Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Simple and beautiful indie folk/pop from The Weepies

Deb Tanal and Steve Tannen were both established musicians when they met at one of Tanal’s shows in Cambridge, MA in 2001. They found they had a musical affinity and began playing together as The Weepies. They released their debut independently in 2003 and by 2005, they landed a deal with Nettwerk Records. Their major label debut, “Say I Am You,” was released in 2005 and they were on their way. “Say I Am You” was an iTunes smash and they started getting songs picked for use in a bunch of TV shows, including Grey’s Anatomy, Everwood, One Tree Hill, Scrubs, The Riches, How I Met Your Mother, and several more.

Putting the "in" in indie.

The Weepies’ sound is rooted in indie, but with more accessible poppy appeal. There’s a certain heart wrenching nostalgia to a lot of their songs that makes me remember good times in my life with a bit of sadness that they’re gone. The music is usually acoustic, with Tanal and Tannen taking turns at the lead vocals but often singing beautiful harmonies as well. I am frequently reminded of other musicians when I listen to their music. They aren’t breaking any new ground at all, but originality isn’t always where it’s at. Both are potent songwriters and while their sound isn’t minimalist, it is often simple, beautiful, and moving.

I gave 7 of the album’s 13 songs a permanent home on my iPod. Check out my picks.

  • Take It from Me – This is a relatively unremarkable pop song, but it’s very catchy. It reminds me of Sarah Harmer, or maybe even Natalie Merchant, a little bit. It isn’t cutting edge, but I liked it enough to rip it.
  • Gotta Have You – Quiet acoustic guitar and gentle percussion back Deb Talan breathing a sweet love ballad. Again, it’s not particularly fresh but it’s really appealing, largely because of the lyrics.
  • World Spins Madly On – I discovered The Weepies because this song wound up on the One Tree Hill soundtrack. It reminds me a little of Nickel Creek, with Steve Tannen taking lead vocal duties on this one. Talan adds some lovely harmony vocals, though.
  • Riga Girls – The vamping percussion keeps the light keys and plucked acoustic guitar rolling along as Tannen confesses, “Oh, I wish I had someone.”
  • Suicide Blonde – This is probably the most energetic song on the album and I think it’s my favorite as well, even though it’s only a minute and a half long. We even get a bit of electric guitar in the solo.
  • Painting by Chagall – They lay some true indie-pop on us. It’s a sweet, small song. If you give it a listen, though, make sure you stick around for the irresistible chorus.
  • Love Doesn’t Last Too Long – This terribly sad and bluesy song feels out of place amidst all the sunny folk/pop. They also do some uncharacteristic production tricks in the studio. I like it, though.

The Weepies have put out 2 albums since “Say I am You,” and I haven’t heard any songs from either yet. I’m going to seek them out, though. I’ll let you know what I find.

http://theweepies.com

March 2, 2011 Posted by | Folk, Indie, Popular | 1 Comment

Stirring vintage acoustic folk from Nick Drake

I would like to acquaint you with the beautiful music and sad story of Nick Drake, if you’ve never heard either. Let me say that Nick Drake was a talented singer and guitarist and nothing short of a brilliant songwriter. I think it is fair to say he was ahead of his time, though his music was definitely a product of its time. You have probably heard his music somewhere, since it crops up in odd soundtracks and other places, but his name may have escaped your notice.

He was ahead of his time, but is recognized now as a genius.

Drake released his debut album, “Five Leaves Left” in 1969, when he was 20 years old. It wasn’t well received critically and didn’t sell many copies. He was confident his second album, “Bryter Layter,” would be a commercial success. It sold less than 3000 copies. 3000. Oof. Drake, who was throughout his life prone to depression and insomnia, didn’t take it well.

He began work on his final album, “Pink Moon,” in 1971. He was by then smoking what a college friend called “unbelievable amounts” of marijuana. Yeah, in 1971. I can’t imagine what quantities would be required to cross the “unbelievable” threshold in 1971. In any event, he strove for an even more stripped down sound on “Pink Moon.” He recorded it over just two nights in the studio with most songs featuring just Drake and his guitar. It received some good reviews, but sold even fewer copies than his first two releases.

Drake became more depressed and withdrawn. He lived frugally and simply, often with his parents. He had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for 5 weeks in 1972. In autumn of 1974 Drake succumbed to an overdose of antidepressants at age 26. Colleagues told him he was a genius, but ultimately he had a rather sad and unsuccessful life.

Nobody really talked about Drake throughout the rest of the 1970s, but in the ‘80s, he got a shout out from members of The Cure, R.E.M., and Dream Academy. People started identifying Drake as a romantic tragic figure. He got a little more attention in the ’90s, including a biography on BBC2 in 1999. In 2004, nearly 30 years after his death, two of his songs actually reached the charts in the U.K. His songs have started appearing in movie soundtracks and TV commercials. In fact, after one of his songs appeared in a Volkswagen commercial, he sold more records in a month than he had the previous 30 years (or so Wikipedia would have us believe).

Now Drake is recognized as an influential artist and has a pretty large cult following. You should pick all three of his releases because they are delightful. Some of the songs are somber and frankly depressing, but many of them are serious in tone but uplifting and gorgeous.

Here are 4 brilliant tracks from his debut.

  • Time Has Told Me – An acoustic intro with a typical pensive Drake melody is joined by piano and picked electric guitar and becomes kind of uplifting, like many Drake songs. It actually sounds a bit like early Bowie – maybe something off of “Hunky Dory.”
  • Three Hours – Acoustic bass and bongos back Drake skillfully playing some ornate acoustic guitar as he sings an ethereal melody. It’s a really beautiful piece and there some interesting facts about Drake to read on this YouTube video during the song.
  • Cello Song – Guess what instrument accompanies Drake and his acoustic guitar. The name isn’t clever, but the song is beautiful.
  • Man in a Shed – It’s a clever song with a beautiful melody. Drake’s instrument was the guitar, but the piano is particularly busy and joyful.

By all means, dig deeper. Interestingly, there are many still photos, but there is no film footage of Drake as an adult. His live shows were reportedly awkward and brief, but the sadly small catalog of music he left behind reaches out to touch us even now.

http://www.brytermusic.com/

January 11, 2011 Posted by | Classic Rock, Folk, Indie, Popular | Leave a comment

Odd but appealing psych folk from Devandra Barnhart

I have another library pick for you today. “Cripple Crow” by Devandra Banhart. The cover art drew me immediately and I have to say it sounded a little like what I expected, only weirder. In fact, when I looked up Banhart for my post today, articles I read described his style as psych folk, avant-folk, freak folk, free associative work, and even New Weird America. I hear elements of Donovan, Bob Dylan, Nick Drake and Dr. John, but Barnhart is stranger than any of them. Yes, even Donovan. Still, he has great instincts and the fearlessness with which he explores his ideas and grooves means he hits on some really great music.

Wait, the woman in front had her eyes closed. Keep smiling. We have to take the photo again. Hold still... ah, forget it.

On the other hand, that same fearlessness leads Barnhart so far down the rabbit hole that sometimes he loses me completely. I listened to all 22 songs on “Cripple Crow” and only liked 3 or 4 of them. Now, 3 of them I really liked a lot and they inspired me to pick up other releases. The bottom line is I find Barnhart to be a guy from whose albums you want to cherry pick. Give these 3 a listen and you may be interested enough to delve some more. I was.

  • Long Haired Child – Banhart’s vocals remind me of Dr. John, for you old school folks out there. In fact, the fuzzy electric guitar, and self-examining lyrics all feel like throwback material. The last minute of the song changes significantly from 60s psych folk to just a pretty, timeless ballad.
  • Lazy Butterfly – I still like this song more every time I hear it. The melody is dreamy and it is made even more so by the tabla percussion, sitar, and other atmospheric instrumentation.
  • I Feel Just Like a Child – This track is so much fun. The vibe and the lyrics are irresistible. You can get a good feel for Barnhart’s goofy side from this video.

Banhart was born in Houston, was raised in Argentina, and moved to California as a teenager. His work is mostly acoustic and often mellow, but he still pulls from a variety of musical traditions for his sound. He has put out 7 albums and numerous EPs and collaborations. There is a great volume and variety of music to choose from and I’m looking forward to exploring it.

http://devendrabanhart.com/

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Folk, Indie | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: More movie soundtrack favorites

As I have mentioned in the past, I am a big fan of movie soundtracks. A well-chosen, well-placed song can emblazon a movie moment into the collective consciousness of the world. Think of Quentin Tarrantino’s use of ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’ in Reservoir Dogs. Or John Cusack blaring Peter Gabriel’s ‘In Your Eyes’ at his prospective girlfriend in Say Anything. Or the hilarious repetitive use of ‘I Got You Babe’ in Groundhog Day. Songs can cement movie moments.

It's all about the music.

But beyond that, soundtracks often represent someone’s favorite music. Any time someone gets paid to go to the trouble of compiling a collection of music for my consumption, I will at least listen to it. I have found a lot of wonderful music I would simply never have discovered otherwise. I hope you find some of that today.

  1. Hey Jude – Joe Anderson (Across the Universe)
    Alright, the original is actually better. However, you haven’t heard this version 647 times. The first half is quieter and mellower than the original, but the second half gets more raucous and electric. It’s cool.
  2. Lovely Day – Maroon 5 (feat. Bill Withers) (Hoot)
    I always liked this song and I’m pleased that Maroon 5 did, too. They had the good sense to bring the song’s author, Bill Withers, into the studio with them.
  3. Million Voices – Wyclef Jean (Hotel Rwanda)
    Jean’s bid to become president of Haiti was frustrated by a technicality (though probably a fair one). I have no idea how able a leader and administrator he would be. Still, when you listen to a song like this, you know he has the passion and vision to do the job.
  4. Beacon Light – Ween (The X-Files)
    Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised the X-Files folks picked Ween for their soundtrack, but I am. This is a funky groove built around a great guitar hook.
  5. Holiday Road – Lindsay Buckingham (Vacation, European Vacation, Vegas Vacation)
    Man, I always loved this song.
  6. I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow – Soggy Bottom Boys (O Brother Where Art Thou?)
    This is actually Dick Burnett and it’s a wonderful Appalachian country song that was used to brilliant effect in this movie.
  7. Rock and Roll Circus – The Sights (Wedding Crashers)
    It would appear that this is a cover (the author is listed as Baranshakaje Antime) but I’ve never heard it before. This is a great rocker.
  8. This Time Tomorrow – The Kinks (Darjeeling Limited)
    Ray Davies is one of the great pop composers of all time. This is such a poignant idea set to a pleasing melody and it’s well executed to boot.
  9. Bohemian Like You – The Dandy Warhols (Six Feet Under)
    The Six Feet Under soundtrack has lots of cool music on it, including this one. OK, so the guitar riff is a Rolilng Stones ripoff.  It’s still a great song and the lyrics are original.
  10. Dry the Rain – The Beta Band (High Fidelity)
    John Cusack has turned me on to lots of cool music, but I especially thank him for cluing me into The Beta Band, who I don’t think I would ever have heard elsewhere.
  11. The Same in Any Language – My Morning Jacket / Ruckus (Elizabethtown)
    As beautiful a track as you could hope for from My Morning Jacket. I love this song.
  12. The Brooklynites – Soul Coughing (Blue in the Face)
    I will take any excuse to recommend a Soul Coughing tune. This one is typically weird and cool. I wish these guys would get back together.
  13. Ain’t Nothing Wrong with That – Robert Randolph and the Family Band (Grey’s Anatomy 3)
    I love Robert Randolph. I have seen him at Bonnaroo a couple times and he is an unbelievable talent. This is an insanely catchy song and he plays the shit out of it.
  14. Everybody Pass Me By – Pepe Deluxe (Holes)
    What a sick blues riff. The vocal performance is kind of cool, but this song is all about the strange but perfect guitar work.

Enjoy this mix with a $4.50 grog of Coke. Have a great weekend.

November 12, 2010 Posted by | Classic Rock, Folk, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | Leave a comment

Well rounded folk rock from musical veteran Lou Barlow

Lou Barlow is a bona fide rock star. I had no idea who he was when I picked up his 2009 release, “Goodnight Unknown.” The disc was surprisingly good. I liked song after song and started to wonder, “Who is this guy?” The songwriting was remarkably mature and I had never heard the name. Turns out Lou Barlow was a founding member of 3 bands you may well have heard of, Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, and The Folk Implosion. I have some Sebadoh on my iPod. I don’t have any of the other two, but I’ve heard of both. So Barlow has been as successful musician for over 25 years. He knows how to write a rock song and it shows on “Goodnight Unknown.”

Apparently part of the unknown is the inscrutable cover art.

Barlow doesn’t try to do too much on this album. They play their instruments, you don’t get many crazy arrangements, and the sound is relatively clean. The strength of “Goodnight Unknown” lies in the simplicity and quality of the songs. The melodies are engaging, the lyrics are meaningful, and the arrangements all fit. It is not the best album I have heard this year, but it is a rock solid effort by a musician who knows his way around a recording studio. In fact, Barlow himself produced the album with a little help from Andrew Murdock (who has worked most notably with Godsmack and Alice Cooper). Give my favorites a spin and see if you’re not interested.

  • Sharing – Basic, slamming percussion and regular chords hit 4 per measure march this song along behind Barlow’s alto.
  • Goodnight Unknown – This is a big and friendly pop song with a bit of a 60s folk-rock throwback feel. Just a bit, though.
  • Too Much Freedom – Here is a quieter, acoustic song with a pretty melody and deep lyrics. I like the variety of sounds Barlow and company are comfortable playing.
  • The Right – More simple percussion and breathy alto singing. This reminds me of ‘Sharing,’ but it’s even catchier.

As I said, I don’t have any Folk Implosion or Dinosaur Jr. Any suggestions as to what I should pick up first?

http://www.loobiecore.com/

October 20, 2010 Posted by | Alternative, Folk, Popular, Rock | 3 Comments

The Friday mix: More of my favorites from Van Morrison

It is rare for me to have a favorite anything. Favorite movie? Favorite book? Favorite meal? I can give you a top five, but a single favorite is rare. Van Morrison is my favorite musician. Since I really started getting into his music some 18 years ago, he has endured as my very favorite. He is an incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist, an inspiring singer, a brilliant bandleader, and an unparalleled songwriter. I have been fortunate enough to see him play live a couple of times and am richer for the experience.

Van “The Man” Morrison

That is not to say that I have enjoyed every song the man has written and performed. I haven’t. But can you claim to enjoy every work by any artist? In any medium? Some of Van Morrison’s work doesn’t reach me. Of course, the man has released 38 albums. I can tell you that from 1968 to 1974 the man could do no wrong. Any album you pick up from that era is wall-to-wall platinum. After that there are great moments on nearly every album.

I published a mix of my very favorite songs by Van Morrison last year, but there were enough gems left over that I wanted to put together another. Give these a listen and please, do yourself a favor and pick up some vintage Van Morrison if you don’t already own a bunch.

  • Come Running – I like to kick off a mix with an energetic up-tempo song. Here you go.
  • Glad Tidings – Everyone involved in this song sounds like they were having fun: the horn players, the backup singers, and Van himself.
  • Crazy Love – No one wrote love songs like this one. I have to say it’s a great song for sex.
  • Streets of Arklow – A deliberate intro and haunting flute work set the mood for Van’s longing wail.
  • Purple Heather – This is from “Hard Nose the Highway.” I couldn’t find even a sample of the studio version, but this is a great live version.
  • Wild Children – This is nostalgia in music form and nobody does it better.
  • I’ve Been Working – This song sneaks up on you a bit but by the end it’s a real horns-laden rocker.
  • Send Your Mind – Some seriously vintage work from Van from 1967, before ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ was a hit.
  • (Straight to Your Heart) Like a Cannonball – So many of the songs on “Tupelo Honey” were just irresistible. Here is another that just has such a sunny feel. I love it.
  • Joyous Sound – This is an energetic, fun song that somehow hit the cutting room floor, but was released years later on his career-spanning collection of B-sides, “The Philosopher’s Stone.”
  • Precious Time – This is a later song from Van (1999) but it feels like a throwback to his “Tupelo Honey” days.
  • Madame Joy – This is an earlier recording of ‘Madame George’ off of Astral Weeks that was released on “The Philosopher’s Stone.” I love any version of this great song.
  • Fair Play – It’s possible that “Veedon Fleece” is my favorite album by Van Morrison and this is a big reason why. It’s full of emotional songs like this one.
  • You Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push the River – Here is another gem from “Veedon Fleece.” This one is sadder, more moving, and nearly 9 minutes long.
  • Almost Independence Day – Another brilliant, 10-minute epic, this one from “Saint Dominic’s Preview.”
  • Listen to the Lion – Van wrote a lot of these epic pieces. This one is over 10 minutes and is a gorgeous love song.

I apologize for the lateness of this post. Sometimes the Friday mix can’t happen on Friday. Anyway, enjoy this with some moonshine whiskey. Have a good weekend.

October 9, 2010 Posted by | Classic Rock, Folk, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | 1 Comment

Lush bluegrass/rock/folk from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

Today I have to write about an album you have probably already heard. But on the off chance that there’s someone out there who missed it, I want to add my voice to the chorus of people praising “Raising Sand” by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

He got the money and she got the honey.

“Raising Sand” won album of the year in 2009 and it seems to me it could hardly miss. You start with Allison Krauss, who has won the 3rd most Grammy Awards of anyone all-time (behind conductor Georg Solti and performer/composer/producer/conductor Quincy Jones). Then you add rock legend Robert Freaking Plant of Led Zeppelin. Then Grammy winning producer T-Bone Burnett steps in and they recruit a host of jazz and bluegrass legends to back them up. The result was a platinum selling, critically acclaimed masterpiece.

Clearly, the focus of “Raising Sand” is the amazingly sweet pairing of Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. Krauss has a lovely voice, obviously, and a great feel for the bluegrass and folk that permeates the album. Plant is versatile and also quite comfortable singing folk music. Plant’s slightly rougher voice works incredibly well with hers and they harmonize beautifully. Krauss’ pure-as-ringing-crystal voice keeps them grounded while Plant’s loose style and rock fills keep things from getting sterile. It’s a potent combination.

Meanwhile, the musical textures of the album are wonderful. As the producer, Burnett gets credit for the overall sound of the album. It is at times warm and comfortable, at others driving and danceable. The musicians include men like Marc Ribot, Mike Seeger (half-brother of Pete), and bluegrass legend Norman Blake. These guys know their business and Burnett uses them brilliantly.

I often cherry pick albums so I don’t have to listen to some tracks I’m not crazy about. “Raising Sand” goes right in the CD player. They set a consistent mood throughout the album and the whole thing is great. I like these 7 in particular.

  • Rich Woman – They open “Raising Sand” with this track. Oozy guitars, smoky percussion, and effortless harmony vocals ease you right in.
  • Killing the Blues – John Prine’s original version of this song is slow and soft, but it sounds harsh next to the sanded smoothness of Krauss and Plant’s sweet crooning and gentle slide guitar.
  • Polly Come Home – This is one of two Gene Clark songs on this disc. If they played it any slower it would stop altogether, but somehow it is quietly compelling.
  • Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On) – This is an old Everly Brothers tune and the original hops. Krauss and Plant do it credit with their energetic version and the close harmony work on this is as good as any song on the album.
  • Please Read the Letter – The composers of this were actually Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. This is an old Zeppelin song that never made the cut. Plant was delighted to dust it off and get Krauss’ voice and violin in this new interpretation for its release.
  • Fortune Teller – Allen Toussaint wrote this cute song back in 1962. Since then it has been covered by the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Hollies, and now these two.
  • Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson – Plant takes a seat and Krauss sings this without him. The studio musicians are hot, though, and they swing this blues classic by Little Milton.

I saw Robert Plant and Alison Krauss perform at Bonnaroo last year when they toured on this album. I think it had been a long time since Plant had played in front of quite so many screaming fans. He was very obviously blown away and having a great time. It was fun to watch. Plant and Krauss actually started working on a follow-up to “Raising Sand,” but Plant said in an interview published in USA Today that those sessions never found their groove and they apparently gave up on it. Too bad. Interestingly, Plant hung around in Nashville and put together another project, “Band of Joy,” which I only discovered today. I have ordered it, of course. I’ll let you know.

http://www.robertplantalisonkrauss.com/

September 23, 2010 Posted by | Alt Country, Country, Folk, Popular, Rock | 2 Comments

Well made acoustic folk-rock from The Story

I want to go back for an album I spent a lot of time listening to back in 1994. My wife turned me onto this album. We had just moved to Colorado and I can remember listening to this as we drove up into the mountains to go hiking. The album in question is “Angel in the House” by The Story. The Story was Jonatha Brooke and Jennifer Kimball. The pair only recorded 2 albums together and this was their second and final album. While both have continued making music since the band’s breakup in 1994, Brooke has gone on greater commercial success. I realized today that I never wrote up Brooke’s solo effort, “10 Cent Wings,” which is an oversight I will have to remedy soon. Today, though, I encourage you to listen to this great release.

That's The Story and I'm sticking to it.

The Story came out of an era when a lot of the original Lilith Fair performers were just coming up and they were compared to Suzanne Vega and Indigo Girls. I can see it a little, I suppose. They could be quirky like Vega and did a lot of harmonizing like Indigo Girls, but it seemed to me they had their own thing going on. I liked the music then and I still like to hear them come on in rotation. I think you will enjoy these.

  • So Much Mine – I like the acoustic arrangement in this song. The percussion is relaxed and the piano is delicate, but the vocal harmony line adds the most interest.
  • Missing Person Afternoon – A bossa nova beat backs a passionate pop song. Really great energy.
  • When Two and Two Are Five – I never knew there was a video for this song. Sadly, it’s not very good, but the song is great. Funny lyrics, great horn arrangements, and cool harmonies.
  • Mermaid – They picked a sunny acoustic melody for this metaphor for giving up your life for a man.

There are some other great songs on this album, like ‘Stillpoint,’ which features some great soprano saxophone, and ‘Fatso,’ which is the funniest song I have ever heard about an eating disorder. The entire album is well written, well arranged, and well produced. It’s definitely a product of the times, but I think the music holds up well.

http://www.jonathabrooke.com/

http://www.jenniferkimball.com/

September 13, 2010 Posted by | Folk, Popular, Rock | Leave a comment

Lush folk/pop from Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes got a lot of press a couple years ago with the release of their full length debut, “Fleet Foxes.”  I first heard them on NPR’s All Songs Considered, but subsequently saw them on Saturday Night Live (Rosario Dawson). Incidentally, they were awesome on SNL. I had picked up their disc before I saw them on TV and I liked some of the songs. Seeing them perform the music, though, gave me a whole new appreciation for what they were doing musically. These are gifted musicians who I would love to see live.

This is a disc that may take a couple listens. It's worth it.

I have heard comparisons to Crosby, Still, Nash, & Young, which I kind of get. Vocal harmonies make up a large part of their sound. Their music is mostly acoustic and has a folk feel to it but beyond that they don’t write the same kinds of songs. Fleet Foxes lyrics are poems rich in pastoral imagery and it’s rare for them to do an up-tempo song. That said, it isn’t sleepy music. Some of it is positively thrilling, to me anyway. I still like to throw this one in my CD player and listen to it all the way through. If you’re looking for a few winners to buy as MP3s or to get a feel for whether you want to purchase the whole disc, check these out.

  • White Winter Hymnal – This was the single and they made a great video for it. The vocal harmonies figure prominently in the sound but there is also lots of reverberated guitar and thundering drums. The melody is pleasing and the whole song is well-executed.
  • Ragged Wood – Simple plucked acoustic guitar and vamping percussion back more of their gorgeous harmony vocals. The song is about longing but is full of natural images. It changes midway through to a more deliberate pace and if anything finishes prettier than when it started.
  • Heard Them Stirring – Again they open with a fat harmony vocal chord. The song drops immediately into a contemplative lilt and stays that way. The bass drops gentle beats to keep the song steady while the guitar soothes. The vocals swell and fade, but there are no lyrics. It’s a beautiful track.

Fleet Foxes were attempting to get their follow-up album done in 2009. Touring apparently got in the way, but it still hasn’t been released. Hurry up, guys.

http://www.fleetfoxes.com/

September 8, 2010 Posted by | Folk, Popular | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: The last travel of the summer

Labor Day marks the end of summer for a lot of people, though not for you purists who pay attention to the “calendar.” That would mark the end of the summer vacation travel season as well, so it is fitting that this looks like the last travel-themed mix I have in my collection. In case you were wondering, I didn’t already pick my favorite stuff and this is the leftovers. I pulled them at random each week from my pool of songs that would fit the theme so there is still some fantastic music in the mix this week.

One more? Alright, if you insist.

  1. Gold Heart Mountain Top Queen Directory – …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
    To be honest, I don’t know to what place they are referring, but if they need a directory, I’m assuming it’s a place. This song was originally released by Guided by Voices, but the orignal is nowhere near as beautiful as this version.
  2. Haiti – The Arcade Fire
    The Arcade Fire doesn’t break a lot of new ground, but they are a strong pop band. I can’t quite put my finger on who they remind me of. There are elements of U2, certainly, though not in the vocals. If you can place it, let me know.
  3. Funky Nassau, Pt. 1 – The Beginning of the End
    Fantastic vintage funk/ska. I guess it really IS better in the Bahamas.
  4. California Stars– Billy Bragg & Wilco
    I am a huge Wilco fan. This is from the “Mermaid Avenue” project, in which they took lyrics by Woody Guthrie and set them to original music. This is one of the best tracks to come out of those sessions.
  5. Wyoming – Brand New Sin
    Not southern rock, but grungy southern metal. It’s actually a really good sound. They have seen some lineup changes, but they are still at it.
  6. Dracula from Houston – Butthole Surfers
    I wouldn’t expect such a sunny, happy song from Gibby Haynes, but this is a really accessible track with kind of funny lyrics.
  7. Tokyo Storm Warning – Elvis Costello
    “Blood & Chocolate” is the first Elvis Costello album I ever really got into so of course I love it. This great track was #3 on the album.
  8. Last Tango in Paris – Gotan Project
    I have this one on my Chillout mix. Like most of the songs on that mix, it’s relaxing, doesn’t go through a lot of changes, and I like it.
  9. St. Louis Blues – Herbie Hancock (featuring Stevie Wonder)
    So Herbie is on keys and Stevie plays harmonica and sings. It’s as good as you think. Better, in fact. Stevie won one of his legion of Grammys for his vocal performance on this song.
  10. Hollywood – Los Lonely Boys
    My brother, who lives near Austin, where Los Lonely Boys’ came up, sent me a disc of theirs before they hit the national scene. I could already tell they were brothers just by the way they harmonize. Even their vibrato is synchronized. They have spent many, many years singing together. This is a sweet song.
  11. Speedway at Nazareth – Mark Knopfler
    This is a fictional tale about racing, though it has the feel of one of Knopfler’s historical pieces (I know it is fictional because the album was released in 2000, one year before the first season mentioned in this song). It sports a folk feel with violins and gentle harmony vocals until the songs really starts to move, with Knopflers inimitable pocket soloing. Great song.
  12. When in Rome – Nickel Creek
    This is the first track and the single from Nickel Creek’s 2005 release, “Why Should the Fire Die?” Chris Thile (mandolin, vocals) said by this time the band was comfortable playing to their strengths and they do this kind of song very well indeed.
  13. Lake Michigan – Rogue Wave
    Acoustic guitar and handclaps set up this fat, appealing pop hook.
  14. Jacksonville – Sufjan Stevens
    I almost posted Decatur by Stevens, but I like this track just a little bit more. This is such a mellow and interesting track.
  15. Warsaw, Or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up – Them Crooked Vultures
    I wrote up this entire album not long ago. It’s all killer, no filler and this is a fine example of the great, dark rock that populates the whole disc.
  16. Summertime in England – Van Morrison
    Van Morrison is simply my very favorite. This is from his 1990 release, “Common One,” long after the peak of his popularity, but he has lost nothing as a singer, songwriter, or bandleader. This is a live version, but they do a fantastic job with it.
  17. Impossible Germany – Wilco
    You get two songs by Wilco this week because one was with Billy Bragg and because Wilco is just cool as hell. Impossible Germany, unlikely Japan. I have read these lyrics over and over but I still don’t understand them. I get more meaning from the way the song makes me feel, I think.

Enjoy this mix with a mojito. You won’t be able to pick fresh mint out of your herb garden for much longer. Have a great Labor Day weekend!

September 3, 2010 Posted by | Chillout, Classic Rock, Folk, Hard Rock, Jazz, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | Leave a comment