2013 releases Best of...

Burgo’s Top Albums of 2013

2014 was probably the “smoothest” year I can remember in music for quite some time. By that, I mean it was the year where polished pop music finally became cool again, and was totally embraced by the indie kids. That’s definitely reflected in my choices below; it’s by far the most “pop-driven” list of any of my end of year recaps, in all the years I’ve been blogging. And I think that’s actually a really, really cool thing.

Below are in no particular order, because I’m a rebel like that.

Bastille – Bad Blood


Just a great, great album. There’s something here for everyone, and – although that sometimes can water down an album in other cases – in this case, Bad Blood is only stronger for it. From start to finish, Dan Smith speaks both for and to you, in completely predictable ways – but damned if that doesn’t just make me enjoy this more. Sometimes predictability isn’t a bad thing… it’s predictable because it feels right, natural. As a result, there’s a comfort and familiarity listening to these tunes, like it’s your favourite band from years ago; all this despite the fact that it’s Bastille’s debut album (EPs and previous singles aside).

Synth-laden and electronic pop that will appeal to fans of Mumford and the likes. Give it a spin.

Standout track: In an album of stand-out singles? Tough, but I’d have to go with album opener, “Pompeii”.

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City


So, I’ve had a thing about VW in the past. I caught myself humming along to their tunes, but in a lot of ways, I just couldn’t get into them as much as others did. Don’t get me wrong, I knew they were great at crafting catchy hooks, but whenever I tried to listen to a full album of theirs, something just seemed… off. There was a lot of hype and glossy style there, but they just couldn’t sustain me all the way through.

With “Modern Vampires of the City”, however, that all changed. In an interview with the New York Times, Ezra Koenig said, “In the past, I think a lot of our songs have had detours… I feel like every song on this album has a purpose”, and when I read that, I finally knew what was different. Ezra was spot on in his own awareness of their music; it’s the most complete album of theirs yet, and one that I can totally get in to. I don’t think it’s their most mature album – people have been using that label like they’ve been immature before – but I do think it’s their most focussed album.

Standout track: Unbelievers

Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe


Wow. Wow wow wow. Ok, seriously, find me a stronger album opening in 2013 than the trio of tunes that open, “The Bones of What You Believe”. Honestly, I’m hard pressed to think of a stronger opening act at all, come to think about it. “The Mother We Share”, already hyped in my own mind as one of the year’s best songs prior to the album’s release, was then followed by the even catchier “We Sink”, with “Gun” rounding out the hat-trick.

Overall, just a super-strong album, with only “You Caught the Light” seeming the odd tune out in terms of enjoyment. But, that aside, probably my favourite album of the year – and, again, it’s synth-driven electro-pop. I’m a singer-songwriter/folk/americana stalwart… what the heck happened in 2013??!

Standout track: We Sink

The National – Trouble Will Find Me


So, we should probably get this out of the way: if you weren’t a The National fan before this album, I’m not sure this will be the one to turn you around. Like most albums from the band, it’s not an immediate winner. At first listen, you’ll probably be hard pressed to remember a “single”. But after multiple spins, you’ll find you just keep coming back to it, again and again… likely with a wistful sense of nostalgic desperation. Let’s be clear, it’s no Alligator, nor Boxer — but if you’ve grown with these guys from the beginning, it’s exactly where the album needed to be.

Self-aware to the extreme, it’s a slow burner that will bury itself deep inside your mind. The frantic sounds of Alligator aren’t here, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll be disappointed. But there’s something a whole lot more menacing, if weary, here.

Standout track: Graceless

Haim – Days Are Gone


You know, it was kind of inevitable that there would be the backlash against Haim. Danielle and Este Haim were a tween-pop outfit. “Valli Girls”, put together by Richard Marx (yes, that Richard Marx), prior to striking out on their own with younger sister, Alana. So, already, they’re tarnished with the “manufactured” label. And the production values on “Days Are Gone” don’t help their case; it’s so slick, so damn polished, that you’d immediately think that means it eliminates any personality, any soul from the release.

But somehow, Haim pull it off. Perhaps it’s because they’re just so insanely, insanely talented. “Days Are Gone” is an amazing debut for the sisters, and one that really isn’t worthy of the current hipster backlash on the LA trio. Because when you get down to it and throw all those preconceptions away, this is just a band making ridiculously tight music. So do your part and enjoy it.

Standout track: The Wire

Vance Joy – God Loves You When You’re Dancing


Vance Joy, aka James Keogh, put out one of the Australian releases of the year, with his “God Loves You When You’re Dancing” EP. At 5 songs and around 24 minutes long, it all-too-fleeting, but for that short period of time you absolutely lose yourself in blissful, layered texturing, and heartbreaking tunes.

You would have been hard-pressed to get away from lead single, “Riptide” this year, but trust me – Vance Joy is no one-hit-wonder. All 5 songs on this EP are captivating, particularly album closer, “From Afar”

Standout track: From Afar

Phosphorescent – Muchacho


Matthew Houck’s latest is one of my favourites from him – as always, the voice is faltering, and seemingly fragile; but Houck just lays it all out there with such raw honesty, those cracks and breaks make it seem all the more real.

There are some serious echoes of “Cold Roses”-era Cardinals in some of the tunes here, which is probably why I like it so much.

Standout track: The Quotidian Beasts

Griffin House – Balls


Griffin House had an incredible 2007, when the popular “Flying Upside Down” came out. Critics raved about his warm, comfortable tunes, and great things were expected. Then “Learner” followed that in 2010, and reviews were… disappointing, to say the least. So I was absolutely stoked to hear Griffin House’s return with the simply-titled “Balls” this year.

Balls sounds like House at his most comfortable in years. And I love having him back.

Standout track: Go Through It

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories


Maybe not the album that EDM were hoping would come from Daft Punk, but definitely the album that EDM needed. It’s no surprise that DP went so purposefully away from the EDM riffs that they so strongly influenced on this record, and leaned heavily into the disco and funk from the 70s and 80s. You can’t help but think Daft Punk look at what has been wrought over the last few years with a bit of sadness. Which is why they came out with something so much damn fun.

Like their album opener says, “Give Life Back to Music”. Random Access Memories certainly does.

Standout track: Lose Yourself to Dance

Josh Ritter – The Beast in its Tracks


Ok, so I’m going to be brutally honest here – this is no “The Animal Years”. It’s possible that this won’t make many people’s “Best of 2013” lists, unless they’re massive fans of Josh Ritter and have this weird music-crush on the dude.

I’m one of those people.

This album, his “breakup album”, following his divorce in 2011, is at times wistful, sometimes spiteful, and fleetingly hopeful. I still believe that Ritter is one of the best lyricists of our time, and that’s on painful display in this album. His confronting honesty, combined with his masterful turn of phrase, turns some of these songs into cutting rapiers.

Standout track: A Certain Light

Volcano Choir – Repave


Unexpectedly great release from Justin Vernon’s “second-tier” project. I say unexpected, not because I doubt Justin Vernon, nor Collection of Colony of Bees chops; just because 2009’s Unmap was, well… underwhelming. But with this follow up album, Volcano Choir looks set to become the Tier 1 piece in Justin Vernon’s quill. In fact, there’s a joy here that seems to have been lost in the confines of Bon Iver’s mythical status.

Freedom and lack of expectations sounds good on Volcano Choir.

Standout track: Byegone


Note - Part of this post was contributed to the always awesome "Masey's Top Albums of the Year" roundup - I'd encourage you to head on over there to check out some picks from other contributors!



Josh Ritter & Simone Felice, live at The Old Museum in Brisbane, 5 July 2012

(side note: I have a few live recordings of the night. They’re not good quality, with a fair bit of snap, crackle and pop hissing included… but I’ll pepper this post with a few of the tracks, for those who were there and would like to relive the night)

There are some gigs that you’ll always remember for being magical. This was one of those.

Last night I headed out to one of my favourite live music venues, the Old Museum in Brisbane, to catch Josh Ritter and Simone Felice performing live. Josh Ritter is, in my opinion, one of the songwriters of our generation, and the lyricist of our times. My admiration of the guy knows no bounds, so I would quite happily have shelled out the money to catch Josh alone… the fact that Simone Felice and band were performing too was just a happy coincidence, really.

Josh Ritter, live at the Old Museum, Brisbane

Josh Ritter is the type of guy that you would love to share a drink with. He’s clearly smarter than you, but has this easygoing smile that puts you at ease. And although he’s a joker between songs, when he’s singing the guy is so sincere it’s heartbreaking.

Listen: Josh Ritter – The Curse (live at the Old Museum, Brisbane)

I’ve long held the belief that Josh Ritter is the best songwriter of our generation. The guy’s interplay with intelligent, wry lyrics and emotion is simply faultless. And one of my “live gig dreams” came true last night, when he played “Monster Ballads”. It was all I could do to keep the lump in my throat down. You could have heard a pin fall amongst the crowd, holding their collective breath lest this feeling was frightened away.

Listen: Josh Ritter – Monster Ballads (live at the Old Museum, Brisbane)
Listen: Josh Ritter – Naked as a Window/Girl in the War (live at the old Museum, Brisbane)

One of the most endearing moments of the night came during one of Josh’s last songs, the ever-amusing “Galahad”. After the crowd laughed at the angel’s question to Galahad of why he wanted to go to heaven, Josh started laughing and struggled to get out the next verse because of the smile on his face. It was this real shared moment between artist and audience, and the sheer joy felt by both was something I’ll remember for quite some time.

Listen: Josh Ritter – Galahad (live at the Old Museum, Brisbane)

Simone Felice & Band 0 The Old Museum, Brisbane

You know, I think – like me – quite a few people last night had come along to hear Josh play, and largely discovered Simone Felice and band last night. And what a revelation it was. Despite being a fan of Felice Brothers, I hadn’t dived too deep into Simone’s self-titled solo album just yet, so wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

And you know, since last night I’ve been thinking of a way to describe what happened, but I can’t quite put words around it without it coming off as… well, a bit mythic. You see, last night Simone Felice and the band somehow managed to call Music down onto that stage. It was like there was this shimmering light, dancing all around them, laughing between the notes and twirling them around with joy.

That’s what happened. They brought Music into the world, and she danced with us all night.

And when they came out for an encore including “Atlantic City”? Hell, Levon himself sat in on that number. Because maybe everything that dies someday comes back.

music videos

Marionette Music Videos

Over the last few months, two “Marionette Music Videos” were released that really caught my eye. The first was Josh Ritter‘s “The Curse”, and the second, Chris Garneau‘s “Dirty Night Clowns”.

Josh Ritter – The Curse

Josh Ritter‘s drummer, Liam Hurley, is a skilled marionette puppeteer… so of course, when it came to telling the bizarre love story that is Josh Ritter’s, “The Curse”, who better to take on the task than a puppeteer?

“The Curse” tells the tale of the love between an archeologist and her mummy. Seriously. And it’s absolutely heart-breaking.

Long ago on the ship, she asked “Why pyramids?”
He said “Think of them as an immense invitation”
She asks “Are you cursed?” He says “I think that I’m cured”
Then he kissed her and hoped that she’d forget that question
– Josh Ritter, “The Curse”

Chris Garneau – Dirty Night Clowns

I’ve been a Chris Garneau fan ever since I saw his cover of Eliott Smith’s, “Between the Bars”. But this release of his might be my favourite yet. An absolutely terrifying video, “Dirty Night Clowns” will leave you feeling unsettled at the very least. On a lighter note, I absolutely love the use of the skeletons as percussion in this tune.

I will never be dirt-free
Up the stairs, come find me
Come sneak up behind me
I’ll be sleeping soundly

– Chris Garneau, “Dirty Night Clowns”

artists digital downloads guitar music

Another “Best Albums of the Decade” (2000 – 2009) List…

God. It’s already December the 15th as I write this (not sure when I will get to publish the post) [Ed’s note: only half a month later. Not bad. I’ll just use the excuse that I was waiting until 2009 was over, to give every possible chance to every album in the decade. Yeah, that’s it] and I haven’t even started on my “Best of the Decade” list.

I think part of the reason behind the procrastination is that, in a lot of ways, it’s simply too big. How do you boil a decade down to a single post? Which is why this isn’t the usual “Best Releases of the Noughties” post. Instead, this is just a post about some of my personal favourite albums of the decade, and which ones affected me as a person the most.

Anyway, no more qualifications or justifications, I just wanted to make that clear. Now that that’s out the way, let’s dive in, shall we?

(Side note: you might notice that the below list has 56 albums, instead of the traditional 50. “Why is that?”, you might ask? Well, to be honest, I’m not sure how that happened. Somewhere in drafting this post, I obviously skipped some numbers, and it was only when I got down to the last few I noticed I was heading to negative figures. As I say… no idea how it happened, but there you have it).

cat power free56. Cat Power – You Are Free (2003)
I both love and hate this album. I love it because it honestly is a thing of beauty. But I hate it because nothing Chan Marshall has put out since has ever come close to touching this release.
Must hear: Good Woman
+ Buy From Amazon

basia55. Basia Bulat – Oh, My Darling (2007)
Seriously, as soon as those handclaps started on single “I Was A Daughter”, I fell totally and completely in love with Basia Bulat. Arguably one of the most complete debut albums I had ever heard.
Must hear: I Was A Daughter
+ Buy from Amazon

continuum54. John Mayer – Continuum (2008)
And with this entry, I can hear the closing of windows in disgust from 98% of the other music bloggers who read this blog. But seriously, I’ve never understood the disdain most music bloggers seem to have for Mayer and his releases. And, as a guitarist myself, hearing “Continuum” for the first time was a staggering event, where John Mayer matured right in front of our very eyes. Or ears, as the case may be. The phrasing throughout the album is absolutely impeccable.
Must hear: Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
+ Buy from Amazon

damien53. Damien Rice – O (2003)
Another case where I was torn: which album which make it, Damien’s 2003 debut, “O”, or the 2006 follow up, “9”? “9” nearly won it purely on the strength of opening track “9 Crimes” (which will easily go down as one of my songs of the decade), but in the end, I had to go with “O”. As an album, its raw passion from start to end is impossible to ignore.
Must hear: Cannonball
+ Buy from Amazon

nizlopi52. Nizlopi – Half These Songs Are About You (2004)
It’s only now that I sit down to make this list that I’ve noticed a trend, in that many of these albums of debut efforts. Hmmm, does that say more about me, or more about the artists? That question aside, this release by Nizlopi came at exactly a point in my life where I needed this kind of music; life-affirming, yet introspective, it’s a beautiful album.
Must hear: Wash Away
+ Buy from Amazon

eits51. Explosions in the Sky – The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place (2003)
The second album from Explosions in the Sky, this 5 track masterpiece simply knocked me out when I first heard it. This is the very epitome of music you can lose yourself in. And when you find yourself again, you’re a new person.
Must hear: Your hand in mine
+ Buy from Amazon

phoenix50. Phoenix – Alphabetical (2004)
Most music bloggers seem to be hailing their 2009 release, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” as their best thing ever. Not me. For me, nothing comes close to “Alphabetical”. The thing is pure pop glory. And while “Amadeus…” may have the fantastic tune, “Lisztomania”… well, this is better.
Must hear: Victim of the Crime
+ Buy from Amazon

bastards49. The Damnwells – Bastards of the Beat (2003)
Anyone who has read this blog for any period of time knows my love for The Damnwells. Easily one of the world’s most underrated bands, The Damnwells deserve to be huge. Epically huge. And their 2003 release, Bastards of the Beat, illustrates why perfectly. An album of singalong tune after singalong tune, Bastards of the Beat is one of the Noughties classics.
Must hear: Kiss Catastrophe
+ Buy from Amazon

yeasayer48. Yeasayer – All Hour Cymbals (2007)
Strangely enough, this album took a while to grow on me. But man, once it did, it did. With lead single “2080” being my introduction to the album, I’m not sure how I didn’t lose my shit immediately.
Must hear: 2080
+ Buy from Amazon

athlete47. Athlete – Vehicles and Animals (2003)
Man, it was a tough call for whether “Vehicles and Animals” or “Tourist” would make the cut when it came to this list, but ultimately Athlete’s debut release came out on top. With tracks like “El Salvador”, “Beautiful” and the stunning “You Got the Style”, this album of pop mastery was on rotation for the better part of a year for me. Full of wry observations, humour and genuine tenderness, Vehicle and Animals did it for me.
Must hear: Vehicles and Animals
+ Buy from Amazon

imogen46. Imogen Heap – Speak for yourself (2005)
Textured. Layered. Cinematic. Visionary. No matter how you describe Imogen Heap’s music, one thing we can all agree on is that it is simply wonderful. Just like this album.
Must hear: Hide and Seek
+ Buy from Amazon

joseph45. Joseph Arthur – Come to where I’m from (2000)
It’s no secret that my relationship with Joseph Arthur seems to have its highs and lows. But “Come to where I’m from”, released in 2000, was definitely a high point, and I still view it as one of Arthur’s finest moments. Unapologetically honest, it’s everything that a life-changing album should be.
Must hear: In the sun
+ Buy from Amazon

killers44. The Killers – Sam’s Town (2006)
What? Did I really pick sophomore release “Sam’s Town”, instead of debut “Hot Fuss”?
Well, yes, I did actually.
Sod off if you don’t like it.
Must hear: Read my mind
+ Buy from Amazon

oasis43. Oasis – Heathen Chemistry (2002)
I don’t think I ever saw this on any “Best of ’02” lists, so I doubt I’ll see it on many “Best of the Decades” lists. In fact, chances are, I might be the only music blogger to credit this release with that honour. And sure, maybe by this decade, the best times of Oasis might have been behind them. But c’mon… “Hindu Times”? Noel on “Force of Nature”? “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” and friggin’ “Little by Little”?? For me, this was a great, great album. And, again, Noel picked up the singing for a few tunes. Rock on.
Must hear: Stop Crying Your Heart Out
+ Buy from Amazon

benfolds42. Ben Folds – Rockin’ the Suburbs (2001)
Strangely enough, not many people seemed to like this album. Perhaps it was because “Rockin’ the Suburbs” (apart from its title track) was a more sombre release than Ben Folds had released previously, with Ben Folds Five. Quite frankly though, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass. “Rockin’ the Suburbs” was one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard. “Still Fighting It”, in particular, was a declaration made with such honesty that it still haunts me to this day.
Must hear: Still Fighting It
+ Buy from Amazon

molly41. Flogging Molly – Drunken Lullabies (2002)
The second album from Flogging Molly, “Drunken Lullabies” combined acoustic guitars with punk guitars; violins with whistles, and the kind of lyrics that simply make your body feel more alive than it ever has. And – quite possibly – ever will again. God, this was a cracker of an album.
Must hear: If I ever leave this world alive
+ Buy from Amazon

plans40. Death Cab for Cutie – Plans (2005)
I’m certain to catch some flack for choosing “Plans” as Death Cab’s release of the decade; after all, people rightfully claim that this, their first release on a major label (Atlantic) is too predictably slick, too polished. And that’s true; it is, and certainly doesn’t display the rawness of earlier releases. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s a sodding great record. After all, this is the album with “I will follow you into the dark”, for pete’s sake.
Must hear: Marching Bands of Manhattan
+ Buy from Amazon

joe39. Joe Pug – Nation of Heat EP (2008)
The most impressive debut I think I have ever heard. Complete in every sense, “Nation of Heat” remains one of the most exciting releases of the past 10 years. I still hold out high hopes for Joe.
Must hear: Hymn #101
+ Buy from Amazon

boh38. Band of Horses – Cease to Begin (2007)

Hauntingly beautiful, Band of Horses “Cease to Begin” release was the first real exposure I had had with the band. Sure, I had heard their 2006 debut “Everything All the Time”, but it took this release, and particularly the cracking tune, “No One’s Gonna Love You”, to really pull me in. And man, I’m glad it did.
Must Hear: No One’s Gonna Love You
+ Buy from Amazon

thecon37. Tegan & Sara – The Con (2007)
The only fault I could find in 2007’s “The Con”, was that the damn thing ended too soon. And that’s a fantastic, fantastic fault to have. Tegan and Sara probably haven’t reached these heights again, but I’m ok with that. This was more than enough.
Must hear: Call It Off
+ Buy from Amazon

flobots36. Flobots – Fight with tools (2008)
“Positive change music”. Sounds poncy, doesn’t it? But somehow, the Flobots pull it off with aplomb. I challenge you to listen to this album and not feel that you can change the world. And you know what? With enough of us, maybe we can…
Must hear: Mayday!!!
+ Buy from Amazon

myslovitz35. Myslovitz – Korova Milky Bar (2003)

To this day, I have no idea how Myslovitz didn’t end up being huge. And by huge, I mean huge. When I first heard Korova Milky Bar, it was like it was the album that woke me up from slumber and breathed life into me. How could everyone else not feel the same way? But, alas, it appears they didn’t. Musical taste’s a funny old thing, isn’t it?
Must hear: Sound of Solitude
+ Buy from Amazon

postal34. The Postal Service – Give Up (2003)

You know, I’m still trying to figure out whether it’s a tragedy, or a blessing, that this is the only album the Postal Service have ever released. It’s a tragedy, because Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello, as Postal Service, create such bloody beautiful tunes. But, it’s more likely a blessing, as I don’t think they would ever be able to live up to this, their first (and likely only) album. Give Up was a revelation when I heard it. Back in 2003, I was going through somewhat of a backlash to electronic music. I thought I had heard all it had to offer, and quite frankly, I was bored with the lack of soul. Then Give Up came along, and changed all of that. And man, I’m glad it did.
Must Hear: This place is a prison
+ Buy from Amazon

perez33. Perez – Picture Perfect (2002)
Perez is one of a handful of South African bands to make it onto this list, and for good reason. (Incidentally, before moving on, Just Jinger’s “Here’s To You”, a joyous celebration of a new time in South Africa when hope was on the horizon just missed out on this list as it was released in 1999. But I had to make a reference to it here anyway. Go get it. It’s stunning and captures the feeling in South Africa at the time like no other album ever would). Ahem, as I was saying, “Picture Perfect” makes it on here for good reason. I remember the first time I heard “Wasted Out”, lead single from the album. It was a goddamn awakening. Recorded by guys that we had grown up with (only a few years older than us) who frequented the same places we did for a quick drink? Man, you couldn’t get more rock star than that. The entire reason I got into a band. Point blank.
Must hear: Wasted Out

city32. City and Colour – Bring Me Your Love (2008)
One of those albums that you simply never seem to get tired of, Dallas Green’s (get it? City and Colour!) “Bring Me Your Love” was one of the highlights of 2008 for me. While I always loved his stuff in Alexisonfire, this folksy album from Dallas is by far the best thing he’s ever produced. So far, that is.
Must hear: Confessions
+ Buy from Amazon

razorlight31. Razorlight – Up all Night (2004)
Do you remember the first time you heard Johnny Borrell from Razorlight? God, he was an arrogant little prick, wasn’t he? You could practically hear the swagger in every word he spoke, couldn’t you?
I loved him. Johnny Borrell and Razorlight were going to save friggin’ rock ‘n roll singlehanded. They were the saviours we had all been waiting for. Here were some rockers you could respect.

Ok, so maybe looking back on it, Johnny and Co. might never have lived up to that promise, and ok, maybe that broke my heart. That doesn’t change the fact that every time I listen to “Up All Night”, I feel that optimism all over again. And I live in constant, constant hope, that Razorlight will deliver on this debut.
Must hear: Up all Night
+ Buy from Amazon

once30. Markéta Irglová and Glen Hansard – Once OST (2007)
The first time I heard the soundtrack to Once, I fell in love. Fitting, given its context. I don’t think there has ever been a better soundtrack, and I’d be hard pressed to believe there will be, at least in my lifetime. Listening to Glen and Marketa experience love, and the hardships that go with it, through their songs, was something beautiful. And I will remember the first time I heard “All the way down” for the rest of my life.
Must hear: All the way down
+ Buy from Amazon

brighteyes29. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning (2005)
“I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning” is, in my opinion, the best thing Bright Eyes has ever produced (although Cassadega comes close). Although Conor Oberst had threatened brilliance for years before this album, it was with “I’m Awake…” that it all really seemed to come together. A singer-songwriter country/rock album, it’s the album that Bright Eyes were meant to make.
Must hear: We are nowhere and it’s now
+ Buy from Amazon

mraz28. Jason Mraz – Mr A – Z (2005)
I feel like I constantly have to defend this album to Jason haters. Ok, so it doesn’t have the sheer abandonment of “Waiting for my Rocket To Come”. Yeah, it’s not as polished as subsequent releases. But “Mr A – Z”, Jason’s second album, has always been one of my favourites. There’s something in this album where you can almost hear Jason trying to find his way in his new life. And that honesty draws me in every time. As a side note, I’ve said previously that I think that Jason has one of the purest, most effortless voices I have ever heard, bar none. And this was the album where he showed that off with an opera solo during “Mr Curiosity”. It still gives me a kick whenever someone hears that song, and the opera section takes them completely by surprise. It’s the small things, you know.
Must hear: Song for a Friend
+ Buy from Amazon

animalyears27. Josh Ritter – Animal Years (2006)
How do you pick one album for the decade from an artist such as Josh Ritter? Answer? You don’t. Try as I might, I simply could not just enter one album for Ritter. His music was too special, too important to that decade for me. A lot of fans thought that in this album, “Animal Years”, Josh Ritter began to take himself too seriously. I beg to differ. I think it was an album where he found himself.
Must hear: Thin Blue Flame
+ Buy from Amazon

historical26. Josh Ritter – The historical conquests of Josh Ritter (2007)
And here’s the other Josh Ritter album, released the very next year. I’d go out on a limb here and call this the album of 2007, but we’ve seen how that’s worked out for me in the past. Aah, what the hell… this was the release of 2007.
Must hear: To the Dogs or Whoever
+ Buy from Amazon

nada25. Nada Surf – Let Go (2002)
For me, “Let Go” was the best thing Nada Surf had ever created, and I think it still is. The album was simply brim-full with masterful song writing, with lyrics that felt like they were written specifically for you.
Must hear: Blonde on Blonde
+ Buy from Amazon

streets24. The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come for Free (2004)
“Original Pirate Material”? Sure, that was a great album. But “A Grand Don’t Come for Free” was where it was at for me. Skinner opened up, and let us in. And damned if it wasn’t a damn nice place. I defy any male who has ever had a relationship end on them not to identify with “Dry Your Eyes”. Go on. I dare ya.
Must Hear: Dry Your Eyes
+ Buy from Amazon

rainbows23. Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007)

You know, it’s interesting looking back at my first reactions to this album, and my feelings towards it now. Tellingly, I ended off that post with the lines: “All in all, despite my misgivings, I have the feeling that “In Rainbows” is an album that will grow on the listener after time. And, so often, that has been the case with Radiohead in the past. Pioneers have to deal with strange looks from infidels sometimes.” Despite the clumsy wording of that sentence, the sentiment was right… the more time I spent with this album, the more it grew on me. I still don’t think this was exactly the biggest stretch for the band themselves… but that doesn’t change the fact it’s a great album.
Must hear: House of Cards
+ Buy from Amazon

demo22. Ryan Adams – Demolition (2002)
Fair warning, I couldn’t pick a single Ryan Adams album to include from the decade. So I cut it down as much as I could, but still ended up with four albums. Sue me. “Demolition”, to many, came off as a mixed bag… which makes sense, seeing as the album was ostensibly a “Best Of” compilation of unreleased demos, from the always prolific Ryan Adams. But for me, there was something special about Demolition. And with tracks such as “Chin Up, Cheer Up”, “Dear Chicago”, “Desire” and “Starting to hurt”, Demolition was always going to make it onto this list.
Must hear: Desire
+ Buy from Amazon

silent steeples21. Dispatch – Silent Steeples (2000)
Another band that honestly changed my life, Dispatch’s 2000 release, Silent Steeples was the album of my teenage years (ok, ok, so I just scraped into the teens in 2000 when it came out. Sue me). There is literally not a single song on this album that does not kick ass. Not one. They don’t make them like this anymore.
Must hear: Bridges
+ Buy from Amazon

goats20. The Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree (2005)
The Sunset Tree is a difficult album to listen to, once you realise how autobiographical the work is. For those who haven’t listed to John Darnielle’s work much, let’s just say that the guy did not have the best of childhoods. Lines like “Held under these smothering waves by your strong and thick veined hand, but one of these days I’m going to wriggle up on dry land” give you some kind of indication of what Darnielle experienced growing up. But, despite that, “The Sunset Tree” is an album filled with hope, in the direst of circumstances. And it takes a songwriter as talented as Darnielle to pull off that contrast.
Must hear: This Year
+ Buy from Amazon

andrewbird19. Andrew Bird – The Mysterious Production of Eggs (2005)

This was a hard one. Andrew Bird has released a slew of awesome albums in the past decade (“Armchair Apocrypha” and this year’s “Noble Beast” both narrowly missing out on a place in this list), but ultimately I decided to go with 2005’s “The Mysterious Production of Eggs” (although I’m still in two minds about the decision, almost purely based on the strength of “Noble Beast”’s Anonimal). Can you tell I’m torn? I think “…Eggs” won out in the end because you can lose yourself so completely in the thing. Bird is, without doubt, one of the most interesting artists of the decade, and nowhere is this more evident than in this album.
Must hear: Sovay
+ Buy from Amazon

rabbit18. Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight (2008)
The release of 2008. ‘Nuff said, really. Seriously, I’m not going to waste your time here anymore. Just step away from the computer, go to your local music store, and get this album. You’ll thank me.
Must hear: Good arms vs. Bad arms
+ Buy from Amazon

gaslight17. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound (2008)
God, I hate the fact that I just used the line “The release of 2008” in the previous entry. Because if any other album in 2008 stood up to “The Midnight Organ Fight”, it was The Gaslight Anthem’s “The ’59 Sound”. An album that, it appears, I’ll simply never get tired of, this is one that will stand the test of time. Watch my words.
Must hear: Great Expectations
+ Buy from Amazon

howie16. Howie Day – Australia (2000)
Howie Day is a year older than me, and – in many ways – I’ve grown up with the guy’s music. If any artist on this list has been able to speak for me when I couldn’t find the words, it’s Howie Day. In 2000, when I first heard this album (yes, it was released independently two years before the Epic release) I was 18. And man, did it speak to me. While I’m not sure that Howie has ever quite fulfilled the potential that I still feel he has in him, I’ll forever be grateful to him for this album.
Must hear: Ghost
+ Buy from Amazon

jack15. Jack Johnson – Brushfire Fairytales (2001)
Even though Jack had his music out there previous to this album (via soundtracks and the like) it’s still hard to believe that this album, “Brushfire Fairytales”, was his “proper” debut release. The album is a study in perfection, and I don’t make that statement lightly. A release that simply inspires joy, I’ll never forget the first time I heard it.
Must hear: F-stop Blues
+ Buy from Amazon

lovehell14. Ryan Adams – Love Is Hell (2004)
“Love is Hell” (issued as two EPs) saw a return to Ryan’s top form, and I think excited not only us fans, but Ryan himself too. I say that because when I’ve watched Ryan and The Cardinals perform live, there always seems to be a little extra… sparkle in the set, when they perform “Love Is Hell” tunes. And rightly so. The album was at once tender, and at the same time defiantly aggressive. Getting that mix right, some would say, takes genius.
Must hear: I see Monsters
+ Buy from Amazon

plush13. Plush – All That is Should Be (2004)
Another South African release, I’ve written about Plush before in my South African bands post (band #29), so I’ll let you read that for some more background. Suffice to say, I felt that Plush were going to save South African music. They had everything needed to completely revolutionise how the industry perceived itself, which was always our biggest problem. So when one half of Plush, Chas Smit, was tragically killed in a hit and run car accident in 2005 following a gig, a little piece of all of us died that day. A few years on, and Rory Eliot (the other half of Plush) has picked up the mantle again. I’m holding thumbs for him.
Must hear: Jet Life

mattryan12. Matthew Ryan – Matthew Ryan Vs. Silver State (2008)
You know, I’ve been listening to Matthew Ryan’s stuff for quite some time, so it might seem strange that it’s one of his latest albums, “Matthew Ryan Vs. Silver State” to make it onto this list. But, for all of Ryan’s habits of delving into the darker, more depressing conditions of the human spirit, it was this, his somewhat more optimistic album that stands above the rest for me. I’ve always felt that Matthew Ryan deserves far more recognition, because the dude really does produce music that means something. And that’s saying something.
Must hear: Dulce Et Decorum Est
+ Buy from Amazon

outkast11. Outkast – Stankonia (2000)
The crowning glory of Outkast, without a doubt. Sure, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” might have been a more ambitious undertaking for the duo, but “Stankonia” was their masterpiece. The album had a massive 24 tracks, and yet somehow managed to keep it together for its entirety; no mean undertaking, especially given the fickleness of some of their hip-hop contemporaries at the turn of the new millenium. But that’s just it, really… Outkast had no contemporaries at the time. They were flying on a completely different cloud. And man, was it bad ass.
Must hear: Ms Jackson
+ Buy from Amazon

pete10. Pete Francis – Untold (2003)
There’s something about this album from Pete Francis (one third of the aforementioned “Dispatch”, who had by this stage broken up and moved on to respective new projects). I can’t describe what it is, but I felt that, when I heard this album, I grew up. I don’t know how else to describe it, but before listening to it, I was… different. After listening to it, I was another way. That probably makes no sense to anyone, but there you have it.
Must hear: Untold
+ Buy from Amazon

coldplay9. Coldplay – Parachutes (2000)
Just a great, great album. While Chris Martin seems to be the new Bono in the music bloggers world (ie. it seems remarkably popular to pick on the dude), I’d challenge anyone to disagree that this was a near-perfect album. Track after track, Martin and Co. knocked it out of the park. Reportedly, Chris refers to this album as “terrible music”; I’d disagree… for me, it’s possibly the best thing Coldplay have ever produced.
Must hear: Don’t Panic
+ Buy from Amazon

ben8. Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals – Live from Mars (2001)
Ben Harper (with and without The Innocent Criminals) has been responsible for some of my favourite albums over the last two decades, but I’m not sure anything will ever quite live up to the 2001 live release, “Live from Mars”. “Live from Mars” is, quite possibly, the perfect “live” album; an album that captures – but does not tame – the live sound of a band at its highest point. Listening to this album is an exercise in sheer beauty… I cannot for the life of me listen to it, without wanting to pick up my guitar. And that’s a beautiful gift.
Must hear: Excuse Me, Mr
+ Buy from Amazon

3eb7. Third Eye Blind – Out of the Vein (2003)
Ok, seriously. Music bloggers, I’m putting you all on notice as of right now. Stop with the 3EB hating, k? One of my favourite bands of all time, it was natural that Third Eye Blind would have an album on this list. So thank goodness for “Out of the Vein”, because the only other album released in the decade, “Ursa Major” was quite frankly not up to par. But “Out of the Vein” is another story. Every song catchy, every song full of wry observations… every song full of Third Eye Blind awesomeness.
Must hear: Crystal Baller
+ Buy from Amazon

weaker6. The Weakerthans – Reconstruction Site (2003)
You know, even though The Weakerthans are ostensibly a punk rock/folk rock band, I still find it hard to believe that that’s the same John Samson singing as was once in hardcore punk band Propagandhi. And, even though in my younger years I had brief flirtations with Propagandhi, I’ll say this outright… that outfit never came close to The Weakerthans for me. Reconstruction Site was the band’s third full-length album, and really, it should never have been able to live up to the brilliance that was “Fallow” and “Left and Leaving”. But somehow, it not only lived up to those releases, but completely eclipsed them. Such a great, great album that had a story to tell. Just bloody brilliant.
Must Hear: Reconstruction Site
+ Buy from Amazon

national5. The National – Alligator (2005)
I know most would pick 2007’s “Boxer” as their “National” release from the decade, but there’s something special about “Alligator” for me. Perhaps it’s a selfish impulse, that “Alligator” was where I first “discovered” the band. I’d largely missed out on the hype that was “Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers”, but this album was a revelation when I heard it. And, ultimately, when you get right down to it, Matt Berninger could read out a grocery shopping list and that voice would still captivate you.
Must Hear: All the Wine
+ Buy from Amazon

boniver4. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago (2007)
I’ve written about Bon Iver enough times on this blog, and watching them live last year was one of my concert-going highlights for all time, so it’s no surprise that Justin Vernon and Co. find themselves on this list. This album, “For Emma, Forever Ago” is an album of fragile beauty, weary acceptance, and subtle hope. Simply beautiful, and an album that wasn’t just heard, but experienced.
Must hear: re: Stacks
+ Buy from Amazon

tiger3. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Easy Tiger (2007)
Unquestionably, one of my favourite Ryan Adams releases. Once again backed by the Cardinals, “Easy Tiger” is full of those aching observations that Ryan Adams seems to toss off like dust off his shoes. Probably the most consistent of all Adams’ albums, “Easy Tiger” is an absolute must in your CD collection.
Must Hear: Two
+ Buy from Amazon

johnsons2. Antony and The Johnsons – I Am a Bird Now (2005)
You know, I distinctly remember this album came out right at the beginning of 2005, and yet, somehow, all of us knew without a doubt that it would be in our “Best of ’05” lists. “I am a Bird Now” is one of those albums that – if you’re lucky – comes along once in your lifetime. I’ve noticed that if I have videos playing of Antony Hegarty performing, a lot of people do a double-take; sometimes with notable discomfort on their face. It’s hard to blame them… if you’ve ever seen Antony and The Johnsons perform live, you’ll know the raw and painful emotion Antony puts into his performance. And that voice is just so damn fragile, and vulnerable, it sounds like it could break into a million shards at any time. It really is, at times, uncomfortable. Bloody worth it though.
Must hear: My Lady Story
+ Buy from Amazon

heartbreaker1. Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker (2000)
Could it really be that this was Ryan Adam’s debut solo album, post-Whiskeytown? Surely he sounds… older, and wiser here? But it was, and in a lot of ways many of Ryan’s subsequent releases seemed to be running away from Heartbreaker, in a sense. It was like “Heartbreaker” had Ryan at his rawest and most emotionally open, and for a long time everything after that was running and hiding; until, at least, Love Is Hell in 2004. Heartbreaker is perhaps Ryan Adam’s finest moment. And I’ll thank him for this album for the rest of my life.
Must hear: Come Pick Me Up
+ Buy from Amazon

2006 releases 2007 Releases 2008 releases artists artists to watch for in 2008 covers digital downloads guitar music

Thursday Music Round-up – Matthew Ryan, Josh Ritter, New Atlantic & The Kooks

After almost a week off from the blogosphere, there are a few songs that I haven’t told you about… so we’ll just jump right in…

Matthew Ryan – American Dirt & Gone For Good

Matthew Ryan
Matthew Ryan… don’t call it a comeback!

Matthew Ryan has – for the most part – flown under the mainstream radar, even though he’s been releasing albums for more than a decade now. In fact, a quote on his Myspace page even reads, “Don’t call it a comeback; I’ve been here for years“. And the lack of mainstream exposure is absolutely shocking, as Matthew Ryan’s output over the years has been nothing less than consistently brilliant. I suspect, however, that 2008 will be the year that he finally hits the big time.
There’s just something about Matthew Ryan’s voice; it has the very real ability to reach right into your soul and tug on it until it wakes up.

I’ve included two songs here: the first, “American Dirt“, is off his latest album, “Matthew Ryan Vs. Silver State“, and is a ball of seething rage and purpose. The song smothers you in it’s intent, which is more steely than anything I’ve heard from Matthew Ryan before. Matthew Ryan Vs. Silver State came out on April 1, and I seriously suggest you check it out. Ryan is on top form with it.
The next song, “Gone For Good“, is off his 2007 release, “A Late Night High Rise“, and is a slow, delicate number that displays Ryan’s versatility. There’s a Bon Iver kind of vulnerability in his breathy, pleading lyrics here, that absolutely breaks me every time I hear it. A must-listen.

Listen: Matthew Ryan – American Dirt
Listen: Matthew Ryan – Gone For Good

Josh Ritter – Thin Blue Flame

Josh Ritter
Josh Ritter… one of the best songsmiths of our time.

Stepping back in time a bit here, to Josh Ritter‘s 2006 release, “The Animal Years“, and it’s standout track, “Thin Blue Flame“. A 10-minute track of epic proportions, it’s like something out of Revelations… really, it’s a 10 minute opportunity to re-examine your life, and the way we live.

I wondered what it was I’d been looking for above.. Heaven’s so big there ain’t no need to look up. So I stopped looking for royal cities in the air — only a full house gonna have a prayer.

Only a full house.
– Josh Ritter, “Thin Blue Flame”

Josh Ritter — to me at least — is still one of the best songsmiths in contemporary music. Point blank. And Thin Blue Flame is no exception. It’s a direct plea to his listener… and one that I can’t turn away from.

Listen: Josh Ritter – Thin Blue Flame

New Atlantic – Apologise

New Atlantic
New Atlantic (photo credit:

One of my guilty pleasures last year was One Republic’s tune, “Apologise”. As cheesy and formulaic as it was, there was something about the song that I just dug. So this is included here, really, as just another guilty pleasure. New Atlantic can produce some interesting stuff, but their cover of “Apologise” is a nice, cheesy, formulaic cover. Heh. But it’s cool for a spin.

Listen: New Atlantic – Apologise (One Republic cover)

The Kooks – Tick of Time

The Kooks
The Kooks have just released their second album, “Konk”.

The Pete Townshend-beloved Kooks are back, and I’m really digging where they are going with their second album, “Konk“, which came out last week. This song, “Tick of Time” is a ridiculously catchy closer to the album, and shows them in their best light… a band, just having fun.
I’ll admit it, I was sceptical that The Kooks would be able to deliver — again — on their hype. But this song clinches it for me. Well played lads, well played.

Listen: The Kooks – Tick of Time

Ps. Be sure to tune in tomorrow for an inaugeral “Live Music Friday” post… starting off with some Damnwells tunes!

2007 Releases artists artists to watch for in 2008 digital downloads guitar music

Things I probably should have told you in 2007.

In the course of writing this blog, I come across a lot – and I mean, a lot of music. Some of which I’ll blog about, some of which never seems to get its own post.

I was organising my files recently, and came across plenty of songs that I probably should have told you all about in 2007, but which – for whatever reason – never quite spurred me to write a full post. So, in clearing out these files into the “2007 Releases” folder, I thought I would do a bit of a roundup post, and combine them all here.

In other words, please note that this is NOT a “best of 2007” compilation; it is simply a post of good songs from 2007, that you should hear.

With that out of the way, let’s get onto the music!

(Once again… to all new visitors, simply click the “play” icon next to the song name to listen)

All The Way Down by Glen Hansard


Glen Hansard - All The Way Down

One of the most talked-about soundtracks of 2007 – and deservedly so – was the Once OST. Comprised of songs by the films two stars (Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova), the soundtrack was hauntingly beautiful.

This song, “All the way down”, along with “Leave”, was perhaps my favourite of the album. The aching line “You have broken me, all the way down” easily wins my award for most breaking lyric of the year.

You can still listen to the entire soundtrack at the Once movie site.

I managed to catch Hansard with his band, The Frames, when they were opening for Bob Dylan on his recent tour out here. They were amazing, and confirmed to me that the man is easily one of the most important voices in modern music.

Listen: Glen Hansard – All The Way Down


I Was A Daughter by Basia Bulat


Basia Bulat - I was a Daughter


I’m still surprised that this didn’t make an entry. At 24, Basia Bulat is another artist that I should add to my “Artists to watch for in 2008” category.

Her youth belies an intensely creative soul, and an artist who is totally unafraid. Obvious influences include Joni Mitchell (to whom she has been compared more than once), but Basia displays a voice and style that is all her own; sometimes fragile and whispy, and at other times strong, passionate and sultry, Bulat is the master of changing her vocal delivery to suit the content of the song.

This song, “I was a Daughter”, is taken from her “Oh My Darling” debut album, and was easily my debut album of the year.

Oh. And did I mention she’s my musical crush for 2007?
She is.

Listen: Basia Bulat – I Was A Daughter

No One’s Gonna Love You by Band of Horses


Band of Horses - No one’s Gonna Love You


A little Morning Jacket, some Shins, and a hint of Built to Spill, and you’ll end up with something like Band of Horses. This song, taken from their “Cease to Begin” album, is more emotionally direct than anything from their 2006 debut, “Everything All the Time”, but despite the desperately cheese-laden title line, the song is a gorgeous slow-jam, with the cracking “If things start splitting at the seams and now / It’s tumbling down hard” showcasing Bridwell’s expressive voice.

Listen: Band of Horses – No One’s Gonna Love You

Heretics by Andrew Bird


Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha


Well! Didn’t Andrew Bird grow up in 2007? The rueful reflection of Bird’s 2007 release, “Armchair Apocrypha”, and in particular, this song, “Heretics”, had me more excited about Bird than his past releases.

The off-kilter pop songs are still there, but there’s something more about his reflection of the world as something beautiful, yet unsettling, in this album than his previous.
Here’s to more of this.

Listen: Andrew Bird – Heretics

Listened On by Lightning Dust


Lightning Dust - Listened On


Black Mountaineers Amber Webber and Joshua Wells side project, Lightning Dust, came out of nowhere and knocked me on my ass. While Black Mountain displays it’s 60s psychedelic love, Lightning Dust is far more sparse, and far more reflective.

This track, “Listened On”, from their debut album (fittingly titled “Lightning Dust“), is ghostly, quivering, and beautiful.

Listen: Lightning Dust – Listened On

Nothing’s Lost by Patrick Park


Patrick Park - Nothing’s Lost


I came across Patrick Park relatively late, with his second album, “Loneliness Knows My Name”, but at that time was undecided as to whether he lived up to the hype or not.
With his 2007 release, “Everyone’s in Everyone”, however, this doubt is solidly put to rest. Patrick Park is one of those artists who can reflect your emotions is a single line.

This track, “Nothing’s Lost”, takes your head against it’s shoulder and consoles you with it’s lulling rhythm.

Listen: Patrick Park – Nothing’s Lost


Your Rocky Spine by Great Lake Swimmers


Great Lake Swimmers - Your Rocky Spine


With it’s Nickle Creek-like tones, this was one of the singles of the year for me. A mixture of indie-folk, roots melodies and alt-country, the music of Great Lake Swimmers is at once graceful, comforting, full of loss and isolation, and ridiculously beautiful.

An ethereal whisper of an album that is hauntingly beautiful, “Ongiara” (from which this song, “Your Rocky Spine” is taken) is a must-listen from 2007.

Listen: Great Lake Swimmers – Your Rocky Spine

Skinny Love by Bon Iver


Bon Iver - Skinny Love


Skinny Love by Bon Iver is a song that grows in power the more you listen to it; as if, with each individual listen, it breaks a little more of you off. I’ve heard it described as a “quiet, gentle punch to the heart”, and I couldn’t put it better myself.

A song of desperation, loneliness, and loss such as this one resonates deep in your heart; listen to his plaintive “I told you” lines, and you’ll know what I mean.

The album from which this is taken, “For Emma, Forever Ago” is one for the weepy folk-lover in all of us.

Listen: Bon Iver – Skinny Love


Lake Michigan by Rogue Wave


Rogue Wave - Lake Michigan


2007 saw Rogue Wave release their third-studio album, and the first for Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Fairytales label, “Asleep at Heaven’s Gate”; hopefully, this will be the one that catapaults them to the masses.

This album has a shimmer and jangle that wasn’t as prevalent in their previous releases; and there is something ridiculously catchy about this handclapping single, Lake Michigan.

Listen: Rogue Wave – Lake Michigan


No Cars Go by Arcade Fire


Arcade Fire - No Cars Go


I know, I know; Arcade Fire? How much more mainstream can this blog get?

Seriously though, Arcade Fire’s 2007 release, “Neon Bible”, was a ridiculously good album. Coming off their scorcher debut, “Funeral”, most critics weren’t expecting them to follow up with something as worthy as this.

While Neon Bible certainly sees the band taking on some big issues (particularly the religion questioning “Antichrist Television Blues”), it never lets you forget that, ultimately, Arcade Fire are about celebration.

Never more evident is this than on the single, “No Cars Go”. Spine-tingling, wailing vocals, combined with drumming that punches the song along, and instrumentals that build into an almost film-worthy epic ending show that Arcade Fire are here to stay.

Listen: Arcade Fire – No Cars Go


Sun In An Empty Room by The Weakerthans


The Weakerthans - Sun in an Empty Room


Well, honestly… when you get down to it, when have The Weakerthans ever disappointed us? 2007 saw them release the excellent “Reunion Tour” album, which I cannot recommend more. In fact, I’ll rather let Paste Magazine’s review speak for me:

“These are songs of brutal beauty, little rock n roll vignettes that perfectly capture the malaise of the peculiar, disorienting times in which we live.”

This track, “Sun in an empty room”, highlights John K Samson’s incredible command of narrative lyrics; indeed, as much as he protests against the label, Samson really is an indie poet laureate. His weary, wry observations possess an underdog nobility that you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere.


Listen: The Weakerthans – Sun In An Empty Room


Tonight by Hard-Fi


Hard Fi - Tonight


I’ll be honest: Hard-Fi’s 2007 release, “Once Upon a Time In the West” didn’t quite live up to their debut album “Stars of CCTV” for me. There’s something about the anger in their songs that seems to have lost its authenticity for me.

However, that’s not to say that the album was totally without merit; this single, “Tonight”, was one of the better products from the album, and with it’s ghostly strings and chant-along chorus hints that there may be life in the boys yet.

Listen: Hard-Fi – Tonight


Impossible Germany by Wilco


Wilco - Impossible Germany


While Wilco’s 2007 release, “Sky Blue Sky” was widely criticised by fans as being a back-slide by Jeff Tweedy into the classic-rock gospel, it produced perhaps one of my favourite Wilco tracks of all-time, “Impossible Germany”.

It’s a warm and inviting listen, one with jazzy chords filtered through the ever-present guitar licks. There’s no noise here, no strange distortions that have peppered Wilco’s latest releases… and I for one think the song is perhaps one of the most powerful Wilco songs for it.

Peaceful on the surface, demented under the water; this is Wilco at it’s best.

Listen: Wilco – Impossible Germany


Murderer by Low


Low - Murderer


Low is not, and never has been, for everyone. Pretty much defining the genre of “slowcore” with their appearance in 1993, they have, however, certainly displayed their longevity.

In 2005, Low attempted to break away from their slowcore label with the harder, bigger sound of their “The Great Destroyer” album. Considering the mixed reception to that album, most thought the band would return to their signature sound. Most thought wrong.
However, just as the album is not a return to their signature sound, neither is it a continuation of The Great Destroyer. Rather, this album strips the songs to the bones and sinews; it’s something else entirely. Violent, scary and beautiful, with this album, “Drums and Guns”, Low show that they’re still kicking.

Listen: Low – Murderer


Boy With A Coin by Iron & Wine


Iron and Wine - Boy With The Coin


Undoubtedly one of the albums of the year for me, Iron and Wine’s
The Shepherd’s Dog
displayed Sam Beam’s steady evolution from lo-fi folkster to refined popsmith.

This stonking single, “Boy With A Coin” showcases a far more lush and full sound that is employed on this album (surely a product of Sam’s collaboration with Calexico in 2005), and is easily one of my favourite Iron and Wine songs.

Listen: Iron & Wine – Boy With A Coin


Thrash Unreal by Against Me!


Against Me! - Thrash Unreal


Included more in this list due to the fact that Thrash Unreal could prove to be one of the most important songs of Against Me!’s career.

2007 saw Against Me! release their first major label debut, “New Wave”, which is in stark contrast to their previously strong DIY ethos.

Lead single “Thrash Unreal” unveils a new penchant for pop sensibility, and the song shows the band’s strength for anthemic, infectious choruses. And – thankfully – Tom Gabel’s harsh growl of a voice remains intact here, and there still seems enough of the Against Me! punk left in the guys.
That said, have Against Me! sold out by their move away from Fat Wreck Chords, and recording with this far, FAR more polished sound?

Time will tell (I’m hoping not), but there’s no denial that the 2007 release, “New Wave”, and it’s lead single Thrash Unreal could make or break the band amongst it’s fans.

Let’s hope there’s still a “I Still Love You Julie” song left in the lads.

Listen: Against Me! – Thrash Unreal


My Mind by Portugal. The Man


Portugal. The Man - My Mind


I’ve heard many people describe “Portugal. The Man” as a more accessible Mars Volta, and I think it’s a fair description; elements of The Mars Volta, and even The White Stripes pop up in their 2007 release, “Church Mouth

With its psychedelic, bluesy prog rock tones, the album is one that you’ll either love or hate; but like the below single, “My Mind”, I encourage you to give it a few spins before making up your mind.

Listen: Portugal. The Man – My Mind


Baltimore by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks


Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks - Baltimore


Yes, you read that right. Stephen Malkmus, former frontman for all-time greats “The Pavements” was back in 2007, and making delicious noise with his new band, The Jicks.

Still all crunch and fuzz – but with elegant melodies and flourishes throughout – and laced with Malkmus’ literate lyrics and tender, crackling tone, the song “Baltimore” is a godsend to Malkmus fans.

Listen: Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks – Baltimore


Nikole by George Stanford

George Stanford - Nikole


Another artist who will undoubtedly become huge in 2008, 2007 saw the debut of George Stanford. Endearingly simply titled “The EP” George Stanford’s 5-song 2007 release must simply be a taster for a 2008 full album release; and what a tasty taster it is.

This single, “Nikole”, showcases a piano balladry that fans of Ben Folds are sure to fall in love with.

If there’s one artist who debuted in 2007 who I would place a wager on becoming a household name in 2008, I would wager on it being George Stanford. If it’s not, it would simply be a crime.

Listen: George Stanford – Nikole

Ordinary by The Alternate Routes


The Alternate Routes - Ordinary

From the opening lines of “I’ve been wasting my days good and reckless and true, I have danced in the dark at the edge of the water, swingin my hips at the black and the blue…” you know that The Alternate Routes are something special.

Sounding alternately like Ryan Adams during the verses (and, interestingly, current Cardinals drummer Brad Pemberton features on the skins here), and then David Gray in the chorus, Tim Warren is one of the more exciting voices I heard this year.

While this single, Ordinary, may give you a mainstream image of the band, I encourage you to listen to the entire album, “Good and Reckless and True”; it is a grand, rootsy, absolutely golden album that warrants your attention.

Listen: The Alternate Routes – Ordinary

Fake Empire by The National


The National - Fake Empire

The National came in in 2007 and absolutely blew us all away. Far more understated than their 2005 album, “Alligator”, their 2007 release, “Boxer”, is perhaps the most fully realised release of the year by any artist.

A slow burn of an album, Fake Empire was the single from Boxer that grabbed my attention and held it; an absolutely crushing single, if you didn’t hear it in 2007, grab this now.

Listen: The National – Fake Empire

200 More Miles by the Cowboy Junkies (featuring Ryan Adams)


Cowboy Junkies feat Ryan Adams - 200 More Miles


2007 saw the 20th anniversary of the massively important Trinity Session album from the Cowboy Junkies, and to commemorate the occasion, the Junkies released a CD/DVD combo of performances in the same Toronto church where the original album was recorded.

As if Golden Tiger wasn’t enough for us (but then again, when it comes to Ryan Adams, can we EVER get enough?), the “Trinity Revisited” recordings saw Ryan partner up with Cowboy Junkies to release this beautiful rendition of 200 More Miles.

Ryan was born to perform with the Cowboy Junkies, and I couldn’t haven’t been more happy.

Listen: Cowboy Junkies – 200 More Miles (feat Ryan Adams)

To The Dogs Or Whoever by Josh Ritter


Josh Ritter - To the Dogs or Whoever


Josh Ritter’s 2007 release, “The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (with Bonus EP)” was leagues from his 2006 album, “Animal Years”, and that’s saying something as I was a big fan of that album.

To me, Josh Ritter is one of the most underappreciated writers in the current rock/folk scene; witty, wry, rueful and intelligent, it’s time that Josh Ritter got his dues from the general public and not just music blog writers.

That said, I’m not sure that this “To the Dogs Or Whoever” will be the single, to do it. But damn it’s fun.

Listen: Josh Ritter – To The Dogs Or Whoever

Four Winds by Bright Eyes

Bright Eyes - Four Winds

Who would have thought it? Despite the fairly lacklustre album released by Bright Eyes in 2007, “Cassadaga”, Conor Oberst somehow managed to get me interested in his material once again, thanks to the one redeeming single from that album, “Four Winds”.

You’ve brought me back from the brink of abandoning you Conor; and I hope that I stick around for a while.

Listen: Bright Eyes – Four Winds


And there you have it; a choice selection of mp3’s that somehow never made it to a full post here.
Consigned to the “Released in 2007 folder”, it’s now onto 2008.Here’s to a great year everybody!


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