Categories
Love Music

Music we leave behind

There are two works of art I associate with an ex. One is the music of Mayer Hawthorne, specifically A Strange Arrangement, which had come out a few months before our brief relationship and was a primary jam for me that winter. The other is the Disney animated film The Princess and the Frog, which we saw together in the theater on one of our few dates.

I love both dearly. Hawthorne sounds like Motown reanimated (in a white dude no less). And The Princess and the Frog was a beautiful return to classic Disney form, with a jazzy Randy Newman soundtrack to boot.

But I had to stop listening to Mayer Hawthorne. For some unknown reason, I’ve been able to Eternal Sunshine the unwanted associations from the Princess and the Frog soundtrack and have enjoyed it for years.

Not so for Hawthorne. Despite trying mightily to enjoy A Strange Arrangement and his follow-up How Do You Do on their own terms, the associations that stuck to them overpowered any enjoyment they provided, so I had to say goodbye.

How one survived and one didn’t is a mystery. Scarcity isn’t the issue; it’s not like Disney soundtracks and soul music are hard to find. Maybe it’s because Hawthorne’s music is specifically about love and relationships, and that was harder to separate from reality than music sung by animated frogs.

Perhaps I’ll come back to Hawthorne and the patina of the past will have faded. In the meantime, I guess I just wasn’t willing to give up “When We’re Human”:

Categories
Music

The Best Albums Of 2008

There was a lot of music released in 2008. I didn’t listen to most of it because I was too busy listening to the following albums to listen to much of anything else. I don’t expect to see any of these albums honored at the Grammys, but I still love them like my own hypothetical children. So here are the five albums that had me rapt in 2008.

copleand_yams-296x3001. You Are My Sunshine by Copeland

I didn’t think Copeland could top their 2006 release Eat, Sleep, Repeat-one of my all-time favorites-but sure enough, with a change of labels and general disposition, they drop You Are My Sunshine, their sunniest project yet. It’s rife with glorious choruses, delectable pop rock invention, though-provoking lyrics and angelic falsetto from lead singer/guitarist/pianist Aaron Marsh. Marsh has iterated that the band has no agenda for their music other than art. In this, they pass with flying colors. —– Standout track: “On the Safest Ledge”

61mljyjsk5l_sl500_aa240_2. Canopy Glow by Anathallo

This Chicago-based octet has been making music for awhile now, but Canopy Glow is their crowning achievement. It’s a Monet in musical form-full of nuance and lush color with a huge canvas of tools in use from the concert bass drum to hand bells. It’s also much more focused than previous works; no track runs longer than six minutes and, in spite of unconventional song structures and jarring time signatures, the album as a whole is far more accessible. The complex storytelling and musical technique leaves much to be discovered in Canopy Glow. —– Standout track: “All the First Pages”

51qrwqxpurl_sl500_aa240_3. Volume One by She & Him

Normally, I’d say stay the hell away from a CD made by an actress or non-musical celebrity (case in point: Paris Hilton). But for Volume One, Elf actress Zooey Deschanel teams up with alt-folk rocker M. Ward and actually creates something good. Something really good, actually. Deschanel’s voice, nasally but sexy, is the cornerstone of this folksy album-a mixture of sultry ballads, string-fueled anthems, and straight-up bubblegum pop. It’s pop music with gravitas and I’m loving every minute of it. —– Standout track: “Sentimental Heart”

611o6extubl_sl500_aa240_4. Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends by Coldplay

I know I’m just another hitchhiker on the “Coldplay is good now!” bandwagon that revved up after the release of their latest album Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, but I can’t help it; it’s just a great album from what was once a tolerable band. I like it when bands who get stuck in a boring funk decide to spice things up and take some chances-Chris Martin and Co. have done just that and have a beautiful epic to show for it. The title track may have been overplayed on the radio, but it’s still the best track of the year, hands down. —– Standout track: “Viva la Vida”

512fqtv0d8l_sl500_aa240_5. That Lucky Old Sun by Brian Wilson

For a long time I appreciated the Beach Boys just as much as the other guy, but it wasn’t until I dug into Brian Wilson’s solo stuff when I realized his musical genius. There isn’t a better melody writer out there than Wilson, and his newest album That Lucky Old Sun gives a familiar yet welcome taste of classic surf rock in the form of a narrative ode to his native southern California. This album will fit snugly beside the immortal Beach Boys tracks of old, but it still deserves its own love. —– Standout track: “Live Let Live”

Honorable Mentions:

Harps and Angels by Randy Newman; Stop Heartbeat by The Foxglove Hunt; Be OK by Ingrid Michaelson

Categories
Music

Soundtrack of the moment, part III

Haven’t done one of these in a while. Since the last one, I’ve tightened my music collection dramatically so as to eliminate the stuff I don’t listen to, as well as the stuff I had just for the sake of having. Here it goes…

“I’m Waiting for the Day” – The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
Pet Sounds has grown on me. At first I thought it was overrated, but after repeated listenings, O can’t get enough of it. Now if I can only get the vinyl…

“Your Mother Should Know” – The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour
Such a catchy melody. Tight composition and easy to listen to over and over again.

“Prelude/Angry Young Man” – Billy Joel – Turnstiles
I’m so glad I’ve discovered more of Billy Joel’s catalogue. His late 70s music is among the best of all pop music.

“Jesus” – Brand New – The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me
From a former pop punk rock band comes this thoughtful, heavy-hitting tune in an album worthy of decade-best lists. A great spiritual song from a great rock band.

“The Greatest” – Cat Power – The Greatest
I’ve just gotten into female singer-songwriters and I’m lovin’ ever minute of it! Down to the bare bones, a la the Plastic Ono Band.

“Rubylove” – Cat Stevens – Teaser and the Firecat
Again with the singer-songwriters. This just goes to show that all you really need is a guitar or piano and a voice to make really good music. Check out any of Cat’s stuff.

“You Are My Joy” – David Crowder Band – A Collision or (3+4=7)
Listened to this album all the time at summer camp. It flows together well and provides the usual Crowder kick in the upbeat songs, as well as the deep thoughts in the slower ones.

“When Your Mind’s Made Up” – Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova – Once
Such a brilliant movie. Since it’s basically a musical, the songs make it what it is. This song is quite powerful and driving, but you need to see the movie and buy the soundtrack. I hope ‘Falling Slowly’ gets an Oscar nod, and hopefully a win.

“Bring on the Lucie (Freda Peeple) – John Lennon – Mind Games
Basically all of John’s solo stuff is great, but this song is especially catchy. I finally have the vinyl as well.

“Potato’s in the Paddy Wagon” – the Main Street Singers – A Mighty Wind soundtrack
I think I heard the soundtrack before I saw the movie, but both are awesome. I just love this song’s groove and altogether folksy spirit.

“Man We Was Lonely” – Paul McCartney – McCartney
This was the solo album that was released right after the Beatles broke up, and pre-Wings, so it’s good. All the songs are acoustic and stripped down, which is good.

“Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” – Peter, Paul & Mary – Album 1700
I didn’t know PPM did this song. I love this kind of stuff.

“Videotape” – Radiohead – In Rainbows
I’m no Radiohead snob, but it’s a great album overall. I paid a few bucks for it on their website because I wanted to be legit, and I also wanted to reward them for sticking it to the recording industry.

“Political Science” – Randy Newman – Sail Away
This song was written in the 1970s, but it is still all too relevant today. Plus, I love Randy Newman. His voice is quite off sometimes, but having just piano and voice for most of it is a plus for me.

“America” – Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends
Yet another ridiculous catchy S&G tune. I could listen to their albums all day.

“Island” – The Starting Line – Direction
I didn’t think they could top their previous album, but Direction is just flat-out good. It’s different enough from their past work to be progress, yet it sticks to what’s worked in the past, so it succeeds on every level.

“Sir Duke” – Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life
We played this in pep band. It’s such a fun song. I haven’t delved too far into Stevie’s music, but I will eventually.

Categories
Music

Soundtrack of the moment, part I

No, this isn’t that stupid random listing of songs that supposedly follows your life. These are some songs that have changed me, made me think, made me cry, and want me to become a better person. Enjoy.

“Candy Shop” – Andrew Bird – Oh! the Grandeur
So nostalgic. The groove makes you want to do the Charleston.

“Martha My Dear” – The Beatles – The White Album
There are so many Beatles song I could have chosen but this one is so catchy and my current favorite. Do yourself a favor and listen to this whole double album.

“Vienna” – Billy Joel – The Stranger
I recommend this entire album. I wish I could make music like Billy Joel.

“Love Affair” – Copeland – Eat, Sleep, Repeat
Ridiculously good song off of a ridiculously good album. Their musicianship and composition skills inspire me so much.

“Changes” – David Bowie – Hunky Dory
One of the catchiest songs you’ll ever hear.

“Time Bomb” – The Format – Dog Problems
This band is going to be huge. Such a great blend of acoustic pop, rock, and brilliance.

“Backyard” – Guster – Keep It Together
I just love the grooves they create. The chord progressions are so emotionally charged.

“The Mixed Tape” – Jack’s Mannequin – Everything In Transit
I didn’t know anything about this band before listening to this disc. So glad I did. The first time I heard this track it felt like music was completely new and uninhibited.

“At the Mercy” – Paul McCartney – Chaos and Creation in the Backyard
I never listened to any Wings stuff, so that’s probably why I love this. Paul’s still got it.

“Bicycle Race” – Queen – Greatest Hits I
At a weird yet awesome song. You will not be able to forget it.

“Short People” – Randy Newman – Little Criminals
Most people probably know Randy Newman from the Toy Story soundtrack but his other stuff is piano pop at its best.

“Samson” – Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope
Brass + strings + inspiration = musical bliss. Such a heart throbbing song.

“I So Hate Consequences” – Relient K – mmHmm
Lyrically, this band is the greatest I’ve ever seen. Everyone can relate to these songs, and this is just a taste of the spiritual and emotional maturity that Matthew Thiessen brings.

“The Only Song” – Sherwood – Summer EP
Pop rock glory.

“The World” – The Starting Line – Based on a True Story
An solid, anthemic pop punk rock song.

“Come On! Feel the Illinoise!” – Sufjan Stevens – Come On Feel the Illinoise!
This man is truly gifted. Where he gets his inspiration/ideas is beyond me.

“Amateur Lovers” – Switchfoot – Oh! Gravity.
This album is so much better than Nothing Is Sound. Had to pick one song but listen to the whole album.

“View From Heaven” – Yellowcard – Ocean Avenue
Such an emotional song from an unlikely source. A great summer record.

So there are just a few of the songs that fill my day. What are yours?