September 30, 2012

Camera Obscura - Before You Cry

The song of the day is "Before You Cry", a heartily recommended track off indiepop band Camera Obscura's 2003 album, "Underachievers Please Try Harder". "Before You Cry" has a lovely melody with a sad undercurrent. It tells of a lovers' bedroom quarrel, sung mainly from the male partner's angry point of view. In the middle of the song, the vocals exit after the lines "I hope you hear me / Can't stand you next to me / Get lost, goodbye / I'll smile before you cry", and are replaced with a beautiful and dynamic piano, harmonica and mandolin medley. Tracyanne Campbell returns to sing the last verse, accompanied by lonely strains of slide guitar: "I love you baby / Oh, please don't hate me / You're feeling a little sad tonight, but you'll be alright".

Get "Before You Cry" on Amazon

September 29, 2012

Ferraby Lionheart - Pocketknife

L.A-based singer-songwriter Ferraby Lionheart released his second full-length album, "The Jack Of Hearts" in 2010, a fine followup to "Catch The Brass Ring" and his 2006 debut EP. Today's featured song is "Pocketknife" from "The Jack Of Hearts", a post-apocalyptic-themed song with a bouncy beat and slide guitar.

Get "Pocketknife" on Amazon

September 28, 2012

Bright Eyes - First Day Of My Life

Bright Eyes' "First Day Of My Life" is a track from the band's 2005 album, "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning". It is an acoustic song with busy, melodic guitar work. Conor Oberst keeps his lyrics simple but affecting here; "First Day Of My Life" describes the wonderful sensation of feeling born-again since meeting one's love: "I remember the time you drove all night / Just to meet me in the morning / And I thought it was strange, you said everything changed / You felt as if you just woke up / And you said / "This is the first day of my life / Glad I didn't die before I met you""

Get "First Day of My Life" on Amazon

September 27, 2012

Eels - Grace Kelly Blues

"Grace Kelly Blues", from Eels' 2000 album, "Daisies of the Galaxy", is a breezy folksy song, about the eponymous, late Hollywood actress's whirlwind transformation into the Princess of Monaco. A stately, pounding brass ensemble kicks off the song and thereafter weaves in and out of it. With wafting pedal steel, "Grace Kelly Blues" closes on a wistful and hopeful note: "I'm not so sure when I got here or how / Sun melting the fake smile away / I think, you know, I'll be okay".

Get "Grace Kelly Blues" on Amazon

September 26, 2012

The Redwalls - Universal Blues

"Universal Blues" by The Redwalls, the title track of the band's 2003 debut album, is an excellent country-influenced rock song with a wistful guitar intro that gives one warm tingles from the get-go. Look out for the instrumental section at about 1 minute 20 seconds into the song, starting off with vocal ahs and developing into a satisfying, Oasis-esque electric guitar solo.

September 25, 2012

Grand Drive - Track 40

UK band Grand Drive has built up an impressive discography of consistently tuneful and lush country rock songs over the decade and more that the group has been together. "Track 40", from Grand Drive's 2002 album, "See The Morning In", is a pedal steel-, piano- and guitar-replete case in point. An earnest country rock song, "Track 40" wears its nostalgic heart on its sleeves: "You can put so many miles in between / But there's only one place your memories belong / Track 40's gone".

Get "Track 40" on Amazon

September 24, 2012

the Vinyl Skyway - Sleepwalking

Today's featured song is "Sleepwalking", by the Vinyl Skyway, from the band's 2007 sophomore album, "From Telegraph Hill". "Sleepwalking" is a short, lush ditty about reminiscence: "I recall a time when the mood was not so blue / frozen blocks of mine / memories for me and you". Singer-songwriter Michael Hayes brings me back in time a little to Grandaddy's dystopian melodies, but "Sleepwalking" is less hushed and more alt-country, possessing the wistful sounds of slide guitar.

September 23, 2012

John Bustine - Miss Amputee West Culver County

The song of the day is "Miss Amputee West Culver County", by John Bustine, from his 2007 album, Waltzes and Pleas. I was not able to find a video of the original, but above is a video of a live cover performed by Alex The Red Parez aka El Rojo, during a John Bustine tribute set at Solly's in Washington DC. "Miss Amputee West Culver County" is a folksy, melodic ballad. It unravels a tale about a beauty queen who suffered a lifechanging amputation which freed her from her smalltown life to chase her dreams. This bittersweet story is told from the point of view of the lover she left behind: "So go on / Godspeed / Go sail the mountains / And climb the seas / And be everything you deserve to be / As a state-wide finalist". In John Bustine's album version, "Miss Amputee West Culver County" starts off as a quiet acoustic guitar song, but around the midway mark, other instrumental tracks enter the mix, giving the ballad a bright, alt-country sound.

Get "Miss Amputee West Culver County" on Amazon

September 22, 2012

Lambchop - The Man Who Loved Beer

The song of the day is "The Man Who Loved Beer", by veteran Nashville band Lambchop, from their 1996 album, "How I Quit Smoking". A languid, pedal steel-filled song, "The Man Who Loved Beer" has dark, mysterious lyrics that belie its gentle sound.

Get "The Man Who Loved Beer" on Amazon

September 21, 2012

Trashcan Sinatras - Got Carried Away

Trashcan Sinatras' "Got Carried Away" is a moody, fingerpicking-driven song from the Scottish band's lauded 2004 album, "Weightlifting". The occasional touches of pedal steel contribute to the morose atmospherics of the song.

Get "Got Carried Away" on Amazon

September 20, 2012

East River Pipe - Millionaires Of Doubt

The spotlight today is on "Millionaires Of Doubt", a song by Fred Cornog's amazing one-man band East River Pipe, from his 2003 album, "Garbageheads on Endless Stun". Jazzed up with little flourishes of slide guitar and sound effects, "Millionaires Of Doubt" is pleasant and laidback.

Get "Millionaires of Doubt" on Amazon

September 19, 2012

Ferraby Lionheart - Put Me In Your Play (Live)

Today's post features Ferraby Lionheart's "Put Me In Your Play", an earnest folksy ballad about affection that's a little one-sided. "Put Me In Your Play" is a track off the Californian troubadour's debut album, "Catch The Brass Ring, released in 2007. Above is a YouTube video of his May 2010 live performance at Beachland Tavern in Cleveland, Ohio. Like in the album version of "Put Me In Your Play", Ferraby Lionheart sings with slide guitar accompaniment.

Get "Put Me in Your Play" on Amazon

September 18, 2012

Teenage Fanclub - Sweet Days Waiting

Swirls of pedal steel abound in "Sweet Days Waiting", a track from Glasgow band Teenage Fanclub's 2010 release, "Shadows". On their ninth studio album, the venerable powerpop rockers show their enduring gift for melody in this bittersweet song about hanging in there: "But somewhere beyond the horizon / Sweet, sweet days are waiting there for you" 

Get "Sweet Days Waiting" on Amazon

September 17, 2012

Old 97's - Blinding Sheets Of Rain

The song of the day is "Blinding Sheets Of Rain", a soothing alt-country song by Old 97's, from their sixth studio album "Drag It Up", released in 2004. "Blinding Sheets Of Rain" is a mellow, pedal steel entwined lament about a love lost - "Blinding sheets of rain / that's what I’m blaming / I must have been blind not to see that you would leave" - but it is also about the hope to love again: "We have not seen a good night since these thunderstorms rolled in / I pray god please send them back and make me blind again"

Get "Blinding Sheets of Rain" on Amazon

September 16, 2012

Karate - Pines

Karate was an American indie rock band known for its unique and dynamic fusion of diverse elements from rock, punk, jazz and blues. "Pines", from their 2004 album, "Pockets", is one such smooth quiet blend of rock, jazz and slide guitar. "Pines" is a gently pensive song, ostensibly about a relationship getting dragged down by minutiae. Look out for the beautiful and thoughtful instrumental solo at around midpoint in the song.

Get "Pines" on Amazon

September 15, 2012

Iron & Wine And Calexico - Prison On Route 41

"Prison On Route 41" is a track from Iron & Wine and Calexico's 2005 joint EP, "In The Reins". It is a collaboration that works well, as Sam Beam (Iron & Wine)'s usual melodic folk has been enhanced with Calexico's rich country instrumentation. Calm and soothing, "Prison On Route 41" is a languid song laced with swooning pedal steel and enlivened by tight strumming and the occasional drumbeat.

Get "Prison On Route 41" on Amazon

September 14, 2012

Mazzy Star - Fade Into You

Today's featured song is "Fade Into You", the classic hit by iconic 90s dream pop band Mazzy Star.  "Fade Into You" was a successful single from Mazzy Star's 1993 sophomore album, "So Tonight That I Might See". Beautiful and languid, the song is filled with slide guitar lending it its signature haunting, atmospheric sound. Vocalist Hope Sandoval sings of a lover's dark room confessional, vulnerability laid open: "I wanna hold the hand inside you / I wanna take the breath that's true / I look to you and I see nothing / I look to you to see the truth"

Get "Fade Into You" on Amazon

September 13, 2012

Wilco - My Darling

Wilco's 1999 album, "Summerteeth" - their third - was crammed with excellent tracks. Today's focus will be on track #11, "My Darling", a lovely chamber pop lullaby to a young child: "Go back to sleep now / My darling / And I'll keep all the bad dreams away". It opens with a slightly playful yet wistful piano intro, and is soon joined by slide guitar, as the song unfolds into a lusher sound. The rest of "My Darling" continues with the tinge of wistfulness, as the narrator makes a wish for his child: "Grow up now / My darling / Please don't you grow up too fast / And be sure, darling / To make all the good times last"

Get "My Darling" on Amazon

September 12, 2012

The Sleepy Jackson - Miniskirt

The song of the day is "Miniskirt", by Australian group The Sleepy Jackson, from their 2003 debut album, "Lovers". "Miniskirt" is a rowdy romp through an rich alt-country soundscape featuring pedal steel, guitars and strings. Here's hoping that The Sleepy Jackson will resume making albums soon, their last one being 2006's "Personality - One Was a Spider, One Was a Bird".

Get "Miniskirt" on Amazon

September 11, 2012

Miracle Legion - A Heart Disease Called Love

"A Heart Disease Called Love" was first released by John Cooper-Clarke, in his 1982 album, "Zip Style Method", as a spoken word song. It was then also covered by Miracle Legion in their 1988 album, "Glad", and then The Field Mice. Of all the versions, I found Miracle Legion's to be the most affecting. The band's cover version has the strongest alt-country feel, complete with harmonica and slide guitar. Drenched in melancholia, the song makes the sorrow in the lyrics ring sincere.

September 10, 2012

The Elected - Born To Love You

The Elected released their third album, "Bury Me In My Rings" in 2011, proving they could consistently craft melodic songs. "Born To Love You" is the first track off the album, a sweet-as-peaches dreamy love song, infused with keyboards and touches of slide guitar. With all the cynicism about modern love in today's world, a song as pure as "Born To Love You" is soothing to the ears and soul: "The wonders of the world are all here on display / So why can't you believe when I say / I was born to love you, love you / And I will love you / Even if you're with someone new".

Get "Born To Love You" on Amazon

September 9, 2012

The Wallflowers - 6th Avenue Heartache

In the late 90s, The Wallflowers released their sophomore album, "Bringing Down The Horse", containing the smashing hit single "One Headlight" which topped several Billboard charts. The album achieved breakthrough success, going platinum four times in 1997, letting frontman Jakob Dylan emerge from dad Bob's shadow as a rock star in his own right. The success was well-deserved, because "Bringing Down The Horse" was stuffed with solid tracks. Today's post puts the spotlight back on "6th Avenue Heartache", the second track and the first hit single for the band, which was later eclipsed by "One Headlight". From the slide-guitar led opening, it is apparent that "6th Avenue Heartache" is one downbeat and melancholic heck of a song. However, that also affords listeners the time to nurse their pain and perhaps attain some catharsis as the song builds up into a satisfying, heartfelt chorus.

Get "6th Avenue Heartache" on Amazon

September 8, 2012

Silver Jews - Friday Night Fever

Silver Jews' "Friday Night Fever", from their 2001 album "Bright Flight", is a great remake of George Strait's 1990 original. The laidback drawl of singer David Berman, accompanied by swirling pedal steel, resonates well with the picture the song paints: a man enjoying a drink by himself in a bar ("the taste of whiskey straight"), giving in to a little self-indulgence ("I've just got that Friday night fever"), but harmlessly so ("I've heard all those come on lines / But I go home at closing time / I know no one could ever take her place").

Get "Friday Night Fever" on Amazon

September 7, 2012

Monsters Of Folk - The Right Place

"The Right Place" is a rollicking, lap-steel-filled song by supergroup Monsters Of Folk, from their 2009 eponymous debut album. It is just the kind of fine, alt-country gem you'd expect the accomplished members of the group - Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes, Jim James (My Morning Jacket), M.Ward and Will Johnson - to produce when given the chance to collaborate. The song challenges the listener to examine his life and ask "if you like where you're living / if you like what you do", or if he is doing things that make himself "feel creepy inside".

September 6, 2012

My Morning Jacket - Xmas Curtain

This experimental but melodic song is by My Morning Jacket, from their 2001 album, At Dawn. "Xmas Curtain" has an almost minute-long intro that successfully builds up anticipation before frontman Jim James enters with his bright and angelic voice. For a song with "xmas" in its title, the lyrics are surprisingly dark, but intriguing, ostensibly about getting away with using prostitutes: "You pay to get behind her Christmas curtain / You're the criminal that never breaks the law!" The soaring "ahh"s in the song and touches of slide guitar add to the psychedelic and wistful sound.

September 5, 2012

January - Through Your Skies

"Through Your Skies" is a mellow rock song by UK band January, off their 2001 album, "I Heard Myself In You". With a melodic tune layered with pedal steel wails, piano and distorted guitars, it's a plaintive rock ballad that draws the listener into its quiet melancholia upon first listen.

September 4, 2012

Richard Hawley - No Way Home

"No Way Home" is a track on English singer-songwriter Richard Hawley's second album, Late Night Final. On it, Hawley sings about a narrator deciding to call it quits and move on from a relationship: "This is all the time that we have / All those ways to love you never get it back / So I'll wear shoes that walk the distance / 'Cause I'm never coming back". Like the narrator, who has mostly made peace with the split but still suffers pangs of heartache, the song is laidback and has a jaunty beat, but is made sentimental by swirls of pedal steel.

September 3, 2012

Badly Drawn Boy - Pissing In The Wind

Today's post is on one of my favourite Badly Drawn Boy songs, "Pissing In The Wind". The track is from the Mercury Prize-winning 2000 album, The Hour of Bewilderbeast. The melody and the lyrics combine to make it a beautiful, affecting song about loneliness and hope. Damon Gough's lyrics can sometimes be quirky and hard to pin down, but the words in "Pissing In The Wind" are relatable and beautiful in a street poetry kind of way: "I've been pissing in the wind / I chanced a foolish grin / And dribbled on my chin". Despite its melancholia, "Pissing In The Wind" is far from a dirge, as its intro might already allude to. Instead, it is a pretty tune, with a chug-along rhythm, drizzled with plenty of musical embellishments ranging from piano to harmonica to howling slide guitar.

September 2, 2012

The Thrills - Should've Known Better

"Should've Known Better" is a song from Irish rock band The Thrills' third album, Teenager. It is a lush, mellow song about looking back upon unfulfilled dreams in regret, underscored by mournful pedal steel. Despite being filled with gorgeous tracks, Teenager suffered from disappointing album sales, and the band was subsequently dropped from EMI, and has been on indefinite hiatus since then. Listening to my favourite tracks on the album makes me miss The Thrills, and wonder what might have been, if the album had fared better.

September 1, 2012

Yo La Tengo - One PM Again

The featured song of the day is by indie rock band Yo La Tengo, from their 1997 album, "I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One". An acoustic ditty about a tentative, budding love, "One PM Again" is gentle and laidback, save for the swellings of pedal steel betraying the stirrings of the narrator's heart.