When I first heard Out Into The Snow earlier this year I knew I was listening to something truly special. I hadn’t heard, or even heard of, Joyner before that day - but the first song to be released by Team Love, “Roll On”, was a barreling folk-rocker with some standout lines (“you were up to your necklace in drunk friends and wreckage”, for example) that made my further investigation into his catalog an easy decision.
As exciting as that song is though, it doesn’t really capture the album’s overall hazy, narcotic mood. Here was a singer/songwriter who sang like Lou Reed (on valium) with a knack for the type of gently sweeping folk music of “Ambulance Blues”-era Neil Young or early-70s Townes Van Zandt. Out Into The Snow was on constant rotation around here for the rest of the year, and wound up at #5 on my year end list last week.
I said it then and I’ll say it now - of all the albums I listened to this year, I feel this is the most criminally overlooked by the larger music publications and blogs we all frequent. That’s probably because Joyner doesn’t sing songs with mass appeal - his slow, brooding folk music and impressionistic narratives seem destined for cult status. But though it may be the wallflower in a room full of great albums, Out Into The Snow proves the quietest guy around might well be the most interesting.
I think it’s fitting then that Simon contributes the final Year In Review “guest post” to PHW - he was my favorite new discovery of 2009. He’s really gone all out on this too, offering insights into music, movies, and books both old and new. Check it out, then be sure to check out the two free downloads below from Out Into The Snow, if you haven’t already. Then be sure to buy it on vinyl if you like the songs:
I've never done one of these end-of-the-year "best of" lists. My sense of time is so embarrassingly poor that I am unfortunately just as likely to think something happened in the last calendar year as happened five years ago. A friend asked me recently how old my daughter Frances is and I said "eleven" (she turns thirteen next month). So, this is tough for me. I am also unforgivably out of touch with most new music releases lately so I don't feel qualified to comment on what came out in 2009 anyway. I will try and rectify this in the coming year. What follows is my attempt to compensate for failing the assignment I've been given here. I don't have a best of 2009 but I do have a few lists of some things I listened to, watched, and read. I apologize for not distilling and honing. My New Year's resolution is to keep track and try to do better next year.
Of the music I did purchase this year which was relatively new, I was excited about this stuff:
Neil Young: Archives Vol.1 1963-1972.
This was a fairly life-saving collection, along the lines of Dylan's Bootleg Series, vol 1-3. I'm sure everyone knows how great this is already so I won't go into too much detail. The only downside in my opinion is too many versions of "Sugar Mountain", a song I could do without.
Outlaw con Bandana: Faeries and Rewards.
My favorite local band. Brendan Hagberg writes beautiful, gritty, truths and lets all his personal trials wave in the wind. Pearl Lovejoy-Boyd improves on the truth with harmonies to take the edge off and make you forget you're listening to stories of broken-hearted people suffering terrible things or doing terrible things. Regular life stuff, romantic too, and funny sometimes. I don't know how many times I've gone home after watching Outlaw play and just had to write a song before I went to bed, otherwise I'd toss and turn all night. It would be fairly easy as a songwriter to hit the sack hating this man and his goddamn songs. Outlaw con Bandana has got a lot of records, self-released or on little labels. Itinerant, moody, folk and blues country singer-songwriter soul music. They just keep getting better but I suspect they're true fellow foot-shooters and you'll have to dig a bit to keep up with them. I highly recommend this latest lp, link to Slumber Party Records below. Probably the first album since early Descendants to feature the words "Diarrhea" and "Halitosis", but somehow Outlaw con Bandana pulls it off unflinchingly. Dylan's "Bringing It All Back Home" features the word "Hot Dog" three times, I guess, so it isn't wise to get too high-minded about the English language.
Paleo: The Song Diary (on dvd)
David Strackany isn't the greatest ping-pong player in the world but I'll admit he can write a song. A couple years ago he wrote a song every day in fact while on a nearly never-ending tour (his life) and put all 365 songs on a dvd. In the wrong hands, this could be the worst thing ever attempted but it's amazing to me how much great stuff came out of this inspirational experiment. He put out a kind of "best of" collection of selections from the Song Diary called "Death and Taxes" but I recommend springing for the whole year. It's a great chance to support real artistic sacrifice. Most people barely lift a finger in the name of anything, let alone a chance to toil in obscurity for the sake of the song. The least we can do is throw some scratch his way to keep him on the road. Not sure when this came out, seems like yesterday but the internet says otherwise.
Michael Hurley: Ancestral Swamp
I think this came out this year but if it didn't, who cares? It's timeless and typically effortless sounding, like everything Michael Hurley does. Hurley's mind-blowing 2nd lp, "Armchair Boogie" was just reissued on vinyl recently too. Get it. Get it all. If you've got to take your sweet time, that's okay, I understand we are in a recession and may be slouching towards Bethlehem even, but you should begin acquiring these records as quickly as your wallet permits. Do not find the records free on shareware somewhere, buy them so he'll keep putting them out for us. Michael Hurley has been releasing incredible records since 1965 ("First Songs" came out on Folkways and was later re-titled "Blueberry Wine". Don't hold it against him that Cat Power tried (in vain) to ruin one of his songs on her covers cd. For anyone not familiar with this giant of Song, I encourage you to get acquainted here:
Anne Briggs: Time Has Come (reissue on Four Men with Beards)
This is another vinyl reissue of a seminal work previously only available for hundreds of dollars or on cd. It's a beautiful record, originally released in 1971, the year of my birth. They also reissued the first Anne Briggs record (also recommended) which is mostly traditional songs. This second record is full of Briggs' own haunting songs. Four Men with Beards is doing a great job. Available on Amazon and elsewhere.
Linda Perhacs: Parallelograms (import vinyl reissue)
Basically the same story. Incredible 1970 psych-folk-electronic masterpiece, previously only available as a cd reissue but finally reissued on vinyl. This is the only record Perhacs made. When you make records this good, you only have to make one. You can get this on Amazon too.
That's all the new music releases I can remember right now. I mostly bought used vinyl. My relationship with movies is similar, I haven't seen too many recently made films but between Netflix, TMC and my favorite arthouse theater, Film Streams (filmstreams.org), I watched hundreds of movies in 2009. If I had kept track of them all I'd cherry pick some favorites to recommend but unfortunately, I didn't. Maybe next year. I can remember the last twenty or so movies I've seen though, and some are among the best I've seen all year, and all are worth checking out. After re-reading my observations of music releases above, I think I'll stick to listing these and spare the reader unnecessary "reflections".
The Locket (Brahm)
Little Dieter Needs to Fly (Herzog)
A New Leaf (May)
Dog Day Afternoon (Lumet)
Five Easy Pieces (Rafelson)
Taxi Driver (Scorsese)
The Tenant (Polanski)
The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles)
The Gunfighter (King)
Strange Illusion (Ulmer)
The Messenger (Moverman)
Wages of Fear (Clouzot)
The General (Keaton)
The Marrying Kind (Cukor)
Men In War (Mann)
Killer's Kiss (Kubrick)
Crime Wave (De Toth)
The Apartment (Wilder)
The Far Country (Mann)
The Best of Youth (Tullio)
Here are some books I have no regrets about reading (or re-reading) in 2009 and recommend to others for 2010.
The Savage Detectives (Bolano)
Last Evenings on Earth (Bolano)
Time Will Darken It (Maxwell)
So Long, See You Tomorrow (Maxwell)
The Sportswriter (Ford)
Moons of Jupiter (Munro)
Tree of Smoke (Johnson)
The Wild Palms (Faulkner)
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea (Mishima)
Back in the World (Wolff)
Ward No. 6 and Other Stories (Chekhov)
Tell Me a Riddle (Olsen)
Kentucky Strait (Offutt)
Incognito Lounge (Johnson)
Fires: Essays, Poems Stories (Carver)
If you live in America I suspect you will be growing very cynical in the coming year and will likely need a lot of music, film and books to help you slog through with heart intact. I hope some of this helps a little.
Happy New Year,
MP3 :: Out Into The Snow
MP3 :: Roll On
(from Out Into The Snow. Buy here)