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.