I'm a big fan of music, in almost all its different forms, and I enjoy "finding" new artists and hearing different kinds of music. In the end, I think several things determine if I like a cd or not. The overall mood/theme of the disc is important to me. Not that songs can't be enjoyable by themselves, but i think music is so much stronger and does such a better job telling a story or relating an emotion when its packaged together with other songs. Lyrics are also quite important to me. I don't need every song to be a soul-searching, emotionally confessing tale, nor does it have to be an amazing story with all the right rhymes. No, to me, honesty is the more valuable thing here. You can tell when an artist is just singing, and when they are really pouring themselves into their work. The final element in music that I really notice is instrumentation. Is the instrumentation subtle and unassuming or is it bold, forthright, and demanding. WIth all of that said, I'm gonna talk about some of my favorite albums that I've recently discovered.
Over the Rhine - Ohio - Very few albums really explore music and how it affects the listener. Most musicians stick with what they're good at, and what they know. Few times, though, do I really feel as if I'm being taken on a creative ride that has some kind of purpose to it. Well with Ohio, Over the Rhine delivers such a strange concoction of beauty and enjoyment that its hard to pin down how exactly they do it. While I was first familiar with OtR through their more recent album, Drunkard's Prayer, this album sits a little differently with me. While Drunkard's Prayer had a generally mellow/introspective/moody feel to it, Ohio has a more exploratory, calm, feel to it. Songs like "Ohio", "Suitcase", and "She" make this double disc offering a real treat to listen to. Wheras Drunkard's Prayer and Trumpet Child delve more into jazz and blues, Ohio has its root in slow folk, alt-country, with only a tinge of jazz. The album as a whole has quite a melodic mood, and leaves me in a thoughtful, yet not overly narcissistic mood. It's just a good album. Listen to it!
The Weepies - Gotta Have You - Now here's an album that you're not going to come across unless you really do some looking. The Weepies are not a household name, and their music is admittedly hard to get used to. Its not the style, its the voice of the lead singer. She sings with a certain kind of honesty that is almost awkward in its transparency, but the more I listen to it, the more I like it. This is a simple album, rife with songs about love and wanting more in life. It doesn't pretend to explore huge issues, it just deals with the pains and struggles of a normal everyday person. Songs not to miss are "Gotta Have You", "World Spins Madly On", "Stars", and "Slow Pony Home". Give this album a try, its a wonderful blend of coffee-house folk tunes and honest lyrics.
Andrew Peterson - Behold the Lamb of God - Very rarely does an album come around that is really a work of art. If music is really art, though, Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God is one of the finest works you'll ever hear. He decided to do a Christmas album, but with a twist. He decided to tell the story of Christ's birth from beginning to end, starting in Genesis and working through the Old Testament, even including a song about the Begats in Matthew. What makes this album astounding to me is the scope. In roughly 11 songs, Peterson manages to convey the depth and breadth of the amazing Christmas story through the medium of song. If each song were a snapshot, then each picture contains more detail than you can possibly take in with just a quick glance. The theme that carries throughout is how each part of the story connects to the actual birth of Christ, tying the Bible together and giving the listener a glimpse into a rare kind of creativity. This is one of my top 5 albums that I own. Check it out.