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an itunes Christmas

Sufjan Stevens: Illinoise, Red Mountain Church: This Breaks My Heart of Stone, Red: End of Silence, The Shins: Wincing the Night Away

My favorite gift to receive is an itunes gift card. I love buying new music and having an itunes gift card gives me no choice but to do just that. Thanks to my generous friends and family I am able to start 2008 checking out lots of good music. The fun is often in the search. I came across the four enjoyable albums pictured above in four different ways.

Sufjan Stevens: Illinoise – Apple’s marketing machine worked its magic. I downloaded Sufjan Stevens’ free holiday song ‘That was the Worst Christmas Ever’ and enjoyed it so much that I checked out his other albums. After reading some reviews and sampling songs, I decided to purchase Illinoise. Stevens has promised to release an album for all 50 states; so far he has covered Michigan and Illinois. Stevens plays more than 20 instruments; he has an artsy, pop-folk style. The songs are written and arranged nicely; they often start slowly and build to an anticipatory crescendo. I may yet use my surplus to purchase a second album.

Red Mountain Church: This Breaks My Heart of Stone – though available on itunes, my sister attends Red Mountain Church in Birmingham, Alabama so she actually bought me the physical CD. Last year she bought me two Red Mountain albums that I have come to love: Help My Unbelief and Depth of Mercy. If I had to guess I would say that I listened to Help My Unbelief more than any other album in 2007. The albums are comprised of old hymns set to often original arrangements that can best be described as an intersection of folk, acoustic rock and bluegrass.

Red: End of Silence – I’ll often solicit the advice of my friend Bill who I attended many concerts with in college. He is on the road a lot and has XM radio so he’s exposed to lots of music.  When I solicit his advice, he tends to take the opportunity to remind me that I’ve gone soft and weak in my musical taste especially when I tell him that his recommendation sounds too hard. He likes to remind me that some of my favorite performances were by Rage Against the Machine, Stone Temple Pilots, Staind and Our Lady Peace. His latest recommendation was End of Silence by Red. While the album is not terribly original–it often sounds like a perverted mix of Linkin Park, Evanescence and Chevelle–there are several intense songs that get my lips humming, feet tapping and body moving. Adding to the album’s value are the insightful, transparent lyrics sung with contagious passion.

The Shins: Wincing the Night Away – I bought The Shins album Oh, Inverted World after watching Zach Braff’s movie Garden State. It didn’t quite change my life like Natalie Portman’s character said it would, but it was still a solid album with clever lyrics and an understated catchiness. Wincing the Night Away is another good album; it has an added depth that differentiates it from Oh, Inverted World and gives it an interesting, edgier quality. As solid as The Shins are, they remind me of crabcakes: I always remember them better than they actually are. When actually listening or eating, the experience is good but I expect more.

Thanks for reading. If you have recommendations for how I should use my remaining itunes balance, please post them.

sara said,

January 9, 2008 @ 5:15 pm

josh ritter– i was just pointed to him by a few different friends, and like him a lot.

katie said,

January 9, 2008 @ 6:19 pm

…oh, don’t get me started on all the albums I’ve gotten on iTunes lately..(and not with the benefit of giftCards which I ASKED for, but, sadly i burnt giftcard bridges with family a few years ago when I declared them un-personal and bland. grrr. me and my big mouth could have averted cookbooks and tacky jewelry!)

Anyway, all to say that the Shins and Sufjan albums are both excellent. A couple of my “off the beaten bath” favorites this year (since obviously Bjork and Radiohead’s new albums were heavy on my playlist), included:
Beirut’s new album “The flying club cup” (think Sufjan-ish art-pop), and the latest Caribou album, Andorra (sounds as sunny and windswept as the tiny French/Spanish territory its named for)..

Donna J said,

January 10, 2008 @ 9:54 am

Happy Birthday Andrew!

Bips said,

January 10, 2008 @ 2:20 pm

ditto » My itunes balance is $0 said,

July 9, 2008 @ 2:51 pm

[…] an itunes Christmas I was left with a healthy itunes balance.  I made it all the way to June before exhausting the […]

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