Monday, December 28, 2009

2009: The round up.

#14. Akron/Family - Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free
(Dead Oceans, 2009)

These guys really let their "freak-flag fly". Think the original Funkadelic morphed with Grateful Dead's more psychedelic stuff and you kind of get the idea of where this is going. Album opener "Everyone is Guilty" is one of the best opener this year with it's funky rhythm patterns and afrobeat guitars. In my opinion Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free is the first Akron/Family album that really works as a whole. Some of the earlier albums have had tracks that were simply genius but the albums still were a little too experimental. This time the songs are stronger all around and the experimentation are maybe a little more toned down, which makes it an easier album to get into for the listener - and just better.

Highlights for me are "River" and "Gravelly Mountains on the Moon". The latter probably is a little homage to Grateful Dead's "Mountains on the Moon". The gravelly part you will understand when you listen. Freaky stuff indeed.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009: The round up.

#15. Devendra Banhart - What Will We Be
(Warner Bros., 2009)

What Will We Be may not have the same peaks as previous albums by the original freakfolker Devendra Banhart, but it is his most straightforward and best flowing album to date. He isn't following his every whim and thought here. It seems like he has carefully organized the album to have a great flow from start to finnish.

Recorded in a smalltown in Northern California (a coastal town which likes it's privacy) the album has a laid back feeling. A feeling I would love to have 24/7 - 365. You rent a house with your friends, sleep in, get up and record some music. Sounds great doesn't it? Devendra's friends on this album are mostly the same as on the last album. The core band is Noah Georgeson, Greg Rogove, Luckey Remington and Rodrigo Amarante. With guest appearances by Vetiver's Andy Cabic. As all of Banhart's albums it has a retrofeel to it, the production is rooted in the early seventies musicscene.

Standout songs are the playful "Baby" and the heavy "Rats" as well as the hauntingly beautiful "Goin' Back". Maybe not as good as the last album, but more focused this time around.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

2009: The round up.

#16. J. Tillman - Vascilando Territory Blues
(Bella Union, 2009)

J. Tillman was a productive fellow in 2009. This his first of two records this year was released in early January and thus became my first favourite album of 2009. A sparse, dark but still kinda uplifting folk album which seems perfect for the dark Norwegian winters. Tillman was a name I first picked up on after he became the drummer for Fleet Foxes. Before that he somehow had passed under my radar, but fear not he is and will remain on my radar from now on.

This album, mostly solo acoustic with a few exeptions where he gets a band going and rocking out in a Crazy Horse kind of way. The Crazy Horse comparison may come from the overall Neil Young feeling I get from Tillman. He somehow evokes some of the same feelings in me that good ol' Neil does.

Tillman's other release this year, Year in the Kingdom, gives us more of the same, but still that album didn't hit me in the same way. So for me this one was the best of his releases this year.

2009: The round up.

#17. Jens Carelius - The Beat of the Travel
(Viking Records, 2009)

Jens Carelius is the first Norwegian on my list, one of few I might mention. This is Carelius sophomore record and with this release he has the world at his feet. The music is heavily rooted in the british and american folk-rock scenes in the late sixties and early seventies. Where Carelius debut was a real solo record this one has a full band and a fuller sound because of it. There are elements of both country and blues in the arrangements. This young Norwegian deserves his place in the ranks among other new folk-rockers like Vetiver, Devendra Banhart and Espers.

The Beat of the Travel is an album that will grow on you with each listen and you will end up loving it. Sometimes looking back can be the best way to move forward.

Jens Carelius - The Talent

2009: The round up.

#18. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains
(Sister's Den/Memphis Industries, 2009)

A band that I had heard good things about and read some raving reviews of, so when I came over this album when I was in London I just knew I had to pick it up. Even though I hadn't heard a single note of their music I took a chance on them. That was a deciscion that I am very pleased with now. Why There Are Mountains is one of these albums that sounds great the first time through and even better the next time. Natural comparisons to nineties indie bands like Pavement, Built to Spill, Modest Mouse and the Wrens makes sense, but Cymbals Eat Guitars has their own thing going. They are in no way copyists, they only wear some of their inspirations on their sleeves.

One of 2009's best debuts come from Cymbals Eat Guitars, be sure to check them out.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

From all of me to all of you

The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl - Fairytale of New York
from the album If I Should Fall from Grace with God (Island, 1988)

A little Christmas card from Heartworn Highways to all of you. This probably is my favourite Christmas-classic. There are loads of other ones I also love, but I never think I'll ever grow tired of this tune. So get your Christmas on with Shane MacGowan, Kirsty MacColl, Spider Stacey and the rest of them.

Have a very merry Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

2009: The round up.

#19. Ben Kweller - Changing Horses
(Shock, 2009)

I had never really listened to Ben Kweller until this album came along early this year. This is Kweller's first real foray into the world of country music. Kweller, being a southerner always had a bit of twang in his music but here he tackles the genre head on. What you get are great songs and good storytelling. Kweller is with this album moving from being a great power-pop songwriter to becoming somewhat a heir to Ryan Adams' "americana/" crown. Coming from me that is a compliment.

Thanks to this album Ben Kweller suddenly became one of my favourite artists. Favourite tunes on the album are for me "Fights", "Things I Like To Do", "Sawdust Man" and "Homeward Bound".

2009: The round up.

#20. White Denim - Fits
(Full Time Hobby, 2009)

White Denim is a band that you've got to hear. Not only because they are great, but there are simply no way that words can describe how they sound. These three young Texans can go through garage rock, psychedelia, free jazz and soul in a single song. That really don't look any good on paper, but hey, they are one of the only bands this last year that have made me really want to be a musician. Everything they do sounds fun and playful.

A truly great band that wouldn't have been out of place alongside fellow Texan Roky Ericksson's 13th Floor Elevators or at any "acid test" in San Francisco back in the sixties.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Bird List 2009

The Bird List 2009: a bird's eye view of the of the combined top 20 lists of what we like to call a “loose confederation of like minded bloggers”. This represents the best albums of the year (in order) as voted on by 30 of the web’s leading aficionados of twanglike music. I’ll be posting up my very own 2009 Round Up later in the week, as some of my very favorite records didn’t make it on to this compiled list. Stay tuned for that! And now, presenting the Bird List 2009:

1. Justin Townes Earle - Midnight at the Movies
2. Lucero - 1372 Overton Park
3. Ryan Bingham and The Dead Horses - Roadhouse Sun
4. Buddy and Julie Miller - Written in Chalk
5. Dave Rawlings Machine - A Friend of a Friend
6. Slaid Cleaves - Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away
7. Todd Snider - The Excitement Plan
8. Avett Brothers - I and Love and You
9. Band of Heathens - One Foot In the Ether
10. Tom Russell - Blood and Candlesmoke
11. Jason Isbell and 400 Unit - Self Titled
12. Corb Lund - Losin’ Lately Gambler
13. Charlie Robison - Beautiful Day
14. Drive-By Truckers - The Fine Print
15. Steve Earle - Townes
16. Deer Tick - Born on Flag Day
17. Wrinkle Neck Mules - Let The Lead Fly
18. Magnolia Electric Co. - Josephine
19. Guy Clark – Somedays The Song Writes You
20. Those Darlins - Self Titled
20. Miranda Lambert - Revolution

Contributing blogs and bloggers:

A Fifty Cent Lighter, A Truer Sound, Alt-512, Amber Waves of Twang, Americana Rock Mix, Americana Roots, Beat Surrender, Because Whit Happens, Country California, Country Music Pride, Farce The Music, For The Sake of The Song, Front Porch Musings,
Heartworn Highways, High Noon Saloon, It’s Great To Be Alive, Kim Ruehl (No Depression), Juli Thanki, (The 9513), Romeo Sid Vicious, More Cowbelle, My Aimz Is True, Ninebullets, Sounds Country, The Gobbler’s Knob, There’s Always Someone Cooler Than You, This Mornin’ I Am Born Again, Twang Nation, Twangville, Freight Train Boogie

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Busy times..

Donovan - Barabajagal (Love is Hot)
from the album Barabajagal (Epic, 1969)

December is a busy month for me. I work in a record store and the Christmas time is busy busy busy. Still I promise that there will be some end of the year lists here for you the next couple of weeks. So be sure to check in. For now, enjoy the song of the day. The fantastic Donovan with the equally fantastic Jeff Beck Group as a backing band. This version of the Jeff Beck Group later morphed with the Small Faces and they became the Faces. Did I mention that the song is fantastic..