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The Tentacle


August 6, 2009

Summer Music List

Michael Kurtianyk

Ah! The joys of summer! As the days get longer and I am busy with work, I love listening to music as I drive in the car and head out on the road. Of course, this is in between the Bob Miller and Blaine Young shows! So, herewith is my current summer music listening list, as found on my IPod.

 

Middle Cyclone, Neko Case. Is there a better singer out there right now? I think not. Neko Case (born in Virginia and of Ukrainian heritage) is a funny, dramatic, sensuous singer is currently firing on all cylinders. In this, his latest collection, Neko Case explores the wonders and joys of relationships, with recurring motifs of meteorology and the animal world. A favorite line: “Can’t scrape together quite enough to ride the bus to the outskirts of the fact that I need love.” Her voice resonates with a power and beauty unmatched, and her songwriting shows her to be at the height of her powers.

 

No Line on the Horizon, U2. I go back and forth on this one. When it first came out, I thought: “Eh, not bad. Not great, but not bad either.” However, upon listening further, it has improved with the re-listenings. There are some gems here, like “Magnificent” and “Stand Up Comedy.” However, it is the final troika of songs that are immensely pleasurable and profound: “White as Snow,” “Breathe,” and “Cedars of Lebanon.” I make no claims as to what these songs are really about to Bono and the band, but these three songs especially elevate U2 to new heights. They took risks on this album and should not be faulted for trying.

 

The Airborne Toxic Event, The Airborne Toxic Event. With a name like that (taken from a Don DeLillo novel), who can resist? Their claim to fame is their song: “Sometime Around Midnight.” This song begins simply, and slowly, and ends with a repeated refrain that exposes the narrator as a hopeless romantic in the face of a lost love. This dramatic, exciting song is one of the best of this year.

 

Noble Beast, Andrew Bird. This accomplished singer, violinist, and whistler (yes, whistler!) is not only-multi-talented, but sings in harmonies that seem to rival with the angels. In concert, he loops the violin and singing parts through his computer kit that he has on stage, ushering in a new era of stagecraft. His catchy song “Fitz and Dizzyspells” will stay in your head for a long time.

 

Together Through Life, Bob Dylan. Admittedly, when I’m in a good mood, I won’t play this album. However, late at night, with the headphones on, Bob Dylan sings with a gravitas that hasn’t been heard since probably Slow Train Coming. His lyrics deal with the troubles of our modern times, with songs of loneliness, desire, poverty, and hope for the future. His lyrics are as good as ever, with a blues feel throughout the album.

 

Accelerate, REM. Just because they’re my favorite band, I am adding this album to the list. Though they haven’t been the same since drummer Bill Berry left (who would be the same?), this album shows a return to what made REM so influential: an immediacy of music and voice that hasn’t been seen in a studio album of theirs since Monster and Automatic for the People. Always political but never boring, this album is great for a whole slew of reasons. Check it out.

 

Email me at michael.kurtianyk@gmail.com with what you’re listening to these days.

 



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