Song of the Day: Shawn James “American Hearts (A.A. Bondy)”

Posted: April 6th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Song of the Day | Tags: , | Comments Off on Song of the Day: Shawn James “American Hearts (A.A. Bondy)”

This is one of the rare occasions where I hear a cover of an already beloved song and love it even more than the original. I love when the wolves start howling along to the chorus.

AA Bondy Wants You to Believe

Posted: September 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Album Reviews, Articles About Music | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on AA Bondy Wants You to Believe

My day job isn’t running this blog, it’s being the editor of my college newspaper. In that job, I have to make a point to keep any and all biases I might have out. Readers, with this blog I have no such duty to avoid bias, and what I have to say about this album comes from a strong bias I have.

I suppose I should explain this bias I have towards this album. It’s an AA Bias if you will. I’m one of those people who will actually tell you an album changed their life. I’m not sure how it found it’s way to my iTunes library, probably from a music swap with friends, but one day Bondy’s softmore album When the Devils Loose started playing. I think I just hit accidentally hit play on my keyboard, and since A.A. is at the top of my iTunes, it started it. I listened all the way through the album.

It was a rainy day in October, I was pretty stressed out and well… the rest is history. From Mightiest of Guns to The Coal Hits The Fire, I really felt the album. I was transported from my dorm room in Edmond, OK to a Scott Bondy’s living room on a Mississippi night.

Music tastes different after you have yourself a nice big bowl of Bondy. He’s so peaceful, and the musicians he brings with him on his albums compliment him well.

So, needless to say, the idea of another album is pretty exciting. I haven’t forgotten about American Hearts, Bondy’s first album on his own, but it didn’t connect with my the way Devils Loose did. Besides, I wasn’t looking for a prequel; I was looking for a sequel.

Believers is the sequel I’ve been searching for.

The album starts strong. The Heart is Willing is one of the strongest tracks I’ve ever heard from Bondy, and it set a tone for the album that my heart understood a couple miles before my head did (I’m measuring that in miles because I since I do most of my “processing” in my car, it makes more sense to track it in terms of distance than minutes).

The ethereal ending to Heart is Willing goes quite before it leads off into Down in a Fire (Lost Sea). The opening riffs of this song are very Explosions in the Sky-ish, not only in sound but also mood. The song is very somber, very reminiscent of a Sunday evening in November after DST has ended. The track ends with about 45 seconds of delay and feedback effects. A bit different from what I’d expect, but it holds the mood and feels alright.

Skull and Bones is the first track I had to go back and listen to again. I normally like to do my first listen to an album all the way through, but I knew I had missed some stuff about the track and had to go back. The sound of the wind whispering, the harmonizing vocals, the light sounds of brushes on drum heads. The song is very cold. Cold like the first day in September when you should have brought a jacket, but you didn’t because technically it’s still Summer and well the low was only going to be 59, cold. It gave me goosebumps.

But here comes the turning point for the album. Bondy gives us a short break with 123 Dupoy Street and then he lays it on us with Surfer King, and boy does he lay it on thick. When the music swells in at about 3:05, you just ride the wave of sweet, sweet guitary goodness like a surfer king (see what I did there?). This is my favorite track on the album, by far. If you haven’t heard it, go listen to it right now over at NPR. It’s okay, I’ll wait.

After the strong swells and high tides, Bondy takes us on the road for Hiway/Fevers. When I close my eyes I imagine being a passanger in a car, hearing sirens, passing cars and just listening to the sounds of the road at night. Close your eyes, open your ears and free your mind. I have to be careful because it kind of feels like I’m going to be sucked into the song.

It’s not a surprise that the song Drmz has some of the most prominent percussion on the album. The song is a lot lower: in tempo, in tonality and in lyrics. Look at this line, “And if I said I believed in you / We still know what you would do/ Through the door into the blue, it burns.”  It’s a dark look at life, and it pulls me down a bit, so I’m just going to go to the next song.

The Twist has a very different sound. It sounds more like a hybrid of his older stuff and the softer stuff he did as a part of Verbena. I felt broadsided by this track the first time it came on. It was like a different album started playing. It’s a good track, but it doesn’t feel like a part of this album.

I always get nervous when I hit the title track of an album. What if it sucks? To me, I always assume that an album’s title track is the artist’s favorite song, otherwise why would they call it that? Rt. 28/Believers might be Bondy’s favorite song on the album. I don’t know, I didn’t send him or his representation an email to find. If it is however, it’s a great choice. All the qualities that made The Twist feel weird to me are resolved in Rt. 28/Believers, which is great since Bondy gives us seven glorious minutes of slide guitar and soft drums.

Silly name, serious music. Scenes From A Circus wraps up a brilliant third album. I think Rt. 28/Believers is a good ending in itself, but the gapless nature of these two tracks put together just makes it even better. So what I said a few lines ago about seven minutes of glorious wonder ends up being more like 11. The tempo slows, the end feels close. Bondy gives us a few last lyrics, and then its cue the 17 second fade.

This album is good, real good. I mean The Twist is a bit of a “twist” in terms of how the album feels start to finish, but it’s not a ruiner. It feels like it’s either in the wrong place in the lineup more than it feels out of place for the album itself. Either way, I guess I could say I’m a believer now. An AA Believer. #pleasedontbecomeatrendingtopic #whyamiwritinginhashtags

All that said, it is with strong personal bias that I recommend you should stop reading this article right now and go listen to Believers on NPR, or buy it on Amazon (MP3 / CD / Vinyl) or iTunes.

If you’re interested in hearing the album that “changed my life,” When the Devils Loose is on Amazon, iTunes and Spotify.

I hope your ears don’t mind the AA Bias. Ω

Someday Soon – A Mix for February

Posted: January 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Articles About Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

I’ve been quite lazy in my posting around here lately. I’ve been shooting down idea after idea in my head, until something magical just kinda fell into my lap. Before I just endlessly spill the details of my personal life, let me just get right into why I’m back and what I’m bringing with me. Last fall I had this idea of making weekly mix-CD’s; some for myself and some for others, but at least one a week. The plan kinda fell through after only a month and a half, but I did get a great mix or two out of it. One of the mixes was for my friend Courtney, and I told her that I was going to make her an amazing mix-CD just because I wanted to. So I set to work, and I put it together in about a day. I took me a few listens to make sure I was happy with, but it was still the same songs.  After a couple days of trying to catch each other, I gave her the mix-CD in a white cd-envelope with the track-listing scrawled in the blank space. She loved it. Now, fast forward to three days ago. She texts me out of the blue at 11pm to tell me how she still loves the mix. I hadn’t spoken with her in over a month, nor did we ever text each other much. I knew she was serious. I told her it’s time I made her another one.

And that’s how I got here. So I got to work one more time. I worked real hard to fill the CD the first time; with a whopping 23 tracks and 78 minutes of music, that sucker was chock full of goodness. I decided that this time around, I was going to go for quality over quantity.

Track 1.  I’m Actual – The Format

While this song is the second track, of The Format‘s album Dog Problems, I found it a good opener to my mix for two reasons. First, was the opening line, “Can we take the next hour / And talk about me / Talk about me, and we’ll talk about me/ Talk about me, and we’ll only talk about me”. I liked this, because from the end of this song, the mix is approximately an hour long. The second reason is that I just love this song. It sets a tone of beautifully orchestrated music, preparing your palate for what is to come.  It’s like the hostess seating you at the table, and handing you the menu.

Track 2.  To the Dogs or Whoever – Josh Ritter

The transition between songs is perfect. The guitar comes in from out of nowhere, and before you know it you’re right in the middle of the song without even noticing that it really changed. This song doesn’t really follow a theme from the first song, it’s just here because I like it. It’s fun to sing in the shower, and in the car. It’s a good mix-cd song, so it’s on here.

Track 3. Float On – Goldspot

I don’t want to diss on Modest Mouse, but I really love this cover. Now this song is a spring-ish kind of song. The full name of this mix is Someday Soon Spring Shall Surface So Sing Some Songs, so this is the first song that starts to set the theme of the mix. This is the shortest “song” on the mix, and ends almost as abruptly as it starts. It’s an enjoyable listen, and is a great addition to the mix.

Track 4.  I Can See The Pines Are Dancing – A.A. Bondy

This one goes off theme, for almost a complete change of pace. Had I not already burned a few copies, and made fancy artwork/cases, I might reconsider the placement of this song. This song feels more… fall or winter to me than spring. But that’s almost the point of it all, that someday spring will come, but as for now we must enjoy the winter while it lasts. Or maybe not. Do pines dance in spring? I guess you just have to listen and decide for yourself.

Track 5. Remain – Tyrone Wells

Back on track with more spring-ness now. I first heard Tyrone on the internal Starbucks radio CD/mixer, and went home and bought his album on iTunes. His voice reminds me of a musician from Tulsa named Ben Kilgore, and the people familiar with both artists seem to agree with me. A solid track, and another great mix-CD song.

Track 6. Ramona – Guster

I think it should be a law that every mix-CD contain at least one Guster song. Nathan (our site founder and editor-in-chief) introduced me to them years ago, and I have since fallen in love. This song works well for this mix in both the sound/feel department as well as lyrically. I live in Oklahoma, as does the recipient of this mix, so when I found a great Guster song that mentions this great state I got a little giddy. “Ramona, you’re Miss Oklahoma /and you miss Oklahoma.” It’s a great line, and a great, great, GREAT song. Perhaps my favorite song on the mix, and the one I really wanted to leave an impact with.

Track 7. Life in Disguise – The Slip

This song pairs wonderfully with Ramona, and is great in it’s own right. A great spring-time night-driving song if I ever knew one. It finds great company between tracks six and seven, serving as the proper transition between the two. This song is amazingly soothing, and always makes me feel better.

Track 8. Cartwheels – The Reindeer Section

If you listen to this track, you’re probably going to say, “Hey that voice sounds familiar!” Well you’re right! You’re hearing the voice of Gary Lightbody, front-man of alt-rock band Snow Patrol along with some other Irish indie rockers as part of the super-group The Reindeer Section. It’s a great song. Just beautiful. This is the kind of night-driving song that WILL make you start day-dreaming. Consider yourself warned.

Track 9. Pills – The Perishers

I really loved the album Let There Be Morning by The Perishers. I mean, really love. I probably listen to at least one song off it every day. But enough about me, and more about this song. It’s kind of dark, talking about being dependent on substances to be able to sleep because a relationship is going so poorly, but not telling their significant other the truth about the root of it all. I just like how it sounds. Oh well. Next song 🙂

Track 10. Somerville – The Pernice Brothers

I was gifted this album by a friend, and I love it. This song is about being stuck in a dead end town and getting out of it with the person you care about. While I’ve never been there, Courtney is from a small town in Oklahoma called Harrah, so I figured why not have a song about small towns. It has a spring-y feel to it. It feels good. This is the kind of song you sing when you’re driving down the highway with the windows down. It’s cathartic and simple, but I love it.

Track 11.  Life is Beautiful – Vega4

This track is another key song of the mix. I was really aiming this one at her tastes, and I hope I got it right. The song is magnificent, and paints a beautiful picture in my mind. The pre-chorus just sucks you in, and then when the chorus hits that first time you just explode with wonder. When the song finally climaxes, your mind is doubly blown. This is the kind of song that needs to be at about the the halfway mark of a mix, and that’s just where you find it. The song keeps my listener hooked, and will surely keep listening after such a great song.

Track 12. You Do – Until June

Now we slow it back down. This song starts soft, light vocals and the sound of train cars. The piano and heavily-fx’d guitar wash over the audial canvas in a motion that will relax every thought in your mind. The song’s lyrics are christian based, but at it’s root appeals to the higher notion of just being able to understand the unexplainable. I like to imagine the night sky, stars and satellites overhead as I sing the hook over and over to myself.

Track 13. Julia – The Beatles

I love how delicate this song is. It sets up the mix for a much bigger song to follow, and The Beatles just really rock the subtly of this one. I suppose this song could have been better place if Courtney’s name was actually Julia, or if I was in love with her, but neither are true so we just take it at face value.

Track 14. I Ran Away – Coldplay

This next treasure is a rare Coldplay b-side to their hit single The Scientist. It’s a shame that it got lost amongst the hype of it all. For Coldplay haters, this song follows a predictable structure that can grow tiresome as it continues. If you like Coldplay, this is a great rare track; otherwise, skip it.

Track 15. Middle Distance Runner – Sea Wolf

This band is on my list of artists that belong on every mix I make. I wish more people were aware of their stupendous awesomeness. In retrospect I should have chosen a song off their newest album, but this one just kinda stood out to me. I’ve dangerously danced in the shower to this one a few too many times. This song sounds a bit like musical raining. I had the chance to listen to it in the rain a week ago, and it was awesome. Perfect rainy songs are perfect spring songs. Done and done.

Track 16. Morning Light – Graham Colton Band

Here’s the climax of the mix! You finally made it! This is such an appropriate song for the climax because of the first line, “Sometimes I think I pass you walking on the street, and I believe it.” What does this have to do with me or Courtney? Well, Courtney moved back home to Harrah and I had no idea. I had thought for the last three weeks that she was still living on-campus at my school. So I guess the song was true in that aspect that I thought I was seeing her on the street when I really wasn’t. This was merely coincidence, I found this out after I had made the mix. Trust me, its a better story than the real one.

Track 17. One Last “Whoo-hoo!” For The Pullman – Sufjan Stevens

Seven seconds of Sufjan. Are you ready?

Track 18. Within You – Ray LaMontagne

AAAAAaaaaaannnd that wraps it up. This great track from Ray is a brilliant close to his album, and now to my mix. This song is beautiful and just does a great job of tieing up all the musical loose ends, leaving the listener with a feeling of completeness as the song fades into empty sound.

And that’s it! I was so proud of it that I had to come share. I want to come back and share my greatest playlists more often, as well as get back into the remix saddle very soon. So be on the lookout for more great posts coming your way.

Until then, I hope your ears bleed someday soon. Ω

A.A. Bondy Contest

Posted: December 31st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Articles About Music | Tags: , | 4 Comments »

One of the best records of 2009 that I have failed to mention thus far is the sophomore effort from singer/songwriter A.A. Bondy, When the Devil’s Loose.  This record just barely missed my top 10 list for the year (coming soon).  And today I am offering you the chance to win this record for yourself.  All you have to do to enter  is leave your favorite record of ’09 as a comment. Be sure to use a valid e.mail address so that we can contact the winner.

Bondy has been on the road practically non-stop since release of Devil’s Loose back in June.  And as the new year rolls in he’s hardly wasting any time before heading out on tour again.  A week from tomorrow he’ll be making a stop in Fayetteville, AR @ George’s Majestic Lounge, and we’ll be there covering the show.  Bondy will be preceded on stage that night with up-and-coming singer/songwriter, Amy Cook.  Take a listen below to the first single off of her forthcoming record, Let the Light In.   For those of you not in the Fayetteville area, check out the tour dates listed below. We’ll be sure to let you know if it’s worth your time.

JAN. 8           MEMPHIS, TN                       HI-TONE CAFÉ
JAN. 11         FORT WORTH, TX                LOLA’S
JAN. 12         SANTA FE, NM                     SANTA FE BREWING COMPANY
JAN. 13         PHOENIX, AZ                       RHYTHM ROOM
JAN. 14         TUCSON, AZ                          SOLAR CULTURE
JAN. 15         SAN DIEGO, CA                    THE CASBAH
JAN. 19         VISALIA, CA                        CELLAR DOOR
JAN. 22         PORTLAND, OR                    MISSISSIPPI STUDIOS
JAN. 23         SEATTLE, WA                       THE TRACTOR TAVERN
JAN. 25         SPOKANE, WA                      THE BLVD
JAN. 26         BOISE, ID                                NEUROLUX
JAN. 28         DENVER, CO                          HI-DIVE
JAN. 29         LAWRENCE, KS                    JACKPOT MUSIC HALL
JAN. 30         AMES, IA                               MAINTENANCE SHOP
FEB. 1           MADISON, WI                        HIGH NOON SALOON
FEB. 2           ANN ARBOR, MI                   BLIND PIG
FEB. 3           BUFFALO, NY                        MOHAWK PLACE