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Listening Log — #3

So I’m still catching up on last year’s music. Sure, I’ve got a list a mile long and a feeling I’ll never get up to date. Nevertheless, I’ve plied these beauties out of the year-end lists, and interspersed them with some of my own. Here’s a recap of what’s currently occupying my iPod:

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I’m Not There, various artistsThe soundtrack to 2007’s Academy Award nominated im_not_there_soundtrack.jpgfaux-biopic of legendary singer/songwriter, Bob Dylan, is an eclectic wishlist of contemporary artists covering the Father of Folk. As someone who’s respected, but never really owned much Dylan, this CD has been a welcome treat for me. There’s a wealth of songs on this double disc — 34, to be exact, so there’s no shortage of pieces. Bands like Sonic Youth, Cat Power, Yo La Tengo, the Hold Steady, Pearl Jam‘s Eddie Vedder, and Wilco‘s Jeff Tweedy, reenact a diverse selection of Dylan songs, both hits and more obscure numbers. My favorites: Willie Nelson & Calexico‘s Senor (Tales of Yankee Power), and John Doe‘s rendition of one of Dylan’s “Christian classics,” Pressing On. It’s a great bridge for the modern listener to one of rock’s icons. A fantastic album!

Over the Rhine, Trumpet Child — Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist, the husband-and-wife core of OtR, have been, for the last 15 years, building an archive of some of the richest alt-folk out there. Their double album Ohio, was recently named by Brett McCracken as one of the Best “Christian” Albums of All Time. The Trumpet Child, while not reaching those heights, is still a great addition to theTrumpetchild.jpg canon. It’s a bit of a change of pace — a jazzy slice of Americana, filled with lazy horns, lilting piano, and sultry vocals. Christianity Today calls it “a playful, flirtatious romp,” and Paste magazine listed in their Best of 2007 list. My faves: The title song, Trumpet Child and the airy If a Song Could be President, which can be heard at Over the Rhine’s Myspace Page. The entire album’s a real joy to listen to.

Project 86, Rival FactionsAndrew Scwab and company have come a long way from the metal rap-rock of their early days. With song titles like “The Forces of Radio Have Dropped a Viper into the Rhythm Section” and “Put Your Lips to the TV,” their lyrics are still as cerebral and brooding as ever (in fact, frontman Scwab has written several books of poetry). But with Rival Factions, the group’s sixth album, their cryptic messages and rage-filled thrashing has given way to a pared-down, pumped up, even *gasp* danceable, disc. The synth beats and sing-along choruses hearken back to 80’s pop, and between the energy and the brevity of the songs (the album is less than 35 minutes long) we get the sense that the band has turned another corner in their musical evolution. Granted, P86 is not for everyone (just ask my wife), but these guys are way more than three chord Neanderthals. Plus, it’s great treadmill music!

Peter, Bjorn and John, Writer’s Block Here’s another band that made many year-end peter bjorn john.jpgbest-ofs. It’s uppity über-pop from a trio of Swedes, an album that bleeds sixties sensibilities. The opening number, “Objects of My Affection,” sets the thematic tone: “And the question is: Was I more alive then than I am now? / I happily have to disagree/ I laugh more often now/ I cry more often now/ I am more me.” The album is an ode to self-realized, feel-good folk-pop. The foot-tapping bass lines, simple melodies and infectious whistling, give Writer’s Block an easygoing, warm vibe. Their big hit from the album was “Young Folks” (thanks to its appearance on Grey’s Anatomy), but the love ballad “Paris 2004” is my personal fave. A fun, change-of-pace record (especially after P86).

Sarah Groves, Tell Me What You Know As I wrote in my last Listening Log update, I’m a recent convert to Groves’ music. Her last album, “Add to the Beauty,” took me by surprise with its heartfelt, poetic, worshipful sound. One Christianity Today reviewer says of Groves, “. . .she’s one of the few artists on the planet who combines faith and artistry so well in songcraft.” Her new album presses that issue, addressing a range of emotions and issues, from finding hope amidst hopelessness to social justice. The liner notes give us a glimpse into her motivations, with songs inspired by stories from International Justice Mission, “Alfred and the people of Rwanda,” and the prison letters of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The mixture of folksy ballads, jazz-tinged pop, and contemplative piano numbers, make this is a terrific, thoughtful album. (An added bonus: She’s performing in concert around the block next month!)

Radiohead, In Rainbows Here’s another album that received oodles of press, not just for its radiohead_in_rainbows2.jpgunique release (pay-what-you-want downloads), but for the caliber of music. With In Rainbows, Thom Yorke and crew continue to show why they’re one of the most important, innovative bands around. Here, they’ve traded in the abstract electronica of the “Kid A” era for more traditional, guitar-centric rock. It’s really an ingenuous synthesis of elements that have made Radiohead so unique. It’s “The Bends” meets “Hail to the Thief,” a brilliant combination of synths and strings, snappy drums undermined by Yorke’s familiar dystopian angst. There’s even an unnerving, lounge-like number to boot. Dare I say In Rainbows is the most accessible Radiohead release since The Bends. This album’s been on my turntable non-stop. Definitely one of the best Radiohead albums, and one of the best discs of 2007.

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So there you have it! The CD’s are piling up with a new shipment on the way. And my new ultra-expensive earbuds just give me one more reason to disappear. So how about you? Got anything notable on your listening log?

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Heather February 12, 2008, 3:00 PM

    Have to say, I think I like Trumpet Child better than Ohio. And In Rainbows is almost a daily play here as well.
    Right now, I’m listening to Sonora Santanera’s 15 Exitos Bailables.

  • Linda Gilmore February 12, 2008, 3:06 PM

    I might have to check some of these out — especially Writer’s Block and In Rainbows. I’ve never listened to much Radiohead, but this one sounds good. And, of course, I want the new Sarah Groves album — just haven’t got it yet.

    What I’ve listened to recently is:
    after watching the movie Once, I’ve become a fan of Glen Hansard and The Frames. Very good folk-pop. I want the soundtrack for the movie, but I’ve also been listening to a couple of albums from the library.

    In a similar vein, when I was at my daughter’s house taking card of my grandson they were listening to Iron & Wine (one guy, named Sam Beam) — very nice acoustic folk.

    At the other end of the musical spectrum, I’ve also been listening to the Foo Fighters’ newest album: Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace. There is just something about loud music and these guys are the best.

    And as a sort of anniversary present, my husband let me buy Joe Walsh’s Barnstorm album, which is finally available on CD. It sounds just as good as it did when I first listened to this album back about 1975. It’s just cool.

  • Mike Duran February 13, 2008, 1:36 AM

    Sonora Santa. . . who? I’ve never heard of them Heather. Are they like the Gypsy Kings? And Linda, thanks for all the suggestions. Believe it or not, I’ve never heard the Foo Fighters. If I were to buy one of their CD’s, which one would you recommend?

  • Linda Gilmore February 13, 2008, 2:04 PM

    The new one is awesome (Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace), but you might like to try In Your Honor, which came out a couple of years ago. They did something interesting — it’s a double cd and one disk rocks hard from start to finish, the other cd is mostly acoustic and much more mellow. Both parts are good and it gives you an idea of their range. Though, the new cd is a nice mix of hard rock (The Pretender) and mellow (Home).

  • Michael Ehret February 13, 2008, 2:08 PM

    Other than saying I do NOT understand the appeal of Bob Dylan as anything other than a songWRITER (so may have to listen to that one), I’ll just comment on Over the Rhine: Discovered them by picking up their “Fireworks” a sort of collection of greatest hits.

    I try to stay fairly well informed about the music scene, so when someone has a “Greatest Hits” or a “Collection of their best” or some such and I’ve never heard of them, I always feel somewhat challenged to listen. And I’m usually glad I did. So I will look forward to hearing this one.

    Right now I am somewhat addicted to the “shuffle play” of my iPod, so am not listening to much new stuff. Though from what I heard of the Foos at the Grammys, I’ll stay away from that. If I wanted people screaming at me out of tune, I’d … well, I’d be insane.

  • janet February 13, 2008, 4:57 PM

    I could never stand listening to Dyllan, Michael! Or Rod Stewart. Ick.

    Mike, I’ve been a big Sara Groves fan for years. I’m sort of out of the music scene right now. I refuse to spend money on CD’s and havent gotten an Ipod yet. I’m pretty much a radio-listening girl right now. I’ll listen for the names you mentioned.

  • Mark D. February 13, 2008, 9:20 PM

    I am so out of touch with music, it’s funny. This past weekend, I took my daughter and 3 other 13 year old girls to the Toby Mac/Jeremy Camp concert. I love Toby but there was a point when I wanted to yell to that young whipper-snapper to turn that racket down a little bit. (Toby and I are the same age.) In my CD player…? “The Best of ABBA” (don’t judge me, they make me happy) and “Great Disco of the 80’s” (okay, you can judge that. Toot Toot Heeyyyy Beep! Beep!)

  • Michael Ehret February 14, 2008, 1:00 PM

    Mark D.

    Play that funky music, white boy! Gimme, gimme, gimme my disco. Platform shoes, shirts open to the navel, hair blown so dry it wasn’t hair it was kindling….

    Yeah…toot toot, heyyy, beep beep indeed!

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