September 25, 2020

Music Monday: There are years and there are Years (part 2: 2015)


In 2015, I’m looking forward to a great year in music.

As I said last week, it would be hard to overestimate how much music means to me and how the songs and albums I listen to each year accompany and shape my life. Michael Spencer loved music and wrote about it or spoke about it on his podcast regularly. When Jeff and I began writing together five years ago, it became clear that we were kindred spirits with Michael in this area, and so we began regularly sharing the music we were enjoying with you. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever . . . .

Now, let’s talk about a few of the audio treats that have already been released in 2015, the concerts I’m anticipating, and a couple of albums that I’m eagerly awaiting.

2015 started off on a high note for me with the release of the Decemberists’ record, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World. By the way, a perfect title for Internet Monk.

Led by Colin Meloy, the Decemberists have been known for literate, story-telling songs, with a twist of geekiness, darkness and obscurity thrown in for good measure. There is a bit of that on What a Terrible World, but for the most part, this album presents a straightforward melodic and refreshing folk-rock-pop sound and sensibility that is at times exuberant, at times just pretty.

The opening song, “The Singer Addresses His Audience,” suggests that a change is coming with tongue firmly in cheek. And then, with some of the catchiest horn hooks since Chicago, the band launches into the exuberant “Cavalry Captain.” It’s a sign of good things to come. As Autumn de Wilde says in her brief Rolling Stone review, on this Decemberists record, heart usually emerges more prominent over head, but the end result is a pleasing balance of both. Highly recommended.

Here is an in-studio performance of “Make You Better”:

• • •

How about something new? Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors were unknown to me until earlier this year, but I am liking them a lot. The band is from Nashville, has several connections with Christian artists (Holcomb and his wife are involved in Nashville Young Life), and have toured mostly in the southeastern U.S.

For the most part, Holcomb and his group present lovely singer-songwriter ballads on their new album, Medicine. But then there’s my favorite song on the record, “Here We Go,” a honky-tonk romp that lifts my spirits every time I hear it.

Bonus: it comes with one of the funniest videos I’ve seen in awhile — a fever dream that ends up looking a bit like a Fellini flash mob:


• • •

Speaking of fun, it would be hard to find music that is more smile-inducing than the western swing played by Asleep at the Wheel.

Over the years they have devoted themselves, among their other projects, to keeping the music of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys alive. On their latest effort, Still the King, they bring artists from a whole new generation into the fold, including Amos Lee, the Avett Brothers, Kat Edmondson, Pokey LaFarge, Elizabeth Cook, Katie Shore, and others.

Here is a video feature of Elizabeth Cook and her “Betty Boop” voice, singing her rendition of “I Had Someone Else Before I Had You.”

When things get heavy, this music is the perfect stress-buster.

• • •

Ah, here’s one I’ve been waiting for. Mark Knopfler’s latest release, Tracker, came out last week, filling my car with MK’s tasteful narrative textures. “Quietly riveting,” Rolling Stone opines, and I agree.

Listening to Knopfler is like sharing a few pints around a table with the local storyteller at a pub. I could sit there and listen and ask questions for hours, soaking in the characters and plots and atmosphere for all its worth, eager to come back the next day for more. There’s a laugh or two, a lot of wry winks, and a few turns of phrase that fairly break your heart. This is organic music, wise and well-observed, literate and always generous in spirit.

And one of the best pieces of news I’ve received so far this year is that Mark Knopfler is coming to Indianapolis in the fall, and I can’t wait to enjoy him in person.

Rather than just put up a video of a Knopfler song, here is a behind-the-scenes look at the songwriting and recording process behind Tracker.

• • •

acl3712wilco396273v1Finally, here is a list of some more music I’m looking forward to in the months ahead:

The event I’m looking forward to most is coming up in May, when Wilco plays here in Indy.


  1. The musical year started off well for me. My daughter and I went to Nashville in January to see Roger Waters narrate his opera “Ca Ira,” about the French Revolution. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Pink Floyd fans; the style was classical, but still opera seems the logical development of the concept album.

  2. Thanks for the great music, last week and this week too!

  3. I didn’t know there was a new Knopfler until a few days ago. Gotta get that!

  4. CM, given your interest in music, do you also play any instruments yourself?

  5. Heard “Beryl” on local radio in Portland. Great song. Looking forward to more. Thanks for the recommendations. You might like “War on Drugs” album “Lost in the Dream” from last year.

  6. Just discovered this song a week or two ago, been on heavy rotation for me.

  7. If I ever make music that comes within a light year of Mark Knopfler’s taste, passion, sincerity, and originality, I will die happy.

  8. The Placemats and Paul Westerberg (with Billie Joe Armstrong) take a trip back to their punk roots, and I go along for the ride:

  9. Here are some kids from School of Rock, covering Wilco’s “Impossible Germany”:

    Look at that girl, just beginning to learn what her guitar can do, and so obviously enjoying it, and the music.

    And then the twin guitar attack of Wilco’s song reminded me of Television, and Tom Verlaine. Verlaine was and is a great guitaristr, and many punk, post-punk and alternative bands owe their guitar sound to the trails that Verlaine and Television blazed for them at the beginning of the punk/new wave movement in the 70’s.

  10. Tom Verlaine again, singing “Kingdom Come,” many many years later:

  11. OldProphet says

    Hmmmmm, 22 comments and I don’t know any of the artists mentioned; Well, I’ll break out my Buffalo Springfield records and rock out!

  12. OldProphet, dude, I love that 60s West Coast sound although it was a bit before my time. Here’s something for you from a contemporary Swedish band called ULVER doing covers of some of those great old songs.

    Today (Jefferson Airplane)

    Everybody Has Been Burned Before (the Byrds)

    66-5-4-3-2-1 (The Troggs)

    If you like this the rest of the album called CHILDHOOD’S END from 2012 is equally cool. They mostly avoid the obvious stuff and include some real gems from the time.


    Folks I grew up in Fanny J Crosby Hell (8000 songs and not one melody) and I am constitutionally incapable of listening to bad music even though it might be produced by “Contemporary Christian Musicians” so it’s a pure pleasure to fall in amongst a crowd like this one!

    Any 16 HORSEPOWER (David Eugene Edwards) fans out there?

  13. Dave K eh? says

    I heard that Dawes will be putting out some new music too. That can’t come soon enough!

  14. Ah, I still have my Buffalo Springfiield LP and much more. Not to be off topic but I recently saw a wonderful movie that is the best in years., “The Magic of Ordinary Days”

  15. Purchased “Tracker” last night and loving it.

  16. What’s up, always i used to check blog posts here early in the daylight, for the reason that i enjoy
    to find out more and more.

  17. Mark Knopfler is one of my favourite artists. While Tracker isn’t quite in the same league as his sublime 2012 release Privateering, it’s still a top-notch album.

    I’m delighted to say that I’ll be seeing him perform in late May, for the third time. Here’s something I wrote after I last saw him: