PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND: PRESERVATION

I’m going to keep this relatively brief because if you know anything at all about the Preservation Hall Jazz band, you know it’s a brilliant record.

So, if you enjoy jazz, swing, blues or anything at all about American Roots music, and you enjoy hearing your favorite songs performed by an incredibly eclectic and talented collection of artists, backed by the best jazz ensemble in America, then this is a record you need to own. You’ll probably also want to buy several additional copies so you can distribute them to any friends who may have been physically incapacitated and, thus, incapable of purchasing this Essential Listening album.

If you’re not interested in the history and tradition of American music, or in contributing your money to the preservation of an American institution, then you’ll probably want to continue listening to whatever Starbucks tells you would best complement your double tall, nonfat Grande Caramel Latte.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Tom Waits – “Tootie Ma Is A Big Fine Thing” (from Preservation)

Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Jason Isbell – “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” (from Preservation)

JOE PUG: MESSENGER

Pug

Joe Pug is infuriatingly good.

Let me clarify. If you’re a fellow songwriter, Joe Pug is infuriatingly good. Gifted with razor-sharp wit, vivid, eloquent lyricism and a voice that echoes the younger incarnations of Prine and Dylan, Joe Pug makes other songwriters – most of whom will spend their entire lives trying to write songs half as good as Pug’s – furious. If you’re somebody who simply listens to and enjoys music, there’s nothing infuriating about Pug; he’s just a Godsend.

After the staggering brilliance of Pug’s debut EP, Nation of Heat, his first full-length LP, Messenger, could have been a colossal letdown, simply because Pug set expectations so high. It is anything but. Messenger is a collection of ten literate, poetic gems, brimming over with wit, wisdom and imagery. At 25 years old, Pug has filled his first two releases with a lifetime’s worth of brilliance, setting the bar incredibly high for himself, and damn near unreachably high for any other songwriter of his generation. He is, as they say, the Real Deal.

Take for instance the coming-of-age anthem “Not So Sure.” Pug casually tosses off the admission that he “undressed somebody’s daughter, then complained about her looks,” which seems simple enough until you stop to consider that he has, in less than ten words, captured everything worth saying about the mercurial and dismissive nature of young romance. That’s something of a feat for anyone else. For Pug, it is one of dozens of lines that distill the countless nuances of life down to simple, undeniable truths. To say this is not an easy task for a writer is like saying a 102 MPH fastball is moving “pretty fast.”

If there is one knock on Messenger, and even this is a bit of a reach, it is that the arrangements are very much “stock” roots music. The pedal steel comes in exactly when you think it will, and the accompanying electric guitar plays the lick you expect it to. For anyone else, it would just be a matter of a clean arrangement but for a songwriter of Pug’s considerable gifts, it seems something of a disappointment.

Nitpicking notwithstanding, Pug’s album will find its way to numerous Best of 2010 lists as well as Essential Listening lists, and rightfully so. Soon, he’ll have only himself to compete with.

Joe Pug – “Not So Sure” (from Messenger)

Joe Pug – “The Door Is Always Open” (from Messenger)

CHIP ROBINSON: MYLOW

photo: raymond goodman, 2009

Full disclosure: I’m putting this record out on my label, Red River Records.

I wanted to mention that first to ensure that you’re aware we’re not trying to pull a fast one on you here. I also wanted to mention it because it’s relevant to this review. I started Red River Records because of this record. Being burnt out on letting other people be responsible for my success or failure, my intent was simply to put out my own records – and only my own records – for the forseeable future. The best laid plans, right>

During the sessions for Nowhere Nights, Eric Ambel passed me a copy of Mylow and, listening to it, I thought it was absolutely criminal that Chip didn’t have a label to put this record out. I decided then that Red River Records was going to be a home not just for my records, but for records I loved that were in danger of not seeing the light of day without a little help. Mylow planted that seed, and putting this record out is something I’m immensely proud to be a part of.

Mylow is as raw a record as I have ever heard; honest, unflinching, and unwavering. This is the sound of a man who had to write these songs because he couldn’t keep them inside any longer. There is absolutely no way to listen to Mylow and not be made to feel at least a little bit uncomfortable with just how bare Robinson has laid himself – and his characters – in these songs. In that regard, Mylow is one of the more painful records I’ve ever heard, but painful in a way that conveys the naked inspiration that gripped Robinson, and painful in a way that will grip you and refuse to loosen the hold until the record stops spinning.

As frontman of the Backsliders, one of the seminal bands of the “alt.country” movement of the mid-90’s, Robinson cut himself a reputation as a songwriter whose mammoth hooks were as arresting as his lyricism, and that talent is on full display on Mylow, from the rough and ragged, three-chord knockout punches (“Mylow,” “Beesting,”) to the plaintive ruminations on regret and repentance (“Started,” “Wishin on the Cars”). You’re left to wonder exactly how much or Robinson went in to making this record, and exactly how much is left after such an astonishing collection.

Knowing Chip, there’s plenty left in the tank for round two but for now, I’m content to keep Mylow on repeat and revel in the return of a master craftsman. I highly recommend you do the same.

Pre-Order Mylow on CD or LP
Purchase Mylow from iTunes

Chip Robinson – “Mylow” (from Mylow)

Chip Robinson – “Started” (from Mylow)

THE NINEBULLETS INTERVIEW: SEAN MOELLER OF DAYTROTTER

Daytrotter

Unless you’ve been living in an isolated, internetless location for the last four years, you’re likely aware of Daytrotter. The site started in 2006 and, in the four years since, has provided listeners with nearly ten million free, live tunes from their favorite bands. I will say that again for dramatic effect and because I enjoy repeating myself: ten million tunes. Free. As important as providing music lovers with access to all of those sessions, Daytrotter offers a reminder of just how pure and rewarding it is to really love, and really appreciate, music is. Stripped of pretense, not allowing for the indulgence of that impulse to over-arrange, and entirely life, Daytrotter offers its listeners their favorite, and soon-to-be favorite, artists completely in their element. That’s something we should all be very grateful for.

Sean Moeller, the head of the Daytrotter family and the man responsible for the fantastic “liner notes” that accompany each session, took time out to answer a few questions and talk a bit about how the site started, where it might be headed, and BBQ. Enjoy.

How long had the idea for Daytrotter been in your head before you started up in 2006? Was there a moment you can pinpoint where you said, “I have to do this…”?

About two weeks. I don’t think I really felt like “I have to do this,” but it just felt like a situation of “why don’t I just do this?” It just felt like something that we could pull off and turn into something really memorable. I hoped that it could be something interesting and rare, but I don’t think I envisioned what it was actually going to become.

As much as I dig the sessions, I enjoy your writing. How difficult is it to find another angle when you have an artist back for an encore? Theoretically, if they’re doing their job, you’ve got plenty to say, but have you ever hit that point where you’re drawing a blank? No need to name names but, if so, how do you handle it?

Thanks man. It’s always kind to hear that. I majored in journalism and minored in English and have been a lifelong reader so it’s something I spend a lot of time on. I always try to make these essays something different and sometimes it works better than other times. I’m proud of everything that we post though and it’s hard some days, but I would say 90-percent of the time, I get an e-mail from a band the day the session posts saying that it was their favorite piece that they’ve ever had written about them and even if my drivel and ramblings only made sense to them, it’s better than I could ever ask for. It’s never easy writing about anything. It’s hard, but I find joy in the challenge.

Speaking of multiple sessions, you’ve got a pretty unique vantage point in that, while the audience gets to hear an artist’s maturation or progression through their records, or through their sessions, when you have an artist back, you can see their growth by the way they handle themselves in the studio. Is there a particular artist, or a few, where you could see how far they had come, just from one session to the next?

This is a tough one, only because, really, we’ve only been doing this four years and so I’d say that even when we’re talking about a band like Blitzen Trapper – which has been here four times – they’ve done all of those sessions over the course of two albums and three years. I don’t know that that’s a suitable enough time to see a huge change. I think they’ve been a solid band over that entire period. I’ve seen fantastic changes in The Dodos, but I can’t really put my finger of exactly how. But I feel that they’re so together now and it’s thrilling. I think this question becomes much easier to answer in four more years, after a single band has been back 6-7 times. I think the biggest thing that I see is the ease in session, where dudes know the studio, know us and know how to get the most out of the taping and the room. They know what worked best and what they want it to be. I think that comfort alone makes for a better session. When they know they can come in and just shoot the shit with us, know the limitations of the room and the charms of the room that can be exploited to enhance their energy and sound, it’s a good couple of hours.

Can you recall when music started to matter to you? Was there a moment or a song that just hit you and made an immediate impact or was it a gradual thing?

When I was growing up, I remember getting into Alabama big time. Singing along to their records in the family room with my sisters. Then in middle school, I started buying rap cassette singles – Heavy D, Young MC, that era. When it really hit was with Weezer and the Canadian band Chixdiggit in high school. I fell hard for all the Lookout! Records bands – Squirtgun, Groovie Ghoulies, Mr. T Experience, etc. Then when I got to Iowa City and the University of Iowa for college, it just took over. I would be at the record store every day after class and discovering Of Montreal, all the Kindercore Records bands and getting out to the bars every night – it seemed – catching all of that great stuff coming out of Lawrence, Kansas (Get Up Kids, The Anniversary, Ultimate Fakebook, Creature Comforts) that was coming through town all the time. It got ridiculous. And that’s how it started.

The way music is distributed, marketed and promoted has changed immensely, and Daytrotter has been an integral part of that – of introducing new bands to a broad audience. In a way, the playing field is more level now than it ever was for artists. How do you see things continuing to change in the next few year?

I see it getting more and more like that. It’s finally gotten to the point where bands don’t need labels for all that much – unless they really want a label, or the label is more of a partner and not just a standard “putting the record out” thing. Bands are seeing that their hard work is really their greatest wild card and I think it’s exciting as hell. I think bands and music lovers have it better than they ever had and soon enough, the Internet will officially pay off for these bands – getting money directly to their pockets, not through anyone else’s fingers.

Completely unrelated: Best BBQ joint you’ve ever been to?

Man, there’s this great place in Austin that we go to every year at SXSW, but I can’t remember the name. It’s a filthy little joint and it’s amazing. We dined in an empty diner last year except for us, Eugene Mirman, Todd Barry and a gaggle of other New York comics at like 9 pm. It was fun. The other place that I just went to in Nashville last week with Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes was Mary’s. We got a bunch of shoulder sandwiches and they were delicious.

Back on topic. Have you all ever been approached by an artist wanting to cut an entire record at Rock Island? Is that something you’d be open to or would it run contrary to what you’re doing?

We have been a couple of times, but we’re always so busy that it just never works. Sunset Rubdown wanted to cut their last record here, but it was kind of last minute and we just weren’t able to move things around enough to make it happen.

I’ve gotta ask the obligatory “What are some of your favorite sessions” question so, do you have a few that really stick out, feither or the performance, the people involved, or both?

The people who have been back more than once are always so much fun to have in. It’s just family at that point – the Delta Spirits, the Cold War Kids, the Dawes, the Snowblinks, the Paleos, the Blitzen Trappers, the Casiotones, on and on. Always greatness. I have a soft spot for the Raphael Saadiq session and having the Blind Boys of Alabama at the Horseshack was pretty special too. I love all the sessions we do though, I really do.

Aside from the sessions, what are you listening to lately?

I’ve been buying a lot of out country stuff — Kristofferson, Hank Williams, The Del McCoury Band, the Louisville Hayride box set, Willie Nelson box set. That sort of stuff.

Alright, so you’ve got the t-shirts, and now you’ve got a mascot, just how far can the Daytrotter empire spread? Where would you like to see it go from here?

I just want to keep letting it be dope in whatever ways it wants to be dope. Who knows that that means.

A Few of Ninebullets favorite Sessions

Dawn Landes – “Goodnight Lover” (from Daytrotter Session September 10, 2008)

Raphael Saadiq – “Sure Hope You Mean It” (from Daytrotter Session April 14, 2009)

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – “The Last Song I Will Write” (from Daytrotter Session July 10, 2009)

Blitzen Trapper – “Black River Killer” (from Daytrotter Session July 13, 2009)

Lucero – “That Much Further West” (from Daytrotter Session November 12, 2009)

GLOSSARY: FERAL FIRE

Well. Fuck me.

One of the things I learned in school is that journalists (and I use the term loosely) are supposed to create a subjective distance between themselves and their subjects. One doesn’t say, “I think,” or “it seems to me.” One leaves oneself out of the equation entirely. I’m going to give it to you straight, there is not a chance I’m going to be able to do that.

I’ll start by addressing Glossary directly.

Dear Glossary, you make no-frills, unabashed rock n’ roll records with just enough elements of classic pop and country to keep me honest. Also, you named your record after a phrase from Cormac McCarthy’s novel, The Road. So I guess my question is, did I somehow create you? How is it that you know exactly what I’m looking for in a band? You know what, Glossary, don’t answer that. I prefer an air of mystery.

Feral Fire is as immediately arresting and impressive an album as I have heard since I discovered Six String Drag’s swan song, High Hat. Frontman and chief songwriter Joey Kneiser describes Feral Fire as an album about “figuring out everything is so massive and you’re so small,” and, as Kneiser and wife Kelly harmonize over the mammoth sound their band creates, it’s tough to imagine anything seeming large by comparison.

Whether offering perspective (“Bend With the Breeze”), or freewheeling advice (“Save Your Money for the Weekend”), Kneiser’s lyrics are so well-framed by his bandmates that he could be reading the fine print on a life insurance policy and it would still be compelling. The band is just that good.

With Feral Fire, Glossary has delivered an album that is at once swaggering and vulnerable, merciless and sublime. It is far too early in the year for predictions, but I’m tentatively reserving slots 1 – 5 on my 10 Best of 2010 list for Feral Fire which makes for a firm placement on the 2010 Essential Listening list.

Glossary – Save Your Money for the Weekend (from Feral Fire)
Glossary – Bend With the Breeze (from Feral Fire)

Glossary’s Official Site, Glossary on myspace, Buy Feral Fire

THE STORY ABOUT THE IMAGE AT THE TOP OF THIS POST:

Hey everyone, Autopsy IV here to explain the image at the top of this post. No, that’s not the album cover for Feral Fire. You can see the actual album cover here. Through some twitter conversations this week I learned that Bingham Barnes (bass player) has a massive obsession/crush on Ke$ha spurring from the fact that she’s from Nashville and apparently has a thing for “short, round, bearded dudes”. Apparently, he made the image one night to be funny and I thought it’d be funny x2 to use it in this post. That said, Kelly wanted me to make it clear to everyone that the rest of the band neither shares nor appreciates this obsession.

Too bad, I bet a Glossaryfied version of Tik Tok with Kelly manning the mic would have been pretty sweet.

EELS: END TIMES

eels

Nobody is ever going to mistake Mark Oliver “E” Everett for Jason Mraz, that’s for damn sure. Sure, Everett’s Eels may make the occasional foray into upbeat, jangly rock that sounds deceptively sunny but, make no mistake, Everett’s is a discontented soul, and he is more than willing to place that soul on display.

Never more was that the case than on End Times, a bleak collection of gorgeous apocalyptic ballads. So stark, in fact, is End Times, that one is left to wonder whether Everett does indeed believe the world will indeed end in a year’s time, and is perhaps preparing himself accordingly. As Everett mourns lost loves and likes over sparkling guitars, and muses on impending doom over a pulsing rhythm section, one thing becomes clear: if Mark Oliver Everett is going out, he’s going out with a bang and a whimper.

In the Eels cannon, End Times fits along side Blinking Lights and Other Meditations as perhaps Everett’s bleakest work to date, but the album is not without a degree of hope, even if it is just implied hope. For, one must assume, if one is continually finding and losing love and contentment, then it stands to reason that which was lost will be found again, and lost again, and rediscovered, and so on and so on, etc. It is that implied hope that finds its way into Everett’s voice, as he equates a broken heart with the fleeting presence of a sparrow on “Little Bird,” and as he plumbs the depths of his own seemingly incurable despair on “I Need A Mother.” Buried somehwere beneath Everett’s sadness lies the acknowledgment that the sun will, indeed, come out tomorrow. What remains unclear is whether Everett finds that inevitable sunrise to be a brief respite from the darkness or an insistent and tormenting reminder that sunset is on its way again.

Eels – “End Times” (from End Times)

Eels – “Little Bird” (from End Times)

Eels Official Site, Eels on myspace, Buy End Times

SPOON: TRANSFERENCE

By now, you know exactly what a Spoon record – any Spoon record, every Spoon record – sounds like. One part jittery drum pattern, one part slithery bassline, one part Mercybeat, one part late 70’s Stones tight acoustic guitar, two parts undeniably infections guitar and/or piano melody, two parts Motown, one hundred thousand parts hipster vocal detachment. If you’re looking for the curveball, I’ve got news for you: it’s not coming. Spoon has a formula down, the formula works for Spoon, Spoon is sticking to that formula. End of story.

Thing is, the formula does work. There is not a bad Spoon record. Some (Gimme Fiction, Kill the Moonlight) are better than others but there’s not a clunker among them. With that in mind, Transference fits nicely in the Spoon catalog, neither an awe-striking effort or an abysmal disappointment. In short, it’s a Spoon record.

Perhaps somebody believes that Transference deserves a sprawling, eloquent analysis. Perhaps that review is out there. Elsewhere. For the purposes of this review, here is Transference, distilled: If you dig Spoon, you’ll dig Transference. If you don’t, this album will not change your mind. Being as Spoon is one of the most consistent bands on the planet, I remain firmly entrenched among those who dig.

Spoon’s Official Site, Spoon on myspace, Buy Transference

THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF 2009 (KASEY ANDERSON)

Every once in a while, you gotta take a break from arguing about the horn arrangements on the new Lucero record to crack a book. Here are ten I dug in 2009.

01. Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans (Dan Baum)
Baum traces the history of the most corrupt, and most culturally rich, city in the United States from Hurricane Betsy (1965) to Hurricane Katrina. The result is an engrossing journey to the heart of a city so enigmatic, it practically transcends lore. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

02. Inherent Vice (Thomas Pynchon)
An homage to The Big Lebowski (and, by proxy, an homage to The Big Sleep), Pynchon’s stoney pulp novel is a quick read, but one you’ll want to go back to a second time to catch everything you missed the first time through.

03. Cheever: A Life (Blake Bailey)
Bailey’s mammoth biography may be more intriguing than anything Cheever himself ever wrote, and Cheever was pretty damn good.

04. Sag Harbor (Colson Whitehead)
Whitehead’s coming-of-age tale examines racism, classism, and a whole shitload of other -ism’s without getting bogged down in platitudes, rhetoric, or soapbox pontification.

05. A Bright and Guilty Place (Richard Rayner)
Another “biography of a city,” Rayner’s rumination on the seedy under and upper bellies of Los Angeles is as enthralling as it is informative. Sort of like reading a very long tabloid, if tabloids employed people who actually knew how to write.

06. The Book of Basketball (Bill Simmons)
I’ve not yet finished Simmons’ epic tome on the past, present, and future of the National Basketball Association, because it is approximately 13,000 pages long, but so far, it is the most enjoyable book I’ve ever read on the subject of the NBA, and I’m relatively sure I’ve read ’em all.

07. Changing My Mind (Zadie Smith)
Why is it that I feel like every book Zadie Smith writes is the best book Zadie Smith has ever written? She just keeps getting better, as proven by this collection of essays.

08. Pops: The Life of Louis Armstrong (Terry Teachout)
I’m a Louis Armstrong junkie, so this one comes with a caveat: If you’re looking for a biography full of reverence and admiration for Satchmo, Teachout’s biography is for you. If your interest in Louis Armstrong – and/or jazz in general – is cursory at best, you’ll likely be better off avoiding this one.

09. Zeitoun (Dave Eggers)
Eggers wrote two brilliant books in 2009. Wild Things, his companion piece to the Spike Jonze film adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s seminal children’s book, is as touching a portrait of a broken-home-in-repair as I’ve ever read. However, Zeitoun, the story of one man’s insistence on protecting his home from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina while an entire city fled, is a jarring, moving, and unforgettable story. History will judge the Bush Administration as a collection dishonest, blood-and-oil-thirsty warmongers, but their greatest failure may well have been the immense catastrophe that occurred in the days following Hurricane Katrina.

10. Lowboy (John Wray)
Will Heller, a paranoid schizophrenic, goes off his meds and retreats to New York City’s subway system, winding through is own (perhaps justified) paranoia and the structure that keeps his city moving and vibrant. If Wray keeps this up, he’ll a lot have more in common with Jonathan Lethem than place of residence.

KASEY ANDERSON'S 10 BEST ALBUMS OF 2009:


Here it is, the only Best Of 2009 list you’ll ever need. Except for AIV’s list. And romeosidvicious’. And the Bird List. Other than that, though, this is the only one worth reading.

01. Visqueen – Message to Garcia The best rock ‘n’ roll record I’ve heard in years is a love letter to lead singer Rachel Flotard’s deceased father. Not often you hear an epitaph that makes you want to pogo.

02. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone Hey, Neko Case made a great record. Shocking! Just because it has become routine doesn’t mean it’s any less an achievement.

03. Matthew Ryan – Dear Lover A beautiful collection of whispered words that often go unsaid between people.

04. Steve Earle – Townes The most moving eulogy Townes ever received came more than a decade after his passing. One of the best records of Earle’s career.

05. BLK JKS – After Robots Ever wondered what would happen if somebody laid vocals over Explosions in the Sky? Here’s your answer.

BLK JKS – “Lakeside” (from After Robots)

06. Tom Russel – Blood and Candle Smoke The best record of Russell’s career thus far is by turns touching, incendiary and smarmy. Russell makes it work.

07. Tom Waits – Glitter and Doom Live Further proof that if Waits is playing within a 500 mile radius of your town, you need to be there.

08. Blakroc – Blakroc Say whatever you like about this record, please just don’t call it Rap-Rock. This is Hip-Hop at it’s “most purest, most rawest,” to borrow a phrase from Eminem.

Blakroc – “Stay Off the Fuckin’ Flowers (featuring Raekwon)” (from Blakroc)

09. Dan Auerbach – Keep It Hid The Black Keys are many things, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard their songs described as achingly beautiful. Auerbach’s solo record is exactly that.

Dan Auerbach – “When the Night Comes” (from Keep It Hid)

10. Mos Def – The Ecstatic A welcome return to form for Hip-Hop’s most gifted MC. Now please, don’t make another movie with Bruce Willis, okay? Thanks.

KASEY ANDERSON'S OPINION: THE 10 BEST SONGS OF 2009 (AND FIVE BEST OF 2010)

Steve and Townes

As Charles Durning’s character Henry Larson says in Home for the Holidays (perhaps the greatest holiday film of all time), “Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks.”

After sifting through a shitload of opinions (pun totally intended!) and lists over the last month or so, I’ve come to believe that truer words were never spoken. So, with that in mind, here are ten songs I loved in 2009 and five I think you’ll love in 2010.

01. Kings of Leon – “Use Somebody” (from Only By the Night)
JUST KIDDING! Oh man. You should have seen the look on your face!

Okay, seriously now.

THE TOP 10 SONGS OF 2009
01. Steve Earle – “Lungs” (from Townes)
It seems you either love or hate Tom Morello’s inclusion on this track from Earle’s stunning tribute to Townes Van Zandt. Given the position of the song and nature of the list, it should be pretty clear where I fall. Morello’s guitar does the screaming that no vocalist’s inflection could match and, as Townes himself mused once that the song ought better be screamed than sung, that seems pretty appropriate to me.

Steve Earle – Lungs

02. Matthew Ryan – “The World Is…” (from Dear Lover)
It is difficult choosing one stand-out track from Matthew Ryan’s beautiful album Dear Lover (which hit digital storefronts this year but won’t be on actual shelves until February 16, 2010), but “The World Is…” is a gracefully falling prayer; a summation of everything that makes Dear Lover such a gorgeous, haunting record.

03. Mos Def – “Quiet Dog” (from The Ecstatic)
The syncopated, vibrant single from Mos Def’s impressive new record marked the welcomed return of an artist whose artistic credibility, while never in jeopardy, had certainly taken a few hits thanks to three years’ worth of questionable film roles and one clearly phoned-in record. Please let that be the last creative hiatus, Mos. We need you.

04. Bob Dylan – “It’s All Good” (from Together Through Life)
Would have been the most wickedly funny thing Dylan did in 2009 but then he went and made that mindbending “Must Be Santa” video, which is sure to haunt my dreams for years to come. Thanks again, Bob.

05. Neko Case – “I’m An Animal” (from Middle Cyclone)
Everyone fawned over “People Got a Lotta Nerve” and rightfully so, but “I’m An Animal” is far and away my favorite track from the phenomenal Middle Cyclone.

Neko Case – I’m An Animal

06. The Low Anthem – “To Ohio (Reprise)” (from Oh My God, Charlie Darwin)
I’ve heard this song arranged five different ways, and each time though, “this is the one.” I guess when a song is this good, the arrangement is secondary.

07. Visqueen – “Beautiful Amnesia” (from Message to Garcia)
Rachel Flotard penned an entire album’s worth of anthems, but if I had to choose one song to represent the brilliant Message to Garcia (and, as luck would have it, I did), “Beautiful Amnesia” would be that song. I’m a sucker for a melody.

08. Son Volt – “Cocaine and Ashes” (from American Central Dust)
Anyone still wanna have the “Farrar’s writing has gotten lazy, he’s stretched himself too thin with asinine solo albums and side projects, he’ll never write anything as good as ‘Windfall’ again” conversation? I thought not.

09. The Swell Season – “Low Rising” (from Strict Joy)
It sounds a shitload like vintage Van Morrison but, y’know what? I fucking love vintage Van Morrison.

10. Will Hoge – “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” (from The Wreckage)
Also from the “sounds a shitload like” file (Tom Petty), but when a song is this good, you’ll get no complaint from me. There’s a reason Petty has written roughly 7,000 hits, and it’s this real simple formula: great verse melody, mammoth chorus, tasteful guitar and keys. Guess which Hoge employs for this anthemic mini-masterpiece? (Hint: All of ’em.)

Will Hoge – Even If It Breaks Your Heart

FIVE YOU’LL LOVE IN 2010
01. Kasey Anderson – “I Was A Photograph” (from Nowhere Nights, available February 16, 2010)
Yes, it’s my song and yes, I listed it first. I’m going to keep doing so until everyone I know, and everyone they know, knows about James Blake Miller.

Listen/Download

02. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – “Even Heroes Have to Die” (from The Brutalist Bricks, available March 9, 2010)
Some jagbag referred to this song as “a John Melencamp jackoff party with the Cars.” I don’t hear it. What I do hear is Leo doing what he does best, blending influences from all over the map into one streamlined, sonic knockout punch. No need for hyperbole or euphemism, Ted Leo is really fucking good.

Listen/Download

03. Spoon – “Written in Reverse” (from Transference, available January 19, 2010)
Sounds like a new Spoon single, alright. Which, for me, is always a good thing.
Stream/Purchase

04. Chip Robinson – “Mylow” (from Mylow, available Spring 2010)
I don’t often speak in absolutes but if you don’t love this song, there’s something seriously wrong with you.

Listen/Download

05. Joe Pug – “Not So Sure” (from Messenger, available Spring 2010)
If Joe Pug’s Nation of Heat EP didn’t knock you out, 1) what the hell is the matter with you? 2) his full-length debut, Messenger, will.

Listen/Download