Having made it to Albuquerque, we visited Monk’s Corner Taproom, the home of Abbey Brewing. If you are ever in the ABQ, you need to go visit them. Great beer and great bartenders made for a great experience. We also had great coffee at the charming Zendo Coffee. Albuquerque knows its stuff.
39. The Lord Reigns – Hosanna Worship. It being Sunday, we visited City Presbyterian Albuquerque for a lovely service. We also put on this live worship record from the late ’80s that I grew up with. Hail, hail, Lion of Judah.
40. Flying Into Daybreak – Charlie Hall. Kevin preferred this modern worship record to my ’80s worship extravaganza. Pfft.
40a. My friend Duane put together a playlist of songs to send me off to Arizona. We put that on as we approached and crossed the Arizona border.
41. This Is Happening – LCD Soundsystem. I love this record, but it kinda doesn’t fit with the desert. Oh well.
42. The Life of the World to Come – The Mountain Goats. Now this fit with the desert. There was a thunderstorm at our back as this played, but it never quite hit us all the way. It fit the mood of this record excellently.
43. Fences – Bombadil. If you haven’t heard the new Bombadil record yet, you’re missing out on one of the best folk-pop records of this year.
44. Hold On – Bombadil. I don’t remember why we listened to two Bombadil records back-to-back, but this one is great too.
The longest haul of our whole journey: a 10-hour day. I think we forgot to record some albums in here, but what can you do? We drove for over 10 hours.
28. “Albuquerque” – Weird Al Yankovic. Can’t start a trip to Albuquerque without it. I had forgotten how weird and violent this song is.
29. Theseus and the Time Machine – The Programme. I was obsessed with this instrumental rock album when I was 18. It’s the lone album of a short-lived Tulsa-area band whose live shows still make me miss them, a decade later. Fun fact: Folk troubadour M. Lockwood Porter was in this band.
30. Futures – Jimmy Eat World. This record is almost exactly 40 minutes long and therefore a perfect record to listen to if you’re running 4 miles at a 10-minute mile pace. It is also fun to drive to. Jimmy Eat World is from Mesa, AZ, which is a huge city that you’ve never heard of in the Phoenix area.
31. Computer World – Kraftwerk. Kevin was stoked about this record and I kinda got into it as we went along.
32. Tarpits and Canyonlands – Bombadil. I don’t know how we’d gotten this far without listening to Bombadil, whom I love and he likes. This is a masterpiece of indie-pop; in the Top 10 of all time on my list.
33. mmhmm – Relient K. One of the best RK albums. Weirdly, Kevin’s phone did not have “I So Hate Consequences” on it, which is my favorite track off this record, but it did have every other song. “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been” is a close second, and we did jam to that one.
34. Leftrightleftrightleft – Coldplay. This is my second-favorite Coldplay release, behind A Rush of Blood to the Head. It has a perennial contender for my favorite Coldplay song on it: the 7/4 guitar chug of “Glass of Water.” “SON! DON’T ASK! NEITHER HOW FULL NOR EMPTY IS YOUR GLASS!”
35. Demon Days – Gorillaz. Right up there with Slavic Soul Party in “Weirdest experiences we had during this trip.”
36. Borderland – John Mark McMillan. It was either this or Love and War and the Sea in Between by Josh Garrels, and I’d heard the Garrels record a number of times already.
37. Coming Home – Leon Bridges. This record is just awesome.
38. Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac. Kevin made me choose between Rumors or the self-titled. A real tough choice.
1. “Hey! Ya, You” – The Elwins. Every now and then a song comes along and makes me think, “Oh yeah, that’s what that genre is supposed to sound like.” This slightly funky, slightly spacy, slightly disco-esque tune combines a lot of genres into one big ‘ol indie-rock track.
2. “Top 8” – Who Is She? There’s big cloudy SanFran garage rock, and big Weezer garage rock, and then there’s the chipper, hectic, fun major-key garage rock of this track. It’s a tune as old as MySpace–the cultivation of identity via the selection of top friends in digital space. Love it.
3. “Harvard” – Diet Cig. This kiss-off to an Ivy Leaguer is the latest proof that Diet Cig makes great, punchy punk rock. Also, the video here is just fantastic–I won’t ruin it any more than that.
3. “Avalon” – The White Buffalo. Here’s some excellent country rock that speeds along with the tempo, acrobatic drums and melodic punch of a pop-punk tune.
4. “Walk the Other Way” – Bend Sinister. There’s a corner of my music heart still reserved for excellent rock songs. Bend Sinister’s tune reminds me of Brand New’s Deja Entendu combined with a dance-rock band. Great stuff.
5. “Clean Lines” – Rotoscope. The sort of vaguely dancy, emotionally-infused indie rock that sails on a huge, memorable chorus.
6. “Companion” – Humming House. Man, but does Humming House know how to write a pop song or what? Fans of singing, happiness, love, and fun should apply.
7. “Tunguska” – Ephrata. Fun fact: Tunguska is/was a giant meteorite explosion. Sounds like something more in line with death metal or space-rock bands, but this relentlessly cheery, high-powered indie-pop-rock tune is what we have instead. If you love big vocal harmonies, this one is chock full of them.
8. “Lowlands” – Far Lands. Comes in smooth, doesn’t ask too much of you, leaves before it can outstay its welcome; this sleek indie-pop tune is basically the coolest friend you know.
9. “Gold and Green” – Slaughter Beach, Dog. The vocal approach of emo married to some low-key, slightly minor-key indie-pop with great results.
10. “Honey Colony” – Soft Fangs. You’re headed over to the next door neighbor’s to hang out, kick it, maybe have a beer. It’s a lazy Saturday in the fall. It’s kinda overcast, but still bright enough that you can see the sun and feel its warmth. This song comes on and it’s perfect.
11. “Push the Boat Out” – Hero Fisher. This keys-led track inhabits a unique, almost unclassifiable space: there are dramatic lead vocals; whirring, doomy background vocals; arhythmic whistling; and more. It’s like Imogen Heap in a marsh at night, maybe.
It has been a while since I have been able to consistently post album reviews. I hope I will be able to get back to a more stable pattern of posting soon. Until then, here are four releases that I have been listening to for a while but haven’t had a chance to write up.
Mike Crawford and His Secret Siblings – Bright Hopes!: This double album is chock full of the type of sun-dappled, hectic indie-rock that Switchfoot was great at before they turned into arena rock all-stars. The overall vibe is light and bouncy, but there’s some serious melodic and instrumental chops lurking underneath the mood. The songwriting is complex and surprising; there’s not a dull moment throughout the extensive run-time.
The centerpiece of the record is a song you may have heard before if you’re into Christian music: Crawford wrote “Be Still (Psalm 46),” which is treated to a lush version here with lazy horns and tossed-off, jazzy keys. Somehow, it doesn’t jar against the indie-dance-rock of “Balm of Gilead” and the chiptune-inflected “Grace and Peace.” Wild.
Eerie Gaits – Bridge Music: John Ross is as adept at organic, instrumental post-rock as he is at fronting electro-pop (Challenger) and punk (Wild Pink) bands. Bridge Music’s post-rock features an acoustic guitar instead of an electric guitar or keys. This means fans of Goldmund, Balmorhea, Seryn, and The Album Leaf will find much to love here.
The album is serene at heart: you can put this one on and relax effortlessly. It’s got a very autumnal sound, so it’ll be great for those of you who will soon see leaves start to turn. (I live in Phoenix now, so it’ll be a while before any temperatures shift, much less leaves fall.) Beautiful and warm.
Make Sure – Town Runner EP: Josh Jackson (Fiery Crash, Summerooms) has a new outfit. Make Sure builds on Jackson’s strengths of evocative vocals and bright arrangements by adding in even more ethos in the arrangements. The indie-rock/early ’00s emo of the four tracks here has twinkling guitars, delicate vocals, and punchy drums to spare, but it’s the subtle touches (a bass run here, relaxed keys there, an unexpected chord change now and then) that finish the puzzle.
The tight interactions between the trio of instrumentalists in “Basement Halloween” evoke the adventurous instrumental ideas of early Appleseed Cast. “If You Were Mine (Shady Glen Session)” hearkens back to Fiery Crash work, stripping out some of the instrumental gymnastics for a quiet little pop song that yet retains the mood of the whole work. It’s only about 15 minutes long, but Make Sure’s debut holds up way past 15 minutes of listening. Definitely a band to watch.
Billy Shaddox – The Record Keeper: Shaddox’s work synthesizes folk, indie-pop, AM radio rock, and even some country (“When I Hand Myself In”) into a big-hearted, good-natured sound that goes down easy. His latest work focuses on a quieter side of his oeuvre, dialing down some of the crunch and substituting mellow moments. An instantly friendly, approachable, memorable record results.
“Blame Your Eyes” is a perfect example of the approach The Record Keeper takes. Shaddox sings guilelessly over a smooth acoustic guitar line, shortly joined thereafter by strummed mandolin, shaker egg, and distant piano. A whirring organ piles in, and a brass instrument caps it off. Each of these instruments pull the arrangement in slightly different genre directions, but never get the song off track. It’s a lilting, assured piece that would fit seamlessly on unknowable numbers of chill mixtapes and playlists. “Saint Vrain” and the title track both have this sort of genre-defying act going on as well. If you’re into (such diverse acts as) Bishop Allen, David Ramirez, and Jason Isbell, you’ll find lots to enjoy here.
After having a great steak dinner with Jeff, we woke up and headed to my old hometown of Tulsa for a family visit. Super-short drive, this one.
25. The Secret in this Town – Mark Mathis. I hadn’t heard this record before, but it is a really nice folk record. Very pleased with Kevin’s selection here.
26. Metals – Feist. Not a Feist record that I had heard before. It was also nice!
27. Underdog – Audio Adrenaline. I got real brave and busted out my favorite record from when I was 13. I had almost put it on earlier but was afraid it was a bit too Christian-nerdy. Kevin said he had almost put it on earlier as well but pulled back for the same reasons. We had a blast with this record. Fun fact: when I DJed at OU, my name was DJ Smooth Steve, in tribute.
8. “Come and See” – Lean Year. This track puts a slightly woozy cast on the “hushed and intimate” school of alt-folk. A beautifully weary vocal performance leads the way through.
9. “Billy Burroughs” – Jeffrey Martin. Sounds as if the expansive work of Gregory Alan Isakov got some Jason Molina sadness mixed into the sound.
10. “Before” – Jason van Wyck. This quiet, piano-led composition has more in common with minimalist composers and modern composition practices than the droning synths that are often associated with “ambient.” The enfolding atmosphere is extremely well-developed.
Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.