“Hopeful”, Josh Ritter

“I’ve seen her around now with someone new I don’t know, She likes green-eyed boys that are haloed in hope, but I know the look in his eyes and I know all the old signs, just a couple of curves before his own road unwinds.”

Josh Ritter just released The Beast In Its Tracks, an album that captures the period of his divorce from Dawn Landes with devastating clarity, paucity, and most importantly, empathy.  As a man who whittled his own path out of Oberlin with a self-created major in “American History Through Narrative Folk Music”, Ritter has managed to avoid the usual depression and one-sidedness of most break-up albums, and his usual lyrical fireworks, more spare this time around, are still on display.  Take “Hopeful” the fourth track on the album, which juxtaposes his own stark admissions with his ex-partner’s silver lining. Most impressive is the nods to music that came before him, with shades of Paul Simon’s verbose diary narratives, a touch of Lennon melodic hooks and an arrangement that would fit perfectly with Elliot Smith’s XO

Hopeful

Go pick up a copy of The Beast In Its Tracks today:

iTunes   Insound

Campfire Songs

Hello folks, welcome back to a brand new year of Art of the Mixtape.  To help kick it off I bring you a nice bucolic little mixture of some great songs.

1. Greatest Show On Earth- The Felice Brothers

On their eponymous debut, The Felice Brothers very much earned their label of following in the tradition of Bob Dylan and The Band.  Perhaps what is most impressive is their narrative ability, delivering slices of Americana in a world weary mood.  However, “Greatest Show On Earth” stands out with its jaunty New Orleans infused melody.  Come for the story, stay for the music.

Greatest Show On Earth- The Felice Brothers

2. Fables-  The Dodos

The Dodos burst onto the San Francisco music scene with a unique drumming centric sound, but don’t let that scare you, they’re very much a rootsy rock band with a percussive twist.  Many of their other songs showcase a more daring aesthetic but “Fables” is a very endearing acoustic standout with a nice vocal to boot.

Fables- The Dodos

3. Jackhammer- The Spinto Band

This song has a bag full of production tricks around every corner, and it’s done very well. I love songs that continue to surprise their listener.

Jackhammer (Slim Version)- The Spinto Band

4.  Oslo Campfire- Port O’Brien

You’ll be hooked from the very beginning of this number by the unfortunately little known Port O’Brien, very much a cousin to The Shins output circa “New Slang”, the guitar/vocal/drum hook is amazing.

Oslo Campfire- Port O’Brien

5. Snake- Frightened Rabbit

A nice little lilting acoustic number.

Snake- Frightened Rabbit

6. Stepping Stones- G. Love and Special Sauce

A delightful little modern blues number with a very catchy chorus

Stepping Stones- G. Love and Special Sauce

7. Ruminant Band- Fruit Bats

Hearing this song, you’d be very surprised to learn that it was not recorded in the 70’s, but in a good way.

The Ruminant Band- Fruit Bats

 

8. I’ll Be Back- The Beatles

One of the oft-overlooked numbers from a tremendous album,  A Hard Day’s Night

I’ll Be Back- The Beatles

 

9. The Cave- Mumford & Sons

A very energetic number from an up-and-coming folksy band out of England.

The Cave- Mumford & Sons

 

10. Hiroshima- Blake Mills

Blake Mills came out with a very under-promoted debut and his number “Hiroshima” is delightful ear candy that grows from the likes of worthy predecessors such like the homegrown material of Paul McCartney’s McCartney and Ram, absolutely beautiful melody, before a slide guitar solo comes out of nowhere sounding like Duane Allman coming from the dead.

Hiroshima- Blake Mills

11. Mightiest of Guns- A.A. Bondy

One of those perfect songs.

Mightiest Of Guns- A.A. Bondy

 

12. Steel On Steel- J. Tillman

A very charming and upbeat number, with a great horn melody and diverse instrumentation.

Steel On Steel- J. Tillman

 

13. I Summon You- Spoon

Spoon has been hard pressed to beat the overall feeling of this song and for good reason, it’s a straight up classic.

I Summon You- Spoon

 

14. All Day Day Light- The Morning Benders

Great production, arrangement, vocal, on “All Day Day Light” The Morning Benders do everything right.

All Day Day Light- The Morning Benders

 

15. Timshel- Mumford & Sons

Detractors would say that they took this directly out of the book of previous acts like Fleet Foxes, they would be right, but they do it so well that its hardly an insult, their harmonies are gorgeous.

Timshel- Mumford & Sons

16. Let The Distance Keep Us Together- Spoon/ Bright Eyes

Spoon can create a great melody out of anything, but when they write great lyrics to go with it, there’s hardly a modern band that can compete with them.

Let the Distance Keep Us Together- Spoon/Bright Eyes

17. Change of Time- Josh Ritter

Perhaps no man is better qualified to write a finger-picked acoustic piece of Americana than one who went to Oberlin and graduated with a self made major in “American History through Narrative Folk Music”

Change of Time- Josh Ritter

18. Frankie’s Gun- The Felice Brothers

If you had any doubts about the following in the footsteps of Bob Dylan and The Band label, well here’s your proof.

Frankie’s Gun!- The Felice Brothers

19. Ain’t No Tellin’- Mississippi John Hurt

This beautiful little ending number is reaching your ears all the way back from 1928.

Ain’t No Tellin’- Mississippi John Hurt

Song of the Day: “Thin Blue Flame”, Josh Ritter

 

I became a thin blue flame
Polished on a mountain range
And over hills and fields I flew
Wrapped up in a royal blue
I flew over Royal City last night
A bullfighter on the horns of a new moon’s light
Caesar’s ghost I saw the war-time tides
The prince of Denmark’s father still and quiet
And the whole world was looking to get drowned
Trees were a fist shaking themselves at the clouds
I looked over curtains and it was then that I knew
Only a full house gonna make it through

Few songs will ever come close to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” a brilliant ode to the problems within religion.  Josh Ritter’s “Thin Blue Flame” becomes all that and more, the hushed tone in front of a live audience, the simple rhythm guitar, and the words.  At times elegant and at times blunt, the prose is poetic not with a sense of cynicism, but reverence. Not many people could dot their lyrical stanzas with as many purposeful Shakespeare references as Ritter does here, as if to tell us underneath it all the world is our stage, and we the only players. The song is a long one at around 10 minutes but its a sermon that doesn’t patronize or drag, its got a ghostly power to it, and it is well worth your time.

Thin Blue Flame- Josh Ritter

Mixtape Monday: In Ears

In Ear Park- Department of Eagles

The intro to this song is a beautiful weave of guitars and pianos going in and out like waves crashing into the shores that leads into an ethereal vocal and beautiful backing instrumentation, a lament on loss, the beauty of this song just speaks volumes

So Far Around the Bend- The National

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Boxer nor did I see the big attraction to the National until this song came out.  The lyrics are perfectly understated and performed, with a creative arrangement and a sentiment that everyone can identify with, it doesn’t hurt that the melody is so damn catchy as well

Fine For Now- Grizzly Bear

Veckatimest, the latest album by Grizzly Bear is full of songs that range from the sweet to the bizarre, Fine for Now starts off with a strangely beautiful vocal arrangement before turning into an otherworldly meld of guitar and drums and vocals, truly a song worth multiple listens

Chinese Translation- M. Ward

M. Ward has a knack for great studio production and melody, and this has a great chorus, and no theres no chinese in a single second of the recording, just a great overall song

Lost Coastlines- Okkervil River

I love the vocalist in this band, his range is affecting and his lyrics are well written, and i can hear glimmers of Paul Simons Graceland and the Jam’s Town Called Malice woven in

We Were Sick- The Thermals

Like Blink 182, fun upbeat and catchy, but better because you don’t get tired of the nasal voice and the chord progression is classic

Race You- Elizabeth and the Catapults

Little known bands often provide the most happiness to the listener when they make great catchy songs, because you feel like you’re the one discovering them, it’s a little feistish and happy and just puts you in a good mood

Wilco (The Song)- Wilco

Love this song, a little weezerish but with less pop culture reliant lyrics

Take A Walk Around the Table- White Rabbits

This song is so delightfully weird that you can’t help but listen to it over and over again

Metal Detektor- Spoon

Of all the great Spoon songs there are to choose from, this is one of, if not their finest songs ever put to record

Golden- My Morning Jacket

Beautiful acoustic guitar, beautiful singing, beautiful lyrics, need i even say more

The Golden Age- Beck

Great progression and arrangement, both of which Beck has an undeniable knack for and this is one of his finer songs

Songs for the Fireflies- Josh Ritter

This is one of those songs that feels as if the performer is right in front of you not in some far off studio and the buildup is wonderful

The Honeymoon Song- The Beatles

It’s hard to find a Beatles song that the whole world hasn’t heard millions of times.  This one comes from Live at the BBC and the arrangment lets Paul McCartneys voice take front and center, and how sweet and young he sounds, the only bad thing is the song ends so soon

Honeymoon- Phoenix

Love every part about this song, the bass, the guitar, the singing, the build up, it works perfectly

Everything Hits At Once- Spoon

Another early Spoon song, undeniably their own, from the arrangment to the melody and the buildup as well the great guitar and piano hooks

Fernando Pando- The Virgins

this son builds from intimate guitar and vocals to a great energetic arrangement.  Terrific vocal performance throughout

Changes- David Bowie

Because this song is undeniable in its classic status, love the progression and the lyrics

A Day in the Life- The Beatles

Arguably the greatest song Lennon and McCartney put together from the arrangement to the lyrics to the orchestra build up and McCartneys part.  Also the interplay between the musicians is great, McCartney’s piano and Lennon’s guitar and Ringo’s drums couldn’t have fit any better

You Got the Silver- The Rolling Stones

this song goes a long way in saying that Keith Richards was as underrated a singer and songwriter as Harrison was in The Beatles.