The Lumineers – Flapper Girl
There’s something so likable, dreamy, and listenable about a record like the Lumineers’ debut. Enjoyable, sweet and emotionally resonant, each song is a little folksy ode to love and truth, and carries with it a quirky, melody and/or quirky lyrics that make you pause for a minute and listen again and again. “Flapper Girl” is one of those songs; delightful and melodic with an irresistibly sparse piano riff. I’m obsessed with this record.
Leona Naees ft. Ryan Adams – Leave Your Boyfriends Behind
Leona Naess created the ultimate song for hipster girls’ nights out; this bonus version features your friend and mine, Ryan Adams, adding a response-within-the-response as he sings the other side of the story; his warbling vocals sound both contradictory and appropriate when paired with his ex-girlfriend’s, and their call-and-response is quaint and cute and even a little heartbreaking.
Kurt Vile – My Best Friends (Don’t Even Pass)
Kurt Vile is a criminally underrated singer/songwriter that I would never have known about if not for this past Record Store Day when I was standing in line to pay for my heft armfuls of vinyl in front of a nice guy who asked me, “Have you ever listened to Kurt Vile? I highly recommend him; he’s just amazing.” So I went home and delved into the darkly romantic, meandering folk world of Kurt Vile and I was not disappointed. Vile reminds me of a neo-Elliott Smith, the kind of singer/songwriter who fills the same dark, loveless hole in your heart that he leaves there. Even his more upbeat tunes carry a brooding intensity with them, an extra-textual layer of lyricism and contradicting finger-picking good times. “My Best Friends (Don’t Pass)” is just that kind of song.
Jack White – Blunderbuss
I love Blunderbuss; it’s like a well-produced White Stripes record without the gimmicks, the ancient recording technology, and that raw, deeply unpolished edge; and while I do miss the edge, White’s Vaudevillian piano and ancient blues covers are the detritus of his former black, white and red-all-over project and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. The title track, from the first time I heard it, was an ecstatic keys-driven build-up; a song that is ¾ pop, ¼ Paul McCartney-esque rock track that sweeps your mind clean of any of the impressions you had of Jack White, prior to hearing his stellar, uniquely-Jack-White solo debut. I bet this one is gonna be a MAD Grammy sweeper for sure, and on many, many, many best-of the year lists in December, including mine.
Blitzen Trapper – Sleepy Time in the Western World
An oldie but a goodie, this upbeat, rollicking Blitzen Trapper tune which talks of “sleeping through the afternoon” and other such responsibility-free thoughts, is my Eric Earley & Company pick of the week. Blitzen Trapper tunes are road trip-ready, catchy and country and they never seem to get old; in fact, with repeated listening, they evoke a spirit of something so engrained into American culture, I consistently feel a type of folky nostalgia and tradition whenever I put their records on.
Ryan Adams – Dear Chicago
“Dear Chicago” is a song that’s been a part of my life for just over eight years now, and is probably one of the songs I’ve listened to the most since I first heard it; the kind of emotion Ryan Adams packs into just a couple of minutes is more than some contemporary artists could ever dream of achieving. This song is a post-breakup song that perfectly describes and speaks to every broken-hearted emotion that comes with such a significant event. This song is just a very under-produced Adams and his acoustic guitar, and it needs nothing else. It’s one of the most perfect songs I know.
Genesis – That’s All
If I were to make a list of the catchiest songs of all time, I’m sure this one would sit quite high on the list. And not only is it catchy, but that fantastic piano riff and organ solo, combined with its increasing passion that builds to a satisfying climax and great growl-y vocals by Mr. Phil Collins, make it one of the best songs I know, and one that gets stuck in my head, in a good way, long after I hear it, every time I hear it.
Kanye West – Hell of a Life
Recently, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy earned a spot on Rolling Stone’s latest 500 Greatest Albums list; with songs like this, it’s not difficult to see why; it’s vulgar, it’s dark, it’s sinister and profane and so damn smooth and catchy, it’s as easy to listen to as it is difficult. Kanye West is known as one of the best rappers making music today and love him or hate him, his powerful tracks are impossible to ignore.
Billy Bragg & Wilco – That Lonesome Wind that Blows
What I love about the Mermaid Avenue sessions, particularly the songs that feature Jeff Tweedy’s vocals, is that they sound like Wilco songs that aren’t Wilco songs; in particular, there is a real aching down-home charm about this song that Wilco songs rarely ever have. It’s like Tweedy has ever-so-slightly changed the timbre and emotional delivery of his vocals to match the truly unabashed folk quality of these songs. “That Lonesome Wind that Blows” though, would not at all be out of place on any of Wilco’s albums. In fact, it’s probably the best non-Wilco Wilco song that’s ever been released.