November 30, 2007 Great holiday music comes in many genres. But these five soft, pop-tinged selections hang together just right, making up a wintry mix of songs that, when heard collectively, simulate a soothing bath in a tub of warm cocoa.
November 29, 2007 The Avett Brothers' reputation has been staked on its unhinged live shows, which mix a rock band's power with the frenetic speed of bluegrass. But the North Carolina trio's best songs, like "The Weight of Lies," are nuanced and incisive, showcasing uncommon wisdom.
November 23, 2007 Like so many great songs about complex issues, Linda Thompson's cover of Tom Waits' "Day After Tomorrow" views the ethics and impact of war on the smallest possible scale, functioning entirely from the perspective of a disillusioned soldier preparing to return home.
November 19, 2007 In "Swing (Parts 1 & 2)," guitarist Mick Turner plucks out a simple, dreamy hook as a violin radiates unease. Meanwhile, drummer Jim White helps ratchet up the tension over the course of several eerie minutes. As a solo act, Turner expertly emulates his band, Dirty Three.
November 12, 2007 In "Elusive," Matthews strips down to the essentials of his songwriting: a dusky croon, gently strummed guitar strings, a hypnotic melody. Opening with a beleaguered sigh and getting only incrementally more cheerful from there, "Elusive" is a study in dreamy beauty.
October 31, 2007 Pumpkins are on doorsteps. Movie screens are aglow with zombies and torture devices. Virtually every show on television has a Halloween theme. For one last day, Halloween is everywhere. But where's the Halloween music?
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October 23, 2007 From its name to its stripped-down acoustic Americana, the L.A.-based duo Chris & Thomas revels in straightforward simplicity. But make no mistake: There's nothing easy about writing songs as purely infectious as "Take These Thoughts."
October 10, 2007 Fionn Regan's "Put a Penny in the Slot" has to be one of the most shyly nonchalant songs ever written from the perspective of a clinging ex-lover. Along the way, he casually slips in his underlying meaning: "I can't help from crying / I wish you were mine."
October 4, 2007 For a band prone to sad confessionals, Rilo Kiley sounds downright gleeful on "Breakin' Up." Granted, it's a kiss-off song that practically fetishizes rationalization. But there's something uplifting about hearing singer Jenny Lewis "wash the blues away," for once.
September 27, 2007 At first, The Avett Brothers' "Yardsale" unfolds as a fairly straightforward study of the mundane items at a neighborhood yard sale. But then, three-quarters of the way through, the North Carolina brothers shift gears radically, speculating about how nice it would be to burn the whole lot of it.
September 24, 2007 Stars' albums toggle back and forth between fizzy pop and dark snapshots of relationships in distress. On "Personal," singers Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell demonstrate that they've mastered the art of he-said/she-said ballads that expose raw nerves and rawer emotions.
September 19, 2007 Great Northern's "Low Is a Height" doesn't break a ton of lyrical ground: Instead, it's content to use vague phrases to help pile on the atmosphere. It's an effective strategy, as the song functions as the musical embodiment of a mood that's somehow both sunny and oppressive.
September 14, 2007 Iron and Wine's "Lovesong of the Buzzard" gets a wonderfully warm-blooded arrangement, as organs and steel guitars contribute to a sound that's downright springy. The arrangement may be a cool glass of lemonade, but singer Sam Beam spikes it with something potent and satisfying.
September 4, 2007 In the pre-apocalyptic love song "The Temptation of Adam," Josh Ritter demonstrates his considerable gift for subtle, warmly evocative turns of phrase. As the song unfolds, he revels in the simplicity of the end times, acknowledging that romance is easier when it unfolds in isolation.
August 16, 2007 An air of regret often hangs over the group's bittersweet reunion album, Time on Earth. Still, "Don't Stop Now" more than lives up to the worthy tradition of Crowded House's brightly catchy, sweetly upbeat best.
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