Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Have You Heard?

Unlike Nicole, who started this Have You Heard? business last week, I don't have a great new album to tease you with. Instead, my time has been spent letting iTunes decide the listening material for me. I've been uploading music to a new computer and my selection is limited, and as a result iTunes has chosen some music I haven't heard in quite some time. Without any further delay, here are some albums that I've been reacquainted with recently that I felt warranted some blog space.

Akron/Family - Akron/Family

Akron/Family get lumped into the "freak folk" genre, but if you ask me I don't find them incredibly freaky at all. Instead they just make somewhat mellow, beautiful, engaging music that is not too dissimilar from Grizzly Bear, Califone, or Iron and Wine.

I remember the first time that I heard "Running, Returning". I was cleaning my dirty dishes in the kitchen of my large one bedroom apartment in Lawrence on a September afternoon in 2005. I remember walking away from my overflowing sink to get closer to my radio in the other room so I could hear the song better. After listening to the remainder of the song, I immediately called up the KJHK studio to ask the DJ what band just blew my mind. He told me, and immediately upon finishing the dishes I left my apartment for my favorite downtown record store and purchased the album. Luckily, the album did not disappoint. Each and every song, from the first track, which somehow manages to find common ground between Neutral Milk Hotel and some of the songs from The Glow, pt. 2, to the album's last, is solid. I'm surprised that, despite the fact that the album was released in a year where Sufjan and Clap Your Hands dominated the publicity, this album managed to slip under the radar. It's that good.

Sonic Youth - Hold That Tiger

Though released in 1998, this live album actually documents an overlooked era in the Sonic Youth chronology: The post-Sister era. Sure, it's pretty much agreed on that Sister is a fucking great album, but its successor often hogs the all of the attention. And while I will admit that if you're just looking for any old, live Sonic Youth of any kind that you're better off getting the Daydream Nation Deluxe Edition, this release is still a valuable investment. The songs are louder, faster, and more punk rock than the recorded versions, but the songs that were played that night have always sounded like they were meant to be played louder, faster, and more punk rock at some club in Chicago (or Lawrence). Regardless of how the songs are portrayed, this live album is necessary because it documents a period in Sonic Youth's career that is worth revisiting. The band has taken Daydream Nation on the road, which is awesome, but it's not likely you will ever see them play a set's worth of Sister and EVOL tracks (not to mention an encore of Ramones songs) pretty much ever.

Arcade Fire - Arcade Fire

Immediately upon uploading the Arcade Fire's self released, self titled EP, I felt as if had no choice but to listen to it. I've listened to my share of Neon Bible and Funeral this year, but the EP had yet to make its way into my ears, that is before yesterday afternoon. "Headlights Look Like Diamonds" and "No Cars Go", the original version found on this release, were both live staples while touring for Funeral, but the real show stopper is the closing track, "Vampire/Forest Fire", as the song's epic climax is a mere prelude to what would eventually become Funeral.

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