Mason Jennings

You are currently browsing articles tagged Mason Jennings.

Well this is embarrassing. We’re only like like, what? 7 months late with this thing? 2016 was a wild year for both of us, and it looks like 2017 is shaping up to be too, or else we’d have wrapped this up a long time ago. But here we are. Most of these blurbs were written last year, so if there’s some confusion in the tenses used, we apologize. But honestly, if you’re still reading this thing after all these years and you’re worried about inconsistent grammar, I don’t really know what to tell you.

As always, these were our favorite albums of the year, not necessarily the best… blah blah blah. You get it. Let’s just cut to the chase…

 

Chris’s Favorite Album of 2016

 

The Bound Of The Red DeerThe Bound of the Red Deer

by King Creosote & Michael Johnston

[self-released]

Most of what I love about The Bound of the Red Deer can be summed up in its fourth track, “Billows Roll.” After two minutes of uninterrupted piano, the song gives way to a simple couplet repeated only twice, “You have an anchor that steadies the soul / steadfast and sure my love, how the billows roll.” It’s thoughtful and understated, and I hear that desire for a sure anchor throughout the record.

The Bound of the Red Deer may be the least obvious pick for an album of the year – it’s a minor release from two fairly niche musicians to begin with, recorded quickly on acoustic instruments several years ago, then released without any fanfare last spring. They only played a few shows in its support after it slipped into the world, largely unnoticed (I’m pretty confident that “unnoticed” is the right word, because I’m pretty well obsessed with anything King Creosote does, but I didn’t even hear about this record until almost four months after it had been released), and then it just kind of floated away as both musicians moved onto other projects.

Overall it’s a quiet, ruminative record, one that’s content to just be what it is. Both Johnston and Creosote are veteran songwriters who’ve been working tirelessly for years, and these sturdy songs reflect it (they’re both part of the Canadian/Scottish songwriters collective The Burns Unit, whose 2010 record Side Show is absolutely worth your time, and on which a few of these songs originally appeared). The songs are thoughtfully arranged and beautifully realized, with pretty little moments abounding: the ascending piano line that opens “Since We’ve Fallen Out”, the buoyant sha-la-la vocals in “Hang Dog” and the celtic percussion that peppers it’s outro, the celestial coda of “Supermoon” where both men’s voices combine to chant “come in with the tide” until the song ebbs away. I suppose none of these moments are particularly notable in their own right, but taken together they form an undeniably beautiful whole.

This past year has been a turbulent one for me. We left Indianapolis, our home of seven years, and started a new life 2000 miles away in Seattle, Washington. We started a business in April and welcomed our second son in September. All good things for sure, but not things I’d recommend doing within a 12-month period if you can help it. As I’ve been thinking about our year, full of gale-force winds and tempestuous seas, it’s become pretty apparent why this record has spoken to me so much. I love King Creosote, and his music actually has become an anchor for me over the past several years – something I’ve returned to over and over again whenever I’ve needed it. The Bound of the Red Deer is another cable lashed to that anchor, “steadfast and sure (as) the billows roll.” –Chris

mp3: King Creosote + Michael Johnston – Billows Roll

 

 

Logan’s Favorite Album of 2016

 

The Colour in AnythingThe Colour In Anything

by James Blake

[Polydor]

During my first semester at college I took an introductory art history class. It covered everything from prehistoric fertility statues to contemporary street artists. It was hardly in depth, but broad strokes and shallow interpretations are about all I’m capable of digesting (I know next to nothing about music but compared to my knowledge and understanding of art, I’m a Juilliard graduate specializing in… let’s say Jazz drumming).

However, I do remember one particular piece of art from that class and the experience I had (and have) when looking at it. The Night Café by Vincent Van Gogh depicts the interior of a cafe, a billiard table is near the center of the scene and customers sit slouched, drunk or asleep, at tables that hug the walls of the room. The colors are garish and almost violent. Even now, the sickly yellow-green glow of the lamps in that piece is lurid and unsettling. I was amazed at how the careful selection of colors could evoke such emotion and when I listen to James Blake’s appropriately titled third album, The Colour in Everything, I am reminded of that painting. Whether intentional or not, Colour has an imagery associated with it. The various tracks feel as though they were painted in cool hues of blue, purple, and gray. Blake’s sound is, at times, thickly applied like an Impressionist, chunky and roughly textured — at other times he channels the fine and precise detail of a Rembrandt, while still maintaining the darkness and intense emotions that permeate the album from start to finish.

(I trust anyone who knows anything about art will laugh at my childlike and simpleton interpretation. But I’d say this was pretty good for a guy who still laughs when he hears Peter Paul Ruben’s work referred to as “Ruben’s Boobens.“) –Logan

mp3: James Blake – I Need a Forest Fire (feat. Bon Iver)

 

 

The rest of the best….

 

 

ArrowArrow

by Amy O

[Let’s Pretend Records]

One constant during years in Indianapolis was making the 40-minute drive down to Bloomington to see this or that concert. I’ve seen everyone from Bob Dylan to Sufjan Stevens, from Jens Lekman to Janelle Monae in that little gem of a town, and I’ll always be grateful for its wealth of charming little venues, from DIY spaces like Rhino’s and the Live Room at Russian Recording, to relative mainstays like the Bishop and Bluebird, to the historic Buskirk-Chumley Theater.

Just before we moved I got one last chance to make that drive to Bloomington to see Hop Along at the Bishop with one of my very best friends. Hop Along were, of course, incredible (they’re honestly one of the best bands working today), but I was pleasantly surprised to thoroughly enjoy the opening act – a local group fronted by a young woman going by Amy O. That night was the release show for her latest record, Arrow, and she and her band just played its ten spritely songs straight through. I was so impressed I bought the album on cassette (that was the only format she was selling, if I recall) and went on to listen to this lo-fi garage-pop gem all year. She’s got another record on the horizon, so keep an ear out for this talented export from one of my favorite little Indiana towns. -Chris

mp3: Amy O – Arrow

 

WildflowerWildflower

by The Avalanches

[Modular Recordings/Astralwerks]

This definitely wasn’t Since I Left You, Part II. But honestly, how could it be? After 16 years, The Avalanches made the wise decision to not try and recreate a stone-cold masterpiece, instead coming back with something a little goofier, a little less mysterious, and with a lot more MCs. It might not prove to be as timeless as that first bit of lightning-in-a-bottle, but you know what? I still love it. -Chris

mp3: The Avalanches – Because I’m Me (feat. Camp Lo)

 

22, A Million22, A Million

by Bon Iver

[Jagjaguwar]

When 22, A Million finally saw the light of day, I read a lot of reviews that described it as “Justin Vernon gets weird,” which struck me as odd. Because, in my mind, Justin Vernon’s always been weird. Sure, the narrative for For Emma, Forever Ago was pretty cliched, and yes, it was mainly a man and his guitar – but aside from that, it’s a weird little record, made up of droning alternate tunings and word-soup free-associative lyricism. It was weird! On the Blood Bank EP, Bon Iver flirted with Reichian tonal patterns on “Babies” and was honestly the first singer-songwriter I knew of to experiment with autotune on “Woods.” It was also weird! On 2012’s Bon Iver, Bon Iver he swapped his guitar for maximalist cut-and-paste sound collages that ended with a straight-shooting homage to Bruce Hornsby. That was weird! And I’m not even mentioning all his forays into hip-hop (a la Kanye), experimental rock (Volcano Choir’s first record) and adult contemporary (Gayngs). It’s all been weird!

So yeah, 22, A Million is weird, but c’mon, it’s not like Vernon’s been writing variations on “Hey There Delilah” for the past ten years. The real difference this time around is how fully Vernon leans into his post-guitar phase – the majority of 22, A Million is made up of glitchy electronics and disjointed samples, creating the bed for Vernon’s trademark falsetto, only this time it’s more often distorted than not. So yeah, it’s weird. But just like all the other weirdness Vernon’s put his name on, the record is almost uniformly gorgeous, another testament to the man’s creative genius. -Chris

mp3: Bon Iver – 22 (OVER S∞∞N)

 

case_lang_veirscase/lang/veirs

by case/lang/veirs

[Anti-]

I got deep into this record in the weeks after my second son was born — it’s like a time capsule for this AM-radio golden era that probably never actually existed, but still makes the perfect soundtrack for a lazy afternoon. Neko Case is, as always, a force of nature, and KD Lang and Laura Veirs are just brilliant as ever. It’s an album that doesn’t try hard to win you over, but it doesn’t really need to. It’s just doing it’s thing and it’s thing is enough. -Chris

mp3: case/lang/veirs – Best Kept Secret

 

GoodnessGoodness

by The Hotelier

[Tiny Engines]

EDITORS NOTE: We consider this a family-friendly blog. We try to limit things like profanity and nudity when we can help it, and even though this cover isn’t particularly offensive, it still had a whole lot of naked, hence the pixelation. 🙂

I’m not a creative type. I like to doodle but that’s about it. I often think that I’m one who’s been blessed to appreciate and applaud those that are creative but at the same time is cursed to not be creative myself. I’ve surrounded myself with creative people; people who can use words, music, pencils, and other mediums to create art. Many of these people find inspiration in the mundane and use that to soothe and to solve. People who, when faced with a 3-year old refusing to go to bed, illustrate a comic showing a brave pillow-wielding heroine fighting a sleep deprived monster or who, upon seeing a doe grazing outside their cabin window, ruminate on life, death, and God. I find myself frustrated that I just don’t see the world the way they do. Goodness, by The Hotelier, has many of these moments (including the aforementioned inspiration from a doe). It has been an especially inspiring record since welcoming my first child this year because, if even in the smallest way, I think I’m starting to see the world a bit differently. Holding my son (essentially a little helpless poop factory and sleep destroyer) has made me think more about my life, the path I’ve been on, and, even in these dark times, allows me to see the beauty in this world. He really makes me “see life in exploding color”.

Okay, so maybe it’s all of the above that makes me love this album, or maybe I just enjoy over-the-top spoken word intros (which it definitely has). -Logan

mp3: The Hotelier – Soft Animal

 

Astronaut Meets ApplemanAstronaut Meets Appleman

by King Creosote

[Domino]

In the short five years since I stumbled upon King Creosote he’s released at least 9 albums worth of music (at least I think he has – his “official” releases can be pretty hard to pin down, much less purchase). The guy is just ridiculously prolific, especially considering the fact that the man’s been making music for three decades! This year alone, KC released this on Domino Records, Queens of Brush County on his own Fence Records, and self-released The Bound of the Red Deer with Michael Johnston. How’s anyone supposed to keep up with that?

With that kind of prolificacy, quality can be a real concern, but this guy just keeps pumping out winner after winner for me, and Astronaut Meets Appleman is no exception. Lots of KC’s records can be considered DIY affairs, but this one takes the hat-tip from 2014’s well-received From Scotland With Love and sticks with the higher production values. You can hear it in the gorgeous vocal textures and harp scales on the back half of “You Just Want” or in the lush low end in “Love Life”, or in the accordion and strings that drive the crescendo in “Surface” (in fact the accordion is all over this thing, and I love it so much). Listen, I know I’ve crossed over completely into fanboy territory with this guy and I’ve lost any semblance of objective credibility here, so you can just dismiss anything I say about him from here on out if you want. But make sure you at least take a listen first, because you might just find yourself in the same boat. -Chris

mp3: King Creosote – Surface

 

SonderlustSonderlust

by Kishi Bashi

[Joyful Noise]

Two years ago when Chris and I put together our year-end list, we had two albums vying for the number one spot, Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There and Kishi Bashi’s Lighght. Ultimately, if memory serves me right, we settled on Lighght strictly because Chris and I had had a fantastic year – 2014 had been one of the best years in our lives and we wanted our “top” album to reflect that optimism. Personally, I was celebrating my relationship and engagement to my now wife. I’m still in awe of my wife, but particularly in that year, when we decided to get married, I could not believe my luck. She is the everything I was made to believe was asking too much. The beauty and, at times, the lighthearted silliness of Lighght encapsulated what made 2014 wonderful. Now, two years later, I’m married, I’ve just welcomed my son into the world, and Kishi Bashi’s Sonderlust is beautifully in line with these life changes.

Both albums, ultimately, are about love. But where Lighght was frantic, excited, and just generally matched that thrill of a new love and romance, Sonderlust seems to take a more honest, fragile, and realistic approach to love. There is a mature love expressed in this album. A love based on understanding, compromise, and true affection. And you can take my word on this. I’ve been married for almost TWO years, so I’m pretty much an expert on mature and celestial love. –Logan

mp3: Kishi Bashi – Statues in a Gallery

 

Wild Dark MetalWild Dark Metal

by Mason Jennings

[Stats and Brackets]

This record occupies an odd space for me. It came out just as we were packing up and preparing to leave our home of seven years to start all over in the Pacific Northwest. I listened to it almost exclusively as I finished packing up our little duplex rental, repainting and filling holes in the 70-year old plaster walls. It’s what I listened to during the nights after my wife and son flew ahead of me to our new home — it played on an old portable turntable while I slept on an air mattress on the bare wooden floor surrounded by the dregs of everything we own, the things that didn’t file away easily into previously packed categories.

I haven’t returned to it much since that week, and I’m not sure when I will again. But the last two songs, “How I Feel About You” and “On The Starry Banks”, have never really left me since those nights on the floor in our old house, like little beacons from another life. -Chris

mp3: Mason Jennings – How I Feel About You

 

PreoccupationsPreoccupations

by Preoccupations

[Jagjaguwar]

With all of the talk of love and happiness in my other posts, I feel like we need to take it a tad darker.

2016 was a nuts year for me and my family. I’ll try not to go into too much detail, but it all started in February when I decided, along with my doctor, that I could discontinue my anti-anxiety medication. I had been in a really good spot for a while and I was feeling quite triumphant. My beautiful wife was pregnant, we had just put a down payment on a home we were building, and I had just received a pretty nice pay bump at work. These things and more led me to feeling emotionally stable, comfortable, and confident. And boy was I happy.

And then things started happening, not bad things, undeniably good things. Over the next four months, the ground was broken on our home, I left my old job to take a great position at a company I love, we moved into our new home, and the little boy continued to grow until he joined us mid-November, happy and healthy. During this time, even while we were celebrating such wonderful things, I felt the shake of my old anxiety. New father jitters. Homeowner nerves. New job stomach. Holiday exhaustion. It was easy to dismiss these things and not acknowledge that maybe I needed that help again. Things were wonderful and I was happy! You could look at any aspect of my life now versus 5 years ago and see the almost exponential difference. But I couldn’t shake the feeling of some unknown dread. Completely unidentifiable but, in my head, 100% real. It sucked.

Preoccupations (formerly Viet Cong) have, in my opinion, captured this emotional struggle with their self-titled release. Preoccupations is heavy. It perpetually beats these emotions into you through an almost monotonous repetition that keeps you uneasy and on edge. This was obviously the band’s intent. Each track title alludes to a battle so many people are facing day to day (and I fully realize I am very lucky and I feel a bit uneasy even putting myself in the same category as those that carry a far heavier burden). So far, I’ve described Preoccupations as an emotional struggle and a battle, but what is beautiful is that, at no point, is there the thought of a surrender. It might be an ongoing fight, you might lose battles here and there, but ultimately, the war of this album closes repeating the following line, “You’re not scared. Carry your fever away from here.

(And in case you were wondering, I’m feeling much better now. I’m back on my meds and things are going great.) -Logan

mp3: Preoccupations – Anxiety

 

A Moon Shaped PoolA Moon Shaped Pool

by Radiohead

[XL Recordings]

I don’t have much to add to any discussion on Radiohead, so I’ll keep this brief. As someone who genuinely enjoyed The King of Limbs, I wasn’t looking for some redemptive comeback record as much as I was looking for another gorgeous collection of songs — but no matter what you were hoping for, I think A Moon Shaped Pool probably delivered — it’s just that great. Like most  of Radiohead’s work, it’s claustrophobic and anxious while still somehow being tender and breathtakingly beautiful. But what’s most striking to me about A Moon Shaped Pool is how generous it is. Honestly, there’s so few examples of bands this successful making music this vital this late in their career – and the fact is, Thom Yorke & co. honestly didn’t need to. But they did, and it sounds like they put everything they had into it. And then they go and throw freaking “True Love Waits” on the end of it too? I mean, come on. We don’t deserve this. -Chris

mp3: Radiohead – True Love Waits

 

SVIIBSVIIB

by School of Seven Bells

[Vagrant]

I was pretty late to the School of Seven Bells party. I liked their second record well enough and put “I L U” on several mixes back in 2010, but besides that, they’d flown completely under my radar. Then, in 2013, Benjamin Curtis passed away due to complications associated with lymphoma. His surviving bandmate Alejandra Deheza released the last thing they’d recorded together, a cover of Joey Ramones’ “I Got Knocked Down (But I’ll Get Up),” which Curtis had reportedly been working on in his hospital bed right up until his death. The over seven-minute take on the snotty classic won me over easily, and from there I dove back into a truly impressive catalog, cut much too short. So you can imagine how excited I was to learn that Deheza was finishing and planned to release the record she and Curtis had been working on before he died. The result is SVIIB, the likely last record under the School of Seven Bells moniker.

But you don’t need to know all that history to enjoy this thing – these songs stand up just fine on their own. Side A’s killer run of “Ablaze” through “A Thousand Times More” is as bleary-eyed and brilliant as anything else in their repertoire, and while the second half is more sedate in comparison, it’s no less pretty for it – all shimmery and enveloping in the way that Deheza’s and Curtis’s best work always has been. In short, SVIIB is just a gorgeous batch of songs, and certainly a worthy coda to a singular run of records.

mp3: School of Seven Bells – A Thousand Times More

 

We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

by A Tribe Called Quest

[Epic]

I just wasn’t that plugged into hip-hop this year. All the releases I was most excited about left me feeling cold (Kanye, Chance), and I’m just not that interested in any of the newest rappers I’ve heard (That’s right! I’m old! Get off my lawn!).

But something about seeing Q-Tip spit his bars from “We The People….” on SNL mere days after learning that a narcissistic authoritarian cheetoh-in-a-wig was going to be the next leader of the free world got my blood pumping. Since then, it’s been a sheer joy to revel in Tribe’s return from the grave – a vital document that appeared at exactly the right time. –Chris

mp3: A Tribe Called Quest – We the People…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2013 Singles Header

So we had so much fun putting together our Top Albums list, we decided to go ahead and make a Top Songs list too! Hopefully this kind of makes up for not posting all year! This list basically collects the songs that really killed us this year, whether they were world-conquering disco anthems, churning electronic chamber pieces, Billboard Top-40 hits, covers of Billboard Top-40 hits, or slowed-down versions of Dolly Parton classics – these are all just amazing songs.

Our rules for inclusion were simple: only one song per artist (Sorry “Afterlife”!), songs could come from one of our Favorite Albums, but couldn’t have been included in our Favorite Album post (Sorry “Holy”!), and finally, every song had to be unequivocally awesome. I promise they all qualify.

They’re listed below in alphabetical order by artist, because we don’t hate ourselves and weren’t about to rank these in any kind of favorite order. That being said, my favorite song of the year was hands-down “Song For Zula” by Phosphorescent. That song is my 2013 jam. Here’s hoping you find your 2013 jam below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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…

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve been giddy for this record ever since I first caught wind of it – it’s a collection of some of Mason Jenning’s oldest material, dating back to around ’98-‘99 when he was just gaining a following around the Minneapolis folk scene. 2002’s Simple Life (also a great record) was a similar project, pulling from the same well of songs as this one – the biggest difference being that where Simple Life collected many of Mason’s attempts at classic folk traditions (brief vignettes and longer narratives), this set of songs seems to be more autobiographical, focusing on Mason’s own experiences as a young musician moving to Minnesota. It’s a time capsule of sorts, revealing a little bit more of the younger Mason than we’ve ever seen on record before.

One of the first things I noticed is that for a collection of what could be considered “formative songs”, it’s apparent that Mason was already fairly fully formed by the time he wrote them. These are fantastic songs, well-written and well-executed – from the opening chug of “Dakota” right through to the languid closer “Method to my Madness”. In between are some love songs, some touching confessionals, a boozy boast that could’ve been one of Jim Croce’s own, and even an ode to his father in “Michael’s Song”.

I’ve heard about half of these songs on various old live recordings before, and two of my favorites, “The Magician” and “Better Than That” show up here, both sounding as good as ever. Of the songs I’d never heard before I’m especially enjoying the tender “Between the Lines”, as well as “The Villain”. The only odd-one-out of the bunch is “So Many Ways To Die”, since it was written just recently while Mason was working on songs for the 180 Degrees South soundtrack – while it clearly belongs to a different era, it’s still a fun little number in the vein of In The Ever’s “Your New Man”. One of the stand-outs is the title track, a perfect distillation of how good Mason’s songwriting can be, then or ever: “laid back down with my eyes closed/I let all the air out of my nose/I let all my dirt melt to glorious mud/and smiled for a while six feet under the flood”.

There are several reasons why Mason Jennings is one of my favorite songwriters making music today, and this record has 15 of them. You can get it right now on itunes, or if you’re a physical media nerd (like me) make sure to pick it up tomorrow!

If you’re a real nerd (again, like me), go HERE to order a special limited-edition CD pack, which includes a digital download and a signed postcard from Mason. There’s only 250 of them (well, 249 if you subtract mine), so act fast!

mp3: Mason Jennings – The Flood
from the album The Flood (buy it here)

mp3: Mason Jennings – Better Than That
from the album The Flood (buy it here)

Tags:

So I am getting pretty excited for Mason Jennings new record The Flood (out Nov. 16th). Yesterday Spinner posted this video for the records first track – and I’m telling you, this is exactly the kind of stuff that first made me fall so hard for Mason. It’s just him and his guitar, his naked strumming the only back-drop for his somewhat surreal balladry, the chorus’s melody lilting somewhere between Nick Drake and an Indian chant. About the video Mason says:

“I actually didn’t even know that we were making a video during the filming of this, which is what I love about it,” Mason Jennings tells Spinner. “My friend Dan just had a bunch of little cameras rolling during the two days we were recording the album ‘The Flood.’ This video was put together afterwards from the footage. The other guy in the video is my friend Sam Farrar. He engineered the album.”

Check it out:

And here’s an old live version of this very song. Enjoy, and don’t forget to grab The Flood on November 16th!

mp3: Mason Jennings – Dakota (Live at The Cave)
live at The Cave (circa 1998)

Tags:

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!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

41d4bu5tldL._SS500_

Well this is exciting: Mason Jennings released a live album two weeks ago AND I HAD NO IDEA. On Sunday I happened to notice a friend’s facebook status about how much he was enjoying “Mason’s new album” and I was like “huh?” So I looked, and there it was – Mason Jennings, Live at First Ave. So naturally I bought it and gave it a giddily thorough listening.

It leans heavily on his newest material (all but one track from Blood of Man shows up here), and much older material (like songs from ‘98 to ‘04). In fact, a beefed-up “Be Here Now” is the only song to show up at all from Mason’s two records between 2004’s Use Your Voice and last year’s Blood of Man. This isn’t too surprising, since he’s playing with the same band he toured with after Use Your Voice: Chris Morrissey and Brian Mcleod (this is the unbeatable incarnation of Mason’s band that was documented on the Use Your Van DVD – a personal favorite). Of the new stuff, it’s genuinely great to hear full-band versions of these more rockin’ tunes, especially songs like “City of Ghosts” and “Lonely Road”. “The Field” is perfect (that song is flat-out made to be played live), and it’s a revelation to hear “Sing Out” without that awful Incubus-like distortion that mars the studio version. I could have traded in some of the newer songs for some older favorites (“Jackson Square” or “The Mountain” perhaps?) – but that’s a small qualm, especially since there are some other great surprises on here. First of all, we finally get a recorded version of “Lonely Computer Screen”, a great song that originally showed up on the aforementioned Use Your Van DVD, and has since disappeared (oddly Mason introduces it here as “never been played live”… maybe he meant since 2004?). Then two really old songs show up, “Born” and “Grow Old With Me” – two favorites of mine from Mason’s old Cave bootlegs that are floating around the internet. To get a taste of how Mason’s live sound has changed over the last 12 years or so, here’s one of those Cave recordings of “Grow Old With Me” along with the version from Live at First Ave.:

mp3: Mason Jennings – Grow Old With Me (live at The Cave circa 1999)
Live bootleg

mp3: Mason Jennings – Grow Old With Me (live at First Ave. 2010)
from the album Live at First Ave. (buy it here)

The disc ends with a bang with “Blood of Man”, “Rebecca Deville” and “Godless” (so great). Sadly, there’s not a ton of improvisation throughout the show – aside from a little slide guitar over some songs and an amazing breakdown on “Blood of Man”, most of these songs sound a lot like their studio versions. But I might just be picking that out because I’ve been listening to a lot of live Zeppelin lately, so take that for what it’s worth. Overall the album is a ton of fun, and a great addition to any Mason fan’s collection.

NOW THE REALLY EXCITING NEWS: Mason’s releasing another new record later this month! It’s going to consist of older material re-recorded by Mason with just his voice and guitar, a la 2002’s Simple Life (one of my all-time favorite Mason records). It’s going to be called The Flood, and it’s going to be awesome. Just wait. You can read some more background on Mason’s website, then check out these old recordings from The Cave around ’99 or so. It’s a good bet the first song will show up on the album (duh), but the next two are just hopeful on my part…

UPDATE: According to Bird Wings Beat, The Flood will now most likely drop in November. Cross your fingers.

mp3: Mason Jennings – The Flood (live at The Cave circa 1999)
Live bootleg

mp3: Mason Jennings – Bhikku (live at The Cave circa 1999)
Live bootleg

mp3: Mason Jennings – Flight Path (live at The Cave circa 1999)
Live bootleg

Tags:

cover_how_deep_is_that_river_cabin_version_ep_lg

I love Mason Jennings, and I try to stay up on just about everything he’s doing, but up until a few months ago I hadn’t heard this version of the In The Ever stand-out track “How Deep Is That River”. The album version is pretty great, but it always seemed like it could use a bit of backbone – something to drive home it’s Southern spiritual roots. Well, Mason must have thought that too, because this version does it in spades. Be sure to listen all the way through to the breakdown at the end. It’s become one of my many Mason highlights.

mp3: Mason Jennings – How Deep Is That River (Cabin Version)
from the album One Percent For The Planet (buy it here)

And as a bonus, I’ve included one of my all-time favorite Mason tracks: “Jesus Are You Real” – which I’ve always felt is the natural predecessor to “How Deep Is That River”. Here’s what I wrote a couple years ago about the relationship between the two:

“Finally, my personal highlight has to be ‘How Deep is that River’, with its quiet guitar and pump organ, its one of the prettiest points on In the Ever – a spiritual entreaty and pseudo-answer to Boneclouds ‘Jesus Are You Real?’. That song (‘Jesus Are You Real?’) has come to be one of my very favorites of all time, and is probably one of the most beautifully and starkly honest songs ever written. A search for truth and a reaching for something greater than ourselves, ‘Jesus’ left off with the feeling that Mason was starting a spiritual journey – in ‘How Deep is that River’, he sounds like he’s well into that journey and is simply asking for an assurance that where he’s headed is where he wants to be.”

mp3: Mason Jennings – Jesus Are You Real
from the album Boneclouds (buy it here)

Tags:

lrg-785-kittens_-_best_friends

You might have noticed yesterday that we have a brand new face around here! Our very good friend Niels is going to be a regular contributor from now on, popping up as much or as little as he likes. So be sure to give him a warm-whale-in-a-cubicle-welcome so he’ll feel at home on here!

Niels has been a close friend of mine and Logan’s for a long time, and a big part of our musical taste for just as long. In fact, I’m pretty sure the first time the three of us hung out was going to a concert in Park City, so there you have it. Music friends 4L. <3’s up in here. Well here’s a little playlist to celebrate Niels getting on board, and to just celebrate  all of my (our) amazing friends. I have no doubt that I’ve got some of the best friends in the world, and I know that Niels and Logan feel the same way, so this is for all you guys/girls. Enjoy!

mp3: Mason Jennings – Living In The Moment

mp3: Iron & Wine – Friends They Are Jewels

mp3: Mates of State – Like U Crazy

mp3: LCD Soundsystem – All My Friends

mp3: Camera Obscura – I Need All The Friends I Can Get

mp3: Joe Cocker – With A Little Help from My Friend

mp3: Simon & Garfunkel – Old Friends

mp3: The National – Green Gloves

mp3: The White Stripes – We’re Going To Be Friends

mp3: Adem – These Are Your Friends

mp3: Lagwagon – To All My Friends

PS: That Lagwagon song on the end happens to be one of my very favorite songs from my youth. It’s a little out of character for this site, but punk rock was a big part of my teenage years (AKA: my bros before nice-young-ladies years) – and punk rock, with all it’s angst and us-againt-the-world pathos, also happens to be one of the most friends-centered genres of music out there (ahem, Bro Hymn). And you know what? In it’s drunken juvenile sort of way, this song is just as affecting as the more eloquent ones on here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,