Sunday, December 30, 2007

Paupers, Peasants, Princes, Kings

Bob Dylan - "Song to Woody"

What differentiates a good song from a great one? I don't think there are really that many truly great songs out there, but this is one of them. The first time I heard this song it was part of a class presentation I was giving. I just stood listening with my head down and after it was over, I stumbled through some half-assed conclusion and sat down, utterly devastated. I think that while good songs make you want to sing along and stir up feelings inside you, great ones have the power to silence you completely. I'm curious what other people think on this matter, and on this song in particular. I want to encourage anyone to read this to leave me a comment about it.

Bob Dylan's website has some good resources like lyrics and stuff, and to buy click here.

Friday, December 28, 2007


Moviola - "Rudy"

This song reminds me of a completely apolitical CCR. Relaxed down-home instrumentation and some guy singing a humdrum low-life anthem make "Rudy" a pretty fine song. I guess these guys are from Ohio and have been making music for quite a while, but it doesn't really matter. Sometimes little songs are better than big ones. Come on.

More here.

Monday, December 24, 2007

For the Sake of the Song

Townes Van Zandt - "Pancho and Lefty"

Townes Van Zandt was one of the greatest songwriters to ever live. He was a true music outlaw, living on the roads between Colorado, Texas, and Tennessee, and catering to no particular crowd. Deeply influenced by delta blues, Townes' songs were products of his travels, depression, and alcoholism. What the world lost when he died was bitter, but songs he left behind speak for themselves. Townes gave everything for his chosen lifestyle and in his own words, lived "for the sake of the song."

Though he mainly released limited runs of vinyl during his life, his albums have been recently reissued on CD. Buy them here.
Also, click here to learn more about his life.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The World

Mal Madrigal - "The World"

Mal Madrigal is a group of musicians from Omaha who have been around a while. They are one of my favorite groups from Omaha, and the reason I have waited this long to post this track is because they have a double album being released tomorrow. The Road is Glue, an album of traditional singer-songwriter songs and Life Among the Animals, a moodier, noisier incarnation of the band, are both being released tomorrow night at Slowdown. These two works were extremely long in the making, and from what I have heard, have been assembled with great care. If anyone in town deserves your support, these guys do. The show is Saturday night at 9p.

For more info and songs, click here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I'm My Own President

Forest Fire - "Psychic Love Star"

Here's Forest Fire, another group of young people from Brooklyn making music the right way: friends, music, drugs, and melody. Each song is clearly a collaborative effort, with no single element taking center stage. A male and a female alternate vocal duties, and there's a hazy atmosphere that suggests sunlight struggling through curtains into a dusty room.

"Psychic Love Star" comes from a short and severely under pressed EP by the same name. Though it's now sold out, you can listen to more fantastic songs here.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Tom Waits - "Home I'll Never Be"

Nothing can be said about Tom Waits that hasn't been said already. I could pull out some bullshit lines about his whiskey-soaked gravelly voice or his drunken cabaret balladry, but what would be the point? It's all been said and it all falls short.

Buy it all.

PS what the hell happened to my header?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It Doesn't Hurt to Try

Nathan Lawr and the Minotaurs - "Righteous Heart"

Nathan Lawr is a Canadian songwriter who sounds like his record collection spans the entire history of American music from folk to soul. His new record with his band the Minotaurs, A Sea of Tiny Lights, is a great display of songwriting. Obviously influenced by Dylan, the Stones, and Neil, Lawr channels his influences in his own clever, literate way. Clinking pianos and wailing harmonicas blend seamlessly, as the band settles into a groove easily, but never stays too long.

Pick it up here.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

I Think I'm Fine Now!

The Shaky Hands - "The Sleepless"

The few people who read this probably weren't expecting any feel-good songs from me, but here's one. Saturday morning's cloudy-headed cruise of the internet proved successful, providing me with several great new bands to listen to. One of which is The Shaky Hands, a rock 'n roll band out of Portland. Their sound is straightforward, upbeat, but not without reservation. It's like walking down the street during a parade and laughing at the absurdity of it all, but having a great time anyway.

Buy their album, I know I'm going to.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Been So Long

Vetiver - "Been So Long"

I'll admit that I was initially a little hesitant about Vetiver because of both the "freak folk" tag and the association with Devendra Banhart. I really wasn't interested in hearing anyone else sing about diminutive animals or Asian adoptees. What I found, however, was something much more genuine. Vetiver, led by Andy Cabic, play a lovely brand of sunny 70s sounding gentle rock and folk. They truly have their own sound and ought to have Devendra Banhart dragging along behind them begging people to listen to him. "Been So Long" is a gorgeous song, nostalgic almost to the point of being painful.

Learn more and buy here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Like a Bird on the Wire

Leonard Cohen - "Bird on the Wire"

This song, the first track off Leonard Cohen's second album, Songs From a Room is the beginning of maybe the most depressing collection of music I have ever heard. Its sound is completely hopeless and the production is spare and flat. Cohen never sounded like a cheery guy, but he never sounded more down than he did here. Still, nearly 40 years after its release, the song endures because of its beautiful honesty and tragic self-deprecation.

If you don't have them already, do yourself a favor and buy his first three albums.

Monday, December 3, 2007

American Hearts

A.A. Bondy - "There's A Reason"

I missed the boat when American Hearts was released earlier this year, but I'm on board now and couldn't be happier for it. A.A. Bondy's first solo album of folk tunes channels the both southern charm of Gram Parsons and the rustic romance of Neil Young. He's not rewriting the book on singer-songwriter music but he is doing it really damn well. Each song is a front-porch slow burner not befitting of the weather we've been having. So close your eyes and imagine you're someplace warm.

To learn more and buy his record, click here.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

I am a Mountain.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - "The World's Greatest (R. Kelly Cover)

Will Oldham has this creepy charm that allows him to sound sincere while saying the most absurd things. Here he takes R. Kelly's self-laudatory "The World's Greatest" and turns it into something believable that sounds like his own. This song is from the new EP, Ask Forgiveness, an mini-album of 7 covers and one original. Each song is living proof of Oldham's transformation from the purposefully sloppy backwoods songwriter of the Palace era to the gentle, affecting folk of his current Bonnie "Prince" Billy days.

To buy his albums, click here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Moon

The Microphones - "The Moon"

The Microphones/Mount Eerie/Phil Elv(e)rum: what you want to call him is pretty unimportant. Having carved out his own niche in the northwest, he is one of the most brilliant and least commercial songwriters currently writing. His sound is exclusively his, which is not to say that he doesn't have influences or that he hides them, but that he fleshes out his visions to their desired ends unwilling to compromise for the sake of songwriting convention. He has a natural sense of melody and he channels his most intimate thoughts effortlessly. Here is a stripped down version of "The Moon," from the album Song Islands. If people are around, wait until you're alone. If it's light, wait until it's dark.

To learn more and buy his albums, click here and here.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Goin' To Acapulco

Jim James & Calexico - "Goin' To Acapulco"

Todd Haynes' new Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There is something else. It's definitely a good film but I probably wouldn't recommend it to a casual Dylan fan. It's confusing by nature and highly referential to events in Dylan's life. With that said, the music on the soundtrack is mostly fantastic. "Goin' To Acapulco" is one of the few songs performed in its entirety in the film. A classic song from The Basement Tapes, Dylan's 1975 album with The Band, "Goin' To Acapulco" is given a beautiful treatment by Jim James of My Morning Jacket backed by Calexico. My view towards My Morning Jacket was pretty neutral until I saw them open for Bob Dylan this past summer in Colorado. As exhibited here, Jim James has quite the set of pipes.

To buy the I'm Not There soundtrack, click here.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Little Bird Whispered In My Ear...

Nate Henricks - "Selfish Sparrow's Old Song"

I found this song in my iTunes, once downloaded and immediately forgotten. After its resurrection this afternoon, I'm feeling much better than I was before. Nate Henricks is just a guy writing songs for the fun of it. No labels, no t-shirts, just music. This song is a playfully orchestrated pop song, kept short and sweet at barely over 2 minutes. It says something but not so much that it scrambles your brain. It's not a song to defy genres or to blow minds, it's simply to be enjoyed.

To learn more, click here.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Black Angel's Death Song

The Velvet Underground - "Black Angel's Death Song"

I have been thinking about the relationship between music and the images that represent it. It seems that sometimes images complement their music with accuracy and beauty, but other times it doesn't work out so sweetly. The Velvet Underground and Nico is an album with such an iconic cover that in pop culture it has almost overshadowed the music within. Nearly everyone can instantly identify that goofy banana, but I'm not convinced that the same is true for the music. For me, "Black Angel's Death Song" removes the identifier of the yellow banana from my mind and replaces it with what they really were: an endlessly creative band with achingly beautiful melodies, gritty textures, and wildly new song structures.

To buy their albums, click here.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

No Inside, No Out

Adrian Orange - "Blushing"

Adrian Orange is a young man from Portland, Oregon. Only 21 years old, Adrian writes some of my favorite music out there today. His songs are consciously imperfect, using lo-fi recording techniques and very little backing instrumentation. There's no pretension about his songs, he claims to know no more than you or me. His philosophy is one of uncertainty, and that is refreshing in today's world. Adrian's beautiful vulnerability does a lot to remind us that fancy poetry and studio sheen doesn't make musicians any less human than we are.

To learn more and buy his albums, click here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Beauty, Beauty, Beauty

The Shivers - "Beauty"

Basically everything that has been said about Keith Zarriello is based on hearsay, except that he can write a damn fine song. His New York city outfit The Shivers is a group I came across recently and really enjoy. He dabbles in several sounds and succeeds in all of them. From traditional folk songwriting to piano balladry with electronic flourishes, the guy writes downright affecting stuff. This song, "Beauty" is a perfect example. It uses the word "love" more than any great song should be able to and yet the song comes off as totally believable. Zarriello sounds as if his love were going to explode from inside him, until it does.

Click here to learn more and buy their albums.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tonight's the Night

Neil Young - "Tonight's the Night"

Tonight is indeed the night I have awaited for a while now. I am going to see Neil Young at the Chicago Theatre. Neil's influence on me personally is pretty large, but his influence on songwriting and music as a whole is incalculable. His songs are full of universal truths and witticisms phrased so accurately and cleverly it's impossible not to fall prey to his words. Without a doubt, one of the best songwriters of all time (#2 on my list), Neil is one of the few "old guys" still putting out decent records. His new one, "Chrome Dreams II" ain't half bad, but the tune I have posted here is the title track from 1975's drunken masterpiece, "Tonight's the Night." A sloppily jammed elegy, the song disgusted most listeners upon its release but continues to enchant them today.

I'll get back to posting about some newer artists soon, so if you're reading this, thank you.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

"Stay well,"

Phosphorescent - "Cocaine Lights"

One of the best parts of being alive is when the song that happens to be playing matches up perfectly with what is happening at the moment. These are the moments that Wes Anderson orchestrates with regularity but happen much less often in real life. Tonight I was sitting at my computer listening to Phosphorescent's new full length, "Pride," which I am reviewing this week for the Phoenix. It is a slow, mournful record of southern-gothic folk, and I am really enjoying it. While listening, I opened up my email and sorted through some junk. Coming down the line, I opened a beautiful email from a friend living far away when "Cocaine Lights" came on.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

"Young hearts wake up..."

Elephant Micah - "Minors' Refrain"

Joe O'Connell aka Elephant Micah is one of my favorite songwriters functioning today. I have been pretty much obsessed with his songs since I stumbled across him around this time last year. His voice has a soft, warm intimacy like Sam Beam's but his overall sound tends to lean more towards a flowing lush country song than a whispered folk tune. Joe lives in a small town in Indiana and his songs evoke the peacefulness of nature and space with gorgeous intimacy. "Minors' Refrain" was the first song I heard by him and I think it's a great place to start. If you enjoy it, I encourage you to support him and order his albums. Most of the packaging is hand done by Joe in Indiana, and they are great looking. This music will serve you well in the oncoming short, cold winter days.

Click here to learn more and buy his albums.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hey Lizzie, look what I did.

Neil Young - "Time Fades Away"

Well, here it is. A couple times a week or whenever I feel like it, I'll get on here to share really great and under-appreciated music. The first song is obviously where I stole the title of the blog from. It is an old, unreleased Neil song from a record by the same name. While not one of my favorites by any means, I still thought I should just start things off by sharing it.

Like most Neil songs, it's overflowing with truisms and sweet riffs. Joe would have you know, and I think Neil would agree that it's all true. Well, alright then. Download the song and continue to check my page in the future. Also, please feel free to leave comments, even if they are hate-oriented.

Thanks and enjoy!