May 26, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

The rigors of travel, they slay me — and tonight I find myself far from home. Doin’ alright except for a slicing cut on my toe which makes everything involving walking and shoes difficult. Seems like I should have worn “real shoes,” instead of pedi-vulnerable flipflops on my way to the capital. Thanks to everyone for the Washington DC recommendations, I look forward to trying out as many as I can squeeze into the midst of conferencing. More on my travel adventures later.

When I can connect to the hotel wireless, here are a few new songs I’ve enjoyed downloading that you might like too:

Big Star
Haley Bonar

I first heard Haley Bonar a few years ago on her blue and lonesome “have-a-whiskey-alone-(or ten)” song Drinking Again, where her honeyed voice sings a tale of drinking to forget someone who’s just left town so she doesn’t have to sit around and talk to walls again. Haley is back with a new album on Afternoon Records (June 12), and this first taste of the title track sounds like she’s possibly even less happy than we last left her. This song laments a relationship of changed expectations and unfulfilled needs: “I can’t make you happy, I can’t make you money, I can only fold your laundry,” she sings. But in a fortunate move towards redemption, the gorgeous chorus is about big stars and big wishes she’s making. This song is highly recommended.

My Only Offer
Mates of State

Sometimes I mistakenly caricaturize the husband-wife duo Mates of State into overly-simplistic terms. It’s easy to think of them as simply harmonies, a nauseatingly happy partnership, and really great hair. When I saw them perform back at my college they were truly charming and their songs infectiously simple, all effervescent springtime and “bah-bah-bah”s. But their new album Re-Arrange Us (out last week on Barsuk) shows a bit more mood and weight as it explores issues of family, long-term relationships, parenting, etc. The heft of the subject matter blends with some of the darker threads of their shimmering indie-pop music, and makes for a very pleasing effort.

This Is How I Know
Ron Sexsmith

Canadian musician Ron Sexsmith crafts songs with impeccable melodies, the kind that stick in your head for hours and days. Ever since I heard that collaboration he did with Paul McCartney, I hear so many similarities in their voices and their style. This is one that will stay with your mental jukebox for a while, at least until the full album comes out to tempt us with other pleasures (like his version of “Brandy Alexander,” a song he co-wrote with Feist). Exit Strategy For The Soul is out July 8th, and will be his debut album for Yep Roc.

Josephine Street
I Love Math
Spare and immediately winning, Dallas foursome I Love Math makes songs in the classic vein of Kinks or Zombies, along with more current contemporaries like Jon Brion. They also cite Maker’s Mark in their MySpace influences, which is not a bad selection. This song is a lazy summery tune with gentle handclaps and a foreign language chattering in the background like an old transistor radio. Getting To The Point Is Beside It is out tomorrow on Glurp Records, and the band is on tour next month opening for the Old 97s.

Bonus mp3: their Guided By Voices cover
A Good Flying Bird (GBV cover) – I Love Math

J. Smith
While we weren’t watching, Travis has been working on finishing a new album, their follow-up to last year’s The Boy With No Name. This song is a borderline-operatic tale of a reclusive, bitter man around whom they seem to have written a whole album. Ode To J. Smith is due out sometime later in 2008, and this first song from it was recently debuted on KCRW earlier in the month. Travis fans have compared this song to Queen, and without all the Freddie Mercury there definitely is a hint of the dramatic that wouldn’t seem out of place in a rhapsody all its own. Although it’s got the angular Britpop electric guitars at the start and end, those celestial choruses certainly lift this song up into bigger proportions than anything I’ve heard them do in the past. [thanks Kevin!]

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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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