sand is overrated

all songs posted are for evaluation only. if you hear something you like and would like to hear more, please go ahead and support the artists by buying their music--i will always include links for you to do so. copyright holders: if anything on my site needs to be taken down, please email me and it will be removed immediately.

Monday, December 31, 2007

looking back on '07, looking forward to '08

it has been an incredible year in a lot of ways for me. musically, i'd have to say that this has been the best year i can ever remember. this year being the first full year of sand is overrated has made my obsession with music that much deeper, so it's probably no surprise at all that there were so many bands that i love that had new releases this year. and as strong as 2007 was, 2008 looks perhaps just as promising. hopefully the new year will bring new full-length albums from sigur rós, sufjan stevens, death cab for cutie, alexi murdoch, joanna newsom, my personal favorite m. ward, and my favorite from 2006, camera obscura.

on a personal note, most of 2007 was a great time for me until i kind of staggered towards the finish line these past few months. but, looking forward to 2008, i have the most clearly defined goals i've had in perhaps a decade and am brimming with excitement over what may come in the months ahead. it promises to be a very busy year for me and i just hope that i can sustain some semblance of regularity on here. i'll be coming back in the new year with hopefully a new wrinkle or two, including one that i've been thinking about for a while: i've become increasingly uncomfortable putting up download links to the songs i post, so my next post and on will contain only streaming links. the point is, after all, just exposure and promotion, not a place where you can download music for free.

with that, i leave you the same way i left last year, with "one more goodbye" from m. ward. i probably could have come up with another song to close out the year with, but it just still seems like the perfect way to close what was nearly a perfect year, and welcome what will hopefully be a nearly perfect year. happy new year to you and yours!

m. ward : "one more goodbye" mp3
from the compilation old enough 2 know better - 15 years of merge records (merge records, 2004)
one more chance before the end of the year
one more time for me to make my letters clear
well i found a pen and wrote these words in your ear
"one more goodbye"

one more chance to terrorize my aching head
reconsider in your soul what you read
well i found a crayon and wrote these words on your leg
"one more goodbye"

one more chance to throw your party by the lake
reconsider in your soul your mistake
well i found a match and wrote these words on your cake
"one more goodbye"

well i slipped and fell between the rocks and i got stuck
but i found a vine and i climbed my way up
and then i found some soap and wrote these words on your truck
"one more goodbye"

so i dreamed a train and away did i ride
well i cleared a place on that wooden floor where i could lie
and then i found a plane and wrote these words in the sky
"one more goodbye"

my final vision as i rattle down the track
as far away from me across the leaves and grass
i caught my guardian angel haulin' ass
"one more goodbye"

one more goodbye
one more goodbye

Friday, December 28, 2007

2007 is overrated : albums of the year

as the year winds down to a close, it's time to look back at the best albums of 2007. there were so many great albums released this year that my list is limited to 10 only because i just couldn't find time to write up more than that. but if i had to expand it, this is how it would have gone:

11. the white stripes - icky thump
12. feist - the reminder
13. aqualung - memory man
14. the fratellis - costello music
15. the go! team - proof of youth
16. the six parts seven - casually smashed to pieces
17. keren ann - keren ann
18. cathy davey - tales of silversleeve
19. explosions in the sky - all of a sudden i miss everyone
20. leslie and the badgers - leslie and the badgers (#20 with only a few weeks worth of listening!)

with that, here are my ten favorite albums of 2007 (tracks of the year: [1-10] and [11-20]):

armchair apocrypha
andrew bird

fat possum records, march 20, 2007

"fiery crash"

andrew bird's silky smooth voice and effortless delivery sometimes makes it seem like he's not really trying. but careful listens to armchair apocrypha reveal an album so dense, so elaborate, and so intricate that you could not possibly have heard in one listen. the guitar plays a larger role than on past bird albums and nicely complements the more familiar violin and glockenspiel, lyrical complexities abound, and of course there is the whistling. it's an album that requires a bit of an investment on the part of the listener, but the payoff is substantial--the man is outrageously talented and this is the best album of the year for me. there is a significant sentimentality factor to armchair apocrypha as well, as listening to it in the car provided the soundtrack to a really great stretch of my year. hearing these songs again sparks some very very fond memories--a priceless attribute to an already incredible album.

the meaning of 8
cloud cult

rebel group, april 10, 2007

"your 8th birthday"
"chemicals collide"

this album came to my attention via charles at heartache with hard work, and is a prime example why his is one of the best music blogs around. initially i had this pegged at number 7 for the year, but after a brief revisiting i remembered why i loved this one so much. sonically and lyrically, it's as good as anything else released this year, and, after taking a look at the rest of this list, it's obvious that that is saying a lot. but conceptually, the album is far and away the most affecting undertaking of the year. it begins with the title, a reference to the universality of the human experience that is exemplified by the many but similar meanings of the number 8 across cultures and religions. printed in nontoxic soyink on the 100% postconsumer recycled paper that constitutes the digipak sleeve is a fine, comprehensive explanation that concludes: "the number 8 symbolizes the moment where death and rebirth collide. it is the place where life gives birth to death. it is the place where death gives hope to life." the album documents craig minowa's struggle to come to terms with his own moment where death and rebirth collided--the 2002 death of his infant son kaiden--in the process creating a fine example of how powerful music can be in the right hands.

ga ga ga ga ga emusic

merge records, july 10, 2007

"black like me"
"don't make me a target"

it seems improbable that an album with this much soul could come from a man so white and from austin, texas. but soul is exactly what ga ga ga ga ga is full of, and britt daniel's pop sensibilities, swagger, and nasty guitar hooks create an instantly catchy, intensely likable, infinitely enjoyable record that seems infinitely stuck in my car cd player. this one carries with it some sentimental value as well, having been purchased on a mid-summer trip to seattle that was one of my fondest experiences all year.

the stage names emusic
okkervil river

jagjaguar records, august 7, 2007

"plus ones"
"our life is not a movie or maybe"

i had never really listened to okkervil river before the stage names, and on initial listens i thought it might end up being my favorite album of the year. unfortunately, some of the novelty greatly wore off when i went through the back catalog, especially black sheep boy and down the river of golden dreams. these two earlier albums, both examinations of relationships and, for me, more relatable topics, struck such a chord with me that the farther removed newer album couldn't quite compete. but it's still a fantastic album. will sheff's lyrical prowess borders on the ridiculous in the what's-next "plus ones", and he manages to sing about his life as an entertainer with as much emotion and passion as he's always sung about broken hearts and new addictions. it's a swirling adventure of an album that travels from place to place and time to time with an ease that underscores how immensely talented and visionary will sheff really is.

wincing the night away
the shins

sub pop, january 23, 2007

"a comet appears"

excessive hype and lofty expectations probably conspired to knock some of the luster off before it even came out, and an early-in-the-year release doesn't bode well for an end-of-the-year list, but there is no denying that wincing the night away is a damn fine album. a quick refresher reminds me why i was listening to this non-stop back in february and march--irresistible guitar hooks, imaginative tales of girls of all different flavors, and the razor-sharp wit and lyricism of james mercer. it's a shame that their live show did not impress, but wincing the night away was a clear step forward into death cab for cutie's indie limelight.

boxer emusic
the national

beggars banquet, may 22, 2007

"fake empire"
"start a war"

it took me a long time to really get into boxer and, looking back, i really don't know why. the slow, dramatic build of "fake empire" had me from the first listen, but the rest of the album just seemed to initially fade into obscurity for me. perhaps it was just the somber way my year came to a close that really made me appreciate the timbre in matt berninger's voice, but just in the last few months i've found myself coming back to boxer again and again. and what i've discovered is undoubtedly one of the best albums of the year--rich with thematic complexity, full of challenging lyrics, and the most impressive percussive display i've heard all year. a few more months like this and boxer could easily be in my top 3 for the year, but placing it at 6 for now is a safe bet considering it wasn't really even on my radar a few months ago.

in rainbows

ato records, october 10, 2007

"jigsaw falling into place"

the most-hyped album of the year. did i buy into it just like everyone else? you bet i did. and do i still think it was all well-deserved? absolutely. radiohead shocked everyone in early october and put the record execs on notice with their pay-what-you-want download scheme. all of the excitement and commotion might have obscured a lesser record, but in rainbows was exactly what so many fans hoped it would be--a vindication that all of the waiting on baited breath for a new album, all of the hype and all of the anticipation, are worth it; a reassurance that, yes, radiohead is still the best band on the planet. sonically, in rainbows is easily one of the most impressive albums of the year, with phil selway's percussive work playing off of colin greenwood's bass lines, and jonny greenwood being jonny greenwood (in a word, amazing).

favourite worst nightmare
arctic monkeys

domino, april 24, 2007

"fluorescent adolescent"

whatever people say i am, that's what i'm not was one of my favorite albums from 2006, but when costello music came out in march, it seemed like the fratellis had done arctic monkeys better than arctic monkeys did themselves. but then a few weeks later favourite worst nightmare and put an end to all that nonsense. the trademark chops and swagger are still there, but this time around the band displays a vulnerability and maturity that supplement and complement the endless hooks.

sky blue sky

nonesuch records, may 15, 2007

"either way"
"hate it here"

it must first be said that, except in years that radiohead actually releases a new album, wilco is my favorite band. and with sky blue sky being the first studio release featuring the peerless nels cline, it was easily my most anticipated album of the year. my first few listens produced mixed feelings. there were moments where cline's guitar seemed a bit overdone (say in "impossible germany"), almost to the point of showing off. but then there were other moments, like in the opener "either way" where everything simply fit, and the guitar seemed to elevate the tenor of the song to mesmerizing heights. but after everything was said and done, and after seeing them perform in august, i came to appreciate even those overdone moments and the guitar interplay between nels cline and jeff tweedy. and sky blue sky became just another in a long line of great wilco records.

bright eyes

saddle creek records, april 10, 2007

"hot knives"
"classic cars"

for some reason i've been having a really difficult time trying to figure out what to say about cassadaga. maybe that's a sign that it shouldn't be on this list, but all i can remember is that there was a long stretch of the year when i was in love with this record. conor oberst's lyricism is as sharp as ever, and i believe his ear for melody and his musicianship are continuously evolving. slap the heir-to-dylan labels on him all you want, but i think he's carving out a pretty good case for people to be looking for the heir-to-oberst.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

2007 is overrated : tracks of the year, part 2

part two of my year-end lists brings my ten favorite tracks of the year (part one here, part three here). "all the weird kids up front, tell me what you know you want"

1. "black like me"
from the lp ga ga ga ga ga (merge records) emusic

picking number one between "black like me" and "darkmatter" was an incredibly difficult choice because i just think "darkmatter" is an amazing track. but "black like me" is just so full of soul, feeling, and the wanton desire that i have been craving for so much of the year, it just really couldn't not be my favorite song of the year.

2. "darkmatter"
andrew bird
from the lp armchair apocrypha (fat possum records) emusic

i really think this is one of the most incredible songs i've ever heard. it begins with some pristine whistling followed by some gentle strumming of the acoustic guitar. at 40 seconds, the kick drum slowly builds the tension to an explosive release of sound that kicks off the song's emotional core. bird's lyrics are astounding, pensively examining the fabric of our very being, and his voice--normally subtle and serene--bursts with fervor and inspiration. the song circles back to its whistling beginnings before asking one last time: "do you wonder where the self resides? / is it in your head or between your sides? / and who will be the one who will decide / its true location?"

3. "old timers"
leslie and the badgers
from the lp leslie and the badgers (self-released)

in the interest of full disclosure, i first heard this song only a few weeks ago, so maybe it is just the novelty, the freshness, and the excitement of feeling like i've uncovered a hidden gem that has caused me to put "old timers" so high on my list. perhaps it's the wistful nostalgia of the sad tale it tells, or the vulnerability in leslie stevens' voice, or that irresistible slide guitar. whatever it is, somehow i feel positively certain that this track will remain a favorite song of mine for a long time to come and is well-deserving of the number 3 spot.

4. "your 8th birthday"
cloud cult
from the lp the meaning of 8 (rebel group)

a song about singer craig minowa's son kaiden, who died as an infant, this is the most touching song i've heard in a long, long while. i have no personal experience that comes anywhere close to relating to this song, but i still get chills down my spine every time craig minowa belts out kaiden's name.

5. "australia"
the shins
from the lp wincing the night away (sub pop)

one of the catchiest tunes of the year obscures the cleverness of james mercer's songwriting abilities. who doesn't know the feeling of remorse that accompanies feeling trapped--by circumstance, by belief, by life? "you'll be damned to pining through the windowpanes you know / you'd trade your life for any ordinary joe / well do it now or grow old / your nightmares only need a year or two to unfold"

6. "plus ones"
okkervil river
from the lp the stage names (jagjaguwar) emusic

will sheff is a lyrical genius. how many different songs can you reference in a less-than-four-minute song about a crumbling relationship and still have it make sense in a completely indignant way?

7. "hot knives"
bright eyes
from the lp cassadaga (saddle creek)

conor oberst just has a way. he punctuates every example of the escapist tendencies that seem to rule our lives by building the tension in each verse, pausing just for an instant, and then jumping off the cliff. brilliant.

8. "either way"
from the lp sky blue sky (nonesuch)

a perfect example of how well nels cline's guitar can seamlessly integrate into wilco's sound, replete with jeff tweedy's plaintive vocals and easy, casual attitude of what will be will be.

9. "headed for a fall"
m. ward
from the single "to go home" (merge records) emusic

a song that features m. ward, nels cline, jim james, neko case, mike mogis, jordan hudson, mike coykendall, and the rosano bros. i don't really think i need to say more than that, but it truly is a fantastic rockin' good time. it's a cover of a jimmie dale gilmore song, with james and case on harmonizing vocals and cline's signature frenetic guitar work closing out the track.

10. "lay your head down"
keren ann
from the lp keren ann (blue note records)

feist's "1234" might have been the song that exploded in popularity, but for my money "lay your head down" is even better, with its catchy bass line, irresistible hand claps, and of course, keren ann's beautiful voice.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

listening to okkervil river's "listening to otis redding at home during christmas" at home during christmas

"yeah? well, i've got dreams to remember..."

a very merry christmas to you and yours.

okkervil river
: "listening to otis redding at home during christmas" mp3
from the lp don't fall in love with everyone you see (jagjaguar, 2002)

otis redding : "i've got dreams to remember" mp3
from the collection remember me (stax, 1992)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

2007 is overrated : tracks of the year, part 1

here's the first of three parts of my year-end lists (part two here, part three here). 2007 was such a great year in music that there is a lot that i have left off these lists, but i just couldn't find time to expand my tracks list out to 30. i never did find a place for the white stripes, the go! team, sunset rubdown, or stars, but i think my final top 20 is pretty well representative of what i listened to and loved this year. with that:

11. "fake empire"
the national
from the lp boxer (beggars banquet) emusic

it took me a long time to really get into most of boxer, but "fake empire" had me from the very first listen. matt berninger has a voice that recalls mark knopfler, and bryan devendorf provides some of the most impressive percussive moments of any album this year.

12. "jigsaw falling into place"
from the lp in rainbows (ato records)

it's difficult to believe that one song on in rainbows could stick out so much more than the others, but for me that song is definitely "jigsaw falling into place", a critique on the difficulty of creating anything meaningful and of substance within the frenetic confines of modern life.

13. "the last song"
camera obscura
from the single "tears for affairs" (merge records) emusic

camera obscura released a slew of singles this year from my favorite album of last year, let's get out of this country. i still have not heard a camera obscura song that i don't like, so "the last song" is really just another in a long line of great tunes and a big reason why i'm feverishly anticipating a new album in 2008.

14. "silver lining"
rilo kiley
from the lp under the blacklight (warner brothers)

a shining star on an otherwise disappointing album, it's a perfect blend of slick production, jenny lewis' always-sterling voice, and a sweet little blake sennet riff. not to mention backup choral vocals and the always-trusty handclaps.

15. "whistle for the choir"
the fratellis
from the lp costello music (cherry tree)

another insanely catchy tune, but this time with good ol' scottish accents and whistling. "and it's a cryin' shame if you would think the same -- a boy like me's just irresistible"

16. "505"
arctic monkeys
from the lp favourite worst nightmare (domino)

alex turner dusts off the trademark attitude and displays some real vulnerability here. a little conflict, a little paranoia, and a lot of lust make the delivery of the line "but i crumble completely when you cry" one of the best moments of the year.

17. "i feel it all"
from the lp the reminder (cherry tree)

"1234" will undoubtedly get the better part of attention, but i think "i feel it all" is the better song. full of the rich complexities that define the turmoil associated with the end of a relationship, it's the tenor of leslie feist's voice that ultimately expresses more then her words ever say.

18. "down boy"
yeah yeah yeahs
from the ep is is (interscope)

full of swagger, attitude, and belligerence, karen o's scowls and growls are among the most exhiliratinging sounds in rock music today. it doesn't even matter what she's singing about, just so long as you know she really, really means it.

19. "champion"
kanye west
from the lp graduation (roc-a-fella records)

putting a kanye west song on my list is almost done out of compulsion just to add a little variety, but this song is well-deserving because it represents everything that makes kanye such a great artist--great beats and rhymes, a healthy dose of his trademark attitude, all tied together with a sample from steely dan. steely dan!

20. "keep the car running"
arcade fire
from the lp neon bible (merge records) emusic

perhaps it was just the mammoth expectations associated with funeral being one of my favorite albums ever, but i never really could place my finger on what it was that was missing from neon bible for me. but "keep the car running" was everything i'd hoped the second album would be--full of the raw energy, excitement, and electricity that made the first album so refreshing.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

leslie and the badgers

i'm rarely on the cutting edge of anything involving new artists, so i'm actually quite pleased with myself to be the first on the hype machine to post about leslie and the badgers. i heard this song on kcrw's new ground program today and was immediately smitten. the drums provide a straight ahead direction with a hint of earnest, there's a nostalgia in the lyrics that goes extremely well with the lap steel guitar, and leslie stevens' voice is simultaneously powerful and highly vulnerable. it's really quite an impressive little tune, and one that i very highly recommend.

a little bit about them, according to them: "we are leslie and the badgers and we formed in los angeles in march of 2006. our arrangements consist of two guitars, vocal harmonies, bass, drums, trumpet and most recently violin. comparisons have been drawn (possibly in error) to emmylou harris, lucinda williams, rilo kiley's jenny lewis."

those comparisons sound about right, especially (being a huge rilo kiley fan) the last one.

UPDATE: having now bought and listened to the rest of the album, i feel like i've had one of those rare eureka! moments where you've stumbled upon something undiscovered but unmistakably golden. now i just need to figure out if there's enough time to get this on my year end lists...

leslie and the badgers : "old timers" mp3
from the lp leslie and the badgers (self-released, 2007) myspace
stars fell to the ground when they tore the hotel down
where he and i, he and i used to go
under a moon like electric snow
a decade ago

and it was there i confess that we first had a bed to share
with a view of the runway and the airport road
and we'd ride our bikes to the fence before the lights
and watch the planes come

won't you say, won't you say you're all mine?
we'll be together 'til they call us old timers
and we'll ride our bikes to the fence before the lights
and take off on an airliner

young with a fuel that could burn through any rule
and never mind, never mind what the others said
the man at the desk with the eyes of lead
bloodshot red

winter came and it became less of a game
and more of what couldn't be taught by teachers in school
and we found in love that the world was cruel
and beautiful

won't you say, won't you say you're all mine?
we'll be together 'til they call us old timers
and we'll ride our bikes to the fence before the lights
and take off on an airliner

he went to the lake that summer with his family
and a storm came overhead and struck a tree
and it emptied his mind of everything
everything even me

and when he awoke he was gone, he wasn't there
and they took him where they said he'd get better care
and i would go and visit him there
in the white square

there is a wall that's holding back the past
and all of love's history is behind the glass
there's a place where everything will last
iron cast

won't you say, won't you say you're all mine?
we'll be together 'til they call us old timers
and we'll ride our bikes to the fence before the lights
and take off on an airliner

Monday, December 10, 2007

andrew bird : the orpheum theatre, december 7, 2007

it must be said again: andrew bird is ridiculously talented. this being the second time i've seen him live, andrew bird's use of loop pedals to create layers upon layers of sound was no surprise to me. and yet, the lack of novelty did nothing to make his performance any less astounding. he begins by playing his violin in pizzicato, lightly plucking and picking the strings. looping that, he then picks up his bow and plays his violin in arco, creating a second and a third layer of sound. quickly setting his violin aside, he swings around the guitar he's had slung across his back and now there is a fourth layer. add in some whistling and a voice that i don't think gets enough credit and you have an indelible performance by andrew bird.

what is really interesting about seeing him perform live, though, is his energy and presence on stage--he's constantly in motion, fidgeting and nervous tic motioning his head to the left in a way that you might mistake for anxiety or adhd. but the impression i get is that this man has so music streaming out of his hands and his feet and his arms and his legs that it's all he can do to keep from bursting into a mishmash of sonic disarray. he contains it well, switching so quickly from instrument to instrument, with so little time to spare, that you just can't help but be mystified.

the highlight of the night for me was bird's rendition of "the giant of illinois" by the handsome family (who opened the show). at the conclusion of the song, he pointed out how much he loved the song and the pure beauty of these lyrics, which i completely agree with:
delirious with pain
his bedroom walls began to glow
and he felt himself soaring up through falling snow
and the sky was a woman's arms
andrew bird : "the giant of illinois" mp3
from the daytrotter session (2007)

it's simply a masterful song. just listen to the layers he creates one by one, from pizzicato violin to guitar to his voice. see the rest of the daytrotter session here. i'll have more from andrew bird in the coming weeks...


Monday, December 03, 2007

homesick for a home i've never had

after a few delays, sigur rós' heima dvd finally gets its u.s. release tomorrow. i've already professed my love for the beauty that is sigur rós, but today i feel a particular connection to the film whose title translates to "at home", because just as georg hólm puts it in the trailer, i've lately had a strange and uncontrollable urge to want to go home. lately this instinct has been consuming my brain as well as my heart--i really, really want to go home to seattle. the thing is, i've never lived in seattle. i've even only visited a few times. seattle is not and has never been my home. but there is something inside me that feels like it is where i want to be. i suppose it's a complex amalgamation of a lot of feelings that i have been feeling and a lot of events that have transpired recently. i'd be the first to admit that my fickle heart might be headed in completely the opposite direction a year from now, and i'm tied down where i'm at for at least a few more years anyway. but for now, i will dream of going home to a home i've never had.

soul asylum : "homesick" mp3
from the lp grave dancers union (sony, 1992)

*if you think it's weird that i'm posting soul asylum, i'm with you. but wow, wasn't grave dancers union a fantastic album??

all songs posted are for evaluation only. if you hear something you like and would like to hear more, please go ahead and support the artists by buying their music--i will always include links for you to do so. copyright holders: if anything on my site needs to be taken down, please email me and it will be removed immediately.

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