The last couple days I’ve added some really outstanding music to my collection, but it’s a strange combination of stuff.

First, two albums by The Band, Music from Big Pink and The Band. I can’t believe I didn’t grow up with these, and have them memorized by the time I was in high school. I’ve long had The Band’s greatest hits, but somehow their most popular songs manage to not quite be as amazing as songs like “Whispering Pines” and “Tears of Rage.” The apparent looseness of the music is very misleading: while it sounds like they treated the beat as an optional thing to be followed now and then, they were very thoughtful in their choices of instruments and arrangements. It’s the very definition of genius: music that doesn’t call attention to its own complexity, but instead offers you a space to fall into.

Second, just by chance I stumbled upon Sound Tribe Sector 9, an electronic/ambient group that completely blows me away. I discovered Mono and Mogwai not that long ago, and STS9 reminds me partly of those two, but jazzier: some of their work also has overtones of the great Southern jazz group Sea Level (whose Cats on the Coast is tremendous). Their 2004 New Year’s Eve show is very, very good. Go check it out.

[To the tune of Sound Tribe Sector 9, “Open E,” from the album “2004-12-31 – Tabernacle“.]