5 Songs I’m Loving Now – 11/11/13

Night Terrors of 1927 – Dust and Bones

I would love to say that when they release a full album, Night Terrors of 1927 are going to release the album of the year, but I’ve seen enough bands fail to live up to their early single hype that I really can’t make that promise. That said, man is this song good. So is everything else they’ve released. Their first EP comes out today, and its 5 songs are damn good. Yet there is no question this track is the stand out. I don’t really know how to explain this music other than that it somehow seems to mash 80s pop with early 00s indie in a musical pairing that isn’t at all precocious or annoying. If there’s anything that could be said against NTo27, it’s that they should have released their EP in the summer because they make music for the sun.

Beth Orton – Mystery

Changing it up completely, this haunting, melancholy work by Beth Orton is an excellent showcase for the British songstress’s uncanny voice. Her 2012, Sugaring Season, from which this comes, is so low-key that it kind of faded into the background, even for me whose favorite Orton album is the understated wonder, Central Reservation. Well, I might have let this album slip by me, but this song cannot be ignored. Gorgeous, delicate, brimming with a desperate beauty, Orton is many years into her career but she hasn’t lost her touch.

Neko Case – Nearly Midnight, Honolulu

I’ve already talked about seeing Neko live just last week, so I don’t know what else there’s to be said about it. She’s a force of nature, a tornado, a lion, a flood. This song is the centerpiece of her latest album, not only because it comes smack dab in the middle of the playlist, but because it resonates thematically with so much of her music. It’s a tale of abuse and pitiful human relations, but also a story about finding strength despite everything else, and if that isn’t the quintessential Neko Case song, I don’t know what is. Plus, her voice could resurrect the dead.

Okkervil River – White

To be honest, I wish I could say that the latest Okkervil River grabbed me as much as their earlier stuff, but The Silver Gymnasium, while not bad, isn’t as captivating as their earlier work. When I first listened to OR, I was struck by how immediately the songs hooked into me, and that sadly hasn’t been the case with this latest album. Except for this song. After listening to the album one time, “White” stuck out as the song to beat and after many listens through the rest of the album, it still is. Lyrically and musically, this is what this band does best and I honestly can’t get enough of it. With time, the rest of the album will likely grow on me, but for the foreseeable future this is the standout.

Death Cab For Cutie – Transatlanticism

This year is the 10th anniversary of the album that pretty much marks the high point for Death Cab For Cutie, and this is coming from a guy who unabashedly loves Plans and Keys and Codes. In fact, despite having seen the band on the tour for this album, I didn’t actually get Transatlanticism until less than a year ago, and boy do I feel like an idiot. I routinely heard it said that Transatlanticism was their best album, but I was always a little skeptical. Well, I shouldn’t have been. This album is a focused work of gorgeous contriteness, and I could have honestly put any track in this spot. I picked this one because it’s the title track and because I love long songs that build to a cathartic release. This album represents the definitive experience of being in your 20s, and I hope that restless twentysomethings are still discovering it decades down the road.

Night Terrors of 1927 Guilty Pleas

New Band of the Month: July – Reflection

For the Seventh month of the New Band feature, I selected indie folkies,  Okkervil River (read my initial thoughts here).

Now, this is what I’m talking about.  The whole idea of doing this every month this year was to hopefully surprise myself by discovering that a band I’d previously ignored was really this truly great missing link in my music library.  Alas, while I have enjoyed a lot of the music I’ve listened to so far (most of it, even), none of it has necessarily jumped out at me as Music I Must Have.

Until now.  Okkervil River is so perfectly up my alley that I’m completely dismayed that I haven’t been listening to them all along.  This is totally a case of ‘too many bands, too little time.’  I had no reason to think I wouldn’t like them, but I just never gave them a try.  Well, damn, I’m glad I have now.

I love the lyrics worthy of great literature.  I love the music that somehow manages to feel intimate while hovering into epic territory.  I love Will Sheff’s voice, despite the fact that he clearly has a limited range and rarely breaks free of the talk-sing style.  Actually, I think that’s the secret weapon of the band, because when he does strain his voice for greater emotional weight, it’s wrought with pain and starkly open-hearted pathos.  I could see how that might grow wearisome for some listeners, but for me it packs a consistent, satisfying wallop.  It’s like a slightly less-pretty but rawer version of the National, and I love the National.

Seven months into this mini-project, and I’ve found my first true, “Oh My God, How Have I Never Listened To Them?” band.  It was worth the wait.

Will I Buy An Album?  Yes, yes, and yes.  The only real question is, which one.  Everytime I listened to an album, I kept thinking, “Oh, this is the one I’ll buy.”  And then I put on the next and liked it even more.  The more I delve into this band, the more likely I’ll be to just keep picking up their entire catalog.  So, where will I start?  Probably with Down The River of Golden Dreams, just because it’s an early album of theirs, but the next time I have some extra expendable cash (when will that be?) I’ll download as many as I can get.  Yes, I’m that enamored.

Favorite Song:  Again, kind of hard to nail it down.  I admit (like the previously mentioned, the National), a lot of Okkervil River’s songs are similar in tone and style, so it’s hard to distinguish just one song and say, “Oh, that’s the stand out track.”  This isn’t a singles type of band.  But when that tone and style fits me so perfectly, I’m not complaining.

I still dig “A Stone,” the first song of theirs I ever heard, but to pick that one would be a cop out.  So, I don’t know, “The War Criminal Rises and Speaks.”   Why?  Because it’s the track I’m listening to as I type this (plus, it’s awesome).  Honestly, I can’t pick, which is what is so exciting about this month.  I have truly, deeply, fallen for this band.

Next Month: Posers

 

New Band of the Month: July – Okkervil River

Every month this year, I’m dedicating myself to getting into a new band.  By ‘new band’, what I really mean is an old band who I’ve known of for awhile but have for one reason or another never checked out.  Maybe they were a genre I wasn’t into, maybe they were the favorite band of someone I didn’t like, maybe I was just lazy.  Whatever reason, I’m going to spend the month trying to get into them.

If, at the end of the month, I find myself enjoying the music I’ll buy an album.  And if not, I’ll save my money for something else.

My New Band for July is:

Okkervil River

 

From the wiki page

Okkervil River is an indie rock band from Austin, Texas. Formed in 1998, the band takes its name from a short story by Russian author Tatyana Tolstaya. They self-released their first album, Stars Too Small to Use, which led them to the South by Southwest music festival. After recording their first album in a garage, they signed with Jagjaguwar. Okkervil River continued by releasing four more albums, including the critically lauded concept album Black Sheep Boy.

My personal history with Okkervil River:

One song: A Stone.  That’s it.  As far as I know, I’ve never heard any other song by the band.  Frankly, though, that’s probably one song more than the vast majority of the population.  Unlike, say Bruce Springsteen or, even, King Crimson, Okkervil River isn’t one of those massively influential acts who I’ve just somehow avoided.  So why spend a month on an indie band that most people will never hear the name of, let alone listen to their music?

Because they are one of those indie bands that resides in the general sphere of my musical taste and yet I’ve just never given them a chance.  There isn’t a reason, as far as I know.  They weren’t the favorite band of someone I hated.  They don’t remind me of an ex-girlfriend.  There is no negative association with them at all.  They have for some unknown reason just never entered into my library, even though based on their genre bedfellows and that one song, A Stone, I’m pretty sure I would love their stuff.

And this isn’t like LCD Soundsystem, where they’re an Important Indie Band who turns out to be rather boring when I finally give them a chance.  Or, at least, I hope that’s not the case.

But I guess that’s what I’m going to find out.  Any of you hip indie kids who were into Okkervil River way before they were cool, let me know which of their albums is the absolute bee’s knees.  And if you’ve never even heard of them but your curiosity has been piqued, why not give them a chance with me this month?