[XV-III] Whittle the Wood

The third installment in my endless playlists extravaganza!

This playlist includes a number of older songs, Autumn in New England seems to have a way of attaching itself to music. So I apologize if you’ve heard a number of these before.

Yo La Tengo - Autumn Sweater - 1997
Fall always brings me back to this 1997 track off of I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One. Ira Kaplan’s soft delivery over a strong organ drone and simple drums makes me happier than most things should. It also plays on my fondness for autumnal outerwear.

Young Fathers - Shame - 2015
Now we jump 18 years, and an ocean. Young Fathers are three gentleman from Scotland who met at an under 16 hip-hop night in Edinburgh. They mix hip-hop, pop, and noise with soulful delivery. This track has constant background vocals that will get stuck in your head for basically ever. This is combined with tambourines, unknown percussive devices, and a number of random voices shouting in the background. My favorite part is at about 2:20 where everything drops out and the vocals are drenched in reverb. Then they hit you with more of that joyful cacophony.

Battles - The Yabba - 2015
If angular actually meant anything musically, these guys would be it. Battles seems to be challenging just how much noise three people can make. The intro is a fragmented collage, it’s like Battles is giving you a two-minute sampler of what they can do. Every time the track builds to where it might take off, it changes abruptly, and then finally, at around 1:50 it really gets it’s legs. Battles released a (slightly unsettling) music video for the song that wonderfully shows the technical prowess necessary to pull this off.

Teen Daze - Valley of Gardens - 2015
Teen Daze is the performance moniker for Vancouver based artist Jamieson. His first works began around 2010 and generally fell into atmospheric-electronic or dance. He was lumped in with chillwave, whatever the hell that means? Teen Daze released four full lengths from 2011 to 2013. Every release seemed to move slightly further away from the dance and more towards lyrical and non-electric sound. Morning World sees Teen Daze almost abandoning the synths and drum machines of albums past in an embrace of physical instrumentation. Jamieson teamed up with John Vanderslice for his latest release and it shows. He still delivers tender vocals, though they are now accompanied by strings and and the rumble of acoustic drums. The result is a warmer sounding Teen Daze, one that seems to fit better with the words Teen Daze.

Golden Youth - Where’s Your Heart Gone - 2014
I discovered Golden Youth when lead instrumentalists/vocalist Stephanie Lauren had her pedalboard posted somewhere. It was beautiful so I had to check it out. Look at it, look!

pedal

I don’t hear many of those pedals on this track but it’s quite beautiful anyway. I’m particularly fond of Stephanie's vocals as well as the percussion in this song, there's all sorts of rim clicks and booming floor toms (I think).

Fleet Foxes - Ragged Wood - 2008
I had this on repeat for the Fall of 2009 and it instantly takes me back to corn fields and autumn hikes. The song is clearly about the spring, but I look past that because it’s convenient to do so. Beautiful melodies, harmonies, and the incredible blending of instruments make this one of my favorite songs/albums of all time. If you don’t like this playlist you can always just listen to Fleet Foxes self titled (it’ll probably be better).

Josh Ritter - Monster Ballads - 2006
I’m noticing a pattern of organs on this playlist. This song kicks off with a fantastic organ warbling away. Josh Ritter has always had a way with mixing religious imagery into his songs without it overpowering the overall tone. This is from his fantastic 2006 album The Animal Years. This is Josh and his Royal City Band at their best. Simple song with a fantastic arrangement.

The Low Anthem - The Ballad of the Broken Bones - 2007
I was lucky enough to see The Low Anthem play this song when they opened for Surprise Me Mr. Davis in 2008. Actually, open is a strong word. The venue booked Surprise Me Mr. Davis as the late act, which does not get an opener and SMMD felt bad, so they brought out The Low Anthem for one song. We get a pump organ (mixing it up) for this song. I’ve always been impressed by The Low Anthem's ability to make a song feel bare bones when there’s actually much more going on. Behind the organ, simple drums, and upright bass you hear the sound of crickets but then the crickets start changing pitch and you’re not sure what the hell is going on. To accomplish this live they would whistle into two or more cell phones on speaker phone creating a feedback loop of glitchy whistles. I encourage you to try this at home.

Beach House - PPP - 2015
As of writing this Beach House has released their sixth Studio LP. This is off their 5th studio album, Depression Cherry, which was released about two months ago. Apparently Beach House has a lot to say. I really enjoy the last two minutes of the song, which melds into a slide guitar instrumental.

The National - Exile Vilify - 2011
This song was written for and is featured in the game Portal 2. Its lyrics are scrawled on the walls at various stages in the game. It’s a song of hopelessness and it feels that way. There's an intricate dancing piano line that gives way to dramatic and ominous strings. Matt Berninger’s defeated vocals linger above it all.

solo

Nils Frahm - Ode - 2015
I was late to the Nils Frahm game. This year’s Solo was the first album I had heard. Ode opens that album in fantastic form. The album was released on World Piano Day, a holiday he invented, celebrated on the 88th day of the year. Frahm’s music feels cold and minimal. Somehow the increased silence makes each note and chord feel that much more deliberate.

Yo La Tengo - Friday I’m in Love - 2015
Yo La Tengo again! I will always be thoroughly impressed with Yo La Tengo’s ability to play a 15 minute noise composition full of squealing guitars, driving bass, and complex drums. Followed by a short and sweet cover that’s the musical equivalent of folding a pastel piece of paper very neatly. Enjoy this piece of paper. (It’s a cover of The Cure song)

EL VY - Return to the Moon - 2015
EL VY is the project of The National frontman Matt Berninger and Brent Knopf of Ramona Falls. It’s a little weird hearing Matt sing a song this… upbeat? I can’t make any sense of the lyrics but they are fun as heck to sing along with.

Scratched a ticket with a leg of a cricket
And I got triple Jesus
Cashed it in for a siamese twin
At the family firing range

The full album was released October 30th.

Baio - I Was Born in a Marathon - 2015
You may know Chris Baio as the bassist for Vampire Weekend, or you may not. It’s a good frame of reference, but not necessary to enjoy his first solo album. It’s a very solid electro/pop offering that excels in both instrumental and vocal driven tracks. Nothing showcases that better than I Was Born in a Marathon, prepare for fat triangle-wave bass line with a very catchy vocal sample for the first half the song. This then transforms, rather dramatically, for the second half.