A&E Editor Zan Strumfeld’s Album Admiration

I spent a lot of time in my car this summer heading back and forth to Kingston for an internship at Chronogram magazine. With only a CD player to keep me company, I became ridiculously obsessed with a few albums. I’d like to say they helped shape my journey into this somewhat strange semester. So, I’m sharing them with you, hoping you can enjoy them, too.

The ones that just missed the cut:

The Wood Brothers Smoke Ring Halo (2011), The Decemberists The King is Dead (2011), Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues (2011), Laura Marling I Speak Because I Can (2010)


1. The Head and the Heart, The Head and the Heart (2010)

I cannot begin to explain how many times I’ve listened to this album. I discovered The Head and The Heart this summer while proofing a page for Chronogram…of course it was two days after they had a show at Bearsville Theatre. With heartwarming three-part harmonies and simple yet intricate melodies, this Seattle-based band is not to be missed.


Must hear: “Coeur D’Alene,” “Honey Come Home”

2. Beirut, The Rip Tide (2010)

This album is the perfect middle-ground between The
Flying Club Cup
and Gulag Orkestar. It’s upbeat, beautiful and shows Zach Condon at his best. He’s definitely matured with his songwriting abilities and it’s inspiring to have witnessed the journey. And the NPR Tiny Desk Concert is awesome to watch him, especially for someone who hasn’t seen him live (…me).


Must hear: “East Harlem,” “Payne’s Bay,” “Sante Fe”

3. Tuba Skinny, Six Feet Down (2010)

Tuba Skinny may be the closest our generation is going to come to 1920’s and 1930’s New Orleans blues and jazz. With the combination of guitar, tuba, trombone, trumpet, banjo, washboard and the swingin’ sexy sounds of vocalist Erika Lewis, it’s impossible not to move your feet, shake your hips and smile.



Must hear: “Do Your Duty,” “You Can Have My Husband”

4. Lisa Hannigan, Passenger, (2011)

Lisa Hannigan is a seductress. Her quiet Irish voice sounds like she’s straining her vocal cords through 20 years of smoking cigarettes. I have no idea if she even smokes, but her raspy yet tranquil voice works perfectly. And she’s getting big — Rolling Stone just reviewed her album (evidently that means she’s good). And I recently found out we have the same
birthday. So, of course, I’m trying to channel her.


Must hear: “Passenger,” “Safe Travels (Don’t Die),” “Little Bird”

5. Fruit Bats, Mouthfuls (2003)

This is by no means a new album, but I just started
listening to Fruit Bats this year. They’re so Shins-y (since Eric D. Johnson is in both bands) — but somehow it’s oddly refreshing. With a folky, psychedelic-pop feel, the melodies are marinated with melting harmonies and the poetic lyrics unfold into a beautiful story.



Must hear: “The Little Acorn,” “Seaweed,” “Rainbow Sign”

6. Billie Holiday, Lady Day (2001)

It was probably the best and worst idea to make a Rainy Day playlist…with mostly Billie Holiday. But, oh well! She caresses all the smooth and dark spots that no one likes to go to or think about, all with a touch of her heroin-filled, heartbreaking



Must hear: “What A Little Moonlight Can Do,” “Billie’s Blues”