Sam’s Choice: My Top Songs for 2015

SamsI’m pretty pumped about this list. It isn’t as long as others, but man, it is really good and I think it’ll stand the test of time. Previously, the one list that I kept coming back to and kept listening to over and over was the 2011 one, but I think that this 2015 list has the potential to outdo even that stellar list (If you’d like to stream that 2011 playlist on Spotify, you can do so right here!). As I have for years past, I make lists based on the seasons and then add songs that catch my ear to them. As I listen more and more the ones I really like rise to the top and those are the ones that end up making this list. If you’re so inclined, here’s all my past top songs posts if you’re interested – 201420132012, 2011, 2010, and 2009. Anyway, onto the songs, which aren’t really in much of an order expect that I feel like they sound good in this order.

The Wolf – Mumford & Sons

Whenever a band goes in a new direction it usually doesn’t end up going well. But for Mumford and Sons it couldn’t have gone better. The Wolf is an absolutely phenomenal song that showcases the newer, edgier, electric, and less banjo-y side of the Mumfords. This is one of those songs that got a lot of radio airplay and even after like 7 months of hearing it I’ve never gotten tired of it. It’s a roll-the-windows-down and top-of-your-lungs type of a rock song that is so catchy and so fun. And as an added bonus, the whole album Wilder Mind is just fabulous. Give it a chance, you’ll enjoy it.

Rock & Roll is Cold – Matthew E. White

Another catchy rocker that is best played loud and preferably with some sort of air percussion. And like The Wolf before, this song hasn’t gotten old either. There have been many a day when I’m not feeling so great and this song comes on and things just start to look up. It’s that bright and happy and catchy and fun.

All Across This Land – Blitzen Trapper

Are you sensing a theme here? I’d be hard pressed to come up with a three song opener that would be stronger than these three right here. This song came out in the fall and now every time I hear it I think about those first blasts of cooler weather and driving up the large hill near my home with the sunroof open and the volume up and for 3 minutes and 52 seconds nothing else in the world mattering but some guitars and drums. Good stuff.

Sedona – Houndmouth

The landscape in this video is EXACTLY what I imagined in my mind when listening to this song over and over. It’s sort of a dreamy, earthy tune that pulls you in and builds and builds while maintaining a carefree attitude. The rest of this album, Little Neon Limelight, and Houndmouth’s other albums are all really, really good. So good that I debated picking some of the other songs for this slot, but we’ll just stay with Sedona. Catchy tunes and smart lyrics all around and well worth a further listen if you aren’t familiar with them. Definitely check it out.

Until The Night Turns – Lord Huron

I was pretty excited for Lord Huron’s new album Strange Trails and they didn’t let me down. The ethereal sound is still there, but it’s been bumped up a level with a new tightness that really draws you in. Until The Night Turns is a great example of this and I love how this song alternates between floating along and pushing you forward. And again, this is another phenomenal album that is well worth a listen.

Shoegaze – Alabama Shakes

I had more trouble picking a single song off of Alabama Shakes new album Sound & Color than any other album I heard this year. Shoegaze is one of the catchiest songs of the year and my twin 2-year-old sons love it. We spent a fair amount of time dancing and twirling and shaking to this song this year. It’s just a flat out jam and it’s indicative of just how good this entire album really is. Alabama Shakes really delivered the goods on this one.

Random Name Generator – Wilco

The only thing better than waking up and having an email sitting there telling you that your favorite band has released and surprise new album is a link at the bottom of said email for a free download of that album. Wilco stunned everyone by dropping this album on the world and just giving it away. And it isn’t just a bunch of terrible leftovers either. This is a good album as evidenced by this vintage Wilco track that rocks in all the right places and sticks with you long after it has ended. Well done Wilco, and it’s stuff like this that keeps you at number 1 in my musical heart.

Jackie and Wilson – Hozier

I’m not sure anyone else hit it bigger than Hozier in the last year, but despite his other songs being more popular, this is the one I love. After 10 days in Cambodia I was flying home and Hozier was one of the featured music people on the Delta Entertainment thing and I think I listened to this song 4 or 5 times in a row. And this is another song that my boys love to dance and clap and jump around too. Such a catchy and fun song.

Things Happen – Dawes

Another new album by a favorite band, another home run. I really love this song and the way it ebbs and flows and how smartly the lyrics are put together. It seems like whatever Dawes does, they do really well and their Americana rock is always great to listen to. So check out their album All Your Favorite Bands too.

I See That Hand – The Lone Bellow

Oh. My. Goodness. Take the Lone Bellow (I just love them and I don’t care who knows), add in an inside church joke that everyone that’s spent any time in an altar call will laugh at, and then put the rollicking guitar on top of it and my brain just might explode. What a great song, so well done, and so fun and dance-y.

Getting Ready To Get Down – Josh Ritter

Our second entry in “Church joke songs that made me laugh” and the runaway winner in “Videos that make no sense and I don’t understand but still made me laugh too”. This is such a catchy and smart song and it always reminds me of a song by a band from college called “All you sinners get down and let the saints bring the car around”. So brilliant. And for what it’s worth I’m pretty sure Jesus is ok with dancing.

I Need Never Get Old – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Not their biggest hit of the year, but for my money, actually the better song. It’s catchy and fun and smart and hits all the right notes. And it has a horn section, which, when done right, makes almost any song better.

So there you go, there are my top songs for 2015. Listen and enjoy!

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Music that Moves Me and Makes Me Move

I just spent the last hour or so watching and listening to music and performances that really get me fired up.  I’m not sure the connecting trail that led from one to the other, but I thought I’d share nonetheless so that you could get your head bobbing and your toes tapping.

Started out with The Lone Bellow and their brilliant performance in this tiny little barn thing.  Seriously, no idea what is going on there but whatever, they kill it anyway, as always.

From there I moved to the Alabama Shakes and their funky song Always Alright played to perfection in Australia.

That in turn lead me to Wilco shredding the song Hoodoo Voodoo complete with shirtless roadie killing it on the symbol (wish I had moves like that dude).

Next came Damien Jurado losing himself in the song Let Us All In as he and his band absolutely hammer away at it.

After that I watched John Mayer and company make Jimi proud by taking on Wait Until Tomorrow.

And I finished things off by watching The Gourds take apart and put back together the Snoop Dogg song Gin and Juice (along with a few other songs mixed in) but the lyrics are pretty rough so I’m gonna let you find that one for yourself…

Well, at least I thought I was done until I started looking through my iTunes to see what else might work for this little post…and so I then added in The Avett Brothers doing At the Beach with what can only be described as joyful glee.

And it went on from there but I’ll just leave it with that…

I can’t exactly put my finger on what the unifying thread of all of these songs are besides the fact that I can’t listen/watch these performances without being totally and completely caught up in all of them, bobbing my head, tapping my toes, and knocking my desktop.  So maybe you got some enjoyment out of it like I did and just maybe these fun songs all brought a smile to your face.

Sam’s Choice : Top Songs For 2011

It’s that time of the year again folks.  Yes, the time has come for me to post my highly anticipated and talked about (not really in either case…) list of my favorite songs from 2011.  As always, these are not neccessarily songs that came out this year (although I think that most, if not all, of them did), but just the songs that will make me think about 2011 when I hear them because this is the year I discovered them and subsequently wore them out with tons of plays on my iTunes. And few things are as subjective as musical taste, so these are just my favorites.  But hopefully there is some stuff you like here too.

Programing note: the ordering is mostly just in the order that I think they sound the best, not necessarily in order of my favorites (though the 5 five-star songs did lead off the list…so maybe subconsciously they did.) Anyway, here we go!

1. Rock n’ Roll is Free – Ben Harper

This is the ultimate starter song.  The opening funky bass line with slow guitar and snare build into the jangling guitar rift and they just make your feet want to move.  Leave it to Ben Harper to create my favorite rock anthem of the year and to do it with such a catchy tune that even though I listened to this song all year it never got old.  Turn the speakers up loud when you listen to this one, because it only gets better as it goes on, showcasing Harper’s considerable shredding ability on the guitar (which we all knew was there all along).  And could there be a better opening song for this list?  “Rock n’ Roll is free so come and get it!”

2. My Body – Young the Giant

Another foot-tapping anthem holds the number 2 spot this year.  Young the Giant kills this song with a frantic energy that really makes this song’s catchy hooks and distorted guitars leap out of the speakers and into your head.  I love the “take a breath slow down” at about the 3 minute mark that leads straight back into the frenzied finish.  I saw these guys play this song live on TV this year and the energy they brought was about what I thought that it would take to make this song work live and they threw themselves around the set with reckless abandon and made me think they actually loved making music.  Anyway, I just love this song.

3. Free My Mind – Katie Herzig

This is a great poppy and dancy song that is filled with fun hooks and loops.  The fact that Katie has an incredible voice to sing over all of the great beats is what really pushes this song over the top for me.  Frankly, this song just sounds like summer to me (I have no idea what that means, but it just works…maybe fun, light, airy and dreamy).  I also really love the string arrangement in this song that closes it out as it just wraps things up in a nice bow.

4. The Whole Love – Wilco

This song encompasses everything that makes Wilco my favorite band.  A simple growing start that slides into a full hook that pervades the entire song the rest of the way.  Simple yet complex.  Layered yet stripped down.  This song just draws me in and makes me want to listen to it over and over again.  For me, if a song ends and I immediately want to reach down and replay it, that means it’s probably going to end up on this list.  This was by far the best song on Wilco’s pretty stellar release that happens to be titled after this song.  (Sidenote: The day this album came out I was in the den reading while K (my wife) was watching T.V.  This song came on one of the shows that she watches and I immediately recognized it and said “Hey!  That’s the new Wilco song!” I’d heard it twice at that point.  I’m not sure what this story means, except that I really just love this song.)

5. Hold On – The Alabama Shakes

Wow.  It’s tough to make a song any better than this.  I heard this song once on internet radio (HT to Birmingham Mountain Radio here) and knew that it would end up here.  The funky guitar hook with the great interludes and quiet intensity of singing drew me in immediately and has become on of my favorite songs of all time.  My head bobs to the rhythm every time I heard and I bet yours will too.  Bonus points here for the ending with the piano and fuzzed out sound.  I’d never heard of this band before but they’re on my list to see sometime in 2012.

6. Powerful Stuff – Sean Hayes

Leave it to Subaru to not only create the car that I bought this year, but to also introduce me to one of my favorite songs.  This song has such a great laid back vibe with the catchy guitar rift and Hayes’ homey feeling voice.  Couple that with the great snap breaks near the end and the funky beat and I’m sold.  Just like on the Outback.

7. Barton Hollow – The Civil Wars

My choice for folky, funky song of the year.  This song has a hauntingly catchy quality to it that keeps you humming it even after it has ended.  I love the little parts where the instruments drop out and only the voices and the percussion sound through, which only add to the greatness of this song.

8. Take Me – Jesse Payne

My love for all the songs Jesse Payne has created has been well documented before on this blog, so I’ll spare you.  But even so this song is vintage Jesse.  It has a raw feel to it that is catchy and toe-tapping.  It builds and descends.  It makes use of horns and and an organ.  And then it starts a final move towards the end at about the 3 minute mark that really finishes things off well.  Just a great song and I’d encourage you to buy all of his music.

9. Alabama Pines – Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit

Another song that comes to you courtesy of Bham Mountain Radio (seriously, just find this station on the internet and start listening).  Another great folksy song with great guitar rifts and a strong beat (sensing any kind of a theme here?).  There is something about this song that just feels right, which is really saying something since I’d probably more inclined to favorite a song about California than Alabama.  So it must be good.  Even if it does have a little twang to it…but maybe that’s the appeal.

10. Down in the Valley – The Head and the Heart

We enter double digits with a song from my favorite discovered artist of the year.  I don’t think that there is a song by these guys that I’ve heard that I did not like immensely.  It’s got all the hallmarks…piano, stings, guitar, and good beats combined with catchy hooks and slow builds.  Yep, that’s me alright.  And this song would be great in and of itself, but then it kicks into another gear at about the 2 minute mark that really tops things off.  The frantic build up to the finish ensured it’s inclusion in this list and the fact that this is my favorite newly discovered band of the year. (Sidenote: After listening to this band for about a week I remarked to K that I had found this band that I really liked and that I thought she should listen to…and when I told her it was The Head and the Heart she said “Oh yeah, I’ve been listening to them for a while now.  They’re really good.”  Well then.)

11. Keep You Right – Blind Pilot

This is my second favorite newly discovered artist of 2011.  I heard these guys on NPR doing an interview and I liked the snippets of songs they played and their remarks so much I came home that night and got my hands on a ton of their stuff.  This songs has great vocal harmonies and wonderfully melodic backing instruments.  All the pieces are there; guitar, piano, drums; but the way they put them all together sets them apart.  Great song.

12. Roll Away Your Stones – Mumford and Sons

This songs starts with an incredible instrumental opening that leads into a frantic folk song.  In a way, it’s almost like walking from a fancy dinner into a hoedown.  And I think that it is the juxtaposition that makes it so great.  And again, all the things that I love combine to make a great song that moves back and forth from fast and slow, almost like it’s letting you catch your breath.  Tough to beat as far as musical talent goes. And I just love when the chorus of voices join the singing.

13. Chisel and Pick – Through the Sparks

This is just a really catchy tune.  It has a jangly hook that makes use of the piano and then brings in horns and other voices to make a finished product that is ragged and yet smooth (if that makes any sense…).  This is a great track but I really love the way that the end sort of descends into chaos and finishes.

14. Steal Your Heart – Augustana

This song is exactly why Augustana is one of my favorite bands…that is it is catchy, smooth, has a great chorus, and incredible instrumentation.  This is off of their third album and all of three of them are really, really good records.  These guys really seem to enjoy playing music and I feel like that shows through, especially in a song like this.  The cool drum stop at the end doesn’t really hurt anything either…

15. Empire – Rococode

This is a Canadian band that recently formed and contains some guys that I semi-know, who also happen to have played with Tegan and Sara.  This is the first single off their album that is coming out early next year and if this song is any indication, it is going to be a good one.  This song has a great rhythm to it and is pretty much everything I am looking for in a great indie-rock song.  A catchy chorus rounds it all out and makes for the inclusion in this list.

16. These Days – Foo Fighters

What more can I say about Foo Fighters that has not been said?  This song has everything we’ve come to expect from them including great guitar rifts, catchy hooks, incredible drumming and Dave Grohl singing his head off.  For me, this was the standout track on their great new album that came out this spring.  If you haven’t seen the documentary that came out at the same time I’d urge you to do so, as it is really, really good.

17. Allies – MuteMath  NOTE: This is not Allies as there was not a copy available and Warner Brothers does not allow uploading to sample.  So this is Blood Pressure, a good song in it’s own right but not on the list…

As a rule, MuteMath albums are best consumed whole.  Therefore, while it is annoying that I could get a stream of Allies for you to listen to, Blood Pressure works too.  Either way, the new MuteMath album that came out this fall was fantastic.  As was their introduction concert in a small venue with like maybe 400 people or less.  Just get the album already and be done with it and then go see them when they come to your town.  Thank me later.

18. Royal Blue – Cold War Kids

Again, the Record company foils any attempt to get people to listen to their music…so the above is about a third of the song for you to listen to.  Either way this track is a great song by Cold War Kids that features a strong bass line, a great guitar hook, and a catchy chorus.  Even better, it includes some hand claps (which I am always partial to) and a slow fadeout, which is great. Pretty typical of most Cold War Kids stuff, so I’d encourage you to check out their stuff.

19. The One You Should’ve Let Go – Zach Williams & The Bellow

Zach himself best describes his own music “It’s like trying to catch lightening in a shoe box.”  That’s about right.  There is literally nothing else about this man or his music that I can say that I have not already said on this blog.  So watch the video, enjoy the music and buy the album when it comes out later this year.

And that concludes…oh wait.

Honorable Mention for Most Played Out Song of the Year – Pumped Up Kicks – Foster the People

It’s sad frankly.  I really, really liked this song a lot.  And then every radio station and DJ and retail store caught on that it was a good song and started playing it non-stop everywhere I went and I could not escape it.  And thus, it got overplayed.  I did not want to add it to my list but I guess it fits my criteria from above and K said that I had to since it was apparently THE 2011 anthem.  So here it is.

And that is all the songs that were fit to play in my Top 10 (give or take 10) for 2011.  Love or leave ’em, these are the songs that I loved this year and will remember forever as 2011’s best songs.

Love and Sweatpants.

 

My Top Songs of 2009

So I skipped another week of the Week That Was…sorry.  I had finals and then Kristen and I headed to Florida for a whirlwind weekend of stuff with her family.  We had a great time but all of that combined to make me not write my weekly post.  I promise it will be back next week though.

But instead, I’m giving you my Top Songs of 2009.  I’ve done this the past few years and I always find it enjoyable.  My criteria is not that the song was released in 2009, but instead that I heard it and latched onto it this year.  These are the songs that I will always remember when I think of 2009 music.  So here we go, in order of the mix that I made so that they flow together well…

1. Sometime Around Midnight – The Airborne Toxic Event – I might have heard this song in late 2008 but I latched onto it in early 2009.  The lyrics describe being haunted by running into an ex at a bar somewhere and the aftermath of that messy experience.  I’m not so keen on that, but it is a feeling that I think most people are familiar with.  What I love is the the slow build, both in the music and the singer’s voice, adding layer upon layer until a high crescendo is met and the song just explodes into emotion and frenzy.  You can actually feel the desperation in the songwriter.  Any time someone can pull that off with a song, I’m impressed.

2. If She Wants Me – Belle & Sebastian – This song starts with the whimsical guitar rift that carries it through the entire song and gives it the breezy feel that I love so much.  I find it nearly impossible to listen to this song without bobbing my head and tapping my fingers to the rhythm.  And for me, that makes a great song.  Bonus points here for the use of an organ, which rounds out the sound nicely and adds another layer of sound and complements the vocals wonderfully.

3. Oscar Wilde – Company of Thieves – Another toe-tapping song that got stuck in my head this year.  I love the pop sensibilities combined with the fuzzed out guitars and the repetitive hook.   There is a great little interlude in the middle of this song that slows things down, almost to a stop, but then builds back to a frenzied finish.  And I like the lyrical sentiment about how we are all our own devil.  I think that there is some truth in that…

4. Relator – Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson – Unlike most people, I thought that Scarlett’s first album was pretty good.  But this record, combining Pete and Scarlett together is great.  This song has it all.  Catchy rifts, experimental techniques, fun vocals, and a great overall sound.  This song is the third in my trifecta of great pop-rock songs.  *For some reason, iTunes refused to add this to my iMix.  So if you go look at the iMix linked at the bottom, you’ll have to add this one yourself.  But it is worth it.

5. Sugarfoot – Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears – The first time I heard this song I thought that it was an old James Brown B-side that I’d never heard.  The big band sound and mid-song breakdown are classic JB.  This song really just makes me want to get down and boogie.  Guitars, horns, drums and vocals all come together for a musical treat for your ears.

6. Take Care – Zach Williams – My love of Zach Williams is well documented here. This is probably about the third version of Take Care I’ve heard and this is by far the best.  Zach’s frantic vocals combined with the tight sound of the band take you on a musically journey of love and promises.  I just love the way this song runs together and builds on itself, finally coming to the breakdown in the middle, a soft, breezy and jazzy wish that flows back into the song so well.  This boy has got serious talent and you are missing out if you have not heard this album or seen him live.

7. Bull Black Nova – Wilco – Wilco’s latest album, Wilco (The Album), is fantastic, but I’d say that this is the standout track off that release.  It is not the catchiest or most accessible, but it showcases Wilco at their finest.  Catchy rifts and an experimental tone that captivates you in an unexpected way.  The slow build here is amazing as Tweedy and Co work themselves into a frenzy by the end of the song, showcasing their ability to take things to the edge of crazy while still maintaining control.  Simply put, I love this song.

8. The Thief and The Heartbreaker – Alberta Cross – This is another slowly building alternative song that grows and develops until it sticks in your head, long after it ends.  A haunting rift coupled with a great voice that builds and builds to the incredible ending.  I could easily see this song turn into an extended jam at a live show and I think that the edgy tone it has is offset by the catchiness of it.

9. Wheels – Foo Fighters – This song came out on their Greatest Hits album, one of two new releases on that record.  This is such a great and catchy song that sticks with you and just begs for repeated plays.  This song combines an edgy rock sound with a catchy hook that just gets better with each listen. Just like almost all of their songs… Foo Fighters are one of the most underrated bands of today and when I listen to a song like this I always wonder why more people don’t go crazy for these guys.  I am one person that will definitely be missing them on their current hiatus.

10. Stand Up Comedy – U2 – I’m a nominal U2 fan (if there is such a thing).  I liked their new album, but did not love it.  But I love this song.  The catchy guitar and cool tambourine sound make for an epic pop sound that takes the rock edge and turns it on its’ head.  Bono and the boys nailed it with this song that has a large sound and a fun vibe.

11. Valhalla – K-OS/Sam Roberts – I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite song for the year, but if forced to, this would be it.  I love collaborations and this one takes the cake.  A rock/rap/dance song that is edgy and poppy all at the same time.  Combine the catchiness of Sam Roberts and the rhymes of K-OS and you have a winner.  Probably the most unexpected song on this list, but easily one of the best.

12. 1901 – Phoenix – Who knew that the best pop song of the year would come from France?  Well, if you are familiar with Phoenix, you would.  These guys simply are amazing and this song is the latest in a long string of hits.  It was incredible to me to hear people talk about this new band Phoenix when they’ve got something like 4 or five albums out.  Oh well.  This song combines dancability with rock fuzz and turns it into a fantastic song that really makes you move.  I just love everything about this song.

13. Clockwork – Mute Math – I was a little disappointed by Mute Math’s newest album released this year, but this song, released on an EP was amazing.  It has all the best elements of the band, with the frantic drumming, the winding vocals and edgy guitar all coming together to make a cohesive rock song.  I wish that the rest of their songs this year were this epic, but I’m glad that this one made it out to the light of day.

14. Headphones – Jars of Clay – This song was chosen mainly for the message in the lyrics.  I love the way they zero in on how we shut people out with our own noise and keep from actually engaging people.  The music complements the message in a haunting way as it grows and winds throughout the song, incorporating so many elements into a whole.  This album was a great work as a whole, but their were few songs that really stood out to me.  This song was one of the exceptions.

15. Little Pieces – Gomez – Simple and catchy.  Vocals and guitars.  Ebb and flow.  Build and come down.  I’ve never been a huge fan of Gomez, but this song is so complete that it drew me in and I just loved the rifts it contained.  The strong beat carries the song and the quick ending is just right.

16. Little Bribes – Death Cab For Cutie – This song came out on an EP early in the summer and I think that it is the best song they’ve ever done.  A scathing review of Las Vegas lyrically, musically this song has great hooks and and a fun rhythm.  It is more upbeat than most of their songs and it starts quick and keeps up the fast tempo.  Just an all-around good song.

So there you go.  These are the songs that captured my fancy this past year.  You can check it all out on iTunes and even look at some from the past few years.  Enjoy.

Concert Review – Wilco at Sloss Furnaces, Birmingham, AL

Wilco Sloss PosterI’m only six months late in reviewing this concert…but with good reason.  I’ve been looking for the download of this show since I went and I finally broke down and downloaded two different software packages to make it downloadable and listenable.  It was a task, but it was worth it.

Wilco made their long-awaited return to Birmingham in April after 4 long years.  I was particularly excited for this show since it had been a really long time since I’d seen Wilco and they were playing at Sloss Furnaces, an old Iron Ore processing plant converted into a park and national monument.  Pretty cool venue to see them in, as the concert section was in an open-air but covered huge hall.  The gently sloping floor ensured that everyone packed into the place was afforded a great view and the fairly low roof provided good acoustics.

Wilco came out and started their set with the song Misunderstood.  From there they moved rapidly, with almost no space between songs to Company In My Back, You Are My Face, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,  Kamera, Ashes of An American Flag, and At Least That’s What You Said.  This set the tone for the entire show.  They showcased music from their extensive back catalog, drawing from all of their previous albums for the night’s setlist.  Musically, the band was fantastic and tight.  They had a full and rich sound that moved together from rhythmic and uptempo to moody and experimental.  Nels Cline, lead guitarist, and his extensive skills were on full display in numerous solos throughout the night and they were always greeted with raucous cheering.

Jeff Tweedy, the lead singer, offered his first greeting only after the seventh song, something that struck me as odd.  He made a terrible joke about Birmingham

Jeff Tweedy - Image from hereontheroad via Flickr.com

Jeff Tweedy - Image from hereontheroad via Flickr.com

people being called Birminghamsters (which he apologized for later in the set and explained that he’d been in a slump with regards to talking to audiences) and made reference to the fact that the last time they were here they won a Grammy that night.  He then introduced the song Hotel Arizona by saying that it was requested a lot on their website but that they rarely played it.

After Shot In The Arm, Tweedy experimented with a new look, putting on a hat and almost starting the song, then taking it off.  He then launched into Jesus, Etc and finished that song by talking about the supposed haunting of Sloss.  Some of the crew had drawn PacMan ghosts on towels and were waving them around, which added to the levity of the moment.

Later in the set, Tweedy again mentioned the requests on the website, but made fun of people texting/Twittering them during shows and how they might reach a place where people will request mid-concert.  (My personal pet peeve at any show is people on their phones Twittering about how good the show is.  If it is that good, then soak it in and enjoy it and stop Twittering about it…)

But the best moment of the entire show came during Handshake Drugs.  A huge train came roaring by the venue and laid on it’s whistle, causing the entire band to stop and look together, along with the crowd going nuts.  It was a surreal moment that came together so well it almost seemed scripted, but the surprised looks on the band’s faces told another story.  They paused, looked around, and wordlessly resumed the song.  This is clearly a band that is comfortable with one another.

The first set ended with the rowdy number Spiders (Kidsmoke) and after extended cheering the band came out for an encore.  They played five more songs, ending with I’m The Man Who Loves You, which starts with an extended period of guitar feedback, during which the entire band (all seven of them) stood up on some sort of an amp or speaker or something, each holding their note for a moment until the entire band peaked and came crashing down towards the song, playing with full gusto.

You had to see it - image from MCuthbert via Flickr.com

You had to see it - image from MCuthbert via Flickr.com

They went off stage for a moment, and then came back for a second encore, the highlight of which was the song Hoodoo Voodoo, a jangling alt-country-rock number that was augmented by the presence of a shirtless crew member sporting a gnarly mustache, tight jeans, a cowbell, and dance moves that seemed to defy the logic of human motion.  He danced all over the entire stage, shaking what his momma gave him and causing no small amount of cheering among the crowd and laughter amongst the band.

All in all, it was a great show by a band that is only getting better as they age, mature, and grow more secure in themselves.  Their extensive use of their back catalog was an unexpected yet pleasant surprise.  I would have loved to see some new stuff, as their album came out a month later, but that is my only regret.  That, and the fact that Kristen had to go to California at the last minute and was not able to attend with me.  I did buy her a t-shirt though.

Album Review – Wilco (the album) by Wilco

51vfIxeNK3L._SS500_As you know, I am an unabashed Wilco fan.  Maybe a little fanatic.  But hey, they are a fantastic band with a great back catalog and a bright future, as evidenced by their latest release, Wilco (the album).

The record starts at a frantic pace with Wilco (the song) and they audaciously lay out their intention.  “Wilco will love you baby.  They are a sonic shoulder to cry on.”  And you know what, they are actually right.  Given the whimsical album cover, the gratuitous use of parenthesis (which you know I love), and the ability to make wonderful music, Wilco provides a nice escape from pre-packaged pop stars that take themselves too seriously and instead just set about the business of having fun and making a great record. It’s perfect for summertime listening and long road trips.

This album has all of the hallmarks that you’ve come to expect from your Wilco albums.  Upbeat anthems that keep your head bobbing and your toes tapping, wilting guitar solos that meander up and down and all around, and a tight, rock and roll sound that gives you a chance to get lost in the music.  Fans of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (arguably one of the greatest albums ever) will love You Never Know, a piano driven song, and Sonny Feeling, both of which carry that Americana rock edge that makes it so special.  Fans of A Ghost Is Born (easily Wilco’s most experimental and complete album as a whole) will find a home on Bull Black Nova with its repetitive looping sound and fuzzy guitar solos. And really, there are shades of each previous album in this one.  It listens as a reflection of who Wilco is, yet it does not get bogged down in the past.  It nods to the musical heritage that is Wilco and then speeds past that to keep pressing forward.

And while there are easily 5 fantastic standout songs on this album, it still works as a complete grouping.  I felt that Sky Blue Sky never really flowed as well as it ought to have, but Wilco (the album) does not have that problem.  It has all of the best elements of the band’s music that any Wilco fan has come to love and enjoy, yet it is still readily accessible to those people new to them.  There is even a guest appearance by Feist on You and I, which only magnifies the range that this album has.  It really is a complete effort and one that will be in heavy rotation on my iTunes for the rest of the summer and probably longer.  Are you being attacked?  Wilco will love you baby!