Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Show Post: In House #1546

Among the multitude of tribute albums and compilations that seem to have come out last year, some of you may recall the Dream Brother tribute to Tim and Jeff Buckley. The collection features a rather hodge-podge assortment of artists, ranging from the Magic Numbers, to Sufjan Stevens, to Kathryn Williams, and their various takes on the songs of the late father-son duo. Today finally sees the album's domestic U.S. release on Rykodisc. (For more from the original post back in November, go here).

As for the Buckleys themselves, it seems that whatever attention Tim's work never received was more than made up for by his son, who, while a dynamic performer, has always been a bit overrated as a musician. It's not necessarily a surprise then that it's Tim's compositions that shine through on Dream Brother, in particular Kathryn Williams' blue version of "Buzzin' Fly," and Sufjan Stevens in-your-ear-intimate take on "She Is." As with any tribute collection, there are head-scratchers and missteps: Bitmap's completely lost version of the title track, for example, but all in all it's a successful, if modest, take on the Buckleys' music.

In House #1546.
Airdate: 1/31/06
Focus: U.S. release of Dream Brother: The Songs of Tim & Jeff Buckley, plus new music from Micha P. Hinson, Beth Orton, Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan and more.

BONUS- from the Dream Brother tribute:
Kathryn Williams: "Buzzin' Fly" (MP3)


Monday, January 30, 2006

Show Post: In House #1545

In true Pollardesque form, former Guided by Voices frontman Robert Pollard released a 26-track, 70+minute double album last week. From a Compound Eye is the first post-Guided by Voices release for Pollard, who writes songs like most of us breathe. Structurally and lyrically, most of the new songs aren't dramatically different from Pollard's band's output over the past fifteen years or so. Musically, however, there are some interesting twists, most notably on the bouncy "Dancing Girls & Dancing Men," which finds Pollard mining the poppier recesses of a late sixties Brit-rock that's much more Kinks than Who. The former gradeschool teacher has a tour of the country planned beginning in February in support of the new release, out on Merge.

In House #1545.
Airdate: 1/30/06
Focus: New release from Robert Pollard, From a Compound Eye, plus new music from Destroyer, the Strokes, the M's and more.


In House PODCAST #53

Friday, January 27, 2006

Show Post: In House #1544

It's a very busy show today as we get to the latest installment of our regular feature, Land Sound Records, as well as to several new things out this week.

Land Sound Record #3: The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead

Release Date: June, 1986
Label: Rough Trade/ Sire

The apex of the Smiths' rather short-lived output, both chronologically and creatively, The Queen Is Dead is almost unquestionably the album from perhaps the most important British rock band of the 1980's. The third full-length from the band saw a creative expansion that was not necessarily anticipated. Morrissey was sharp at the pen for this one, as the lyricist who had established himself largely as a solopsist became a biting cultural critic of British society, while still making universal subjects of lovelorn material, as on the romantic, macabre "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out." Johnny Marr's swirling guitars, of course, laid the backdrop for Morrissey's words, dooming scores of amateur guitarists to attempt (unsuccessfully) to recreate the sounds found in songs like "Cemetry Gates." At once a darkly passionate, comically absurd and playful album, The Queen Is Dead has aged far better than most of its contemporaries. Indeed, twenty years on, it's a light that never goes out.

(MP3)"There Is a Light That Never Goes Out"
(MP3)"Bigmouth Strikes Again"

In House #1544.
Airdate: 1/27/06
Focus: Land Sound Record #3 featuring the Smiths' The Queen Is Dead, plus a new live album from the Go-Betweens, That Striped Sunlight Sound, and new music from Kelley Stoltz, Arctic Monkeys and more.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Show Post: In House #1543

Austin, Texas alt-honky tonkers the Gourds returned this week with Heavy Ornamentals, the band's ninth full-length release.

Self-proclaimed as "music for the unwashed and well-read," the Gourds have been a part of the vibrant Austin scene for nearly fifteen years now, serving up a unique mix of country, jam rock, bluegrass and whatever else has happened to sneak its way into the creases along the way. This time around, the band tends a bit more toward the rock side of things, coming across like a Texafied Crazy Horse with a bit of The Band thrown in for good measure. The new album comes just a bit over a year after their last effort, 2004's excellent Blood of the Ram.

In House #1543.
Airdate: 1/26/06
Focus: New release from the Gourds, Heavy Ornamentals, plus Jesse Dayton & the Supersuckers in Salt Lake City tonight and new music from Van Morrison, Deadstring Brothers and more.

the Supersuckers: "I Don't Wanna Lose You Yet" (MP3)
Van Morrison: "Your Cheatin' Heart" (MP3)
the Gourds: "The Education Song" (MP3)
Jesse Dayton: "Hey Nashvegas!" (MP3)


In House PODCAST #52

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Show Post: In House #1542

Back to Sundance today, as we preview several of this week's performances at the Star Bar in Park City, UT-- among them, two shows from singer-songwriter Michael Penn. As you may know, aside from being brother to both Chris and Sean, as well as Mr. Aimee Mann, Penn is also a fine, if reclusive, songwriter. He plays an afternoon show today, as well as another one on Friday, both rare Utah appearances. His most recent release is last summer's Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947.

In House #1542.
Airdate: 1/25/06
Focus: Previews of this week's Sundance Film Festival performances, including Michael Penn, Martin Sexton and more, plus new music from Ray Davies and Elvis Costello.

BONUS- from Michael Penn's latest, Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947:
"Walter Reed" (MP3)


In House PODCAST #51

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Show Post: In House #1541

It's new music galore today as we're met with an almost unprecedented new music Tuesday. Indeed, this one's been circled on a lot of people's calendars for a while, with new releases out today from the likes of Jenny Lewis, the Elected, East River Pipe, Robert Pollard, Arctic Monkeys, Rocky Votolato, the Gourds and Tarkio, to name just a few. One obvious omission from that list is Cat Power's hotly anticipated The Greatest, which it may just be, and which we'll be spending the most time with today on the show. Chan Marshall has occasionally hinted at more traditional forms here and there in her music in the past, particularly on 2000's The Covers Record, which saw her covering the likes of Bob Dylan and Michael Hurley as well as the traditional "Salty Dog." The Greatest, however, is unlike anything she's done before, and despite some disparaging comments along the lines of "giving up her edge" from some, Marshall's gorgeous voice sounds right at home amongst the Memphis sessions players. Those who have called this her Dusty In Memphis have nailed it, Marshall sounds more comfortable and in her element here than she ever has on this, her seventh full-length.

In House #1541.
Airdate: 1/24/06
Focus: New release from Cat Power, The Greatest, plus new music from Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, Jose Gonzalez and more.

BONUS MP3s from today's show:
Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins: "Rise Up With Fists!" (MP3)
East River Pipe: "What Does T.S. Eliot Know About You?" (MP3 stream)


In House PODCAST #50

Monday, January 23, 2006

Show Post: In House #1540

A busy week kicks off today with the newly-collected and reissued release from the now defunct Missoula, MT band Tarkio. Omnibus collects the band's entire catalog (1998's I Guess I Was Hoping for Something More and 1999's Sea Songs for Landlocked Sailors EP, plus various demos and outtakes) over the course of two discs.

So, aside from the fact that Tarkio was a short-lived but disproportionately good band for a Missoula band, why should you care? The fact is, Tarkio also happened to be the college-era band of the Decemberists' Colin Meloy, which is obviously why kill rock stars is going through all the trouble in the first place. The voice is unmistakeably Meloy's, though the music has a decided alt-country bent-- not exactly what one would expect having read Meloy's Let It Be (highly recommended, by the way).


Speaking of Colin Meloy, he's currently touring solo-style along with Laura Veirs, and, as he did last year around this time, is selling a tour-only covers EP. This go around, Meloy covers British folksinger Shirley Collins, no doubt putting her on the map for most of his fans.

Colin Meloy

In House #1540.
Airdate: 1/23/06
Focus: Music from the reissued Tarkio catalog collection, Omnibus, plus Colin Meloy covers Shirley Collins and new music from the Minus 5, Catfish Haven and more.

BONUS- from today's show:
Tarkio: "Tristan & Iseult" (MP3)


In House PODCAST #49

Friday, January 20, 2006

Show Post: In House #1539

In House goes local again today with a live visit from singer-songwriter Bob Merle, a staple of the Pocatello, ID music scene over the course of several years and a nearly equal number of bands. Merle's latest vehicle, the Lost Boys, play Portneuf Valley Brewing in Pocatello tonight at 7:30.

Bob Merle

Elsewhere, we get to new music from Canada's Cash Brothers as well as selections from the upcoming tribute to singer-songwriter Peter Case, (more here via songs:illinois).

In House #1539.
Airdate: 1/20/06
Focus: "Uncle" Bob Merle live In House, plus new music from Jeffrey Foucault, the Cash Brothers, Graham Parker and more.

BONUS MP3s from today's show:
Graham Parker: "2000 Funerals (MP3)
Cash Brothers: "Only Now" (MP3)


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Show Post: In House #1538

Today it's the second installment of our new regular feature, Land Sound Records. As you may recall, the point is to spotlight some of the landmark albums over the past forty years or so of pop music history-- essentials, if you will. Hopefully, this will either reacquaint you with long lost beloved albums, or it will inspire you to check them out for the first time.

Land Sound Record #2: The Kinks' Something Else

Release Date: September, 1967
Label: Reprise

Something Else proved to be the beginning of what would become well-known as the unique, character-driven songwriting style of Kinks frontman Ray Davies-- a style further developed on later releases like The Village Green Preservation Society and even Muswell Hillbillies. After a handful of years of being overshadowed by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones while pursuing a decidedly mod posture, Something Else marked an abrupt about-face for the Kinks. Its subjects were willfully uncool creations of the Davies brothers, Ray and Dave, with narratives exploring middle class English characters and middle class English life. Such an unhip retreat to suburbia, away from the common psychedelia of late sixties Brit-rock, couldn't help but stand out as something different, indeed, Something Else.

Of course, the writing would have mattered little if the album hadn't also been filled with the melodies found on songs like, "Waterloo Sunset," regarded by many as perhaps the greatest pop song ever written. To be accurate, there's really very little rock here-- it is, however, littered with rescued showtunes, clowns and common people taking their afternoon tea. It's a drab, dour setting that sounds unsettlingly good.

(MP3) "Waterloo Sunset"
(MP3) "David Watts"

In House #1538.
Airdate: 1/19/06
Focus: Land Sound Record #2 featuring the Kinks' Something Else, plus a preview of this weekend's performances at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT.


In House PODCAST #48

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Show Post: In House #1537

Sun, Sun, Sun is the upcoming second album from Blake Sennett's The Elected. Sennett, as you may recall, is the yin to Jenny Lewis' yang as part of the band Rilo Kiley, currently on hiatus in part to allow the two to pursue their respective side acts. Much like the Elected's debut, Me First, the music this time around owes as much to the Byrds as it does the Beatles, with Sennett employing a kind of keyboard twang as the backbone of many of the songs. Nearly all of the songs were recorded out on the road, as the band employed random hotel rooms and highway strips as makeshift studios. Given the album's sound, this is nothing less than remarkable. Sun, Sun, Sun is out next Tuesday on Sub Pop.

In House #1537.
Airdate: 1/18/06
Focus: New release from the Elected, Sun, Sun, Sun, plus new music from the Minus 5, Band of Horses and more.

BONUS- from the Elected's Sun, Sun, Sun:
"Not Going Home" (MP3)


In House PODCAST #47

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Show Post: In House #1536

More details have surfaced recently regarding the upcoming release from singer-songwriter Josh Ritter. Entitled The Animal Years, the fourth full-length release from the Idaho-born Ritter is due in mid-March from V2 records. Those familar with his live sets over the last year or so will no doubt recognize titles like "Idaho," "Girl In the War," and "In the Dark" from the confirmed tracklisting. Meanwhile, it appears that "Wolves" has been designated as the first single from the album. Ritter is set to play Austin's South by Southwest festival around the same time as the new release.

In House #1536.
Airdate: 1/17/06
Focus: Preview of the upcoming release from Josh Ritter, The Animal Years, plus new music from Rocky Votolato, Ryan Adams and more.

BONUS- from Ritter's upcoming The Animal Years:
"Thin Blue Flame" (MP3)


Monday, January 16, 2006

Show Post: In House #1535

We take a bit of a break from the norm today, and instead offer a selection of music in the spirit and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Whether it was Sam Cooke veiling pleas for racial harmony within the context of a lovesong, or John Coltrane capturing the chaos of the turbulent times with an unsettling composition, popular music was and always has been an echo, if not a component, of the civil rights movement. After King's death, his message lived still through music from a myriad of styles and backgrounds: Nina Simone to Neil Young, U2 to Public Enemy, 10,000 Maniacs to Ben Harper.

In House #1535.
Airdate: 1/16/06
Focus: Music in the spirit and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., featuring Sam Cooke, Nina Simone, Solomon Burke, the Blind Boys of Alabama and more.

BONUS from today's show:
Sinead O'Connor's version of "War" (MP3).
Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" (MP3).


Friday, January 13, 2006

Show Post: In House #1534

Everyone's favorite married indie-pop couple (sorry, Rosebuds) return in March with a new album and a new label. San Francisco's Mates of State (Kori Gardner & Jason Hammel) will be releasing Bring It Back, their fourth full-length, in March. The new effort finds them on the indie-pop-friendly Barsuk records, which seems a perfect fit as the label already houses such acts as John Vanderslice, the Long Winters and Aqueduct, as well as being Death Cab for Cutie's flagship. Bring It Back finds more charming and high energy drums and synthesizer tunes from the Mates, who clearly have no problems riding bikes and chewing gum at the same time. They'll be touring extensively in March in support of the new release, which means you'll likely have opportunity to catch one of the most fascinating live shows you're likely to see.

In House #1534.
Airdate: 1/13/06
Focus: Sneak preview of the upcoming Mates of State release, Bring It Back, as well as new music from We Are Scientists, the Lilys, Eels and more.

BONUS MP3s from today's show-
From the Mates of State's upcoming Bring It Back:
"Think Long" (MP3)
From Kelley Stoltz's upcoming Below the Branches:
"Memory Collector" (MP3)
From the Eels' upcoming Eels with Strings Live at Town Hall:
"Busstop Boxer" (LIVE) (MP3)


In House PODCAST #46

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Show Post: In House #1533

Lest we should forget what came before, and in the interest of keeping the show a bit more varied, today we introduce a new regular feature: Land Sound Records. The gist is a revisiting of watershed releases, hopefully either reigniting a desire to listen to, or uncovering for the first time, essential releases of days gone by. The eras and genres included will no doubt be vast as we basically seek to unearth the foundations of music being made today. Or, aside from all of the important-speak: really good albums you should own. With no further ado, then...

Land Sound Record #1: Van Morrison: Astral Weeks

Release Date: November, 1968
Label: Warner Bros.

Van Morrison's second post-Them solo release was unlike anything he had done before or, it may be argued, since. A unique if odd muscial hodge-podge of folk, blues, jazz and classical flavors, Astral Weeks consists of eight sprawling compositions that play out like one long song. Much of the content, lyrically and musically, seems improvised on the spot by Morrison, notably on the gripping "Beside You," with Morrison's familiar repititions of "you breathe in, you breathe out/ you breathe in, you breathe out..." and "to never, never wonder why at all..." Elsewhere is some of the more accomplished poetry Morrison ever produced, as contained in the character sketch, "Madame George."

Aside from the album itself, the circumstances surrounding its creation are no less inspiring. So the legend goes, Morrison, wrought with mourning following the drawn out death of a girlfriend from tuberculosis, convened with his recording band in New York City and put the songs to tape in two long, cathartic days. While those details may or may not be completely accurate, it's not difficult to surmise such a story within the context and emotional character of the songs. Indeed, the album is not only Morrison's autumnal masterpiece, but also perhaps the finest elegy in pop music history.

(MP3) "Beside You"
(MP3) "Cyprus Avenue"

In House #1533.
Focus: Land Sound Record #1 featuring Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, plus new music from Rhett Miller, Teddy Thompson and more.


In House PODCAST #45

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Show Post: In House #1532

Texas-based singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen takes residency out west this week as he plays three shows in the area, beginning with tonight's performance at Harry O's in Park City, UT. Keen has developed a reputation over the years as an extraordinary storyteller, sort of an Americana Bob Dylan in the tradition of Texas songwriters like Townes Van Zandt and Billy Joe Shaver. His most recent release is last year's What I Really Mean.

In House #1532.
Airdate: 1/11/06.
Focus: Robert Earl Keen in the area this week plus music from the new album from BR5-49, Dog Days, and new music from Hank Williams III.

BONUS- from today's show and Hank Williams III's upcoming Straight to Hell (Feb. 7th, Curb): "Country Heroes" (MP3).


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Show Post: In House #1531

Clem Snide frontman Eef Barzelay goes the solo route come February with the release of his first official solo album, Bitter Honey. True to the album's billing, it's just Eef and a guitar-- much like the recently released Suburban Field Recordings, Vol. 1, which captured pre-Clem Snide demos Barzelay made in the early 90's. While the comic and ironic twists and turns for which Clem Snide's music has become known are present in many of the songs on Bitter Honey, there's also an element of serious introspection we've never heard from their frontman before. The new album is available February 21st from spinART.

In House #1531.
Airdate: 1/10/06
Focus: Upcoming release from Clem Snide frontman Eef Barzelay, Bitter Honey, plus new music from the Elected, East River Pipe and more.

BONUS- from Barzelay's Bitter Honey:
"The Ballad of Bitter Honey" (MP3)


In House PODCAST #44

Monday, January 09, 2006

Show Post: In House #1530

Officially, Belle & Sebastian's upcoming release The Life Pursuit is their seventh overall, though it's just the second in a phase that has marked a dramatic sonic makeover for the band. Indeed, the new music is barely recognizable when set along side "phase one" Belle & Sebastian releases like Tigermilk and If You're Feeling Sinister... The surprising thing is that it's worked pretty well, breathing new life into a band that seemed a bit bored with itself by 2000's Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant. Moreover, the new release finds them back on Matador, where they never really should have left to begin with. The Life Pursuit is due out February 7th.

In House #1530.
Airdate: 1/09/06
Focus: Upcoming release from Belle & Sebastian, The Life Pursuit, plus Beck covers Nick Drake, and new music from the Minus 5, the Decemberists and more.

BONUS- from the upcoming Belle & Sebastian release:
"Sukie In the Graveyard" (MP3).


In House PODCAST #43

Friday, January 06, 2006

Show Post: In House #1529

Something of a hodge-podge of a show today, as we get to the recently, soon to be and would have been released. To begin with the latter, the latest on the status of Nellie McKay's Pretty Little Head, which appeared headed for a Sony release as late as mid-December, is that she is no longer with the label and plans on releasing the album herself as soon as she's able to buy the recording back (ala Wilco). In any case, had all gone as planned, Pretty Little Head would have come out this week.

Nellie McKay

As for some interesting things we know will be coming out soon, Ray Davies drops his big return, Other People Lives, on V2 on February 7th. Meanwhile, the chameleon-like Elvis Costello releases a live recording of his performance at last year's North Sea Jazz Festival backed by no less than a 50-piece Dutch orchestra. My Flame Burns Blue is out February 28th on Deutsche Grammophon.

Elvis Costello

In House #1529.
Airdate: 1/6/05
Focus: New music from Nellie McKay, Elvis Costello, Ray Davies and more.

BONUS- from Costello's upcoming My Flame Burns Blue:
"Watching the Detectives" (LIVE) (MP3)


In House PODCAST #42

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Show Post: In House #1528

Given his past work, both as a solo artist and as a member of the emo-tinged Waxwing, Rocky Votolato's upcoming Makers is something of a revelation. Although he's certainly revealed his country and folk influences in the past, they've never been more apparent than on the new album, a mostly dusty and brooding collection of tunes filled with flourishes of pedal steel and slide guitar. A childhood spent in Texas reared on Johnny Cash is just beginning to assert itself on Votolato's music, it would appear. Makers drops January 24th on Barsuk.

In House #1528.
Airdate: 1/05/06
Focus: Upcoming release from Rocky Votolato, Makers, plus new music from Jenny Lewis, Cat Power, Oakley Hall and more.

BONUS- from Votolato's Makers:
"White Daisy Passing" (MP3) (via Indieblogheaven)


In House PODCAST #41

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Show Post: In House #1527

The only new release this week of any significant anticipation is the Strokes' First Impressions of Earth, the third full-length from the New York City quintet. As previously discussed, the band doesn't stray too far from the sound that established them on Is This It?-- Julian Casablancas' vocals are still heavily filtered, still slightly reminiscent of Lou Reed-- none of which is necessarily a complaint. Indeed, the Strokes' latest contains some of the strongest songs in their catalog and it could be argued that it's when they make deliberate attempts not to sound like themselves that they fall the flattest. To celebrate the new release, they're touring across the U.S. this week.

The Strokes

In House #1527
Airdate: 01/04/06
Focus: New release from the Strokes, First Impressions of Earth, plus new music from Robert Pollard, Arctic Monkeys, the Thermals and more.


In House PODCAST #40

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Show Post: In House #1526

Musically speaking, the new year's coming in almost as quietly as the old year went out. However, there are some things on the distant horizon-- a few of which we preview today as we get to new music from BR5-49, Josh Ritter, Kris Kristofferson and Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris, to name a few.

Kris Kristofferson

Ritter and Kristofferson, at opposite ends of their respective careers, are anticipating March releases, while Knopfler & Harris are collaborating on an album due out sometime in the coming year. BR5-49's Dog Days is out next week.


In House #1526.
Airdate: 1/03/06
Focus: New music from BR5-49, Kris Kristofferson, Josh Ritter and more.

BONUS- from today's show, new BR5-49: "The Devil & Me" (MP3)


In House PODCAST #39

Monday, January 02, 2006

Show Post: In House #1525

On the second day of the new year, it's one final look back at last year as we name our Top Five releases of 2005. Once again, it's not exactly scientific, and we're not claiming that we actually had the time or ability to spend ample time with every single full-length released this year. Nevertheless, these are the five that stuck with us as most accomplished, repeatedly listenable and particularly important-- and it was far from an easy cut.

5- Andrew Bird: The Mysterious Production of Eggs
(Righteous Babe)

Bird's sound is at last finally realized as he rises far above being a talented violin-playing novelty act who used to play with the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Perhaps the most beautiful sounding album of the year.

(MP3) "Fake Palindromes"
(MP3) "Masterfade"
(MP3) "Skin Is, My"

4- Sufjan Stevens: Illinois (Asthmatic Kitty)

Without question, Sufjan appears to be everybody's all-american this year and we can't really quibble. Musically and thematically, Illinois is an incredibly original album as Stevens covers much uncovered territory. Ronald Reagan, John Wayne Gacy, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, Carl Sandburg, Frank Lloyd Wright, Stephen A. Douglas and then some are all touched upon in a highly unlikely hybrid of 8th grade Social Studies and populist indie pop bound to launch a whole new wave of Edgar Lee Masters obsessives.

(MP3) "John Wayne Gacy, Jr."
(MP3) "Decatur"
(MP3) "They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh!"

3- New Pornographers: Twin Cinema (Matador)

Musical supergroups are never supposed to be greater than the sum of their parts because they simply never are. The New Pornographers ice that notion and make it a hat-trick (they're Canadian), actually improving upon their previous release, Electric Version. The music simply never goes through the motions as the band plays to the various strengths of the individual members, be it Neko Case's pipes, A.C Newman's songwriting chops, or Dan Bejar's bejar-ness. Plus, more hooks than a pirate convention.

(MP3) "Use It"
(MP3) "Streets of Fire"
(MP3) "These Are the Fables"

2- The Decemberists: Picaresque (kill rock stars)

Yeah, speaking of pirates and hooks, the Decemberists are no stranger-- but they're so much more than accordions and seafaring tales. Colin Meloy expanded his storytelling palette this go-around to include male prostitutes and bookish failed athletes, not to mention a current events political jab that is nevertheless not out of place. If Sufjan Stevens is Social Studies, then the Decemberists are a Literature class bursting with Dickens and Melville. The smart kids are the cool kids.

(MP3) "16 Military Wives"
(MP3) "On the Bus Mall"
(MP3) "Eli, the Barrow Boy"

1- Mountain Goats: The Sunset Tree (4AD)

John Darnielle's latest, and magnum, opus has, frankly, not gotten near the credit it deserves. Full of personal tales unlike anything the Mountain Goats had done before, The Sunset Tree appears to have been festering in Darnielle's head for years-- it seems he was just waiting for his stepfather, the album's central tormentor, to die to write it. Even out of that context, songs like the anthemic "This Year," with its chorus of "I am gonna make it/ Through this year/ If it kills me" can ring true for anyone anywhere any year, particularly the last few. In the end, this is punk music: defiant, sometimes hopefully, sometimes not-- would that today's tortured kids could hear it.

(MP3) "Dance Music"
(MP3) "This Year"
(MP3) "Up the Wolves"

In House #1525.
Airdate: 1/02/06
Focus: Best of 2005: The Top Five

Last Year's Top Five


In House PODCAST #38