This happened at my house last night. What an ebullient evening of purity and candor. Thanks, Cataldo.
[and thanks Kevin for taping it]
This happened at my house last night. What an ebullient evening of purity and candor. Thanks, Cataldo.
[and thanks Kevin for taping it]
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]
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.
Next Wed., Feb 29 (LEAP DAY!): CATALDO HOUSE CONCERT
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
Next Friday, March 2: DREW GROW AND THE PASTORS’ WIVES
(@ 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:
TYLER LYLE HOUSE CONCERT
(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.
Tuesday, March 20:
TYPHOON GALLERY CONCERT
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.
Let’s listen to some good music, drink a good beer, and revel together.
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.
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.
FUEL/FRIENDS FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2010
THE BLACK KEYS – BROTHERS
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 – NICE, NICE, VERY NICE
(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
DREW GROW AND THE PASTORS’ WIVES – SELF-TITLED
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.
THE HEAD AND THE HEART – SELF-TITLED
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
JONSI – GO
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.
JOSH RITTER – SO RUNS THE WORLD AWAY
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.”
LISSIE – CATCHING A TIGER
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
MATT POND PA – THE DARK LEAVES
“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
THE NATIONAL – HIGH VIOLET
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
THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH – THE WILD HUNT
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
BEST ALBUM NOT FROM THIS YEAR THAT I JUST FINALLY DISCOVERED THIS YEAR:
CATALDO – SIGNAL FLARE
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
NINE SUPERB SONGS I COULDN’T GET ENOUGH OF IN 2010:
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]
FAVORITE SHOWS OF THE YEAR:
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.
AND: FAVORITE NIGHT THAT ONLY TOOK 56 YEARS TO ARRIVE
I think we did it, and these were the things that soundtracked it all.
["Sound Wave" sculpture at top by Jean Shin]
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!
Another 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.”
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. If you represent an artist or a label and would prefer that I remove a link to an mp3, please email me at email@example.com