I am very interested in where a band or singer comes from. I think that they are ambassadors of their home, but also I think it at times can show in their music. From the more blatant (The Killers) to a more subtle approach (Trampled by Turtles). When I first listened to The Pines I could sense their home in the music. They are from small town Iowa, but spent some time in southern Arizona before settling as a band in Minneapolis. Listening to the music its easy to pick up on the feeling of open spaces and small towns. This music feels like the north woods of the upper midwest, but also the desert expanses of the southwest. There is a melancholy in the music, and a sadness, but there is also hope.
Over the last two weeks, I think I’ve listened to their most recent album of original material, 2016’s Above The Prairie at least a few dozen times. It is difficult to not listen to the entire album in one sitting its a compelling progression of songs. There are three songs off this record that I cannot get enough of. The first is also the first song on the album “Aerial Ocean”. I love the mix of the very “country” sounding slide guitar, and the very ethereal synthesizer.
The next song is the second song off the album, “There in Spirit”. The song is haunting and reeks of a realistic despair.
The final song is the last song on the album, “Time Dreams”, which features the words and voice of John Trudell, a Native American activist, writer, and actor. There is so much beauty in this song.
I have listened to the other Pines albums on Spotify, but they definitely do not strike me like this one does. That is not to say that they aren’t also amazing.
I know the year is young, but I’ve already been jamming out to some new music (and enjoying some new music videos as well).
First up is CHVRCHES with “Get Out”. The “video” is interesting, and the song is catchy as hell. I have a love hate relationship with CHVRCHES (not unlike that with The XX), but if this song is any indication, I will enjoy the forthcoming record.
The Decemberists are unique. They tell stories, their sound changes, but they are still such a strange and weird group. Their newest single “Severed” is a departure from their folky ways, but it is still every bit as Decemberistic(?) as every song they’ve ever released. The video is amazing, and is politically relevant, which we know I love. I cannot wait to see this band for the first time (!!!) at Innings Festival in March.
I’ve been enjoying English punk/folk singer Frank Turner for a few years. I’ve always enjoyed his raw sound. Despite many of his forefathers in the English punk/folk scene being explicitly political (think Billy Bragg), Turner has typically stayed away from those tones. His newest song, “1933” is very much a departure. He addresses the neo-fascist thinking that exists in our current environment while still having the typical Turner “lets go have a drink” ethos. I do quite love the statement “don’t go mistaking your house burning down for the dawn”. Such a vivid picture of our world today.
We all know how I feel about Moby. So it is no surprise that his newest single “Mere Anarchy” is here. The video is dark, but I think that is where Moby is (in his view on the world) at this time. If this song is any indication, I am looking forward to the new record.
It is February, which to many means the celebration of Valentine’s Day. I am not and have never been much of a fan of this “Hallmark” holiday. It is not that love isn’t important, its just that I know that love is not chocolate hearts, sugary sweet cards or flowers. I could wax poetic on love, but I will resist. I have a liberal interpretation of love songs. Love includes heartbreak and sadness. Love also means joy and comfort. Here is a selection of “love” songs that hit one (or more) of those marks for me.
The first song is a more traditional “love” song with a pinch of sadness and an understanding of mortality. Jason Isbell is a master songwriter. He is also madly in love with his wife and fellow artist Amanda Shires. Here is “If We Were Vampires” off of Nashville Sound.
The National Parks are one of my favorite bands of recent. Their songs are a bit more poppy and happy than much of the music I listen to. “Birds Eye” from their first record Young is no exception, though it may be a bit more melancholy as it is story of a lost love.
On a more somber note, “Empty” from Ray LaMontagne tells the story of the loss of love in a different way. His haunting tale has a way of filling up the quiet spaces.
It may seem at times that I do not enjoy good old fashioned pop music. I like a sing along as much as the next person. One of my favorite pop bands over the last few years has been Royal Teeth. Their songs are catchy as hell and have that sweet male/female harmony that I cannot get enough of (probably doesn’t hurt that the two singers just got married – to each other). Their first record Glow is a go-to album for good ol’ fashioned pop love songs. Here is “Vagabonds” from that record.
I believe that we only know the best that love has to offer when we understand it at its worst. I’ve heard some sad songs, but sometimes they do not seem to capture that feeling. “Play that One Again” by Greg Laswell is one of the few that captures that heartbreak and despair. Laswell wrote his newest record Everyone Thinks I Dodged a Bullet after his divorce from fellow singer Ingrid Michaelson. The entire record is amazing, and will hopefully be featured in a post about records made after a divorce or ending of a relationship.
In an unusual fashion, I will end on a high note. Now, I don’t love the String Cheese Incident. I am not a huge fan of jam bands (even ones from Colorado), but this song is a such a beautiful exception. “My One and Only” features Bonnie Paine, the lead singer of Elephant Revival (which makes this a Colorado Collaboration, if you will). The song is a mix of bluegrass, folk, and delightful harmonies.