Song Pairing

The XX’s VCR + Leona Naess ‘s Lazy Days = Lilly Allen’s Chinese

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Great Expectations

John Mayer what were you thinking? We already knew you were a douche bag in real life, but why’d you have to remind of that in your AWFUL new song, “Who Say.” It has almost cancelled out that your last few records redeemed you for at least having an artistic value. What a sell-out, I’m disappointed.

Within seconds of listening to The Gaslight Anthem the influence and style reflects that these guys are clearly channeling Bruce Springsteen. Their attempts are admirable, especially considering they were in diapers at the height of Springsteen’s career. I first heard the album while shopping for clothes in a Ralph Lauren store (which ironically is very un-blue collar Boss style). I knew then that they weren’t just catchy beats but actually a coherent narrative worth listening to. I was reading a sermon my favorite pastor and was surprised to find the connection she formed between the band’s song “Great Expectations” and God. The sermon was on divorce and about a sense that we all have these great expectations,  but when disappointments and failed relationships happen we spend so much time rehearsing in our heads what went wrong instead of realizing that we still need to hold onto our ‘great expectations’ because they are the only thing that keeps us going. She links this concept back to the song’s lyrics “Everyone leaves and/ so why wouldn’t You?” It made me approach the song from a more spiritual standpoint, and I like the direction it made me look towards!

The Current\’s Coffee Break question today was what musicians have gone solo and had a successful career as an independent artist? I was shocked enough that they played the first one that came to mind, that I thought I would blog about it! That artist would be, Justin Timberlake which largely reflects my generation. In an age where talent has very little to do with mainstream music, you’ve got to give props to Timberlake who has proven through his solo work and guest appearances on SNL that he’s the real deal. Though, back to the question, the next one that springs to mind is Aimee Mann, and I never even listened to ‘Til Tuesday! Some artists that they played who I also appreciate are Jenny Lewis and Morrissey. Though, Morrissey’s solo work has never affected me to the same caliber as The Smiths’ songs. Others? Some classics would include Beatles members, Lou Reed, Paul Simon, Eric Clapton, and Sting. Though, also two Canadian bands seem worth mentioning, The New Pornographers and Broken Social Scene. Between these two supergroups they have launched the solo projects of A.C. Newman, Neko Case, Feist, Emily Haines (via Metric), Kevin Drew, and members of Stars.

I watched Control last weekend. It’s a film about Ian Curtis of Joy Division and chronicles the formation of band, marriage, affairs, and Curtis’ struggle with epilepsy and depression. The film is done entirely in black and white is based on his wife, Debbie’s book called Touching from a Distance about their life together; which seems important to note since much of the movie focuses on Curtis’ affair and the pain felt by the seemingly innocent wife left at home with their child. The movie encapsulates the emotionally low Curtis, and at no point did I ever find Curtis an interesting or layered character. Rather, he seemed one-dimensional and too self-absorbed to be able to cope with pressures of adulthood.  I appreciated the gist of what Curtis was all about, and would have to remark that “Love With Tear Us Apart” is one of the great Indie Rock anthems and enjoyed seeing how all the magic came together. Though on the whole, I was uninterested with Curtis and lean more than ever towards liking the band post-Curtis when they became New Order.

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Preview: Strict Joy

What a beautiful new album by  The Swell Season (the couple from the film Once). The release date is October 27th, but until then it can be heard in its entirety on NPR!

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A Day at the Desk

Still devoting a lot of listening time to Miike Snow. I was unconsciously finding “Black & Blue” an inspiration beat, despite its dark subject, then I realized the melody is reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up.” When you play the songs next to each other I can’t help but find a certain familiarity.

Alex Brown Church sings under the name Sea Wolf which is taken from a Jack London novel. He has a new album, White Water, White Bloom which was released at the end of September. The collection of songs feels like a  Flannery O’Conner short story blended with an Angela Carter’s gory fairytale. The songs evoke colorful imagery and folklore archetypes that make it perfect for listening to on a crisp fall day.

I first hear of Sea Wolf when he released his first solo album in 2007 and the song, “You\’re A Wolf”  began to receive heavy rotation in the indie circuit.  From the very first listen I was a fan of that song, but didn’t delve much deeper into Sea Wolf in the years to come, but with the first single off the new album I was immediately drawn back into this artist. Sadly, the album did not live up to the opening, “Wicked Blood” with its sweeping strings and piano arrangements that make for one helluva of a song. When Church builds to the chorus “There’s an ember in the rafters/ and it’s going to bring this whole thing down” the charging sound fills the ears with a powerful presence.  If you’re a fan Iron and Wine or other Northwestern bands, than Sea Wolf’s luscious melodies are not to miss (especially “Wicked Blood”).

I was recently listening to an in-studio session with Death Cab for Cutie and was reminded by what a lovely EP they put out in March titled The Open Door. It includes four new songs and two alternative takes from songs released on last year’s Narrow Stairs, though the collection feels like it could very well  be a b-side to the prior record. Sometimes the stability that Death Cab provides of continuously putting forth good tunes makes me forget how poetic Gibbard’s lyrics can be, for example with “My Mirror Speaks” he croons, “I always fall in love with an open door/the horizon on an endless sea/as I look around the ones standing who were standing/ right in front of me.”  These songs are filled with unrest, and I’m interested in what will come on next full release considering the joys of Gibbard’s recent marriage to Zooey Deschanel. The union is considered so monumental that they’ve been dubbed the Brad and Angelina for hipsters. Maybe a brighter outlook will soon be captured in their songs?

At the end of the month Ben Gibbard will release in collaboration with Jay Farrar of Son Volt a collection of songs inspired by Kerouac’s Big Sur. While I’m looking forward to this release, until then I’m enjoying The Open Door, and the new song “Meet Me on the Equinox” which is featured on Twilight’s New Moon Soundtrack.

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Nobody

Fills the bucket for two of my favorite go-to movies categories: Minnesota made and twenty-somethings in crisis mode. Can’t wait. (I hear that Nye’s is featured.)

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New Artist: Miike Snow

Latest Swedish import that I can’t get out of my head. If Phoenix and Animal Collective hooked-up this would be their child. Yes, there is suppose to be two i’s in his name.

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Review: I and Love and You

avett_brothersWhile, not fresh to the scene The Avett Brothers’ I and Love and You pushes the trio from North Carolina into the spotlight as they have crafted, with help from legendary producer Rick Rubin, a new album of folk-pop music.  The group have already released a half-dozen records and this is their second major studio release; gone are the civil war beards and upon us are the fresh faced men of  Scott and Seth Avett plus bassist Bob Crawford. The concept is simple: folk music richly layered with beautiful language and instrumental arrangements ranging from twangy banjos to more piano driven pop melodies.  The band has been receiving a lot of press this year, as they had extra buzz at SXSW and Rolling Stones named them as a band to watch. So why now, after several already released albums have only captured the indie audience’s attention? It seems to be in part due to the influence of producer Rubin,  and the recently popularity of hymnal folk groups, like last year’s Fleet Foxes, finding a supportive audience of listeners.


“Perfect Space” is the true gem on the album, as it is both lyrically and instrumentally moving. Singer Scott grabs listeners attention when he sings, “I want friends who I can trust/that love me for the man I am/ not the man that I was”  and will be hooked as the song moves into a part two the elevates the song’s intensity and reminiscent of a classic Ben Folds sound. This song seems to be the linchpin for the overarching themes of the album, which is of struggling and coming to terms with one’s own identity.  This is a persistent theme that emerges throughout all the songs as with “Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise” when Scott sings out, “There is  a darkness that’s upon me that’s flood in light/ and I’m frightened by those that don’t see it.”  It is these resonating lyrics that remain with listeners long after the song is over and spring forth a desire for several repeated listens that pull out the complexities upon which each song is crafted.


The album balances out the slow ballads against infectious pop-rock songs like “Kick Drum Heart” which flows in the veins of fellow North Carolina band The Mountain Goats. Like The Mountain Goats, the band delievers high energy power-punch and quick piano and percussion driven melodies.   While the subject remains, the tone can change completely from track to track for example with the heartfelt song “Laundry Room.” This song is about a scorned lover who seems caught between letting go of a bad relationship and wanting to start again,  “Last night I dreamt the whole night long/I woke with a head full of songs/ I spent the whole day/I wrote them down/but it’s a shame/tonight I’ll burn the lyrics /because every chorus has your name.”  This song continues with one of the best lines throughout the album “I am a breathing time machine/I’ll take you all for a ride,”  the continuum of life that is breathed into the well-crafted songwriting is highlighted throughout the musical arrangements constructed by the brothers.


Last year at this time Southern folk rockers Kings of Leon were releasing Only By The Night, which has since gone on to reach a wide audience of fans. If Kings of Leon’s success is any indicator of the year ahead for these Southern boys, then the band is only one Gossip Girl scene away featuring title track “I and Love and You” from being launched into filling arenas of adorning fans. Though, there is something almost too sincere and smart about The Avett Brothers lyrics and melodies that the mainstream audience seems to usually miss the boat. Nonetheless, this is lovely addition to the renderings of modern folk music.  The late September release date for the album will provide for optimal autumn listening to songs that feel as if they fit the approaching season.

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