Songs of Winter

Posted: January 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Articles About Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Songs of Winter

The best time for contemplation is on late winter nights, a friend said to me. Sometimes he holes up in his bedroom and while the world sleeps, he thinks.

The cold harnesses the mind and hones the senses. We see divisions more clearly: the geometry of a bedside table, the sharp difference of darkness and light, the separation of communal identity and the lone self. In winter, the watercolor smear of summer is gone and the world has suddenly come into focus.

Winter keeps us indoors for long spans, which is hell for restless people. But more time affords longer commitments, like that of listening to a record in its entirety. Here are some frosty nuggets.

Music Has the Right to Children – Boards of Canada

Music Has the Right to Children is a future-music dream city submerged in murky water and subliminal messages. Melodies dissolve just as they reach boiling point. Many sounds are so subtle they hardly exist, so strap on some headphones. Hazy jams like “Aquarius” and “Turquoise Hexagon Sun” loom high, stretching a hip-hop beat and warping it forever past time. If Kubrick made beats…

Kind of Blue – Miles Davis

“All Blues” is the winter song on the jazz record. These alien chord changes don’t ever touch ground, despite heaps of praise. A tense theme for driving home from work at the end of dusk, the song has no peers. Kind of Blue is so unassuming but it demands your attention. This kind of record is extinct; it’s for people that have to wait for things.

Kid A – Radiohead

I remember first listening to all of Kid A in the early morning, on a stretch of highway in Colorado. We passed cranes and incomplete shopping malls, all of it dusted with snow, to the chug of “The National Anthem.” The car coasted around a mountain pass during “In Limbo,” a drugged funhouse mirror. It’s an album, man, and each song is a stream into one frigid reservoir.

Knives Don’t Have Your Back – Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton

Haines sets out on a desolate adventure from Metric, the electric-rock group, with nothing but a husky contralto and jazz in the liner notes. “The first three songs all begin with the same note,” a friend pointed out, and he’s right; this is a mood record. The music of a late winter night should be concentrated, sparse and factual. Haines’ path is sad and beautiful.


  • The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground
  • 23 – Blonde Redhead
  • The Moon and Antarctica – Modest Mouse
  • Sanguine – Julianna Barwick
  • Turn On the Bright Lights – Interpol
  • Songs of Leonard Cohen – Leonard Cohen
  • Demon Dayz – Gorillaz

More New Releases From The Decemberists, Swan Lake and More

Posted: March 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Album Reviews, Articles About Music | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on More New Releases From The Decemberists, Swan Lake and More

Earlier today Justin shared with you some new releases from this week that he was excited about, and now I’m gonna draw your attention to a couple more that I can’t believe he didn’t bother mentioning.  The first of which was my most anticipated album of the year.

The Decemberists Hazards of Love (Capitol)

The Decemberists - Hazards of LoveThese guys just keep getting better and better.  I found it very obvious that this project began as the score for a broadway play.  Even if he’s never able to bring anything to the stage, I hope he continues to use this same approach to each of his records.  It just brought a cohesiveness to the album that is so rare to find in this digital age.  Thankfully, Meloy is not obsessed with the single, like the rest of the mass media.   So after day one, it hasn’t disappointed me.  My anticipation was well warranted.

Full Album Stream

Swan Lake Enemy Mine (Jagjaguwar)

Swan Lake - Enemy MineThis is the sophomore effort from the musical fusion of Daniel Bejar (New Pornographers), Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade), and Carey Mercer (Frog Eyes).  It may not match up to the works of original groups, but I am still a big fan.  As far as anyone knows, this is the first known use of a “court painting” as a record cover.  Thus the early working title for this album had been “Before the Law”, a beloved Kafka parable and a reference to the court painting. However, the band is sick of being referred to as “literary”, so they went with “Enemy Mine”, which is a movie from Bejar’s youth and a serves as a metaphor for collaboration.  I hope more artists will venture to take the time to make such a collaboration.

Swan Lake – Spider

Swan Lake – A Hand At Dusk

Harlem Shakes Technicolor Health (Gigantic)

Harlem Shakes - Technicolor HealthThis is the debut album from the band whose self-released EP, Burning Birthdays, earned generous praise from Pitchfork, SPIN, Rolling Stone and a myriad of blogs back in 20o7, and then went on tour in support of many great acts such as Beirut, Vampire Weekend, and Deerhoof.   It won’t be long before these guys are on their own headlining tour, for they have picked up right where they left off with Technicolor Health. It’s just fun blend of garage rock and psychedellic pop, with some fantastic harmonies throughout.

Harlem Shakes – Strictly Game

Mono Hymn to the Immortal Wind (Temporary Residence)

Mono - Hymn to the Immortal WindI’ve actually never heard of these guys until I received some promo material on Hymn, their first album in over 3 years, but their fifth LP and apparently their “most expansive album to date.”  It is an awesome and majestic record.  The best instrumental record I’ve heard since Explosions in the Sky’s The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place.   The 28-piece chamber orchestra that plays throughout the album helps to create such a gorgeous and grandiose sound.

Mono – Follow the Map

Various ArtistsThe Very Best of Prestige Records (Prestige)

The Very Best of Prestige RecordsSo I usually don’t pay much attention to “best of” records, or jazz music for that matter.  But I just enjoyed this album so much, I couldn’t not mention it on this list.  It is a fantastic collection of songs and is great for many occasions.  If you’re looking for a good dinner party mix, this would be a great one.  And I have found it to be a great record to put on while I’m working in the office.   After listening to this record you will surely become just as infatuated with the trumpet as I am.

Full Album Stream