Kaki King – Frame
The unusually placid first track from her 2004 album Legs to Make Us Longer. The whole thing is pretty amazing – percussive, angular, and funky acoustic instrumentals. Buy it here. David Cronenberg fans might recognize the creepy audio sample I added from his first feature, Shivers.
Joni Mitchell – Ladies of the Canyon
Does anything really need to be said about this eponymous title track from her 1970 album? This is prior to the Joni period I’ve always been obsessed with (Court + Spark – Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter), but every time I hear that 12-string intro, I get chills. Buy it here.
White Elephant – More to Love
Lovely piece of mellow acoustic magic. Buy it here, and check out that lineup!
Gillian Welch – Elvis Presley Blues
Beautiful slice of melancholy from her fantastic 2004 album Time the Revelator. Buy it here.
Sufjan Stevens – Jacksonville
From his highly acclaimed Illinoise album, this is a more or less perfect piece of country-tinged acoustic pop. Buy it here.
Scott Walker – On Your Own Again
Scott 3 and Scott 4 are some utterly bizarre, and completely fantastic albums. This is a wee little sad song from Scott 4. That voice! Also recommended is the 2009 documentary about him, 30th Century Man. Buy it here.
Linda Perhacs – Dolphin
From Parallelograms, one of the strangest, most beautiful rainy-day records I’ve ever heard. Buy it here.
Serge Gainsbourg – Ah, Melody
Widely considered his most coherent, solid album, Melodie Nelson is, indeed, a masterpiece. Buy it here.
Terry Callier – Dancing Girl
Why isn’t Terry Callier a household name? This epic track is from the incredible What Color is Love album. Buy it here.
Kenny Rankin – Killed a Cat
Skirting that gloriously fine line between Velveeta and Roquefort, the late, great Kenny Rankin was responsible for some beautiful not-that-guilty pleasures in the early 70′s. This is from Silver Morning. Buy it here.
Los Lobos – When the Circus Comes
Another underrated band! Phish has been known to cover this sad song, but nothing beats the original, from the Kiko album. Buy it here.
Blitzen Trapper – Stolen Shoes and Rifle
One of a few “neo-roots” bands that have somehow garnered some temporary critical praise from the fickle indie community. This is from their first full-length album Furr. Buy it here.
Philip Selway – The Ties that Bind Us
What a surprise this was. Radiohead’s drummer released a solo album on Nonesuch last year, an unexpectedly nuanced, mellow, acoustic affair about fatherhood and maturity. It went down really easily, and holds up really well. One of my favorites from last year. And look at that album cover! Buy it here.
Matthew Sweet – Eskimo
Altered Beast was easily one of the best and most underrated albums of the early 90′s. This is a demo from those sessions, from a CD single (remember those?). Buy it here.
Sia – The Bully
Co-authored by Beck, and it shows. Sia has a tendency to, uh, overdo things a bit, but this is just lovely. Buy it here.
Ween – Mutilated Lips
Just couldn’t resist this one. From The Mollusk. See them live, if you can – it just might change your life. Buy it here.