Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Here come this week’s releases… and there goes my musical dignity.

After agreeing to contribute to our beloved "Drop It Like It’s Hot" blog for this week, I swiftly kicked myself at the subsequent realization of what exactly I had on my plate in the upcoming days. Nonetheless, I delved into recent releases and poked around at what was on the menu.

And there it was.

A certain album is being released this week to which any average, sane human being would probably pay no mind. But considering I am no such human being, this particular album (and its delivering artist) are of a bit more importance to me than, say, anyone else in the world. Instead of continually living in fear of someone someday discovering this embarrassing obsession I have so unfortunately and defenselessly been born with, I am ready to rip the Band-Aid and come right out:

I AM HOPELESSLY AND UNBEARABLY IN LOVE WITH MARC ANTHONY. Can’t help it. Sorry. Always have been, always will be.

And there goes any shot I ever may have had at a job in the music industry.

So, needless to say, I’m thrilled about the release of Iconos, a cover album comprised entirely of Spanish-language songs my Latin lover so beautifully iterates from the original artists he admires. From what I’ve heard thus far, the songs sound about as good as a cover could, with not many surprises, but not many letdowns, either. What could be better? Actually, I could think of a few things, starting with Marc Anthony's coming to Athens and serenading me affectionately with said songs. But I digress...

Another highly anticipated album to drop this week is First Aid Kit’s The Big Black and the Blue. I stumbled upon the band about two winters ago amidst my momentary fixation on Fleet Foxes, when a video featuring the girls from First Aid Kit covering (quite alluringly, might I add) one of my favorite Foxes songs showed up on YouTube. However, from what I’ve heard of The Big Black and the Blue thus far, I’m a bit underwhelmed. Sure, it’s a debut album, but it really sounds amateur. I suppose I expected the band to come out a little more on top than most other groups, simply because of the praise and attention they’ve already received in their YouTube prime.

Having always been appreciative of Black Moth Super Rainbow, I’m also looking forward to frontman Tom Fec’s release of a side project album this week under better-known pseudonym Tobacco. Maniac Meat has thus far received mostly positive reviews, and the sound backs it up. A trippy, heavy album boasts guest appearances from Beck, which can only be a good thing. I’m excited to see what rising stars like Bassnectar will do with this album.

Yet another cover album is due out this week, this one may be musically more enticing, but not visually. Sorry Bettye, you’re simply not as yummy as Marc. Bettye LaVette’s Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook does not disappoint. Her soulful, earnest companion of a voice takes listeners through a series of uber-cherished Brit Rock songs that simply could not be covered successfully by anybody else. And success she most certainly achieves. From Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” to Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” to The Animals’ “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” she’s got it covered, literally and figuratively.

So yeah, I think it’s safe to say this week’s releases pretty much run the wide gamut, with the addition of a few other unmentioned releases. But let’s be completely honest with ourselves, we’ve all got ants in our pants over Marc Anthony and him alone.

--Courtney Baldasare, Editorial Director

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Huge, Commendable Releases and... Bo Bice?

Try to contain your excitement, everyone. No, seriously. This is a pretty good week for album releases, all genres considered. So get your torrent software ready (don't even try to deny it), and let's run down the list, shall we?

We'll start off with the biggest of them all: The baddest of the bad; the album that people will be talking about for years to come. When your future self looks back on this very day, May 18, 2010, he/she will undoubtedly be thinking, "Wow, I remember that day. For that's when the laudable American Idol runner-up Bo Bice released his masterpiece, his crowning achievement, his pièce de résistance: 3. Oh, and what a day it was."

What's that, you say? No one remembers Bo Bice?


Joking aside, there really is some intriguing new music dropping this week. Certainly mentionable is Infinite Arms, the new release from Band of Horses. The album is actually still streaming on their website, so that's something worth checking out.

Another heavy-hitting "B" band in the indie world, Ohio's own Black Keys, are also back with their eighth album, Brothers. Early praise for this thing has been plentiful. Then again, who could expect anything less from a couple of Ohioans? That's right. We're kick-ass. Flaunt it.

Soulstress Janelle Monae is one of the most hyped artists of the week; her new album The Archandroid is Monae's first since she came under the wing of Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Bad Boy Records. A lot of positive things are being said about this album. My opinion? If the rest of Monae's album is anything like the first single "Tightrope," this release has the potential to cross a lot of boundaries genre-wise. (Side note: I'm considering growing my hair and messing around with it to get it to look like Monae's. Think I should? Think I'm out of my mind? Free this Thursday? Send all answers to Kevin.S.Rutherford@gmail.com.)

Moving on, it would be asinine not to mention LCD Soundsystem and This is Happening. Sure, the title sounds like self-reassurance that this is, in fact, "real life" during a particularly potent drug trip, but come on, has LCD Soundsystem led us astray yet? Plus, the lead single is called "Drunk Girls." Is that not reason alone to give this album a chance?

Let's take a different route for a moment and delve into the reggae side of things. Jamaican reggae/ska legends Toots and the Maytals are releasing what seems like their thousandth album, Flip and Twist. And on a semi-related note, Damian Marley, one of Bob's many sons, is releasing a collaboration album titled Distant Relatives with rapper Nas. One has to think there will be at least a minor reggae influence there given Marley's track record. Those are two albums I'm definitely looking forward to. The Maytals are downright superb, and Marley has always done his surname proud. That said, if there are any among the Marley offspring that seem closer to rap, Damian's the man. That should be an interesting collaboration indeed.

Those are just a few of the many albums dropping this week. From Janelle Monae to Damian Marley, Band of Horses to Black Keys, one thing's for sure: it ain't an off-week.

BRB, gonna go listen to this devastating new Bo Bice album.

--Kevin Rutherford, Managing Editor

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Massive and the misspelled

May is a month of massive album releases— at least, in terms of this tiny, mostly indie music community in which we choose to dwell, they are massive. Think “summer festival headliner” massive. “Display rack at Barnes & Noble” massive. “Their song's in a car commercial” massive.

Only one week ago new albums from marginally massive bands Broken Social Scene, The Hold Steady and The New Pornographers, to name a few arrived on select store shelves for our gracious ears to hear. But this week also has some impressive names to add to the building list of anticipated albums. The anticipation will be quelled, and our music storage devices—no signs of brand partiality here, my friend—will be contentedly full.

The National’s fifth studio album, High Violet, is arriving via 4AD. Their cerebral lyrics, master craftsmen skills and Matt Berninger’s rumbling vocals found significant success with their previous full-length, The Boxer, which came out way back in 2007. Years later, that album still resonates, but new material is ready and welcome, and we’ll take it, thank you. And speaking of massive, The National are set to play none other than Radio City Music Hall on June 16. It seems these boys have surpassed marginal rock stardom and have entered a central ring of commercial success: Impressive indeed.

Fellow commercial rock star Jack White also has a new album arriving this week from one of his many bands, and that band is The Dead Weather. Along with band mates Alison Mosshart (The Kills), Jack Lawrence (The Raconteurs) and Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age), Jack will be issuing their sophomore release, Sea of Cowards, on his own record label, Third Man Records. The Dead Weather has not encouraged comparable anticipation to what The National has built. In fact, their debut album, Horehound, came out less than a year ago. To their eagerness and energy I say bravo, but to their decision to put out records so close in relative time, I say, "What’s the rush?"

Outside the massive release category, Sleigh Bells’ much anticipated debut album, Treats, arrives Tuesday. A band lauded on the net before the release of any proper album, this Brooklyn duo — who make quite loud music, if you haven’t yet experienced the induced pounding ears syndrome —will now have a full-length to their credit via Mom + Pop Records.

Freak-folk sisters Bianca and Sierra Casady, known as CocoRosie, are releasing their fourth album and their Sub Pop debut, Grey Oceans, this week. They are freaks in a good way but freaks nonetheless.

A few bands unsatisfied with conventional English spellings are also putting albums out this week. GAYNGS are a musical collective created by Ryan Olson with Zack Coulter and Adam Hurlburt of Solid Gold crafting groovy and sexy sounds. The first GAYNGS record, Relayted—out on Jagjaguwar—features vocal layers contributed from members of Bon Iver, Megafaun and The Rosebuds.

And San Francisco garage band Thee Oh Sees— the other spelling mistake band of which I speak — have a new album called Warm Slime In the Red.

There you have it: a wrap-up of this week’s most massive and most notable releases — at least in my humble opinion. I neglected to mention that Meat Loaf has a new album out called Hang Cool Teddy Bear. And I wish had neglected to mention it. I feel strange now.

--Jessi Finn, Blogger/ Album Reviews Editor

Monday, May 3, 2010

Cuatro de Mayo Means Mas Musica

Wow, it's been a rough couple of weeks for new music releases. Cypress Hill. Peter Frampton. Yikes. Relax, music lovers, it's time to come out of your bomb shelters. May is here and so is a huge week for new albums.

Like, really, really huge.

First of all, The Hold Steady will release their much-anticipated Heaven is Whenever. The band is adjusting to the departure of their keyboard guy, Franz Nicolay, but, judging by some released tracks, they manage to stay pretty close to their trademark sound, even with the standard guitar-bass-drums configuration. Actually, "Barely Breathing" features keys, and it has more of a new sound than the other tracks. Oh, and keep an ear out for a pretty slick guitar solo in "Rock Problems."

In poppier, more harmonic news, The New Pornographers look to snap their one-album losing streak with Together, their first release since 2007's Challengers, which (people might hate me for saying) was downright crappy. The significantly less crappy Together has been streaming on NPR for a while, and it appears that the Canadians have discarded the crappiness of their last release in favor of a non-crappy sound anchored by faster if not more upbeat guitar and cello riffs. This is great news for New Porn fans who worried that the band only had three extremely uncrappy albums in them. In summation: Challengers was crappy; Together isn't.

Oh God, there's still so much more.

Freaking Broken Social Scene is back. More Canadians. Sure, they were never super gone, but Forgiveness Rock Record is their first actual album in half a decade. All those musicians? All that time? I have three predictions: it will be eclectic, it will be pretty damn good, it will be pretty damn eclectic and good. Early listens (they've been streaming it on their website, check out that link back there) indicate that I am totally right. As an added bonus, one of the songs starts off with the lyric "Ungrateful little motherfuck," which is just delightful.

For people with other tastes, non-Canadian hip-hoppers Bone Thugs-n-Harmony will drop their first record since Flesh-n-Bone was released from prison (and possibly their last before he goes back). Now, I'll admit I'm not extremely familiar with the aging Clevelanders, but I do feel confident in saying that they will do their best to recapture the sound that brought them so much commercial success in the 90s.

Man, that's a ton of good music for one week. Of course, for every yin, there must be a yang. I feel obligated to mention that, in case there are any aural masochists reading this, May 4th will mark the release of albums by - I kid you not - Michael Bolton, Papa Roach, Godsmack and Toni Braxton. True, that would be an excellent lineup for The Surreal Life, but I'm guessing not a great three hours - give or take (hopefully take) - of music.

- Greg Gallant, Copy Chief