Monday, March 30, 2009

Top Ten- Albums

For my first top ten list I've decided to do my favorite albums. This is not a list of my favorite musicians or my favorite songs but my favorite albums as they are recorded. I think it is a great thing when all the elements of an album come together and make a whole greater than the some of the parts. This is something that, with the rise of digital music and online music purchasing, is dying out. So this is the list and I recommend that if you do listen to this music, listen to the entire album from start to finish with no interruptions; it is well worth the time.

1.     Heartbreaker- Ryan Adams, Ryan Adams’ debut album shows us what American music can be. The music is, at once, sweet and brash. Adams’ uses his Alternative Country roots to show us that Rock and Roll can be a real thing of beauty. His impressive songwriting makes the album both epic and personal. This album is, in short, a masterpiece. Best Song- Oh My Sweet Carolina

2.     Highway 61 Revisited- Bob Dylan, I would argue that Rock and Roll music had the best day of its life when Dylan put down his acoustic, plugged in, and gave the finger to everyone who didn’t like it. It was difficult to choose between this album and Blonde on Blond but Highway 61 has that raw electric sound that perfectly embodies the sense of newness and rebellion that came with the album. Best Song- Tombstone Blues

3.     American IV- Johnny Cash, This is an album of contradictions. It is terribly personal but contains only three songs written by Cash. It summed up the long celebrated career of Cash and at the same time led a new generation to fall in love with the Man in Black. It was a departure from Cash’s early recordings but captured his musical essence better than the original Sun recordings. Best Song- Hurt

4.     Jacksonville City Nights- Ryan Adams, The second album Ryan Adams recorded with his band, The Cardinals. The album is reminiscent of Adams’ early career and his days with Whiskeytown but also stands up on its own. The album really shows how well the Cardinals complement Adams’ songwriting. Best Song- My Heart is Broken

5.     Flood- They Might Be Giants, Probably the first album I ever fell in love with.  It is the soundtrack of my childhood and is perfect for that task but the music also stands the test of time and maturity. Best Song- Birdhouse in Your Soul

6.     Closing Time- Tom Waits, A vast departure from the music that most people associate Tom Waits with. In this debut album Tom Waits sounds much more like a singer songwriter than the jazz musician and experimental pioneer that he would later become. The songs are sweet, playful and sometimes devastatingly sad. Best Song- Old Shoes (& Picture Postcards)

7.     The Village Green Preservation Society- The Kinks, This is The Kinks at their very best particularly in Ray Davies’ songwriting. All of the songs fit together and feed off of each other with wonderful results. Best Song- All of My Friends Were There

8.     Volume I- She & Him, The first collaboration between Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward. Zooey’s voice is unmatched and is showcased perfectly in the material. Best Song- Sweet Darlin’

9.     Ash Wednesday- Elvis Perkins, Ash Wednesday is Elvis Perkins’ debut album. The album starts with a lighthearted and often playful tone but makes a fairly sharp turn at the sixth track. The last five songs were written after Perkins’ mother died on 9/11 and deal primarily with that loss. Best Song- May Day!

10. The Trinity Sessions- Cowboy Junkies, This album was recorded in a church with one microphone. This method gives the album a very intimate and haunting tone. The actual song material, however, keeps it innocent and accessible with covers like Sweet Jane and I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. Best Song- Sweet Jane


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Poem of the day- Seamus Heaney

by Seamus Heaney

When I lie on the ground 
I rise flushed as a rose in the morning.
In fights I arrange a fall on the ring 
To rub myself with sand.

That is operative
As an elixir. I cannot be weaned
Off the earth's long contour, her river-veins.
Down here in my cave

Girded with root and rock
I am cradled in the dark that wombed me
And nurtured in every artery
Like a small hillock.

Let each new hero come
Seeking the golden apples and Atlas:
He must wrestle with me before he pass
Into that realm of fame

AMong sky-born and royal.
He may well throw me and renew my birth
But let him not plan, lifting me off the earth,
My elevation, my fall.

I took a course on Heaney in college. He is one of the most interesting poets I've studied. He has a brilliant command of language but is very down-to-earth. He is both very accesible and very inaccessable at the same time. Antaeus is one of my favorites because it shows the paradox of Heaney's writing so well. At fist glance we see a poem about the mythical Antaeus who was defeated by Hurculles. However, when you read this poem in the context of the rest of Heaney's poetry at the time you can see it as a comentary on his own writing. Just as Antaeus gains his strength from the earth, Heaney's poetry had a strong relationship with landscape and the natural world. It is as Heaney is writing Antaeus that the poet begins to come into conflict with his naturalist style. Just as Hurcules lifts up Antaeus into the sky Heaney's poetry is taken in a new direction.