Carl Sandburg Visits Me In A Dream
"Carl Sandburg Visits Me In A Dream" has moved to a new and better place where unicorns roam free and the layout is much slicker! CLICK HERE to redirect to the new site. Please update your links and bookmarks. If you are looking for a specific post, check the new website!!

Carl Sandburg Visits Me In A Dream

Carl Sandburg Visits Me In A Dream will serve as a blog for me to share my thoughts and musings, with a special emphasis on music. The music that will appear in this blog is for evaluation/sampling purposes only, and is designed to promote up and coming bands. Remember, if you like the artist(s), buy the CD! If you are the owner of a sound file and would like it removed, please contact us and we will kindly take it down.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wilco Sky Blue Sky

"Maybe the sun will come out today/Maybe the clouds will go away," croons Jeff Tweedy on the first track of Sky Blue Sky. Indeed, it seems like Wilco has finally turned its head away from the dark depression that Tweedy embodied for most his adult life. This album shows a much softer, happier side of Tweedy and Wilco, ripe with delightful guitar solos (you should have seen them in concert!) and rather trippy lyrics. Some have critiqued Wilco for never having lyrical substance, but to say this is to completely disparage the care that they have taken to make their words sound important. They still manage to do the same with Sky Blue Sky, but their message is just a littler clearer, a little more direct.

Perhaps it's that directness that is so appealing about Sky Blue Sky. Many listeners have cited this album as Wilco's worst, but I would say that these individuals never really understood Wilco in the first place. This is a success story, and SBS is the part in the movie where they all the hard work and dedication pays off. Listen to "Impossible Germany" and tell me that Tweedy doesn't have a smile on his face when that 3 minute guitar solo just frees itself from the speakers. Even in person, they all look content with where they are musically--and perhaps it's that balance, that calmness that upsets people.

But ignore those fools and play SBS loud. You'll hear the sweet-talkin' Tweedy's sensitive side on "Hate it Here", and you won't be able to get that Theologian-like "Walken" out of your head. Play the Neil-Youngesque "What Light", and you'll be sold that this album is as solid as the defining Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or A Ghost is Born.

So forget what you've been told. Go and get yourself a copy of Sky Blue Sky.
Listen to "Impossible Germany" (4.8/5)
Listen to "What Light" (4.4/5)

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Late Nights with The National

I've always had dreams of driving late at night with only the city lights accompanying my twilight excursion through darkness. These dreams seem strange to me in retrospect, as if they were missing something integral that would make them more realistic, tangible. I just assumed that if I were driving that I'd have a soundtrack to go along with the trip--nothing bombastic or ornate. I would want something soft and brooding-something that would begin slowly and gradually build up into a symphonic crescendo without being too dramatic. What I needed for these lacking dreams was Boxer, the new album from The National.

I must admit that I wasn't a huge fan of The National's prior release, Alligator--I found it static, stagnant, and relatively uninteresting. But I doubt everything I decided a couple of years ago after Boxer. From the get go, Matt Berninger's baritone vocals are perhaps the most fascinating set of pipes I've heard in a while, as I try to draw comparisons but come up empty. His voice conjures images of an earnest poet who has plenty of worthy things to be said. Berninger throws around such vivid, subtle imagery ( 'Standing in an empty tuxedo with grapes in my mouth'), that it's a shame that it sometimes gets overshadowed by the symphonic environment that the band creates. But what may be even more impressive is the way the quartet can suddenly shift from blaring trumpets (see "Ada") to the soft chords of the piano with such grace. Indeed, The National know how to make their sound work for them, employing a variety of instruments and some interesting rhythms as well. It seems to me that they have a real appreciation for the music they're creating--something that gets lost in the mix most of the time.

So I'll stop the babble--go and get Boxer.
Check out these videos.
Listen to "Ada" (5/5)
Listen to "Squalor Victoria" (4.8/5)

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Go! Team and Josh Rouse

The Go! Team--"Grip Like a Vice" (via IGIF)
Everybody's favorite UK garage-playground band The Go! Team has released the first song off their new untitled album. With all the intensity that appeared on their debut, this song means good things for the coming album. The production is a little cleaner this time around, but still retains that lo-fi sound. Check it, yo.

Josh Rouse--"Sweetie" (courtesy of MOKB)
CSV darling Josh Rouse is releasing a new album Country Moose, City House on July 31st. And every Monday he's previewing a new song off the album. Last week was "Sweetie" and this week is "Snowy". So go and listen. Go on.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Music Cheat Sheet

I want to do something a bit different for CSV since there seems to be a sudden flood of great new music and videos. Since summer is fast approaching, I thought I would cancel the class reading for today. However, I still expect you all to look over this concise study guide. It's so easy some might call it cheating! You might want to put it on the inside of your nalgene or program it into your ti-89 or something clever like that for the test. Just don't get caught!

The Video Countdown:
5. Tokyo Police Club - "Cheer it On"
4. Beastie Boys - "Off the Grid"
3. Spoon - "The Ghost of You Lingers"
2. Mutemath - "Typical" check out the making of the video
1. The Chemical Brothers - "Do it Again"

The mp3 Countdown
5. Rocky Votolato - "Postcard from Kentucky"
4. Travis - "Selfish Jean"
3. White Rabbits - "The Plot"
2. The National - "Fake Empire"
1. Elliott Smith - "High Times"

Extra Credit: The Basement - "I Just Caught a Face"

If you're just so studious that you can't bear taking a day off from the required reading check the archives. There has to be something you missed. Cheers!

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, May 21, 2007

Copy and Paste

I just recently finished getting through my favorite music magazine Paste, just in time for the new one that I got in the mail today. But with that in mind, I'm gonna cheat a little bit and share with you some songs that Paste thinks you should know. My reason for doing so is to give you a more rounded approach to the indie scene, giving some kudos to artists about whom I won't write full reviews.

So with that in mind:

Amy LaVere-"Killing Him" (4.6/5)
Description: Cute-voiced songstress has lots to say over the lazy Sunday strings.

Joseph Arthur & The Lonely Astronauts
-"Diamond Ring" (4.55/6)
Description: The prolific Joseph Arthur (watch out Ryan Adams) aspires to some more upbeat pop goodness.

Kristoffer Ragnstam-"Man Overboard" (4.4/5)
Description: Swedish singer-songwriter shows off his pop sensibilities on this moody track.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Meet your Client

If you're thinking this is a repeat post about The Clientele, well I'm sorry to tell you that this is not the case. Client are a female British trio that craft electronic songs that are sure to make you think you're a detective with hair like Don Johnson. Now this won't suddenly enable you to take down bad guys in Miami (see Miami Vice), but Client's new release Heartland will surely get you grooving.

Heartland is a collection of electronic rock anthems, almost as if The Cardigans had been given a littler edgier sound. Their sound borders on that surreality that The Cardigans executed so well, but they manage to add more volume to their tracks. These songs have that extra bass, that extra synth, that extra attitude that makes this album more than just your standard electronic album. It's a difficult task for electronica to appeal to mass audiences without sounding like house or techno, and Client's Heartland certainly overcomes such a hurdle by using the anthem model--that is, the beats are relatively simple but they strike a note within the listener. The crescendos in each of these songs blend seamlessly with the somewhat redundant verses.

That said, Heartland has the right intentions and Client does a relatively good job of executing booming rhythms. Unfortunately, this album just seems destined for speakers in GAP or some other clothing derivative.

Go and buy Heartland.
Listen to "Drive" (4.6/5)
Listen to "Where's the Rock and Roll Gone" (4.4/5)

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Night with Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird came to his alma mater Northwestern University to play an exclusive show for students, where he dabbled in pizzicato and conversation for a couple of fascinating hours. I was fortunate to have been able to sit front row with my buddy Jed, as we witnessed the fancy footwork and idiosyncrasies of Mr. Bird.

For someone who proclaims himself to be so damn "easy going" in his song "Why?", it might come as a surprise as to how stubbornly good Andrew Bird really is. He isn't necessarily the greatest of showmen, but I suppose that's part of his act. His perfectionism and his impeccable concentration allow him to elevate himself (note: he nearly played half the show on his tippy toes) to a level that transcends that petty artist-audience banter. It also seemed as though Bird had some special connection to the Pick-Staiger auditorium in which he also played as a student at NU. It was clear that it was nostalgic for him to be back at Northwestern, in the acoustically phenomenal auditorium where his songwriting travails began. At the very end of the show, he decided to play "Weather Systems" with the justification that he thought it would sound right in the venue. But really, that was him wanting to hear his own songs in a space that could truly appreciate them, musically and lyrically.

Indeed, it was a rather fantastic show, as he furiously tapped his feet on the handful of loop pedals at his disposal. Not to mention his sudden kicks and jumps, the rotating speakers, or even his simple "Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left". Each song was carefully chaotic, as he went from guitar to violin at an almost frantic pace. Anyone else would have looked awkward or hurried, but Bird made it seem effortless, surreal. Even more, he drenched he audience in a slew of delightful sonic matter. I felt enveloped, suspended in his violin, his lyrics in my mouth, as if I had something to do with the creation of his sound.

Among the various highlights of the show were his latest "Imitosis" and the now classic "Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left". "Why?" came across more involved and intricate than I remember--the looping was done perfectly. Bird even tried out a new song, "Sectionate Cities", which could have easily been another track on Armchair Apocrypha. "I figured I would try a new song on you all," he remarked to eager fans with the disclaimer, "there's no better to place to choke, I guess". Bird also shared some of his own stories about his songs; perhaps the most interesting was that "Why?" was about his college roommate failing to get a rise out of Andrew. Or, as he explained, that much of his songwriting starts with questions (he's much more interested in the questions) and a couple of words whose tonal quality interest him. From there, it's that quirky Birdness that takes over and makes his songs what they are.

Listen to Andrew Bird- "Why?"
Listen to Andrew Bird-"11:11 (Live)"

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Glenn Kotche: Giving Credit Where it's Due

As I watched Wilco in a gymnasium turned rock club Friday night, I was continually impressed with the band's impeccable time and seamless transitions. Kudos to the whole band for an impressive, well-rehearsed set, but I would like to focus on the man behind the kit, Glenn Kotche. Naturally, Kotche is most well-known for his work with Wilco. Seeing him live is a real tribute to his tasteful musicianship. He never sticks out or overplays, but makes his presence heard by staying "in the pocket," and adding tom-tom and cymbal flourishes to spice up Wilco's guitar-driven tracks.

Kotche, who studied percussion at University of Kentucky, has released his own solo albums and collaborated with a number of varied musicians, including experimental guitarist and music producer Jim O'Rourke, and jazz bassist Darin Gray.

Kotche's solo efforts, the most recent came out in 2006, show a side of him that exists only latently in his work with Wilco. While he dabbles with electronics and more obscure percussion instruments with Wilco, he really lets his creative juices out in his solo albums. Check out his website to listen to some tracks from his experimental, improvisatory solo albums, and to learn more about his side projects (including an experimental rock trio with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Jim O'Rourke).

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Chicago Bound

I'm veering a little off course with this post, as I get ready for two awesome shows coming to Northwestern. We've got Wilco coming Friday (about to release Sky Blue Sky...more on that soon) and then we've got His Birdness (Andrew Bird) coming on Monday night.

But I'm in a Chicago kind of mood tonight, and so I figured I'd give a little taste of some cool Chicago blues from Jimmy Rogers' "Chicago Bound" and the harmonica stylings of Charlie Musselwhite on "Chicago Sunset".

I'm sure you'll enjoy these goodies, but just in case you're not totally satisfied, I'm gonna give you a little Wilco love as well.

Check out Jimmy Rogers--Chicago Bound
Check out Charlie Musselwhite--Chicago Sunset
Wilco-I'm Trying to Break Your Heart (Live Version)

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, May 07, 2007

Rufus Wainwright: A Star Released

"I always thought that the combination of my voice with Jeff Buckley's could turn any straight man gay," Rufus Wainwright told a sold-out crowd at northern Virginia's Wolf Trap last summer. Whether music has such a power, I'm not sure; I am sure, however, that Wainwright's Release the Stars is a complete representation of his beautifully soothing voice. Complementing Wainwright's voice are skillfully constructed symphonic-rock arrangements that seek to say, "this is an album you can't just listen to--you have to listen to it."

The melancholy opener, "Do I Disappoint You," is certainly not disappointing, but sets the pensive mood of the record while showing off woodwinds, brass, and string arrangements. The lead single, "Going to a Town," juxtaposes a simple piano part with a serious proclamation:

Making my own way home, ain't gonna be alone
I've got a life to lead, America
I've got a life to lead
I got a soul to feed
I got a dream to heed
And that's all I need

This album is truly a complete musical offering; there really is not a weak track. The emotive "Nobody's off the Hook" briefly reminds us of Wainwright's operatic beginnings, while the blue-grass tinged "Between my Legs" samples the well-known descending scale motif from The Phantom of the Opera. Wainwright seems to add to a generation past with the cocktail-lounge friendly "Leaving for Paris No. 2," while still staying current, as he addresses the "stars" of Hollywood in the album's title-track. Perhaps Wainwright puts it best, describing this album as an extreme deviation from his plan to write a simple, black-and-white record:

“My intentions were completely foiled,” he explains. “It was like I slipped on a creative banana and all of a sudden, arrangement after arrangement, song after song started tumbling. I don’t really know what happened.”

We can all be glad for whatever happened. Wainwright proves that there really is no substitute for musical talent coupled with a keen artistic vision.

The Report Card
Vocals: A
Lyrics: B+
Instruments: B+
Album art/Packaging: B
Release the Stars: A

Preoder the album here (for under ten bucks!)
Check out this article from Harp Magazine

Hear for Yourself
"Going to a Town"
"Nobody's off the Hook"
"Leaving for Paris No. 2"

Labels: ,

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Ryan Shaw

Stevie Wonder. Otis Redding. Marvin Gaye. Names revered all over the world, their melodies distinct and their voices sacred. Well, I'm ready to you all about someone who seems to be on the fast track to joining the three greats above. Ryan Shaw has been blessed with a voice sweeter than a fruit smoothie, and he's ready to share it. So listen up, because you might miss a lot.

Shaw grew up in a religious family, and quickly became a star gospel singer in his church. And now, he has applied his skills to something everyone can enjoy. On his debut album This is Ryan Shaw, the religious overtones are present but still very subtle. While many of his songs concern love and relationships, he certainly breaks out of his shell on tracks that are simply meant to get you up and shaking. As for the music, well it certainly follows in the same vain of Stevie Wonder's pop-funk amalgamation and reflects Earth, Wind, and Fire's ability to make you dance.

So join the party. Go out and get This is Ryan Shaw.
Listen to "Nobody" (5/5)
Listen to "We Got Love" (4.7/5)

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Leslie Feist: Renaissance Chanteuse

Sometimes, words just don't cut it. Sometimes, artists are able to transcend descriptions, make genres useless, and render the listener speechless. Sometimes, it isn't so much a result of that artist being unbelievably good, but rather of her being so irresistibly real and tangible that affords her such superlative powers.

Such is the case for the lovely Leslie Feist, who has just recently released her tertiary release The Reminder, but I will nonetheless try to comment on it. For those who are familiar with her past records, you won't find any significant changes in Feist's musical direction on The Reminder. The album is more accurately an extension, a maturation of her sound that was so widely accepted on Let It Die. Her pop sensibilities are as sharp as ever, accented by her poignant voice that surely the ancient Greeks would have compared to that of the Sirens. Perhaps what makes Feist's songs so intriguing is her ability to change intensities--one minute you can feel a piercing sharpness in her voice, the next minute a softer, hushed version, only to be followed by an impeccably playful side to her vocals.

For those looking for a lesson in mediocrity, The Reminder is a poor place to look. Feist doesn't hold anything back, as she effortlessly moves from track to track, combining the grandiose arrangements (see "My Moon My Man" and "One Two Three Four") with the more subtle gems on the album (see "Brandy Alexander"). While Let It Die hinted at Feist's ability to write and sing songs that blurred the lines between jazz, blues, and rock, The Reminder is the prophecy fulfilled as she more evenly divvies out her influences. "My Moon My Man", the lead single for the album, seemed previously uncharacteristic, but Feist is able to make the bouncy, groovy track her own. On the other hand, she handles delicate bluesy-folk ballads like "Limit to Your Love" with the utmost grace and sensitivity. The songs listen as an open diary the whole way through, only revealing small autobiographical details shrouded in mystery.

Maybe it is the mystery of Feist that makes her so accessible, that allows her to transmit an inner beauty through sound. Indeed, fighting against this entrancing chanteuse is simply futile. But don't worry, because as Feist sings on 'Brandy Alexander', "It goes down easy."

Alright. Go out and get The Reminder ($8 at Amazon--great deal). Seriously click on that link.
Listen to "One Two Three Four" (5/5).
Listen to "Brandy Alexander" (5/5).

Watch the video for One Two Three Four.
Watch the video for My Moon My Man.

Note: This is officially CSV's 100th post! Woo hoo!

Labels: ,