Stuff similar to Springsteen's "Nebraska"?
January 20, 2009 12:46 PM   Subscribe

What other sad, angsty, folksy stuff can you recommend in the vein of Bruce Springsteen's totally awesome "Nebraska" and maybe to a lesser degree Bon Iver's "For Emma, Forever Ago"?
posted by xmutex to Media & Arts (39 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, wow. I love Nebraska. Quick thoughts...

For a close match, consider some other like Cowboy Junkies (especially albums The Caution Horses and Black Eyed Man, where Timmins has some very Nebraska-like barbs in his lyrics) and some of Lyle Lovett's dark/funny stuff (the I Love Everybody album comes to mind.)

More modern-like and less country but still similar in spirit there's always Radiohead, Iron and Wine, The Decemberists and The Postal Service... they all manage to make great/depressing music sometimes, but it's more about one or two songs here and there rather than an entire album.

For sheer bleakness, too, there's nothing like Leonard Cohen's The Future, which I guess is technically 'folk', too.
posted by rokusan at 1:03 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nick Drake
Frightened Rabbit
Jamie Barnes
Some Elliott Smith
posted by jbickers at 1:03 PM on January 20, 2009

Oh, and a lot of Jenny Lewis / Rilo Kiley. Very Nebraskan. ;)
posted by rokusan at 1:04 PM on January 20, 2009

I have to recommend the Iron & Wine / Calexico thing, In The Reins. So sad, so awesome.
posted by kingbenny at 1:05 PM on January 20, 2009

"Sandstorms" by Viking Moses and "Pathetic Me" by the Funerals come to mind.
posted by mds35 at 1:06 PM on January 20, 2009

Sufjan Stevens
Band of Horses
The Shins
posted by lottie at 1:07 PM on January 20, 2009

I've been listening in this same vein lately. I recommend Breathe Owl Breathe's "Ghost Glacier", Nina Nastasia's "The Blackened Air", The National's "Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers", and Great Lake Swimmers' "Ongiara". All of these are satisfyingly dark, dusty and achey, with plenty of alt-country/folk-type tendencies.
posted by teamparka at 1:07 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also: Fleet Foxes and Haley Bonar.
posted by teamparka at 1:08 PM on January 20, 2009

AND Songs:Ohia's everything, but especially "Lioness" and "Magnolia Electric Co.". OKAY I AM DONE. I swear. Sorry.
posted by teamparka at 1:09 PM on January 20, 2009

Uncle Tupelo
Son Volt
posted by octothorpe at 1:10 PM on January 20, 2009

Oh man, how could I forget Great Lake Swimmers! Definitely start there.
posted by jbickers at 1:11 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

(I came back to add The National, but Sarabeth did it first.)
posted by rokusan at 1:13 PM on January 20, 2009

Early stuff from The Mountain Goats may fill the bill, check out Sweden, All Hail West Texas and The Coroner's Gambit. Very lo-fi, mostly acoustic, and angsty as all get out.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 1:13 PM on January 20, 2009

Please listen to Uncle Tupelo's No Depression.
posted by Pants! at 1:16 PM on January 20, 2009

Bright Eyes, specifically the "I'm Wide Awake It's morning" album.
Townes van Zandt- anything.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:19 PM on January 20, 2009

This is perhaps my favourite genre of music.

Some of the best (not all of these artists' albums are what you are looking for):
Cat Power - Moon Pix
Songs:Ohia - Axxess & Ace
Nick Drake - Pink Moon
Nina Nastasia - The Blackened Air
Iron & Wine - The Creek Drank the Cradle
Leonard Cohen - Songs from a Room or even Best Of
Julie Doiron - Desormais (mostly in French)
Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron and Fred Squires - Lost Wisdom
Sibylle Green - Colour Green
Damien Jurado - Ghost of David
Elliott Smith - New Moon (though you have a lot of options)
Horse Feathers - Words are Dead
Neil Young - Harvest
Ola Podrida - Ola Podrida
Orillia Opry - Lighthouse for Stragglers' Eyes
Samamidon - All Is Well
Phosphorescent - Pride
Smog - A River Ain't Too Much to Love
Sufjan Stevens - Seven Swans
Bonnie Prince Billy - Then The Letting Go

That Viking Moses song ("Sandstorms") is a great tip. I can also suggest you have a look at my music-blog, where songs like this appear not infrequently. Definitely try the Antony, Carl Spidla, Baby Dee, Sister Suvi, Mt Eerie & Julie Doiron and We/Or/Me songs in my Best Songs of 2008. (Bon Iver isn't included because I heard it in 2007.)

Hope that's helpful.
posted by Marquis at 1:19 PM on January 20, 2009 [6 favorites]

If you don't already have it as well, check out Springsteen's The Ghost of Tom Joad.
posted by scody at 1:32 PM on January 20, 2009

Lucinda Williams.
posted by iviken at 1:34 PM on January 20, 2009

This may be a bit too bleak, but Steve von Till's (of Neurosis) solo work is definitely low key acoustic folksy stuff (not so much country-influenced). I highly recommend the album "If I Should Fall to the Field" (sample). Also, Blood and Time is an acoustic project of similar bent featuring Scott Kelly, another Neurosis member (and his own solo works are even more sparse and low-key). But I'd definitely say start by checking "Fall to the Field".
posted by FatherDagon at 1:43 PM on January 20, 2009

Johnny Cash - American Recordings
posted by Thorzdad at 1:47 PM on January 20, 2009

Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter.

Springsteen's Devils & Dust has that dark muttering going on too, with some slide guitar.

Also, you might enjoy digging into early country music, as in before the current Nashville style. A lot of what Bruce is drawing on in Nebraska had its roots in the lonesome wail of the originators of country (and it's nothing like the schmaltz that country has been drenched in for the last 30 years). A good place to start to get a lot of names and stylistic features is this NPR series, Honky Tonks, Hymns, and the Blues. Another area to look into is traditional Appalachian/old-time music. The stripped-down arrangments and haunting vocals that Bruce borrowed from Woody have their origin there.
posted by Miko at 1:51 PM on January 20, 2009

I've not heard Nebraska, but I would describe a lot of the work of Jason Webley as sad, angsty folksy stuff (it also has accordion, so YMMV). Check out the songs "Southern Cross," "Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder," "Millennium Bug," "With," "Coda," and "Train Tracks."
posted by Caduceus at 1:51 PM on January 20, 2009

Richmond Fontaine. Seriously. Just give this band a try. There are freebies on the myspace I've linked and, if you want more, I'll email the OP zip files of the band on the condition that, if you like it, you'll pay for a legit copy.

The other bands listed as responses are awesome, but Fontaine is a better fit for the question.

(Disclaimer: I've played shows with Fontaine and I've been a fan of them for years. Good people, good band.)
posted by stet at 1:54 PM on January 20, 2009

Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter.

Also this. But not as much as Fontaine.
posted by stet at 1:58 PM on January 20, 2009

Jackson C. Frank
Loudon Wainwright III
posted by elmono at 2:03 PM on January 20, 2009

Ghost of Tom Joad by Springsteen, and also Trace by Son Volt.
posted by OmieWise at 2:23 PM on January 20, 2009

Wow, I was seriously going to ask this question, though it was skewed more toward Bon Iver. Marquis' list is excellent. I enthusiastically second Horse Feathers. Truly wonderful band. Between Horse Feathers and Bon Iver you have a good eight hours of soundtrack for snowy, introspective weather.

You might also like Meric Long's solo stuff, which is folksier and quieter than his work as part of The Dodos.

And check out Mark Kozelek's two bands, Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon.
posted by zoomorphic at 2:49 PM on January 20, 2009

I can't recommend Fleet Foxes enough, very much in the Bon Iver vein.
posted by arcticwoman at 2:54 PM on January 20, 2009

posted by Cantdosleepy at 3:33 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tarnation, Gentle Creatures
kind of an overlooked band from the 90's. gorgeous.

The Mekons, Fear and Whiskey

Kristen Hersh's solo record Hips and Makers (single: Your Ghost.. the recorded version isn't on youtube sadly)

Cosign Nina Nastasia, she's great..
posted by citron at 3:44 PM on January 20, 2009

Acetone - Acetone
posted by chillmost at 3:44 PM on January 20, 2009

Chris Bathgate, and or Matt Jones.
posted by timsteil at 3:53 PM on January 20, 2009

A.A. Bondy
Maybe some Lambchop.
posted by Sailormom at 5:23 PM on January 20, 2009

I forgot The Last Town Chorus.
posted by Sailormom at 5:26 PM on January 20, 2009

Neil Young's On The Beach
posted by Neiltupper at 8:09 PM on January 20, 2009

This is my favorite genre as well.
check out:
Joe Pug's song "Hymn #101" (and other Joe Pug stuff)
Red House Painters' song "Have you forgotten"
Palace Brothers' album "Days in the Wake" (and Bonnie Prince Billy--lots of Will Oldham projects)
Simone White ("great imperialist state" "stand so tall")
posted by whatgorilla at 9:22 PM on January 20, 2009

Seconding drjimmy11, Townes Van Zandt. The guy's music, frankly, got me through my twenties. Some of the production in the early years was spooky, flute-ey crap, but there's enough live albums to get most of the songs without extraneous instrumentation.
posted by notsnot at 5:50 AM on January 21, 2009

Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger often gets compared to Nebraska. Not quite as angsty, but it has similar pathos, storytelling, and sparseness.
posted by alb at 6:20 AM on January 21, 2009

I know this thread is old... but I just came across the artist, Peter Case... who specifically reminded me of Nebraska (and your question).

Interestingly, seeing this wikipedia entry, specifically mentions Springsteen listening to his albums in 1989, not long after Nebraska came out.
posted by jimmereeno at 9:14 AM on October 6, 2009

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