January is always a great music month. The combination of Christmas gift cards and best-of lists allow us to discover music that slipped through the cracks during the year. This January we took particular inspiration from this list by one Matthew Leathers, who had previously recommended David Bazan only to have it fall on deaf ears. Why it took us so long to get there, who knows.
David Bazan, Curse Your Branches. Our only excuse for hesitating on this album is that we were never Pedro the Lion fans, Bazan’s previous outfit before going solo. Bazan, like Derek Webb from a different direction, has given us an album about faith giving way to disbelief, certainty giving way to doubt. (Featured last September on ABC, Bazan said he no longer considers himself a Christian.) Curse Your Branches begins with a stunning song called “Hard to Be,” which easily would’ve made our Top Ten list, and includes songs about alcoholism (Bazan used to drink whisky out of water jugs at Christian music festivals) and generational inheritance, or in many cases (like “Bless This Mess” and “Please Baby Please”), both. There’s more honesty in these ten songs than you’ll find in many a sermon. We’re retrospectively making it a Top Three album from 2009. Done.
Thad Cockrell, To Be Loved. A gift from Bevin for watching Kitty Cat. We used to attend the same church in Nashville as Thad. We’ve only listened once through, but we like it. Pretty, folksy, with a hymn-like quality. It’s probably sufficient recompense for the hell of Scooter Thomas coexisting with another cat for four days. Probably.
Elvis Perkins, Elvis Perkins in Dearland. Like Thad, Elvis has gotten the shaft thanks to Mr. Bazan. But we can wholeheartedly endorse this album, especially “Shampoo” and the single, “Doomsday,” a bouncy stomp punctuated by horns (as most of the numbers here are). Think a more lush, melodic Conor Oberst on uppers. Also, his dad was the late Anthony Perkins, he of Psycho, which turns 50 this year.
Here’s the sweet video to “Chains, Chains, Chains”:
The xx, xx. Described by Mr. Leathers as “baby-making music for hipsters,” is it any coincidence we bought this album and now we’re pregnant? Recently profiled by Mr. Frere-Jones of The New Yorker, The xx has an intimate quality, best enjoyed (in our experience) late at night on headphones ( “songs to be sung inches from someone’s ear,” as Frere-Jones put it), not on the highway. The xx seems destined to replace The Avett Brothers in Erin’s scheme of dislike, as she recently dubbed it (falsely and slanderously, in Ben’s estimation) “sad female music.” There is nothing sad about the melody to “VCR,” or about the sublime, wordless “Intro.”
Not that we care about the Grammy’s, but if Kings of Leon wins tomorrow night, we’re going Van Gogh on our ears and donating them to science.
UPDATE!: You stay classy, Kings of Leon.