April 23, 2007 A Glaswegian rock band that punctuates its guitar-fueled rock blasts with moody interludes and bits of esoteric instrumentation, The Twilight Sad makes epic songs that sound both punishing and pretty. Singer James Graham paints a vague but distinct portrait of alienation.
April 18, 2007 Michael Penn seemed like a budding superstar in 1989, but he's never fully capitalized on his early momentum. His commercially under-appreciated 2005 album Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947, led by "Walter Reed," just received a deluxe reissue treatment.
April 12, 2007 Idlewild's Make Another World pairs dark lyrics with brightly blustering, timeless rock arrangements. "In Competition for the Worst Time" opens the disc on the exact right note, declaring its presence with welcome walls of grinding guitars that serve as an ideal tone-setter.
April 2, 2007 Propelled by clicks, pings and a ghostly backing vocal, "Belarus" is a characteristically oblique Low song: It's built on phrases that set the scene without making a meaning clear, and it draws its power from an arrangement that's both understated and overpowering.
March 21, 2007 Dolorean's You Can't Win wallows in the dark corners of singer Al James' psyche, but "Just Don't Leave Town" raises the discourse from miserablism to ambivalence. After a bit of downbeat self-analysis, James perks up as he hits a brightly shuffling, bittersweet chorus.
March 9, 2007 Some songs have all the hallmarks of bleak dirges, but an overall effect that seems strangely uplifting. Witness Winterpills' "Handkerchiefs," which gathers steam and snappiness as it progresses, morphing into an agreeably ambling pop number.
March 5, 2007 The Faintest Ideas' charming "You're Beautiful" barely bothers to exceed a full minute: Its 67 seconds barely dent the listener's psyche before they're over. But they're 67 glorious seconds, complete with 45 seconds of shambling and scene-setting that give way to a simple chorus.
February 22, 2007 An anonymous musician takes on the persona of a cartoon bear and releases a new electronic song via podcast three times a week for an entire calendar year. "Fantasy and Denouement" opens in some sort of airport walkway of the future before wending its way into an enticingly fizzy rhythm.
February 16, 2007 Andrew Bird's new Armchair Apocrypha finds him continuing to prove himself as a performer of significant elegance and depth. "Scythian Empires" amply demonstrates his gifts for marrying obtuse-but-evocative imagery to uncommonly lovely arrangements.
February 12, 2007 The Cost finds The Frames harboring more commercial ambitions than usual, but no one involved has forgotten singer Glen Hansard's odd ability to sound sweetly romantic, big-hearted, self-deprecating and emotionally stunted at the same time.
February 5, 2007 A sweet-voiced pop singer whose accessibility borders on quaintness, Ron Sexsmith nevertheless remains entrenched in pop's margins. It may or may not attract a large audience, but "Never Give Up" radiates the warmth that has become his signature.
January 29, 2007 Though it runs only two and a half minutes, The Apples in Stereo's "Sun Is Out" functions as a charming, modestly shambling mini-epic, complete with discrete movements that culminate in a full-on power-pop blowout. The effect remains infectious and beguiling throughout.
The Shins' members take the time to stuff their songs with many discrete, memorable hooks.
Courtesy of the artist
January 22, 2007 The Shins' fine new Wincing the Night Away is built of the same solid stuff that made its predecessors famous: lush pop melodies, rich harmonies, vaguely obtuse lyrics, and sly, sideways hooks. It also features a gorgeous, brightly swooning ringer in "Phantom Limb."
December 25, 2006 Song of the Day editor Stephen Thompson listened to thousands of albums in 2006 before settling on these 10 frequently overlooked favorites.
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