Growing up I was into a whole variety of music, largely discovered on the wonderful all-knowing internet. Alas, no friends of mine were music fans so I recall a lot of traipsing on Myspace and message boards, finding out about all the cool bands I should be listening to.
I was fifteen when I came across Bright Eyes, in 2005. It was their I’m Wide Awake/Digital Ash era, and by that point they already had a pretty hefty back catalog. I remember downloading Fevers and Mirrors and listening to it immediately and falling in love. Bright Eyes were pretty much my favourite band for a good year or so; I listened to everything they had released and watched every live video and got a hold of every rare track and b-side. I also had my Dad’s old record player in my bedroom, and began collecting all the 7″s and records I could find.
Through Bright Eyes, I found so many other bands. Reading interviews by Conor, he would talk about Saddle Creek: bands like Cursive, Neva Dinova and The Faint. Being the curious ragamuffin that I was, I checked out every single band on the label roster. I thought it was really cool. There was also the Team Love sister label, which released records by Jenny Lewis, David Dondero and Tilly and the Wall.
Saddle Creek was the first label I was aware of and followed with any interest. I was totally fascinated by it.
In 2007 we had to do a compulsory 2 weeks’ work experience, and I wrote to Saddle Creek to see if I could do it at the London office. Unfortunately I could not do two solid weeks but instead was offered a day each week for ten weeks. This, unfortunately, was not conductive to my school timetable so I had to pass (I ended up doing the work experience at Brighton Sealife Center which was pretty great anyway). From then on I always followed which label was releasing what records.
In truth, I don’t listen to the beloved records of my teen years very frequently these days but I was just thinking about the label and decided to make a list of some of my favourite releases from the golden days. In no order:
CURSIVE – THE UGLY ORGAN
Tim Kasher’s finest hour; the concept album was released in 2003 and is by far my favourite Cursive album. Pop fact: Cursive featured cellist Gretta Cohn up until 2005, who was pretty much the Saddle Creek gang’s in-house cellist. So, what are Cursive up to now? Kasher put out some solo releases, as well as The Good Life records, and the band are actually set to release a new album this year. I have seen Cursive live but twice – when I was 17 I journeyed to Brighton and watched them at the Concorde 2, and once in London in 2009. They are a brilliant rock band. Art Is Hard and Sierra are the standouts from this record, but Kasher is quite the concept album connoisseur and Domestica, Happy Hollow and The Good Life’s Album Of The Year were all favourites of mine.
NEVA DINOVA – NEVA DINOVA
I discovered Neva Dinova and absolutely fell in love with Jake Bellows’ sheer melancholy. I chose to include this release because it contains my favourite Neva Dinova songs, but I was a big fan of The Hate Yourself Change and the Bright Eyes collaboration One Jug Of Wine, Two Vessels also, as well as the most recent 2008 record. Album highlights: Dances Fantastic, The Tin Man, Brooklyn, Lucifer’s Lament. I just loved something about Bellows’ songwriting. Everything he did just sounded kind of classic to me. I met Jake a couple of years ago through my friend Alessi (her first album was produced by Saddle Creek mogul Mike Mogus, who brought Jake in for guest vocals) and saw him play a couple of solo shows.
TWO GALLANTS – WHAT THE TOLL TELLS
Man, I loved Two Gallants so much. This 2006 record was on constant play all summer that year. The first record, The Throes, is also fantastic. They put out some subsequent records with brilliant moments, but this album is consistently amazing from start to finish. Every track is a standout. In summer 2008, before I started uni, I came to London to watch the band play a sweaty gig in New Cross. They returned to London last year and performed an incredible show at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen. Tyson Vogel is one of the most amazing drummers I’ve ever seen live.
RILO KILEY – THE EXECUTION OF ALL THINGS
Holy molies. This record killed me. I loved Rilo Kiley so much; they became my favourite band for a good while. This album is pure gold. Rilo Kiley at their best. I really went down a wormhole with this band, and fell into hunting every release and every b-side, rare track and live bootleg etc etc. I fell in love with Blake’s solo project, The Elected, and Jenny’s solo work with The Watson Twins. I think any old skool Rilo Kiley fan has a special place in their heart for With Arms Outstretched and My Slumbering Heart. Both tracks appear on this record and I must have listened to them hundreds of times. I still go back to this record and remember just how much I love it. The album that came after, More Adventurous is wonderful, as are all the albums and EPs that came before this.
Team Love, a label founded by Conor Oberst and distributed through Saddle Creek, also released some of my favourite records. Tilly and the Wall’s Wild Like Children and Bottoms of Barrels were two of my favourites (incidentally, the band released UK singles through Moshi Moshi, which led me to discover Au Revoir Simone and Mates of State, who also released Moshi singles). Jenny Lewis’ first solo album with The Watson Twins was one of my favourite records. I think I listened to You Are What You Love approx 10000 times.
In terms of Bright Eyes, that could take a whole other blog post.
The was so much music comic from the Saddle Creek label at that time. I really loved it and it really was a big part of my life as a nerdy teen with not a lot else to do besides obsess over albums. It led me to find a lot of bands I still love today.