I had a weird realization while having drinks with a friend a few nights ago. I don’t have a single active concert ticket right now. Not a one. No PDF printouts waiting to be scanned, no tickets sitting at will call… nuthin’.
I love Daytrotter. If this isn’t your first You Hear That rodeo, youmayalreadyknowthat. I believe wholeheartedly that it’s one of the best sites for music on the entire interweb. Actually, “site” doesn’t really do it justice; Daytrotter’s massive archive and mobile platform give it the feel of a streaming service like Spotify, except that it trafficks in exclusive live performances, each one with an incisive write-up and beautifully stylized in-house cover art. The $2-buck-a-month membership fee even grants you the ability to listen to these sessions being recorded, which is a really neat way to get behind the scenes and learn a little about the idiosyncrasies of performers’ personalities.
That being said, there’s a lesser-heralded aspect of Daytrotter that I enjoy almost as much as the site’s actual content: founder Sean Moeller’s twitter feed.
[Spoiler Alert: If we’re related, please wait till December 26 to read this post. The gift I’m getting you may be listed below. For realsies.]
Hey there, blog reader! You look tense… Do you still have some last-minute Chrismukkah shopping to do? I knew it! Well… does your friend/family member/coworker like music? They do?!? Well hot damn, this is the holiday gift guide for you. Here are three YHT-approved gift ideas that are sure to delight the music-loving friend/family member/coworker that you totally planned to get something for sooner.
Sometimes you have to take an unpopular stance, though it’s nice when you have a good friend standing unpopularly with you. My buddy Coyle and I are both staunch supporters of the most divisive song in the entirety of the My Morning Jacket catalog. That’s right, Coyle and I are proud members of team “Highly Suspicious.” I’m pretty sure we both like it for the same reason, too — the hilarious, over-the-top serious way Carl Broemel, co-lead guitarist and backup singer to Jim James, delivers the song’s title lyrics. Watch the band performing the song on Austin City Limits to see what I mean…
How can you not love that? It falls in some strange netherworld between parody and badassery, and ever since the first time I saw a video of “Highly Suspicious” being staged, I’ve watched Broemel with an added sense of enjoyment. That’s why I was so elated when the wonderful people at Daytrotter recently posted a session that finds Broemel performing 4 of his own songs that I had no idea existed, all of which can be found on an album he released last year called All Birds Say. I dove into the record as soon as I could, and it didn’t take long to learn that Broemel is as gifted at writing solo material as he is at the guitar-thrashing, falsetto-floating duties he executes so expertly as a member of My Morning Jacket. All Birds Say is a mellow record to be sure, but there’s a great deal going on in these largely down-tempo songs worth noting, including a fascinating relationship between theme and substance. Many of the songs deal with the idea of spare time, surely a commodity when you’re part of an overwhelmingly successful band, with titles like “Sunday Drivers” and “Retired,” and lyrics like “I was waiting for the moment to be perfectly clear, when the world would stop and let me catch up,” and “save an hour for yourself.” Images like these appear throughout, and pair perfectly with the choice of tempo and mood. Too perfectly, in fact. That’s what’s most interesting about All Birds Say — it’s a leisurely sounding record about trying to find time for leisure, which, as any busy person can attest, is hard work. After doing some research, I wasn’t surprised to find that he recorded the album one song at a time, whenever he had an opportunity, over the course of 4 or 5 years, so it’s no wonder he’s focused on those elusive spare moments. Even his guitar work reflects this odd coupling of efficiency and relaxation. “Questions” features a walkdown that sounds so breezy on the surface it could have followed a drunk down the street in an old Disney cartoon, but it includes just about every single in-between note that particular scale can hold. So loose, yet so tight at the same time. And these extra, in-between notes are everywhere on All Birds Say. I’m enjoying the album so much I can’t decide which song to recommend, so I’m including performance videos of three of my favorites — “Questions,” “Carried Away,” and “Heaven Knows,” where he pushes the leisure theme even further by playing the song on an autoharp in the middle of a round of golf. Check out these three great songs below, his Daytrotter session here (you’re a member already, right?), and buy All Birds Say here.
Something happened while I was writing about Unknown Mortal Orchestra yesterday — an action and reaction that, together, confirmed some of my core beliefs about the nature of peoples’ relationship with music. As I wrote, out of nowhere, my Twitter feed swelled with posts about how Daytrotter, one of my favorite sites for music on the entire world wide interweb, had decided to start charging $2 per month for access to their outstanding library of hundreds of downloadable, in-studio recording sessions. For years, these sessions had been free, an offering that seemed almost too good to be true, given the the artist selection, frequency of new sessions posted — multiple sessions are added each day — and the exceptional user experience (not to mention the insightful write-ups and the original artist illustrations, which deserve their own wing of a museum). When you consider the natural aversion to paying for something that had previously been free, you might have expected outrage and disappointment at this announcement. Nope. This was the anti-Netflix. The response on Twitter was overwhelmingly supportive, an outpouring of appreciation for a site that has helped so many people discover and enjoy new music since 2006 (two of my favorite reactions — @captainsdead tweeting, “one less pbr a month can get you a seemingly unlimited amount of awesomeness over at @daytrotter. just signed up. you should too...” and the Counting Crows adding, “$2 per month? People, WE are stealing from THEM. If music has a future, it‘s @daytrotter…”). As I bought my subscription, I had the same feeling of empowerment and civic responsibility that comes with supporting public radio, and as an added bonus, it gave me an opportunity to cast my vote for a future where people still want to pay for and support music, even if we’re not sure exactly what that future is going to look like. After I was done registering, just for fun, I checked to see if the band I was writing about had recorded a session in Daytrotter’s Rock Island, IL studio. Serendipity struck and, sure enough, Unknown Mortal Orchestra recorded a session on September 7 of this year. Some things are just meant to be. Click here to sign up for a Daytrotter membership and here to listen to Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s session if you’re already a member. And if you need an extra bit of convincing, preview UMO’s Daytrotter recording of “Boy Witch” below.
Yesterday I wrote about Daytrotter Sessions, one of my favorite resources for new music, and I linked to Jason Isbell’s outstanding episode. There’s another Daytrotter artist who is near and dear to my heart, thanks in large part to my sister’s wedding. She got hitched in the summer of 2008 at Architectural Artifacts, an eclectic antique salvage shop that fills a spacious former factory building in Chicago. My sister did much of the planning herself, and I’m not sure how she managed to book him, but David Vandervelde performed. He was awesome, and I haven’t stopped listening since. He’s recorded two Daytrotter Sessions, one on Christmas Eve of 2006 and the other in February of 2009. They’re both fantastic in totally different ways. The first is a full-band celebration, electrified and unleashed, and the second is more intimate, with Vandervelde playing acoustic guitar, accompanied only by bass and a backing percussion track. In both cases, his voice shines above all else, gracefully rising and balancing, as if weightless. Check out “Jacket” from The Moonstation House Band album below, and click here and here for his Daytrotter Sessions.
These days, people expect to try before they buy. Particularly with music. It seems reasonable to want to hear a song or two before you head to iTunes to shell out $10 for a band’s album, and there are a zillion clandestine ways to access free music. Today, I’d like to share one of my favorite legitimate ways to get free (and guilt free) new music: The Daytrotter Sessions. Every single day, a nationally touring band that’s passing through the Midwest stops by the Horseshack Studio in Rock Island, Illinois to spend a couple hours recording live versions of their songs. Some of my favorite bands have made this stop, including Vampire Weekend, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and many more. In each case, what results is a 4-song live set that’s easy to download straight into your iTunes library, complete with custom album art, done by an in-house illustrator. It’s almost too good to be true, and it’s where I looked when a bandmate recommended that I check out Jason Isbell. He’s a former member of the Drive By Truckers, and I’ve grown to love this Daytrotter session. Isbell is from Alabama, and his story-based southern rock songs sound worn, as if years of touring as a musician have polished his songwriting until perfectly seamless. Check out his song “Streetlights” below, or better yet, download the Daytrotter session.