Cloud Cult album Love

With their latest album, Love (buy on their site) (amazon) (itunes), Cloud Cult continues to prove that some bands get better and better the longer they make music.  I have tried to come up with a witty review for this album and I find myself returning over and over again to this simple phrase; Love is a perfect Cloud Cult album.  On a track by track basis you can clearly hear their past musical styles shine through and ultimately blend together into what is essentially a “best of” album composed entirely of new songs.

I have long talked about Cloud Cult as the best band you’ve never listened to.  This album proves it and would be an excellent starting point for any new fan.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Complicated Creation
mp3 : Cloud Cult – Meet Me Where You’re Going

If I’ve piqued your interest in the least you can sample more of their music in a rather long ode I wrote about the band a few months ago (click here).

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Cloud Cult

I attended a wedding a few weeks ago where I made a promise to write, once again, about one of the greatest bands that you’ve probably never listened to.  This band is Cloud Cult and they don’t get nearly the amount of attention, money, or acclaim that they deserve.  Part of this general malaise most likely stems from the fact that they self publish their albums on Earthology Records which was founded by lead singer Craig Minowa in 1997.  Although college radio stations and critics seem to find much to like about this group from Minneapolis more often than not people I have the privilege of meeting in person invariably have never heard of them.

My love for Cloud Cult began while I was living overseas and was mailed mix albums by an old college friend.  One such album contained the track Pretty Voice from their 2007 album The Meaning of 8 (amazon) (itunes).  Instantaneously I was hooked.  The layered vocals, the slow build, and the energy and narrative in this one song seemed to be tailor made to make me pay attention.  The Meaning of 8 has a haunting quality smothered in beauty, discovery, and joy that has proven to be timeless in appeal.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Pretty Voice

From there I took a small step back in time and I found the rougher, raw gemstone that is their 2005 release Advice From The Happy Hippopotamus (amazon) (itunes).  Although this album doesn’t have the melodies and polish of their later efforts the songwriting and energy are just as apparent this effort as those that were still to come.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Transistor Radio

At this point in my life it was still 2007 and I was already hooked deeply on anything I could find by Cloud Cult.  I was routinely putting them in compilations and featuring them on Best of the Year lists.  When their 2008 album was released, Feel Good Ghosts (Tea Partying Through Tornadoes) (amazon) (itunes) it seemed that their musical abilities had matured at the same pace as my musical taste.  This album is immaculate from start to finish and contains some wonderful lyrical vignettes.  I was also helped along during this time by being blessed with a live show that took place a mere 25 miles from my home at the time.  I was blown away during their set with the energy and personable nature with which the band took the stage.  And I was not prepared to watch two people paint, on stage, throughout the set.  If I could have afforded the post show auction for the artwork I most definitely would have walked home with a painting (the art auction profits helps finance their live tours).

mp3 : Cloud Cult – No One Said It Would Be Easy
mp3 : Cloud Cult – Journey of the Featherless

In 2010 the band released an EP entitled Running With the Wolves in which they proved that a group of modern musicians can take a masterful song from the likes of Bob Dylan and translate it enough that it becomes their own.  They still play this song live and it is wonderful to hear.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Tamborine Man (Bob Dylan Cover)

Their most recent studio album was released in autumn of 2010 (although they will have a new album out later this year).  Again Cloud Cult did not disappoint.  With the album Light Chasers (amazon) (itunes) the band creates a single narrative piece that is woven throughout all sixteen tracks.  Although some artists would label this a gimmick “concept album” or some other classification I think this album transcends that identity.  Yes there is a meta story going on throughout the album, but each track both furthers that narrative while presenting its own individual identity.  In the end you’re left with a great album that encourages a listener to enjoy the full experience of listening to all of the tracks from start to finish (an increasingly rare attempt in the day of digital single song downloads).

mp3 : Cloud Cult – The Lessons – Exploding People
mp3 : Cloud Cult – The Arrival – There’s So Much Energy In Us

And just recently, as a bonus for those of us who check their website routinely (hoping they will play another show near our home) they posted a masterful cover of the Beatles.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Help (Beatles Cover)

I still stand by my assertion that Cloud Cult is one of the greatest bands that you’ve never heard of.  They are under appreciated and undoubtedly underpaid.  It’s bands like this that inspire me to write again on this aging blog.  It’s bands like this that deserve to still be written about.

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Cloud Cult covers The Beatles

A charity project organized by Vega Productions has a slew of artists covering classic Beatles tracks.  You can buy the entire compilation, Minnesota Beatle Project Vol. 3, on their website.  One of my favorite artists, Cloud Cult, covered the Beatles classic song Help.  It’s recognizable as the original, but  it is also entirely a Cloud Cult concoction.   Quite simply, it is a great cover.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Help (Beatles Cover)

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Wedding Music vol 09 : Reception

I have now passed over my first anniversary and yet I still haven’t completed the posts for all of the music we played at our wedding.  As is probably typical of the music snob set it took literally countless hours of time to come up with this entire list.  If you want to see the rest of these postings just click here.

What follows is the continuation of the music that was played quietly in the background of the dinner and cocktail portion of the evening.  As I have said before, for this segment of the playlist, I was given carte blanche.

mp3 : Dean Martin – Everybody Loves Somebody
mp3 : Cloud Cult – Love You All
mp3 : Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight, Tonight
mp3 : Asher Lev – Motor City Mud
mp3 : Band of Horses – The Funeral

Enjoy the music.

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The Best Albums of 2010

The past year was filled with unforgettable music.  As I was poring over all of the great albums I began agonizing (often vocally to my wife) about how I was possibly going to choose which albums would make this list.  Throughout the past two months I’ve been listening to twenty albums on constant repeat and below I present to you the fruits of this labor.

01 : The National – High Violet (amazon) (itunes)

The National crafted an album in 2010 that surpassed all of the hype that has been surrounding them since they released their album Alligator in 2005.  Of all the great music in 2010 this album narrowly surpassed the rest of the pack in grabbing and holding my attention the most.

mp3 : The National – Sorrow
mp3 : The National – Conversation 16

02 : Cloud Cult – Light Chasers (amazon) (itunes)

There are five or six albums in this list that could have easily laid claim to the coveted number one position.  Light Chasers sits at number two on the list because every single song adds to the story arc and each track contributes something new, yet cohesive, to the experience.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – The Invocation (p.1) – You’ll Be Bright
mp3 : Cloud Cult – The Arrival – There’s So Much Energy In Us

03 : Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz (amazon) (itunes)

Many people didn’t know what to think of Sufjan’s return to music.  He eschewed his well known banjo and modern folk interpretations and instead produced a sprawling epic that combines intricate storytelling with even more intricate electronic compositions.  Truly a great album.

mp3 : Sufjan Stevens – Now That I’m Older
mp3 : Sufjan Stevens – Vesuvius

04 : Jonsi – Go (amazon) (itunes)

Jonsi went solo this year from Sigur Ros and he came up with an album that sounds as great as his band, but it moves along with a joy and brevity that they don’t typically employ.

mp3 : Jonsi – Kolnidur

05 : Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (amazon) (itunes)

When you see Arcade Fire at fifth on this it’s easy to see just how hard it was to arrange the top ten.  The only problem I have with this album (which is the same as everyone else) is that it isn’t full of songs on the same level as Wake Up.  I know that isn’t fair, but it’s what we’re all waiting for.

mp3 : Arcade Fire – Rococo

06 : Vampire Weekend – Contra (amazon) (itunes)

In 2008 I was ready to write these Ivy League yuppie kids off as a typical flash in the pan.  On their sophomore album they’ve found a way to turn smug indie rock into something worth listening to over and over again.

mp3 : Vampire Weekend – Horchata

07 : Broadcast 2000 – Broadcast 2000 (amazon) (itunes)

The only reason this great album doesn’t move higher on the list is that many of the songs appeared two full years ago on their debut EP.

mp3 : Broadcast 2000 – Rouse Your Bones

08 : Freelance Whales – Weathervanes (amazon) (itunes)

Having been released back in early April it’s easy to see why many list makers completely forgot about this slice of well crafted folk pop.  The entire album is well crafted and infectious.

mp3 : Freelance Whales – Generator Second Floor

09 : Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (amazon) (itunes)

While I don’t agree with his lyrics, his message, his ego, or his personality I do agree with critics and listmakers across the globe that realize this album is worth looking past Ye’s flaws.

mp3 : Kanye West – Lost In The World (feat. Bon Iver)

10 : Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History (amazon) (itunes)

Each year I seem to find one amazing pop album that I can listen to again and again.  In 2009 it was Phoenix and in 2010 it was Two Door Cinema Club.

mp3 : Two Door Cinema Club – Eat That Up, It’s Good For You

Those are my top ten albums for 20010.  If you’d like to see my previous lists follow these links; 2009, 2008, 2007 (or click here to see all 4 years on one page).  I’m looking forward to 2011 in music as there will most likely be albums by Radiohead, Coldplay, Bon Iver, and The Strokes.  Enjoy the music.

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Cloud Cult new album Light Chasers

Cloud Cult is not a typical band for many reasons.  They drive a bio diesel tour bus, they founded their own label (Earthology Records) to make sure they could offset the carbon involved in the production of their albums, they have two painters create art on stage during shows, and they have routinely turned down record deal after record deal (oft from major labels).  On their latest album, Light Chasers (amazon) (itunes), Cloud Cult proves once again why they are a special act.

In an age that is dominated by single song downloads, where album sales have largely fallen off and most casual listeners only purchase catchy radio singles Cloud Cult has pulled together a brilliant concept album.  And this is a concept album in the true sense of the word.  The entire album is a story, a multi-act play, that weaves together a lyrical and melodious narrative that will largely fall upon deaf ears.  Most of the people who hear of this Cloud Cult album will only catch one or two songs, three at most, but that would be akin to reading only two or three scenes in your favorite Shakespeare play.  Yes you’ll experience the height of emotion, but you’ll miss out on the key plot pieces that make that moment so special.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – The Strength – Forces of the Unseen
mp3 : Cloud Cult – The Arrival – There’s So Much Energy In Us

I realize the irony in lamenting the idea of listening to a single track from this album in my review and then offering up two single tracks (taken out of context of the album story).  These two tracks are classic Cloud Cult material and they will go a long way to giving you snapshot of the emotional landscape covered on Light Chasers.  I implore you, however, to be a brave soul and join Cloud Cult on their entire journey.  Start at the beginning as they explain they are on an endless, inexplicable, journey.  Carry on through the birth of their child, crew infighting, and awkward and painful moments of self realization.  Then finish the journey with the beautiful track The Arrival – There’s So Much Energy In Us.  If you follow them for the entire length of their narrative it will be much more rewarding in the end.

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Cloud Cult new song Running With The Wolves

I’m glad that earlier this year I was mistaken about the fate of one of my favorite bands.  I had heard (or read) that they were going on a possibly permanent hiatus as band members were concentrating on families, other careers, and generally having a life outside of a bio-fuel powered touring bus and running an environmentally friendly record label.  Fortunately for all of us they’ve recorded a new album, entitled Running With The Wolves, which is due out on August 17th of this year.

Even more fortunately for us they’ve already released an EP this year that contains the first single from the upcoming album.  It feels like it could have been at home on their previous effort (2008’s amazing Feel Good Ghosts), but adds a certain sense of gravitational maturity.  It’s as if the whimsical childlike melodies and stories have been supplanted by a more grounded perspective.  Now that’s a lot to say after just 3 minutes and 33 seconds of music, but at at the very least it has me interested and expectantly awaiting the entire album.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Running With Wolves

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Cloud Cult track Your 8th Birthday

If you’ve been hanging around these parts for any length of time you’ve probably come to accept the fact that I am quite the rabid supporter of all things Cloud Cult.  Recently I’ve been digging through old mp3 discs that are stuffed in my car (I drive an ’05 Scion xB that has a stock stereo capable of playing mp3’s directly from a CD).  Lately I’ve been fascinated with my Best of 2007 disc that includes Cloud Cult’s album The Meaning of 8 (amazon) (itunes) as the best album released that year.

The song that has caught my attention lately has been Criag Minowa’s tribute track to his late son, entitled Your 8th Birthday, who passed away unexpectedly when he was only 2 years old.  It’s quite brilliant lyrically and I cannot imagine the emotion that was poured into the writing and recording of this track (let alone the decision to include it on a studio album).

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Your 8th Birthday

Cloud Cult is currently on hiatus from touring as Craig and Connie are having a child.  They plan to begin touring again in late spring of this year although there are no plans, as of yet, to record another album.

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Cloud Cult remixed by Man is Doomed

If you’ve been a regular around here for the past two plus years you’ve no doubt that I have a deep love for the kids who make up Cloud Cult.  I also believe they’re one of the most under appreciated bands of all time.  I mean honestly, their last two albums were out of this world brilliant, they care about the environment, drive a bio-diesel bus, genuinely love their fans, and do some amazing paintings on stage during every live show.  So it’s great today when I opened my inbox to see that Man is Doomed decided to remix their track Take Your Medicine.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Take Your Medicine (Man is Doomed Remix)

For those of you whom are curious the original track can be found on their 2007 album The Meaning of 8 (amazon) (itunes).

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Cloud Cult meets Esurance

If you’re like me you’ve probably seen a few football games over the past week or so.  Between the college bowl games and the NFL playoffs I’ve seen my fair share of advertisements {becuase, let’s face it, American football is designed with one and one thing only in mind; revenue}.  Anyway, I first saw the new Esurance advert last week and I was really pleased to see Cloud Cult getting some national airtime and love.  Not to mention the fact that one of my favorites bands has now been made into Esurance style cartoon figures.  What’s not to love?

Anyway, the song they’re using in the advertisement hails from the 2005 album Advice From The Happy Hippopotamus (buy it direct from the band) and I thought I would throw up a few other tracks from that disc.  It was a moment in time when Cloud Cult was first really discovering what sort of eclectic sound they possess and in my mind it serves as a musical turning point for the band.  Since this effort they’ve gotten better by leaps and bounds, but it still serves as a good jumping off point to fully appreciate where they’ve come from and how far they’ve come.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Lucky Today
mp3 : Cloud Cult – Transistor Radio
mp3 : Cloud Cult – That Man That Jumped Out the Window

If you’d like to check out the Esurance advert, as well as snag a few other free Cloud Cult tracks, you can click right here to see all about this pairing of band and insurance provider.  If you haven’t paid any heed to TWF over the past two years make sure you hear me and hear me well; Cloud Cult deserves your undivided attention.  In the past two years they have made two brilliant albums that you need to hear from start to finish as soon as possible.

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