One of the great joys of birthdays for me in recent years has been the decision of several of my relatives to give me money. I know that this can feel to some as a cop-out or can feel somewhat empty but I love it. Being a poor student, and before that a poor pastor (relatively, in Western terms anyway), I don't spend much on my hobbies. Music being one of them. So I end up relying heavily on Christmas and birthdays to feed my love of music. All year my list of music I wish I could buy gets larger and larger. And it awesome to get money and a card, because that signifies endless (okay, maybe not endless) possibilities.
So this year I've been able to go out and buy a few albums. So far I'm really enjoying them. Here's why:
Though I've never been a fan of country, I'm weakening thanks to Ryan Adams. There are some major hurdles to overcome in discovering Ryan Adams. The first it that distrust of everything remotely resembling country music. The second is realizing that he isn't Bryan Adams. Once you get past this, go out and listen to "Gold", "Love is Hell", and then maybe this one: "Heartbreaker". I'm only a few listens in but "Oh My Sweet Carolina" with Emilou Harris is from the first time you hear it a peice of magic. From first-listen you feel like you are hearing a classic. The rest of the album is just so easy-going, and musically interesting, and even fun, that even the banjo and the harmonica are redeemed.
I've mentioned Pilot Speed (formerly Pilate) before but I'll do it again. This is a great album. I just heard a newer song from them on Sonic radio in Edmonton and, in an unprecedented turn of events for me, actually left it on the same radio station for four whole minutes! Amazing. And I new it was them without being told, which tells you they are distinctive enough to be noticed as well as good enough to be noteworthy. Another good part: They are from Toronto. You can find them at CBC Radio 3 by clicking through my mini player at right. The songs on this album are epic an passionate---just the way I like it. They are awesome live too.
I have long avoided buying this highly acclaimed album, partly because of the explicit language warning on the cover and partly because it is just a guy and a piano---how good could it be? Well, there is definitely some swearing, but not as much as I expected. And it is definitely a guy and a piano, but you almost can't believe your ears. It is literally amazing. I saw him on Austin City Limits once and so I was able to imagine it but if I hadn't I wouldn't have believed it was all piano. 17 songs. No band. But riveting and musically stunning. I'm serious. And the best crowd-vocals I've ever heard. Enough to give you goosebumps.
You can find this one on CBC Radio 3 right now too. In fact one of the songs is probably playing as you read this. Patrick Watson just won Canada's 2007 Polaris Prize for indie musicians awarded strictly by artistic merit. I was in a record store with my brother and he bought this for me from he and his wife for my birthday. And now I'm thoroughly enjoying it. A great melodic piano and an unpredictable element to each song make for a beautiful and simultaneously lilting and jilting listening experience. Definitely worth checking out.
I'm also awaiting a Matthew A. Wilkinson CD in the mail. You can hear him on CBC Radio 3 too.
If you are bored of your music, you can't go too wrong with this stuff. Thanks to all my relatives who have singly funded one of my favourite and perhaps most spiritually and emotionally significant hobbies.