Various Artists- Dark Was The Night Compilation
Highlights: Dirty Projectors, Feist + Ben Gibbard, Bon Iver (x2), Sufjan Stevens doing a creepy but awesome electronica song about Blood, The National, Kronos Quartet's haunting cello instrumental, Iron & Wine's awesome, but too short ditty, Decemberists' least dramatic tune in 3 years, My Morning Jacket's bilinguality, Spoon, Arcade Fire, Cat Power singing 'Amazing Grace,' with both irony and grace, Andrew Bird not being the quirkiest and most confusing guy on the comp, New Pornographers go all Disney, Brightest Diamond singing 'Feeling Good', Conor Oberst + Gillian Welch stripping down 'Lua'. (probably would have been easier to list the non-highlights).
Whether or not these names or songs mean anything to you, I would highly recommend this double disc. If this is your taste in music, welcome to the buffet. If not, here is your indie-music flight, feel free to drink it in, swish it around, gulp it down, or spit it out. Either way you are performing a philanthropic act, so congrats. All proceeds of this album, and the pitchfork.com-fanboy-heart-attack-inducing concerts goes to http://www.redhot.org/, an AIDS relief organization.
Andrew Bird- Noble Beast
Get your dictionaries out, or not. While he reaches the bounds of my patience with his showy vocab, he draws me back with his charming whistles, disarming violin loops and vocal harmonies. So get hung up on the fact that you don't know what to make of 'all the calcified arithmitists doing the math'
or who Souverian is, don't get caught up in the tenuousness or the situation or get bogged down in nomenclature. Don't start having 'fake conversations on a nonexistent telephone' or be induced into fits and dizzyspells, rather sit back and be satisfied that you killed two Birds (no pun intended, really) with one stone and purchased both your word of the day calander and some beautiful, easy listening (though difficult to comprehend) tunes.
If you are still on edge, take solace in both NY Times article and songmeanings.com.
The Decemberists- The Hazards of Love
Epic, pretentious, and haunting all at once. I don't know what all the backlash on this one is about. Their previous one's, including Crane Wife all kind of pointed to this one, only on this one they never break character. The girl from My Brightest Diamond guests and aside from me originally thinking it was the guy from Cold War Kids, puts in a dominating performance. The one thing that may qualify as disappointing for this album is the sheer time and brain power it takes. There are no single-listen tracks (save maybe Rake's Song, which happens to be about a guy killing his children, not exactly jogging music.). The other partial-beef I can see is the attempt at "hard rock" that falls flat. When taken in the scope of the whole, it works, and remarkably well at that, but for someone looking to fulfill a metal itch, forget it. Listening to this puts you squarely in the realm of gothic, folk literature or pirate ballads gone bad, but it if you invest in the story it is surprising, dense, and fulfilling.
Ben Sollee- Something Worth Keeping EP
"i'm dreaming about providence and craving a root beer float"
"there is beauty in freedom, for folks like me: who came over on boats, flew in on planes, crawled under fences and fought wars just to find a place to be free"
Originally heard these songs in November on my birthday when he came to town. This EP acts as his sort of politically-charged, youthfully-optimistic hope album. "Only a Song" features fellow bluegrass alum, Jim James, and croons over sweet cello clever quips like, "I get a little scared when I'm drivin' through the ghetto, part of me wants to hide, part of me wants to move in." And introspective verse like, "I'm diggin' deep in my self, but who needs a shovel when you have a little boy like mine." Overall, the 2 songs play sadly, hopefully, skillfully and charmingly. If he comes to your town, or anywhere near, go see him! Best show you'll go for.
Sufjan Stevens- Sofia's Song (bootleg)
"celebrate the day by putting things away, by putting things where they don't belong"
Proving that even if you're an indie-rock, pseudo-Christian icon, you are still allowed to have a crush and write a song about it. Nice little ditty to Sofia Coppola possesses all of Sufjan's intimate vulnerability and playful nonchalance.