Some music, like good wine, just gets better over time. These are the songs and albums that require several plays before the listener can truly appreciate certain subtleties or nuances. But with each listen, the experience become richer, fuller, more enjoyable.
Other music is more like a fruity Beaujolais, intended for immediate consumption after harvest. It’s lighter fare, and enjoyable enough, but only for a time. I enjoy a glass of Beaujolais as much as the next winebibber, but only during the right season. The same thing goes for certain music.
Three months into 2009, it’s much too soon to tell whether some of the musical releases of this year will become vintage material. But after several listens, I’ve picked a few that I believe might have the staying power of a decent table wine — a new-world Merlot or Shiraz, say, if not exactly a prized Bordeaux. These works have the potential to take their place among the year’s great recordings.
Enough preamble. It’s Friday, and you’ve got a fever. And the only thing that can satisfy it is more Friday Five. Here, then, are five albums and EPs that, so far, have been constants on my playlist, followed by audio samples from these albums and a couple of others.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. This former Drive-By Truckers singer/guitarist struck out on his own in 2007, and if this album is any indication, it was a good move (for him, if not for the Truckers). The album is infused with plenty of that hard-driving southern-fried roots rock DBT was known for, but Isbell also explores mellower ballads. Nice work.
Sin Fang Bous, Clangour. Some weird but interesting stuff coming out of Iceland. I don’t really know how to describe this music. Sin Fang Bous mixes traditional folk instruments — banjo, mandolin — with modern electronica synths in some creative ways.
M. Ward, Hold Time. M. Ward’s style hearkens back to the old-timey music of Hank Williams, et. al., but is infused with contemporary sensibilities. His echo-chamber vocals give this work that nostalgic feel. Best track: Ward’s duet with Lucinda Williams on the country classic “O Lonesome Me.”
Rusted Root, Stereo Rodeo. After a long hiatus, Rusted Root returns with a digital-only album. I haven’t listened to it enough to make a final judgment, but after a dozen or so listens, I think it’s going to take root in my playlist for some time to come. The cover of Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” is terrific.
A.C. Newman, Get Guilty. A solo release from New Pornographers front man A.C. Newman sounds a lot like the old New Pornographers, and that’s fine by me. No guilty pleasure, this. (Newman’s co-star in New Pornographers, Neko Case, also has a new album, but I’ve only listened to it once as a streaming audio on All Songs Considered. I haven’t decided whether to purchase it or not.)
Bon Iver, Blood Bank EP. This guy is one who has taken some time to grow on me. His 2008 album, For Emma, Forever Ago, was critically acclaimed, but I refused to get into it. But Blood Bank has a different feel to it. Maybe I can warm up to it more because it’s a shorter work. Whatever the reason, this release works for me.
Here are some cuts from the aforementioned albums, plus a couple of bonus tracks from 2009: