“Strange American Dream” by Rayland Baxter, Wide Awake Recently I decided I wanted to find a way to regularly hear new music. If only there were a podcast, I thought, from a renowned media company that featured new music every week. Then I realized that was NPR’s All Songs Considered, a podcast I’ve known about for years but never listened to. The first episode I heard featured this song. I was hooked right away, dove into his back catalog, and then found out he was playing in Chicago exactly when I could make it. It was a great show: he’s like the lovechild of Tom Petty and Steve Miller Band, with a dash of U2.
“Waiting on a Song” by Dan Auerbach, Waiting on a Song I was on a Black Keys-adjacent kick and realized I hadn’t listened to Auerbach’s solo stuff. I didn’t care for Keep It Hid, but Waiting on a Song is a sparkling mix of pop, rock, and soul.
“To the Great Unknown” by Cloud Cult, The Seeker A buddy of mine told me about Cloud Cult in the midst of a deep conversation about the mysteries of the universe. Turns out Cloud Cult is a great guide in that journey. I can’t decide if I actually like Minowa’s voice or not, but the combination of stargazing lyrics and indie rock just does something for me.
“The Last Goodbye” by Uncle Earl, Waterloo, Tennessee Pretty sure I have Abigail Washburn’s Wikipedia page to thank for stumbling upon this band she was in before her solo work. Combining her voice and banjo-fueled folk music can never go wrong.
“Steamboat Whistle Blues” by John Hartford, Aereo-Plain Without realizing it, the first Hartford song I heard was Sara Watkins’ cover of “Long Hot Summer Days” almost a decade ago. It took until recently to look into his stuff, and the banjo-heavy “newgrass” of Aereo-Plain emerged as the favorite. It has several straight-up weird songs, but this one ain’t one of them:
Today, in honor of International Women’s Day, here’s an all-female list of music I’ve been really enjoying:
“Ain’t That Fine” by I’m With Her, See You Around The soulful powers of Aoife O’Donovan, Sara Watkins, and Sarah Jarosz combined have become I’m With Her (which I’ve learned pre-dated Hillary’s presidential campaign). Saw them live at Thalia Hall last week. Some bands sound better on the album, but not these women: you can’t fully appreciate their tight, soulful harmonies and virtuosic finger-pickin’ unless you’re up close. I hope this is the first of many albums from them.
“O Gracious Light” by Sandra McCracken, Songs from the Valley
With this blog’s top album of 2015, Sandra’s back this year with more goodness.
“It’s A Shame” by First Aid Kit, Ruins
Saw them live with my future wife back in 2012 when The Lion’s Roar came out. “Emmylou” is a special song in our relationship. They’ve been making equally great pop tunes ever since.
“The Eye” by Brandi Carlile, The Firewatcher’s Daughter This was one of those albums where when I discovered it a couple months ago, I was mad I hadn’t discovered it sooner so it could have been in my life longer.
“Want You Back” by HAIM, Something to Tell You
Huge fan of their first album, and this one is more of the same, in a good way. So danceable, if I were a dancer.
“Sometimes” by Abigail Washburn, Song of the Traveling Daughter
As an aspiring banjoist, she and Bela Fleck are in my personal pantheon. I missed the chance to see them together in concert recently and I’m really regretting it. I’m hoping/assuming she’ll stay awesome and return to my town soon.
“To Know Him Is To Love Him” by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris, Trio Seeing I’m With Her reminded me of this classic women’s trio, which is more classically country. There’s just something about strong female harmonies.
It’s been almost 10 years since I last did a “music of the moment” post (then called “soundtrack of the moment”), so I figured it was time for another. There’s no use trying to summarize a whole decade of musical discoveries and interests, so I’ll just try for the last few weeks.
“Hole in Your Soul” by ABBA, ABBA: The Album Last weekend I was going through our LP collection initially just to clean the vinyls, but I realized there were several albums I hadn’t listened to in a while or at all. It’s so easy to jump to what I have on my phone when I want to hear something, but if I’m gonna have LPs around then I ought to use them, right? So I decided I’d listen to at least one a week, if only to weed out the ones that weren’t worth taking up our limited space. This mission paid off immediately when I pulled out ABBA’s self-titled album, which has some classics like “Take a Chance on Me” and “Thank You for the Music” but also this new-to-me gem:
What an electrifying mix of arena rock and typical ABBA-esque quirkiness. I’d love to play drums on that one. After hearing that I of course set off on an ABBA kick, which led me to “Bang-A-Boomerang”, off of ABBA. (Get more creative album titles, Swedes!) These tracks are why I try to seek out full studio albums, especially from artists I’m just getting into. I still end up with many Greatest Hits albums, but it’s easy to miss these great deep cuts when just sticking with compilations.
“Bye Bye Love” by Ray Charles, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music A bookstore by my place was going out of business 😢 and everything was $1 😁. I didn’t end up getting books but I did spot this album on vinyl in their small collection. I’d never heard of it, but its price, striking cover, and renowned reputation made it an easy buy. Just listen to the cover of the Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love” that kicks off the album:
“You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me” by John Mayer, The Search for Everything Perhaps because I knew someone with a strong John Mayer aversion, I’ve always felt the need to apologize for liking him. No more: the dude’s been an incredible songwriter going all the way back to his debut album. I find I prefer when he leans toward melancholic pop or country rather than blues. His latest album isn’t my favorite of his, but its final track shows off Mayer’s talent for delicate melodies and apt arrangements:
“I Just Want to Celebrate” by Rare Earth, One World Once I found out Rare Earth was the first all-white Motown band, curiosity compelled me to check them out. It’s a scattershot discography, but I love this this groovy sunny-day song and its fist-pounding chorus hook. Sounds very 1971.
“You’re a Special Part of Me” by Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye, Diana & Marvin Speaking of Motown, this was one of a few discoveries from reading Adam White’s Motown: The Sound of Young America. Obviously I knew of Gaye and Ross, but not of their duet album recorded at the peak of their musical prowess:
“Sugar Dumpling” by Sam Cooke, Twistin’ the Night Away I had The Best of Sam Cooke for a little while before I realized, Oh right, Sam Cooke is incredible. Maybe I should get more of his music. Having done so, I’m thinking he might be the best singer ever?
“Honey and Smoke” by case/lang/veirs, case/lang/veirs One of the few modern albums I have on vinyl because of how much I love it. “Honey and Smoke” precisely describes the sound of this Neko Case, K.D. Lang, and Laura Veirs supergroup together trading tracks: a smooth, sexy, smoky blend of alt-rock and pop and lounge music. I don’t listen to any of them individually, but with their musical powers combined I am hooked:
“Big Iron” by Marty Robbins, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs Though I’d heard Robbins before (most notably “El Paso” in the Breaking Bad series finale), it wasn’t until seeing this album on someone’s favorite music list a few years ago that I pursued his oeuvre. Perfect for road trips and daydreaming about the Wild West: