Cultivating Music in 2009

Rocco DeLuca and the Burden
Rocco DeLuca and the Burden

The last two months have  been a boon for my musical collection. Typically I purchase quite a bit of music in a year, but for some reason I have added twelve new pieces to my collection in the last two months and I’d like to share my thoughts on 11 of those releases.

In addition to playing my iPod at my desk, I also have a 45-minute commute each direction, which provides plenty of opportunity to listen to music. My musical tastes vary considerably and I hear about music from a few key friends, listening to KEXP, and reading the linear notes of my existing collection. Take for example the new release by Rocco DeLuca and the Burden. Though I’ve heard of him, and almost went to see him last year, the motivational factor on this purchase was that Daniel Lanois produced Mercy. Dan is one of my top artists and producers, so I usually grab anything related to him. Once again, this is not a disappointment. A great blues release with subtle lyrics and an angelic voice. Clearly a unique sound on an old style. The “Lanois” sound does not come through too strong like it did on the Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, and U2 productions but if you listen closely then you can hear it. You won’t be disappointed.

Bon Iver
Bon Iver

Where was I last year when Bon Iver released For Emma Forever Ago? This is a truly fantastic lo-fi release that I heard on KEXP’s “Music That Matters” podcast. Recorded in a hunting cabin during the Wisconsin winter, guitar and voice blend together a stirring story and an enjoyable piece of music. It came out in mid-2008 and if you haven’t  heard this, you might find it of interest.

I’m still a fan of purchasing an entire release and listening to it from start to finish (and also usually purchase the physical media). After I become a little familiar with the music as it is presented by the artist, I can load it up on my iPod and create a shuffle playlist of all my new material. That’s where I’ve been the last week as I shuffle the songs from the eleven CDs. Here’s what else you’ll find:

CD Cover CollageAndrew BirdNoble Beast. A musician that has been around a while but someone I was not attuned to. When I called my friend Dana for new music suggestions he said this was a winner. It is a nice mixture of pop, low-fi, and folk. It’s not very often you will hear whistling on music these days and it works pretty well on Noble Beast.

Alex ClineContinuation. Who would have thought that a friend of mine was a world-class musician with decades worth of recording material? Alex handed me this new release in January for me to explore. Mostly jazz with some world sound elements. The jazz is a mix of exploratory and traditional.  Check out “Nourishing Our Roots” and “Steadfast” on iTunes. By the way, he is playing LA and Oakland this coming week.

Spiritualized Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space. What a great, great CD. What more can I say other than I should have bought it 10-years ago when it was released. I have seen this group a couple of times and they are fantastic. Dissonant. Depressing. Expanse. Get it. Listen to “Cop Shoot Cop” for 17-minutes.

Gillian WelchRevival. I now own about 5 releases from this country singer. Beautiful lyrics and haunting voice. Grabbed this on Amazon.com when it was $1.99. Can’t beat that! Guest singer Emmylou Harris on “Orphan Girl” – also covered on Emmylou’s own solo release recently.

Beirut March of the Zapotec & Realpeople. Two themes on this new release from Santa Fe based musician. The first half uses a traditional band from Jalisco, Mexico and the second half is electronica. It works. Reminds me a bit of William Orbit on the electronic pieces; not sure who influence whom. The last two releases were real good and original, so I’m giving this one a try too.

Arvo PärtIn Principio. New release from modern classical composer Arvo Part with the Estonian Philharmonic. If you enjoy choral music, then this is a winner. Though the choral pieces have a bit more from the horn department than I prefer, I will still listen to this one from time to time for its beauty and quietness. Been buying his choral releases over the years.

Tricky Puppy Toy. An EP from trip hopper (probably doesn’t like this term anymore). Female vocals as usual. Piano. Mumbling lyrics. Smoke filled. A touch of blues. I’ve been buying his music since Maxinquaye and managed to see him a couple of times in SF clubs. An anomaly with great talent that isn’t always utilized.

Animal CollectiveMerriweather Post Pavilion. Electronica with not too heavy a beat. Heard of the band, but had never purchased anything. The band was mentioned on Twitter a couple times so I thought I’d venture out and have a listen. I like it. Love it? Not sure yet, may need to grow on me some. Check out “My Girls.”

U2 No Line on the Horizon. Let me be clear, I’m a U2 fan and I own everything they have released. First heard them with October and saw the Joshua Tree tour. Clearly this is not Joshua Tree or Unforgettable Fire but it is a fine release. My boys Eno and Lanois finally getting writing and music credits with the band – I’ve always said that Lanois was the 5th member of U2 and now everyone knows. I could be listening to U2, Daniel Lanois solo, or the latest Brian Eno‘s Another Day on Earth with NLOTH. Favorites so far have to be “Magnificent” (classic U2), “Moment of Surrender,” “Fez – Being Born” (Hello Eno!), and “Cedars of Lebanon.”

So, there you have it. My current musical playlist. Upcoming releases I’m excited for are the new Bob Dylan and the new PJ Harvey.

What are you listening to these days? Do you have any of these and have additional comments?

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