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.


In the Jukebox — June 10

In the Jukebox for this week (based off what’s new to me and listed alphabetically by artist; lots to check out):

  • Adele—19: The second coming (and soberer?) version of Amy Winehouse?
  • Alanis Morissette—Flavors of Entanglement: Alanis goes back to a harder sound with pounding rock and heavy electronic sounds topped off with appropriately placed curse words.
  • Bangkok Five—We Love What Kills Us: Album of growling, manic rock with just enough of a dose of music sensibility to keep it cleverly all together—mucho potential to shine.
  • Ben Sollee—Learning to Bend: Earnest and beautiful music that touches into folk, soul, blues and pop.
  • Dr. John—City That Care Forgot: Big band blues rock with guest appearances by Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Ani DiFranco and Terence Blanchard.
  • Emmylou Harris—All I Intended to Be: A little country, a little folk, a little adult contemporary pop … .
  • The Fratellis: Melodic indie rock from across the pond, this trio has been on the cusp of making it in the U.S. for awhile but haven’t quite taken root. This sophomore album only strengthens their case.
  • Jakob Dylan—Seeing Things: The Wallflowers’ front man debuts his solo career with an offering of simply arranged, yet moving songs.
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Album — Re-arrange Us by Mates of State

Mates of State
Mates of State are a married indie-pop duo, originally haling from Lawrence, Kan. The new album contains some gems (see below) that offer honest, lyrical storytelling glued together with interesting, cinematic musical arrangements. The songs are mostly uplifting with strong choruses and bridges, even if they don’t sound like it at first. Their music connects. If you’re an indie-pop fan, I highly recommend. Check for yourself.

Quarters for the songs: Blue and Gold Print; Great Dane; Lullaby Haze; The Re-arranger; You are Free; Get Better.

Worth listening, if you like: Matt Pond PA; The Weepies; Belle and Sebastian; Tina Dico; The Shins; Death Cab for Cutie; Palomar; Goldfrapp (kind of).

In the Jukebox — May 13

In the jukebox for this week (alphabetically ordered by artist):

  • Big Boi — Royal Flush: Outkast’s shorter half goes solo with this single, but still features Andre 3000 (and Raekwon); “mainstream” fans of Speakerboxxx will be disappointed.
  • City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra — Indiana Jones Trilogy: Grab your brimmed hat and one-liners. Just in time for the new movie, the Prague orchestra performs the music from the three previous Jones movies.
  • Dresden Dolls — No Virgina: Weimar-era-burlesque-alternative-piano-pop-cabaret-punk duo’s fourth full album.
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Album — Low vs Diamond by Low vs Diamond

Low vs Diamond — photo by Autumn De Wilde 

Low vs Diamond play an enjoyable brand of indie rock (hopefully finally settled on their name, having previously played under the monikers of 1984 and Colored Shadows). The group’s music is at times a bit dark, and others, hopeful (dare I say, playful and uplifting). The album is refreshing and has earned a spot in my personal music mix for awhile — good stuff. Keep an eye out. Check for yourself.

Quarters for the songs: Don’t Forget Sister; I’ll Be; Killer B; This is Your Life; Cinema Tonight … I’m going to stop listing there, as I’m tempted to count all of them.

Worth listening, if you like: The Killers; The Stills; U2; Editors; Donut Kings; Asteria; Joe Coffee; The Strokes; The Constantines; The Bravery.

Album — Opposite Way by Leeland


Leeland (fronted appropriately by lead singer Leeland Mooring) have been dubbed an alternative indie Christian band, and the group’s sophomore effort — Opposite Way — offers a very good serving of “progressive worship” with soaring vocals and melodies. The production is top-notch, churning seamlessly from song to song and the group exceeds any and all “contemporary Christian” stereotypes to just be a very good and promising band. Check for yourself.

Quarter for the song: Falling For You.

Worth listening, if you like: Keane; Travis; Augustana; New London Fire; Alternate Routes; Ben Kweller.