Jeremy Messersmith

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Top 21? But weren’t there 25 last year? Well yes. And it was only 15 the year before that. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re not that rigid around here – all we really care about is letting you know what we’re loving right now and that’s about it. If we only fall for one record next year then you can probably expect “WiAC’s Top 1 Album of 2011”. It’ll be a good one, though. We promise.

That said, this year was a great year for music. But it was great in a different way than the last couple years. In 2008 and 2009 we fell hard for debut records by new bands (Grand Archives and Harlem Shakes, respectively), but this year our top 5 went to nearly all familiar faces. In fact, I think when we look back on 2010 what we’ll remember most was how artist after artist that released an anticipated album just seemed to deliver – and not just by making good records, but often by making the record of their career. In a year where we listened to more music than ever, we just couldn’t deny that these were the albums we enjoyed the most. Period.

Finally, remember that this list represents our favorite albums of the year, and not necessarily the best albums of the year. If we had to pick what we thought were the very best albums critically, this list would probably look a little different. But we’re not critics, so we’re going to skip all the posturing and taste-making mumbo-jumbo. These are simply our very favorite albums of the year – the ones that made us laugh, cry, dance, smile, press repeat, wet our pants, etc. Basically, this is what we’ll remember when we look back on 2010…

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To get ready for the All Hallow’s weekend here’s a playlist of what we think are genuinely creepy songs. With only a few exceptions, they’re mostly low-key acoustic songs, the kind you might hear around a campfire, somewhere far out in the woods. Only a couple deal with “monsters” per say (one mummy and one vampire, respectively), the rest are centered around the real-life kind of monsters – bloodthirsty sociopaths on hellish road-trips, spurned-lovers who become violently unhinged, and nightmarish butchers who come for your children in the night. A lot of the tunes are pretty, but if you listen close, these songs will keep you up at night…

mp3: Elliott Smith – Son of Sam

mp3: Blitzen Trapper – Black River Killer

mp3: The Decemberists – The Rake’s Song

mp3: Mason Jennings – Jackson Square

mp3: Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska

mp3: Josh Ritter – The Curse

mp3: Joshua James – Farmer From The West

mp3: Sufjan Stevens – John Wayne Gacy, Jr.

mp3: A.A. Bondy – Oh The Vampyre

mp3: Johnny Cash – Delia’s Gone

mp3: Kings of Leon – Joe’s Head

mp3: Okkervil River – For Real

mp3: The Decemberists – Shankill Butchers

mp3: Mason Jennings – Isabella Part II

mp3: Sun Kil Moon – Glenn Tipton

Also, on a less creepy note, here’s a Halloween-themed video for Jeremy Messersmith’s quite beautiful “A Girl, A Boy, and a Graveyard”. Happy Halloween!

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We caught Jeremy Messersmith Friday night at the White Rabbit Cabaret in Fountain Square. I’ve been pretty into his most recent record, The Reluctant Graveyard, and I was excited to hear some of his new songs live.  He played a fantastic set to an intimate candlelit crowd, and it was one of those rare live experiences where I found myself sitting back and thinking “What on earth is everyone else in this city even doing?” He was that great. Recorded, Messersmith utilizes all kinds of bells and whistles to bring his pop confections to life, but in person it becomes apparent that his songs stand equally well on their own, as he utilized a loop pedal to create backbeats and harmonies with himself right on-stage (for my favorite example of the night, check out the video of him playing “Miracles” below). His loop-tracking was great, but what struck me the most was how clean and clear his voice and playing was – every song sounded absolutely pristine.

Unfortunately the venue dashed our hopes for an encore by turning up the house music too soon, but we did have the chance to say hi to Jeremy after the show. He was completely charming, and during our brief conversation we discovered that he’d actually read our review of The Reluctant Graveyard last week, right here on our little blog! (In case you’re reading this – HI JEREMY!) Anyway, it was a great show, and after spending our last two weekends at ridiculously humongous live events, it was so nice to sit back and enjoy an incredibly talented musician in such an intimate setting.

Setlist and mp3’s after the jump.

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reluctant-graveyard

With The Reluctant Graveyard, the third album from Minneapolis native Jeremy Messersmith, not only does he finish his “life cycle trilogy”, but he manages to illuminate his first two albums in a way that they’ve  never been before. His first record, The Alcatraz Kid focused on youthful exuberance, then The Silver City centered around the doldrums of work-a-day living – now The Reluctant Graveyard (which primarily deals with death) adds a dimension of mortality to both of those records, imbuing them with a clarity that only comes with the knowledge that things end. With it, Alcatraz’s songs about youth become somehow more valuable, and Silver City’s tales of dead-end jobs and missed opportunities become even more tragic. In addition to all that, on Graveyard Messersmith has also managed to craft some of his absolute best songs yet.

Messersmith has always flirted with 60’s pop, but here he’s finally mastered it, and on songs like “Dillinger Eyes” and lead single “Violet!” you can almost hear the Zombies or the Kinks in the studio with him. Apparently he also had a string quartet on hand which helps round out several of the songs nicely (see “Organ Donor” and “Knots”), but at the expense of some of the little bleeps and boops borne of necessity that made his first two records so charming.

The first half of the record is practically perfect – especially when you hit the three-song run of “Toussaint, Grey, First in Life and Death”, “Violet!”, and “Knots”, and although the album slows down a bit on side 2, there are still great songs all the way through, and this is definitely a record worth checking out – especially since you can name your price at his bandcamp page. So yeah. Get on that.

Also if you’re in Indy, Jeremy Messersmith will be stopping by the White Rabbit Cabaret this Friday for just $5, or $7 at the door. You should go.

mp3: Jeremy Messersmith – Toussaint, Grey, First in Life and Death
from the album The Reluctant Graveyard (name-your-price for it here)

mp3: Jeremy Messersmith – Knots
from the album The Reluctant Graveyard (name-your-price for it here)

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Jeremy Messersmith, the incredibly talented troubadour from Minneapolis, will be releasing a new album next month, called The Reluctant Graveyard. It’s the third and final installment in his three-album trilogy, which includes The Alcatraz Kid and The Silver City (both are fantastic – you can read our review of The Silver City here).

In addition to whimsical water-colored cover-art, you’ll find on each of Messersmith’s records humble pop songs with a penchant for blips and boops, ranging from Zombies/Beatles-style chamber pop to quieter, acoustically rooted ballads ala Sufjan Stevens or Elliott Smith’s more ruminative side.

I’m very excited to hear his latest, and you should be too. Check out “Violet!”, the surprisingly sunny first taste off a record with “graveyard” in the title – then check out his live performance on 89.3 The Current of “A Girl, A Boy And A Graveyard” below.

And for all of you coming a little late to the Jeremy Messersmith party, you can name your price for his last two records on his website RIGHT NOW. I think you should! Enjoy!

mp3: Jeremy Messersmith – Violet!
from the album The Reluctant Graveyard (buy it here)

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