January - The Month @ Pop Headwound (Part 1):

In retrospect, I picked a great time to start Pop Headwound. January 2007 was a top-notch month for new music. So good in fact that it deserves a little recap to give you folks a chance to catch up on some great albums/tracks you may have missed the first time through. Here’s a recap of some of the best albums released over the past few weeks:

First comes Of Montreal. Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? is my first experience with this band, despite the fact this was their 10th album since 1997! This is pretty much the album I was hoping for from the Shins, a reckless pop album that goes off in hundreds of different tangents, shifting in sound and tempo every chance it gets. This is actually much more synth-driven than the Shins too, with more of a soul/80’s influence taboot. Under all the beautifully discordant music are the desperate lyrics of a man at the end of a relationship, very quickly coming apart at the seams. An early contender for a top-ten spot at year’s end.

MP3 - Suffer For Fashion
MP3 - Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse

Menomena is another reason why indie rock is off to a great start in 2007. Friend and Foe was released on 1/23, and my local Brooklyn indie-record store got one copy that day. Needless to say when I got there sometime after 6 it had long since been sold. I’m still without a purchased copy. Luckily it’s streaming here. Pitchfork claimed that this is the first great indie-rock record of the year. Another early contender for the Top 10.

MP3 - Muscle n Flo
MP3 - Wet And Rusting

San Francisco rock band Deerhoof released Friend Opportunity on 1/23. The album continues their move away from the more dissonant sound of their early albums to friendlier song structures. Much more concise than 2005’s The Runners Four, the album maintains that album’s focus on short, tight, pop-rock songs. However, it’s Satomi Matsuzaki's childlike cooing that will be the deciding factor in whether you get Deerhoof or not. Underneath the voice is some really interesting rock music, full of complex chord progressions and odd time signatures.

MP3 - Matchbook Seeks Maniac
MP3 - +81

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah released Some Loud Thunder this week, and it’s been garnering reviews all week that sound eerily similar to the one I posted last week. The aesthetic choices they use on several songs are disappointing, especially the fuzzed out album-opening title track, but the album does boast a denser production and some sharper musicianship than the brilliant debut. It just doesn’t have that album’s barrage of really-good-to-great songs from start to finish.

MP3 - Emily Jean Stock
MP3 - Underwater (You and Me)

The Broken West released I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On this month as well. The album has an endearing, workmanlike sense about it, and sports the best 1-2-3 punch in a while with opening tracks “On the Bubble”, “So It Goes”, and “Down In The Valley” . Lacking the unpredictable genius or virtuoso musicianship some of these other albums feature, the album simply gives you strong melodies wrapped in 70’s A.M. radio power-pop. Reminiscent at times of The Pernice Bros., Teenage Fanclub, & The Honeydogs, the band shows great promise for the future.

MP3 - So It Goes
MP3 - Down in the Valley

And sneaking in under the radar was the Kill Buffalo EP from The Roadside Graves, What Happened To Him Could Happen To Anyone. Basically a way for fans to catch up with the band before April’s release of the No One Will Know Where You’ve Been LP, the EP does a good job of highlighting a few of the band’s old favorites and wetting appetites for new ones with the new album’s first single, “West Coast”.

MP3 - West Coast
MP3 - Jesus Is A Friend Of The Family

Buy these albums from Amazon, Insound, or Emusic. The Roadside Graves EP is available at Amazon, Itunes, or thru Kill Buffalo.

Check back tomorrow for a round-up of some of the great tracks that 2007 has offered so far!


Wilco - "A Ghost Is Born - Re-Imagined"

In 2004 Wilco released A Ghost Is Born, the long awaited follow-up to their critically acclaimed Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The album came at the peek of public interest in Wilco, as everyone was anxious to see what the band would produce after what many considered one of the finest albums of the young decade. It didn’t disappoint. Yet again Wilco seemingly had a world of positive critical feedback in its pocket, and the album debuted high on the charts, breaking into the top ten in its first week. The album garnered almost universal applause, even scoring two Grammys along the way. By all accounts it was a huge hit in the indie-rock world, with Wilco ending the year headlining a show with Sleater-Kinney and The Flaming Lips at Madison Square Garden.

It’s hard to complain about an album that yielded such a positive response. When it first came out I remember thinking immediately that it wasn‘t as great as YHF, but maybe I‘d feel differently if I gave it time. But that just didn‘t happen. It wasn‘t an album I felt compelled to go back to very often, and eventually I just stopped trying altogether. Listening to it now I can’t help but feel that it has flaws that keep it from being the classic follow-up it should have, and could have, been.

Recorded during a tumultuous time in the life of lead singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy, the band, and especially Tweedy, sound exhausted on many of the key songs. Several of the songs were performed live for a long time before they were recorded and wound up in completely different versions than fans anticipated on the album. Deconstructing the songs on YHF was a brilliant move, as the songs were rebuilt into shapes that were more pleasing than where they started. The same thing that worked so well on that album seemed to suck the life out of the Ghost songs. People described how “warm” the record sounded, most likely due to the spontaneous recording techniques and the minimal overdubs. Listening now I can’t help but feel the record sounds just the opposite. It has a coldness to it, a distance, that sounds like it was recorded by expert musicians who were somewhat detached from what was going on around them.

This was, and is, especially frustrating for one simple reason: the songs themselves on A Ghost Is Born are every bit as great as those on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Tweedy may have been suffering at the time, but he channeled all his pain into the lyrics to brilliant effect. Lyrically the album raises the already high standard he set on YHF and 1999’s Summerteeth. These songs deserved the spirited musical accompaniment that those from YHF got, and only a few times did that happen.

The different versions of songs that appear below are of course not the exact versions I would want on a studio album. My idea is that there would be studio versions that use these arrangements/impassioned performances to a better result. So, again with a tip of the cap to the “Playing God” column over at Stylus, I present “A Ghost Is Born - Re-Imagined”. Taking live tracks and alternate songs from the time period of the recording, I’m presenting to you how I wish the album would have been released. Hope you enjoy:

1. “At Least That’s What You Said” - The album version is safe in large part for the breath-taking guitar solos that Tweedy unleashes during the second half of the song. The song is head and shoulders above everything else that follows as far as a passionate band performance goes, and proved to the world that Tweedy was a highly underestimated guitarist for far too long.

2. “Hell Is Chrome”

3. MP3 - Spiders (Kidsmoke) - It seemed everyone had an opinion about the drastic reincarnation of this song from the live performances to the studio one. At some point during recording “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” was transformed from what sounded like it could be a modern-rock radio hit to a huge, Krautrock-influenced monster (check out “Hallogallo“ by Neu! to see what the band was listening to at the time). The result was perhaps the most divisive part of the album. There is no doubt that the album version is tremendous, but early live versions had all the same aspects that make the album version great, and contained more melody and, well, fun. This version is from the summer of 2003.

4. MP3 - Muzzle Of Bees - I feel this song suffered the most between early live performances to studio, as it went from a spry, bouncy pop-rock song to a long, slow, droney one. The studio version does build up to a memorable finish, but you have to sit through the first 4 minutes to get there. Enjoy it here in its original form, again from the summer of 2003.

5. “Handshake Drugs” - live version from Kicking Television. I’m cheating here technically, because this version has Nels Cline playing guitar, and he wasn’t officially in the band until after AGIB was released. Whatever. The album version lacks the spark this song had live before the album and then again after.

6. “Wishful Thinking”

7. “Company In My Back” - This is one of the very few studio versions that improves the live versions from before release.

8. “Kicking Television” - from the live album. This is not really here for any other reason than the original album is 12 songs, so this one ought to be too. I just like it better than “I’m A Wheel”, and the studio version of this song that’s out there lacks the ferocity of this live take.

9. “Theologians”

10. MP3 - Less Than You Think - another live version, again from the summer of 2003. Forget what I wrote about “Spiders”, this song was the most divisive on the album, what with 12 minutes of effin’ drone. The song started out as a really beautiful little folk song with nice harmonies. Seriously, how the band allowed the album version to see the light of day is beyond me.

11. “The Late Greats” - the album version is more concise than the live versions that appeared before the album came out, making it a shorter, livelier song.

12. MP3 - Not For The Season - a live version from 10/22/02. Again, I’m cheating here because this song dates back to the YHF sessions, and appeared on Loose Fur’s debut album. But, this is one of my favorite Tweedy songs, and although there are plenty of versions available through bootlegs, Loose Fur, and the Sunken Treasure DVD, Wilco never released a definitive studio version. It was played at many shows between YHF and AGIB, so I don’t feel guilty including it, as it would have made a tremendous album closer.

Sorry to “Hummingbird”. Like the song, especially the lyrics, just not as much as what’s here. Besides, it would make a killer b-side.



Album Review: the National Lights - "The Dead Will Walk, Dear"

Hearts and Bones

The songs on The Dead Will Walk, Dear, the debut album from The National Lights, are some of the most beautifully haunted you are likely to hear all year. Literally. They all touch on death, ghosts, non-accidental drowning, and living with dark secrets. Inspired by American gothic writing, particularly Flannery O’Connor, lead-singer and songwriter Jacob Berns takes the template of a traditional-folk murder ballad and spreads it out over 10 songs. Centered around an unnamed river and the lost love at the bottom of it, the songs have a easy, gentle flow to them that belie the violence alluded to in the lyrics.

The album is nothing if not concise. The 10 songs clock in and out in under 30 minutes, and often drift one into the next like a series of pretty little nightmares. It’s as if the songs came to Berns in his dreams, woke him up, and left him scrambling in the dark to get them down before they disappeared. He takes the idea of Neil Young’s “Down By The River” to a conceptual extreme, ditching the gun and electric guitar, and instead use bare hands and acoustics to do the deed.

The album works in part due to the subtlety of the stories. If you’re not paying attention the album plays out as a series of lost love songs, and you miss the band’s true intent. Songs such as the sublimely beautiful “Riverbed” and “The Water Is Wide” rarely do more than dance around the edges of the murderous event, usually only hinting at the act itself or the reasons behind it. The closest we may get is when he sings “somewhere there’s a heart in your body, you hide it well, but sooner or later, babe, I’ll get to it” on album centerpiece “Buried Treasure”. What sounds like a confident declaration to a coy new love on first listen slowly shows itself as a literal threat. “There was a time when your body kept on beating; all you’re good for now is bones for buried treasures in the shoreline”, Berns sings later in the same song.

The Dead Will Walk, Dear also works because of the consistency of the songs. What the album lacks in stylistic diversity is more than made up for with the relentlessly beautiful melodies. The harmony parts of Sonya Maria Cotton are reminiscent of Natalie Merchant, and balance out Berns’ lead in a sweet and understated way. She is most prominent on “Swimming In The Swamp”, ironically the song with the most direct violent imagery. Her voice rides side by side with Berns throughout the song, and swaps into the lead for the chorus, seemingly leaving her as the new love and next victim for the narrator.

The National Lights have proven that taking an age-old song idea, in this case the murder ballad, and injecting it with new life can yield stunning results. The Dead Will Walk, Dear is a noteworthy debut, filled top to bottom with lovely little folk songs that can snuggle up between Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music and Iron & Wine’s Our Endless Numbered Days and fit right in.

Read the recent Pop Headwound exclusive interview with Jacob Berns here.

Check out these 2 songs from the upcoming The Dead Will Walk, Dear:

Buy The Dead Will Walk, Dear here. Visit the band at their myspace to hear more!


New Music - Andrew Bird, "Heretics"

Andrew Bird’s The Mysterious Production of Eggs (2005; Righteous Babe) was one of those albums I had heard about for quite a while before checking out. I picked it up only after connecting the dots between about ½ the ’05 year-end lists I read, figuring I was missing out on something special. Turned out I was right. Since then it’s been in a pretty regular rotation around the Pop Headwound office (bedroom, work, car, etc.). Songs like “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left”, “Fake Palindromes”, and “Masterfade” mixed enough of a folk-jazz aesthetic into its indie rock boundaries that it became something wholly original sounding.

Bird is set to return on March 20th with Armchair Apocrypha, his debut for Fat Possum (also, by the way, the new home of Dinosaur Jr.). Bird spoke to Billboard last year while working on the album. He said the songs are “big and spacious, with long, stretched out phrases, a sense of large, open air. But it's also really concise. I'm trying to keep it to 10 songs, but short is pretty hard to pull off when you're trying to create space”. Read the whole article here.

Check out this song from Armchair Apocrypha:

MP3 - Heretics

And this one from The Mysterious Production of Eggs:

And hear more at his myspace page. Don’t miss “Fake Palindromes”.


Maria Taylor - "Lynn Teeter Flower"

So, there’s more news coming out of Saddle Creek. In addition to Tuesday’s news regarding the upcoming Bright Eyes releases, they have also announced a new album from Maria Taylor, formerly of the band Azure Ray, and now a full time solo artist. The new album is called Lynn Teeter Flower, and will hit stores on March 6 along with the new Bright Eyes Four Winds EP. The album is the follow-up to 2005’s critically acclaimed 11:11.

The songs I’ve heard, which are available here for download, show the diversity that she is capable of. “A Good Start” is wispy electro-pop with a big chorus. Take out the electric guitars that crash the party as the song is winding down and this might fit into a VH-1 Sunday morning countdown. But don’t take out the electric guitars. Add more if you can. A bit more interesting is “Lost Time”. It takes a somber, reflective lyric and sets it to a delicate, frail folk melody. The song is poignant and insightful as it reflects on some tough luck and, well, time lost.

Check out Maria on tour this winter/spring:

Thu-Mar-01, Norman, OK, Opolis
Fri-Mar-02. Austin, TX, Emo's
Sat-Mar-03, Denton, TX, Hailey’s
Sun-Mar-04, Houston, TX, TBA
Mon-Mar-05, Baton Rouge, LA, Spanish Moon
Wed-Mar-07, Orlando, FL, The Social
Thu-Mar-08, St. Augustine, FL, Café 11
Fri-Mar-09, Athens, GA, Caledonia Lounge
Mon-Mar-12, Chapel Hill, NC Local 506
Tue-Mar-13, Charlottesville, NC, Satellite Ballroom
Wed-Mar-14, Washington, DC, Rock and Roll Hotel
Thu-Mar-15, Philadelphia, PA, First Unitarian Church
Fri-Mar-16, New York, NY, Mercury Lounge
Sun-Mar-18, Cambridge, MA, T.T. the Bears
Wed-Mar-21, Toronto, ONT, El Mocombo
Thu-Mar-22, Gambier, OH, Kenyon College
Fri-Mar-23, Chicago, IL, Beat Kitchen
Sat-Mar-24, Minneapolis, MN, Triple Rock
Tue-Mar-27, Seattle, WA, Tractor Tavern
Wed-Mar-28, Portland, OR, Doug Fir
Fri-Mar-30, San Francisco, CA, Bottom of the Hill
Sat-Mar-31, Los Angeles, CA, The Echo
Sun-Apr-01, San Diego, CA, Che Café
Tue-Apr-03, Phoenix, AZ, Modified
Thu-Apr-05, Salt Lake City, UT, Kilby Court
Fri-Apr-06, Denver, CO, High Dive
Sat-Apr-07, Omaha, NE, Sokol Underground

Visit Maria Taylor’s myspace here

Visit her Saddle Creek website here


The Roadside Graves

Kill Buffalo is a Brooklyn record label that looks to have an exciting 2007 lined up. They already announced the news that Earl Pickens will be releasing a brand new set of songs via an April EP, tentatively titled Turn On The Radio. They have also announced the release of a new introductory EP from The Roadside Graves, What Happened To Him Could Happen To Anyone. The EP is available starting January 30th, and includes a mix of the old and new, including fan favorites “Jesus Is A Friend Of The Family”, “Song For A Dry State”, and “Reverend Blue Jeans”.

The Jersey boys have taken a few years to follow-up the pretty excellent If Shacking Up Is All You Want To Do…, and the new material promises to be well-worth the wait. The label had this to say of the new EP:

“this is also an opportunity to hear some of The Graves forthcoming LP, No One Will Know Where You've Been, which comes out April 4th. The lead single “West Coast” is a portrait of an individual's resiliency in the face of a collapsed family and crumbling dreams. It was inspired by Dave Eggers’ semi-autobiographical A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, in which the author is thrust into guardianship of his young brother after the sudden death of his parents.”

“West Coast” is an instantly memorable song, with a driving beat, excellent piano-guitar interplay, and an anthemic chorus. Shacking Up was a distinctively Americana sounding record. “West Coast” takes that template and runs with it, becoming something reminiscent of a rootsier Springsteen/Counting Crows in the process. This song continues the outstanding songwriting from lead singer John Gleason, whose vivid and heartbreaking stories are always excellent, often unforgettable.

Here’s the full track listing for What Happened To Him Could Happen To Anyone. The highlighted songs are available for download.
2. Song For A Dry State
3. Mosquitos (Let The Fireworks Explode)*
5. Hell*
6. Reverend Blue Jeans
7. Stranger

* previously unreleased

And visit their myspace page to hear more.


New Music - Bright Eyes, "Tourist Trap"

Bright Eyes announces US tour dates along with Four Winds single and Cassadaga CD/LP.

Today I got an email from the folks at Saddle Creek, the recording home of Bright Eyes. Included was an mp3 of a song to be included on the upcoming Four Winds single/EP. Check it out here:

MP3 - Tourist Trap

They also had this exciting information to pass on, some you may know, some that you certainly don’t:

Cassadaga, the new full-length from Bright Eyes, will be released on April 10. The first single from the album, Four Winds, is set to be released as the Four Winds CD/12" on March 6 and will include 5 exclusive b-sides.

Touring for Cassadaga and Four Winds will begin on February 25 in Chicago. A full list of dates is below. Tickets will go on sale January 25. This smaller tour will be followed by a full US tour in the spring.”

With the once revolving line-up of musicians settled on the three constants of Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott, Bright Eyes spent much of 2006 in the studio working on their follow-up to the acclaimed simultaneous releases Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. The first single from these sessions, "Four Winds", is presented here along with 5 exclusive B-sides.

Retaining the simmering glow of its predecessors, Four Winds is full of the magic that brought Bright Eyes to international attention. Carefully played, deftly poetic and quietly enchanting, the release has a wandering country charm and all of the story-telling seductiveness of earlier work.

Four Winds and Cassadaga were recorded in various studios in New York City, Los Angeles, Portland, OR and Lincoln, NE. The sessions included a host of guest performers including M.Ward, David Rawlings, Gillian Welch and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney.”

And catch Bright Eyes on tour this winter at one of the following dates:

Sun-Feb-25, Chicago, IL, Metro
Tue-Feb-27, Toronto, ON, Opera House
Wed-Feb-28, Somerville, MA, Somerville Theatre
Fri-Mar-02, New York, NY, Bowery Ballroom
Sat-Mar-03, New York, NY, Bowery Ballroom
Mon-Mar-05, Washington, DC, 9:30 Club
Wed-Mar-07, Los Angeles, CA, El Rey
Thu-Mar-08, Los Angeles, CA. El Rey
Fri-Mar-09, San Francisco, CA, Great American Music Hall
Sat-Mar-10, San Francisco, CA, Great American Music Hall
Sun-Mar-11, Seattle, WA, Showbox

the National Lights - Interview

The National Lights are set to release their debut album, The Dead Will Walk, Dear, on February 27 through Bloodshake Records. The album is cohesive and stunning, filled with 10 beautiful, dark folk songs that creep around down by the river and come home with new secrets. According to their website:

The National Lights is the primary song-writing project of Jacob Thomas Berns. Assisted by the arrangements Ernest Christian Kiehne Jr. (The Bland Allisons, Sonya Cotton), Jacob Thomas sets out on his full-length debut, The Dead Will Walk, Dear, to forgive the past while compounding its wrongs.

The National Lights marry traditional American folk stylings - acoustic guitars, banjos, mandolins and lap-steel guitars - with beautifully hushed harmonies, and lyrics that owe as much to Flannery O'Connor as to the 1980's slasher film.”

The band sent me an advance copy of The Dead Will Walk, Dear last week, and it hasn’t left my cd player yet. I was interested in finding out more about the band at this exciting moment in their careers, and lead singer/songwriter Jacob Berns was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us here at Pop Headwound. Here’s what he had to say:

What inspired the album's dark subject matter?

The American Gothic genre, particularly the writing of Flannery O'Connor, is one that interests me a great deal. This was especially the case at the time I began writing the songs that would become TheDead Will Walk, Dear. Once that tone was established, and seemed to be working, it made sense to continue developing whatever was there.

Is there any actual narrative happening on the album, or is it more like a series of conceptually related stories?

There certainly is a story happening here, though it may be interrupted by a tangential ghost tale or two. The anonymous river that shows up in a number of the songs plays a major part in the narrative, but it occasionally flows off into other narratives as well.

It seems BloodShake Records is a close-knit group of musicians. How
did you all meet and decide to work together

We all met at college. Chris and I had been in a band prior to the National Lights, and we had been friends since early our first year. Sonya and Chris began dating not too long after. It made sense that we would all work together, seeing as we all enjoyed the music each other was writing. I would like to think we all pushed each other as well, creatively, though I can really only say with any certainty that Chris, especially, was of great help to me.

Why was the album's release date pushed back several times over thecourse of 2006?

The easy answer would be to say I was overly insistent on how I wanted the finished songs to sound, more often than not to the added frustration of Chris (Kiehne), who was producing and arranging the album. Other factors did contribute to the release date being pushed back, though, such as we were in our final year of college and trying to graduate with respectable marks, and we also moved to a new city right before mixing began, which took up both time and energy.

The painting on the album cover really fits the theme of the songs. Where did it come from?

The cover on the album now was not actually my first choice. I ran into some trouble securing the rights to reproduce my initial choice, and after that I began searching for artists whose copyrights had long expired and whose work was now public domain, which was how I came across the current album cover. The image of what appears to be sirens in the water appealed to me and my idea of what the record was ultimately going to feel like. Unfortunately, I have no idea to whom to attribute the painting, which I suppose fits in with the anonymity of the notion of 'public domain.'

How much touring will you be doing to promote the record? Who will bejoining you?

The original plan was to do a national tour with my good friend Chris Maher, starting out in L.A. and leaving us in New York. But as is the case with all best laid plans, this one didn't work out, at least on my end. Chris will still be touring, to support his debut, and I ask everyone to go and see him play. He's a great performer and even a better dude.


Check out these 2 songs from the upcoming The Dead Will Walk, Dear:

Buy The Dead Will Walk, Dear here. Visit the band at their myspace to hear more!

Album Review: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - "Some Loud Thunder"

Some Loud Thunder, the sophomore album from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, begins with what could be considered its catchiest and most frustrating song. The title track comes crashing through the gate, with lead singer/songwriter Alex Ounsworth wasting no time in declaring “all this talking, you’d think I’d have something to say”. Along the way he proves himself wrong as he packs most every line with too many syllables, racing to keep up with his hyperactive band. Along with “Underwater (You & Me)”, the song is the closest the band gets to straight pop on the album, but at some point they decided to bury it beneath a harsh wall of distortion. On first listen the decision proves to be distracting. I thought it was a damaged or corrupted mp3 file, but after a few tries the fuzz began to fade and the song shimmered its way into my head. The song’s refusal to sound as it “should” is representative of most of the album. There’s an obvious growth in musicianship running throughout the album, and the band has become comfortable dabbling in “weird”, textural sounds that betray the charming pop they hide. This system works for the majority of the record, but falls short on a few occasions.

The most immediately noticeable improvements on the album are the increased production quality over the debut, and the more diverse, fuller band sound. Producer David Fridmann has helped some pretty huge bands in the indie rock world further their studio capabilities. He practically re-invented The Flaming Lips on 1999’s The Soft Bulletin, and prior to that he did the same for Mercury Rev on their brilliant 1998 album Deserter’s Songs. He has expanded the palette for CYHSY as well. The album is filled with sounds that were nowhere to be found on their debut, some natural, some of the “blips & bleeps” variety. Together with the improvement in the band’s playing, the production leads to a thoroughly dense album, one that rewards repeat listening, and one that may scare off listeners expecting a retread of the more straightforward song structures on the debut.

Most of the songs on the album come off as totally schizophrenic, in the best way possible. They usually shift wildly in sound and tempo inside the same song, and rarely follow any sort of traditional structure. “Emily Jean Stock” is pure 60’s psychedelic pop deconstructed, brimming with memorable hooks and an inventive arrangement. “Underwater (You and Me)”, with it’s bouncy rhythm and hummable melodies, is the only song that comes close to sounding as if it could have been on their debut. And album closer “Five Easy Pieces” is a gorgeous soundscape, with harmonica, acoustic guitar, toy piano, indecipherable vocal chants, and what sounds like accordion floating in and out of the mix indiscriminately. It’s all held together by the bass, which enters proudly around the 1-minute mark and hoists the song on its shoulders, carrying it and the album to an unforgettable close.

Several songs fail while attempting a similar ambition. “Satan Said Dance” is actually one of the more sonically impressive songs on the album. It’s a hybrid of video game sound effects and a fierce dance-rock groove. However, the repetitive, non-sense lyrics are too much to take for 5 ½ minutes, overstaying their welcome by at least 2. And apparent first single “Love Song No. 7” is a monotonous, piano-driven ballad that only hints at releasing the tension it continuously builds. Sporting a melody that never seems to find its footing, the song comes across more as an unfinished demo than a fully-realized song. The fact that these two songs appear back-to-back halfway through the album disrupts the flow set by the first three and last five songs.

Some Loud Thunder can be seen as the kid brother of Here Come the Warm Jets, finally at the age where it can stand up to him and not have to worry about a beat-down. Both share a nasally-challenged vocalist (Ounsworth sounds like David Byrne meets mid-90s Dylan), skewered pop song structures, and an ADHD sense of experimentalism. Big bro is proud, and maybe slightly jealous, that despite the lack of a label to help with promotion, Some Loud Thunder is an ambitious stab at greatness. It actually achieves this goal intermittently, with several stunning songs that one-up the debut, and several that don’t work nearly as well. For now, big brother can sleep easy.

MP3 from Some Loud Thunder:

MP3 Round-Up, Vol 1. 1/19

Since I started Pop Headwound 3 weeks ago I‘ve come across a ton of great music online. There’s no way I could keep up with it to the extent it deserves and give you multiple write ups every day on all the worthwhile bands that I find. So, here’s a sampling of some mp3’s I’ve come across this month that I think are worth checking out. Some of which I’ve written about recently, others that I wanted to but couldn’t find the time. Where appropriate, I’ve given the links of where I found the songs myself. Enjoy!

07 Murder In Michigan.mp3” - David Vandervelde. Read the Pitchfork review here. Vandervelde dresses up as T. Rex for Halloween and fools everyone who's never heard of them. Found this one at Stereogum, but the mp3 has long since been removed. It’s from The Moonstation House Band. For some reason the song "Nothin' No" won't let me upload it, or else that's the one that would be here. It's a great song, check it out here.

The Sons Of Cain.mp3” - Ted Leo & the Pharmacists. The first released song from Living With The Living sounds fierce and revitalized, displaying a punk enthusiasm Ted only hinted at on Shake the Sheets.

02 I Will Always Love You.mp3” - Viking Moses. Yup, that “I Will Always Love You”. Read about this track at Said the Gramaphone for some true insight.

Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse.mp3” - Of Montreal. Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? is the new album, hitting stores 1/23. I'd heard of this band in the past, but hadn’t listened until now. I’ve added this to the small list of cds I’ll be picking up Tuesday.

01 On the Bubble.mp3” - The Broken West. I’m really looking forward to I Can‘t Go On, I‘ll Go On, also coming out 1/23. I’ve heard 5 songs and all are really, really strong. Check out An Aquarium Drunkard for a nice write-up.

03 Wet And Rusting.mp3” - Menomena. Found this over at Rawkblog. Their comparison to TV on the Radio is what attracted me, and they do sound like a kinder, gentler version of that band. Friend and Foe, their new albuum, is reviewed at Pitchfork. They said it’s the first great indie-rock album of 2007.

New Wilco Album News!!

Pitchfork reported today that during a solo performance Wednesday night Wilco singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy dropped the news that a new Wilco album was finished and ready to be released. Sky Blue Sky will be released via Nonesuch Records on May 15. Whether or not there will be delays for the release date are as of yet unconfirmed, but knowing Wilco…..

The album is the long awaited follow-up to A Ghost Is Born, Wilco’s misconceived (ha…get it?) and somewhat disappointing 2004 album. That album followed their flawless masterpiece 2002's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Early word on the new album is a return to more traditional rock sounds. Tweedy himself has mentioned this in several interviews over the past year or so. There are many bootlegged copies of potential new Blue Sky Blue tracks floating around the internet if you know where to look.

Here’s a standout song from the new batch, performed live on Conan O’Brien sometime last summer. Just try not to sing along:

New Music - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah literally came out of nowhere in 2005 when they released their self-titled debut. It is one of the decade’s most inspiring indie stories, as the band financed and released its own album without any help from a record label, and went on to sell well over 50,000 copies of it. Despite all the stamps, the band walked away looking like business geniuses.

As the cd release of the band’s sophomore album, Some Loud Thunder, approaches, it is interesting to note that little has changed with their business methods. Several songs were released for download via their website in November, and the David Friddman produced (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Sleater-Kinney) album hits stores on January 30th. Order it from Insound, and starting immediately you have access to a downloadable version while you wait for your cd to arrive.

If you don’t want to pre-order head over to the myspace page, where they are streaming the album in its entirety! Or go to their website to download 2 of the songs for yourself.

Early listens show the album to be more challenging than the debut, but also having a more diverse and fuller sound. My prediction is that the album will be as divisive as the debut. That album’s biggest turn-off (other than the hype) for many people were the nasally, David Byrne-by-way-of-mid-90’s-Dylan vocals, and lead singer-songwriter Alex Ounsworth sounds pretty much the same on Some Loud Thunder. However, there’s an obvious growth in musicianship here, and the band has become comfortable dabbling in “weird”, textural sounds.

Here’s an mp3 from Some Loud Thunder - “10 Underwater (You and Me).mp3

Check back to Pop Headwound in the near future for the official album review!

World Party "Way Down Now"

"Way Down Now.m4a"

“Infectious” is one of those words that’s so common in music reviews that it’s beyond a cliché. It has spread into common language, has become the go-to descriptor for any and all pop songs that are upbeat and impossibly catchy. In the face of all this, it’s a really good word to describe music. “Way Down Now” is infectious pop.

The song appeared on World Party's 1990 album Goodbye Jumbo. Too British for many Americans, what with “faceless gits” and “Sympathy for the Devil”-aping “who-who’s” running amok, it’s a song that was lost in time. It missed its chance at a snug little spot between “And Your Bird Can Sing” and “The Kids Are Alright” on the charts, and finally poked its head out to a world that no longer fell for songs that sound like 3 and ½ minute choruses with an English accent.

It’s also kind of a mess really. In fact, I think that’s what made it a revelation for me hearing it as an impressionable young high-schooler. It was sloppier than most anything I’d ever heard before. It certainly didn’t sound radio ready to my 15 year old ears in 1990. Therein lied its charm. It was glorious and perfect and sloppy as hell. I was infected, and am yet to recover.

And watch the video here. It's not nice to make fun of their hair, yours would have been (or might have been) just as stylish.


Ever heard a cover version of a song you always hated, or in this case for me always ignored, and it turns out that it’s possible for the song to be way, way better than you ever gave it credit for? Check out this version of “I Will Always Love You” over at Said the Gramaphone. Yep, “I Will Always Love You”. You callin’ me a sissy?

If you scroll down on the page you can read the song write-up here that really captures the song. It’s by a guy named Viking Moses.


New Ted Leo & the Pharmacists - "The Sons of Cain"

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists have been a Pop Headwound favorite for years. I even bought a t-shirt not too long ago. Kinda like being sponge-worthy. See……

Well, today Pitchfork has a new mp3 from the band available, from their forthcoming album, Living With The Living. “The Sons of Cain” is Leo at his most primal and focused, with some rompin’ drums and Who-like power chords. Leo’s vocals race to keep pace with the furious rhythm the Pharmacists are setting. After just a few listens this sounds more exciting than anything since“2ndAve.,11A.M.”

The album hits stores on March 20 via Touch and Go records. This is Ted’s first album since 2004’s streamlined sounding collection of power-punk Shake the Sheets. 2002’s Hearts of Oak and 2001’s The Tyranny of Distance are classics and well worth checking out.

Be sure to keep your ears open in March when what will certainly be a Top 10 of 2007 contender shakes the streets. For now check out Ted’s myspace for a temporary prescription.

The Replacements - "Tim, Re-Imagined"

The American underground music scene was one littered with exciting young bands in the wake of punk rock in the 1980’s. Minneapolis, Athens, New York, and Seattle were just a few of the well known cities bristling with talented upstarts at various points during the decade. Many of these bands took the bait from the major labels and jumped at the chance at the big time. R.E.M. signed to Warner for 1989’s Green after a prolific run on indie label IRS. Sonic Youth jumped to Geffen after releasing 1988’s Daydream Nation. Dinosaur Jr. went for Warner subsidiary Sire in 1991 and released Green Mind. Each of these bands, and many others, achieved varying levels of success after deciding to go to the big time.

In 1985, The Replacements were at their creative peak, and decided to make the switch as well. 1984’s Let it Be was a quantum leap from their previous records. Combining the “power trash” (as opposed to power-pop) they were most known for with a distinct folk influence, as well Paul Westerberg’s deepening sense of angst-ridden lyricism, the album generated a buzz for the band throughout the country. Major labels came looking, and the band signed to Sire.
What came next was Tim, an album filled with what can arguably be said to be the best set of songs Westerberg ever put together. Anthems like “Bastards of Young” and “Left of the Dial” were at once anthemic, heartfelt, and accessible. The band also once again displayed a strong folk influence on several songs. “Swingin’ Party”, and especially album closer “Here Comes A Regular”, are heartbreaking looks a loneliness and isolation, and feature mostly acoustic instruments. They even took a stab at pure pop with first single “Kiss Me On The Bus”. All this added up to a success for the band that was far beyond what had come before. However, as undeniably great as this album is, it is far from perfect. In fact, with just a few touch-ups I could be writing about one of the best rock albums of the past 25 years.
The first problem that props its head is the production on “Hold My Life”. The song makes a fine opener, yet suffers from a production that fails to capture the urgency the lyric deserves. The reckless abandon drummer Chris Mars attacked earlier songs with is missed on this one, as it clicks along monotonously. The same can be said for Bob Stinson’s guitars, which seem tame here. There are live versions of the song from this era that drastically improve on this studio version.

The other problem with the album, which is always the problem with Replacement’s albums, is the filler. Each album in The Replacements catalog has its fair share of gems, but each has several songs that are far below the quality level set by the best ones. Here the filler quotient is met by a trio of songs - “I’ll Buy”, “Dose of Thunder”, and “Lay It Down Clown”. All three would not be missed if replaced by some of the stronger songs from sessions surrounding the album.

So, what could have been? Well, one of the great rock records of all time, that’s what. The following “replacement” songs are of a lesser sound quality than the album songs, only because they weren’t recorded with the intention of being released on an album. So the idea is that if recorded with the same spirit as the others there would be a more seamless flow than what these mp3’s can provide. With a tip of the cap to Stylus Magazine’s “Playing God” column, my re-imagined Tim could look something like this:

1. “Hold My Life.mp3” - I wouldn’t replace this song with this particular live version per se, but rather a studio one that adheres to its looser arrangement and rawer performance.

2. "Can't Hardly Wait (Tim version)" - the Pleased to Meet Me version is perhaps their most recognizable song, and the best version available. However, in ’85 the band wasn’t capable of its slick sound and horn accompaniment, and this primitive version is brimming with the drunken energy that the Replacements were known for at this point. Known as a great album closer on PTMM, this harder rockin’ version helps get “Re-Imagined Tim” off to a tremendous start.

3. “Kiss Me On The Bus” - album version. I’m gonna leave it as is, as it was a minor hit, even getting played on Saturday Night Live. However there are some versions out there that prove this song started out as a real thrasher, a la “Can’t Hardly Wait”.

4. "P.O. Box (aka Empty As Your Heart)" - This song may be from after the Tim sessions, but it does capture the sound of earlier Replacement’s albums. A hard hitting power-pop song that certainly improves on the pointless thrash of “Dose of Thunder”.

5. “Waitress In the Sky” - album version. The fun and, well, somewhat mean kiss off to poor stewardess service. A nice change of pace after 4 straight amped up numbers.
6. “Swingin’ Party” - album version.

7. “Bastards of Young” - album version. Again, no need to mess with greatness. Another one played on SNL.

8. “Nowhere is My Home (Tim demo)” - this song was recorded prior to the band’s departure from Twin Tone, and not only improves on “Lay It Down Clown”, but sandwiched between “Bastards” and “Left of the Dial” makes for one of the great 1-2-3 punches in rock history.

9. “Left of the Dial” - I wouldn’t dare.

10. “Little Mascara” - album version. It comes close to having the same problem as “Hold My Life”, but the song is a drop-dead classic, so leave it.

11. “Here Comes A Regular” - album version. One of the great album closers ever.

After you’ve downloaded these tracks go ahead and make yourself a “Re-Imagined Tim” playlist. Enjoy!

Channeling T. Rex w/ David Vandervelde

Just came across some really rad new tunes online today. David Vandervelde is a 22-year old one man band (well, apparently almost one man) who is about to release his debut full-length, The Moonstation House Band. It’s coming out on January 23rd on Secretly Canadian. Secretly Canadian is also the home of Damien Jurado, Magnolia Electric Company, and Antony & the Johnsons, so this guy's already in some pretty good company.

From what I’ve read so far, the popular “go-to” comparison is Marc Bolan, of T. Rex fame, with some Bowie influence as well. I have to agree. They don’t say these things for no reason.

Check out these excellent tunes from the new cd:

“Murder In Michigan”
@ Gorilla vs. Bear

01 Nothin' No.mp3

And here's one from a 2006 single:

02 Jacket.mp3

Those guitars really crunch, know what I mean? Yeah ya do.

Also, check out Daytrotter for some live-in-the-studio stuff, including a cover of everyone’s favorite Rolling Stones song, “Cocksucker Blues”.

And David’s myspace.

The Broken West

Yeah yeah yeah, Pop Headwound is not going to be the official music blog of Merge Records, this I swear to you, but they just can’t seem to help but put out albums to get excited about. In addition to the previous post regarding Neon Bible, there is now something else to anticipate from the prolific label. Last year a band called The Brokedown released an impressive EP called The Dutchman’s Gold. It turned ears, and got more than a few favorable reviews all over the blogging/internet community. Well, after a name change to The Broken West (very cool ) for legal reasons, the band went about recording their debut full-length, I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On. It hits the streets on January 23rd via, you guessed it, Merge.

Early reports mention Summerteeth-era Wilco , Big Star, The Byrds, and several other PHW favorites as influences. The songs I’ve heard are super sweet, easy on the ears power-pop. If these bands are your bag then give The Broken West a listen.

Here’s a taste:
"Down In The Valley" @
Rock Insider

"On The Bubble" @
An Aquarium Drunk

And one for you:
02 So It Goes.mp3

Also, check ‘em out in NY:
March 8 - The Bowery Ballroon w/The Walkmen @ 8:00

Neon Bible, Or How I Learned That Some Really Freakin' Strange Self-Promotion Got People Bloggin' About Our New Record

The Arcade Fire are taking the idea of “self-promotion” to all new heights of weirdness lately. To build anticipation for the March release of Neon Bible, the Arcade Fire have been busy coming up with some of pretty strange means to get people talking. First they released intended first single “Intervention” to Itunes, with all proceeds going to charity. What fans soon found out though was that they were really downloading “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations”, the next track on the cd, instead. Apparently someone at Merge records uploaded the wrong song. Like any of their fans were disappointed! The problem was soon fixed and the correct song is now there. Whether or not the incorrect song post was intentional remains unclear.

Next came a strange video on youtube. Click here to watch. Yep, those are clips of the new songs playing in the background, as the dude in the mask says some things about the album in a creepy voice. So, you get your album information, and a week’s worth of nightmares to boot.

Next, and thankfuly least odd of all, is just a stream of another new song, leadoff track “Black Mirror”. Go to the official site of the Arcade Fire, click on Win’s name, then Win’s Scrapbook, then a bird in the bottom right corner. If you like the song, here’s an mp3 of it:

01 Black Mirror.mp3

The best part of it all, at least for me, is the new version of “No Cars Go” that is listed with the tracks. The highlight of their debut EP, it appears the song will get the update treatment on the album. Check out the original version:

03 No Cars Go.m4a

Let the hype begin! Remeber to buy the album on March 6.

As if they need it:


And NY tour dates too:

02-13 New York, NY - Judson Memorial Church
02-14 New York, NY - Judson Memorial Church
02-15 New York, NY - Judson Memorial Church
02-16 New York, NY - Judson Memorial Church
02-17 New York, NY - Judson Memorial Church

Here Lies Pa - Bar Matchless, 1/4/06

Ever since his relocation from the wilds of southwestern Alaska to Brooklyn this past spring, singer/songwriter Paul Basile has been gaining a consistently growing group of loyal fans. His earnest, poetic lyrics, as well as his unassuming, passionate stage presence, created a buzz at open-mic nights around the city. The time seemed right for him to put together a band, one that could put some muscle around the skeletons of his songs.

Here Lies Pa made their debut at Bar Matchless in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York on Thursday, January 4th. Featuring Basile on acoustic guitar/vocals, Patrick Hay on lead guitar, Chris Sahl on bass/vocals, and Nick Lombardi on drums, the band put on an impressive performance, especially considering they had never played together in public.

The intimate back room at Matchless was the perfect stage for the 1-hour set of almost all original material. Playing to a packed room of probably 50-60 people, Here Lies Pa kicked off with the opening chords of Beverly Road.mp3 ringing out. The song has been available on the band‘s myspace page for a few weeks now, and most of the crowd reacted as if they were quite familiar with the song. They followed with a song Basile introduced as “Freezy Freakies”. Featuring a double electric guitar assault, the song was more rockin’ than some of the crowd may have expected, but received a rapturous reception as it careened to a close. They followed that up with “Your Worst Nightmare”, a cover of a song written by Basile‘s “friend Joe”. The song had a gentle folk sway about it, with some nice slide guitar from Patrick Hay. These first three songs were a microcosm of the whole set. By switching styles and genres so fluidly, the band proved they were much more than one-trick ponies.

The set progressed in a similar manner right up to the end. Chris Sahl provided some nice harmonies on a few songs, and after his bass blew out halfway through the set (catching everyone in the room off guard), seamlessly switched over to electric guitar to work out his bass parts. The set ended with a trio of familiar songs that are sure to become fan favorites. “Cannonballs” started with Basile playing by himself, with the band slowly entering right up through the first chorus, then taking off for the second verse. The band was effective in their restraint during Further North.mp3, keeping the focus on Basile’s voice and lyrics. As the final note was played, drummer Nick Lombardi started into an almost tribal, off-kilter beat on his drum set. Soon enough the familiar chords of “Grab Your Guns” emerged and the band turned a dynamic performance, highlighted consistently by the other-worldly drumming. The anthemic chorus of “this is my awakening”, repeated over and over, was only fitting as the song roared to a close.

Although rough around the edges, as debut performances can’t help but be, the band proved that good songs and spirited performances are going to get noticed. This crowd was lucky enough to be at the first of what will undoubtedly be many more rockin’ nights. Catch Here Lies Pa at one of its upcoming shows later this month:

Jan. 28 - Freddy’s, Brooklyn www.freddysbackroom.com

Jan. 31 - Sidewalk Café, Manhattan http://www.antifolk.net/sidewalk

For more information on Here Lies Pa check out:

Evolution, Baby

This week saw the birth of Pop Headwound, so what better way to celebrate a birth than to share my favorite song of the year, appropriately called "The Funeral".

The centerpiece of one of the best albums of 2006, Band of Horses' Everything All The Time, "The Funeral" is an anthemic, towering monster of a song. Fluxuating from a lonesome, simple vocal and guitar line to a wall of reverb and power chords and back again, this song demands to be played loud and often.



Find out more about Band of Horses at:


Shop for Band of Horses at:

Top 10 Records of 2006

To celebrate the 1 day birthday of Pop Headwound I thought it would be appropriate to share with you my top 10 records of 2006. What kind of music blog would Pop Headwound be without a top ten? Not a very good one. And as a bonus, at the conclusion you get last year's top ten. Somehow it exists even though we didn't!


10. Josh Ritter / The Animal Years

Although not necessarily as consistent as Hello Starling, this record did produce several songs that are better than most anything he's shown before. Ritter is quite a skilled songwriter, his lyrics are very often head-turning. They are backed by restrained, tasteful arrangments that keep the focus on the intimacy of Josh's vocals and lyrics. The production of Brian Deck is noteworthy here as well, using a variety of flourishes, but keeping the music wide-screened and spacious.


9. The Decemberists / The Crane Wife

This was a late entry for me, as I steered away for several months after its release. Last year's Picaresque didn't do much for me, aside from a few songs. One listen to "The Crane Wife 3" and I was hooked. It's nice to see an indie band jump to a major label and release a record that improves on its back catalog.


8. M. Ward / Post-War

Another year, another excellent collection of songs from M. Ward. It's hard to think of any other singer-songwriter who has produced 4 straight albums as good as Ward's since 2001. Arguably his best yet, Post-War offers exactly what last year's Transistor Radio offered: catchy tunes, nice vocals, skilled instrumentation, and an expert balance between traditional and modern folk sounds.


7. Centro-Matic / Fort Recovery

Speaking of 4 straight good albums this century, Centro-Matic delivered their 4th as well this year with Fort Recovery. Not as reckless as Redo the Stacks, and without the high points of Love You Just the Same, this is their most cohesive and mature-sounding record yet. At the end of 2005 Patterson Hood (of Drive-By Truckers) announced (in Harp magazine) that Fort Recovery was his favorite record of last year, months before it was even released. And by the way, no one uses feedback like Centro-Matic. Just listen to "Covered Up In Mines".


6. Camera Obscura / Let's Get Out of This Country

I don't know much about them yet, as they made a strong push after I picked up this record a few weeks ago. I do know that they are Scottish (like my ancestors..ooh, maybe I'm related), they have a female lead singer, they're on Merge Records, and that "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken" may be the best pure indie-pop song in a good long while. This album is highly listenable straight through. A really nice internet find.


5. TV on the Radio / Return To Cookie Mountain

Dense and claustrophobic, Return to Cookie Mountain was my biggest challenge of the year. While other "difficult" records didn't win me over (Ys, Yellow House) after many tries, this one got significantly better with each listen. The songs are worth the time on this one, as it has consistently crept up all year. This is one of those records that sounds important, visionary.


4. The Hold Steady / Boys & Girls In America

Oh yeah!! An indie band that breaks the mold and relishes its classic rock influences. Craig Finn spits out his lyrics like an early Springsteen, only rated R and drunk on PBR instead of the American dream. Monster riffs, power ballads, and more great lines about kissing than I can count right now: "these twin city kisses sound like clicks and hisses", "don't even speak to those sequencer and beat boys, when they kiss they spit white noise", and "I've had kisses that make Judas seem sincere". The best old-school American rock and roll band to come along since My Morning Jacket.


3. Band of Horses / Everything All The Time

Filling this year's quota for great indie-rock debut (see The Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade from '04 and '05, respectively) Band of Horses comes on like the offspring of The Shins and My Morning Jacket (cliche, I know. I swear I thought of it first). "The Funeral" is the rock anthem of the year, and this is perhaps the most consistent album in the top ten.


2. Califone / Roots & Crowns

Always the bridesmaid....I fell in love with Quicksand/Cradlesnakes soon after seeing Califone open for Wilco in Portland, Maine back in late 2002. That record was the runner-up in '03, and here we are 3 years later and they're the runner-up yet again. Roots & Crowns is another stunner, filled with rustic Americana sent back from a noisy, industrial future. This is Music From Big Pink fresh out of the state hospital, laptop tucked up under its arm and headed for the city, meds kickin' in and finally starting to feel like itself again.


1. Destroyer / Destroyer's Rubies

Dan Bejar lives somewhere else. His words come on like a slightly more fallible Dylan circa '64, all winding, allegorical narratives. His music recalls some kind of futuristic hootenanny, and his voice is Bowie at his most wild and exotic. Destroyer's Rubies is one of those career defining records, one that would be near impossible to top. As a member of The New Pornographers, Bejar has become familiar to a wide indie audience over the past few years. His latest Destroyer album is his defining moment, a career peak, and as close to a masterpiece as 2006 came.


There you go fine folks. Would have put my heart and soul into it, but couldn't figure out how to upload them.

Oh yeah, a quick look at last year's top 10:

1. The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday (Frenchkiss)
2. Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy (Jagjaguar)
3. Spoon - Gimme Fiction (Merge Records)
4. Sleater - Kinney - The Woods (Sub Pop)
5. The National - Alligator (Beggars Banquet)
6. The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree (4AD Records)
7. My Morning Jacket - Z (ATO Records)
8. Wolf Parade - Apologies To The Queen Mary (Sub Pop)
9. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - s/t
10. Bright Eyes - I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning