A Handful of Good Music

I’ve been listening to a lot of music lately, and even rediscovering some stuff I’d forgotten was in my library due to a few eMusic binges. After all, those downloads burn a hole in my psyche. Hence, I submit five albums in current iTunes rotation for your consideration.

Beirut, Gulag Orkestar
Defies classification, really, but sounds a bit like its name: Soviet-era Eastern European music. Pitchfork calls them a Balkan pop orchestra, but either way, the horns, guitars, and mournful vocals by Zach Condon got under my skin recently. Try “Brandenburg” or “The Canals of Our City.”

Rearview Mirror, Townes Van Zandt
Called the greatest songwriter in the world by Steve Earle, Van Zandt’s songs were covered by nearly everyone. Plenty of folk singer/songwriters wear their hearts on their sleeves; Van Zandt shoves it helplessly into your hands. Recs: “Pancho and Lefty” or “Don’t You Take It Too Bad.”

3 Horse Shoes, Phil MadeiraIn the same vein as Townes, Madeira writes the kind of folk songs you remember. The only difference is that Madeira’s don’t make you want to dive out of your car on the interstate. He’s in the same musical family as Mark Heard or Bruce Cockburn (though not as angry as Bruce seems these days). Madeira wrote most of these songs in a pub in Ireland. There are worse places to write songs, I imagine. Favorites: “Mysterious Ways” or “It’s Gonna Be Alright.”

A Temporary Dive, Ane Brune
The only girl I’ve been listening to lately (aside from my wife), Brune hails from Norway. How about “Song No. 6” or “The Fight Song”?

And lest you kids think I’ve given up on rock music…

Kill the Moonlight, SpoonAustin’s killer indie rockers, a favorite since I picked up Gimme Fiction last year. Spoon manage a quirky weirdness along with inventive hooks and melodies. I like “Something to Look Forward To” for its jangly guitar hook and “All the Pretty Girls Go to the City” for its spare, garage feel. Matter of fact, this whole album feels very garage. In a good way.

I still manage a Daily [Thomas] Dybdahl and a Midafternoon Midlake most days . . . just because I can. And few weeks go by without a taste or three of Radiohead and Ryan Adams.

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