Or rather, great songs from good albums that came out this year. Or great songs that weren’t on an album at all. Or great songs that were on albums that I never got round to listening to.
Oh, just great songs, alright?
(Some of my favorite songs are actually on favorite albums, so see here for them.)
Bill Callahan – Jim Cain
“I used to be darker, then I got lighter, then I got dark again”
Bill wraps up his career, and love-life, in one line. Like so many of his songs, he uses few words to describe a complex and difficult world. And like so many of his songs, utterly startling, with a scalpel-sharp clarity of thought that separates him from the rest of the singer-songwriter crowd by more than a few miles. As close to an explanation of his breakup with Joanna Newsom that you’ll ever get.
The Kingsbury Manx – Galloping Ghosts
“Look out across a silver landscape of galloping ghosts on our heels\Racing and chasing the nightmare’s almost over now”
It must be tough to keep writing music 10 years after your first album. Where do the ideas keep coming from? Can you still recreate that magic? Kingsbury Manx did it, wonderfully, with this song from the nearly-great “Ascenseur Ouvert!” album. It’s a song you can hardly hear anyone else making; that gentle warmth, that softness, the guitar solo just breaking through – Neil Young meets Willie Nelson and covering an old Pink Floyd song. But, in truth, it’s just the Manx, and if this song doesn’t melt your heart, you are surely not human. Song meaning? Possibly the inevitability of ones mortality, the loss of friendship, finding hope on the darkest days, who knows?
Jason Lytle – Rollin’ Home Alone
“But I bought you something nice\I got you something warm\For when the weather turns\When will I ever learn?”
Again, just like the Manx, how can Jason do it? That melancholy magic that seeps from every bar, every note, every little inflection of his voice, there is no-one else who can make this kind of tale of misplaced affection so utterly transfixing.
Frightened Rabbit – Swim Until You Can’t See Land
“Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?”
This one got me from nowhere. An email from a publicist pointing me in the direction of the new video by a Scottish band; one quick listen later and I was utterly smitten. 42 plays later and I’m still smitten. I actually have to stop myself from listening to it now, in case I overdo it.
Here We Go Magic – Tunnelvision
A heady, spaced-out thing, made by Luke Temple in a bedroom. Wonderful.
Anthony and Bryce Dessner – I Was Young When I Left Home
I’ve never been an enormous fan of Anthony (of “And The Johnsons” fame). Maybe it was all the hype around him; hype which turned me off him before I’d even heard any of his songs. So this was a lovely treat; his high, frail voice dancing above tender fingerstyle guitar courtesy of The National’s Bryce Dessner. Also wonderful, but I’m not posting the MP3, because I’ve been slapped by the RIAA before for posting stuff from “Dark Is The Night”.
MP3: Nope, sorry. But you can buy the album here.
I’ll be doing Part Two tomorrow. See you then, hopefully.