Posted by: Jeff | September 27, 2010

Monday Mixtape XXIV – Start of Autumn

The Autumnal Equinox was last week, and after a brutally hot weekend, temperatures have dropped and it is starting to feel like fall.  This is my favorite season, for me synonymous with crisp air, bright foliage, pumpkin ales, and football.  Music in the fall is a bit less bright, fuzzier, and tinged with introspection.  So here is the first autumn mixtape of the season.  These songs are intended only to promote the artists mentioned – if you like a song, buy the album.

The Walkmen – Stranded

The Walkmen are perhaps best known for 2002’s “The Rat”, a frenetic rock anthem whose energy immediately captured critical attention.  Since then, the band has focused on craftsmanship, writing lush indie ballads replete with horn section and the mature, plaintive vocals of Hamilton Leithauser front and center.  New release Lisbon‘s clear standout, “Stranded”, is no exception.

Andrew Bird – Fitz and the Dizzyspells

Andrew Bird is a violin virtuoso with a penchant for pop hooks and meandering, almost nonsensical lyrics about spotted owls and proper nomenclature.  On 2009’s Noble Beast, Bird showcased his musical know-how while playing and plucking at a violin, whistling wistfully, and strumming guitar.  The man does it all, and sounds like he has  lot of fun doing it.

Pavement – Here

I never really understood Pavement’s broad appeal until I had the opportunity to see them live on Saturday at Merriweather Post Pavilion.  Playing a sundown set in front of thousands of diehard fans, Pavement seemed awkward and out of practice.  Yet the simple craftsmanship of their songs connect more intimately with an audience in a live environment, and it wasn’t hard to see how the band has achieved legend status in some circles.

Frightened Rabbit – Backwards Walk

Frightened Rabbit hail from Scotland, and specialize in the same brand of melancholy-tinged emotionally-aware indie rock as their fellow countrymen in Camera Obscura and Belle and Sebastian.  On tracks like “Backwards Walk”, the vocal performance of Scott Hutchison stands out above the folksy guitar backing with a little bit of soul, wearing his heart on his sleeve.

The Kissaway Trail – New Lipstick

This Danish collective craft epic slow-burner anthems reminiscent of Arcade Fire, even incorporating sing-a-long harmonies and accordion into the apex of tracks like “New Lipstick”, which continue to build, propelled along by a steady rhythm section until they explode in a cathartic swell of percussionists and backup vocals.

The National – About Today

Only released on the 2004 EP Cherry Hill, “About Today” is a wonderfully restrained ballad.  Accented by a subtle horn section and quietly sweeping strings, Matt Berninger evokes the prospect of drifting apart with emotional tenderness, waking up in the middle of the night to ask about their day.

Bob Dylan – Girl from the North Country

Bob Dylan needs no real description, but “Girl from the North Country” counts as one of my favorite Dylan tunes, replete with vivid imagery to describe the past.  Dylan is best when alone with his guitar, and this track shows why.

Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost Of Tom Joad

Purposefully evoking the economic displacement of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, Springsteen’s haunting “Ghost of Tom Joad” is a deeply personal missive about life’s struggles: “Wherever somebody’s fightin for a place to stand / For a decent job or a helpin’ hand / Wherever somebody is strugglin’ to be free / Look in their eyes ma, You’ll see me.”

Neil Young – Harvest Moon

One of the most iconic of all Neil Young songs, “Harvest Moon” is a tender love song that perfectly fits fall.

Bon Iver – Re: Stacks

Justin Vernon’s voice conveys emotion wonderfully, and on this track near the end of his critically acclaimed For Emma, Forever Ago album, he sounds especially fragile, barely registering over the soft strum of his guitar: “This is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization / It’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away / Your love will be / Safe with me.”

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