Tag Archives: Okkervil River

You Must Bear Your Neighbor’s Burden Within Reason

Last year was a fine year for music, but only a few things really wowed me. That’s not to say it was completely bereft of anything good, but the prevailing theme, at least in my estimation, was that while 2009 was a banner year for new talent & a resurgence of older talent, 2010 had very little to offer. 2011 is shaping up to be, already, one of the better years. The Decemberists came out with a new album on Tuesday & it’s their best album yet. It hits chords in my soul that bring out such joy, that I can’t help but sway.

I suppose I should address the elephant in the blog & explain my prolonged absence. Boredom. That’s it. I was completely & utterly bored with anything that was coming out. I was searching for new & exciting things to come my way. Lissie made an album that I adore, but I couldn’t write anything that hadn’t been said. I had a whole soliloquy ready for the brilliance of Ray Lamontagne’s overnight transformation from Indie darling to bluegrass star & yet nothing came out. There was a block of sorts & much of it came from the draining effects of writing a book about my travels through Europe. A book that is finished in its infant form, but must now be raised into something I can market.

There were a few other albums that I quite enjoyed: Justin Townes Earle, Head & the Heart, Broken Bells, The Black Keys & obviously Arcade Fire which was the best album of the year, but perhaps through my own depression of  the musical offerings being put out there or indifference the ability to cognitively discuss these in terms that were worth reading was nonexistent. So here sat the blog. Relatively unchanged throughout the year as I struggled to put my thoughts into words. I feel I’ve made some sort of a turning point, even though I intended to begin writing last week. To be cliche I suppose it’s better late than never.

So I purchased two albums from Amazon the other day (yes I buy my music), where the $3.99 deals keep me coming back & spending on things I would otherwise think twice about buying. I bought Social Distortion’s new album Hard Time & Nursery Rhymes & the aforementioned Decemberists album The King is Dead. Let’s discuss Social D’s new album first. It’s been  7 years since they released an album & a few years since Mike Ness has come out with an album, himself. I’ve always been a fringe fan of Social D’s, as I do not have the dancing skeleton tattooed anywhere on my body. It has that patented loud Gibson sound & gruff Mike Ness nosy drawl, but with lyrics that seem to have more emotional impact than ever before. Take for instance “Still Alive”  where Ness pleads,

“I’m still alive, I will survive, I can handle what life brings, just give me time…I’m still alive, talking the same ol’ jive, I can handle anything that comes my way, just give me another day”

It ends with a short, but beautiful piano solo that made me really feel that this album rivals anything they’ve ever done. It is so reminiscent of early Springsteen that I haven’t stopped listening to it for 3 days. That is, except to listen to The Decemberists’ new album The King is Dead, an album which seems to have awoken them from their prog rock malaise from the past few years. It sounds so similar to early R.E.M. that it came as no surprise to see that Peter Buck contributed to three of the tracks. The opening track almost sounds Tom Pettyesque with heavy drums taking the forefront much like “You Don’t Know How it Feels”.

Colin Meloy really lets loose with his voice on The King is Dead & goes places that I haven’t heard him dare go vocally before. It shows that the risks were worth taking. Changing the sound & straying away from that boring sound have worked wonders & even though it came out in January there’s a distinct feeling that come coincidentally December we will still be talking about this album as one of the best of the year.

I can’t say I will write everyday as I do have a job that requires a good chunk of time, but I will continue to talk about things I love & look forward to talking about new releases from groups like Foxxhound, Two Guns, Cold War Kids, Amos Lee, Drive-by Truckers & Okkervill River. It will be a banner year for Indie music & soon Indie Music will become alternative & all the kids will have to jump on the bandwagon. I’m fine by that. Music should be loved by all & not thrown into some meta category to be hated once it becomes popular to the masses. If it’s good, love it. If it sucks, hate it, but don’t despise popular music for being popular. Despise it, much like I despise She Wants Revenge & Jason Mraz for being bad at music.

Machine Gun Blues – Social Distortion

Sweet & Lowdown – Social Distortion

Still Alive – Social Distortion

Don’t Carry It All – The Decemberists

This is Why We Fight – The Decemberists


2008 Top Ten Albums

2008 was not the best year for new music. I wouldn’t call it a total wash, but it was just average in comparison to even 2007. There were a few that were amazing & a couple were just out on the periphery. Loudon Wainwright III’s album, “Recovery” was good, but a little too weird to fully get into. Lil’ Wayne’s album had fantastic beats & catchy hooks, but the lyrics are average at best, so, to me, it didn’t have the tonal quality that I think a great album must adhere to. All that being said here are my top ten albums of 2008:

10Conor OberstConor Oberst – Generally I have issues with people naming albums after themselves & I am not a fan of Bright Eyes (Obersts’ previous/current band). His voice grates on me like nails on a chalkboard, but something about this album resonated with me & I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge it as one of the best albums of the year.

Mp3 – Conor OberstSausilito

9Blue MountainOmnibus – True, this album was just a redoing of former songs, but they are redone with such vigor and heartfelt emotion that they come across as more poignant now than they ever did before. The alt-country scene is alive and flourishing with bands like Blue Mountain part of that revival.

Mp3 – Blue MountainMountain Girl

8Counting CrowsSaturday Nights and Sunday MorningsAdam Duritz is one of my favorite rock personalities, being that he always has something to say & usually it’s relevant. This, Counting Crows’ first album in five years, isn’t their best but it’s still pretty damn good. The first half of the album is rock oriented like a party on Saturday Night while the second half is mellow and reflective like an easy Sunday Morning.

Mp3 – Counting CrowsCowboys (Live on WXPN)

1492 (Live on WXPN)

7 Mason JenningsIn The Ever – Mason Jennings is Lou Reed if Lou Reed sang folk music. This album was absolutely amazing. I loved it and played it over and over again. Simple melodies with great lyrics make this album something that I’ll enjoy for many years to come. Like I pretty much do with everything Jennings puts out there. My favorite song on the record is Memphis, Tennessee. It personifies everything about that style of music that I love.

Mp3 – Mason JenningsMemphis, Tennessee

6James Hunter“>The Hard Way – It’s odd to see James Hunter and then hear the voice that comes out of this little British man. Reminiscent of old R & B artists such as: James Brown & Wilson Pickett, Hunter is a pleasant change in a world of music that is becoming increasingly similar in all facets. The Hard Way is an album with the main theme being love. With twinges of ska thrown in this may be the funnest album of 2008.

Mp3 – James HunterThe Hard Way

5Jackie GreeneGiving Up the Ghost– Jackie Greene has no one genre you could pigeon hole him into. he is parts country, alternative & blues. Giving Up The Ghost may be his best album yet. With bluesy riffs & mellow hooks this album should’ve achieved more recognition and success than it has, but rest assured if he keeps putting music out like this then it won’t be long until Jackie Greene is on the same level as Pete Yorn and Ryan Adams.

Mp3 – Jackie GreeneShaken

4Okkervil RiverThe Stand Ins – With 2 singers trading vocals back and forth with one sounding like Dave Gahan & the other sounding like Robert Smith Okkervil River has been blowing away the music scene under the radar for quite a few years now, but with the Stand Ins they’re finally getting the recognition they deserve. It’s an absolutely brilliant companion piece to 2007’s The Stage Names which it was intended to be a double album with.

Mp3 – Okkervil RiverSinger Songwriter

Lost Coastlines

3Kathleen Edwards Asking For Flowers – If you don’t know who Kathleen Edwards is & it’s very possible you don’t, then you’re missing out on one of the best female voices around today. Not only is she beautiful but lyrically, melodically & musically she is superb. Asking for Flowers followed the tradition of her previous albums Back to Me & Failer by keeping basic finger picking guitar melodies with complex heartfelt lyrics. As evidenced in the song Scared at Night. The pain and passion that comes across in Kathleen Edwards’ voice is enough to bring a grown man to the verge of tears. Not this grown man, but a grown man.

Mp3 – Kathleen EdwardsScared at Night

2Ryan Adams & The CardinalsCardinology – It’s no secret that I think just about everything Ryan Adams touches is gold, but I was particularly struck with how good this album was. It took me a long time to really get into Easy Tiger, but with Cardinology I really felt it from the beginning. Ryan is easily the best lyricist of this generation. I don’t think it’s a stretch to put him on par with Bruce Springsteen if not Bob Dylan. It has the band still entrenched in that steel guitar sound the Cardinals are famous for without compromising that rock sound that Adams loves.

Mp3 – Ryan Adams & The CardinalsEvergreen

Sink Ships

1Jakob DylanSeeing Things – This is about as stripped down bare as an album can get. I saw the Wallflowers twice once at the Palace in Hollywood and once in Petaluma & the main cog that held that band together was the brilliant writing and voice of Jakob Dylan. Not merely a famous son he is in his own rite a talented musician with one of the best albums I have heard in a long time. That is not mere hyperbolic conjecture on my part, this is a beautifully composed album combining elements of folk, blues and country which is the reason it is my favorite album of 2008.

Mp3 – Jakob DylanWill it Grow

All Day & All of the Night