Sufjan Stevens is the wildly eclectic multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter hailing from Detroit but now firmly ensconced in Brooklyn. Known to many for his Fifty States Project, he once planned to write an album for each of the U.S. states. But with only Michigan and Illinois under his belt, he now says that it was just a joke. His 5 CD box set Songs for Christmas is a staple for me during the holidays and when he is not producing records, recording commissioned pieces or guesting on other musicians albums (most recently he can be heard on The National’s High Violet), he releases music on his own label, Asthmatic Kitty. The EP All Delighted People just became available as a digital download and his first completely song-based album in 5 years, The Age of Adz (pronounced Odds), is scheduled for this October. From the forthcoming album, the song “I Walked” is a free download and becomes the Song of the Day.
“I Walked” by Sufjan Stevens
I was saddened to hear of Michael Been’s death. He was the lead singer and songwriter for the band The Call (Santa Cruz, CA) which had a number of hits in the 80s. His best songs were similar in style and majesty to U2, and although Michael had a powerful voice, the band lacked the strong guitar presence of an Edge. The band theoretically existed until 2000, but they were most prominent from 1982-1990. Michael had various side projects post-The Call and recently was the sound engineer for his son’s band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (vocalist, bassist Robert Levon Been). He died on August 19 backstage in Belgium during a B.R.M.C. concert.
I didn’t know Michael well. We would meet and chat in passing at the radio station when the band came to town, but such encounters are relatively brief. But I recall him as a good man and we shared the joy of his music. Copyright law only allows me to post three songs by a band so first I have chosen “The Walls Came Down” from 1983. This was their first important radio song, and although production-wise it sounds a bit thin today, the anthemic melody is irresistible. “I Still Believe (Great Design)” from 1986 is his memorable song of hope. And finally, the gorgeous short song called “Uncovered” from 1989, which could be considered his eulogy. Michael Been’s life continues through his music.
“The Walls Came Down”
“I Still Believe (Great Design)”
Ra Ra Riot have been around since 2006 based out of Syracuse, NY. Six members in all, the usual lineup of vocals, guitar, bass and drums, plus a violinist and cellist. They tragically lost their original drummer, John Pike (from Hamilton, MA), to a drowning accident in 2007 (evoking eerie thoughts of Jeff Buckley) but carried on. Their just-released 2nd album is entitled The Orchard. The song “Boy” from the album is a free download from the band’s website and is the Song of the Day.
“Boy” by Ra Ra Riot
Spin Magazine is offering a free download of 16 songs by various artists including bands that we have featured here in the past, including The Drums, of Montreal, and Local Natives and new music from Candy Claws, Chief, Cotton Jones, The Goodnight Loving, High Places, Isobel Campbell, J Roddy Walston and the Business, Land of Talk, Phantogram, The Hundred in the Hands, Toadies, Wild Nothing and Zola Jesus. 16 tracks in all, free from iTunes until September 30. Get the code here and download away.
With one of the best names in all of music, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, this four man band from Springfield, Missouri, has just released their 3rd album, Let It Sway. Produced in part by Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla, the title track, “Sink/Let It Sway” is the Song of the Day.
“Sink It/Let It Sway” by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
Although their album was released in England in 2009 and in the US earlier this year, Mumford & Sons are garnering deserved newfound attention here in the States. Part of the new folk rock movement growing in the Britain, the band is fronted by Marcus Mumford, thus the name. From their debut album Sigh No More, “Little Lion Man” is the Song of the Day.
“Little Lion Man” by Mumford & Sons
Mine was a driving vacation, a chance to listen to music uninterrupted, enveloped in my moving audio bubble, along miles and miles of highways. I discovered numerous compelling songs that will be presented here in the weeks to come, but it was the album, The Suburbs, by Arcade Fire that I continually returned too. The disc explores the environs where many of us grew up in–and what much of this and many countries have become–the homogenized beige living space with little connection to space and time. The endless boredom, hours wandering, wasted time, a longing to escape and the realization that there will be nothing to return to.
“Now our loves are changing fast
Hope that something pure can last.”
There are so many good songs of differing styles that my faves change from day to day. Here is a punk rave-up called “Month of May” and a song of suburban sprawl (“Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”). The title track “The Suburbs” was heard here on this site in June, so I’ve included the beautiful coda to that song that ends the album. One of the albums of the year, these are the Songs of the Day.
“Month of May”
“Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”
“The Suburbs (Continued)”
Blonde Redhead-”Here Sometimes”
School of Seven Bells-”Bye Bye Bye”
Wolf People-”Tiny Circle”
of Montreal-”Coquet Coquette”
Menomena-”Five Little Rooms”
The Like-”"Fair Game”
Les Savy Fav-”Let’s Get Out of Here”
Jesse Woods-”Ugly Dress”
Black Mountain-”The Hair Song”
The spirit of punk rock lives in SoCal’s Bad Religion. The album The Dissent of Man scheduled for September will be an incredible 15th release. Punk rock with harmonies and still relevant after 30 years, “The Devil in Stitches” is the Song of the Day.
“The Devil In Stitches” by Bad Religion
In 2007 the British band Klaxons won the coveted Mercury Music Prize (an award for the best album from the UK or Ireland) for their debut album Myths of the Near Future. This month these four lads follow it up with Surfing the Void. From the forthcoming album, “Echoes” is the Song of the Day.
“Echoes” by Klaxons
Jens Lekman, the idiosyncratic Swedish musician currently residing in Australia, has recorded very little music since 2007. Suffering through a broken heart, he was inspired by the Obama victory in 2008 and emerged from his pain. Reminiscent of the melancholy sound of Morrissey, “The End of the World is Bigger Than Love” is available as a free download and is the Song of the Day.
“The End of World is Bigger Than Love” by Jens Lekman