- The Stills – Still in Love Song
- Weezer – O Girlfriend
- The Arcade Fire – My Heart is an Apple
- The Decembrists – Red Right Ankle
- Something Corporate – I won’t make you
- Sixpence None the Richer – Kiss Me
- Secondhand Serenade – It’s not over
- Semisonic – Secret Smile
- Pete Yorn – Girl Like You
- Moby – Love Should
- New Radicals – Someday we’ll know
- Iron & Wine – Such Great Heights
- Bright Eyes – June on the West Coast
- Dashboard Confessionals – Hands Down
- Aqualung – Brighter than Sunshine
- The Cranberries – Linger
Analists, sorry, analysts and completists will observe that this post (Vol 3) does not follow on neatly from Volume 1 and Volume 4 which have already been posted. Where is Volume 2? The songs in Volume 1 and Volume 4 are largely home grown in the UK and Ireland and I have a history with them. In many cases I grew up listening to them or they grew up selling their music to me. I know what they look like, I have probably seen them play live and a bit like a doting parent, I like to drop their names into conversation and pressgang Aunt Mildred into listening to them at Christmas.
With the exception of Aqualung and the Cranberries, the rest of this compilation hails from the other side of the Atlantic. Both those artists, however, have gone on to make their critical home across the water.
Canadian band The Stills – Tim Fletcher, Dave Hamelin, Oliver Crowe, Julien Blais and Liam O’Neil – started making waves in 2000, in their hometown Montreal, but it was in New York City that the band found a record deal with Vice Recordings and in June 2003 they produced a 4-track EP entitled ‘Rememberese’. This song was on it and I loved its laid back yet quintessentially rock ‘n roll treatment of the state of love. These guys bleed but the blood on their shirts is probably yours.
Samuel Beam should have ‘romantic troubadour’ stitched onto his musician’s jerkin. Operating under the name of Iron & Wine, he has a long and distinguished singer-songwriterly career. I could have filled an album with his songs alone. So why have I included ‘Such Great Heights’ – not his song, but a cover of The Postal Service composition?
Beam was born July 26, 1974. He was raised outside Columbia, South Carolina, where his father worked in land management and his mother was a schoolteacher. When he was a child, his family took regular trips to the country where his grandfather ran a farm.
Beam graduated from the Florida State University Film School with an MFA degree. Until the first Iron And Wine album, Beam’s main source of income was as a professor of film and cinematography at the University of Miami and Miami International University of Art & Design. He had been writing songs for over seven years before a friend lent him a four-track recorder. His friends handed out copies of demos that he had made, and the owner of Sub Pop Records personally contacted Beam and proposed a deal.
Beam released his first Iron And Wine album, ‘The Creek Drank the Cradle’, on the Sub Pop label in 2002. Beam wrote, performed, recorded and produced the album in his home studio with nothing more than acoustic guitars, banjo, and slide guitar to create the sound. The recording of ‘Such Great Heights’ dates from then but wasn’t included on the album. The debut album was followed in 2003 by ‘The Sea & The Rhythm’, an EP containing other home-recorded tracks with a similar style to the songs on the debut.
Beam’s second album, ‘Our Endless Numbered Days’ (2004), was recorded in a professional studio with a significant increase in fidelity. Produced in Chicago by Brian Deck, the focus was still on acoustic material, but the inclusion of other band members gave rise to a slightly different sound. That same year, Beam recorded the song ‘The Trapeze Swinger’ for the film ‘In Good Company’.
In February 2005, Beam released an EP titled ‘Woman King’, which expanded on the sounds of his previous LP and added electric guitars. Each track featured a spiritual female figure and had subtle Biblical undertones.
The EP In the Reins, a collaboration with the Arizona-based rock band Calexico, was released in September 2005. Beam wrote all of the EP’s songs years earlier, but Calexico added their trademark fusion of dusty southwestern rock, traditional Mexican music and jazz to the songs’ arrangements. Several tracks feature brass instruments, a first for Beam’s music.
The third full-length Iron And Wine album, titled ‘The Shepherd’s Dog’, was released September 25, 2007. Contributors included Joey Burns and Paul Niehaus of Calexico, as well as jazz musicians Matt Lux and Rob Burger. When asked to describe the album to The Independent, Beam remarked that “it’s not a political propaganda record, but it’s definitely inspired by political confusion, because I was really taken aback when Bush got re-elected.”
In 2002, Beam recorded a cover of The Postal Service’s then-unreleased song “Such Great Heights”. Rather than being included on an Iron And Wine release, the track was initially only included as a b-side of the original version by The Postal Service. In 2004, Beam’s version was featured in an advertisement for M&Ms and in the film Garden State and its popular soundtrack. This version was later used in a 2006 Ask.com advertisement. A single of the Iron And Wine version of ‘Such Great Heights’ was released in 2006, backed with recordings of ‘The Trapeze Swinger’ and ‘Naked as We Came’ made for Radio Vienna.
The recording sounds as if it was recorded in an old barn with owls snoozing in the eves, hay crackling on the floor and an old iron chain swinging weezily in the background. The Postal Service original has been described as one of the best love songs ever recorded, but Samuel Beam has the flimsy, fragile heart to make the song work on a one-to-one basis. He isn’t just in love with a woman, he’s in love with life. You can hear it. The person you’re playing it to will too.
Named both in reference to the Russian Decembrist Revolt (they use the national anthem of the Soviet Union as an introduction at many concerts) and to the atmosphere associated with the month of December, the Decemberists write songs that range from upbeat pop to instrumentally lush ballads. They use instruments like the accordion, Hammond organ, Wurlitzer organ and upright bass. In their lyrics, they eschew the angst and introspection common to modern rock, instead favoring a storytelling approach, as evidenced in songs such as ‘My Mother Was a Chinese Trapeze Artist’ from the 5 Songs EP and ‘The Mariner’s Revenge Song’ on Picaresque. Their songs convey tales ranging from whimsical (‘Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect’) to epic (‘The Tain) to truly dark (‘Odalisque’). They often invoke historical events and themes from around the world. Since their debut, their sound has tracked in the direction of progressive rock with a strong folk influence, though they have also been described as indie rock and, by Stephen Colbert, as ‘hyper-literate prog rock.’ For example, one song, ‘When the War Came’, uses a little-known story from the Siege of Leningrad to describe the heroism of civilian scientists during warfare. The lyrics state: “We made our oath to Vavilov / We’d not betray the solanum / The acres of asteraceae / To our own pangs of starvation”. Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov was a Russian botanist whose laboratory, a seedbank containing 200,000 types of plant seeds, many of them edible, was preserved throughout the siege, during which hundreds of thousands of people died.
This song ‘Red Right Ankle’ is a paean to a lover’s ankle and the story of how it brought her and the writer of the song together. Typically lyrical, literate and profoundly moving this is no ordinary love song but then the person you’ll play it to isn’t run of the mill either..
In March 2005, the Decemberists were reportedly the first band to distribute a music video via BitTorrent — the self-produced ’16 Military Wives’ (from Picaresque). That same month, the band’s equipment trailer was stolen; fans contributed to a replacement fund, and another fund-raiser was organized via an eBay auction, with buyers bidding for copies of Colin Meloy Sings Morrissey and original art work by Carson Ellis. They also received help from Lee Kruger, The Shins, The Dandy Warhols and other musicians. The Martin Guitar Company offered six- and twelve-string guitars on permanent loan. In early April, police discovered the trailer in Clackamas, Oregon, and a fair amount of the band’s merchandise, but the instruments and equipment were not recovered. They deserve to be treasured.
Bright Eyes aka Conor Oberst features multi-instrumentalist/producer Mike Mogis, keyboard player Nate Walcott and a rotating lineup of collaborators drawn primarily from Omaha, Nebraska, United States’ indie music scene. Conor Oberst has writing and playing since the age of 13. He released his first three albums at the ages of 13, 14, 15, respectively, all under the name Conor Oberst and released only on cassettes. He then moved onwards with a band called Commander Venus with whom he released two albums. After the break-up of this band in 1997, Conor’s main focus became Bright Eyes, and in 1998 he released the first Bright Eyes album, A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997 (a collection of 20 stockpiled songs) on the independent label Saddle Creek Records, which he had co-formed earlier in collaboration with fellow local Omaha musicians.
Saddle Creek also released ‘Letting Off the Happiness’ in November 1998, a ten-track record that boasted a much more focused and clear sound than the previous album. According to the Saddle Creek press release, it features members of Lullaby for the Working Class, Neutral Milk Hotel, and of Montreal. It was predominantly recorded in the Oberst family basement in Omaha on an analog eight track reel to reel; with some work also done at keyboardist Andy Lemaster’s Athens, GA studio. Although almost all of the tracks feature a full band, the song featured on this compilation ‘June on the West Coast’ is performed with only acoustic guitar and vocals. The references are conspicuously Dylan – and the organic sound caught on tape is as raw as the love that you felt the first time you saw your June, wherever she came from.
Matt Hales aka Aqualung, is a British singer-songwriter best known in the UK for his song ‘Strange And Beautiful’, which was featured on a television advertisement for the new Volkswagen Beetle during the summer of 2002 and went on to become a Top 10 hit in the UK singles chart later that year.
Prior to his success as Aqualung, Hales was known as the lead singer of mid-1990s, London-based Britpop band Ruth. Ruth had a string of moderately successful hit singles, including ‘I Don’t Know’, ‘Valentine’s Day’ and ‘Fear of Flying’ and one album, ‘Harrison’ before changing their name in 2001 to The 45s. As The 45s, the band released two more singles and one posthumous album to little attention before splitting so Hales could focus on his new endeavor as Aqualung. Almost immediately after the band’s split, ‘Strange and Beautiful’ began climbing the British charts and gaining massive amounts of attention – a dramatic turnabout from the previous year. In 2005 in the USA Aqualung cracked the notoriously difficult American market with this song – ‘Brighter Than Sunshine’, which had considerable airplay and was used in the film ‘A Lot Like Love’ and various television spots. Its inclusion here is a nod towards the cranky, awkward non-conformist theme of the rest of the new songs of the West feel here. Matt Hales qualifies without picking up a ten gallon hat. He’s got a feeling in his soul, brighter than sunshine – and so have we.
The Cranberries are an Irish alternative rock band from Limerick who formed in 1989 and rose to mainstream popularity in the early 90s, especially in the US where their romantic, searching songs struck a major chord.
The band consists of Dolores O’Riordan (vocals, keyboards, guitars), Noel Hogan (guitars, vocals), Mike Hogan (bass, vocals), and Fergal Lawler (drums, percussion).
Combining the melodic jangle of indie-guitar pop with the lilting, trance-inducing sonic textures of late-’80s dream pop and adding a Celtic wash of sound, The Cranberries became one of the more successful groups to emerge from the UK Indie scene of the early ’90s. Led by vocalist Dolores O’Riordan, whose moving voice is prevalent in the group’s sound, the group initially made little impact in the United Kingdom.
It wasn’t until the string-swept ballad Linger became an American hit in 1993 that the band also achieved mass success in the U.K. Following the success of Linger, The Cranberries quickly became international stars, as both their 1993 debut album, ‘Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?’, and its 1994 follow-up, ‘No Need to Argue’, sold millions of copies and produced a string of hit singles.
‘Linger’ is the one that stays with you though, and it’s the last song on this collection. It’s time to smile into your lover’s eyes. You can linger as long as you like, as love lasts a lifetime.
The love-in starts here: http://www.mediafire.com/?xopnreoc8198wlu