Glen Hansard Iron and Wine Live Show Review On The Road Swell Season The Frames The Paramount Theater (Austin)

Imaginary roadtrip, Austin edition: up close & personal with Glen Hansard

As stated last week, purchasing a plane ticket to spend two nights with the Wrens at Schubas may very well have been the best decision I’ve made in the last several years. However, changing my return flight last-minute so I could catch Glen Hansard and Sam Beam play a benefit show in Austin kicked that good decision’s ass, right out of the park. All the way down to Texas, in fact.

Playing a benefit for the Midwive’s Alliance of North America on an unsuspecting Monday night, Glen Hansard (Frames, the Swell Season) and Sam Beam (Iron and Wine) blew the roof off of the sold-out Paramount Theater with a few hours of literal perfection. Opening up the night on more of a split bill than a warm-up, Glen took us on an hour-long trip through his diverse catalog: some choice Frames tunes (like “What Happens When the Heart Just Stops” and “Lay Me Down”), new-fan favorites from the Once soundtrack (opening the set with “When Your Mind’s Made Up” and the jaw-dropping, haunted, screaming perfection of “Leave”), and a handful of new selections for a taste of the upcoming Swell Season album (most notably a lovely track called “Paper Cup”). Spending the bulk of the set wedged behind the speaker stacks stage left, I had a birds-eye view for everything Glen let loose — from sheer blissed-out joy to the anguished cries at the ends of particularly staggering verses, and circling back again.

Having been a dedicated Frames fan for years now, Glen Hansard’s set was definitely the driving focus of my trip. But I quickly found out that Sam Beam was a force to be reckoned with — as I settled into my seat, hearing the familiar strains of “Such Great Heights” and tracks off of The Creek Drank The Cradle, it became abundantly clear that Sam was no ordinary sad bastard. Gorgeous, verbose stories told through seamless lyrics, all layered together with a perfect vocal pitch and unexpected chord/key changes — in short, the man came pretty close to knocking my socks off. Without exaggeration, and to the point where one lovely, haunted track had everyone in the surrounding rows (me included) fighting off tears; all set to the delivery of a loose, warm, friendly, thanks-for-coming-on-my-trip kind of vibe.

By the end of the night, every three-figure degree of heat was nothing more than an afterthought — and if you’ve been to Texas at the end of July, you know that’s saying a lot.

Glen Hansard [by hot avocados photography]

Glen Hansard [by hot avocados photography]

Glen Hansard [by hot avocados photography]

Glen Hansard [by hot avocados photography]

Glen Hansard [by hot avocados photography]

{A little imaginary bird told me that we might be privy to a Swell Season album preview, and some possible US tour dates in rOctober! Stay tuned for details, and be sure to stop by the flickr pool for more shots from Austin.}


Gillian Welch Iron and Wine Jessica Lea Mayfield Justin Townes Earle Live Show Review Mark Pickerel Marymoor Park North Twin Sera Cahoone Star Anna The Maldives The Tallboys Zee Avi

No Depression Festival

No Depression Festival – Short Version:

It was hot. We ate barbecue. I drank a lot of beer and cider. Most of us had dirty, bare feet. Zee Avi is adorable. Jeff Fielder is totally amazing. Jessica Lea Mayfield is a lo-fi version of Jesse Sykes. Everyone loved Justin Townes Earle. No one much liked Patterson Hood. Sam Beam makes me swoon, EVERY DAMN TIME. Lesbians love Gillian Welch.

No Depression Festival – Long Version:

Due to bad traffic across the water, I was a little late arriving at the No Depression festival on Saturday but still managed to hear the last two or three songs by the very pleasant Zee Avi. I was interested to see her live, owing to the lore that has built up around her unusual entry into the biz and she pulled it off with very confident stage presence. I have to admit though, she does sound a little like Norah Jones to me.

The crew at Marymoor always run a fairly tight schedule, but I did manage to scope out the little string band (The Tallboys) under the trees between major sets. Boy howdy, they were fantastic! Fiddle, standup bass, banjo and guitar coupled with great nasal harmonizing and some percussive dance moves created a real bluegrass kind of feel in the lazy afternoon. I’m hoping that they’ll play in town again soon because I would love to see them again. They sold loads of CD’s and even though it was early in the day, people were dancing and clapping along. Good vibe. I found it amusing though, as we were all stood under the trees listening to bluegrass we were met with an overwhelming smell of curry coming from the nearby food court. That, and the banjo player was drinking Kombucha instead of moonshine, but hey…we ARE in the Pacific Northwest.

I was excited to see what this No Depression All Star Revue would be all about. Holy crap. After a short, glowing intro from Don Slack, members of North Twin took the stage with a high spirited rendition of “Give Back The Key To My Heart”. They had good energy and were obviously having a lot of fun up there. The revue continued with Zoe Muth performing “Give Me The Roses While I Live” featuring a fantastic solo by Jeff Fielding (Incidentally, Zoe’s CD release will be at the Sunset on August 1). This was followed by some Neil Young styling during Mark Pickerel‘s throaty version of “One More Cup Of Coffee For the Road” which was met with thunderous applause. The revue continued with the crowd-pleasing Kristin Ward confidently belting out a very honky tonk Emmylou Harris tune and then Star Anna giving it to us with a very swampy and electrified “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road”. Exhausted yet? I was! But every act in the revue was better than the last, for true! Continuing, we were then entertained by Sera Cahoone and Ian Moore. The final act was a really good, sad bastard tune (“Dirt Farmer”: lots of honky, not so much tonky) by most of The Maldives, encompassing a really good full-band quality sound with all the elements working together, providing a fitting end to the set. Whoo!

Following the revue, we hoofed it over to score some more booze before Jessica Lea Mayfield began. I was grateful for the dark and landscape-y guitar swells, they were different for this festival but still fitting. It’s a nice departure after all the classic Americana we just got from the revue. Accompanied by her “brother and best friend Dave” on the guitar, Jessica sang with plaintive vocals that were reminiscent of Mazzy Star. I love that the music isn’t even a little bit perky, and I’m glad not all the kids are taking their darkness to an electro/emo place. Most of the songs in the intense set had a desperate, kind of druggy edge but not in a negative way. The set seemed a tad long, since there wasn’t much variation in tone, but Mayfield still garnered big crowd love on the finale.

One of the best sets of the day followed, Justin Townes Earle. Taking the stage in classic old-school suits and snake oil salesmen hair, he and his accompanying dude (Cory Younts) entertained the crowd with numbers “They Killed John Henry,” and “Ain’t Glad I’m Leaving” before dedicating their third song to Woodie Guthrie. That third song was so fast I couldn’t keep up with the lyrics, but it didn’t stop the crowd up front from dancing like crazy people. Shifting gears a bit, JTE then rolled out the more sentimental “Mama’s Eyes”. It was absolutely perfection in the dusty heat. The two men onstage were bantering back and forth like carnival barkers as they shifted back up-tempo and switched out strings for mouth harps and harmonicas (swoon) for their next frenetic, bouncy tune. The audience was all over the Younts, what a talent! JTE communicates well with the crowd, giving up the honest details of why he wrote a particular song about a train ride from Nashville to Jackson. It was amazing, harmonica dude somehow totally emulated all the sounds of a chugging train. I was in awe. Not so much that I didn’t break away for more hooch though, and from afar heard Earle’s finale, a truly lovely, stripped down version of “Can’t Hardly Wait”. Hot damn…LOVE HIM. For the rest of the day, everyone I encountered sang his well-deserved praises.

Unfortunately Jesse Sykes played her very deep and textured set during what I thought to be the hottest part of the day, and I was more interested in running through the sprinklers and finding a shady place to take a little nap. Eventually the sun’s intensity faded a little and everyone woke up a bit for Patterson Hood‘s heartland-infused performance. There was lots of frisbee playing, lounging, drinking and consumption of HUGE sandwiches (seriously, this girl was eating a sandwich that was bigger than my whole head). Everyone was eating actually, I watched a guy eat beets straight out of a gallon drum. Yay. In between hot dogs, I took note of the interesting assemblage of people at the festival. Old, young, indie, corporate, children, lumberjacks, hippies…and all of them smiling. We live in a truly great place, y’all.

And then there he was, my bumbling, bearded boyfriend, Sam Beam. Iron & Wine. Sam reminded us that exactly one year from the day, he was on this same stage playing for the SP20 festival. He jokingly threatened to play the same set and screw up in the same places as last year, which he kind of did. But no one cared, we all love him. He’s so funny and charming and clearly enjoys interacting with his audience. I’ll just give a total fanboy rundown of his set list, otherwise this could get embarrassing:

  • Such Great Heights (spaced the lyrics again: “Didn’t I mess this song up last year?”)
  • Woman King – Naked As We Came (breathless)
  • History of Lovers (fumbles a bit: “Three chords is just too many”)
  • Fever Dream (gritty)
  • Trapeze Swinger (had the audience in the palm of his hand at this point)
  • Jezebel – Lion’s Mane (Perfect a capella on bridge)
  • New song with no name (heart filling)
  • Upward Over The Mountain (simply played with nice little riffs)
  • Boy With A Coin (awesome)
  • Sodom South Georgia (really rocked out the finale)
  • Flightless Bird (absolute falsetto perfection)

At the close of his set, Beam had the 2000+ member assembly stood completely silent for a moment, then everyone just went all crazy town. The crowd positively roared for more, but alas no encore.

Finally, Gillian Welch appeared just as the sky was painted with pinks and purples and dragonflies buzzed overhead. I have to confess I am not a great aficionado of Ms. Welch, but people around me were plenty helpful. All day long we bumped into crazed Gillian fans, some who had traveled from as far as Saskatoon and Alberta just for this show. Apparently she doesn’t play up there too much.

She began very very softly but I quickly recognized the zydeco “Oh Me Oh My-Oh” in her opener “Miss Ohio”. She dedicated her next song to one of her favorite dead folk heroes (Elvis) which included some beautiful harmonizing and was just simply a pretty song. They brought it down a bit but quickly brought us right back up with some simple banjo on Steve Miller’s “Quicksilver Girl”, followed by “No One Knows My Name” which totally reminded me of one of those old Sunday School songs we used to sing back home. The crowd was totally rocking out to the nice bluegrass jam that followed and then we were all stunned by the amazing slow-paced duet she sang with David Rawlings, “Throw Me A Rope”. He’s got a beautiful, soothing voice and it was the highlight of the whole performance for me.

The tempo picked back up again for a total reel that had the audience clapping along and oooh! noodling! At this point, Gillian told us a funny little story about meeting Loretta Lynn at the Grand Ole Opry: “You know, they just don’t make the good diet pills no more!” followed by a big ol’ jam. As I was headed to my car to beat the mass exodus from the park, Gillian got the only encore of the day, finishing with a great version of “Jackson” and “I’ll Fly Away”, finishing off a really wonderful, lazy summer day. Hopefully they’ll be back again next year.

Photo by Heather Brammer

Gillian Welch Imaginary Scoop Iron and Wine Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter Justin Townes Earle Marymoor Park

Win tix to the No Depression Festival

No Depression has long been the place to get the inside scoop on the best Americana, roots and alt-country folks to watch – and we’re pleased as punch that they’ve put all that know how into a full on festival of fabulous artists. The first ever No Depression Festival is set for Saturday, July 11th at Marymoor Park in Redmond.

They’ve scored a stellar line up and you certainly don’t want to miss: Gillian Welch, Iron & Wine, Patterson Hood & the Screwtopians, Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter, Justin Townes Earle, Jessica Lea Mayfield, a Seattle roots-music all-star revue, and Zee Avi.

And we have a pair of tickets to giveaway to a lucky imaginary reader! Enter to win a pair of tickets by emailing us at tig @ with “NoDep” in the subject line sometime prior to Friday, July 3 at 9am. Please include your mailing address so that we can put the tickets in the mail asap!

Whet your palate – here’s the day’s schedule:

8:45 – 9:45 (60) – Gillian Welch
8:25 – 8:45 (20) – break
7:25 – 8:25 (60) – Iron & Wine
7:05 – 7:25 (20) – break
6:05 – 7:05 (60) – Patterson Hood & The Screwtopians (2/3 of Drive-By Truckers)
5:45 – 6:05 (20) – break
5:00 – 5:45 (45) – Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter
4:45 – 5:00 (15) – break
4:00 – 4:45 (45) – Justin Townes Earle
3:45 – 4:00 (15) – break
3:00 – 3:45 (45) – Jessica Lea Mayfield
2:45 – 3:00 (15) – break
2:00 – 2:45 (45) – No Depression All Star Revue (feat. Star Anna, Sera Cahoone, Maldives, Ian Moore, Zoe Muth, Mark Pickerel, Kristen Ward & more)
1:45 – 2:00 (15) – break
1:00 – 1:45 (45) – Zee Avi


And the person I’m most excited for… Justin Townes Earle! I saw him at SXSW a couple years ago and he conquered my heart with his straightforward old time country:

He somehow bridged the gap to sweet talk country, rockabilly, and alternative folks with uninhibited vintage twangs and a Johnny Cash swagger. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be so taken with this gem (in a dark suit no less) of American Roots music who can sing coy-’cause-it’s-country lines like “Your biscuit is big enough for me.”


Band of Horses Fleet Foxes Grand Archives Horse Feathers Imaginary Scoop Iron and Wine The Cave Singers

Lumberjack Rock

Chris B's Schmindie News Roundup and it's ensuing comments lit a fire under me to write this little blurb I've been meaning to get out for a while. While some, Chris B included, may feel this way:

I'm regularly asked to define schmindie, so, to me, schmindie is boring indie rock that gets the benefit of the doubt because it's "indie". Generally, if it has guys with beards and/or acoustic guitars, you're probably going to need to wake me when it's over.

I tend to disagree. I totally love me some good ol' acoustic indie-folk rock and I feel like there is so much quality stuff coming out of Seattle right now. For the past year or so, I've often found myself in discussions with other local music lovers regarding the post-grunge Seattle sound and I've heard it called several things: "Campfire Rock", "Trucker Rock", "Beard Rock" and now this "Schmindie" label.

Myself, I believe I've got the perfect term coined for the new genre: "Lumberjack Rock" (which may also be expanded into "Lumberjack Folk").

I'll provide a little more detail on what qualifies as Lumberjack to me:

  • Dudes with beards, the shaggier the better
  • Acoustic guitar presence
  • Flannel shirts and big belt buckles
  • Multi-part harmonies
  • Dirt
  • A band name with some sort of animal or pastoral reference
  • Beginnings or a regional presence in either Washington, Oregon, or Idaho (thereby negating the "Southern Rock" genre)

Prolific local lumberjacks:

Iron & Wine – At my first Iron & Wine show in 2002, I saw a dirty kid walking around the Crocodile with this huge soup-saver beard and wondered to myself why this trailer park guy would be at a show in Seattle. That kid ended up being Sam Beam, the granddaddy of all Lumberjacks. He makes this list because he signed to Sub Pop and practically lives here. Before that show, no one on the Seattle indie-hipster scene was yet sporting the now ubiquitous hibernator beard. I hold Sam Beam personally responsible for every bird's nest beard from Ballard to Belltown to Beacon Hill.

Band of Horses – Even though they moved to South Carolina or wherever, they began here and I don't care what anyone says – they're still a Northwestern lumberjack band to me and always will be. Ben Bridwell's voice makes my heart soar like a hawk. Plus they spawned the equally awesome Grand Archives.

Fleet Foxes – DUH…

Cave Singers – Pete Quirk looks like a dirty trucker. I love him.

Horse Feathers – From Portland by way of Idaho, everyone should go check out Horse Feathers if they get a chance. Their music hoarsely whispers "Gold Rush" and makes me swoon a little bit.

Can you think of any others? Back me up on this, Lumberjack Lovers!

Imaginary Scoop Iron and Wine Sonic Boom Records Sub Pop

Iron & Wine at Sonic Boom on 15th

Ok, so I must have been working extra hard today because I stopped checking Facebook around 1pm, when normally I'm on it every 5 minutes.

I just checked in (it's 7pm and I'm still in Bellevue) and saw the following FB email sent to members of the Sonic Boom Records Group at 133pm today:

Ladies and Gents,

Get out of the rain and come on out to Sonic Boom up on 15th in Cap Hill for a FREE, All Ages performance by IRON & WINE!!!!!

The performance will start at 6 so get here a little early!!

We'll all be here and would love to see your smiling faces.

♥ Sonic Boom Cap Hill

Did anyone go? For that matter, how was last night's I&W show at the Vera Project? Hot damn, our town is cool…

Fleet Foxes Imaginary Scoop Iron and Wine The Arcade Fire The Flaming Lips Wilco

Schmindie News Roundup

Judging by how fast tickets for The Shins' and Iron and Wine's (separate) two-night stands sold out, everyone loves their schmindie. So, as a public service announcement, I'm compiling some schmindie-related news stories in one neat post.

I feel like one of those poor college kids who get an internship at Media Matters and it means they have to watch "Glenn Beck" every night. I'm regularly asked to define schmindie, so, to me, schmindie is boring indie rock that gets the benefit of the doubt because it's "indie". Generally, if it has guys with beards and/or acoustic guitars, you're probably going to need to wake me when it's over.

  • Fleet Foxes are releasing a 7" single to their song "Mykonos" on Tuesday and have announced a North American tour. The dates (which I'm taking from their MySpace page) for that are:

5/25/09 George, WA Sasquatch Festival – Gorge Amphitheatre
7/29/09 Washington DC 9:30 Club**
7/30/09 Philadelphia, PA Electric Factory**
7/31/09 Jersey City, NJ All Points West – Liberty State Park
8/1/09 Newport, RI Newport Folk Festival – Fort Adams State Park
8/03/09 Montreal, QC Metropolis Theatre**
8/04/09 Toronto, ON Massey Hall**
8/05/09 Royal Oak, MI Royal Oak Theatre **
8/07/09 Chicago, IL Lollapalooza – Grant Park
8/09/09 Minneapolis, MN First Avenue ** (on-sale May 9th)

  • If you missed your chance at getting tickets to see Iron and Wine at The Triple Door for Tuesday night's show, he's playing an acoustic set at the Sonic Boom on Capitol Hill Tuesday night at 6pm.
  • Someone pitched a 33 1/3 book on "Forthcoming 2009 Album" by Wilco (which got exactly as far in the process as my proposal) and now said album has a title. It's (and I really wish I was making this up) Wilco (The Album). The first track is called (and I really, really wish I was making this up) "Wilco (The Song)". Pitchfork has the details.
  • Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips has apologized to The Arcade Fire for all that shit he talked about them. Pitchfork reported that he said, "I wish whatever had been said wouldn't have been taken as such a defiant statement from the Flaming Lips, because it wasn't…I really feel bad about it. I like enough of their music. The idea that I'm somehow against them…I'm not!"
  • Tickets are sold out for Sasquatch! on Saturday and Sunday. Only Monday tickets remain. I cannot get you in to any of the days so please stop asking me.

Iron and Wine Live Show Review Marymoor Park

Sub Pop 20: Iron & Wine

Ok y'all, everyone knows how much heather b. loves Iron & Wine, so needless to say this was my most anticipated performance of the day. Sam Beam took the stage just around sunset. When I've seen him perform in the past, he's had a backing band or at least his sister there to accompany him vocally, so it was unusual to see him alone on stage with only his guitar.

Also unusual was how chatty he was with the audience. In good form, he congratulated Sub Pop and also mentioned how much he enjoyed the Mudhoney show. After a little more audience banter, he launched into a nice rendition of "The Trapese Singer," varying the speed a little here and there. The lyric "…and fuck the man" was met with much crowd appreciation.

Now, I'm not normally a lyrics person, but I do make an exception for Iron & Wine. His words are just so profound, and in this setting, his acoustic guitar was just an accompaniment for his sentiments in this venue. His second song was "Upward Over the Mountain" off The Creek That Drank The Cradle. It was a little speedier than the album version, but the feeling of the song wasn't lost in the variation. One thing I always say about Iron & Wine is that the songs make you have memories of stuff that didn't happen to you, and this song is a prime example. I've never even had a dog! The acoustic presence was very clean and he whistled the refrain at the end.

Beam is a very gracious performer and involved the crowd quite a bit in his set. After quite a bit of difficulty launching into his 3rd song ("I haven't played in a while, this is embarrassing. Y'all are making me nervous! We'll come back to this one."), he gave up and started "Peace Beneath the City," encouraging the audience to clap along, continuing into a fairly country-fried version of "The Shepherd's Dog" and then finally lauching into "Naked As We Came." The audience swooned in a collective sigh over that one. It could not have been sweeter or more perfectly played, that's for sure. When he finished, Beam let us know that he finds the idea of people having sex to that song a bit unsettling and that he'd rather not know about these kinds of things. Heh.

Then finally, what I had been waiting for, "Boy With A Coin." I don't care how overplayed this song might be, I love it so much lately, so I was happy he finally played it (I knew he would). It was a pretty simple version, the spanish guitar trappings were faint and Beam is apparently quite rusty at playing live, but he had fun with it. The audience clapped along and overran him at the end, so he finished with a speedy little flourish and ended with a chuckle.

He opened the next tune by thanking Ben Gibbard, so we all knew what was coming and the audience were all squealing before he began "Such Great Heights." Unfortunately, he bricked on all the lyrics and the audience had to help him along! Once he found his way and hit that chorus though, oy… it was just so beautiful; his voice was simply made to sing this song. As he finished he asked, "I wonder how many people have sex to THAT song?"

He threatened to finish his set with some Skynard ("Don't ask for it, I'll do it!" but actually closed out with "Woman King," which I found an odd closer for this set, but who the hell really cares? After an abrupt ending to the song, Beam closed with a short "Happy Anniversary Sub Pop! Thanks for everything!" and he was out. Sweet.

Amon Tobin Architecture in Helsinki Bat for Lashes Beirut Bloc Party Blue Scholars Bright Eyes Busdriver Cats on Fire Dizzee Rascal Ghost Stories Grinderman Imaginary Scoop Interpol Iron and Wine Jay-Z Jens Lekman Jose Gonzalez Kate Nash LCD Soundsystem Los Campesinos! M.I.A. New Pornographers Okkervil River Patrick Wolf Radiohead Tender Forever The Fratellis The Long Blondes Tullycraft YACHT

Best of 2007: Erik G's favorite albums

Sometimes I think it takes me waaay too long to come up with my Top 20 albums of a given year. There are a lot of internal debates and arguments that really have no right answer. Really, you reach a point where all the albums are good but how to rank them gets to be quite the challenge. This year was chock full of good music (not matter what the naysayers might groan). I counted something like 175+ albums worth mentioning in 2007, and that is only a tip of the iceberg when it comes to everything that was released in the year. However, I did whittle it down to 20… well, 22 if you count my 2 EP exception (EP’s don’t count as real albums).

If you’re interested in some sub-lists, like my albums “with apologizes” (albums I didn’t hear but should have) or “best imports” or “most disappointing” (hint, the band who made it rhymes with Milo Biley), check it out here.

So, here we go:

#21 The EP’s – Two EP’s made me happy this year, and really, they would be in the top 20, but it seems unfair to me to include EP’s versus albums. They’re both UK pop, and they’re both brilliant in their own cute way.

Los Campesinos! Sticking Fingers Into Sockets (Thanks to igLiz for this band!)

Kate Nash Foundations (Really, this is only a U.S. teaser EP for her great debut, Made of Bricks).

#20 Peter Bjorn & John Writers’ Block
Sure, everyone likes this Scandinavian band and I was a little behind the curve on them, but this is such a luscious pop record.

#19 The Fratellis Costello Music – Yeah, OK, this album is nothing special, but it didn’t stop me from listening to it over and over. The sort of bubblegum rock they record is just taking a page off of the 60’s British rock that makes me filled with glee.

#18 Tender Forever Wider
The newest album on the list, it’s that synth pop that I am a total sucker for. It might not be as infectious and well-constructed as the Blow’s brilliant Paper Television or YACHT (see above), but it is ridiculously charming.

#17 Architecture in Helsinki Places Like This
A great dance album, just chock full of energy.

#16 Jay-Z American Gangster
Well, it’s no Black Album, but it was a heck of a lot better than Kingdom Come. Jay-Z might be the biggest act in the world right now, not sure what to make of that.

#15 M.I.A. Kala
There are a lot of M.I.A. haters lurking around TIG, but I think she can be briliant. She’s not always brilliant, but when she gets it right, it’s dumbfounding (well, at least to me).

#14 The Long Blondes Someone to Drive You Home
A perfect post-punk return to Siouxsie and the Banshees with the New Wave synths bogging them down (no, I’m not dissing Siouxsie, really). The Long Blondes recorded a disc that is populated with ready-made hit singles, if only radio was interested (and boy, is Kate Jackson is sizzling).

#13 Tullycraft Every Scene Needs a Center
Probably the most mature and diverse Tullycraft album, but that is not to say that they’re missing any of their ageless fun and whimsy (did I just use the word “whimsy”?) Why this disc hasn’t gotten more press baffles me… maybe they’re too busy listening to messes like the Animal Collective.

#12 Busdriver Roadkill Overcoat
Thanks to igAsh for this guy. It is the sort of nerd rap that I gravitate towards (see also Del, MC Paul Barman, etc.) and Roadkill Overcoat is full of obtuse references and complex production.

#11 New Pornographers Challengers
I might be the only person in the universe who liked Challengers better than Twin Cinema. Go figure. There just seemed to be a lot more to offer on this album by the Canadian supergroup, but maybe I was just in the right mood for a new New Pornographers album.

#10 Bat for Lashes Fur & Gold
Think of Bat for Lashes something like PJ Harvey 2.0: the band is really one woman, she makes songs that are dark and sinister and the songs are seductive as all heck.

#9 Amon Tobin Foley Room
I don’t think Amon Tobin has ever recorded an album I didn’t like, he’s just that good. DJ’s seem to be a thing of the past, at least any DJ who is meaningful in the current music scene, but Amon Tobin seems to have been immune from this. (Oh yeah, and any album with the Kronos Quartet gets points from me, too.)

#8 Patrick Wolf The Magic Position
This album has so many high points (and its fair share of album filler, too). Wolf put together some of those unforgettable pop songs that will never get heard, but maybe that is what makes it so exciting (and check out Wolf’s outfit on this clip from Conan).

#7 Radiohead In Rainbows
Possibly the most anticipated “surprise” release of the year. No one really saw it coming, but then the whole world was talking about Radiohead, their “screw you record industry” moves and, well, a darn good album on their part. That being said, I haven’t listened to it as much as I expected. (By the way, not sure if this is the official video for “All I Need,” but it is great anyway).

#6 YACHT I Believe in You. Your Magic is Real.
One (former) half of the Blow, YACHT took that next step to put together a synth pop gem. It isn’t as lovelorn as Paper Television, but it makes up for it with just plain enjoyment.

#5 Beirut The Flying Club Cup
I feel like Beirut is slowly filling in that Neutral Milk Hotel-shaped hole in all of our hearts. The album draws in so many influences and so many sounds that each listen feels new.

#4 Dizzee Rascal Maths & English
First of two albums in my top five that weren’t technically ever released in the U.S. Dizzee has the leg up as Maths & English was released digitally, but that just baffles me as the album is the most “America friendly” Dizzee has recorded. It is just filthy, from start to finish.

#3 Cats on Fire The Province Complains
My find from Finland (and lacking a U.S. release), Cats on Fire put down one of those melancholy pop albums that you wish Belle & Sebastian could record. It is only a matter of time now before Cats on Fire wins the hearts of all the dark-sweater-and-bespectacled modern rockers of the States.

#2 Jens Lekman Night Falls Over Kortedala
You just knew he would record an absolute gem. All his talk about retiring was just he Scandinavian version of Jay Z’s posturing, and what he went and did was record an album that matures his sound, tackles new directions and is generally impossible to ignore. (And how charming is this version of “The Opposite of Hallelujah” recorded in Japan with a makeshift band?)

#1 LCD Soundsystem Sound of Silver
Congratulations! You made it, and is it any surprise what you find at #1 for 2007? Pretty much since the first time I popped Sound of Silver in and heard it unfold, I knew this album was special. James Murphy is so dynamic and captivating, creating club anthems (“North American Scum”), techno-ballads (“Someone Great”) and even a classic crooner (“New York I Love You, but You’re Bringing Me Down”). It might not seem monumental yet, but just you wait.


Honorable Mentions: Ghost Stories – Quixoticism; Grinderman – Grinderman; Jose Gonzalez – In Our Nature; Okkervil River – The Stage Names; Dinosaur Jr. – Beyond; Blue Scholars – Bayani; Bloc Party – Weekend in the City; Interpol – Our Love to Admire; Bright Eyes – Cassadaga; Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog

Iron and Wine Record Review Sub Pop

The Shepherd's Dog

Without a doubt, The Shepherd’s Dog is the most accessible album ever recorded by Iron & Wine. The arrangements for the songs are suddenly lush and full, the beautiful melodies are still there and heck, things get downright dancy at times, but Sam Beam has taken Iron & Wine into new territory. Maybe it was all the time spent with Calexico for the In the Reins album and tour, but whatever it was, Iron & Wine should keep on doing it, as The Shepherd’s Dog is one of the fascinating albums of the year.

Iron & Wine has made a name for it(him?)self by recording some of the most beautiful and introspective songs of the decade. The agonized beauty of Our Endless Numbered Days and The Creek Drank the Cradle made them both critical and popular (well, as popular as modern rock gets) favorites. So, the turn taken by Iron & Wine on The Shepherd’s Dog is even more remarkable, extending the sound of the band from restrained and subdued homage to the likes of Palace to a much more elaborate creature. Whatever the change actually is, it works remarkably well for Iron & Wine, like Dorothy showing up in vivid color in Oz. “Pagan Angel and the Borrowed Car” is a downright foot-stomper compared to the usual fare served up by Beam, with pianos, violins, guitars, maybe a xylophone (maybe not) and whatever else was lying around the studio. You can’t help but be impressed with the deep of melodies and harmonies that Beam puts together on “Pagan Angel…”

While that song is an upbeat number, “White Tooth Man” has a darker tone, but is still a robust arrangement, kind of like Neil Young Jr. in many aspects. Even some of the ballads are more full-bodied, like “Lovesong of the Buzzard,” which has a rich organ that drifts in the background as guitars and accordions take the lead. It's something akin of modern rock zydeco on morphine, if that makes any sense. “The Boy with a Coin” is darkly beautiful, with a playful rhythm combined with melancholic melodies, an excellent example of where Iron & Wine excel on The Shepherd’s Dog. And if you’re not convinced of the change, just listen to “The Devil Never Sleeps” and you’ll realize that Beam actually wants us to get out of our seats and move to his music (well, move more than reaching for that bottle of whiskey).

There are still some more typical Iron & Wine tracks, like the barebone “Carousel” and “Resurrection Fern,” which are gorgeous ballads, especially the latter, ripe with Beam’s vocal harmonies. “Innocent Bones” also pulls the throttle back (if you can believe anyone who writes that about Iron & Wine), with country ballad foundation below an Iron & Wine frame. “Peace Beneath the City” takes on a Tom Waits like persona with its dark, smoke-filled sound. Beam does go astray a little at times, like the oddly 70’s country rock sounding “Wolves (Song of the Shepherd’s Dog)” that borders on self-indulgent. The album closes on “Flightless Bird, American Mouth,” another rich arrangement that is propelled by intertwined piano and guitar.

The Shepherd’s Dog is the kind of album that can thrust Iron & Wine from the bedrooms of dejected lovers to the living room of the masses. Sure, it might not be likely to make Iron & Wine a household name, but the trade that Sam Beam made between the despondent sounds of his early albums and the fully realized textures of The Shepherd’s Dog is one that both he and his listeners win. The album is a cornucopia of majestic songs that begs for repeated listens.

Easy Street Records Imaginary Scoop Iron and Wine The Cave Singers

New releases for the week, from Easy Street Records

LOTS of new releases this Tuesday!

The Cave Singers' release on Matador is finally out! I LOVE this record to bits. They are hands down my favorites from this year's Bumbershoot and KEXP BBQ and the timing is just right for crisp Fall listening. AND they will be here @ QA Easy Street TONIGHT @ 6 PM for their record release performance, so come on down!

I haven't heard it yet, but I am so curious about Bobbie Nelson's (Willie's sister) FIRST release!?! It's out on Justice Records, which is the new home of Seattle's own Visqueen.

Iron & Wine has a new one The Shepard's Dog out today. I have been listening to the single so much that I am stoked to have more of it. They just announced this morning that they will be bringing it to the Moore on December 3rd, which sucks because I will be at Van Halen!! (Unless the tour implodes by then.)

Lots of boxed sets and re-issues for the people too:

BETTYE LAVETTE, The Scene Of The Crime (with the Drive-By Truckers and Spooner Oldham)
BILL MEDLEY, Damn Near Righteous (Westlake) Solo debut from the surviving
Righteous Brother
BILLIE HOLIDAY, Lady Day: The Master Takes And Singles (4-CD box)
BILLY JOE SHAVER, Everybody's Brother
BIRDIE BUSCH, Penny Arcade
BOBBIE NELSON, Audiobiography (Debut from Willie Nelson's sister)
BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA, Wolfgang's Big Night Out
CAVE SINGERS, Invitation Songs
DELLS, Best Of The Vee-Jay Years
DEVENDRA BANHART, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon
ERIN MCKEOWN, Lafayette ( live album)
FOO FIGHTERS – Echos, Silence, Patience & Grace
FRANK SINATRA, A Voice In Time (1939-1952) ( 4-CD box)
GENE WATSON, In A Perfect World ( Duets with Vince Gill, Lee Ann Womack, Joe Nichols, Connie Smith, & Rhonda Vincent)
IRON & WINE, The Shepherd's Dog
JERRY BUTLER, Best Of The Vee-Jay Years
JIMMY REED, Best Of The Vee-Jay Years
LUCA, Fractions
MATT POND PA, Last Light
MESHELL NDEGEONCELLO, The World Has Made Me The Man Of My Dreams
MILES DAVIS, The Complete On The Corner Sessions (6-CD box)
NELLIE MCKAY, Obligatory Villagers
NEW AMSTERDAMS, At The Foot Of My Rival
PIETA BROWN, Remember The Sun
PJ HARVEY, White Chalk
SHARON JONES & THE DAP KINGS, 100 Days, 100 Nights
STAPLE SINGERS, Best Of The Vee-Jay Years
STEVE EARLE – Washington Square Serenade
SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK, Experiences…101
TWO GALLANTS, self-titled