Posts Tagged Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten: “Serpents”

sharon van etten 520

It’s fun to sit back and watch the increasing amounts of love Sharon Van Etten is getting these days.  Not in a “we knew about her before youuuuuu” way, but rather in a “finally! she deserves it!” kind of thing.  She’s been sharing her past through public music since 2009, often giving us wonderfully and painfully open stories of a terrible love; unrequited and tortuous.  Her abusive relationship with a boyfriend during her college days is what initially drove her to write her first album, Because I Was In Love.  Ever since then, she’s been opening up the flood gates, using ever increasing amounts of electric guitars and bombastic percussive tremors.  You only need hear the opening salvos from her sophomore album Epic to know that Van Etten has become comfortable meshing the honest with the open.

We were promised amazing things on her third record, and today we were not disappointed by the brand new “Serpents.” It’s a gut punch to the old flames, rattling them by their shirt collars, showing and explaining exactly what they did to our girl.  The song is grand in collaborative scale, featuring the twin Dessners from The National, Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner, the Walkmen’s Matt Barrick, and Doveman’s Thomas Bartlett.  If ever you wanted a huge opener for a new record, “Serpents” is definitely for you.

 
Sharon Van Etten – Serpents by Pretty Much Amazing

Sharon Van Etten’s third album, Tramp, will be released February 7th, 2012 by Jagjaguwar Records.  It was/is being record in the garage studio of Aaron Dessner, and is rumored to feature further collaborations with Beirut’s Zach Condon.  No verifications on that yet, but we’re praying it’s true.  Heck of a start though.  We’re already counting down the days!

 

And here are some other unreleased Van Etten songs we’re hoping are included in all their studio recorded glory on the new collection:

“Give Out” will be on the new record as well. Other confirmed tracks include, “Mohawk” and “Life of His Own”.

 

Sharon-Van-Etten-Tramp-608x608 (Tramp is available 2/07/12 from Jagjaguwar Records)

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-Matt

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Q&A: Sharon Van Etten

sharonvanetten1 I’ve had the privilege of seeing Sharon Van Etten perform on four separate occasions, and each time I’ve been wowed by the piercing beauty in her soft voice.  The New York via New Jersey musician has released her sophomore album, 2010’s Epic, to high/wide praise and critical acclaim.  And The Wounded Jukebox placed it smack dab in the middle of our Top 20 Albums of 2010.  So we were glad for the recent chance to collectively sit down with her and ask seven questions.  Read on to find out Sharon’s favorite animal in the whole wide world and her opinions on our nation’s budget.  And music stuff.

How was your day today?

My day today?  good!  I went for a jog, I caught up on emails, I made a nice breakfast of boiled eggs, avocado on toast and sliced peaches with a coffee.  I am excited to see my friend Molly Sweeney play tonight in Brooklyn at The Rock Shop.

What’s your opinion on our nation’s budgetary crisis?  Should the debt ceiling be raised?Sharon_Van_Etten

Absolutely not.  We should learn how to budget better or learn how to deal with the repercussions.  The longer we put it off, the more trouble we will be in later.

A lot of your songs come from a sadder place or time.  Do you have to reinvent or revert yourself when you play those songs live?  If so, how do you do it?

I definitely channel painful times to get through them, and it’s been very helpful to me.  I allow myself to go back to hard times and analyze why I went through it and who I am today and that gives me perspective.

Sharon Van Etten – Peace Signs by Mistletone

You said in past interviews that during a particularly rough time in life, music was like a dire therapy for you.  Has time changed things or is music still that way for you today?

I write in a way which is always therapeutic to me.  Most songwriters write that way, no matter what time or place they are channeling.  It’s because we FEEL something that we need to create and share it.

Sharon Van Etten – Don’t Do It by sxeseis

Matt’s mom loves your music and asks these questions: what singers do you admire most?  And what’s your favorite animal?

Meg Baird, Diane Cluck, Kath Bloom, PJ Harvey, Zola Jesus, Lower Dens.
I like cats and chipmunks and fish.

How did you and your beautiful Harmonium meet?  When does it become part of a song?  (I.E.  How did “DsharpG” come to be?)

I used to work for the NZ band, The Brunettes, and they were moving out of their apartment to go on tour and they asked me to store some of their things.
One of the “things” was their harmonium.  The couple weeks I had it at my house, I wrote 4 songs on it 2 of which were “Love More” and “DsharpG”.

Dsharpg by sharonvanetten

Sharon Van Etten – Love More by Tatinha

The Wounded Jukebox:  great blog, or the greatest blog?

Trick question!  one of many greats!

We’ll take it.  Thanks Sharon.

epic_CDcover_final (Epic is available now from Ba Da Bing! Records)

[Sharon’s Official Website] [Myspace] [LastFM]

-Matt

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Sharon Van Etten: “Like A Diamond”

When Matt, Cole and I saw Sharon Van Etten in Columbus this past January, it’s safe to say we were all rather smitten. I had thoroughly enjoyed Van Etten’s album Epic, with its angst and anger rolled up into her subtly strong croon. Cracking silly jokes and giggling with her guitar slung over her shoulder on the stage that night, Van Etten showed the music truly is cathartic for her. She couldn’t have been nicer greeting fans after the show. She is not brooding in person, but when she writes and sings, it’s about letting the listener feel the sharp edges of melancholy.

Van Etten and Western Vinyl released her cover of Glass Ghost’s “Like A Diamond” as a free download this week. Just some keys and click-clacking percussion behind her, Van Etten delivers melancholy like only she can. What do you guys think?

Sharon Van Etten – Like A Diamond by The Wounded Jukebox

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TWJ Valentine’s Day Mix

For as long as there’s been music, there’s been music about love. And so it’s an imposing task to pick and choose songs about the feelings that make us do extraordinary — and extraordinarily petty — things, all for one mix. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t hear a song that’s about either side of love: The beautiful, inspiring side. The jealous, conniving side. Both always present, both able to be carried to us on a tune. But truthfully, there’s probably a lot more to it than that.

Enjoy the mix. Both sides.

1. The Avett Brothers – “The Ballad of Love and Hate” 

2. The Mystery Jets – “Two Doors Down” 

3. Sam Cooke – “Bring It On Home To Me” 

4. The Weepies – “Be My Honey Pie” 

5. Nada Surf – “Love Goes On (Go-Betweens cover)” 

6. Old 97’s – “Question” 

7. Mark Ronson feat. Amy Winehouse – “Valerie (Zutons cover)” 

8. Morning Benders – “Excuses” 

9. The Free Design – “Love You” 

10. Shiny Toy Guns – “You Are The One” 

11. St. Vincent – “Marry Me” 

12. Sharon Van Etten – “Much More Than That” 

DOWNLOAD SIDE ONE: WHOLE HERE

1. Jessica Lea Mayfield – “Our Hearts Are Wrong” 

2. Dolfish – “Your Love Is Bummin’ Me Out” 

3. Bill Withers “Ain’t No Sunshine” 

4. Blind Pilot – “The Bitter End” 

5. Wye Oak – “I Hope You Die” 

6. Florence & The Machine – “Cosmic Love” 

7. Kleerup Feat. Lykke Li – “Until We Bleed” 

8. Stars – “The Big Fight” 

9. The National – “Guest Room” 

10. Frightened Rabbit – “Backwards Walk” 

11. The Weakerthans – “Left And Leaving” 

DOWNLOAD SIDE TWO: BROKEN HERE

–Sean

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Best Songs of 2010: Glenn’s Top 20

Photo by Michelle Brennan

These are my favorite songs of 2010. Hope that you enjoy them as much as I did.

Download the MP3s of the entire list HERE

20. Gorillaz – “Stylo” (feat. Mos Def and Bobby Womack) (Chiddy Bang Remix)

A great collaboration: Bobby Womack, Mos Def and Gorillaz, remixed by the up-and- coming rap group Chiddy Bang.

19.  Ra Ra Riot – “Boy”

This song is not much on lyrics, but I love it anyway. It’s super catchy, infectious, and reminds me of the band Phoenix.

18.  Justin Townes Earle – “Harlem River Blue”

JTE Keeps putting out solid country/folk tunes, with great stories and catchy hooks. It feels so rootsy.

17.  Big Boi – “Fo Yo Sorrows (Ft. George Clinton, Too Short & Sam Chris)”

Everyone thought Andre 3000 was so great after “Hey Ya”, but Big Boi was always my favorite. Listen to this flow and hook


16.  The Head and the Heart – “Winter Song”

What a lovely song from The Head and the Heart who will be a power on the pop/folk scene in the year to come.


15.  Lissie – “Little Lovin’”

Lissie put this song out last year in her EP, but it’s also on her full length Catching A Tiger. I will claim it for 2010. No one will mind that it came out in 2009 after listening to this rollicking song.

14.  Josh Ritter – “Lark”

Although Ritter’s latest album wasn’t quite as good as some of his past albums, there are still quite a few gems on there, like this one.

13.  Deer Tick – “20 Miles”

I just became a Deer Tick fan, mostly because of this song. It’s simple and will leave you singing along. Thanks Michelle.

12.  Nas & Damian Marley – “As We Enter

I adore this collaboration from Nas & Damian Marley. It was blasting out of the speakers for many a sunny day.

11.  Stornoway – “Zorbing”

This song is just plain fun and unique. Thanks Matt.

10. Sharon Van Etten – “Love More”

A stand out song because of Van Etten’s lovely voice and urgent, yet sorrowful, delivery, mixed with a blend of sounds that accentuate her voice and make it sound so good.

9. Laura Veirs – “Life Is Good Blues”

“Life is Good Blues” just makes me happy and sleepy, but not in a boring way.

8.  The National – “Lemon World”

Classic sound from the National, sorrowful baritone, pounding drums, depressing lyrics, and I like it so much.

7. The Black Keys – “Ten Cent Pistol”

Ten Cent Pistol is smooth and rockin’ at the same time. This song, along with the entire album Brothers, shows how smooth the Black Keys can be while maintaining the garage blues sound that made them famous.

6. Mumford & Sons – “Timshel”

Sounding like an Irish folk ballad, “Timshel” is the prettiest song on Sigh No More, one of my favorite albums of the year. That’s why I allowed myself to put two songs from the album in my top 20.

5. The Tallest Man On Earth – “Like The Wheel”

“Like The Wheel” came from The Tallest Man’s EP Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird. Since it came from a different album, I get to put it on my list as well. Give it a listen you’ll understand why. Thanks Jess.

4. The Roots – “Right On (Feat. Joanna Newsome, STS)”

The Roots have some great songs on How I Got Over, like “Right On,” where they seamlessly combine indie folk, with a nice beat, and sweet Roots rhymes.

3.  Laura Marling –  “Rambling Man”

Oh Laura Marling, how do you sound so wise? What a great song.

2.  Mumford & Sons – “The Cave”

Mumford & Sons are so good at changing tempo mid song. “The Cave,” is a perfect example of their combination of folk and Irish drinking music. I enjoy it.

1. The Tallest Man On Earth – “Love is All”

The Tallest Man On Earth is the best songwriter of 2010 in my mind. Listen closely to the lyrics and the finger-picking guitar. It’s very real, with all the raspyness and buzzing included.

Download the entire list HERE

-Glenn

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Best Songs of 2010: Matt’s #25-1

Songs1

Often I’ve gotten in the car this year and driven, just so I could listen to music.  There’s something about blurred motion passing all around you that amplifies the effect.  I have discovered songs from dear friends, seen music left on shelves and delivered from strangers.  New music has come to me while showering, when least expecting and in middle of acting powerful.  My year has been characterized by the many wonderful women entering and exiting my life.  In reaction, wonderfully powerful songs have fallen right in line with quiet ones, providing celebration and woe-cure alike.  This year more than any other, I have relied on sound to get me through the things life has given and taken.  And though music is a luxury, for those who have time, money and safety, it has felt like a required part of my whole being.  2010 has brought me this growth and these songs.

Best Songs of 2010

<Matt’s # 25-1>

[See #26-50 Here]

25. Keepaway – “Yellow Wings”

This is the running song.  Way up loud.

24. Pearl Harbor – “Luv Goon”

23. Pomegranates – “Create Your Own Reality”

22. Laura Gibson & Ethan Rose – “Boreas Borealis”

Rose weaves and Gibson eeks.  Her voice just barely manages to make it out of her throat, but it carries so much of her heart.  This is the sound of 1000 years of waiting.

21. Nightlands – “Suzerain (A Letter to the Judge)”

20. Anna Calvi – “Moulinette”

19. Mountain Man – “Soft Skin”

18. UNKLE – “May Day Revisited” (ft. The Duke Spirit & The Radio Dept.)

17. Active Child – “I’m In Your Church At Night”

16. White Hinterland – “Icarus”

15. The Mary Onettes – “The Night Before the Funeral”

14. Glasser – “Home”

13. Gorillaz – “Empire Ants” (ft. Little Dragon)

On their record Plastic Beaches, this is the one that felt like rolling around on warm sand. I’m also a glutton for Little Dragon, the drop beat transition at the halfway point where Yukimi Nagano’s vocals enter move me every time.  See an amazing live performance here.  By the time this song ends, the warmth has turned your beach into glass.  And it shines.

12. Lia Ices – “Daphne”

11. The Tallest Man on Earth – “Burden of Tomorrow”

10. Sharon Van Etten – “DsharpG”

9. Jesca Hoop – “Bed Across The Sea”

8. Efterklang – “Modern Drift”

The Danish band have always had a huge lush sound, but on “Modern Drift” it becomes epic.  The reinforcing strings at 3:40 give me shivers every time, and I still have yet to understand how.

7. Wye Oak – “My Creator”

All seconds of this track are devoted to pleading.  To a woman’s nature, to a higher force, to dignity and to a future.  Even the instrumental span sounds like movement towards an ill-regarded, but necessary inevitability.  Thank you to Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner for creating such a wonderful thing.

6. The National – “England”

5. Jónsi – “Tornado”

Sounds Like: 50 pianos, 50 orchestras, 1 angel.

4. Regina Spektor – “Ode to Divorce” (Live in London)

I was no where near a blog much less mp3s when “Ode to Divorce” came out with Regina’s Soviet Kitsch in 2004.  I’ve always wondered what exactly makes me love that record, and when Spektor released her Live In London DVD late this year, I found it was all because of this song.  Her voice and piano is best heard live, only feet away, in the dark.  This is classic Regina, with all her history pent up and gushed into her debut, except you can be THERE with this song.  I challenge you to give me another woman that whispersings so well.

3. Foals – “Spanish Sahara”

It threatens to explode three different times, teasing and luring, but instead begins to build.  It unleashes itself at the 4:15 mark and you’re suddenly simultaneously wishing to return to the beginning/wanting to see the ending.  Throbs and chills this song gives me, and the video is no small part of it.  Be sure to watch it too.

2. Zola Jesus – “Lightsick”

“Lightsick” preys on your expectations.  What I love about this song is it’s ability to resist becoming some stadium anthem, molding the simple piano march into a temperance rather than a catalyst.  To be sure and secure in one feeling and moment, allowing it to wander and permeate…damn that’s brilliant.  When every other song would take off to elsewhere, Zola Jesus explores.

1. Sarah Jaffe – “Stay With Me”

Whenever I thought of you, Emily, I was this song.

Sarah Jaffe – Stay with me by wereofftherails

More From Sarah Jaffe:

[Website]

[Myspace]

[Facebook]

[See #26-50 Here]

-Matt

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TWJ’s Top 20 Albums of 2010: 10-1

At last we arrive at The Wounded Jukebox’s Top 10 albums of the year. These are the records that we’ll cherish far beyond 2010 — the ones that made a lasting impact, that got repeated listens both for their quality and for the emotions they stirred in our hearts and guts. This list was the melding of the musical tastes of everyone here at TWJ. It was hotly debated, and it is our pleasure to bring you our cream of the crop. Thanks for reading all this year, and we’ll continue to bring you great tunes. Promise!

See Nos. 20-11

Epic

10. Sharon Van Etten – Epic

Sharon is in our top 10 because we felt that her Epic was a huge leap forward, not only in quality, but in boldness and confidence.  Her songs on this album are more complex musically, but emotionally, they’re stripped down.  Way down.  Most of them are big middle fingers towards the figures of her past that have done her wrong.  And through this simplicity, we the listener get to dwell in a single feeling and begin to understand it from her side of the track.  “A Crime” is defiant pain.  “Peace Signs” is a giant boot up your arse.  “Don’t Do It” is protective mechanisms.  And Van Etten’s voice is the alluring feather dance that reveals just enough to keep you peeking around the corners of the wings the whole way through.  TWJ recommends Epic because it’s music done right, and well. –Matt

9. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Asking Kanye West to exercise restraint is somewhat akin to requesting a child return the lollipop he just received. Forcing it to happen won’t end well, and it’s almost certainly better to just leave it alone.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a shameless display of excess. West crams every drum loop, every percussion element, every guest star and every last sample he can into this album. And guess what? By and large, bigger is better. The beats assault the ears in a totally awesome way, exploding in the ears and unfolding into undeniably catchy rhythms. The bars his guests contribute impress, in some instances more than West’s own schizophrenic musings.

MBDTF is compelling lyrically as well as musically. West bounces — often within individual tracks — from the overconfident douche bag that many consider him to be to the insecure producer turned rapper who sounds as though he is attempting to convince himself, along with everyone else, just how talented he is. The douche bag has become self-aware: West asks for a toast to those maligned — he might say misunderstood — souls who are what they are, warts and all.

The layered elements and the production strengthen every track, with only a few small failures. Few people have the ambition to try what West’s skills as the architect allow him to accomplish successfully here: give the listener everything that fits, some things that don’t, and thoroughly impress in the process. — Sean

The Wild Hunt [+Digital Booklet]

8. Tallest Man On Earth – The Wild Hunt

I wrote Kristian Matsson off the first time I heard him. He has a scratchy and raspy voice, and is by no means The Tallest Man on Earth, at 5’7″. But when he is up on the stage by himself, he seems so tall. It’s annoying to be compared to Bob Dylan. The main reasons are his voice, and the way he writes his lyrics like intricate poems, catchy but with a deeper meaning. There is no doubt that he is an excellent guitarist, leaning towards upbeat finger picking, creating tunes that lay the base for his songs. The Wild Hunt is full of good songs, and one would think it would be hard to distinguish one song from the next if it’s only one guy with a guitar, but Tallest Man does a good job of changing speeds to keep the songs different. He goes from softer ballads, like “Love is All”, to the rousing “King of Spain”, which seems to be a crowd favorite. I also adore “A Thousand Ways”, one that shows he can soften his voice. Overall The Wild Hunt is a great addition to the new wave of rootsy folk music. Who would of though it would come from Sweden? — Glenn

7. The Black Keys – Brothers

Who would think that two badass dudes from Akron would become the strongest blues-rock outfit around today? That point might be debatable, but one thing isn’t: Brothers slays, man. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have delivered an album that blasted from our car speakers pretty much all summer. It fits the high temperatures, because everything here — the fuzzy bass lines, the kickdrum beats, the alternating soulful low croon and lovely falsetto vocals — is hot. Melt your face hot.

Aside from the rollicking instrumentation on Brothers, there is the gift this duo has for telling tales of woe in an undeniably funky way. The break-up anthem (“Next Girl”), the cautionary tale about falling for a wild-living gal (“Tighten Up”) and the tale of a jealous lover preaching revenge down the barrel of a gun (“Ten Cent Pistol”) — they’re all compelling, and they all work swimmingly. Listen closely, wade through the funk, and there’s some wonderful stories here as well. This album made us smile more than most this year. — Sean

This Is Happening

6. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

Prepare to dance. One, two, or a million times a listen. James Murphy quickly and successfully integrated a third LCD Soundsystem album into the hearts of indie hipsters. However, the first single “Drunk Girls” never made it on the radio (but that might have something to do with the song’s content). In an interview Murphy stated that this was the best LCD Soundsystem album to date, and will most likely be the last. And, thats a damn shame.

Murphy balances charm, energy, and marvel into the music and lyrics of the album. He brings Generation Y themes into the lyrics with references to actual jerks, long bathroom lines, the back of the bus, booty texts, and the return of the police. And the music just makes you want to dance! Dance yourself clean!

The first track on the album, “Dance Yrself Clean,” respectively, stands as the ultimate Murphy ballad. The nine minute song takes listeners on an energetic journey. You start out with a stroll in Central Park wearing studio headphones. Soon you are jogging to synthbeats at markers 1:45 and 2:45. The outdoor aerobics class starts at 3:10.  Take a short breather at 5:50.  Then, at 8:12 you are on your cool-down walk to the bus stop. Other highlights on the album include another equally energetic song “Pow Pow” and more relaxed songs such as “All I Want” and “Somebody’s Calling Me.”

This album is made for dancing. This is Happening was re-released earlier in the month with bonus iTunes tracks, two videos, and iconic songs from all three albums preformed in a London recording session. If you’ve never picked the album up or aren’t as consumed as I am, the re-release is a nice collection for your library. And, hey, its only $12.99. 20 tracks! 2 videos!

Regardless, this is a must listen. — Shiloh

In Evening Air

5. Future Islands – In Evening Air

Future Islands = Samuel T. Herring’s clipped croon etched across the electronic canvas with an emotional spectrum injected straight to the heart.  The Maryland based band aren’t new, but they created a record that hit the world like they were fresh from a motivational retreat.  They are bright and shiny and lay the world out before them with In Evening Air.  It sounds like our Great Great Grandfathers reaching from beyond the grave to knock the grit back into our heads.  Every song sounds like a last gasp of final words, a final message to give, a bit of wisdom to impart.  Herring plays the conduit well, and we’ll buy whatever tool he needs to do it again.  There are mountains in each word (“Tin Man”), and keen swords in each second (“Vireo’s Eye”).  The record opens with a door and closes with a fall.  You fall with it.  It is number 5. –Matt

Hunting My Dress [+Digital Booklet]

4. Jesca Hoop – Hunting My Dress

Who?  Which?
We wouldn’t blame you if you haven’t heard Jesca Hoop’s Hunting My Dress.  She came out of nowhere a few years ago, and her sophomore record is rapidly emerging, cloud busting stuff.  Her move to Manchester has done her multitudes of good; her voice has grown richer, more confident, and far more likely to flip your ears on their backs than ever.  Headphones are a must-have to hear everything Hoop does on this record.  The trills and the leaps and bounds her voice takes are just the surface of it all.  The instrumentation and actual magic woven in is what makes this record one of 2010’s best.  Not-one-single-thing can be taken for granted in her music.  Nothing is obvious nor ordinary.

Her tongue does gymnastics in “Whispering Light.”  The wood crackles and she paints tales in the firelight in “The Kingdom.”   Jesca sinks beneath and swims under the waves in “Feast Of The Heart.”  And that’s just the first three.  We’re in love with the bending strings, the syllable phrasing, the visuals rendered and outlandish chances Hoop takes.  It ALL WORKS.
Hoop’s songs are as likely to take a turn in the absolute opposite direction, as you are to take another breath and bat your eyes in amorous response.  Six-part harmonies pop up at frequent intervals, and 10 second highlights can be spliced from any song at ANY time.  We’re absolutely smitten with her words and her sound. — Matt

I Speak Because I Can

3. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can

Laura Marling is one of the main reasons that I think the highlight of 2010 was women in folk. Along with fellow British groups of Mumford & Sons, who play back up on a few songs on the album, and Noah and The Whale, Marling’s former band, there has been an explosion of folk music coming from England. I Speak Because I Can is headlined by an old-timey song, “Rambling Man,” that sounds like its written by someone much more seasoned than 20 years old. The first song, “Devil’s Spoke,” starts off strong and fast, quickly flowing and jumping from line to line. “Made by Maid” has a resemblance to a fellow Brit, Nick Drake, with finger picking and a soft, sad sound. “Hope in the Air” is also a solid track, in the vein of “Devil’s Spoke” with a powerful and sorrowful feel, like walking through a field of wispy tall grass. Although many of the other songs may not be as catchy as the singles, they have the worn-down feeling from someone who has lived a long, hard, life, and has sung the songs over and over again. — Glenn

High Violet

2. The National – High Violet

It’s not usually that hard to recognize a song by The National. Matt Berninger’s baritone voice takes care of any ambiguity. And the band has a certain style, albeit one that’s changed and evolved since their Cherry Tree days. But with High Violet, the band have truly outdone what they do best. Everything here is close to perfect, but leaves a few rough edges that poke the ears in all the right places.

With the banging “Bloodbuzz Ohio”, I unsafely drummed on my lap with one hand on the steering wheel. I sang the line I was afraid I’d eat your brains, ’cause I’m evil — from “Conversation 16” — at the top of my lungs in the shower like it was the most beautiful poetry I’d ever heard. I stared blankly at the wall during the beginning of “England”, let the keys and the strings and the guitar-plucking just wash over me. High Violet is understated but it is powerful.

The fact that this quintet’s music is so readily identifiable makes the pain they ooze from every track all the more piercing. There is such beauty on High Violet, and I think it’s because the music  soars above our heads and beats in our hearts all at once. — Sean

1. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

Arcade Fire are a rare thing in indie music. They are a sure thing. Sure, not every track they’ve ever produced — from Funeral to Neon Bible to now — is a bulls-eye, but the listener can count on quality music and earnest effort. That kind of consistency is not easy to find.

With The Suburbs, the Montreal septet have produced their most complete work yet. Each track centers around a universal theme and yet doesn’t ever feel trite or contrived. There is such variety here, from the piano jangle of the title track to the grinding rock guitar of “Month of May” to keyboards and simple-but-wonderful Regine Chassagne vocals on “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”.

The music takes many forms here, and all of them sound fresh and inviting. The heartbeat drums and weighty background effects of “Half Light II (No Celebration)”, the synthbeat and wonderful piano melody of “We Used To Wait,” or the tension-building guitar strum that gives way to a pounding keyboard stroke on “Deep Blue”. It’s all there, and it all beckons the listener to engage, and to love it.

I listened to this album more than any other this year because it never got stale. The guitars, the thumping drums, the bass lines, the emotion. None of it ever rang hollow, and that’s a credit to how solid this record is. The theme on The Suburbs is one we can all identify with. The loss of passion and individuality in all its avenues — music (“Sprawl II”), physical landscape (“The Suburbs”) and love (“Ready to Start”) to name a few — are woven into every track, and it rewards repeated listening. We obliged. — Sean

See Nos. 20-11

–The Wounded Jukebox

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