Essential Playlist :: Hanson

I’ve stated before that I avoid anything by Hanson prior to their 2000 release This Time Around. That includes the ubiquitous, over-played, much-maligned “MMMbop.” So, for those of you whose ears fear encountering that track, fear not! This band has put out 5 amazing albums (and a live, best of) since then. This playlist showcases their variety of styles over the last 13 years with the heaviest emphasis on my two favorites: the aforementioned, This Time Around and the previously-reviewed The Walk.

Hanson: All Grown Up

under 1. Strong Enough To Break, Underneath – The band has always been good at saying how they are feeling. Coming off of a very tough several years and deciding to go the independent route, this song is a great statement from a band that’s willing to put every last bit of heart into their music.

walk 2. Great Divide, The Walk – Another great album-opener.  While the driving guitar chords are obvious, I think that the piano action here is the best part.

shout it out 3. Make It Out AliveShout it Out – This track reminds me a lot of the band Chicago with the chord structures, piano style, and horns. The difference is a more aggressive vocal approach than Peter Cetera would have attempted.

under 4. Lost Without Each Other, Underneath – I like the vocal approach on Underneath. It often seems a little rushed and a bit mushy, which I would normally would hate, but Taylor really excels at using to communicate emotion.

walk 5. Georgia, The Walk – The band used the opening piano riff in a series of video podcasts leading up to the release of this record, so there was already a familiarity when the album came out. I know that I use the vague term, “immediacy”, a lot – but this is another great example of just that.

anthem 6. Juliet, Anthem – This is easily my favorite song on the new record. It’s playful and powerful. I love Zac’s voice here and on most everything he does.

live 7. Hand In Hand, Live and Electric (originally, This Time Around) – This song was my first introduction to Isaac’s vocals. I love how he gets so passionate – which is why I opted for the live version in particular.

this time 8. A Song To Sing, This Time Around – I love “downer” songs. I love piano-based pop. I love vocal harmonies. So, for me, this is homerun. It’s a welcomed palette-cleanser at the end of great album (like a “cool down” after a workout).

shout it out 9. Use Me Up, Shout it Out – All the reasons listed immediately above are what make this song succeed. Couple that with Zac’s vocal performance and you’ve got another winner. To me, the horns here are a bit reminiscent of Matchbox 20’s Mad Season record.

this time 10. Save Me, This Time Around – This is one of the very first Hanson songs to really jump out at me. The harmonies are so locked in and the delivery is achingly desperate.

anthem 11. You Can’t Stop Us, Anthem – Like “Strong Enough to Break”, this is another great “statement” song. As I mentioned in my review of the album, I love the chorused vocals on the chorus.

under12. Penny & Me, Underneath – This song is special to me because my wife knew it before we even met.

walk 13. Watch Over Me, The Walk – Another Issac-fronted rock track. As on “Hand in Hand”, he showcases the ability to bring an impassioned and aggressive vocal approach.

live 14. This Time Around, Live and Electric (originally, This Time Around) – I love this version of the song for the way that it builds, then strips out the instruments for the first chorus. Additionally, I love the traded verse vocals. Finally, it showcases more widely spaced harmonies that create a more expansive range. While tight harmonies are beautiful, I love the range here, especially live.

walk 15. Go, The Walk – I’ve said before that this is my favorite song in the entire catalog. Zac shines on the lead vocal. The piano-propelled melody is excellent. There’s no reason not to declare it a “perfect song.”

Essential Playlist :: Eisley

I first heard Eisley before they were signed and I picked up their home-burned, hand-stamped “Moss Eisley: EP 1 and 2“. Since those old out of print records are not available on Spotify, I pulled up some of their early singles that featured those songs as B-Sides. Of their 3 LPs thus far, I definitely lean more heavily toward Room Noises and The Valley. I’ve just never really connected with Combinations (their sophomore release). I’ll address this all in more depth in forth-coming reviews.

The Dream World of Eisley

the valley

1. “The Valley”, The Valley (Deluxe Edition) – The first 20 seconds of this track are so great. The whole thing is, but I just love the way it kicks off the record.

room noises

2. “Telescope Eyes”, Room Noises – I still have a problem with the lyric being changed from “you, you freak” to “you, you see“, but this is a classic track.


3. “Currents”, Currents – This is the first single from the as-yet-unreleased album, so I’m still getting to know it. The acoustic guitar is a nice choice.


4. “Come Clean”, Combinations – Really only one of the two songs that I dig on this album. This one has grown on me over time.

the valley

5. “Better Love”, The Valley (Deluxe Edition) – I hadn’t paid much attention to this song until I saw an acoustic video of it.


6. “Head Against the Sky”, Head Against the Sky (single) – This is one of those songs from the indie EPs that didn’t make the first record. This version is over-produced but up until The Valley released, it was my favorite song from the band.


7. “I Wasn’t Prepared”, Marvelous Things (EP) – This was the first track on the first official recording by the band. I wasn’t prepared for it, but it has become a favorite.

the valley

8. “Smarter” (acoustic), The Valley (Deluxe Edition) – Geez. The Valley. So good. I like the acoustic version because the lyric is strong, but fragile and this showcases the fragility in a hauntingly, heartbreaking way.


9. “Go Away”, Combinations – It’s the other song I like on this record.

room noises

10. “Golly Sandra”, Room Noises – A live favorite that finally got to be heard by the masses. Something of a unique sound for the band.


11. “Ambulance”, Fire Kite (EP) – This is really more of a demo than a fully produced version. I’m choosing this version over the studio and “acoustic” versions from The Valley because it is so sparse. I could write 600 words on this one song, so I’ll save it for my review of The Valley.

the valley

12. “Mr. Moon”, The Valley (Deluxe Edition) – This record is so great that it became easy to overlook some of the tracks. Eternally grateful to Dan for pointing me to it. I put it in behind “Ambulance” because I think they represent a complete thought.

deep space

13. “Laugh it Off”, Deep Space (EP) – I didn’t like this EP, but it felt like it was needed in light of the weightiness of The Valley.


14. “Mr. Pine”, live at the Troubadour, Head Against the Sky (EP) – This is another indie EP fave. The recording is pretty awful, though. I love how Stacy and Sherri share verse vocals and the interplay they have during the chorus and outro/bridge.

room noises

15. “Trolleywood”, Room Noises – If memory serves, this was the go-to concert-closer in the early days. It’s a type of whimsy that belied their youth and possibly even naivete.

Essential Playlist:: Glen Hansard

[Legacy Content]

My friend, Ryan, had spoken to me of The Swell Season and the movie Once, but I hadn’t actually listened to the music of Glen Hansard before I randomly decided to pick up the album The Cost by The Frames. I love the rawness and heart that emanates from the music or Ireland and any iteration of the musical career of Glen Hansard is no exception. Personally, I favor his work with The Frames but performances like “Leave” and “Say It To Me Now” really exemplify the heart of the artist who is as much at home on a theater stage in front of hundreds as he is on a street corner in Dublin.

While he may not be widely known within the music industry, he can always be billed as “Academy Award Winning Songwriter” Glen Hansard.

The Musical Stylings of Glen Hansard and Friends

cost 1. “Song for Someone”, The Cost (The Frames)

cost 2. “Falling Slowly”, The Cost (The Frames)

set list 3. “Star Star / Pure Imagination”, Set List live (The Frames)

lolla 4. “People Get Ready” [explicit], Live from Lollapalooza 2006 (The Frames)

strict 5. “Leave” (live), Strict Joy deluxe edition (The Swell Season)

strict 6. “All the Way Down” (live), Strict Joy deluxe edition (The Swell Season)

even better 7. “Cry Me a River” (live), Various Artists: Even Better than the Real Thing vol. 1 (solo)

once 8. “Lies”, Music from the Motion Picture Once (The Swell Season)

cost 9. “Mind’s Made Up”, The Cost (The Frames)

strict 10. “Low Rising”, Strict Joy (The Swell Season)

rhythm 11. “You Will Become”, Rhythm and Repose (solo)

lolla 12. “Fitzcarraldo”, Live from Lollapalooza 2006 (The Frames)

strict 13. “In These Arms”, Strict Joy (The Swell Season)

fitz 14. “Red Chord”, Fitzcarraldo (The Frames)

once 15. “Say It To Me Now”, Music from the Motion Picture Once (solo)

Essential Playlist :: Dashboard Confessional

[Legacy Content]

I’m not a fan of Greatest Hits compilations, mainly because I think an album should be heard in its entirety. Beyond that, there are often a ton of great tracks that are never released to become hits. But, I also realize that with an artist you’ve never listened to, it can be hard to get a feel for the breadth of their work or to know where to start. For that reason, I’m introducing the new feature, “Essential Playlists”.

I’ve already written about my love for Dashboard Confessional, so I’ll spare you too much back story. Their earliest records were little more than Chris Carrabba and his guitar. They followed these albums with a full band EP of existing songs (Summers Kiss) and two full band albums. They returned to the earlier formula on The Shade of Poison Trees and then had the brilliant idea to please everyone by releasing a deluxe version of Alter the Ending, which was released as a full band record, but had bonus content of acoustic versions of all songs.

The goal with this playlist is to give you a taste of how the band sounds both with Chris by himself or with the entire group on hand – personally I prefer the acoustic stuff. Three albums are not represented here: Drowning EP (oop, can’t find, never heard), Summers Kiss (because those songs were better acoustic), and MTV Unplugged.

A Beginner’s Guide to Dashboard Confessional

so impossible 1. For You to Notice, So Impossible

so impossible 2. Remember to Breathe, So Impossible

swiss army 3. Screaming Infidelities, Swiss Army Romance

alter 4. No News is Bad News (acoustic), Alter the Ending (Deluxe Edition)

places 5. Saints and Sailors, The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most

dusk 6. Stolen, Dusk and Summer

shade 7. Matters of Blood and Connection, The Shade of Poison Trees

swiss army 8. The Swiss Army Romance, Swiss Army Romance

places 9. Standard Lines, The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most

mark 10. Hands Down, A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar

dusk 11. Rooftops and Invitations, Dusk and Summer

places 12. The Brilliant Dance, The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most

alter 13. Even Now, Alter the Ending (Deluxe Edition)

swiss army 14. Shirts and Gloves, Swiss Army Romance

mark 15. Several Ways to Die Trying, A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar