Katie Cook

Volume 34: The Swell Season

The first time I saw the film Once, starring the duo that comprises The Swell Season, I went alone on a random, rainy Thursday afternoon. Given that my boyfriend of six years and I were officially participating in the cliché is the “temporary break,” it is safe to say that my movie selection was not the smartest choice I’d ever made.

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Volume 32: The Avett Brothers

I admit it: I came late to the game.  Only a couple of years ago, a friend suggested The Avett Brothers’ Emotionalism as the next album I should buy.  Priority number one.  And when I say “suggested,” I mean threatened my life if I did not obey.  He, like all newly won Avett disciples, was eager to spread the good word about the trio’s inimitable cocktail of musical genres propped up by poignant lyrics and the ability to flat out jam.  Despite arriving to the party seven years late, I fell hard and fast for Seth Avett, Scott Avett, and Bob Crawford (and frequent touring fourth member, Joe Kwon).

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Volume 29: The Low Anthem

A sign broadcasting this word hung on the studio wall while Ben Knox Miller, Jeff Prystowsky, and Jocie Adams, the three members of The Low Anthem, recorded Oh My God, Charlie Darwin. A Hebrew expression taken from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, the word literally means “thou mayest.” The translation implies that there is some choice involved in whatever matter is at hand: thou may or thou may not. The Low Anthem’s speedy evolution from a local Providence, Rhode Island band with a grassroots attitude to international critical darlings hints that a lot of people have collectively decided The Low Anthem may.

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Volume 27: Regina Spektor

At first listen, Regina Spektor’s music sounds fantastical, with her buoyant voice, backed by piano runs, escaping far, far away from reality.  However, the listening experience is a lot like opening a little girl’s music box.  The spinning, red-haired ballerina at center stage pirouettes in time with the twinkling melody, and at first the dance feels inviting and at last, eerily affecting.  The music box’s whimsy masks its ability to actually influence an audience, but then its power takes hold.  It’s not just fun anymore…it’s something more.

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Volume 24: A.C. Newman

You know how it is when you get a song lyric stuck in your head?  It turns your skull into a mental pinball machine, with the lyric violently bouncing from flipper to ramp to bumper and back again.   It racks up points as it targets your ability to concentrate and beats your focus to a pulp.  Personally, I’ve had Ashford & Simpson’s “Solid” and Robbie Nevil’s “Wot’s It to Ya” in my head on and off since the early ‘80s.

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Volume 22: Jenny Lewis

What can I tell you about Jenny Lewis that you don’t already know?  Let’s see.  She was first a child actress prominently starring in the 1989 cult fave, Troop Beverly Hills.  Duh.  Years later, she went a different direction and was crowned Indie Rock Princess after forming the band Rilo Kiley with fellow child star, Blake Sennett (of Salute Your Shorts fame).

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Volume 20: Serena Ryder

I hate the radio.  I’m impatient; I don’t want to hear vacuum repair commercials or the crappy, overproduced pop du jour.  However, there are a few songs that, when they fill my rinky-dink, factory speakers, allow me to sink back in total driving pleasure for at least three whole minutes.  Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” is one of those songs.

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Volume 18: Rachael Yamagata

Happenstance, Rachael Yamagata’s first full-length release in 2004, is the perfect way to describe the way I initially discovered her music.

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Volume 16: Ray LaMontagne

In the musical landscape that is my iPod catalog and album collection, the setting is often a bleak and desolate one filled with what I lovingly refer to as “slit your wrists” numbers that encapsulate our angst-filled life and times. It’s funny that I unconsciously lean toward artists who consistently seem to be on the verge of the proverbial “throwing in the towel” since I, myself, tend to be a genuinely happy person. However, my music is often qualified by scorned lovers, heartache, and loneliness. I guess I’d rather have the barren, treeless truth than fluffy, cotton candy mountains dotting my scenery.

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Volume 14: William Fitzsimmons

I first heard William Fitzsimmons before I saw him.  As I stepped down the stairs of the Duck Room, the basement venue of the must-see Blueberry Hill in St. Louis, I took notice of the heartbreakingly tender voice that filled the hushed room.  That soft voice forced me to pause; it contained this indescribable, poignant quality that instantly captured my attention.  So, before I moved further to find my post in the audience for the rest of the show, I went to Fitzsimmons’s merch stand to buy his then latest release, Goodnight.  Thirty aurally pleasing seconds was all I needed.

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