Jul 25 2013

Review: Daniel Markham – Ruined My Life

daniel markham ruined my life

I’m a bit late to the show, but like all of Markham’s output, this one’s a grower. It might be the one you’ll have to spend the most time with out of all of the Markham albums. And that’s because, underneath the twang, the West Texas melodies, the semblance of loneliness, that dirgy Deadsy guitar, that brilliant album title, and that head-scratching album cover, Ruined My Life is a new side of Daniel Markham he’s merely hinted at in the past. With this, the first post-Lubbock proper full-length, and the first proper solo album, his eyes are turned outward, his head is held higher, and frankly, the mood’s a bit brighter.

The highlight here is “New Blood.” Uptempo and upbeat, Markham signals early this album represents a change in life, attitude, and perspective. And I can’t think of a single song he’s ever done that sounds anything like it. Throughout the album, a theme of “moving on” and “well wishes” are given as opposed to past Markham mantras of lost love and confused direction. Pronouns have shifted in his lyrics, giving advice to broken hearts rather than lamenting his own. One Wolf’s material produced an image of internal battle and identity struggle. Ruined My Life (with a title that’s simultaneously humorous, unfortunate, guilty, and, maybe for an ex, downright accurate) contains songs that signify that internal battle, at least for now, has been won.

The death of R.E.M. likely put a heavy weight on the songwriter’s psyche. I’m merely speculating, but I’d be willing to bet money that’s who the “favorite band” is in Ruined My Life. Regardless, the influence has never been more prevalent in Markham’s music than here. “Drag Up Some Dead” sounds like it could belong deep on New Adventures In Hi-Fi and “Killers They Will Creep” makes the younger Markham of Waiting to Derail fame sound like a guy wasting away in Margaritaville. We’ve certainly come a long way from “Wish,” haven’t we?

But mostly, it’s an amalgamate of good ol’ Markham. Combining elements of pretty much everything he’s ever done, from the lovelorn alt-country of Waiting to Derail to the pop laden with sadness throughout the first One Wolf album, to the cacophony of guitar and emotional torment in the second One Wolf album, there’s signature sounds here that immediately make me think of Lubbock, Texas, even though I haven’t been there in years, and I’ve never heard this new music there.

But this is not Lubbock music. Lubbock is a wonderful place to live….for a while. But anyone who’s felt stuck there likely would put a few One Wolf tracks on their mixtape dedicated to a future away from the eerie desolation, the unending boredom, the strange loneliness in a town of 300,000 people. The Markham Sound is inherently Lubbock – it was born there, it still remains in his music; you never really wash off that red dirt. But lyrically, thematically, this is the soundtrack of Lubbock behind you. The melodies are more positive (“No Mosquitos,” which could be about leaving the 806), the thoughts are optimistic (“Best of Luck,” one of the strongest tracks on the album), and the humor, always hinted at in the past, is more apparent here. Less about love lost and more about change, traveling, touring, living life, Ruined My Life is a more mature Markham, a refocused, repurposed, relocated, and recalculated Texas musician Denton should be proud to call a resident.

Buy it on iTunes.

Jan 24 2012

The Top 50 Albums of the 2000s – One Wolf

Today I continue a series of posts dedicated to the best albums of the last decade, posting analysis of one album at a time.

30. One Wolf – S/T

Yesterday Daniel Markham released a solo EP of new material, straying far, far away from the alt-folk background of his primary songwriting venture One Wolf. Those of us who have seen the band perform live saw the transformation coming a long time ago. The sound of a One Wolf album and a One Wolf show are two different animals. One is quiet, reticent, calculated. The other is high-energy, eventful, fucking LOUD. As Markham currently makes steps to combine the two with his newer songs, we should step back and dust off his finest creation – One Wolf’s debut album.

Deviating from the straightforward alt-country of previous project Waiting to Derail, Markham, along with drummer Zach Davis and bassist Brad Ivy (Sammi Rana joined the band later), amp up the diverse instrumentation, abstract lyricism, and, most importantly, the power of a simple hook. “Don’t Take It Personal” is a Cobain-esque passive-aggressive ode to shitheads in a redneck bar, many of which One Wolf has reluctantly played in. “H(A)unted” is the album highlight, a lamentation on self-identity. “Roads” is a timeless commentary on lost love and moving forward, strung together with a naturally beautiful melody. Here, underneath all the confusion, we find optimism in Markham’s lyrics, as in the two-stepping affair “Close Your Eyes” and the surreal “Sleeper.”

Keeping to traditional melody, yet remaining progressive in texture, Markham and the rest of One Wolf created the blueprint for how they would approach this album’s sequel, and how Markham currently tackles his newest efforts. Overall, it makes for a remarkable listen, one that cannot be duplicated, and an album only a fool would pass up. Years later, One Wolf’s debut is still Markham’s finest work, and one of the best Hub City creations of the past decade.

Listen to One Wolf on Spotify.

Apr 27 2011

My Top 300 Songs of the 2000s – 30-21

Today I continue my ongoing feature showcasing my personal picks for the best songs of the past decade, posting ten songs at a time.

30. Johnny Cash – Hurt

Some artists are so talented they have the capability to make a cover song sound like their very own creation.  The Beatles, Tom Waits, and, most recently, Lissie, come to mind.  But no one did it like the Man In Black.  Johnny took Soundgarden’s grunge-ridden “Rusty Cage” and made it a Wild West, gun slinging, outlaw affair.  And then he took Nine Inch Nails’ haunting, spooky “Hurt” and turned it into a somber deathbed lamentation.

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Mar 3 2011

21 Bands To See @ SXSW 2011

Spring break is upon us, and with it the finest week of the year, SXSW.  As is customary, my friends and I are gonna RAGE and make like Andrew W.K. and PARTY HARD and all that good stuff.  New parties and showcases are being announced every day, and next week I hope to have a list of my picks for ones to check out.  In the meantime, however, after the jump is a list of bands I am hoping to see this year while meandering around downtown Austin, and you should try your damndest to see them as well.

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Jan 20 2011

My Top 300 Songs of the 2000s – 70-61

Today I continue my ongoing feature showcasing my personal picks for the best songs of the past decade, posting ten songs at a time.

70. Band of Horses – Is There a Ghost

The first track off Cease to Begin is a great introduction to Band of Horses’ second disc – it’s a beautiful rising track with the simple, repeated lyrics “I could sleep” and “When I lived alone, is there a ghost in my house.”  What follows is a near-flawless album that embodies the Southern spirit and indie charm this now-immensely popular group delivers.

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Jan 14 2011

Top 50 Albums of 2010 – The Top Ten

10. A-Trak – Dirty South Dance 2

A-Trak – We Don’t Want No Goblins

Dubstep and Southern rap were meant to be together, or at least they are when A-Trak’s behind the crossfader.  His second foray into mixing the two genres is a dance party like no other; stand by for the ending highlight, a mashup of Joker and Yung L.A.

9. Wavves – King of the Beach

Wavves – Post Acid

Nathan Williams’ 2009 and 2010 were completely different.  The previous year, he was an up-and-comer that crashed and burned publicly; now he is a renewed creative spirit with a diverse, improved sound.

8. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Kanye West – Monster (feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver & Nicki Minaj)

Believe the hype – Yeezy’s fifth album is quite probably his finest work yet.  His rapping is smart and funny and his production is characteristically slick.  If he keeps making gold, we will continue to put up with his hi-jinks, Internet, interview, or otherwise.

7. One Wolf – One Wolf II: Secret of the Wolf

One Wolf – Backyard

Perhaps the doom and gloom from One Wolf’s self-titled effort has disappeared, but in its place is diverse instrumentation, inescapable pop hooks, and sharp optimism. A sonic collage of indie, Americana, and even metal, this is one that just grows and grows on you.

6. Thrift Store Cowboys – Light Fighter

Thrift Store Cowboys – Regardless

Lubbock’s elder statesmen etch their place in historic alt-country with this, their fourth and finest album.  Daniel Fluitt’s keen storytelling and unmistakable voice lead the listener on a gradual crescendo in under fifty minutes.  Give it one listen and observe the injustice – Deer Tick should be opening for these guys by now.

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Jan 7 2011

Top 200 Tracks of 2010 – The Top Twenty

20. The Hold Steady – Hurricane J

Craig Finn, while less belligerent, is still plenty drunk and emotional and frank on Heaven Is Whenever, and the group delivers one of their poppiest efforts thus far.  “Hurricane J” is a plea to a lost soul he may be care a little too much about, spoken plainly and perfectly alongside a perfect tropical storm metaphor.  We’ve all known someone like the person Finn describes, and we’ve all said the exact same things.

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Jan 5 2011

Top 200 Tracks of 2010 – 100-51

100. Vampire Weekend – White Sky

99. The National – Lemonworld

98. Magic Kids – Superball

97. Drake – Up All Night (feat. Nicki Minaj)

96. Free Energy – Bang Pop

95. Katy Perry – Teenage Dream

94. Evan Voytas – Our Thing

93. DOM – Burn Bridges

92. Games – Strawberry Skies

91. Dominique Young Unique – Show My Ass

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Jan 3 2011

Top 200 Tracks of 2010 – 200-151

200. The Golden Filter – Solid Gold

199. Delorean – Real Love

198. Band of Horses – On My Way Back Home

197. Games – Heartlands

196. Cults – Oh My God

195. El Guincho – Bombay

194. Marnie Stern – Nothing Left

193. Interpol – Barricade

192. Ke$ha – Your Love Is My Drug

191. Janelle Monae – Make the Bus (feat. of Montreal)

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May 5 2010

My Top 300 Songs of the 2000s – 260-251

Today I continue my ongoing feature showcasing my personal picks for the best songs of the past decade, posting ten songs at a time.

260. The Teenagers – Homecoming

All of my guy friends find this song pretty hilarious, yet every girl I’ve ever played it for is repulsed by its lyrics.  Think of “Summer Nights” on Grease, but with a techno beat and the word “cunt” in the chorus.  You know what?  I’ll just let the lyrics speak for themselves.


Guy: I fucked my American cunt

Girl: I loved my English romance

Guy: It was dirty, a dream came true, just like I like it, she’s got nice tits

Girl: It was perfect, a dream came true, just like a song by Blink 182

And like Grease, it’s a singalong.  Hilarious, right?  Maybe?  Ladies?

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