Archive for the Andrew Bird Category

Weekend YouTube: Best of 2009

Posted in Andrew Bird, Band of Heathens, Bombadil, Scott Miller, Shane Nicholson on December 11, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

It’s that time of year again… time to make my year end “Best of” list.  I should start rolling out my Top 20 list sometime over the coming week.

Until then, you can go back and read up on my favorite releases of 2009, and relive some of that music with the following YouTube clips…

#1 – Noble Beasts by Andrew Bird

#2 – One Foot in the Ether by Band of Heathens

#3 – Tarpits & Canyonlands by Bombadil

#4 – For Crying Out Loud by Scott Miller

#5 – Familiar Ghosts by Shane Nicholson

Top 20 of 2009: 3-1

Posted in Andrew Bird, Band of Heathens, Bombadil, Top 20 of 2009 on January 9, 2010 by AmericanaPulse
#3 – Tarpits and Canyonlands by Bombadil

The album coming in at number three on the list is one of the most stylistically diverse albums I heard this year… and one of the most fun. The members of Bombadil claim that the core of their sound has its roots in Bolivian folk music. Having never heard any Bolivian folk music before, I’ll have to take their word on this one. It is clear, though, that band culls their influences from a myriad of different sources. When it’s all mixed together, their sound is a whimsical stew that pulls from several ingredients without letting any one flavor overpower the rest.

Whimsical may be the best word to describe this record… but that’s not to suggest that it is in any way childish or immature. It’s quite the opposite. When I first reviewed the album in June, I made mention of how the ebullient music often concealed darker subject matter. The album hooked me immediately with… well… a ton of hooks and a sense of wonder that just isn’t found on many records anymore. This song, “Honeymoon” is one of those tunes that catches you off guard with a catchy beat and lays you flat with lyrics that deal with life once the Honeymoon is over.

Bombadil: Honeymoon (Buy Album)

#2 – One Foot in the Ether by The Band of Heathens

The Band of Heathens are a collective of songwriters from Texas who originally started playing together as part of a songwriter’s night at Momo’s in Austin. Ed Jurdi, Colin Brooks, and Gordy Quist each started out doing solo sets… then occasionally sitting in on each other’s sets… then adding a rhythm section and playing as songwriters in the round. A local music reporter made reference to a group of “heathens” that had started playing regular sets together and a legend was born. The guys have now released two albums as The Band of Heathens, and both can be considered essential listening for fans of intelligent, roots flavored Americana songwriting.

What makes The Band of Heathens so special is the three pronged songwriting force that almost assures the well of tunes will never run dry. The three guys share songwriting credits on this album so it’s difficult to tell exactly who is responsible for what, but it is easy to see a healthy range of styles and sounds on this record. Despite the variety, there is a strong gospel feel to most of this set including the call-and-response of “Shine a Light” and the distorted rodeo gospel of “Golden Calf.” The bottom line is that this album is full of top-notch Texas songwriting and is one of the finest releases of the year.

Band of Heathens: Shine a Light (Buy Album)

#1 – Noble Beast by Andrew Bird

No matter how much I may love his music, I always find it difficult to write about Andrew Bird. His songs just seem infinitely complex and layered, and they don’t really sound much like anything else that I listen to. After watching Andrew play a set at the Bijou Theatre in October (my wife’s anniversary present to me) I became even more convinced of the complexity of his sound. Andrew played guitar and violin. He also sang and whistled and used any number of foot pedals to record and playback loops of various instruments, whistles, and vocal lines.

All of Andrew’s various skills come into play on this album as well. Andrew is a classically trained violinist and quite the impressive whistler. I know it’s an odd combination, but the two play so well together that it’s very easy to forget how strange what you’re listening to actually is. This album is incredibly melodic and infectious, and Andrew’s whistling just seems to burrow into your head and take root. I often find myself whistling one of the melodies from this album when I’m washing the dishes or walking the dog. These songs have imprinted themselves on my brain… and that is why Noble Beast by Andrew Bird is my #1 album of 2009.

Just try to resist the urge to whistle along with this one…

Andrew Bird: Fitz and Dizzyspells (Buy Album)

Andrew Bird: Live at the Bijou Theatre

Posted in Andrew Bird on October 13, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Going to see Andrew Bird tonight… I’m pretty excited.

Hear Andrew Bird’s New Album Early

Posted in Andrew Bird on January 5, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Everyone’s favorite whistling, fiddle playing, jazz and swing influenced, indie-popster will release his new album January 20th. You don’t have to wait that long to hear it though. This week, NPR’s All Songs Considered is streaming Andrew Bird’s latest on their website.

After a brief first listen, it sounds a little softer than Armchair Apocrypha, while still containing Bird’s signature melodic flair. My early choice for favorite track is one called “Anonanimal.”

You can pre-order the album (nature cover) here… or pre-order the deluxe edition (bug cover) with an extra CD of instrumentals performed by Bird, Wilco drummer Glen Kotche, and jazz bassist Todd Sickafoose here.

Friday Top 5: Blog Finds

Posted in Andrew Bird, Let's Active, Matt Pond PA, Okkervil River, The National, The Weepies, Top 5 on October 31, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

There’s been a lot of talk around the blogosphere lately about the rash of takedown notices that were issued to several mp3 blogs last week. It seems as though certain labels have targeted blogs, and hosting sites such as Blogger have been removing entire posts without the knowledge or consent of their authors. At least one of my favorite blogs has called it quits over this… and others seem ready to follow suit.

Paul at Setting the Woods on Fire said it best when he said he always assumed he was doing the music industry a small favor by serving as an avenue of exposure for music and artists that might not otherwise have that exposure. I agree with that logic. I know that I have purchased music from artists that I would not have known simply because I found their music on one of the many blogs that I now enjoy. I also have anecdotal evidence to support the fact that people are going out and buying music that I feature here on A Fifty Cent Lighter and a Whiskey Buzz. The pie chart posted above (I have no idea where it came from or how statistically significant or valid it is) would seem to support the argument that responsible mp3 music blogging can be beneficial to the music industry and its artists. Some labels, obviously, don’t see things that way.

This week for the Friday Top 5, I thought it would be nice to take a look at five bands/artists that I have discovered through music blogs over the past year. These are all acts that I heard for the very first time after reading about them on-line and downloading a track or two from the blog where they were featured. I have since supported all of these artists by buying, either through itunes or at an actual music store, one or more of their records. I don’t think I would have bought any of their music had I not sampled it first through the efforts of my fellow bloggers.

Before I begin the Top 5, however, I feel the need to mention once again the band, The National.

I did not discover The National through music blogs. Rather, I discovered music blogs through The National. When Paste Magazine named The National’s Boxer as their top album of 2007, I had never heard their music before. My wife and I decided to do a quick google search to see what we could find. We found the blogs, and we found a whole new world of music.

The National: Slow Show (Buy Album)

Now… on to the Top 5. The time of year that I discovered mp3 blogs was the time of year when a lot of people were posting their “Best of” lists for 2007. Consequently, most of these acts are artists who appeared on multiple 2007 lists. For all of these artists, I will post one of the first tracks that I found online and one track that I purchased after the fact.

We’ll start with Andrew Bird. Andrew’s Armchair Apocrypha was seemingly on everyone’s list for 2007, and I was eventually tempted to test him out. As I mentioned last week, Apocrypha is a nuanced album that reveals something new on every listen. A dip into Bird’s back catalogue uncovers an artist who isn’t afraid to draw from a myriad of influences such as swing, jazz, folk, pop, and even ragtime. He is a former member of The Squirrel Nut Zippers and also teaches classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. Here’s one track from Armchair Apocrypha and one from 2001’s The Swimming Hour.

Andrew Bird: Imitosis (Buy Album)
Andrew Bird: Core and Rind (Buy Album)

Next are Austin, TX based alt-rockers Okkervil River. Led by songwriter Will Sheff, Okkervil River is another group that just kept showing up on year end list after list with their sprawling 2007 effort The Stage Names. Unlike the “fake masterpiece” referenced in the first song I’m offering here, The Stage Names quickly became one of my favorites as well. It was a no brainer when the band released their follow up/companion album, The Stand Ins, in September of 2008… I had to have it.

Okkervil River: Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe (Buy Album)
Okkervil River: Pop Lie (Buy Album)

From there, we move on to Philadelphia’s Matt Pond PA, a band with a sound that infuses a healthy dose of pop into its indie-rock base. I was introduced to Matt Pond PA through the 2007 release Last Light and was instantly drawn to the buoyant sound and bouncy melodies on tunes like “Giving it All Away.” I later picked up a used copy of the 2005 effort, Several Arrows Later and found more of the same. From that album I’m offering an appropriate song for today… one called “Halloween.”

Matt Pond PA: Giving it All Away (Buy Album)
Matt Pond PA: Halloween (Buy Album)

On the more sensitive side of the spectrum is a husband and wife songwriting pair called The Weepies. I didn’t know it when I first found a few songs from their 2008 album Hideaway, but I had actually heard The Weepies before. It seems their music had been featured in television adds for The Gap and JC Penny as well as one of my favorite TV shows, How I Met Your Mother. The Weepies aren’t anything fancy, but I find myself comforted by their catchy folk-pop arrangements.

The Weepies: Hideaway (Buy Album)
The Weepies: Gotta Have You (Buy Album)

Finally, the only band on this list that is no longer active… jangle popsters Let’s Active. This is a band I’ve been aware of for some time due to lead singer Mitch Easter’s work with R.E.M. as the producer of some of their early albums. I had just never heard them before. Thank God for Setting the Woods on Fire‘s series on jangly music from the 80’s. I’m still searching for a copy of the 1983 EP Afoot that contains “Every Word Means No,” but I have found two of Let’s Active’s other albums. They’re both full of jangly goodness.

Let’s Active: Every Word Means No (Buy Album)
Let’s Active: Every Dog Has Its Day (Buy Album)

Again… this is just a small list of artists I’ve discovered through this wonderful community of music bloggers that I’ve recently become a part of. On the right hand side of this page you’ll find a blogroll with a list of other blogs that I enjoy reading. Each blog on that list has exposed me to something new or helped me learn something new about an artist I already enjoyed. Please take the time to check some of them out.

Bloggers are music lovers who simply want others to enjoy and experience the songs and artists they love. We aren’t out to wreck the system or destroy the artists we love. We just want to spread the word and spread the music. As always… If you like what you hear, please find some way to support the artists you’re finding on these blogs.

To help me support my earlier theory about people actually buying music they find out about from mp3 blogs, please leave a list of some of your favorite “blog finds” in the comments section. If you’ve purchased any albums you found out about on this site… that’s even better.

Friday Top 5: Top Five Most Listened to Songs on My I-Tunes

Posted in Andrew Bird, Josh Ritter, Rilo Kiley, The National, Tift Merritt, Top 5 on October 24, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

You’ve seen the commercials on TV where the straight-laced nerdy guy argues with the hip young guy about the merits of PC’s versus Macs? Well… for the record, I’m the straight-laced nerdy guy. I’m a PC. I’ve always had issues with Macs and Mac related programs.

I think that’s why I resisted I-tunes for so long. I had always used Windows Media Player to play any music I had on my PC, and it had always worked out fine. I didn’t feel the need to switch to anything else… no matter how much “easier” or “better” it was. I didn’t have that much music on my computer anyway.

About a year ago, something changed. I finally got my first I-pod and began the process of transferring my entire music library to my hard drive. Of course, the use of an I-pod necessitates the use of I-tunes. I was reluctant to use it at first, but now I can’t live without it. I have roughly 13,000 songs at my fingertips now anywhere I go. I can listen to them all randomly, make playlists, and do just about a billion other things with just one simple program. I’m converted.

One of my favorite features of I-tunes is the “play count” feature. It keeps track of everything you listen to on your I-pod and on I-tunes and counts how many times each song has been played all the way through. Since I first started adding songs to I-tunes roughly a year ago, I thought it would be fun to take a look at my play count numbers to see what I have listened to the most over this past year.

Here then, are the five songs that have been played the most over the past year on my I-tunes, my I-pod, and my wife’s I-pod. That means that most of these songs are ones that my wife and I both enjoy, and her extra listens have put them over the top. Most of these songs also appear on albums that got a lot of play around these parts in the last year. A few of these artists have more than one song in the Top 10. Anyway… here we go…

#1.) “Broken” by Tift Merritt
This one leads the count by a large margin. My wife and I both love Tift’s new album Another Country, and we saw her perform live three time in the last twelve months or so. This track was also nominated for Song of the Year at the Americana Music Awards, and I listened to it a lot when I was working on that post… and when I was working on my Tift Merritt profile post. There isn’t really a whole lot else I can say about this one that I didn’t say in those two previous posts. If you haven’t discovered Tift Merritt by now… I don’t know what else I can do.

Tift Merritt: Broken (Buy Album)

#2) “Squalor Victoria” by The National
This is another song that I’ve hosted here before from the band that really opened my eyes to the world of mp3 blogging (more on that next week). This is a track from the band’s 2007 album Boxer that highlights my favorite aspect of The National’s sound… the work of drummer Bryan Devendorf. Devendorf propels the song along with a complex beat that reminds me of a military march sped up to ten times its normal speed. Matt Berninger’s vocals are icing on the cake. Three songs from Boxer were in the Top 10… one of my favorite discoveries of the past year.

The National: Squalor Victoria (Buy Album)

#3) “Plasticities” by Andrew Bird
I can say without fear of hyperbole that Andrew Bird is my favorite whistling violinist working in the world of indie-pop today. His Armchair Apocrypha album is another that I seem to return to time and time again with each listen revealing a new layer of sound. The gentle pluckings of strings and lightly struck chimes in the verses give way to an anthemic chorus filled with brushed drums and fuzzy guitars. This is the one song that made the list almost solely through my listens. I put this on almost every playlist and mix CD I made over the past year. I wanted everyone I knew to hear this song.

Andrew Bird: Plasticities (Buy Album)

#4) “Kathleen” by Josh Ritter
All of the songs on this list were originally released in 2007 or 2008… except for this one. It comes from Josh Ritter’s 2003 release Hello Starling and contains what may be the greatest opening lyric ever commited to tape. When Josh sings “All the other girls here are stars/You are the Northern Lights,” he immediately sets the tone for the song and makes my wife upset that I’ve never said anything that poetic to her. I went on a huge Josh Ritter kick following the release of his 2007 album The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (my favorite album of ’07), and I’m a little surprised that track got more listens than a few of the songs on Conquests.

Josh Ritter: Kathleen (Buy Album)

#5) “The Moneymaker” by Rilo Kiley
I mentioned this song briefly in last week’s Top 5 and provided a link to the video. This song is simply a boozy swagger through the world of adult entertainment. Blake Sennett’s guitar sets the mood for the song perfectly and provides the perfect playground for Jenny Lewis’ sex-soaked vocals.

Rilo Kiley: The Moneymaker (Buy Album)

So there you go… the five songs I’ve heard the most over the past year. On January first, I think I’ll reset the play counter and keep track of this all again next year.