October Music Recs | hold back the river

October 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

My friends could use a break from the endless guided tours of my procrastination-driven, painstakingly curated iTunes playlists to which they are routinely subjected. In the spirit of sharing with a wider (read: less exasperated) audience, I’ve put together a mix of my October ‘14 favorites – stuff I’ve been listening to in Seville and Bucharest, on the subway and on planes, on the shores of the Mediterranean at sunset and on the way to the club after class this week. Think of it as an amuse-bouche for the heavier films/books headed our way now that we’ve got the sunscreen and blockbusters out of the way. That, or a terrifying glimpse into what it’s like to spend time with me in meatspace.

Open a Google tab and settle in for 45 minutes of “did people really used to pay L.I. to write this for their magazines?” (They did. I replaced my professional decorum with enthusiasm at some point in the intervening years.)

hold back the river



Pa Pa Power – Dead Man’s Bones

Ryan Gosling released an album as part of a duo in October 2009, and it’s possibly the best thing he’s ever done in the public eye. Don’t take my word for it, hit Play.

House of Winston – Shakey Graves

This blog got its name from a song from Shakey Graves’ first album. The second album, released a few days ago (five years to the day after Dead Man’s Bones self-titled effort, for those keeping track at home) has been on constant rotation at Built to Roam HQ.

Battles – Hudson Taylor

Irish pop-folk brother duo Hudson Taylor, previously known as Harry & Alfie, have been hard at work since before being signed by Polydor: Battles is from the eponymous EP that came out back in 2012, when they were still teenagers. Their first full-length album is slated for a February 2015 release. You do the math on how long I’ve been waiting.

Patriarch – Delta Spirit

Texas-based Delta Spirit’s Into the Wide (Sept. 9) is their fourth record, and they just keep getting better. It’s cohesive and self-aware, driven and bold, something closer to the Killers’ Hot Fuss than anything in recent memory in their genre. It’s no surprise that they’re amazing live.

Hold Back the River – James Bay

One to watch. When this song came up on BBC Radio 1’s breakfast show earlier this week, I actually forgot I was in the middle of eating for four solid minutes. The word poignant comes to mind.

Someday (The Strokes cover) – Oh Mercy

Beautiful cover of what is surely a classic by now, from an Australian band that got its name from a Bob Dylan album. I think they’re drinking PBR in Portland these days.

Thirteen Thirtyfive – Dillon

Brazilian-born Dillon (Dominique Dillon de Byington) isn’t a household name, but should be, considering how much she’s grown since 2011’s This Silence Kills. If you like Lykke Li, you’ll love her.

Pools – Glass Animals

Glass Animals are a newish band hailing from Oxford. In the brief time they’ve been playing together they’ve been signed by Paul Epworth (the producer behind Adele, Florence and the Machine, and Bloc Party), toured with St. Vincent, and performed at SXSW this year. Quite the resume for four guys who took a year off from music to focus on their degrees after 2012’s Leaflings EP.

Their album Zaba (June 10) is a treat from start to finish, as you can sample in Pools, but my favorite thing they’ve ever put out is Holiest, a collaboration with Brooklyn singer Tei-Shi from GA’s remix EP Gooey (April 8).

Floor of the Ocean – Mark Lanegan

The latest from musicians’ musician Lanegan, he of pre-Nirvana Kurt Cobain, Queens of the Stone Age, The Twilight Singers, and Isobel Campbell collaborations. This guy started his career in 1984 and spent the past thirty years developing his distinctive style in a dizzying array of acts. Phantom Radio, his forthcoming record, is out on October 21 on Vagrant Records. I’ve been listening to it on repeat.

Off & On – Findlay

Here’s what I know about Natalie Findlay, since there’s not a surfeit of information about her floating around and music trivia sticks to me like chewing gum to your best jeans: she’s based in London, has a hilariously dirty mouth, supported Miles Kane and Jake Bugg, has recently toured in western Europe (I have vague recollections of her playing in Paris when I was there last year), once named the Velvet Underground as her band-on-a-pedestal, and favors vocal distortions that bring Julian Casablancas to mind.

Last I heard she was releasing EPs and working on a full-length album, but with no release date, I’ve been tiding myself over with Off & On, a furious romp of a song that first appeared in a BMW commercial. Like Hudson Taylor, Findlay’s signed to Polydor.

Foreigner’s God – Hozier

It’s no secret that Andrew Hozier-Byrne is one of the best new acts around. His first album, the eponymous Hozier, was released in his native Ireland in September and globally earlier in October.

This guy has the sort of voice, presence, and sensibilities that could raise an army in an apathetic crowd – or score an Irish Gothic film, a la Southern Gothic, depending on which song you’re listening to. He’s got genre-straddling down pat, which is impressive for someone who’s nominally a singer-songwriter that could’ve fit comfortably in the new wave of Brit folk.

He blew onto the stage last year with Take Me to Church, possibly the most intense relationship-related song I’ve heard in years (with a video that drew attention to homophobic hate crime, because clearly it wasn’t bold enough for Hozier to sing what amounts to a sweeping sacrilegious hymn of devotion to a girl who laughs at funerals and punctuate it with amen) and followed it up with From Eden, an equally intense number that has the narrator slithering down from Eden to hide outside the door of an idealistic girl who’s “familiar like [his] mirror years ago.”
Long story short, it was nigh-impossible to pick just one of the seventeen mind-blowing songs on the album for the mix. I settled on Foreigner’s God because it’s the one I’ve been playing most often during my latest trip, and it showcases Hozier’s lyrical strength at its purest and more poignant. (There’s that word again.)

That’s all, folks. I plan to do this lengthy playlist/review combo every month, or more often if the mood strikes and academia permits, so stay tuned if music’s your thing.


Travel Series #2 – A Soundtrack for Parisian Hotel Rooms

March 23, 2014 § Leave a comment


Brassai – Morris Column in the Fog, 1932

Paris is one of the cities I know best, so it comes as no surprise that my first assignments this season will have me guiding there for much of April and all of May. I’ve been busy with research for the past couple of weeks, and there’s a series of posts on the City of Light in the works for this spring, but I thought I’d start with a little instant gratification: a mix I listened to last year when I stayed in various Parisian hotels for a few weeks.

The thing about traveling for a living is that you don’t get to make your own schedule very often – at least that’s the case in my line of work, which has me accompanying groups of up to fifty people all over Europe on a strict schedule. I love my job, but there’s no mistaking it for a holiday. The exception? Those couple of hours in the evening, just as the sun is setting over whichever city I find myself in, when I can have a glass of wine and write. This mix is my go-to soundtrack – I hope it inspires you as much as it inspired me.


Edward Hopper – Hotel Room

TRAVEL SERIES #2. Living out of a suitcase: A cinematic mix for long mornings and slow nights [click here to stream]

01. Cigarettes – Russian Red
02. Champagne Coast – Blood Orange
03. Misery Loves Company – New Build
04. Pretty Face – Soley
05. Pure Shores – All Saints
06. Toxic – Yael Naim
07. Man with the Movie Camera – The Cinematic Orchestra
08. Un, deux, trois – Saint Privat
09.  Low Battery – Jaga Jazzist
10. Le prochain amour – Jacques Brel
11. L’ombre et la lumiere – Coralie Clement
12. Ever Fallen in Love – Nouvelle Vague

Travel Series #1 – Heathrow

February 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

Travel Series #1 - Heathrow

It’s a cold, overcast day in Bucharest, but what better time to start a project than late winter? By the time March rolls in, the hard work is done; all that spring energy can fuel creativity and play instead – and that’s what writing and travel are all about.

I started thinking about summer travel plans in March 2013. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d spend four months later that year wandering around Europe as a tour leader. Both times I went to England I took the ferry from Calais, but I listened to this Heathrow playlist on the deck (and at the airport in Paris), so it felt appropriate to make it the first post on Built to Roam. London is my favourite city, and I’ve been told that this mix plays like a love letter.

Travel Series will be an ongoing feature on BTR.


01. The Lido – Adrian Johnston
02. The Victorians Are Here – The Secret Love Parade
03. St. James Infirmary – Allen Toussaint
04. Border Crosser – Trails and Ways
05. This Charming Man – The Smiths
06. I Wanna Be Adored – The Stone Roses
07. Pumpkin Soup – Kate Nash
08. Wandering Star – Portishead
09. Ruby, My Dear – Thelonious Monk
10. Size Too Small – Sufjan Stevens
11. Sun – Two Door Cinema Club
12. 110% – Jessie Ware

Click on the cover to stream the mix on 8tracks.

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