Archive for the ‘Blind Pilot’ Category

The end of the year marks a great opportunity for reflection. For a music enthusiast, it’s a perfect excuse to make a list of my top albums and songs of the year. This was relatively challenging for me. I tend to think and live very much in the moment. I get swept up in what’s going on around me right now. And for this exercise I had to abandon, for a second, what was playing in the moment, and reflect on what had been playing over the course of the past 12 months. I am not sure I entirely succeeded. But, alas, below I present to you my top 20 songs and top 11 albums of 2011!

Top 20 Songs of 2011

20. Long Days, Fast Years by Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers

19. Someone Like You by Adele

18. Another by The White Album

17. Kiss Quick by Matt Nathanson

16. If I Wanted Someone by Dawes

15. Eagle’s Nest by Caroline Smith & The Good Night Sleeps

14. Café Lights by Hey Marseilles

13. Everything (Overture) by Chris Bathgate

12. Anyhow… by Tyler Lyle

11. The Nature of Our Kind by Vandaveer

10. We Will All Be Changed by Seryn

9. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes

8. Down In The Valley by The Head and the Heart

7. Poison & Wine by The Civil Wars

6. New York by Blind Pilot

5. Old Pine by Ben Howard

4. Blackout by Pickwick

3. 1957 by Milo Greene

2. Beggar In The Morning by The Barr Brothers

1. Honey Jars by Bryan John Appleby


Top 11 Albums

11. Gift Horse by Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers

10. 21 by Adele

9. Ashes and Fire by Ryan Adams

8. Dig Down Deep by Vandaveer

7. The Golden Age & The Silver Girl by Tyler Lyle

6. The Barr Brothers by The Barr Brothers

5. Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars

4. Fire On The Vine by Bryan John Appleby

3. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes

2. The Head and The Heart by The Head and The Heart

1. We Are The Tide by Blind Pilot


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Melancholy. Emotive. These are the words that come to mind as I sit down to write about Blind Pilot, a brilliant six-piece band from Portland, Oregon. Blind Pilot started as a two-member (Israel Nebeker and Ryan Dobrowski) band in 2008, when they biked their way down the Pacific coast, instruments in tow. In three years they have tripled in size, graduated from bikes to a school-bus and have taken the indie-folk scene by storm.

I can’t say enough about these guys. There isn’t a single song that doesn’t strike a chord in me; hit me in the gut; literally bring tears to my eyes. Israel Nebeker is the band’s leader, singer, songwriter and gets down on the guitar, ukulele, and… wait for it… harmonium. Nebeker crafts thoughtful and complex songs, layering instruments and vocals to create a uniquely textured sound. Blind Pilot’s sound is enhanced by introspective lyrics about love, loss, and home.

3 Rounds and a Sound, the title track of Blind Pilot’s 2008 debut album, is a standout masterpiece. Like many of the others on the album, the song builds to climaxes. The first verse opens with Nebeker’s sweet, steady voice, at first hesitant, then quickly gaining strength. He is joined in the second verse by a second layer of vocals, growing the sound until it meets the chorus, drenched in warm, golden harmonies.

“Soil and six feet under, kept just like we were before you knew you’d know me and you know me. Blooming up from the ground. Three rounds and a sound, like whispering you know me, and you know me.”

Despite my undying affection for their debut album I, like many others, was eagerly and anxiously awaiting the release of their sophomore album, We Are The Tide. I imagine that if it were possible to wear an mp3 thin, my copy of 3 Rounds and a Sound would be worn down to a sheet of paper. A few weeks before its release, NPR, in typical NPR fashion (read: I’m a huge fan of NPR), featured the album in their program “First Listen”, allowing eager and impatient listeners to stream the songs for free. By the time the 10 tunes finally downloaded on my computer on September 13, I already knew the nuances, notes, and lyrics to each track.

The album opens to Half Moon, a beautiful display of the musical growth Blind Pilot achieved in between their first and second albums. While Nebeker’s vocals remain as tender and touching as they were on 3 Rounds and a Sound, he is accompanied by a stronger, fuller sound. The song flourishes with haunting background vocals, groaning keys, and soft fingerpicking of the banjo. The best moment of the song comes at 2:41, where the vocal cohesiveness of the band shines through. It literally gives me chills.

“It’s not hard to live like a ghost / I just haunt all that I’ve wanted and leave what I don’t.”

 We Are The Tide, the title track of the band’s sophomore album, pulses with tribal drumming and a swelling sound that never quite breaks. Somehow, I always manage to listen to this song on my way home, riding the oh-so-lovely M15 up First Avenue and smiling at Nebeker singing: “Tonight I’m in love with everybody on the city bus / I feel the push and pull / keep sayin’ that it doesn’t mean much.”

There is no better song in Blind Pilot’s catalog that captures their essence, strength and the emotions they evoke than New York. The song was built around the melancholy groan of the harmonium whose singular hum is present from start to finish. The song swells with tension. Heather at Fuel/Friends captured the song perfectly when she described it as “somnolent, redolent and perfect.”

“And don’t keep me like you have me / and don’t kiss me like you don’t.”

To top off the excitement oozing from this post, I will be seeing Blind Pilot play at Bowery Ballroom on 11/4 and Music Hall of Williamsburg on 11/7, both shows with support from Gregory Alan Isakov! So, really, the Blind Pilot love has just begun.

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