I've never really "broken up" with anyone. Even when I was unhappy in a relationship, I'd kinda just let it continue until it finally imploded in on itself. One time I mutually broke up with a girl, then immediately convinced her it was a bad idea, then spent several months in a downward spiral of breakup-dom. Another time I basically convinced a girl to break up with me, even though she didn't want to and I did. (That was probably kinda mean.) Once, in high school, I was asked out and dumped within 24 hours and had no idea why any of it happened.
The reason I bring this up is because today I had to "break up" with not one, but two women (albeit not in the romantic sense). And it was awful. I don't understand why anyone would willingly do this. For years I've felt bad that I never had the guts to end a relationship that needed to be over. Not anymore. It really sucks to end relationships in a clean, mature way.
I prefer the slow death spiral.
What does any of this have to do with Mikal Cronin or "Peace of Mind"? Not much, other than it was the song I chose to soundtrack the lead-up and aftermath of my "breakups." And it's wonderful. Seriously. Probably in the top ten of songs of 2013. (I haven't really begun to think about this, so I could be off. But I'm reasonably sure it's true.)
It also has a video:
Mikal Cronin's new album, MCII, is out now via Merge Records.
I am increasingly falling in love with Owen. The project is a pseudonym for Chicago-based singer/songwriter Mike Kinsella, veteran of several former indie rock bands (American Football, Cap'n Jazz, Joan of Arc, and Owls). My exposure to Owen has been limited - the last love affair I had with one of Kinsella's songs was "Abandoned Bridges," a 2010 non-album single. He's put out two albums since then, but for some reason both remained firmly off my radar.
That's changed with "I Got High," from Owen's new full-length, L'Ami du Peuple (French for "friend of the people"). It has that indescribable quality that now of course I am going to attempt to describe. It doesn't grab your attention immediately or hit you over the head with how great it is. It just is. It puts itself out there with a sort of humble beauty, and lets you take it or leave it. These are the songs that work themselves into your brain and never let go. You can find it as the closing track on Given and Taken in Ink's fall playlist, Jacket Weather Vol 2, or below:
I say "quickly," fully recognizing that I am almost six months late to this party; The Seventeen EP came out back in May. Here is where I usually offer a bunch of excuses and apologies for taking so long (and I really am sorry), but you've heard that all before.
This is one I'm sorely disappointed I missed earlier. Neil McSweeney is a massive talent, and it's well past time we all took notice.
"We Are Here" is a stately march accompanied by self-assured lyrics and McSweeney's rich vocals. It's the anthem of an ignored generation standing up and demanding to be noticed. It's a strong opener, but it was the rest of the EP that really caught my attention.
"In a Dream" is a sweet ode to McSweeney's son. This year has been rough for me and my family; I've said as much previously, and how it's affected my ability to keep up with this site. But nothing over the last nine months has compared to the struggle of the last four weeks, as my wife, child, and I have each endured multiple different medical issues, capping off with my far-too-young-for-this son breaking out in a case of chicken pox. And as I held him tonight, chewing on a toy but completely oblivious to the mess of blisters all over his body, I listened to "In a Dream" and finally felt a moment of peace for the first time in weeks.
"To Live is to Fly" is an upbeat cover of the Townes Van Zandt classic. It's been covered numerous times before, notably by Guy Clark, Steve Earle, and Cowboy Junkies, but McSweeney smartly ups the tempo here. The arrangement works really well, retaining the quality that makes the original so special, but still carving out a space for McSweeney to reveal the song in a new light.
It's tough to pick a favorite among these four songs, but wistful closer "The Seventeen" makes a strong case. "Little did we know then how / Life would turn out," McSweeney sings in the beautifully haunting guitar ballad.
Last month, McSweeney released his third full-length album, Cargo. I haven't heard it yet, and I can't promise it won't take me another six months to do so. But if it's anywhere near as impressive as The Seventeen EP, it's absolutely worth your while to check it out.
The Seventeen EP and Cargo are both available for streaming and purchase on Neil McSweeney's bandcamp page.
James Vincent McMorrow veers away from the sound of his excellent (and highly ranked) debut with "Cavalier," the R&B-tinged lead single from the crooner's upcoming new album, Post Tropical. According to his website, “I’m so proud of that album [Early in the Morning], but I never longed to be a guy with a guitar. You play these songs live as best you can, and suddenly you’re a Folk musician. But the texture of this record is completely different. This is the kind of stuff that makes sense to me.”
Clearly not a folk song, check out "Cavalier":
Post Tropical is due on January 14, 2014 via Vagrant Records.
Fall (or autumn, whatever you choose to call it) is probably my favorite season. It's got that chill in the air that is so welcome after another typically hot summer. While there are still places to find warmth - wood fires, jackets, hot cocoa - those experiences only happen on your terms. You can opt in to whichever you like, or none at all. It's a much less insistent season than any other; you have the freedom to make it whatever you wish.
Similarly, Jacket Weather Vol 2 was guided by what I wanted to hear, not what I thought "should" be heard. It isn't necessarily filled with songs that have been released this fall, or even this year. And while we've got the stereotypical fall music (brooding acoustic guitar tunes), it's mixed in with garage / indie rock and other upbeat sounds. I think it does a pretty good job of capturing the spirit of the season, and I'm especially glad with how it turned out. Hopefully you enjoy it.
Here's the entire playlist for Jacket Weather, Vol 2:
1. Running Red Lights - Mulberry Love
2. Okkervil River - On a Balcony
3. Hebronix - Viral
4. Neko Case - Calling Cards
5. Deerhunter - Back to the Middle
6. Yuck - Lose My Breath
7. Margot and the Nuclear So & So's - Broadripple is Burning
8. Divine Fits - Chained to Love
9. Mikal Cronin - Weight
10. Yukon Blonde - My Girl
11. Franz Ferdinand - Bullet
12. Jason Isbell - Yvette
13. American Princes - Sons of Regret (missing from 8tracks version)
14. The Boxer Rebellion - Diamonds
15. The City and Horses - Cool Joe
16. Young Creatures - Ain't You Ever Seen a Wolf on Its Day Off
17. Vampire Weekend - Unbelievers
18. Volcano Choir - Tiderays
19. The Lonely Wild - Buried in the Murder
20. ARMS - Up & Up
21. Owen - I Got High
And also the Spotify version:
Mikal Cronin released his second album, MCII, back in May, but I haven't really had a chance to check it out until recently. If you consider yourself a fan of "indie rock" at all, do yourself a favor: Stop reading right now and go get a copy of this album. It, quite simply, kicks ass. Go on, get it!
Don't want to just take my word for it? Head on over to Amazon.com and download "Weight" as part of the Merge Records Summer Sampler 2013 completely for free. Or stream "Shout It Out" at Cronin's bandcamp page. Or watch the official video for "Change" (below). So many ways to have your socks knocked off! The Internet is a wonderful thing...
It occurred to me that I haven't really said much about Hebronix, the new project from former Yuck frontman and co-founder Daniel Blumberg. As you probably know (as a dedicated reader of Given and Taken in Ink), Yuck put out one of the best albums of 2011. Every time they released a new song, I couldn't help but get a little giddy. Then the band announced that Blumberg had left, but that Yuck would continue with Max Bloom (who sang "Operation" on the debut) on lead vocals. Prior to the release of the Blumberg-less second Yuck album, Glow & Behold, Blumberg reinvented himself as Hebronix and released Unreal.
What's interesting to me about this is you'd assume that Yuck would still sound like Yuck (since the entire band minus lead singer remained), while Hebronix would sound like Yuck vocally but probably go in some wild tangential direction musically. In the end, neither were quite true. Yuck barely sounds like the same band anymore (not in bad way, though, as Glow & Behold is wonderful). And while Hebronix sounds a bit more like Yuck's debut, Blumberg's vocals have gotten so much better so quickly, they're not even immediately recognizable as the same guy. Both acts have mostly eschewed the 90s-ish garage rock of Yuck's brilliant debut for something more mature. The wild fuck-it-all attitude of Yuck is gone.
Still, from these two records, it's clear why the split happened. Blumberg and Bloom both wanted to take the next step forward, but in divergent directions that didn't necessarily complement each other anymore.
For his part, Blumberg released what is in my opinion one of the best hooks of the year in the chorus of "Viral." It may take almost two minutes to get there, but damn it's worth the wait:
Hello Echo have released an official video for "The Coming Days," over a year since announcing it was nearly done, and over two years since releasing the band's debut album on which the song can be found. Why the delay? Honestly, I have no idea. I'm too busy trying to decide which bicycle I'd want to ride if I had the chance to be in the video: the yellow elephantterfly, the blue rambird, or the red liontopus. It's a tough call:
The Lonely Wild released not only one of the finest debut LPs of 2013, but also one of the best overall albums of the year in The Sun As It Comes. We've previously talked about "Right Side of the Road" (which is actually not on that album), but now the band has released a video for "Buried in the Murder" (which is).
The penultimate track of The Sun As It Comes, "Buried in the Murder" is the emotional climax of the record (especially around the 3:30 mark) as it bursts into a cathartic wave of scraggly-voiced emotion. It's one of the things that sets The Lonely Wild apart from its peers in the alt-folkish/multi-instrumentalist genre. Lead singer Andrew Carroll doesn't always show that skill off, but he's damn good at knowing just when to do it.
Check out the werewolf-themed video for "Buried in the Murder," premiered by Team Coco:
I think we're just going to keep posting songs about the United States until this government shutdown is over. Today we have Clear, who recently released the gorgeous "Sunlight," with their new single "America."
With all the nonsense going on in the US right now, it's nice to hear a more positive vision of this country. "America" is like a 60s-inspired travelogue through the North American continent. Although...maybe it's just my cynicism, but I can't help but wonder whether the whole thing is biting sarcasm wrapped in a coating of sugary sweetness.
Either way, it'll be out officially on November 25 via End of the Trail Records. Check it out:
The band has also released a video for "America":