My Top 10 Albums of 2012

10. Band of Horses – Mirage Rock
This album had a slightly new sound from the band that on their previous records.
Favorite tracks: “How To Live” “A Little Biblical” “Shut-In Tourist” “Everything’s Gonna Be Undone” “Heartbreak On The 101”

9. Mumford & Sons – Babel
The highs on this might not be as high as on Sigh No More, but there is a lot of really good music on here.  Glad to have Mumford & Sons back with new music.
Favorite tracks: “I Will Wait” “Lover Of The Light” “Below My Feet”

8. Band of Skulls – Sweet Sour
Some of the bluesiest rock of the year was on this album.
Favorite tracks: “Sweet Sour” “Bruises” “The Devil Takes Care Of His Own” “You’re Not Pretty But You Got It Going On” “Lies”

7. fun. – Some Nights
The best Queen-influenced album in a long time.
Favorite tracks: “Some Nights” “We Are Young” “Carry On” “One Foot” “Stars”

6. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros – Here
I feel like I’m listening to an AM folk station from the 60s when I listen to this band.  In a good way.  A really good way.  I feel like this is the kind of music the Dharma Initiative would have listened to on Lost.
Favorite tracks: “The Man On Fire” “That’s What’s Up” “I Don’t Wanna Pray” “Dear Believer”

5. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
Extraordinary Machine remains my favorite album of hers, but this is such an impressive album and I really wish she was more prolific in her song making.
Favorite tracks: “Jonathan” “Werewolf” “Anything We Want” “Hot Knife”

4. Jack White – Blunderbuss
Jack White, completely unfiltered.  Not limited by the structure of The White Stripes, or the collaborative nature of The Raconteurs.  And culling influences from the entire breadth of rock/blues history.
Favorite tracks: “Sixteen Saltines” “Love Interruption” “I’m Shakin'” “Trash Tongue Talker”

3. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
As The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Wye Oak and others have reminded us recently, sometimes less IS more.  This is the hardest rocking album of the year, and the most aptly titled album of the year.
Favorite tracks: “The Nights Of Wine And Roses” “Fire’s Highway” “Evil’s Sway” “For The Love Of Ivy” “Adrenaline Nightshift” “Younger Us” “The House That Heaven Built” “Continuous Thunder” (Yes, that is ALL of the tracks!)

2. The Lumineers – The Lumineers
These guys tried to take back the sound of folk and Americana from British imports Mumford & Sons.  They mostly succeeded.
Favorite tracks: “Flowers In Your Hair” “Classy Girls” “Submarines” “Dead Sea” “Ho Hey” “Slow It Down” “Big Parade” “Morning Song”

1. Of Monsters and Men – My Head Is An Animal
The Lumineers mostly succeeded, because this Icelandic group swooped in and caught everyone unawares.
Favorite tracks: “Dirty Paws” “King And Lionheart” “Little Talks” “Six Weeks” “Love Love Love” “Sloom” “Lakehouse”

~Moose

20 Favorite Alternative Rock Songs of the 90s

[Please check out my new blog, Jonesing For Film, a movie review blog]

I compiled this list with the one criteria that I couldn’t include any of the “big” bands of the 90s Rock scene.  So Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M., Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine, Radiohead, U2, Foo Fighters, and a few others were excluded.  They’re not exactly “deep cuts” and a few of them were big hits, but a few of them have also probably gotten lost in the shuffle.  Almost every time I hear them, I’m transported back to high school.

20. Filter – Hey Man, Nice Shot: Before “Take My Picture” there was this song.

19. Collective Soul – Run: Varsity Blues soundtrack

18. Counting Crows – A Murder of One

17. Barenaked Ladies – Alternative Girlfriend: I love two lines from this song. 1.) “Your parents understand, but you don’t care.” And 2.) Old at being young, young at being old.”

16. The Eels – Novocaine for the Soul: Before I sputter out…

15. The Dandy Warhols – Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth: Heroine IS so passe.

14. The Nixons – Sister: I had forgotten this song and was very happy when I stumbled across it a few years ago.

13. The Presidents of the United States of America – Peaches: Always loved these guys. Hard to pick between this and a few other songs.

12. Schtum – Skydiver: This song makes me think of the Saturday Morning Recovery Show on 94.3 WCYY.

11. The Sundays – Summertime: I wish this band had been bigger. I love the voice of the lead singer. Also great is “Here’s Where the Story Ends.”

10. Local H – High-Fiving M.F.: “Your glory days are over and so’s your stone-washed jeans.” Yeah, take that, hair bands… (NSFW because of language)

9. The Flys – Got You (Where I Want You): For the teens who didn’t watch Dawson’s Creek, this song, for the Disturbing Behavior soundtrack, made us fall in love with Katie Holmes. Also, the rest of their album sounded NOTHING like this song.

8. Butthole Surfers – Pepper: Quiet, loud, quiet loud. “They were all in love with Di and they were doing it in Texas.”

7. Spacehog – In the Meantime: I still don’t understand all of the lyrics, but I love this song.

6. Seven Mary Three – Lucky: “Cumbersome” is a grungier song, but I loved the stripped down nature of this song.

5. The Bogmen – Suddenly: Just a fun, funny song. I shout this one out in my car whenever it comes across my iPod.

4. Soul Coughing – Super Bon Bon: Awesome awesome awesome beat.

3. Everclear – Santa Monica: The best Everclear song. Great guitar riff. And one of my favorites of all time.

2. Rustic Overtones – Iron Boots: Horn section in this song is so awesome. Hard to find a clean version on YouTube because they’re not well-known outside of Maine. But this is easily one of my most favorite songs of all time.

1. Temple of the Dog – Hunger Strike: I said no Pearl Jam and no Soundgarden, but I didn’t say anything about Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell together in the same song. Again, one of my most favorite songs. Ever. Period. Special bonus, I’m posting the music video AND the surprise performance that they sprung on the world a few years back that gave me chills.

~Moose (jonesingforfilms.wordpress.com)

Artists I Want To Hear From In 2012

10. Tool – We’re closing in on six years since Tool released 10,000 Days.  I’m sure they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but they make really great rock music.  They are known to take their time in between albums, with 5 years in between Aenima, Lateralus, and 10,000 Days.  But when they do come out with new material, it is rock solid.  Lateralus was one of my favorite albums of the previous decade and 10,000 Days had some great singles in “Vicarious”, “Jambi” and “The Pot.”  If they come out with anything this year, it will be a welcome addition to the 2012 rock landscape.

9. Muse – Muse seemed to really hit it big with The Resistance in 2009, becoming one of the biggest rock bands in the world.  They make big, anthemic progressive rock and when that works, it really works.  The Resistance produced a lot of big singles, but I sometimes wondered what exactly it was that they were resisting and raging against in their songs.  In the long run, it didn’t really matter, as they make great big music to sing along to.  There is talk that they are working on a new album already, so we’ll see what 2012 brings from these radio-friendly rockers.

8. Mumford & Sons – These guys had a monster 2010 and it looks like they are readying for a follow-up album to be released this year.  It is going to be interesting to see if the indie folk genre is sustainable or if there will be too many bands out their replicating their sound to be able to achieve success again.  If they can make an album that is as enjoyable and accessible as Sigh No More, then things will be alright.

7. Kings of Leon – It feels like their star has faded a bit, like they peaked with Only by the Night and the smash hits “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody.”  Come Around Sundown was released in the latter half of 2010, and they usually put out music at a steady clip, with releases in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, and 2010.  So it is possible that they would release something toward the end of this year, but they could take a step back like their ‘04-‘07 period.  As divisive as their musical progression has been for some of their fans, I still enjoy their sound, though I wouldn’t mind a return to the grittier sounds of their first few albums and away from the polish of their last couple.

6. Anything Jack White – The White Stripes are done.  I’ve shed my tears, rent my garments, covered my head in ashes, and started to piece my heart back together.  In the wake of that, I’ll take anything “full-length” that Jack White has to offer musically.  Whether it is in the form of a new Raconteurs album or The Dead Weather or a solo album or some other collaboration he is prominently involved in.

5. Damien Rice – This guy seems to be notorious for taking his time to release new albums.  It seemed like I was waiting forever for 2006’s 9, a follow-up to 2002’s O.  And while 9 wasn’t as good as his first album, it was still enough to keep me interested.  But now we’re closing in on six years since his last release.  And there is no hint of anything new on the horizon.  I wonder how much of an effect his breakup with Lisa Hannigan had on his music.  She was a longtime collaborator and girlfriend and their relationship ended poorly.  Since that time, she has produced two really good albums and he’s gone rather silent.

4. Band of Skulls – These guys have a bluesy rock sound similar to The White Stripes and The Black Keys.  However, as their debut album, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, showed, they are a very versatile band.  It seems like they have 2 or 3 competing influences and give them all a chance to be aired on the album.  They’re listed as having a February 21st release for their second album, Sweet Sour.  I’ll be interested to see if a dominant influence emerges.

3. Arcade Fire – Arcade Fire have released three very impressive albums, with the last one The Suburbs, winning the Grammy.  They have usually gone 2-3 years between albums, so 2012 might be a bit early for a follow-up to Suburbs, which came out in August 2010.  But I can hope.

2. The Shins – The last Shins album was 2007’s Wincing the Night Away.  Since then, James Mercer, the lead singer, replaced all of the other band members with new performers.  And he has had a successful run with Danger Mouse in forming Broken Bells, releasing one EP and LP.  So this new album will be different, but hopefully not too different.  On March 20th, Port of Morrow will come out.  This makes me happy.  This new album with a new lineup will be different, but hopefully not too different.  At least one of my musical appetites will be sated this year.

1. Fiona Apple – It’s been seven, SEVEN, calendar years (six years and about 3 months) since Fiona Apple released Extraordinary Machine in October of 2005.  It may come as a surprise to some that I would list her at the top, but, man, do I missed her voice.  She is easily my favorite female artist.  As far as I’m concerned, Norah Jones, Alicia Keyes and any of these other singer/songwriter ladies are merely pretenders to the throne and Fiona puts them all back in their place whenever she releases something new.  Nobody else on this list has had as much time elapse between when they released their last album.  She has stated recently that she made new music that has been done for over a year and it’s just sitting on a shelf.  Given the difficulty she has had getting Extraordinary Machine released, it is no surprise, but I hope it sees the light of day sooner rather than later.

~Moose

10 Favorite Albums of 2011

Honorable Mention:
Childish Gambino – Camp
Donald Glover of “Community” is the nerdy version of Kanye West.

The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart
Really good folk rock, but a little too paint by numbers.  Like the STP to Mumford & Sons’ Pearl Jam.

Lisa Hannigan – Passenger
Just got this a week ago, haven’t had enough of a chance to digest it.  Really good though.

10. The Black Keys – El Camino
I did not like this album as much as Brothers.  But it has started to grow on me with repeated listenings.  These guys have assumed the mantle of The White Stripes for best two-person band in the world.  While it may not have a “TIghten Up” or “Howlin’ For You” on it, El Camino still has some really enjoyable songs with some catchy hooks.  “Lonely Boy” was the first single, but I think “Gold on the Ceiling” will be the bigger hit.  And “Little Black Submarines” sounds like a Keys’ tribute to “Stairway to Heaven.”
Favorite songs:
Lonely Boy
Gold on the Ceiling
Little Black Submarines
Run Right Back

9. Death Cab for Cutie – Codes and Keys
I liked this album because it’s not a band on cruise control resting on its laurels.  They’re still playing around with their sound.  It sounds very much like the logical progression from 2008’s Narrow Stairs, and especially the really good The Open Door EP in 2009.
Favorite songs:
Some Boys
Monday Morning
Portable Television
Stay Young, Go Dancing

8. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Some bands don’t always seem genuine in the kind of music they are making; like they’re trying to cash in on growing trend and just throw out genre cliches.  Not the case with these guys.  Solidify their folk rock bona fides with a really good sophmore album here.
Favorite songs:
Battery Kinzie
Helplessness Blues
Lorelai
The Shrine/An Argument
Blue Spotted Tail

7. Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi – Rome
Danger Mouse is one of the most prolific musical talents out there right now.  When he’s not making records in Gnarls Barkley or Broken Bells or on his own, he’s producing other people’s album, like The Black Keys’ El Camino.  This year saw him collaborate with Italian musician Daniele Luppi for yet another unique mashup of talents.  This album took five years to assemble, and it’s a tribute to the old spaghetti westerns of the 60s.  In fact, they reassembled much of the choir that recorded some of those great scores. So on several tracks, you’ve got what Rolling Stone called the “operatic vowels” of 76-year-old Edda Dell’Orso.  And then on several other tracks they have Jack White and Norah Jones on vocals.  And with talk of a movie being made to fit this album, color me intrigued.
Favorite songs:
Theme of “Rome”
Season’s Trees (ft. Norah Jones)
Two Against One (ft. Jack White)
Black (ft. Norah Jones)
Morning Fog
The World (ft. Jack White)

6. Foster the People – Torches
Was there a more infectious hit this year than “Pumped Up Kicks?”  I think not.  And even thought it was probably overplayed, it didn’t wear on me.  And while it seemed like they might be one of those bands that had one huge hit and was never heard from again, the rest of this album is also really catchy and enjoyable.  In fact, some of their other songs are seeping into our collective unconscious without us even knowing it, most notably “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)” which is featured in a couple of Nissan commercials.
Favorite Songs
Pumped Up Kicks
Call It What You Want
Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)
Houdini
Life on a Nickel

5. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light
This band is like the indier version of Arcade Fire.  Multi-intrumentalists, lots of influences, and very creative, impressive, and enjoyable songs.  Sadly, this band lost its bassist to cancer this year.  But this is a great album to make as your swang song.  They’re another band that just seems to keep raising its own bar and then exceeding it.  These guys make really good, really artful, indie rock.  There is not a wasted track here.  “Will Do” is a great single.  “Caffeinated Consciousness” sound like it should have come from a 80s artist like Prince or INXS.
Favorite songs:
Keep Your Heart
No Future Shock
Will Do
New Cannonball Blues
Repetition
Forgotten

4. Wilco – The Whole Love
Wilco was a band I had heard great things about but never gave them a listen.  Then Amazon had all of their albums available for $5 in September in the lead up to the release of this album.  So I dove right in and the music was every bit as good as advertised.  And when I got to this album at the end of the month, it didn’t let me down either.  Much like my #1 on this list, this may not be their most experimental or ambitious album, but it is comfortable and accessable in a good way, without compromising the things that make the band great.  “Open Mind” is one of the most beautiful, relaxed love songs I’ve heard this year and one of my favorite songs of the year.
Favorite songs:
Dawned on Me
Black Moon
Born Alone
Open Mind
Rising Red Lung
Whole Love
One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)

3. Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
If you don’t listen to Iron & Wine, you are missing out.  His early stuff is very stripped down and a lot of solo stuff.  But on his last two albums he has expanded his horizons and really delivered in ways that you wouldn’t have expected from his earlier folky roots.  I could easily make this my #1 album of the year if it weren’t for how much I enjoyed the next two albums, but it is just a beautiful album.  “Walking Far From Home” and “Me and Lazarus” are two of my favorites of 2011.
Favorite Songs:
Walking Far From Home
Me and Lazarus
Half Moon
Godless Brother In Love
Glad Man Singing
Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me

2. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
It seems my ears have fallen for the indie singer-songwriters.  Bon Iver made one of the best albums of the 00s with For Emma, Forever Ago back in 2008.  And he builds on that with an equally impressive follow-up here.  But it’s also a progression.  While For Emma was made in the seclusion of a cabin in the woods which is really conveyed through the stripped down nature of the album, this one is bigger, more indulgent, and experimental.  Auto-tune properly used even finds it’s way into some of the tracks.
Favorite songs:
Perth
Minnesota, WI
Holocene
Towers
Michicant
Wash.
Calgary
Beth/Rest

1. The Decemberists – The King Is Dead (BONUS: Long Live the King EP)
There may have been better overall albums released in 2011.  There may have been more technically impressive albums in 2011.  But there was no album I enjoyed more than The King Is Dead.  The Decemberists have a reputation of making really progressive, complex, conceptual rock.  Whenever the term “baroque rock” is attached to your band, it can be a double edged sword.  They’re also famous for their large vocabulary.  At their best, their high-concept music is elegant and enjoyable.  At their worst, it feels like a college thesis and inaccessable.  All of that is to say that those high-concept aims are largely abandoned in The King Is Dead.  In its place is a band who looks like decided to relax just a bit, put down the book reports, and have fun making an album in the best traditions of R.E.M., Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and Neil Young.  In fact, they even got R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck to guest on three tracks.  It’s hard not to want to start into the chorus of “The One I Love” when you hear “Down by the Water.”  The album is folksy, a little country at times, and pure Americana.  And then they capped it off by adding a EP at the end of October that included 6 songs that were culled from the making of The King Is Dead.  And all of those are enjoyable too.  I got this album back in late January of 2011 and I didn’t listen to anything else as regularly as this one.  The impressive thing for me, is that there isn’t one pin-pointable track where I can use it to say, “This is the standout track.”  What it makes it so enjoyable for me is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts with this.
Favorite songs:
Don’t Carry It All
Rise To Me
January Hymn
Down by the Water
All Arise
June Hymn
This Is Why We Fight
Dear Avery
Foregone (Long Live the King)
I 4 U & U 4 Me (Long Live the King)
Row Jimmy (Long Live the King)

~Moose

Best of 2010: Music

Been a while since I wrote in here.  And since it is nearing the end of 2010, I thought I would start doing a few of my annual lists of favorites.  Let’s start with music.  2009 was pretty bare in terms of bands that I listen to releasing music.  But 2010 saw a lot of my favorites releasing stuff.  So, here are my favorite albums that I enjoyed this year.  And since I don’t buy a lot of music, I can only give 7 selections. 

7. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
I have heard of LCD Soundsystem for a while (“Get Innocuous!” was featured on the hipster radio station, Radio Broker, on GTA IV) but never really got into the music until I heard “All My Friends” on the trailer for the movie “Greenberg” this spring and got hooked on the song briefly.  So when I saw the group’s latest album available on Amazon really cheap, I pounced.  And while I haven’t given it a full-attention-listen-to, what I have heard on random shuffle on my iPod has been enjoyable.  Not being a music critic, the closest I can come to describing their sound is “indie dance.”  I also appreciate that most of the songs are on the longer side.  The second-shortest track clocks in at 5:52. 
Favorite songs: “Dance Yrself Clean” and “I Can Change”

6. Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown
I couldn’t put it any higher because I only bought it yesterday and have only listened to it once.  But I love KOL.  And it didn’t seem fair to put it at the very bottom of my list. 
Favorite songs: “Radioactive” “The Immortals” “Birthday”

5. Band of Horses – Infinite Arms
I really love their sound.  Especially when they drop in a twinge of country twang into their songs, which is quite a surprising statement coming from me since I really can’t tolerate country music.  But they definitely have a folksy, southern rock, alt country vibe that can rock on one track and then really mellow out on the next one.  Great harmonies throughout.
Favorite songs: “Blue Beard” “On My Way Back Home” “For Annabelle” “Neighbor”

4. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
This might be a bit of a cheat on my part, as it was released in November of ’09 in the UK and then February of ’10 in the US.  Irregardless, this British folk rock group makes great music.  There’s quite a few good, earnest songs to enjoy here.  Also, when the lead singer dips down into a near-growl, I think he sounds bit like Dave Matthews.
Favorite songs: “The Cave” “Winter Winds” “White Blank Page” “Little Lion Man” 

3. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
This album was harder for me to get into than their previous two, but I think part of that may have been that I bought the mp3 album off of Amazon; whereas with the other two, I had the CDs and would pop them in and play them (the major drawback of always shuffling songs on my iPod is that I skip around too much).  But when I actually listened to this album, Arcade Fire was still cranking out the consistently quality music that they had previously made.  Athemic at times, and a definite theme of suburban sprawl throughout, it thankfully doesn’t wear out its welcome on repeated listening. 
Favorite songs: “Ready To Start” “City With No Children” “Wasted Hours” “We Used To Wait” “The Sprawl II”

2. Broken Bells – Broken Bells
I don’t think it’s possible to go wrong when you make a one-off duo of major players from The Shins and Gnarls Barkley.  James Mercer’s voice laid down with the catchy beats of Danger Mouse?  I did not need to be convinced of that combo, and I was not disappointed with it either.  I don’t think I listened to a single album more than this one throughout the course of 2010. 
Favorite songs: “The High Road” “Vaporize” “The Ghost Inside” “The Mall and Misery”

1. The Black Keys – Brothers
While I may have listened to Broken Bells more, nothing caught my ear more than this duo.  Catchy hooks, bluesy guitars, and just a gritty, garage-band sound.  With The White Stripes, Band of Skulls, and now The Black Keys, I have developed an affinity for a minimalist blues-rock that I didn’t have a few years ago. 
Favorite songs: “Tighten Up” “Howlin’ For You” “The Only One” “Ten Cent Pistol” “Never Gonna Give You Up”

~Moose

My Musical Journey

My musical tastes have changed dramatically in my 20s.  Back in high school I listened to basically Christian music and modern rock music.  Modern rock music being loosely defined as anything that I would hear on what I still consider to be the best radio station ever, WCYY.  I didn’t really get into music until my teenage years.  While I had a general sense of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, I missed out on the height of the grunge era, so I really cut my teeth on the post-grunge era of music.  There is still a lot of good music I love from that period, and I consider 90s rock to be my favorite period of music.  But I listened to a lot of loud, angry music for a while and also made a lot of bad musical purchases.  I would buy a CD just because I heard one song on the radio that I liked.  This came back to bite me more than once (I’m looking at you, Artificial Joy Club and The Flys!).  As for the loud and angry stuff, in particular Limp Bizkit, I guess I just liked it because everyone else thought it was cool.  It’s not like I had a lot to be angry about. 

I’m not saying that I still don’t listen to and enjoy some of these things (“Got You Where I Want You” by The Flys remains one of my favorite songs, even if nothing else on that CD sounded like it…), but I feel like I am a bit more discerning about the quality of music that I listen to regularly now.  Every once in a while I will stumble upon an old song I enjoyed when my iPod is on shuffle.  But I had a big purge of my CD collection back in 2003 or 2004 after my college years and made a concerted effort to make sure I didn’t buy music just based on one song I had heard from a band.  My personal preferences for music also dramatically mellowed out as well.  I found my musical horizons expanded in many different directions.  I still have my non-negotiable list of music I just don’t care for (99% of country music, mainstream pop in particular) but there are certainly some exceptions to those.  Really, after college, my musical preferences took a bit of an indie bent to them.  Not that I’m a total hipster or someone who will only listen to the most obscure stuff I can find, but I definitely do not prefer the mainstream “artists” that everyone is falling over today (Lady GaGa, Kei$ha, et al.).  Here is a sample of some of the stuff I have been enjoying for the last few years. 

The White Stripes – My new favorite band.  For the longest time, if you asked me my #1 band, I would have told you Nirvana.  Maybe even Radiohead.  I still enjoy Nirvana and I’ll talk about Radiohead a bit more in depth later, but there is no band I enjoy listening to more than the two-piece set of Jack White and Meg White.  As far as I’m concerned, there is Jack White and everyone else today when it comes to guitarists.  I bought Get Behind Me Satan a few years ago, and then Icky Thump when it came out.  But in the last two years I’ve really gotten into their earlier stuff, pre-Elephant.  Their first two albums, The White Stripes and De Stijl, have some of their best, pure rocking stuff.  Overall, aside from their obvious singles you’d hear on the radio, give “Ball and Biscuit”, “When I Hear My Name” and.. too many other great tracks to name!  Of course, you should also listen to The Racontuers if you enjoy the Stripes.

Sufjan Stevens – Back in 2005, I saw his name come up on a lot of “Best Of 2005” lists.  So sometime in 2006, I gave him a listen and purchased the “Come On Feel the Illinoise!” cd.  Talk about actually living up to the hype.  So many instrumental layers.  Songs culled from the history of the state of Illinois that were also deeply personal and reflective.  How many singers can make a moving song that is centered on John Wayne Gacey?  I’m guessing I could count them on one hand.  But Stevens pulls it off.  “Casmir Pulaski Day” is one of the most emotionally devastating songs I think I’ve ever heard.  And he’s also got a song about zombies!  And Superman!  And his other albums are also quality, Greetings from Michigan and Seven Swans.  Give him a listen.

Radiohead – I remember the buzz surrounding the release of OK Computer back in 1997.  It. Was. Important.  I bought into the hype.  And continue to buy into Radiohead as being the best band around today and maybe the most important band around.  By no means are they an easy band to get into, especially because of the experimentation on Kid A and Amnesiac.  And I still have not fully gotten into Hail to the Thief.  But they blew me away with In Rainbows.  And The Bends remains my favorite of theirs, if for no other reason than “Fake Plastic Trees” is my favorite Radiohead song.  They’re one of the only bands that I will blindly purchase their latest release without even hearing anything off of it.  They’ve earned that.

Arcade Fire – Speaking of cold-buying a release, that what I will be doing when Arcade Fire releases their 3rd album next Tuesday.  I really like their sound.

Snow Patrol – Their lyrics are sometimes a bit too grand and… cosmic at times, but I’ve liked all of their stuff I’ve heard so far.  A Hundred Million Suns has really grown on me in the past year.

Death Cab For Cutie – They’re kind of autobiographically linked to Snow Patrol for me, as I started listening to Transatlanticism the same time I started listening to Final Straw.  I love the way their sound has evolved.  One of the first things I downloaded when I went legit on mp3s recently was The Open Door EP.  “Little Bribes” has been in regular rotation on my iPod.

Band of Horses – You probably know them for “The Funeral” which got a lot of play a few years ago, but they have a lot of other great melodic stuff.

The Shins – I’m not going to pull a Garden State and say that listening to them will change your life, but I thoroughly enjoy their music.  I’m kinda nervous about the direction of the band as the lead singer kicked a few of his bandmates to the curb and replaced them, but everything so far has been just about all money. 

Iron & Wine – Probably best known for his cover of “Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service, but Sam Beam is one of a few folk artists I’ve gotten into in the last few years, including Damien Rice and Ray LaMontagne.  Iron & Wine may be the best of the three though.  He makes some beautiful, simple music.  Listen to “Love and Some Verses”, “16, Maybe Less” “Resurrection Fern” and “Sodom, South Georgia”.

Some other acts to listen to check out that I love:
The Postal Service
Damien Rice
Ray Lamontagne
Broken Bells
Hot Hot Heat
The Decemberists
Coheed & Cambria
Gypsy Tailwind (local band)

~Moose