that you pay to both my writing and my musical selections. It’s pretty much the raddest thing in the world to get to do this, so thanks.

Following the tradition I set last year, here are twenty great songs featured here during Year #2 that everyone needs to take a closer listen to. I know that keeping up with all the music I unearth for your listening pleasure is akin to drinking out of a firehose sometimes, so I’ve scrolled through my archives and picked some of my favorites that are worth another spin if you missed them the first time around.

Emily – Stephen Fretwell
Oh, Emily, you slay me. This selection was from a mix sent my way by dear reader Chris in England, and I think I may have listened to this song more than any other this past year. This slowburn stunner is sublimely sad and slightly bitter, one of those bruised and rueful moments of clarity about someone you love(d). But somehow it sounds so winsome, I can’t get enough. One reviewer thought (and I echo), “Emily was actually a great, bleak pop song and one of the most beautiful ‘f*ck you’s’ I’ve ever heard whispered on daytime radio.” [original post]

My Third House – Kings of Leon
I was baptized into the KOL cult in May witnessing their live show in Denver. I was on the receiving end of a headbutt that drew the taste of blood into my mouth, and when I hear this relentless song, I think of that. Since then I have also noticed an eerie similarity in the lazy instrumental bridge with talking in the background – sounds like DMB’s great song “Lie In Our Graves” to me. Take that for what it’s worth. [original post]

Your Favorite Thing – Sugar
From my Love Is A Mix Tape mixtape, this song has become my favorite of the bunch because it distills perfectly that essence of the happy days of wholeheartedly loving music that are detailed in the story.

Lonely No More – Magnet
Starting with a high and lonesome harmonica, combined unexpectedly with big band thumping drum-major beats, this one gets my attention from the start — and then the perfect pop Buddy Holly melody sticks in my head for hours. I ♥ it with a vengeance. [original post]

Lose Myself – Lauryn Hill
From the unlikely source of an animated movie about surfing penguins comes one of the finest Lauryn Hill tunes, oh pretty much ever as far as I am concerned. Something about this introspective yet old-school funky song, I just cannot get enough of it. I find the skittery stop-start beat in particular to be irresistible. [original post]

The End Of The World – Ash
Here’s a soaring tune that I want to sing along with and be listening to if it is, indeed, the end of the world. Tinglingly good, I love the epic feel of the key changes (I am a sucker for those); for some reason this line gets me: “Can’t hardly see the stars, there’s too much light pollution . . . That’s the catch, it’s such a beautiful confusion.” [original post]

Wings for Wheels (early Thunder Road) – Bruce Springsteen
Part of the Memorable Moments In Music series I wrote on for WXPN, this legendary Springsteen show at Main Point in 1974 captures the nascent glory that is Thunder Road being performed for the first time. I could also read the corresponding Jon Landau piece about Springsteen in this era on a weekly basis and not tire of it. He says: “But tonight there is someone I can write of the way I used to write, without reservations of any kind. Last Thursday, at the Harvard Square theatre, I saw my rock’n'roll past flash before my eyes. And I saw something else: I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen. And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time.” [original post]

Hardcore Days and Softcore Nights – Aqueduct
I completely missed this one when it first came around in 2005 (maybe because I don’t watch The O.C.) but when I heard it this past year, it hooked me instantaneously with its insane, thumping beats and I’ve listened to it since then on repeat. A lot. You will love it — and although the title sounds like it should be the definitive soundtrack to a porn flick, the lyrics are actually tame and a bit cryptic. That is to say I have no idea what he’s talking about. [original post]

Bring It On Home To Me – Sam Cooke
Someone just bring it on home to Sam already, with this post of cover versions that I had so much fun assembling. Because no one, no one comes close to tapping the power of the original for me, let’s listen to it again. Even though it’s self-flagellating sad sap fare, it always sounds like slow dancing barefoot on a dusty front porch somewhere. A flawless song.

You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb (alternate version) – Spoon
Similar to Britt Daniel’s eerie, echoey contribution to the Bring It On Home post, this song sounds like it was recorded in a grain silo or a metal shed somewhere, a huge, vacuous, cold metal shed. Yet it’s a cold, vacuous shed you wanna dance in because the beat here is shuffley, clappy cool. Combined with Britt Daniel’s falsetto, it’s my favorite Spoon song this year. [original post]

Electricity + Drums – The Apparitions
Every once in a while out of the dozens of songs that kindly introduce themselves to my eardrumsto in a week, something stands out in a big way — the sort of song that makes me stop what I am doing and say, “What the heck IS that?!” This fantastic song from The Apparitions [from Lexington, Kentucky and Washington D.C.] has been absolutely at the tip-top of my playlists for the week. I think if you just listen, you will agree with me, and we can handclap around together and try to figure out all the words. [original post]

Scar That Never Heals – Jeremy Fisher
Dude, hand me a tambourine. The song that I heard raves about off this album from Canadian Jeremy Fisher is track 3, “Cigarette,” which boasts one of the best choruses of the summer. But this song is the opening track, and is just so filled with infectious ’60s/’70s pop goodness — think Monkees meet Neil Diamond’s “Cherry” in a modern and non-cheesy way that absolutely makes you want to sing along. [original post]

Take Care of Us – The Star Spangles
I’ve been a fan of these gritty NYC rockers for about two years now [previous post], but I’ve been out of the loop and their newest release Dirty Bomb (2007, Tic Records) slipped right past me. The Westerberg-meets-Clash blend percolates to a perfect urgent richness on this newest effort — it’s addictive, catchy, rough-edged rock. The cascading backup harmonies are just the icing on the rocker cake. [original post]

Sunday Morning – k-os
Appropriate for the New Year’s Day when I first posted it — I wrote that this one’s fun and fresh and feels like something you should dance around to (if you, unlike me, have any feist left in you after last night and especially -ugh- this morning). A slaptastic backbeat and repetitive lyrics that sound like they are droning at you from very far away, this is infectiously catchy. It’s got the class of an old soul deal remixed with modern hip hop beats, from Trinidad-Canadian k-os to help you start your year off right. [original post]

Sister Christian Where Are You Now? – Jesse Malin
This is a b-side off Malin’s new Broken Radio single (UK), and has that same anthemic rock and roll sound as the rest of the excellent Glitter In The Gutter album. Aside from some incongruous time-shifting in his lyrics here (he is alternately born in 1973, 1984, 1968, 1932) he also manages a few vivid couplets like, “foolin’ around in the dark / back from college with carnal knowledge” and talks a lot about rocking – keep on moving, keep on grooving. Brightly shimmering guitar riffs and a ferocious rhythm makes this the first anthem of my summer. [original post]

The Devil Never Sleeps – Iron & Wine
There are some songs from Iron & Wine that just devastate me in the best way possible; I think Sam Beam is an amazing songwriter. I thought I knew him, kinda had his sound pegged as the perfect soundtrack to activities like moping, looking out a window at the grey clouds, or falling asleep. So get ready for the sounds on the new album Shepherd’s Dog (Sub Pop) — the songs are just as wonderful, but with a heck of a lot more spitfire and pluck. This one sounds like something from another time, floating out the window of a neighbor’s house into the humid summer night. The devil never sleeps because he went down to Georgia and is dancing to this. [original post]

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart (live 9/1/07) – Wilco
And ahhhh, this was the year I truly discovered Wilco for my own, and had my face personally melted by them in concert, by the original goodness and soul-wrenching virtuosity of their music. This was the second song of their first night in Denver (I’ve watched the video of it about 15 times) and it was during this song that I realized I was really in for something special with them; I think it was right around the time he pointedly sang, “I want to hold you in the Bible-black pre-dawn.” Like whoa. [original post]

We Will Become Silhouettes (Postal Service cover) – The Shins
This is one more from a guest post, this time a Chris from North Carolina instead of from England. He feels that this song is better than the Postal Service original, and I am inclined to agree that it is more enticing and crisp somehow. The bonus is that it also made me pull out my Postal Service CD again and it’s been in my car ever since. So it’s a win win win situation. [original post]

Night Windows – The Weakerthans
I have a penchant for sharp lyrics, and this is an area where Canada’s The Weakerthans [previous post] stand out. Their incisive, introspective feel will probably remind you a little bit of Death Cab For Cutie if you haven’t listened to The Weakerthans before; they are a richly nuanced group that I really enjoy. This song could undeniably be the most perfect summer night driving song ever recorded. You can almost see the yellow lines flitting past, feel the warm summer wind rushing in the open windows. [original post]

The Hustle – Marah
I wrote that this tune had been comfortably been living on my iPod for a good two years or so without receiving my full unabashed love — until now. At first I thought this urgent, perfectly ebullient song was maybe Westerberg because of the yowly crack to Dave Bielanko’s voice, with delightfully jangly rock guitars. I now love the bright burn and swagger of this song, it’s a new favorite. [original post]


Go ahead and sing along to that Marah line, “I’m-a leave the hustle one day when I can’t do it no more good.” That is also incidentally the theme song to this blog, when people ask me how long I’m in it for.

But ya know, I think I got some ‘good-for-the-hustle’ left in me, for quite a while longer yet.

November 20, 2006

If you want a show, just let me know and I’ll sing in your ear again

Today marks one year (!) since I AM FUEL, YOU ARE FRIENDS took its first tentative steps with an initial post, and I’ve been contentedly rolling along ever since, gathering steam as I go.

I know that downloading music (and absorbing all that I have to say here) can sometimes be like drinking from a firehose, so I thought to compile you a 20-song mix of my absolutely favorite tracks that I have featured in the first year of this blog.

Some of these tunes I posted up way at the beginning when I think my readership was about 30 people a day. Since y’all have literally multiplied yourselves a hundred-fold since then, lots of you may have missed these excellent tunes the first time around.

So if you haven’t heard these, they get my highest recommendation, each and every one. If I had a radio station I would absolutely be playing each of these on a near-daily basis for the enrichment of the world’s eardrums at large. Here they are, along with what I originally wrote about them during this past year:

01. Powers – Blackalicious
“This track makes me jump up and dance in my stripey socks like nobody’s business. The ultimate summer party song, droning deep lead vocals, a sick backbeat, teasing electric guitar licks, and a gospel-y chorus. Uh huh. Shake it. This song ROCKS.” (6/19/06)

02. Somebody Ease My Troublin’ Mind – Les Paul with Sam Cooke and Eric Clapton
“Les Paul is best known for creating the first solid-body electric guitar for Gibson. This cut pairs Les (now 90) with Sam Cooke on vocals and Eric Clapton on guitar. Although Cooke died in 1967, they’ve revived some old vocal tracks of his, stripped out the backing instrumentation, and laid down new material here. Sam Cooke always makes me want to slow dance barefoot in the kitchen.” (1/9/06)

03. The First Single – The Format
From my concert review: “The final song, anthemic and sweaty and once again, everyone sang along. (Who names their first single ‘The First Single’? These guys do.)” (8/23/06)

04. I Will Be Free – Nil Lara
“Lara is soulful and passionate and sings like his heart is burning. Add in heavy doses of warm & layered Latin percussion, traditional Cuban and Venezuelan string instruments, and his soaring chants and vocals (in a combination of Spanish and English) – and I was hooked.” (7/19/06)

05. So Hard To Find My Way – Jackie Greene
“A fantastic upbeat, retro-sounding tune combining piano, banjo, and Memphis horns. With his new album Jackie is delving into more poppy arrangements than the harmonica-folk of his previous efforts, but it sounds good to me. I really like this chap and think we will be hearing a lot more from him.” (6/12/06) (video performance here)

06. Unnamed – Leona Naess
“This new one from Leona’s upcoming album is definitely her most singable, radio-friendly, and excellent sounding song in a while. With great couplet lines like “Shake these hips and let them persuade you / Take my songs – they’re always about you” . . . the lyrical writing style is classic but the sound is uptempo & fresh.” (5/15/06)

07. Crack The Whip – Spinto Band
“Pitchfork’s description of this song, by current Arctic Monkeys tour opener The Spinto Band, caught my attention: “Four-on-the-floor ‘Crack the Whip’ lashes the make-up alternapop zeitgeist, whippin’ the Killers at their own neu-dance-wave game before ascending to a gates-of-heaven Beach Boys chorus like this was the Biblical, non-DFA Rapture.” That is one of the best-written music review sentences I have read in a while, and I am digging the song in a big way.” (3/20/06)

08. Walt Whitman Bridge – Marah
“Hey there, Marah. Where’ve you been all my life? This is a really, really great folk-punk/roots/garage-rock band making some quality tunes, a largely undiscovered gem in the lexicon of rock music today. Listen to the harmonica in this one, and the story in the lyrics.” (1/28/06)

09. Under All The Bright Lights – Ryan Auffenberg
“This song sails effortlessly into my top ten favorite songs of 2006 thus far. Seriously, I love it and you will too. It is a stellar, evocative, emotional tour de force set against a lush backdrop of gorgeous strings and wrenching piano. But for all the prettiness of the melody, listen closely to the lyrics for a dose of jarring reality.” (8/14/06)

10. Something In The Way – Nicolai Dunger
“Neither a Nirvana cover, nor a Beatles cover, this ex-footballer (and by footballer I mean soccer player) Swede has a pleasant backyard BBQ vibe, which is something I can appreciate in the cold brown of winter.” (2/6/06)

11. Love You In The Fall – Paul Westerberg
“I find this new track very enjoyable – the opening is fantastic vintage Westerberg, with a similar feel to tunes like ‘Be Bad For Me’ or the recent ‘Mats track ‘Message To The Boys.’ The lyrics are admittedly a bit simplistic, but I don’t listen to him to discern the meaning of the universe or anything, so this will do just fine.” (9/15/06)

12. Take What’s Mine – The Shore (fixed)
“A certain musical know-it-all recently recommended that I take a listen to The Shore, an L.A.-based trio who somehow slipped past the mainstream musical scene but are definitely worth some of your time. Their dusty, beautiful music does indeed incorporate many elements of, say, Stereophonics or The Verve (including all the oooh, ooooohs you can shake a stick at) but after you give it several listens it gets richer each time, until it truly stands out on its own and you forget the comparisons.” (7/18/06)

13. Only A Fool – Marit Larsen
“Shimmery plucky guitar pop from Norway’s Marit Larsen with wheezing harmonica and a wide-open happy vocal that reminded me of a few Sheryl Crow tunes that I enjoy. Ridiculously infectious with handclaps and banjo and all kinds of goodness.” (5/8/06)

14. You Are The Everything (R.E.M. cover) – Redbird
“I believe that there are a handful of truly flawless, perfect songs in this world. One of those songs which I love front to back and throughout each note and lyrical turn is R.E.M.’s ‘You Are The Everything’ . . . Upon hearing this cover, within the first ten seconds I was blown away – this is excellent. Whereas R.E.M.’s is sublimely sweet & dulcet, this is an aching and honest version with a touch more twang, and a female vocalist (Kris Delmhorst) harmonizing earnestly.” (6/16/06)

15. I Can Get Us Out Of Here Tonight – Lucero
“To me it’s like the best signatures of a young, urgent Springsteen written all over this song. When Ben Nichols sings ‘I can get us out of here tonight,’ it’s that same burning twinge that Springsteen makes you feel in your soul that makes you want to throw caution to the wind, roll down the windows, and take off on the interstate.” (7/11/06)

16. Only You (live version) – Joshua Radin
“This is a cover of the early ’80s synth-laden junior high slowdance favorite ‘Only You’ by Yaz (remember it from Napoleon Dynamite?), which Radin said he chooses to perform because he liked it when he was a kid. However, he completely reinvents it into something that is absolutely beautiful, a flawless little gem of a song that I think I’ve listened to 15 times today.” (8/10/06)

17. Become The Enemy – The Lemonheads
“Just hearing Evan Dando sounding this good makes everything rosy in my world. I think that the new Lemonheads sound absolutely fantastic – rocking, melodic & interesting. As good as I would have hoped.” (8/17/06)

18. Thin Blue Flame – Josh Ritter
“This song clocks in at almost ten minutes, and I personally enjoyed listening to it on repeat while drifting off to sleep. It starts slow and builds several times and then fades, and it contains some stunning lyrics that create beautiful mental images. The production on this song includes background chatter and glasses clinking, which adds to the sense of immediacy, as if this song is being performed live for you in a small coffee shop or dark bar.” (12/10/05)

19. Plastic Jesus – Paul Newman (from Cool Hand Luke)
“Here is where I reveal my true colors – I harbor a *serious* crush on the Paul Newman of 40 years hence. Have you SEEN Hud or Cool Hand Luke? If not, you must. I think he smolders better than any actor today. And I love the fact that I just got to post a Paul Newman song on my blog.” (1/4/06)

20. Listen To What The Man Said (Wings cover) – Ron Sexsmith
The story: “After chatting to his buddy Paul McCartney about Sexsmith, Chris Difford of Squeeze took Ron over to the ex-Beatle’s house for an impromptu jam session. Maybe you’ve heard this story, but you know you want to hear it again. Difford makes the introduction, they all have breakfast and before you know it, Ron’s singing ‘Listen To What The Man Said’ with Paul taking the harmonies. ‘Well, I didn’t know what to play,’ Ron says, ‘And [McCartney] does this thing when you talk to him — if you say something humorous, he’s got these huge eyes, and he sort of gave me this look like I was being a wise guy or something. Well, it’s a song I’ve always played for myself… and it was cool. I was singing lead and he was doing the harmonies and stuff.’” (7/14/06)


Ta-dah! Do enjoy, trusty reader. Thanks to all of you for a fantastic and eye-opening year. You all rock, perhaps a little bit more so now.

I would be acutely interested in hearing some feedback from those of you who have been with me for a while — what are some artists or songs or albums that you have especially enjoyed that you read about here? What do you recall as your favorites featured here this year?

(Onward ho!)

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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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