Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 : JPB's Best Of


I didn't write about as many discs from 2009 as I would have liked—I was busy traveling, and completing my work for the semester, and getting ill—but I thought I'd close out my writing for this blog with a quick top ten.

10. Jason Crumer, Walk With Me
Restrained minimalist compositions which periodically descend into shredding noise. Read more | Listen: "Luscious Voluptuous Pregnant"

9. Fuck Buttons, Tarot Sport
I prefer the less polished raw energy of their 2008 debut, Street Horsssing, but this follow-up is still an undeniably fine selection of anthemic psychedelic stomp.

8. Mountains, Choral
This outfit, made up of former Apestaartje personnel, has released three fine albums of pastoral drone this decade. This newest one stayed in heavy rotation for me this year.

7. Sunn O))), Dimensions and Monoliths
The boundaries of the Sunn O))) project have grown broader with each release, absorbing more and more material like some kind of black metal Katamari. This album finds them experimenting with keening choirs ("Big Church") and transcendent horn playing ("Alice"). It's not always successful, but when it works it expands their scope breathtakingly.

6. The Antlers, Hospice
A staggering song cycle about death, loss, and grief. Best way to hear it is by yourself, in a slowly darkening room.

5. Freelance Whales, Weathervanes
This album filled the slot that was filled last year by Natalie Portman's Shaved Head's Glistening Pleasure, and in 2005 by Architecture In Helsinki's In Case We Die: indie-pop music, made by young people, charming, charismatic, polished, and addictively sweet. A slightly shameful pleasure, but also a true and abiding one.

4. Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
This is the great indie-pop album of the year: upbeat, energetic, yet also somehow grandly sad. Read more | Listen: "Lisztomania"

3. Gregg Kowalsky, Tape Chants
The idea of creating music by playing recorded matter on 6-10 cassette tape players simultaneously may sound a bit like someone trying to update Philip Jeck's turntable installations and performances. But Kowalsky's project is really its own thing, with conceptual underpinnings that differ completely from Jeck's, and just one immersion into Kowalsky's invitingly smoggy low-fi drone makes it completely clear that this is a soundworld that must be appreciated on its own terms.

2. Dan Deacon, Bromst
The eleven pieces that compose Bromst mostly sound like the soundtrack an old-school videogame that you might have experienced in a dream: all velocity and candy color. But just when you're ready to dismiss them as whiz-kid geekery they open up into something lovely, possibly even holy. Listen: "Red F"

1. Jónsi and Alex, Riceboy Sleeps
Beautiful ambient tracks from this side-project of Sigur Ros vocalist Jón Birgisson. Each track arranges acoustic instruments, voices, crackle, loops and hum into a kind of billowing fog that permeates directly to my brain's pleasure pathways.

Jeremy Bushnell

2009 : 19-20 Jack Rose & Charlie Parr

Jack Rose and Charlie Parr are two guitars who are often called "new traditionalists." Finger-pickers harkening back to an earlier era, Parr plays traditional folk and Piedmont blues-style songs on 6- and 12-string guitars, and banjo; Rose comes from the John Fahey tradition, but also incorporates elements of Indian ragas and minimalist drone.

Parr's father grew up on a tenant farm in northern Iowa with 17 siblings and rode out the Great Depression on freight cars. He rode them to Appalachia and Texas and every other corner of the country. He finally settled into a job shoveling animal parts at the Hormel plant in Austin, Minn where he raised Charlie. Charlie dropped out of high school just one year in and left home to see the country. He settled in a rooming house in the West Bank neighborhood of Minneapolis in 1985 learning songs by artists his father used to play on the record player: Elizabeth Cotton, Fred McDowell, and Doc Boggs among others.

Jack Rose grew up in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He started playing the guitar at age 10 and joined the group Pelt in 1993. In 2001, he began recording more and solo acoustic guitar compositions, appearing on the seminal Wooden Guitar compilation on Locust Records. His open tunings and long form compositions never lost the psychedelic and rock flavors of his earlier music, almost defining the word "deltadelica."

Both Jack and Charlie carry a certain blues and folk tradition forward, while putting their own stamp on it, reinventing it, bringing their own influences to it. Here is Parr covering a Blind Willie Johnson song, "God Moves On The Water," while Jack plays his own composition, "Kensington Blues."

A sad footnote: Jack Rose died of a heart attack on Dec 8 at the age of 38.

Darren DeMonsi

Listen: Jack Rose >> "Kensington Blues" | Charlie Parr >> "God Moves On The Water"

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 : 18 "Blood Bank" by Bon Iver

There is no song this decade that makes me feel a feeling of atmosphere the way "Blood Bank" does. The cover of the EP shows this snow-covered car with the door slightly open. This song sounds like walking through the snow to get that photo. There is no other way to put it. You know what I am saying if you have ever walked through snow so heavy that you need to pick up your knees with every step.

I also love this song for the topic matter. How many other songs are about specific episodes of TV shows? The fact that it's about a episode of Northern Exposure makes it even better. I love the idea of looking at a bag of blood and trying to figure out whose it is. Are the things that make us who we are in our blood or someplace else? All these ideas keep me coming back to this song.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Bon Iver >> "Blood Bank"

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 : 17 "You Don't Have to Be A Prostitute" by Flight of the Conchords

When I hear this song I sing it for hours. I am not sure if it is because it is making fun of the police or because it is catchy in its own right. The Flight of the Conchords are the best musical humor act of the decade. I want to remind you that this is the decade that saw Nerd Core artists become well known. The Flight of the Conchords are still the best.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Flight of the Conchords >> "You Don't Have To Be A Prostitute"

2009 : 16 "Tokyo" by Telekinesis

Am I the only person who thinks that this song sounds like an old Banana Spilts theme? I mean that in a totally good way. I loved the Banana Spilts growing up. I love that they capture that emotion and feeling without having to be a parody. This song makes want to dance and sing. Any song that makes me feel that way is successful. It is the small pleasures a song can give that are the best.

I-I-I went to Toyko

Rich Thomas

Listen: Telekinesis >> "Tokyo"

Saturday, December 26, 2009

2009 : 14-15 Two tracks by The Decemberists

Okay, I'm a little biased. I've gushed about the Decemberists for a long time, but still—this is my pick for the album of 2009. It's surprising how many magazines and sites have given The Hazards Of Love borderline reviews. If you're not a Decemberists fan, you might dismiss these tracks. However, this album not only adds more complex storytelling but uses guest vocals for maximum effects.

In "The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid," Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond) provides an excellent, compelling interpretation of the evil queen in the album's narrative. She's singing and acting at the same time—listen to her draw out the word 'repaid.' Her voice is stunning and controlling. Meloy wisely lets her have the listener's complete attention.

"The Rake's Song" is one of the most straight-up rock tracks that the Decemberists have written. Meloy writes the character as completely without redemption or qualities. How many songs have a narrator describing how he killed his children?

Charlotte I buried after feeding her foxglove
Dawn was easy: She was drowned in the bath
Isaiah fought but was easily bested
Burned his body for incurring my wrath

It's gratuitous and over the top, but perfectly fitting for a villian straight out of Victorian fiction.

The album needs to be listened to in its entirety, but these tracks are the best examples of the full story. It's an ambitious effort, and a great example of how guest vocalists (Worden and Becky Stark) can add to a song's atmosphere. The Decemberists have a specific style, and it's not for everyone—but it's hard to deny the efforts and dimensions that went into the narrative structure, which enhances the music greatly.

Jamie Yates

Listen: The Decemberists >> "The Wanting Comes In Waves" | "The Rake's Song"

2009 : 13 "Drunk As Fuck [Top Billin Remix]" by Tittsworth

Way back when this blog was covering 2000, I wrote about the Queens of the Stone Age's track "Feel Good Hit of the Summer," noting that it describes "a lifestyle so hedonistic that it would kill the majority of its listeners very quickly were they to adopt it." I also wrote that the track "evokes a special type of vicarious pleasure in the listener's head," and that this process "is one of the reasons popular music even exists in the first place." Hip-hop, of course, excels at the creation of very dense constellations of incantations and images that trigger the vicarious-pleasure parts of listener's brains: this, in fact, forms a key part of its appeal. A great example might be Tittsworth's "Drunk As Fuck," which celebrates just about every taboo one can think of: from the reeling intoxication identified in the track's title to, uh, genital torture. Anti-social? Sure. Take it seriously and it's actually disturbing. But take it as an opportunity to temporarily put on the costume of someone irresponsible and dangerous—to become "the king of all sleazy things" without any risk to one's self—and it yields a very concentrated form of ridiculous delight.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Tittsworth >> "Drunk As Fuck [Top Billin Remix]"

2009 : 12 "Demons Out" by Art Brut

On your visa it says "entertainer"
You'd better step it up or they're gonna detain you
It's all smoke and mirrors- don't go and see 'em
I wanted rock 'n roll- I got a science museum

I could have picked any of the songs from Art Brut vs. Satan. This is my record of the year. Every song makes me want to be 22 years old again, in a totally good way. Art Brut is smart, witty, silly and fun. Art Brut is the band for every Rob Fleming wannabe out there. They are the geeks with an apartment full of vinyl and comic books that actually decided to put together a band. What more can I say beyond the quote below.

How am I supposed to sleep at night
when no one likes the music we write?
Record buying public- we hate them
This is Art Brut vs. Satan

Rich Thomas

Listen: Art Brut >> "Demons Out!"

Friday, December 25, 2009

2009 : 11 "Poison Trees" by The Devil Makes Three

A lovely toe tapping little ditty with apocalyptic overtones.

April Walker

Listen: The Devil Makes Three >> "Poison Trees"

2009 : 10 "Effigy" by Andrew Bird

When I originally reviewed this album, I gave it some earnest praise, but felt that it didn't match up to Bird's earlier works. However, a few more listens have revealed a few ideas that I intially missed. Effigy" is moving, and musically, it's one of Bird's minimalist efforts. His penchant for combining varying vocal styles and multiple instruments is stripped down, making for what feels like a soft, singer-songwriter type track. His musical talents and acumen could have made this a longer, more complex song, but "Effigy" is a great example of less being more. Most importantly, it shows that he's comfortable in any given style.

Jamie Yates

Listen: Andrew Bird >> "Effigy"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

2009 : 08-09 Two tracks by Doom

I have said before that I would rather listen to Doom than Jay-Z. I know that says more about me than it does about Jay-Z. I think most of my friends would rather listen to Doom also. One of the reasons is because I can see no way Charles Bukowski would ever show up on a Jay-Z track. "Cellz" has such a good lyrical world. It really demands I pay attention.

I love "Still Dope" because Doom finds a way to re-use a sample he used on an older song, "Passion Flowers," in a way that makes the sample more interesting, not less interesting. Using it for this song makes it feel even better. It sounds to me like how a composer uses a theme to invoke the same feeling later in a work. That is the kind of idea I don't hear in other hip hop songs.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Doom >> "Cellz"| "Still Dope" (featuring Empress Stahhr Tha Femcee)

2009 : 07 "Lisztomania" by Phoenix

I spent a lot of time this year listening to this song and trying to make some sense out of its lyrics. The opening couplet reveals some sense of the futility of this task:

So sentimental
Not sentimental, no

If the underlying rhythm and melody weren't so joyous and energetic, one could mistake this tiny packet of self-canceling non-referentiality for a very compact Samuel Beckett play. The refrain doesn't exactly clarify matters:

Think less but see it grow
Like a riot, like a riot, oh
Not easily offended
Not hard to let it go
From the mess [?] to the masses

Um, OK? There's at least a noun here, relatively close to the pronoun... so... is this a song about the composer? Or about this film? Or... is "Lisztomania" a stand-in for popular manias of all sorts? That helps the "riot" lines to make sense, and maybe the thing about the "masses," but it doesn't really help with the stuff about being not hard to offend, or reveal anything akin to a point of view…

And so it went. The opacity of the song (the entire album, actually) bugged me, and then all it once it didn't anymore. When I was able to accept the lyrical content as rather inspired word salad, it freed me up to enjoy the album's bittersweet, nostalgic elation, which is actually communicated to the listener with absolute clarity.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Phoenix >> "Lisztomania"

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009 : 06 Aught Music Roundtable: "This Tornado Loves You" by Neko Case

First Pass

It's what's on the inside that counts. For all the (well-deserved) attention to Case's sexy, almost campy album cover, the songs on Middle Cyclone were fantastic, with one or two misses. "This Tornado Loves You" is the perfect opening to what's superficially referred to as a 'nature album.' The melody is upbeat, the vocals are confident, and the lyrics are a great example of Case's gift for metaphor:

I carved your name across three counties
and ground it in with bloody hides
broken necks will line the ditch

Perhaps some might view this as a metaphor for a woman scorned, but for me, it goes beyond simple gender classifications. Sometimes, when we're trying to get someone's attention, we end up doing more harm than good.

Jamie Yates

Second Pass

This song is built around an amazing notion. There is something scary and thrilling in the idea of being loved by a tornado. I think the literal idea of this song is better than the figurative idea. I think we all love the Tornado, but I am never sure the Tornado loves me back. I guess Neko Case is sure.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Neko Case >> "This Tornado Loves You"

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2009 : 04-05 Aught Music Roundtable: These Four Walls by We Were Promised Jetpacks


When I came across We Were Promised Jetpacks' debut CD These Four Walls in my local record shop I bought it solely based on the name of the band and the cover design. And, as it turns out, that was absolutely the right decision. Their songs have shades of Explosions In The Sky but with lyrics (sung in a lovely Scottish accent). There's something about the songs that just clicked with me right away and I found myself listening to the album on repeat for two days straight. "Conductor" is my current favorite off the album. The use of the word conductor as both a conductor of an orchestra and a simple conductor of electricity really tickles me.

April Walker

"It's Thunder and It's Lightning"

It makes me happy that a band with the name "We Were Promised Jetpacks" is enjoyable. I like the post-Indie-Rock sound they have put together: a straight-ahead rock sound that is unassuming. I like the way I can choose to dig into the song or enjoy it just for what is on the surface. Yes, I bought this album for the band's name. Sometimes you get luck with something like that.

Rich Thomas

Listen: We Were Promised Jetpacks >> "Conductor" | "It's Thunder and It's Lightning"

Monday, December 21, 2009

2009 : 03 "Luscious Voluptuous Pregnant" by Jason Crumer

Jason Crumer's Walk With Me is my favorite noise album of the year: it's an almost perfect hybrid of scouring intensity and measured restraint. (The first five or so minutes of this track—an irregularly looping set of piano motifs—sounds like it could have been an early Terry Riley piece or something from an academic conservatory.) Fineness notwithstanding, it still feels wrong to publicly admire a track with a title like "Luscious Voluptuous Pregnant," sort of like discussing one's own fetish(es) in mixed company. But, uh, I actually think it's a great title—sexy in a sort of upside-down way—and a good sign that noise music (even measured, restrained noise music) hasn't lost its sense of the taboo.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Jason Crumer >> "Luscious Voluptuous Pregnant"

2009 : 02 "In These Arms" by The Swell Season

I want to tell Jeremy to postpone the write up for 2009. I want to ask him for another three months or so. After writing about all these other songs, I want a few more months to live with the ones from this year. They are still too light and unattached. They lack the emotional weight and attachment the other songs have gained. I want him to wait because I will understand 2009 a lot better in two or three years. I know the world will not wait for that understanding.

I can tell you I love "In These Arms." The second Swell Season album is good in a different way than the first one. I hear some things here that remind me of my wife. Yes, my wife. I am married now, which I was not when 2009 started. In another year or two I will have a better understanding of what 2009 means.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Swell Season >> "In These Arms"

About the delay


Whoops, sorry.

End-of-semester workload + holiday shopping + travel = slightly longer hiatus between 2008 posts and 2009 posts than I had really intended.

Everything's OK. We will still complete our review of the decade before the end of the year! New 2009 posts commence today.

Monday, December 14, 2009

2009 : 01 "Summertime Clothes" by Animal Collective

Upon reflection, it's staggering to remember the varied albums that came out, of all the months, in January. Andrew Bird, A.C. Newman, Morrissey, Franz Ferdinand...but, no album set the tone quite like Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion. I was working in Seattle before this disc dropped and had the fortune to work with and become good friends with Terrance Terich, co-founder of After long discussions about music, he burned me a copy of this album, among others. I immediately agreed with him (and everyone else) that this was already one of the best albums of the year. "Summertime Clothes" is an addicting single, with a varied mix of sounds and influences. The emphasis here is on the notion of "collective"--this is a true group effort. I love how the group blends sampling and small sounds (listen carefully--it almost sounds like there are sound effects mixed in) with vocals and guitar that could have come from the 1970s. I played the crap out of this during the dreary winter, and it helped alleviate the depression of Lynnwood, Washington.

Jamie Yates

Listen: Animal Collective >> "Summertime Clothes"

Saturday, December 12, 2009

2008 : 23 "The Girl You Lost to Cocaine" by Sia

There is something about a well-crafted pop song that is hard to describe. It is easy to make fun of pop music and look down upon it as making money in the world of the least common denominator. It is easy to think that pop music is all about fluff and nothing else. Everyone has a pop song they cannot stand for good reason. I think that is what makes good pop songs so rewarding.

I love "The Girl You Lost to Cocaine" because it has a dark nature that most pop songs do not have. On first listen you might not hear those dark undertones, but after a few listens those undertones are so sweet. It is like you discovered something not everyone will find.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Sia >> "The Girl You Lost To Cocaine"

Thursday, December 10, 2009

2008 : 22 "L'effaçage" (excerpt) by Radu Malfatti

Literally, the erasure, the deletion, the suppression, the annulation, the invalidation, effaçage, effacement, etc.

erased dekooning by robert rauschenberg

Radu Malfatti L'effaçage (b-boim, 2008)

What happens when you erase not just lyrics, melody, solos, harmony, rhythm, but also pitch, notes, technique, tone, touch, and dynamics? Is a piece "music" that is constructed entirely out of a series of bass drum tympani rumbles that arise from and melt into large stretches of silence? Does boredom and extended repetition have a place in music? Can sounds be bland? What happens to the listener and the music between (the) sounds?

radu malfatti

"In a roomful of shouting people, the one who whispers becomes interesting."
- Peter Schmidt

Radu Malfatti has been working with these questions for the better part of two decades, releasing most on his in-house CD-R label, available primarily by emailing him directly. And yet despite this extremely limited niche he works with (visually, think Barrett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, and Robert Rauschenberg at their most ultra-minimal), he has produced work of some range: works for bass drum (L'effaçage), piano, string quartets, sine waves, saxophones, and string orchestra.

"Innovations be damned, it's a boring century."
– Morton Feldman

Malfatti's possibly dogmatic dedication to an intensely precise and austere soundworld, will strike many as cold, sterile, and moreover, a conceptual dead-end, musical entropy. But for others, it may seem like a needed antidote to the practically overwhelming busyness ("gabbiness" to quote Malfatti himself) of almost all forms of contemporary music.

"If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all."
– John Cage

See also: Taku Sugimoto– Italia (A Bruit Secret, 2001)

Darren DeMonsi

Listen: Radu Malfatti >> " L'effaçage (excerpt) "

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

2008 : 21 "Snakes of Hawaii" by Army Navy

Jeff jumped around the room and danced when "Snakes of Hawaii" came on. He got on the bed and started to air guitar and sing along with the track. Jeff knew if his wife or kids came home right now they would think it was funny. Jeff was not the type of man to jump around to a song. In his late 30s, this was the type of thing he could get away with in his teens. A video of this moment, if the universe was unkind enough to allow it to be recorded, would be one of those instant YouTube hits.

Jeff was not ashamed to be dancing around to this song. Every once in a while a song should make you feel young. There is no reason at 37 a song can't make you feel 17. That is "Snakes of Hawaii."

"Maybe there's no Snakes In Hawaii, Maybe there's not snakes at all," came out of Jeff's mouth at full volume. He felt the energy that the song was supposed to make him feel. After the song was over he heard clapping behind him. He turned around to see his four-year-old daughter, Donna.

"Daddy, can I dance with you this time?"

"Sure, darling, let's play that one again."

Rich Thomas

Listen: Army Navy >> "Snakes of Hawaii"

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

2008 : 20 "The Healer" by Erykah Badu

I wasn't actually a huge fan of Erykah Badu's 2008 album New Amerykah—but this track, "The Healer," was, to my mind, the single most invigorating piece of music the year had to offer. Badu's decision to marry the concepts of healing and pop music isn't in and of itself very interesting: any number of lesser talents could take those two ideas and emerge with a garden-variety homily about the enduring power of music. The greatness of this track comes from Badu's decision to use this framework as a structure into which to jam all sorts of left-field weirdness, ending up with a salvo that's a deeply compelling mish-mash of metaphysics, resistance politics, science fiction, and what may or may not be pure nonsense:

"We ain't dead," said the children
Don't believe it
We just made ourselves invisible
Underwater stove top blue flame
Come out with your scales up

The lyrical content is a great fit with Madlib's stoned-sounding production, last appreciated on this blog here.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Erykah Badu >> "The Healer"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

2008 : 19 "Love Is" by Ringo Starr

This is 100% what I want out of Ringo Starr. It is soft and sweet, heartfelt and loving. I have always felt like Ringo understands love. Liverpool 8. was supposed to be about his whole life. It was him looking back over the decades and sharing wisdom with me. That is what I want out of a Ringo Starr song

Rich Thomas

Listen: Ringo Starr >> "Love Is"

Saturday, December 5, 2009

2008 : 18 "red light" by Rod Modell

If Jacaszek's "Lament," which I wrote about not long ago, is like what house music would sound like if it emerged from a Transylvanian castle, then Rod Modell's blurred, smeary track "red light" is what house music would sound like if someone were playing it to you in an attempt to bring you out of a very deep drug-induced coma.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Rod Modell >> "red light"

2008 : 17 "Don't Haunt this Place" by The Rural Alberta Advantage

The Rural Alberta Advantage is 100% of what I want out of an Indie Rock band. They have it all.

Lo-fi production — check.

Slightly sad vocal — check.

Driving beat — check.

Extra female vocals — check.

Sad lyrics — check.

This is an album that came out of nowhere for me in 2008. I felt like I was the only person who knew about it. That is an amazingly satisfying feeling.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Rural Alberta Advantage >> "Don't Haunt This Place"

Friday, December 4, 2009

2008 : 16 "Librarian" by My Morning Jacket

Finding beauty and sexiness in a quiet, alluring librarian? No, this isn't a Whitesnake song. This is a beautiful evocation of the kind of connection that all of us have every now and then, admiring someone from a distance and letting daydreams run wild. My favorite line is one that is only a part of the set-up:

Ramble up the stairwell, into the hall of books...
Since we got the interweb these hardly get used

This almost makes the song a sort of rambling inner dialogue, but it builds into a beautiful love story. The lyrics are a bit more direct than Jim James and company usually go for, but the difference works amazingly well, combined with their atmospheric music.

Jamie Yates

Listen: My Morning Jacket >> "Librarian"

Thursday, December 3, 2009

2008 : 15 "This Will Never Be Our Town" by Jason Anderson

Vince was driving around Portland when "This Will Never Be Our Town" came up in the shuffle. Somehow he knew this song was about him and here. He knew that Portland was a temporary home for him. He would never be able to stick here. He can't find the thing that connects a person to a place. His friends tell him his is being silly when he feels this way. One verse in the song hits him hard:

Six months ago almost to the day
It's weird to think how much is different and how much is exactly, exactly, exactly, exactly, the same
On the trip back I remember saying to myself our town looks cute
and then instantly thinking
this will never be our town

Six months in the future, Vince is loading the U-haul for his move to Reno. He thought about how true some moments are.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Jason Alexander >> "This Will Never Be Our Twon"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

2008 : 13-14 Two tracks by Jenny Lewis

"Acid Tongue"

As I've written about Lewis before, I'm utterly convinced she would have been just as relevant and emotional had she been singing in the 1940s or 50s. This song is no exception. The combination of sadness and hope are perfect, with neither one dominating, but blending into an atmospheric haze. It's the soundtrack of sitting in a bar after a bad week and feeling a little sorry for yourself.

To be lonely is a habit
Like smoking or taking drugs
And I've quit them both
But man, was it rough.


I'm sure that most of my co-workers have wished bodily harm against me, since I've played this song dozens of times. It's unbelievably catchy and a piece of alluring storytelling. I can easily imagine the Decemberists covering this one:
They come to town when the war is over
Dirty boots in the middle of the night
Trolling the bars, hitting on the soldiers
Boys give it up without a fight
They say, "Hey, boy, how about your place?
I know you really want to take me home"
Drop the bags off on the bedroom floor
They make love with the lights on

It's also a testament to Lewis's prowess as a vocalist that she can duet with a legend like Elvis Costello and completely overshadow him. That's not to say that he doesn't fit in on this track; but there's no denying that this is a Jenny Lewis song, despite the amazing collaborations on the entire disc.

Jamie Yates

Listen: Jenny Lewis >> "Acid Tongue" | "Carpetbaggers"

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

2008 : 12 "Arms Like Boulders" by The War On Drugs

There is a song you hear on the radio
It's a funeral march so you change the channel
But it's all you hear as you're driving up the 101 from Mexico to California
There's no snow when you're looking for your sweethearts
Yeah there's no snow when you're looking for your answers

There is something about this song that makes me think the singer is singing to someone who is lost. Like he is holding out his hand, but the person cannot quite reach it. There is a fog the singer is trying to cut through, but the person cannot make him out.

I like this song because it reminds me of Bob Dylan. I can imagine Bob Dylan singing these lyrics. I think it says a lot of about the lyrics.

And you're, you're the kind to hide your eyes from the sun
And in your world the strong survive
But won't you lay your body down
Yes and now, now's the time to wrap your ears around the sound
Of your train coming round
You'll have to lay everything down

Rich Thomas

Listen: The War On Drugs >> "Arms Like Boulders"