Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"The Scientist" by Coldplay Covered by Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson is a national icon.

At 78 years old, Willie Nelson has been active in shaping American culture for the last four decades.  Nelson made his mark on country music in the 70's as part of a rebel subgroup of country musicians like Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings that were not interested in conforming to the standards of the clean cut Nashville look at the time.  The quality of Willie's music has been recognized through commercial success as well as being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and receiving honors from the Kennedy Center in 1998. He has also used his standing in culture as an activist. Willie has championed some very noble causes like raising millions of dollars for local farmers through Farm Aid and supporting the advancement of bio-diesel fuel advancements.  Willie Nelson is a man that has done things his own way throughout his life, and has gained the admiration of many as a result.

I love Coldplay.  I have seen Coldplay in concerts several times, own all of their albums since "Parachutes," and blogged about them last year.  Coldplay changed a lot of things about my musical preferences, and while I really enjoy a lot of musicians, they are my favorite band of all time and I would include both "Parachutes" and "A Rush of Blood to the Head" in my top ten albums. Just last night I got together with some friends and watched the DVD of the 2003 tour.

"The Scientist" is one of Coldplay's most popular songs.  It was hard to imagine that a British pop-rock piano driven song would translate well with Nelson's gravelly voice and country music, but it fits perfectly.  There is something that sounds and feels very real in Nelson singing about things going back to the start.  No disrespect to Coldplay, but when Willie is singing about going back to the start you get the sense that he is a man who has some regrets and some things that he really wishes he could take back.

I hope you like it, I'd love to hear your SOTD.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"Working Poor" by Horse Feathers

Unfortunately, blogging has been an afterthought for me recently.  In late June I made a decision to  leave my current job, move, take a different job, and become a full-time student again.  It was a crazy July and August, but I feel like the dust is starting to settle, and I'm planning on getting back to blogging in September.

I have also been inspired because some dear friends at my last job gave me a very generous itunes gift card and this past week I made good use of that card to get into some new music (new music to me that is).  I had heard a little bit of Horse Feathers, but wasn't very familiar and wouldn't have called myself a fan a week ago.  When I was deciding on some new music a friend thought that I would really like Horse Feathers so I gave them a shot.  

The band has a great earthy gentle sound, fitting of their Idohan roots.  This is an album that I am excited to listen to as we usher in the fall in Pittsburgh.  I cant wait for brisk morning walks to work, holding a nice warm cup of coffee on the BFCAT porch, and seeing the leaves change colors in Beaver Falls.  I love the fall, and the idea of mellow foggy mornings with a band like Horse Feathers sounds great.  The band has had a little bit of a rotating lineup, even with some changes since the album "House With No Home" came out in 2008 (the album that features "Working Poor"). They released an album with the current lineup in 2010 called "Thistled Spring" with a more upbeat springy sound, but this album is great to usher in a little colder weather.

I like the song "Working Poor" because even though it has a very depressing fatalistic vibe with lyrics about being poor and abused by people with power, they sing it all with a very content and even happy vibe that suggests they wouldn't change a thing if they had the choice.  At several points in the song they even say "what failure gave us suits our taste."  If you like simple acoustic singer songwriters, you'll enjoy Justing Ringle and Horse Feathers for sure.  As a new appreciator of their music, I certainly don't have them all figured out yet, but I'm intrigued.  Even little things like how "Horse Feathers" is also the name of a Marx brothers comedy about college football sparks my interest into what makes this band tick.  So, I hope you enjoy this band carrying on in the flannel clad, strings based, Americana loving folk music strand.

This video is their NPR Tiny Desk Concert.  The first song is "Working Poor" followed by a real gem in "Curs in the Weeds" and finished up with "Heathen's Kiss."

Friday, July 8, 2011

"Rivers and Roads" by The Head and the Heart

I've been a music fan for a long time.  When I first became a fan I would obsess over one good song for weeks. I can remember buying Coldplay albums, finding those "go to" songs, and literally listening to them on repeat for days at a time in my car.  I remember when I picked up "X & Y" by Coldplay I listened to it once through and then for weeks afterwards I listened to tracks 2,4,10 and 11 repeatedly.  When I opened up my musical tastes a little bit and got into different styles of music, it seemed to happen less and less that one song would hold my attention for an extended period of time.  There have certainly been some jams like "Skinny Love" by Bon Iver, "Helplessness Blues" by Fleet Foxes, and some others that have done this, but none have matched "Rivers and Roads" by the Head and the Heart in recent years for me.

I was a counselor at Suncrest Camp a few weeks ago, and one morning out there Jake Nelko told me I needed to listen to the Head and the Heart, I said ok and was going to go back to drinking my morning coffee, and then he explained that I needed to listen to them immeadietly, so I looked them up on my phone, and they caught me pretty quickly.

It is nothing new at this point that Americana folky sounds are popular right now.  There are a lot of bands doing this well, and there are a lot of bands that are doing this because its cool.  I'll be honest with you and tell you that I dont know very much about the Head and the Heart and I havent seen them in concert, so its tough for me to say if they're jumping on the bandwagon or not.  I hope this band isnt just a flash in the pan because their energy, harmonies, and intelligent lyrics have had me captivated for two weeks now, especially the song "Rivers and Roads."

In my office for the past two days I've put on a youtube playlist of live performances from KEXP in Seattle, and I think there are only like 6 or 7 songs on the list, but I've kept them on all day.  Yesterday, I chose not to go to lunch because I didn't want to stop listening to their music.

"Rivers and Roads" has been a song that really hit home these past few weeks.  This song is about life changing and about how "nothing is as it has been."  In bittersweet tones it talks about people coming and going in and out of their lives, and how even when that is a good thing it doesn't make it easy or fun, and then like so many good songs it talks about the struggle of getting back to that one person that they aren't willing to just let go without a fight.  It's a great song, with simple lyrics that builds into this explosive ballad with beautiful harmonies and wonderful sentiments about loved ones.

I think this song has been so powerful  for me the last two weeks because I am in a time of changes like they are talking about. For just under four years I have had the privilege of being a pastor at a church of people that I really care about and love.  It has been a wonderful opportunity and one that has changed my life.  I have grown as a person, have had the chance to spend time with a lot of people that I love and care about, and to work as a part of a great team.  Two weeks ago today I was offered a position as a Resident Director at Geneva College, and over the past few weeks I have been telling the community that has shaped my life over the last four years that I will be leaving.  I am really excited to begin this next step in life, but the last few weeks have also held some unique challenges.  In that time there have been a lot of moments shared that have been really difficult, and at the same time there have been really beautiful human moments.  It is a privilege that we have to let people know how we feel about them, it is an honor that we have to have people that care about us speak into our lives.  These are things to embrace and not take for granted, because we never know when a year from now all our friends will move away...or when we will be the friends moving.

I hope you enjoy this video.

Friday, April 29, 2011

"Beautiful Things" by Gungor

Life has been pretty crazy lately.  Since I posted a month ago I have been out of town a few times, been really busy, and just haven't made it around to thinking through a good blog post.  This morning is really no different, but I saw the link to this video on Scott McGough's facebook, and knew that I should take a couple minutes for a quick blog.This is definitely a change up in the SOTD world.  I do not listen to a lot of "Christian" music because I think that a lot of it is of lower quality, both in regards to music and depth.  However, I am all for people making good music and living out their faith when it is done well, and I think this song by "Gungor" is great.

I didnt know much about this band before I went to write, and since this is a quick post I didnt look up very much, but a few noteworthy things surfaced.  The bands name does not match their sound.  If you asked me to listen to a band called "Gungor" the first thing in my mind would be that I am about to listen to some kind of music that ends in "core" and probably doesn't have any words in English.  Not the case.  In this track "Gungor" features beautiful harmonies,moving lyrics, and delicate strings and xylophone (or some other mallet type of percussion instrument).  According to Wikipedia, the source of all truth, Michael Gungor describes the bands music as "liturgical post-rock."

I think the song stuck out today because of the rain and thinking about everything growing in the springtime.  Great meaning, and its cool to think that the trees and flowers arent the only thing that experience change and turn into "beautiful things."

Hope you like it...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Oliver James" by Fleet Foxes

This is really the song of yesterday, but I never got around to writing this post.

I love Mondays, and I love Beaver Falls Coffee and Tea (BFCAT).  Mondays are my day off so its normally a nice day to wake up slow, play with my dog, read a book, and meet up with some friends for lunch.  Another regular part of my day off is a stop at BFCAT for a macchiato or a nice cup of coffee.  BFCAT is kind of like my Cheers.  Its just nice sometimes to walk into a place where you can see lots friends and get a good cup of coffee without supporting the corporate machine and needing to remember the difference between tall and venti.  Yesterday was also a nice soaking rain on a warm(ish) spring day, so I had my macchiato on the porch while the rain was coming down.  A little bit later we were inside and Oliver James by Fleet Foxes came on, and instantly it hit me that this was the perfect song of the day.

Fleet Foxes is a Pacific Northwest band that became popular on the music scene with their self-titled 2008 release.  The bands rise to prominence isn't necessarily one that I love, but their beautiful harmonies and wonderful music outweigh any doubts I have about them as talented musicians.  The Fleet Foxes gained a lot of their notoriety and exposure through online venues, and while they are certainly not the only good band to achieve success in this way it isnt the way I would like to see it happen.  It isn't that I think bands that do this are bad, but I think that sometimes they bypass an important part of becoming a good band... the struggle.  I think there is something special about a band that pays their dues playing at dive bars where no one has ever heard their music, driving around in a beat up van they borrowed from their second cousin that keeps breaking down, and exerting as much energy into finding a place to shower as they do into their set lists.  I think it is good for an up and coming band to struggle with success and limitations, to grow together, and to really put in the time and effort that makes them great together before there music matters to the world at large.  The Fleet Foxes, like a lot of other bands in our time, haven't really gone that route, but man can these guys sing.

In a review by Simon Price on a website called  "The Independent" the band is described as a blend of "West Coast hippie rock with Elizabethan madrigals." This band takes their harmonies and vocal energy to a beautiful haunting place that sets them apart from a lot of other indie bands out there.

"Oliver James" does a wonderful job of demonstrating the powerful vocals, and beautifully written music that is found all throughout their self-titled album.  The song caught my ear yesterday as I was looking at the rain outside while the band was singing "Oliver James washed in the rain no longer."  This song, which is seemingly about someone dying, is an enchanting, and the video is incredible.  Enjoy, and I would love to hear some songs that you are listening to right now.

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Salvation Song" by the Avett Brothers

Life has been busy, and i really haven't had a lot of time consistent blocks of time to listen to good music or to write.  There are still a lot of albums that have come out recently that I need to pick-up.  This week I will definitely get one of the albums on my list. Most of the time a SOTD will come out of music that I am already listening to and for some reason it just feels write on that given day.  Today I was just reading and checking my email in the wonderful Beaver Falls Coffee and Tea and the line from Salvation Song that says "And they may pay us off in fame though that is not why we came, and if it compromises truth then we will go."

I've said to lots of people in the last few years that the Avett Brothers are writing the best music being made right now.  The lyrics they write are transparent and moving, and when they perform there is an electricity that fills the air with every song.  Im not southern, and I've never been to a "family reunion," but when I'm at an Avett Brothers show I feel like I'm at a big southern family reunion where a couple of cousins broke out there guitars and banjos and everyone started jamming.  The Bros just have this effect on a crowd that people of all different ages are just stomping their feet and singing along.  

Salvation Song comes across to me like a mission statement for the Avett Brothers.  When you hear the song they lay it right out there and say that they came for salvation, families, breaking the bad, and cheering the sad.   The song is is full of great lines, and while lots of their music lets you see experiences the Brothers have had, this song gives you insight into who they want to be as a band.  Give this song a shot, and please give the Avett brothers a shot if you haven't already.  Salvation Song is track number 18 on their 2004 album Mignonette.  The album has a lot of awesome tracks like "Swept Away," "Pretty Girl From Cedar Lane," and  "Complainte D'Un Matelot Mourant" ("Lament of a Dying Sailor").  This album is a couple albums before the Avett Brothers really broke out nationally with Emotionalism in 2007.  

I hope you enjoy the video, I think it does a great job at displaying their showmanship and incredible energy.  I love the way the video ends with the Bob lightly plucking the bass, Scott tapping on the high hat, and the trios powerful vocals shining through.  Buy tickets for the Pittsburgh show on May 27th, you wont regret it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Behind Me Now / El Camino Reprise" by Amos Lee

A few posts ago I said how there was a lot of good musicians releasing albums this year that i was looking forward to hearing.  I didn't include Amos Lee on that list, and that was a bad decision on my part. On January 25th Amos Lee released "Mission Bell," and about two weeks ago I gave it a shot.  I enjoy Amos Lee.  I blogged about his soulful voice a while ago, and he displays that same style of singing on this album.  In fact, the album is pretty similar to a lot of Amos Lee's other albums with a maybe just a touch more of a Gospel and South Western Country style.  Amos features some talented guest singers on the album like Sam Beam and everyones best friend Willie Nelson.  If you have enjoyed his previous albums then you will definitely want to give this album a listen.  I enjoyed listening to the album the whole way through as one track builds into the next, so I would recommend to give it a try while you're spending a night at home doing work or reading a good book.

The song "Behind Me Now / El Camino Reprise" is the last song on the album, and it definitely ends the album on a high note.  I read a review once that described Amos Lee's songwriting as music for the heart but not for the head, and I could not disagree with that more when it comes to this song.  When you read the lyrics for this track they are really moving. Lee is writing about the cycle of relationships and some pretty sad stuff.  The culmination of the song for me was when in a quiet, humble voice Lee sings "All my ships have sailed away..."  Lee is good, the album is good, and hopefully if you've gone through a rough relationship or two it will work like the line in this track that says "yes I've loved and lost and loved again."  It's sad, but its not a hopeless kind of sad. 

I don't think that Lee will ever be the biggest name in music because he isn't really a cutting edge guy or a controversial guy or anything like that, but he's a solid musician.  Give him a listen, he's worth the ten bucks for the album.  I couldnt find a live performance of these two songs together, so the video below has the studio version of El Camino Reprise.  The older country singer with a little bit of gravel in his voice accompanying Amos Lee on this song is Willie Nelson.

Amos Lee - El Camino (Reprise) ((feat... by EMI_Music