Music plays a large role in the Trek Light lifestyle.
Since we live in the age of the iPod, your music has become as portable as our hammocks and any good road trip or journey abroad isn't complete without the right soundtrack.
There's really nothing quite like relaxing in a hammock and listening to good music and I know lots of you have brought your Trek Light hammocks to tailgate and relax at countless music festivals over the years. Music is also almost constantly playing here at Trek Light HQ and so I thought I would share with you (in no particular order) some of my favorite albums that have gotten a lot of play in 2009.
While I tried to stick to albums that were released in 2009 the list also includes some older albums that I either recently discovered or re-discovered…
Up From Below - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
A fantastic debut album from a band that clearly had as much fun making the album as you will listening to it. Infectiously uplifting and melodic, every time you think you can nail down their sound or genre they'll throw you a curve ball. Fielding 10 people in the band, think Arcade Fire and the Polyphonic Spree with a dash of the Flaming Lips. Sometimes a combination of all three and sometimes none of them of them at all. Check out this video of the band squeezing into NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series or this video from a recent show. Weird? Very. But oh so good.
Another debut album that quickly became an instant classic for me and got lots of play in 2009 (though it was released in ‘08). They're currently putting finishing touches on a new album and you should definitely give this one lots of play before hearing what they're up to next. An awesome album cover and a great album title seal the deal on this one.
Everything Touches Everything - These United States
These United States is at the very top of my favorite ‘undiscovered by the masses’ band list and has been since first hearing their incredible debut album, titled (get ready for it) A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden . The group seems to get better and better every time I see them and they don’t show any signs of letting up. Already three albums deep, their last album Crimes was another scorcher. I definitely recommend listening in chronological order but really just get any one of their albums, listen to it twice and then try to stop.
Elvis Perkins in Dearland - Elvis Perkins in Dearland
A hard to describe album, it begs to be listened to with some good headphones. Elvis’ father was the late Anthony Perkins (of Psycho fame) who died in 1992 from complications of AIDS and his mother was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 11 which crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11. The tragedy clearly fuels and surrounds Elvis’ music but never loses its optimistic rhythm - sometimes melancholy can sound so good.
While their debut album is from 2007, it was the release of their latest album Land Pirates in 2009 that made me revisit their original and realize just how good they both are. While often labeled a bluegrass band, the term bluegrass doesn’t nearly contain these guys. Hailing from Oxford, Mississippi they’ve managed to take all their collective influences and pull from them at will, meaning that in the midst of all that down home bluegrass you’re bound to hear anything from the delta blues to an Irish jig, with a righteous murder ballad thrown in for good measure. They can nail the traditional bluegrass tune with a talent beyond their years but it’s their own tight songwriting and chemistry that sets them apart from those other bluegrass bands pickin’ in the corner. These albums may have you doing some foot-stompin’ whiskey drinkin’, but they’ll also have you writing down those whiskey-fueled lyrics and posting them on your next status update.
Wilco (The Album) - Wilco
It’s hard to say anything about Wilco that hasn’t been said before. If you like Wilco, you’ve already heard this album and I’m guessing you like it. If you don’t know Wilco or you haven’t listened to Wilco in years give this new album a listen. It combines some of the best sounds from Wilco’s previous albums Sky Blue Sky and A Ghost Is Born, and it seems Mr. Tweedy has finally found a way to capture some of the emotion and intimacy from his solo outings – you can hear it immediately in his voice. The fact that the album cover is pure awesomeness is a very nice bonus.
Acid Tongue - Jenny Lewis
If you only know Jenny Lewis as ‘the girl from that 80’s Nintendo movie with Fred Savage’ or you’ve never even heard of her (or her other band Rilo Kiley), then this album will quickly change all that. Beautiful, soulful, bluesy and original…I became a Jenny Lewis fan the moment I heard this album. Guest musicians on the album include Elvis Costello, M. Ward and Chris Robinson, some star power to be sure, but you get the feeling it was them who asked to play on this album and not the other way around.
Everything That Happens Will Happen Today – David Byrne and Brian Eno
This album was released in 2008, but I finally got the chance to see David Byrne live this year (at Red Rocks no less) so it gets included on this list. David Byrne needs to start selling his own brand of wine, he’s one of the best examples of a musician who has managed to age gracefully on the stage and in the studio, arguably getting even better with age. David played a handful of songs off this album at the concert I saw and they all seemed to hold their own as if they had always been part of his catalog. When you’ve got a greatest hits selection like David Byrne does, that says a lot. There are so many artists that have made albums that sound like David Byrne and Brian Eno and you could easily argue that their first album together (My Life in the Bush of Ghosts) was a good 10 years ahead of its time. But as the title of the new album implies, today is probably the perfect time to give this one a listen.
Another release from 2008, but I just fired it up again the other day and remembered how good it is. Tom Petty’s old band before the Heartbreakers, Mudcrutch is like a combination of Tom Petty’s solo albums, The Traveling Wilburys and of course the Heartbreakers all in one. It’s not a perfect album, there are a couple of misses, but overall it’s a great album. If you fall into the category of liking Tom Petty but you never listen to his albums because his songs are always on the radio, you owe it to yourself to give this album a listen. The songs sound fresh and yet perfectly familiar in that Tom Petty way and there’s a great youthful feel to it all after 30 years of not playing together as a band. Kick your shoes off for this one, you’re in good hands.
Willie and the Wheel – Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel
From the moment you hear the first track ‘Hesitation Blues’ you’ll know this album is a keeper. I hate to call Willie Nelson an acquired taste, but it seems like for a lot of people he’s either too country, too mellow or too, well Willie. I won’t say this album will change your mind one way or the other but the pairing of Willie with Asleep at the Wheel is one that has been a long time coming and this album will leave you hoping they keep it up. Performing a bunch of ‘Western Swing’ classics, the album has a great old-time feel to it and I can’t help but picture Willie and the boys in a saloon somewhere in the Old West belting these tunes out. If you’re looking for an album that doesn’t sound like anything else you own – try this one on for size.
Let My People Go - Darondo
This is the farthest thing from a new release on this list but any list of my favorite music from 2009 would be remiss without mentioning this album. The album was actually released by Ubiquity Records as recently as 2006 but it’s a collection of old singles and demos recorded in the early 70’s and finally rediscovered and assembled on one album. The reason why Darondo stopped making music in the 70’s after recording these amazing tracks is unclear, but the legends and stories surrounding him are rich to say the least.
Check out this quote from Darondo’s Wikipedia page: “Darondo recorded three singles and played four shows in the ’70s ,and then stopped and drove home in his Rolls Royce after he opened for James Brown. Later he traveled the world collecting interesting artifacts, became the king of Bay Area cable with three shows per day, and worked as a physical therapist coaxing patients to walk again.” Featuring some of the baddest, funkiest soul you’ve never heard, discovering this album is like finding a hidden treasure. When you fire up a track like “How I Got Over”, "Didn't I" or the title track “Let My People Go” you’ll know why.
Even better? Darondo is making a comeback. Check out this page with some videos from recent shows and some links and articles about his latest exploits. "What they don't realize is that Darondo still got it," he says. "All I need is a shot of a martini. I'm ready. ... They may not be ready." If Darondo makes it out to Colorado, consider me ready.
I thought of about 10 more great albums while finishing this blog post but I’ll leave it at that and we can continue the conversation in the comments. What are the albums that ended up on repeat for you in this past year? Got a favorite album to listen to while you hang out in your hammock?
Let’s hear your favorites in the comments below…