If you love Townes Van Zandt (you know, the guy holding the chicken), but haven't picked up Steve Earle' s latest, Townes , yet, get


I've Been Listening to Ted Leo, Spoon, Steve Earle

If you love Townes Van Zandt (you know, the guy holding the chicken), but haven't picked up Steve Earle's latest, Townes, yet, get your ass to the record store (or go online, whatever) and pick it up right now. It is (as Brian Barr explained in his write-up in advance of Steve Earle's stop at Easy Street Records last month) an album of Townes Van Zandt covers recorded in homage to the man who played the role of both heroic ballad-writing mentor and inebriated, heckling villain at various intervals throughout Earle's formative years. And while Earle's hoarse drawl doesn't sound much like Van Zandt's twang, Earle's emotive renditions of his late mentor's songs hint at the complex relationship that so influenced Earle's own career, if not his sound. While Barr thinks it'd be tricky for Earle to cover Van Zandt, he makes it seem easy to sing each song with the care and finesse it deserves. If you want to get to the cream first, skip to "Delta Momma Blues," "Don't Take It Too Bad," and "Brand New Companion."

Ted Leo has one of those voices that defies indifference. His liberal use of falsetto and nasal, occasionally tremulous vocals elicits either complete adoration or total revulsion, and pretty much nothing in-between. You could search the whole world wide and you won't find a single, solitary person who's heard the guy's music say, "Eh, he's okay." Because he's not just okay. He's an incredible songwriter, and regularly comes up with some of the catchiest guitar parts of anyone else making music today.

And lately, I've been unable to get "High Party," my favorite song from what continues to be my favorite Ted Leo album, 2003's Hearts of Oak, out of my head. Why? Because it begins with what may be the catchiest guitar riff of Ted Leo's career, if not of all time, and the song just gets better from there. And every few months, I get these insatiable cravings for it, and the only strategy I've found is to listen to it multiple times daily until the craving abates. Below is the best YouTube video I could scrounge up that gave justice to the song and also included visuals that weren't just a few specks of light in a black background. Man, I love this song.

Recently, I've also been revisiting Spoon's masterpiece Kill the Moonlight, which took a while to grow on me, but is now one of the most well-crafted, cohesive rock records made in the past decade. And when it comes to guitar parts that get their hooks into you and keep them there, Spoon's on par with Ted Leo (and if they ever play a show together, I may die of happiness.) So much has already been said about Kill the Moonlight that I feel like whatever I add at this point may appear redundant, but it's how I feel. I keep trying to figure out what my favorite song on the album is, and it keeps fluctuating. At first it was "All the Pretty Girls Go to the City." Now I'm wavering between "Something to Look Forward To" and "The Way We Get By." Feel free to weigh in on yours.

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