Welcome back to my comically belated, week-long roundup of non-local music favorites from 2009! Though in fairness to myself, this is appearing a full week earlier than it did last year. Maybe next year (this year?) I can actually do one of these things before the end of the year. Baby steps.
Anyway, before we go on I should note that not all of the music we discuss this week was necessarily made in the past twelve months. Most of it was, of course. But some of it is merely music that I found, or that found me, last year. For example, Joe Pug.
I was introduced to Pug's 2008 debut EP Nation of Heat earlier this year and fell head over heels pretty much at first listen. But I admit I felt a bit late to the party as I read up on the Chicago tunesmith and encountered all manner of glowing music hack hyperbole, including numerous instances of that most unforgivable of rock scribe transgressions, Dylanpomorphism. And then there was this nugget from Paste magazine's Deputy Editor, Jason Killingsworth, who employed a fiendishly clever way of drawing the connection without ever explicitly doing so, writing, "Twenty years from now, lazy journalists will compare every halfway decent songwriter to Joe Pug." Well played, sir.
I won't waste your time overselling Pug with foolhardy comparisons to Dylan — he reminds me more of Bobby Bare Jr. anyway — or predicting that he's the next great American songwriter. I'll just tell you this. Joe Pug writes some of the grittiest and wittiest music I've heard in the last year. Aaaand, according to my sister, Ariel, who caught him live in Chicago recently, "He's so cute." So he's got that going for him, which is nice.
I'll also tell you this: if you like what you hear in the video below, you can download his latest EP for free on his website. The new quickie, entitled In the Meantime, was released to sate fans until his first full length album, Messenger, hits shelves in February.
Nation of Heat
Joe Pug | MySpace Music Videos
Since we're discussing songwriters who bear the weight of constant comparisons to a certain songwriter whose name rhymes with Dob Bylan, I would remiss if I didn't once again mention A.A. Bondy. Like Pug, I was introduced to the Arkansas songwriter's music this year through an older album, in this case 2007's American Hearts. However, unlike Pug, Bondy released a record this year, the subtly brilliant and perhaps under-appreciated When the Devil's Loose.
I've already spilled quite amount of ink espousing Mr. Bondy's virtues in these pages. If you missed it, here's an interview I did with him previewing a Higher Ground show in December. And here's a write-up of that same performance, in all its whiskey-soaked glory. But as I mentioned in yesterday's post, I spent a good chunk of my recent vacation revisiting albums that I just hadn't had the time to fully digest in the day-to-day mania of keeping up with the flood of new local music this year. Bondy's latest effort was one of those albums.
Honestly, even though I liked it, I was initially underwhelmed by the record, expecting more of a continuation of the tear-stained minimalism found on American Hearts. But returning to it with fresh ears, and having witnessed the brilliance of those tunes in a live setting birthed a profound appreciation for When the Devil's Loose and I've found myself returning to it over and over again in recent weeks. So do me a favor. The next time we get snowed in by a mammoth Nor'easter, put the record on, pour a glass of bourbon, sit in your favorite chair and watch the snow fly. I think you'll see what I mean.
In the meantime, here's a live solo performance of the album's title track. And be sure to tune in tomorrow when we travel the highways and byways of our friendly neighbors to the north.