May 30, 2006 Stephen Thompson, a music producer at NPR Digital Media and editor of NPR's Song of the Day, offers the following Midwestern musical recommendations: Between the unimpeachable glory of Wisconsin and the lush Pennsylvania countryside, the scenery is mostly a dire hellscape of tollbooths, traffic jams, construction sites, interchangeable rest stops and the occasional belching smokestack. Fortunately, the industrial Midwest has inspired a handful of amazing companion CDs, which should be required listening for anyone passing through...
May 19, 2006 Even when she was singing in the poppy punk band Tiger Trap, Rose Melberg had a flair for sad, gentle melodies. During a career evolution that's taken her through stints as leader of Go Sailor and the appropriately named Softies, those melodies have only gotten sadder and gentler.
May 9, 2006 Unearthed shortly after Johnny Cash's death, a batch of recordings marked "Personal File" turned out to contain an assortment of unreleased songs — including a standout moment in which Cash reads the riveting, darkly funny Robert W. Service poem "The Cremation of Sam McGee."
May 3, 2006 Jolie Holland's fatalistic, woozily paced songs come with a body count, but she rarely spares herself: She often sings about doomed lovers, and she ranks topmost among the damned. In its own way, however, "Springtime Can Kill You" qualifies as an inspirational anthem.
April 24, 2006 Tom Brosseau understands the sentimental pull of places — the way a building or a town can come to life in memories as vividly as loved ones do. He often sings about home as more than a bricks-and-mortar construct: It lives, breathes, feels, and dies.
April 14, 2006 Maritime has a sweetly buzzing collection of ingratiating power-pop. Springtime anthems don't get much catchier than "Tearing Up the Oxygen," a wonderfully sunny gem propelled by bleeping synths and "ah-ah" choruses.
April 11, 2006 Rhett Miller, the charismatic frontman for alt-country favorites Old 97's, has just released arguably his most commercially accessible disc, The Believer. "Question" closes the album with a sweet slice-of-life sketch detailing a marriage proposal.
April 3, 2006 Even by the band's own standards of ornate beauty, "Hurry Home Dark Cloud" sounds especially striking. Singer Darren Richard's voice swoops and swoons elegantly, even operatically, making it the key instrument in a mix rife with strings, organs, and bells.
March 27, 2006 The mostly instrumental "Variation on 'Commemorative Transfiguration & Communion at Magruder Park'" appears on I Am the Resurrection: A Tribute to John Fahey, a set that also features such Stevens contemporaries as Devendra Banhart, M. Ward, Calexico, and Grandaddy.
March 17, 2006 Jenny Lewis traffics in spiky pop and sad country music as leader of Rilo Kiley, and she left a memorable impression as a backing vocalist on "Give Up," the hit debut of electronic duo The Postal Service. Both bands showcase Lewis's flair for bold but relatable confessionals.
March 10, 2006 A great power-pop song offers innumerable rewards: a memorable melody, an adrenaline rush, a way to make a spring day sing. "It Isn't Easy To Live That Well" by Headlights conjures minor-key melancholy on its path to pop bliss.
March 6, 2006 Eef Barzelay knows how to mix humor and heartbreak. As leader of the band Clem Snide, he's sung from the perspective of folk-pop lightweight Jewel and conspiracy theorist David Icke, and he's concocted cello-tinged odes to the music of Nick Drake.
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