Quarters for the Jukebox


Album—Learning to Bend by Ben Sollee

Learning to Bend
Ben Sollee‘s string driven debut is an inventive, refreshingly unique introduction, and one of the stronger entries of 2008. With Tobey Maguire looks and cello in hand, Sollee makes a playground of folk, soul, indie pop and bluegrass. Married within his plucked sounds, Sollee’s voice is a soulful rasp emoting tenderness just as easily as it does weariness. The rare gift in this voice is that the believability it conveys, is easily digested by the ear as a pleasant sound. World weary singers aren’t always listened to for their ability to carry a tune, but Sollee pulls it off, and this will only help with his appeal to a wider audience. This sound is integral to the album, as it revolves around the theme of human perseverance — “learning to bend” in the stiffest of winds. Sollee simultaneously acknowledges life’s hardships while empowering you with hope.

The album houses one of the most interesting interpretations of “A Change is Gonna Come” you’ve ever heard; “Panning for Gold” is genuinely moving; “How to See the Sun Rise” is a playful porch-step game … the album is a wonderful achievement. You can hear several of his songs on his Web site—check for yourself.

Quarters for the songs: A Change is Gonna Come; A Few Honest Words; It’s Not Impossible; Panning for Gold; How to See the Sun Rise.

Worth listening, if you like: Andrew Bird; Elvis Perkins; Ed Jurdi; Amos Lee; Ben Harper; Damien Rice; Sufjan Stevens; early, early Tom Waits; Ray LaMontagne.

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In the Jukebox — May 29

In the jukebox for this week (based off what’s new; arranged alphabetically by artist name):

  • Adele—Chasing Pavements: Admittedly, this came out in January, but it’s new to me. She’s been labeled “the next Amy Winehouse” and BBC tagged her as the top new music talent for 2008. Her voice is good and smoky, but the song is a slow burner.
  • Al Green—Lay it Down: Celebration of Al Green’s music produced by The Roots’ ?uestlove and James Poyser, imposed with duets by breathing artists such as John Legend, Anthony Hamilton and Corinne Bailey Rae.
  • Band of Heathens—The Band of Heathens: Americana rock out of Austin. The group is the joining of three former solo acts: Ed Jurdi, Colin Brooks and Gordy Quist.
  • Chris Sligh—Running Back to You: The portly guy with a bushel of hair from American Idol’s sixth season releases his first solo album, an offering of Christian pop-rock. His voice sounds waaaaay better (with professional production) than I remembered it.
  • Cyndi Lauper—Bring Ya to the Brink: Cyndi pretends she’s Madonna.
  • Death Cab for Cutie—Narrow Stairs: Poetic “nerd rock,” and a pretty solid album.
  • Ice Cube—It Takes a Nation: After listening to this single, it’s hard to picture him in a third rendition of “Are We There Yet?”
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