A Re-Examination of 2007

Those colorful leaves and the cool breezes signify more than just a change in season for me - the Year End List Season is almost upon us! In about a month every music blog lurking in cyberspace will begin posting a run down of the 2008 albums that you just can’t live without. Sensory overload and empty pockets notwithstanding, it’s a great time to be a music fan - as all of your favorite online resources will help you fill in the gaps with everything you might’ve missed out on the first time around.

But, as beneficial as they are, these lists are all lacking one key ingredient: hindsight. Often Year-End lists are hastily compiled and are heavy on trendier music that won’t necessarily stand the test of time. So, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the list of my own 20 favorites from last year and see what I would do differently now that I’ve lived with these records for the past 10-22 months. Somewhat surprisingly, there are only a few minor changes that I would make:

20. Deer Tick - War Elephant

War Elephant remains a startling debut from (the very young) John McCauley’s song vehicle, but more for several truly breathtaking songs than the whole lot of them together. Much promise is shown, and I expect Deer Tick to land much higher in the future, but as an album War Elephant would be just shy of making a revised list.

19. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
18. Okkervil River - The Stage Names
17. Band Of Horses - Cease To Begin

These albums would remain toward the bottom of my Top 20, where they were last year. Each still get the occasional listen, but I‘d swap Band of Horses and Andrew Bird - the former coming across as a somewhat pale imitation to their excellent 2006 debut, the latter’s gorgeous songs and arrangements still resonating after almost 2 years.

16. Battles - Mirrored
15. The Roadside Graves - No One Will Know Where You’ve Been

Sonically, Battles and the Graves could hardly be further apart, but they remain bunched together here on the list. The Roadside Graves have recently signed on to release the follow up on Autumn Tone Records, and judging from the demos that are going around, it sounds to be very promising.

14. Iron & Wine - The Shepherd’s Dog

An unfortunate casualty to the revised list, and one that I hesitate to make as I‘m a huge fan of everything Sam Beam does. But after a year or so of listening to Beam’s most challenging work yet, I find a bit more restraint would have served a handful of these songs better - I’m looking at you, “Carousel”, in particular.

13. The Field - From Here We Go Sublime

I just spun this the other night, late at night and with my headphones, and was still taken by the wide open electronic soundscapes of Axel Willner. Absolutely deserving of its spot.

12. Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

Though this year’s Skeletal Lamping hasn’t grabbed me, last year’s schizo-pop masterpiece is still a daring, rewarding listen. And damn if “The Past Is A Grotesque Animal” isn’t one of the best songs of the past few years.

11. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

There’s a handful of top notch singles on the sophomore album from Canada’s most known indie-rockers, but overall I find myself skipping through a bunch of the murkier album tracks. Still in the 20, but down a few notches.

10. Phosphorescent - Pride
9. The National Lights - The Dead Will Walk, Dear
8. Burial - Untrue
7. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
6. A.A. Bondy - American Hearts
5. The National - Boxer
4. Handsome Furs - Plague Park
3. Radiohead - In Rainbows
2. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
1. Panda Bear - Person Pitch

After re-examining my list, I can safely say that I wouldn’t touch my Top 10. Those were my 10 favorites 11 months ago, and they remain so. And I’m happy with the order too.

So that leaves War Elephant and The Shepherd’s Dog out…..but what slides in? Well, that would be Jens Lekman’s Night Falls Over Kortedala, which I didn’t hear in its entirety until late in 2007, and The Twilight Sad’s Fourteen Autumns And Fifteen Winters, which was excellent last year and has only grown since.

The new list:

20. Band Of Horses - Cease To Begin
19. Okkervil River - The Stage Names
18. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocryhpa
17. Battles - Mirrored
16. The Twilight Sad - Fourteen Autumns And Fifteen Winters
15. The Roadside Graves - No One Will Know Where You’ve Been
14. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
13. The Field - From Here We Go Sublime
12. Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala
11. Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
10. Phosphorescent - Pride
9. The National Lights - The Dead Will Walk, Dear
8. Burial - Untrue
7. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
6. A.A. Bondy - American Hearts
5. The National - Boxer
4. Handsome Furs - Plague Park
3. Radiohead - In Rainbows
2. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
1. Panda Bear - Person Pitch

Pop Headwound is going on vacation for a week or 2 - we’re moving this weekend and I’m not sure when I’ll be up and running again. Talk to you soon though….

[video] Eric Wolfson - "The Obama Song"

For the most part PHW is a non-partisan music/mp3 blog. But not really. The grainy black and white D.C. scenes Eric Wolfson employs in his video for “The Obama Song” - a cleverly reworked version of Ritchie Valens’ classic “Donna” - bring to mind the 60’s and the Washington D.C. protests of that time. Election day is in just 2 short weeks people…

Wolfson’s Dylanesque State Street Rambler still gets spins around here with a healthy degree of regularity, so if you haven’t yet given it a try be sure to check out “Graveyard Girls” and/or the video for “Sleeping Is A Sucker’s Game”.

MP3 :: The Obama Song

MP3 :: Graveyard Girls
(from State Street Rambler. Buy here)

New Music - Leopold & His Fiction

When listening to the blues and folk based rock of Detroit’s Leopold & His Fiction, an association to both The White Stripes and The Black Keys as reference points is fairly inevitable, and, seemingly, already rote. But I find that Ain’t No Surprise, their sophomore effort, never falls into tedium like every Stripes record save White Blood Cells and Get Behind Me Satan, and displays a startling sonic diversity that The Keys only stumble onto occasionally (as on this year’s Danger Mouse helmed Attack & Release). In short, lead singer/songwriter Daniel James has crafted an album that’s enjoyable from start to finish - it’s a gritty, gruff, hard-edged document from an exciting young band. You might even find trace elements of “Tombstone Blues”, Devendra Banhart, and Beggars Banquet-era Stones. All good things…

MP3 :: Come Back (Now That I’m Here)
(from Ain’t No Surprise. Info here)

[video] Centro-Matic :: "Rat Patrol And DJs"

I can’t say this with absolute certainty, but I have a suspicion that “Rat Patrol & DJs” is the first official video Centro-Matic has ever done. I’m quite possibly wrong about that, and am far too lazy at the moment to check into it. So let’s just go with it how about?

It’s a kick-ass little song, from their, like, 27th straight kick-ass record - Dual Hawks - released last spring by Misra Records. Did I mention that Centro-Matic kicks butt? If you don’t know that yet for yourself you should immediately find out by buying Dual Hawks or Fort Recovery or Love You Just The Same or Distance And Clime or…..well, any of them. Seriously, if you like the song in the video you will basically like every song the band has ever recorded - and there’s a lot of them. What they have lacked in diversity over the years is more than made up for by the kick-ass factor. Get to it.

MP3 :: I, The Kite
(from Dual Hawks. Buy here)

MP3 :: Triggers And Trash Heaps
MP3 :: Calling Thermetico
(from Fort Recovery. Buy here)

MP3 :: Flashes And Cables
MP3 :: Argonne Limit Co.
(from Love You Just The Same. Buy here)

New Music - Creaky Boards

Early last year I wrote about Where’s The Sunshine?, the debut record from Brooklyn’s Creaky Boards. Though the title posed the question, the sunshine was clearly in the bright, memorable melodies that songwriter Andrew Hoepfner coaxed from his songs - a deft mixture of old time rock ‘n roll, Tom Waits’ carnivalesque 80's diversity, and a distinctly New Orleansian spirit. Where’s The Sunshine? was an older release at the time though - dating back to 2005 - so when word came recently that Creaky Boards was preparing the follow up it was very welcome news.

Brooklyn Is Love is the result of the extended break from recording, and acts as an homage to Hoepfner’s home borough (which is easily the best one). The songs shimmer with a Brian Wilson-worthy flair for pop craftsmanship, and Hoepfner proves that when it comes to combining piano-driven indie-pop songs with Beach Boys styled vocal harmonies he is, among New Yorkers, in a class by himself. “The Songs I Didn’t Write” has already gained some notoriety for having a near identical melody to that Coldplay song you secretly kinda like, but was written long before it ever hit the airwaves. It gets the album off to a terrific start, and from there the melodic floodgate is open wide. Check out a pair of tunes and then go spend some of that excess cash everyone seems to have these days:

MP3 :: The Songs I Didn’t Write
MP3 :: Now I’m In The City
(from Brooklyn Is Love. Buy here)

News - Magnolia Electric Co. record/tour

Why so far away guys? Which one's Molina? That promo picture of Magnolia Electric Co. reminds me of that scene in A League Of Their Own when the commercial for women's baseball is showing the pretty girls on Geena Davis' team up close, one after the other, until the really ugly one, who they show from way far away. Still makes me laugh even though I've seen it a half dozen times.
Anyway, it’s been a while since the world has heard much from the not very handsome Magnolia Electric Co. Last year there was the 4-disc, limited edition boxed set, Sojourner, which collected alternate takes, outtakes, and unreleased sessions the band has recorded over the past few years. As usual with Jason Molina’s evocative, if repetitive, songwriting - “moon”, “ghost”, and “blues” references littered the songs to an almost comical level.

Word on the street (promo email from the label) says that Molina has gotten his bandmates back together after a quiet year living in Europe to record an as-yet-untitled follow-up to their last full length - 2006’s slightly snoozy Fading Trails. Molina’s creativity peaked on his final album as Songs: Ohia, 2003’s ferocious The Magnolia Electric Co. That album features some of the decade‘s best blues-rock songs - including the infallible “Farewell Transmission”. Let’s hope the long lay off has revitalized Molina’s muse and that the band kicks out the Crazy Horse-styled jams once again.

Here’s a recently released track from the Sojourner sessions:

MP3 :: Texas ‘71
MP3 :: Lonesome Valley
(from Sojourner. Buy here)

MP3 :: Farewell Transmission
(from The Magnolia Electric Co. Buy here)

MP3 :: The Dark Don’t Hide It
MP3 :: Leave The City
(from What Comes After The Blues. Buy here)

[video] The Black Keys - "I Got Mine"

Video :: I Got Mine

Click that link there to find The Black Keys tearing into “I Got Mine” from this year’s Attack & Release. The Danger Mouse helmed record has been hovering close to the top of my favorites list for months now, and clips like this one only reaffirm that notion. The video is a recent live take from the Crystal Ballroom in Portland and comes courtesy of Spinner.

MP3 :: Strange Times
(from Attack & Release. Buy here)

PHW Album of the Month - 9/08

I wrote this post on Tuesday and then proceeded to completely forget about it, thinking I had posted it right away. Starting here > I just heard Gentleman Jesse & His Men’s self-titled debut within the past 2 or 3 days (update: week or so), and if given more time it would have challenged for this spot - it’s pretty freakin’ rad, and I‘ll have more on it very soon (already did - songs of the month. scroll down). But as that record hasn’t yet fully sunk in yet, TV On The Radio’s new Dear Science, has - it’s my official Album of the Month for September, beating out Offend Maggie and Carried To Dust, excellent as they are, by a pretty hefty margin. My early opinion on Dear Science,, and I don’t foresee this changing, is it’s their best yet. Like the TVOTR of the past, Dear Science, is a dense record that grows more rewarding with repeat listens, yet manages to streamline their ambitious nature into an instantly accessible package. If you‘re not hooked 30 seconds into “Halfway Home” I don‘t know what I can do for you anymore. Hear the whole thing here. Previous post here.

MP3 :: Golden Age
(from Dear Science,. Buy here)

[mp3] Catfish Haven - "Devastator"

Catfish Haven have some serious soul issues. Their new album, Devastator (out October 7 via Secretly Canadian), is packed with sweaty, swampy, riff-heavy blues-rock in the vein of 70’s stadium rockers like Bad Company mixed with the rock ’n soul of the 60’s Muscle Shoals sound. Check out the first 2 legally released tracks:

MP3 :: Devastator
MP3 :: Set In Stone
(from Devastator. Buy here)

Catfish Haven on tour:

10/01/08 Omaha, NE - The Waiting Room w/ Dead Confederate
10/02/08 Madison, WI - Annex w/ Dead Confederate
10/03/08 Milwaukee, WI - Mo's Pub - My Morning Jacket After Party w/ Dead Confederate
10/05/08 Brooklyn, NY - Union Hall
10/06/08 Cambridge, MA - T. T. Bears w/ Dead Confederate
10/08/08 Philadelphia, PA - The Khyber w/ Dead Confederate
10/09/08 New York, NY - Mercury Lounge w/ Dead Confederate
10/10/08 Columbus, OH - Carabar
10/11/08 Chicago, IL - Metro- CD Release Show