Sunday, October 30, 2011

November 1 Releases, 2011

By: Cassie Whitt, Blogs Editor

In this installment of ACRN's Drop It Like It's Hot, blogs editor Cassie will check out some things she's never given a chance in the past.

First on the testing table is Hit The Lights: a band known in my mind as one of the "highlighter generation." One whose fans could be found in neon-splattered clothes scrawled with large, block lettering journeying across Warped Tour parking lots over the past couple years.

Some would argue that my propensity toward black drives me away from such bands, but I argue this: These newer pop-punk bands, for me, offer nothing that is actually new. I can point to examples in the past which they echo, and I just can't get into a re-hashing of the same thing that I liked and perceived as better then.

Perhaps, if I hadn't grown up with bands like The Starting Line and Brand New (circa 2001), I could have a better appreciation for something like Hit The Lights' new EP, Invicta.

Still, it was not an unpleasant listen and I'm glad I gave it a chance. It has everything a good pop-punk EP should have: catchy choruses, a higher-than-usual male vocal, a couple mellow breakdowns and sing-along quality.

I may give Hit The Lights more chances after getting a taste through the Invicta EP.

The second chance I gave this week was to The Decemberists, because I know they hold a special place in editorial director Kevin Rutherford's heart. This week, they release Long Live The King, yet another EP, this one of b-sides from The King Is Dead, which came out earlier this year.

Immediately, I was struck by the title of the first track: "E. Watson." I could only hope it meant beloved Hermione Granger actress and fashionista Emma Watson. My hopes were naïve, I suppose.

The Decemberists reak of PBR, teardrops in dirty beards, slow-motion civil war reenactments and mountainsides: a strangely comforting combination. I get the appeal, but I don't want it for myself. I just wouldn't mind being surrounded by it from time to time when I need a nap.

Chance three of the week goes to Girl in a Coma because they are on Blackheart Records, so I assume they have to be at least a little bad-ass. Exits And All The Rest is a tad on the sleepy side for me, though more up-beat than the aforementioned EP.

The album, with its old-fashioned feeling and smooth alto lady vocals, does nothing remarkable for me. It just kind of makes me want to start a rad, more exciting band of my own here in Athens.

Who's down?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

October 25 Releases, 2011

By: Chris Dobstaff, News Editor

It’s almost time for Halloween; so, let’s see what’s in the goodie bag of new releases this week. There’s definitely a mixture of tricks, as well as some stellar treats.

Let’s start with one of the tastiest of treats of the year. Justice, an electronic duo from France, just released its second studio album Audio, Video, Disco. I’ve only tasted a brief sample of the album, but even I, more a fan of straight rock, cannot deny that this album has some serious kick. Everyone get ready to hear Audio, Video, Disco at house parties for the remainder of the year.

We also saw the release of the new Coldplay album, Mylo Xyloto. Is it true that Coldplay is one of the lamest bands on Earth? Probably. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some “Clocks” every now and then.

How will the band’s fifth album stand up? The first single, “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall,” not only is home to a classic cheesy Coldplay title, but is also utterly unexciting. Overall, reviews have been a mixed bag, but we should all indulge ourselves in “Princess of China,” just to hear Coldplay and Rihanna together at last. Cause that’s really what we’ve always wanted, right?

The legendary Tom Waits also returned with his first batch of studio material since 2004 with Bad As Me. The 61-year-old singer-songwriter has backed up his 2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction with another great album. Just go listen to “Get Lost” and try to fight the urge to listen to the rest of the album. Stay on the look out for Amanda Norris’ upcoming review of the record. That girl loves her some Tom Waits.

Our very own Editorial Director Kevin Rutherford reviewed My Brightest Diamond’s All Things Will Unwind this week. The guy generally picks everything to pieces, but he actually gave the disc a positive review. I’d say that just about gives me reason to check it out.

She & Him took on some classic holiday tunes with A Very She & Him Christmas. I have to be honest with you guys, though. I’m about fed up with Zooey Deschanel’s cuteness. I just can’t take it anymore! Am I the only one here? Also, Christmas albums are generally boring, and seeing as the band’s second studio album bored me to tears, I can’t imagine this little collection of songs to be much different.

Michael Bublé also released a Christmas album! Skip that one too.

In fact, here’s a little piece of advice: Unless the Christmas album is by Elvis or Fats Domino, steer clear of it. (Fats Domino has the greatest holiday collection of all time. Real talk, you guys.)

Brian Wilson released In The Key of Disney, an album of the Beach-Boys-legend's singing songs from “You Got a Friend in Me” to “Heigh-Ho.” I haven’t heard any of Wilson’s newer material, but I’m a sucker for some Disney classics. Count me in.

Lastly, Deer Tick released Divine Providence. Though they sound like a dirty southern band, the group actually hails from Rhode Island. Lead singer John McCauley’s raspy-yet-powerful voice is just what one want at the head of one's rock band. Deer Tick gives you the southern rock the Kings of Leon did prior to recording “Use Somebody.” It’s nothing you haven’t heard before, but it’s still a lot of fun to get down and dirty with some root-sy rock.

That’s about it. No real spooktacular albums coming out, but for the love of God can we stop releasing Christmas albums before we trick-or-treat?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

October 18 Releases, 2011

By: Kevin Rutherford

If you've followed this blog for more than a few weeks, you know that when it comes to new music, there are good weeks and there are not-so-good weeks.

This week could probably be considered one of the latter; though, it's not due to the quality of the music presented, per se. The main issue is the selection.

Some weeks are crazy in terms of releases. Intense. Much to choose from. Like when three or four blockbuster films release on the same weekend. You just don't know where to begin.

This week, the path to take is quite clear. Start with M83.

The electronic dream pop act from France returns with their first record since 2008's acclaimed Saturdays = Youth. In fact, off that record, the song "Kim & Jessie" was ranked at No. 256 on Pitchfork's 500 Best Songs of the 2000s. High expectations? You bet. Did it live up to them? Check back with later in the week to find out.

The next stop is with Jane's Addiction. Yeah, right, that Jane's Addiction. Who on earth knows how it happened, but the '90s icons are back with a new record, The Great Escape Artist. For those keeping score at home, it's their first record since 2003 and only their second since 1990.

Let's just say that the reception to the new album hasn't been too positive. Check out Staff Writer Sam Boyer's review of the album for further details. And she's a '90s freak, so you know you have an expert on the genre talking here.

Everlast, formerly of '90s rap act House of Pain, continues to try to reclaim the success of "What It's Like" with Songs of the Ungrateful Living. When Everlast is the third largest artist I mention this week, you know things aren't going well.

Family Force 5 keeps trying to make crunk rock happen with III. If the first single, "Wobble," is any indication, you'll be listening to this record purely to have something to laugh at for your next party. Any song that takes a term commonly used in American dubstep and applies it to music that is decidedly not dubstep is just asking for it. Granted, the term "wobble" has other connotations, but let's think in terms of the modern day here.

Plus, these lyrics:
"Scenie babies/ Throwback 'cedes/ Bleach-blonde hair and your neon shadies/ Skinny jeans/ Know what I mean/ Roll the red carpet out the limousine."

What the actual fuck?

No, you know what, that's it. I'm done. Humanity is over. I just can't deal with music anymore.

I'm sorry, Kentucky Headhunters, Casting Crowns, Bond, Kimya Dawson, My Brightest Diamond and Patrick Stump. I just... I can't do this anymore. I quit.

Friday, October 14, 2011

October 11 Album Releases, 2011

By: Scott Smith, Album Reviews Editor

A Radiohead release could be considered the biggest release of the year, let alone a given week. But TKOL Remixes 1234567, a series of reinterpretations of the band’s latest release, The King of Limbs. Ironically, the album that I personally criticized for being too short is packed with material from some of the electronic music worlds brightest rising stars including Caribou, and Jamie xx (of The XX.)

A similar endeavor was embarked upon for Caribou’s most recent album, Swim, and garnered fantastic results. Radiohead themselves seem to be overseeing, or at least, embracing the project as they always have in the past like their “Nude” remix contest from a few years back. This time their throwing a party featuring many of the DJ’s on the album and Thom Yorke himself will be spinning for the enjoyment of the lucky attendees.

The album is up and streaming right here and after listening to a few tracks, I can definitively say it’s a fun mix. Caribou made a boring song in “Little By Little” a raucous and bombastic track, but my favorite track was the remix of the new age Brazilian samba “Feral” by Lone, someone I’ve never heard of before this moment.

That’s the best part about these kind of releases: Discovering new artists--there are usually so many up and comers.

Strangely again, the second biggest release of the week might not even be a full-length album, but an EP. That may sound peculiar, especially if you aren’t familiar with the kind of work James Blake can produce on an extended play.

Blake, one of the biggest critical darlings of 2011, assaulted the web late last year with a three EPs, that revealed his large scope of abilities in recording techniques. Each EP was Blake in a specific mindset--a showcase of how well he could work within different genres to create something entirely his own. He’s now already being coined as the father of post-dubstep, a movement away from the grimy bass-rattling that has flooded our speakers over the past two years or so.

Blake’s newest EP, Enough Thunder, was met with the loftiest of expectations. Among the six tracks is a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” Arguably Blake’s most quintessentially James Blake tune is his heartbreaking, drowning cover of Feist’s “Limit to Your Love,” so this only made the hype more unbearable. Luckily the beautiful piano ballad is a highlight.

To only up expectations and ‘indie cred’ of the work, Enough Thunder also includes “Fall Creek Boys Choir” featuring the only person critics are drooling over this year more than Blake: Bon Iver. Maybe I’m crazy, but Blake’s uninspired production on the track does nothing to aid Bon Iver’s layered, effectually smooth growling. Listen for yourself here, but I can only surmise this EP as a dud that got swallowed by its own hype.

Those are the biggies, but there are still some other releases that may tickle your fancy. The first release from Future Islands drops this week. They’ve received some buzz on the web recently, most likely because their name is Future Islands. Peter Gabriel still refuses to act like a normal human being, and that’s fine with me. The former Genesis front-man is releasing his own, orchestral, remix album of his own solo material.

Lastly though is a welcoming release from everyone’s favorite whistler, Andrew Bird. No it’s a not gorgeous homogeneous mixture of classical violin with contemporary music sensibilities (and of course, some whistling), it’s a soundtrack for the upcoming low budget black comedy/ drama Norman.

The film centers around Norman, a high school student who lost his mother and now must live with the reality of life's being just him and his stomach-cancer-ravaged father. Sounds like it’ll contain some of the great black, morbid humor I love (Louis C.K. is my hero) before switching to a heartfelt drama about growing up and living with what life deals you.

This sort of premise sounds tailor-made for Andrew Bird, a musician who can switch from the light and whimsical to dark and emotional as quick as a whistle (sorry for the pun, I’ve been trolling Reddit a lot lately.)

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for next week’s post, which should be spectacular with all the great albums coming out.

Monday, October 3, 2011

October 4 Album Releases, 2011

By: Carolyn Menyes, Interviews and Live Reviews Editor

We're back again dropping it like it's hot here at ACRN. New school year, new season, new music. So, let's see what Rocktober 4 has to offer in terms of album releases!

First up is Feist's fourth studio album, Metals. Homegirl has had a few hits in her day, including "1234" (as seen in all those commercials circa 2007) and "Mushaboom," which I think has been covered by just about every other indie musician out there. Metals' first single, "How Come You Never Go There," is a typical lady singer-songwriter jam with a sleepy feel. If October continues to be as gray as it has been thus far, and this single indicates the rest of the album's sound, I feel like it's a good fit for fall.

Now, I'm not of the punky persuasion and consequently not the most qualified to discuss these next three albums. But! those who are will be quite pleased with what this week has to offer.

Mayday Parade are releasing their eponymous third album, New Found Glory are performing some Radiosurgery and The Misfits are coming out with their seventh record, The Devil's Rain. (That last one has such a delightful pun; let's just appreciate that for a moment.)

I listened to the lead single, "Oh Well, Oh Well," off of Mayday Parade, and it seems like a technically solid pop-punk record. Bands and songs like these always remind me of those dudes who wore Etnies and carried around their skateboards when I was in the seventh grade, and I bet this album will please their demographic. Let's shred, guys! (And make fun of that grunge girl. Sigh, middle school is rough.)

According to an impressively thorough Wikipedia article on Radiosurgery, the latest New Found Glory took a page from Adele's success book and wrote a record based on "lyrics [that] were directly inspired by events in the bands personal lives, after one member suffered a long-term relationship break-up." But, I guess maybe that's just music in general. Heart break = best inspiration.

And like I said, I'm not the biggest fan of this genre, but all this music sounds the same to me. I honestly thought New Found Glory sang "Sugar, We're Going Down," and when I started playing the title track off Radiosurgery, my dear roommate swore it was Simple Plan. Am I being offensive? Probably. But, whatever. This is nothing we haven't heard before. Let's be creative and original for once, pop-punkers of the world!

Even though I tend to lump them in the same category as Mayday Parade and NFG, The Misfits single "Land of the Dead" off The Devil's Rain is refreshingly different from the last two bands I discussed. And I know fans of this band are intense and won't care about what some Bright Eyes fan has to say about it. But, it's spooky and hardcore and it makes me want to hide in a corner. So, it seems like it's effective.

Mutemath is also releasing their third record, Odd Soul, this week. I listened to the title track (there's a trend to my research, if you can't tell), and it's little bluesy, a teeny electo and even a smidge sexy. I am more comfortable with this music. I'll most likely check this disc out more in depth here soon.

For all those socially-conscious girls (who may or may not dig girls) out there, Indigo Girls are releasing their fourteenth studio album, Beauty Queen Sister. Let's go to Lilith Fair, ladies! We can make a difference.

Finally, and most comedic, Erasure are releasing an album, Tomorrow's World. They did that song that's in Robot Unicorn Attack, and that's all you need to know.

So, sorry to punk fans out there, but you wounded my spirit when I was 12, and I will not forgive you (or your music).

Until next time, if they let me do this again, it's been real.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 31 Album Releases

Here we go again, kiddos! May has been an excellent month for album releases so far. From Okkervil River to Lady Gaga to Fleet Foxes, this fifth month has been nothing short of spectacular. And, once again, we have a lovely and interesting week for new music.

The biggest release this week, at least in my humble opinion, is Death Cab For Cutie's seventh studio album, Codes and Keys. Like any other stereotypical indie chick, I've had a serious musical crush on these guys since I was 14, so I'm obviously pretty stoked for this. Since their last release, Narrow Stairs, lead singer/lyricist Ben Gibbard has found sobriety and married the adorable Zooey Deschanel, so it'll certainly be interesting to see how this reflects on his music, if at all. I know I'm excited!

My Morning Jacket also releases Circuital this week. I'm not too terribly familiar with My Morning Jacket, but their latest album has gotten high marks so far from several music publications, including SPIN. While a lot of bands just start to phone it in after a few albums, these high marks seem to show that these guys are still working hard. Also, Jim James, the lead singer of MMJ, keeps company with Conor Oberst and M.Ward as a part of the supergroup Monsters of Folk, so if his music is good enough for these guys, it's good enough for me.

The next few releases just scream moody middle-schooler to me. First up in this category is Eddie Vedder's Ukulele Songs. I was way too into grunge back when I was 13, so that part of me is always pretty stoked for something new from Vedder, no matter how disappointing new Pearl Jam albums may be. His last solo venture, the Into The Wild soundtrack was a huge success, so this ukulele thing may end up being less weird than it sounds. I also YouTube'd one of the tracks, "Longing to Belong," and the whole thing has an essence of sadness and beauty to it, and of course, Vedder's stellar and standout voice is in the mix, so that's worth the price of admission on its own.

Second up in this moody middle school category is The Melvins 11th live album, Sugar Daddy. Now, I'm not going to pretend to know more about these guys than I do, but I do know that Kurt Cobain was a huge fan and knew these guys pretty well, which impressed me about when I was 12. I also know that they've been around for nearly 30 years, which is nuts. And if they're still touring after being together that long, kudos! They must be doing something right.

Flogging Molly's Speed of Darkness also comes out this Tuesday, which probably has that jerky punk kid I knew in the 7th grade pretty excited. (I still hate you for making fun of my Ataris shirt, by the way.)

And every middle school girl from the '80s has to be excited for Jordan Knight's Unfinished.

So, with a few little indie jams and a lot of things that remind me of those miserably awkward years from 11 to 14, I bid you adieu. Happy listening!

--Carolyn Menyes, Interviews/Live Reviews Editor

Monday, May 16, 2011

May 17 Album Releases

I’ve always felt that May is a good month for album releases. Maybe it’s the feeling of listening to new music right as school is winding down, or maybe it’s because music tends to be more exciting as the weather gets warmer. Whatever the case, May 17 does not disappoint.

First, we have the hotly anticipated Rome album from super-producer Danger Mouse and composer Daniele Luppi, which will be released via Capitol. Those two brought together a handful of retired Italian musicians that worked on some of the most influential westerns from the '50s and '60s. After that they added Jack White and Norah Jones’s vocals to the mix, creating an all-new kind of spaghetti-western soundtrack. Personally, I think anything Danger Mouse touches is gold, so I definitely trust this to be a fantastic album.

Next we have Scottish group Glasvegas releasing its sophomore effort, EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\ on Columbia. I adore the band’s self-titled debut, and I’m hoping for more of the same colossal-sounding rock from the group. European reviews have been pretty favorable and Pitchfork hates it. Both of those are to be expected. If the album is as good as the first, I suppose I can forgive Glasvegas’s caps lock obsession.

Kidz Bop Sings Monster Ballads. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” by a bunch of pre-adolescents? Yes please!

Moby will release his tenth album, Destroyed, on Mute. I’ve never really listened to Moby, but know his material. From what I can tell from reviews, this wouldn’t be one to start with, as it’s probably going to be more of an album for the obsessive Moby followers of the world.

Either way, ten albums is an impressive feat. There aren’t too many musicians out there who have made it that far, but now we can say that Moby is one of them. Gotta give props to one of the most successful names in electronic rock.

One of the albums I’m most excited for is Let’s Wrestle’s second record, Nursing Home, which will be released on Merge. I first heard of this British group when Cage The Elephant covered the spectacularly-titled “My Arms Don’t Bend That Way, Damn It!” in an acoustic performance for Rolling Stone. While Nursing Home doesn’t have any song with quite the same instantly incredible title, I’m sure it will offer some of the same raw power as the first. Plus, there is a song called “There’s A Rockstar In My Room,” which reminds me of the title of a children’s picture book or something.

There are, of course, plenty of other releases to sink your teeth into this week, including Mercury Rev, Miracle Fortress, and Ben Harper (who was last seen working with Dhani Harrison and Joseph Arthur in Fistful of Mercy).

So get out there and pick up some new music. It’s springtime, which in my mind means that your brain is yearning for something fresh.

--Chris Dobstaff, News Editor

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April 26 Album Releases

And now it's time once again to run down the list of albums dropping this week across the world. Get excited!

We'll begin with Dancer Equired!, the new disc from Columbus lo-fi trio Times New Viking. The band has played in Athens numerous times, most recently at 2011's Blackoutfest at The Union. The record's out on Merge Records, the band's first with the label. Merge is cool, right? Well, they've certainly had a good year-or-so. So I'd say TNV is in rather good hands. The new album is said to have a cleaner production style in comparison to past releases. Is this true or false? Get your hands on Dancer Equired! and find out for yourself!

Steve Earle's T-Bone Burnett-produced fourteenth album, I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive, comes out on New West Records. The album, which gets its title from a classic Hank Williams tune, has already been reviewed on by our own Jacob Betzner.

Personally, I can't say I've ever listened to Earle, but two things are leading me to figure that this shall change soon. First of all, the aforementioned review was not only positive, but the album described seemed to contain a flurry of characteristics that generally equal success in my eyes -- notably country and bluegrass. In addition, I saw Earle's son, Justin Townes Earle, open for the Decemberists last Saturday in Columbus, and he was superb. Therefore, I can only imagine that his father is just as great, if not better.

Bowling for Soup release Fishin' for Woos, the band's eleventh record. lol.

The guys and gal of Airborne Toxic Event are hoping to repeat the success of their 2008 self-titled debut with All At Once, released through Island Records. Will Mikel Jossett's story-songs of love and loss resonate again this time around? Lead single "Changing" has already climbed to No. 10 on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart, so they're doing something right. Frankly, if they can match the epic-ness of "Sometime Around Midnight," I'll be satisfied.

Post-rock instrumentalists Explosions in the Sky return to the world stage with Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, their first effort since 2007's All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone. At first, admittedly brief glance, the album might look like an E.P., what with its only containing six tracks. However, don't be fooled -- only one song, "Trembling Hands," dips below seven minutes long. So be prepared for some 45-minute-long instrumental weirdness. I'm sure, as with the band's last record, things will be dazzling.

Also releasing new music this week include British house duo Dirty Vegas, Liverpool's The Wombats, and folk-country royalty Emmylou Harris. It's a good week, so get out there and buy some music this week. Your record stores thank you.

--Kevin Rutherford, Editorial Director

Thursday, April 21, 2011

April 19 Album Releases

You’re okay in my book, Tuesday April 19. You’ve got a solid four bands releasing albums that I’m familiar with. So thank you. Thank you for not making me feel too ignorant.

Seriously though, who are all these people?

Anyway, w h o K i l l from tUnE-yArDs has been handed on over to the public. Merrill Garbus, the mastermind behind it all, has tweaked her genius so that this definitely sounds different from Bird Brains (2009) though it’s just as odd. Clearly, sistergirl is kind of weird, lyrically and vocally. I remember, after having listening the song a decent amount of times, the moment I actually heard the words to the song “Lion” off of Bird Brains. "Something, something, not important, something…. while my brother and all his friends whip out their tiny teenage cocks.”


Kidding, though. Every word Garbus is saying is important, even though it’s difficult to comprehend at times…er….all…the time.

On W h o K i l l, lots of words and sayings we’ve heard before are used, and so things sound familiar, but seem queer nonetheless.

She sings like she’s talking, then sings like she’s singing, then sings like she’s a dude, the sings like she’s a baby, the sings like she’s angry, and sings like she’s an animal, and it is these dynamics that make tUnE-yArDs so special.

At this point, I prefer Bird Brains to W h o K i l l, though, and maybe that’s because Bird Brains is easier to type.

Besides being so mysterious that I’m mad about it, Gorillaz has always been a…band (?) I appreciate. The Fall, their latest 15 songs release, is work of electronica art. Not a whole lot of singing is going on, but the beats speak for themselves. I’d like to dance to these songs, if I may, by myself or with other people.

Hip-hop and rap is becoming a genre that a lot of people deem Indie like these days. Typically it’s with the hipster-like rappers, Odd Future Wolf Gang, Kanye West and Common, that people in this category (shame on me for putting people in categories) take a liking to.

I feel like Dr. Dre is probably not one of those rappers. He is a guilty pleasure. And he’s getting old, too.

Apparently his Detox is “The most anticipated Hip Hop album ever.” That’s a bold statement that is probably…not very true. It just sounds like any other rap album, honestly.

There are so many people in I’m From Barcelona. It seems like too many for a band, and just enough for an orchestral ensemble. But it doesn’t sound like too many people, so either they’re doing it right, or not using their human tools to the fullest.

Lyrically, I’m From Barcelona’s Forever Today is not too commendable. They’re kinda cheesy, and simple in a sort of juvenile way. I think these songs would be good inspiration for children.

Musically, it’s definitely happy tunes for happy times. And that’s just fine. I’m not sure if I would seek Forever Today out and listen to it, and I definitely wouldn’t pay for it. But I think a lot of other people would, so that’s good.

Don’t take all this from me, though. Check out to see some more legitimate and detailed reviews.

--Hannah Cook, Managing Editor

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April 5 Album Releases

April 5 is a fairly decent day for music releases, in theory. It depends on what you're into. If you're into big releases with humongous top 40 potential and singles born to preside over every Billboard chart imaginable... stay tuned for next week, because the Foo Fighters have something for you. But if that ain't your bag, baby (and if you're reading this blog or even on this site, I'm guessing that's the case), then this week will be quite ok. Let's dive in, shall we?

One of the major releases this week is Robbie Robertson's How to Become Clairvoyant. For those of you who are like, "Deeeerp, who is he?" -- GTFO PLZ. Robertson, who in his earlier days was the guitarist and main songwriter of The Band, marks this releases as his fifth solo album overall since 1987. It features a slew of guest stars, including Trent Reznor, Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Robert Randolph and many more. It even includes Taylor Goldsmith, whose band Dawes is performing as Robertson's backing band on the singer/guitarist's live performances supporting the record. If these names aren't enough to at least have a listen, check your pulse.

Speaking of old men from old bands, Ray Davies releases See My Friends today in the U.S. The record came out last year in the U.K., and I listened to it then. Let's just say that the songs you expect to be done well --"Better Things" with Bruce Springsteen, "Days/This Time Tomorrow" with Mumford & Sons, "A Long Way From Home" with Lucinda Williams and the 88 -- are quite good. And, conversely, the tunes you'd expect to be not-so-great don't disappoint. Or they do disappoint. Ah, you know what I mean. What I'm saying is: listen to Davies and Metallica's cover of "You Really Got Me" if you need a good laugh. It was okay when they performed it at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary concert, but this is just sad.

The Kills also have a new record out, the follow-up to 2008's Midnight Boom. Blood Pressures is more than a worthy successor; as I said in my review of the album on, the new album "not only dominates its predecessor, but kicks it in the ass quite a few times for good measure." If you were turned off by the more poppy Midnight Boom (I sure was, and I love pop music/want to marry Taio Cruz more than one man should), do consider Midnight Boom's delectable return to the garage-blues rock that gave the duo its fame. Sure, both Allison Mosshart has The Dead Weather now too, but I'd wager that this album even blows both of that band's records out of the water. Truly, this album will not disappoint.

Plenty of other releases abound here and there. The Raveonettes, a Velvet Underground-influenced Danish rock group, release fifth album Raven in the Grave, while Jefferson Airplane spinoff Hot Tuna release their first new album in over 20 years -- Steady As She Goes. New York synthpop act Cold Cave also puts out Cherish the Light Years today on Matador Records. As they're a band ACRN does tend to play, you should certainly check them out.

Beyond these laudable releases, Jim "We Fly High" Jones -- yeah, remember him? -- puts out Capo, his first record since 2009's Pray IV Reign. Hollywood Undead also (unfortunately) returns with American Tragedy, which is quite the telling album title, if you ask me. Of course, if first single "Hear Me Now" is any indication, the L.A. rap-rock crew are going in a more mainstream rock direction (think pre-Minutes to Midnight Linkin Park), which given debut Swan Songs, might not be a bad thing altogether. Will I listen? Most likely. Because I dig pain.

Be sure to check out this week for a plethora of reviews of new music, including some reviews of albums I've mentioned!

--Kevin Rutherford, Managing Editor

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March 15 Album Releases

Welcome back to ACRN’s Drop It Like It’s Hot. I’ll be your captain this evening (or afternoon, or whenever you’re reading this). It’s my first time at the helm, so have your barf bag ready and expect some turbulence as I attempt to guide you through this week’s album releases.

Our first stop is in sunny San Francisco, where we can do some exotic bird-watching. Bay area natives The Dodos are release their fourth album, titled No Color.

I am personally a huge fan of the duo’s second album, Visiter. The band’s sound is so tight and concentrated, and drummer Logan Kroeber’s playing style gives the record a great pace. It’s like the two members are competing for the spotlight. Who can play louder? Who can play faster? These songs probably made for an energetic and sweaty live show.

With that said, I couldn’t have been more disappointed by their next album, 2009’s Time to Die. It seems like the two musicians are just taking turns showing off instead of working together to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

So I’m very intrigued by what No Color has to offer. The album is streaming in its entirety over at NPR first listen and after some time with it, I am pleased. The album has a cameo by Neko Case and takes another subtle step in a different direction as the band moves away slightly from its organic sound. Kroeber keeps his mallets on the skins and mostly away from the rims of his drum-kit. Guitarist Meric Long goes more electric than ever before, and overall it sounds like a deviation away from their folk sound and more towards general indie-rock. Bob Dylan went electric once, it seemed to work out for him alright.

Next stop is to one of my favorite cities, Chicago. Chicago is the home to popular punk band Rise Against. I think I’ve had these guys pinned as someone else for like two years. I was sure this was a pop-punk outfit, real whiny and disagreeable to anyone removed from the teenage angst phase of their life. Their first single off their new album, Endgame, is available on their website. To my surprise, there are plenty of power chords, screaming vocals and there’s nothing poppy about it at all. They’re described as a hardcore-punk band, but I’d take that term ‘hardcore’ pretty lightly.

But you, reader, you seem pretty hardcore to me, and I don’t want to disappoint you. That’s why were taking a detour to Salem, New Hampshire for our third stop to look at the new release from Trap Them.

Salem is, of course, famous for its witch trials that occurred in the 17th century, and Trap Them’s music is about as frightening as living in that time sounds. They're described as hardcore-grindcore-metal duo. I didn’t have a clue what grindcore meant, so I looked it up. Apparently, “Grindcore is a fast, extreme style of music that fuses crust punk with extreme metal. Songs are high-tempo, short, with low-tuned guitars and blastbeats. The guitar style tends to have punkier scuzzy chord riffing than the cleaner, more technical and precise death metal-grindcore/deathgrind fusion that came later” at least according to Wikipedia. Now, I just need to look up what "crust punk" is. Have I lost all my hardcore cred yet?

What we can expect from the duo’s third album, Darker Handcraft, is fast, heavy and intricate guitar work, along with equally fast, powerful drumming, and somebody screaming the lyrics with the growl of a beast from Tartarus. Adult Swim’s Metalocalypse has gotten me to soften up to some "brutal" bands that I wouldn’t otherwise listen to, and sonically these guys have the goods if you can get over the singer screaming bloody murder.

The only suitable place to go after Salem, New Hampshire is back out west, this time to Los Angeles. Here, we find Travis Barker, former member of Blink-182 and one of the most famous drummers (and canvases) of the last 10 years. He is releasing his first solo record, but there is nothing solo about it. Barker’s never been a singer, and he won’t have to on his debut Give The Drummer Some, as some of the biggest rappers and hip-hop artists around have joined him.

I had no idea this was going to be a hip-hop record, and I’m actually pretty excited to hear some of these songs. Opener “Give the Drummer Some” features Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, and Game (haven’t heard his name in a while), and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The third track “Carry It” has two of my favorite Wu-Tang members; RZA and Raekwon, and features Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello as well. I could go on and on, but I won’t, so if you want to see the whole list of acts of the album, click here.

These all-star lineups on each song can make for good hype, but the problem becomes living up to the hype you’ve generated, and for Barker, it could be a daunting task. The album is also being released in a deluxe format. I really dislike the idea behind a deluxe version of an album because it shows a lack of artistry on the musician’s part. Think about Dark Side of the Moon having a deluxe version, ridiculous right? So to me, this isn’t an album, just a collection of singles.

Last but not least, our tour takes us not only back across the country, but also back in time to 1970’s New York. As long as we don’t see the Son of Sam, we should be fine, but I couldn’t miss out on a new album from the New York Dolls .

For those who are unfamiliar, the New York Dolls are one of, if the not the original glam band. Forming in 1971, these guys were monumental in their influence. Musically, they influenced everyone from the Ramones to the Talking Heads, but where they really made their mark was with the band’s aesthetic. The band’s style was the lynch pin for the androgynous style that lived on in every '80s stadium-rock band from Bon Jovi to White Snake. The comedic value of that alone makes their upcoming album, Dancing Backwards in High Heels, their third since reuniting in 2004, worth checking out.

The rest of what’s coming out this week includes J Mascis’ (of Dinosaur Jr.) Several Shades of Why, The Joy Formidable’s The Big Roar, The Death Set with Michel Poiccard, Hediecker & Wood with Starting From Nowhere, and Eleventh Dream Day with Riot Now!

Keep your eyes glued to for extensive and eloquent reviews of these albums and more. Happy Listening and thanks for riding Drop It Like It’s Hot. I had fun and I hope you did too.

--Scott Smith, Album Reviews Editor

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

March 8 Album Releases

Hey all!I am new to the "Drop It Like It’s Hot tradition at ACRN," but I will do my best to give you the scoop on the new releases for the second week of March, 2011.

First up, Chicago MC Lupe Fiasco releases Lasers, his much-anticipated, third studio album that was severely delayed due to a battle with Atlantic Records and the incarceration of his manager. Now, Lupe can finally relax and enjoy promoting the project—this week, he will be on BET’s “106 & Park” and “Lopez Tonight.” The album has already yielded singles “The Show Must Go On” and “Words I Never Said.” Fans may find a bit of a dichotomy in the album, as Lupe told the Chicago Sun-Times that he had to appease the record label by delivering a commercial product, while trying not to compromise his artistic expression.

Now, let’s move on to Starfucker’s new album, Reptilians.I am not familiar with the electronica, Portland, Oregon band, but its dreamy, danceable sound has piqued my curiosity. The group members are promoting their third record with a string of performances in California, but they will make their way to Columbus, OH’s Skully’s Music Diner with Champagne on April 11.

Veteran rock group R.E.M. is also dropping an album. Collapse into Now is the band’s 15th record, and frontman Michael Stipe gave Rolling Stone some insight into its making: “The three of us were communicating in a really great way," he said. The new project seems significant, if only in a visual sense—the group recruited a variety of directors to film a video for each track. Let’s hope the album’s sound lives up to that ambition.

While Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-ers R.E.M. arguably have nothing left to prove, singer-songwriter Alexi Murdoch is still fairly new in terms of releasing L.P.s—this week’s Towards the Sun is the artist’s second full-length album.Apparently, Murdoch wrote the basic tracks for the album during a single night on a tour stop in 2009. Fans can expect a primarily-acoustic record from the singer, whose music has been featured in countless television shows and films.

Last but not least, experimental/noise rock group Parts and Labor has a few more albums under its belt. The band’s new release, Constant Future, seems like a fun, electronic journey into an alternate universe. I am making this judgment solely from the title track, which caught my attention, though the group had me with what I think is one of the best band names ever. The Village Voice commended Parts and Labor for its ability to “create unlikely hooks from a chaos.” From the little that I heard, that seems about right

Other noteworthy new albums include Wye Oak’s Civilian, Kurt Vile’s Smoke Ring for my Halo, A Hawk and a Hacksaw’s Cervantine, Carol Bui’s Red Ship, Dinosaur Bone’s My Divider, Grails’ Deep Politics and Western Hymn’s Out of the Way.

Happy listening!

--Erica Thompson, News and Live Reviews Editor

Monday, February 28, 2011

March 1 Album Releases

With a new month come new releases. Here are the buzz-worthy albums dropping this week:

Indie band Papercuts releases Fading Parade, and while I’ve never previously listened to Papercuts, their dreamy, beachy, lo-fi sound was immediately catchy to me on the album’s opening track “Do You Really Wanna Know.” Another track that stood out to me was "The Messenger"--vocalist Jason Quever’s vocals are heartbreaking, especially at the build-up of the chorus. Fading Parade is being released on Sub Pop and is a follow-up to their 2009 album You Can Have What You Want. The album is streaming in its entirety on NPR.

Next, we move on to country legend Lucinda Williams. Williams is releasing her 11th album, Blessed, this week. Her first album was released over 30 years ago, but she’s still going strong. Her gravely voice is infused with the blues, such as on track “Sweet Love,” and judging by sad songs like “I Don’t Know How You’re Livin’,” she’s no stranger to heartbreak. Still, though she’s a veteran to the country scene, she proves she’s still got a lively and youthful spirit on tracks like “Buttercup.” Blessed is also streaming for free on NPR.

Lastly, Celtic-punkers Dropkick Murphys are releasing their seventh full-length Going out in Style. The album features guest vocals from other punk staples, such as Fat Mike from NoFX, Chris Cheny from The Living End and Lenny Clarke from Rescue Me, on the title track “Going out in Style.” The Dropkick Murphys also got the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, to lend his voice on “Peg O’ My Heart.” Dropkick Murphys are currently on-tour with my personal favorites, Against Me!, to promote the album.

Other releases not mentioned here include Lykke Li with Wounded Rhymes, Beady Eye with Different Gear, Still Speeding, Alex Ebert (of Edward Sharpe) with Alexander. Keep an eye on for full-reviews of these albums and more.

--Melissa Burant, Copy Chief

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

February 22 Album Releases

Ladies, Gents, this is my first edition of our beloved Drop it Like It’s Hot blog, so bear with me if it gets weird! I haven’t heard the music of many of the artists releasing albums this week, but I’ll give it a good ol’ college try and give you readers a decent look into the albums that are stoke-worthy, or, in layman’s terms, albums that you should be stoked about. So without further adieu, I present to you the latest installment of Drop it Like It’s Hot.

Alternative rock lynchpins Radiohead released their latest album The King of Limbs digitally Friday and this, dear readers, is big news. Thom Yorke and his buds have been re-imagining the musical landscape with their brand of slightly-weird, aural bliss. Radiohead has transcended all genres during the band’s long career, achieving critical and popular acclaim. The King of Limbs shouldn’t disappoint. Admittedly, I am not a big Radiohead guy. I appreciate their abilities as artists, and their influence is far-reaching, but it’s just not my cup of tea. Maybe (Probably), you’ll disagree with their latest release. Get it!

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Adele releases her latest album this week with 21. She’s not an artist who’s music I am familiar with, but two Grammy’s and a slew of Critic’s Choice awards can’t lie, no? 21 promises to present Adele’s blues and soul hybrid to more critical acclaim. Check out “My Same” and “Hometown Glory” for some vintage Adele.

Onto more uncharted territory! Another singer-songwriter called Darwin Deez is releasing a self-title album. Google tells me that he is of the indie-rock persuasion and that he is based in New York City. He released the same album last year in the UK, and now it is seeing the light of day in the states. I don’t know anything about this guy, but with an album cover like this, how can you go wrong?!

That’s just about all I’ve got. Tahiti 80 releases The Past, The Present & The Possible, Toro y Moi is releasing Underneath the Pine, and The Low Anthem presents Smart Flesh. Funk it up with G. Love on Fixin’ to Die and pick your poison on Banjo or Freakout’s self-titled debut, Banjo or Freakout.

I wish I knew more music. I’ve heard of a lot of these artists, but I haven’t gotten around to hearing their tunes. They are all good, I’m sure. If I missed any key albums, you can find a complete list here, care of metacritic.

Til next time, Lobsters.

--Paolo Balboa, Video Director

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February 15 Album Releases

Here I am with my, I believe, third installment of "Drop it Like it's Hot" and alas, I'm in the same boat as always--floating in a sea of albums released by artists I don't know well, or have only heard of a little bit, or who, if I'm lucky, may come up on my iTunes shuffle every once a while. It's time to take a listen and begin my endeavors through the unknown. Put on on your headgear and get out your flash light. Things are going to get suspenseful, eerie and maybe even dangerous.

Oh wait. Except with Bright Eyes. We're safe here.

I know Bright Eyes pretty well, just like every other person under the age of 25 who's at all familiar with Indie music. Conor Oberst opened my eyes to a world outside of Mario and Nelly featuring Tim McGraw (those were the days). He made it so my 8th grade dances were no longer cool, 'cause my yellow Chuck Taylors (signed by Gerard Way--that's for you, Cassie) belonged on no hardwood cafeteria floor, but rather stomping the neighborhood streets with my preteen angst, or in the back of movie theaters making out with my boyfriend who liked AC/DC.

Since my young heart was first swept up by those big brown eyes and that hypnotizing music, I've never looked back. And nor will I ever. Album after album and project after project, Conor Oberst has proved to be nothing less wonderful than The NeverEnding Story. From the depressing "Haligh, Haligh, A Lie, Haligh" (Artex drowning in the sadness swamp) to "Bowl of Oranges" (Atreyu's riding Falkor around town, 'cause Falkor's got Atreyu's back, and if ever he feels like crying, he's going to try to make him laugh--too far? Sorry), Conor Oberst's endearing and passionate music never ends. And there's so many others works too. Hundreds. Thousands. Maybe even millions. One begins to wonder when a brother is going to run out of ideas. One wonders, but of course never hopes.

Anyway, he's done it again with The People's Key. It's been roughly four years since we've last heard Oberst under the name Bright Eyes. We've missed it, but there were other things to keep us full, like Monsters Of Folk, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, etc.

The People's Key is a masterpiece of sorts--a trophy to be hung in a display case. But so are all of Oberst's albums. So what if its beauty was expected, it's still a different kind of beauty. And so there's still that sense of having never heard something like it before.

As if his lyrics couldn't be more compelling and full of wisdom, Oberst one-ups himself yet again with a sureness not to be confused with charade. Heck, the guy's been trying to figure things out for years now. The time for a realization album has come, and The People's Key is that realization album. It's a great grandpa album and I want to sit on its fragile yet powerful lap and have it tell me stories of war and life and explain to me everything in the world.

Anyway, I loved it. I'm probably going to actually buy it, because Oberst, for sure, has not already sold enough copies of his albums over the last, what, 13 years?

Okay NOW we're heading into that dark cave full of music I don't know that well.

Beans with End it All: I like to eat beans, and that's all I know of the subject. Beans as in music--that I don't know. Turns out, what is a legume is also a rapper/hip-hop artist from Brooklyn, NY. He's 40 and has a family, and produces hip-hop music that's clever and not annoying to me. Nice.

The Dears with Degeneration Street: Definitely heard of them. Ah, they're from Montreal. Of course they are. Oh, Canada. When listening to this song, "Blood" from the new album, I think it's okay. It sounds like it's on the brink of System of a Down, though, without all the chaos, if you know what I mean. And I hate System of a Down soo.....moving on.

Drive-By Truckers with Go-Go Boots: Is it bad this is the first time I've ever truly listened to Drive-By Truckers? Sorry. Don't quite feel like listening to their whole discography for a comparative source, but I think this album is charming, in a hillbilly makin' his 'ma proud kind of way. What a quintessential Southern accent, too, my goodness! It's like a bottle of Southern Comfort wrapped in a paper bag, used to fill my ears and mind only with sweet, sweet contentment.

PJ Harvey with Let England Shake--Sister's Uh Huh Her is on my iTunes playlist, but only comes on every once in a blue moon. Thus, I don't know much about her, except that she's a bit of a weirdo. Grungy, eerie guitar riffs support her shaky falsetto and so I come to the conclusion that I like it only in small servings. Let England Shake seems different, though--less like it's coming from the depths of an unsafe alley-way scattered with trash and robbery and more like it's coming from an old-time fairground. Still strange, but less frightening, maybe even jovial at times.

I feel I've overdone it and so here's just a list of a few other albums released this week, with an embarrassingly frequent question mark next to each band I've never heard of:

Brown Recluse: Evening Tapestry (?)
Cowboy Junkies: Demons (Somewhere in my mind have I heard of them).
Ginuwine: Elgin (?)
La Sera: La Sera (?)
Mogwai: Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (jeez.)
Nelson: Lightening Strikes Twice (?)
Rev Theory: Justice (?)
Saigon: Greatest Story Never Told (?)
Sonic Youth: Simon Werner a Disparu (oh, cool).
Stryper: The Covering (?)
Ten: Stormwarning (?)
Twilight Singers: Dynamite Steps (?)
Yuck: Yuck (?) (Ha).

And there you have it, brothers and sisters. If you'd like to see any more detailed reviews of said albums, check out the reviews on our site.

--Hannah Cook, Managing Editor

Sunday, February 6, 2011

February 8 Album Releases

Is it February already? No, really? Must I admit that I am still living in 2010, even though best-of-the-year lists have been filed away, far away, in our hard drives? I suppose I must, but thankfully there are a few albums coming out this week that may yank me out of my rut and bring me up to speed in this newest year.

How better to get acquainted with new music—and edge on some high-strung hype—than with a cover version of a song from the catalogue of a high-profile indie artist. In London producer James Blake’s case, he chose Feist’s “Limit to Your Love.” He casts the quiet song with an equally stark cover version, directed with quiet clarifications. An impactful piano and Blake’s soulful, vibrato voice heat up with dub effects and electronic ticks and snaps. His ability to craft poignant pauses in his music is staggering—spine-tingling even. Indie admirers are ready to snack on what seems to be a meticulously plotted self-titled, full-length debut, and I am right there with them.

I never know what to expect from an Akron/Family album. Akron/Family is a band that choreographs psychedelic, love-soaked, raucous songs, but each album has a distinct personality. However, the band’s newest seems to have multiple rainbow-anchored personalities, as the title, The Cosmic Birth of Shinju TNT, suggests. The album starts with “Silly Bears,” a childish fable-telling song depicted with bursting electric guitars and sing-along vocals, all ending with cricket chirps—not a first for Akron/Family (See the insect-themed track on their album Love Is Simple for obvious evidence). It might seem silly, but this opening song does not lack fun. I haven’t dared to listen to the rest of this idiosyncratic concept record yet, but I would only expect more gaudy confusion and more outright amusement.

Speaking of amusement, Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals is set to greet the world with his third solo release, Hotel Shampoo—an album so-titled due to his unstoppable accumulation of free hotel loot, which he recently used to craft a doghouse-like art installation also entitled Hotel Shampoo. Led by the single “Shark Ridden Waters,” the album continues his string of sugared '60s melodies and friendly, out-of-the-ordinary lyrics.

Also coming out this week are Cut Copy’s Zonoscope (led by the soothing electronic appeal of the single “Need You Now”); Vivian Girls/Woods/Bossy side project The Babies’ debut self-titled album; and Silk Flowers’ sophomore album, Ltd. Form, which is so obviously affected by Joy Division in every trance-like musical sense.

Of course there is more to be heard and methodically discussed and reviewed, but it will take me careful steps to reacquaint myself with the process of suffering through many upon many new albums, seeking what is new and good. One album at a time, please. I’ll start with these few.

-Jessi Finn, Album Reviews Editor

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January 25 Album Releases

I'm sorry to begin this post with such an outburst of disbelief, but...

What witchery on this cursed planet made me, a lover of the Dresden Dolls, overlook the fact that Amanda Palmer has a new album out?! I mean, I saw the hilarious plea-for-pubes that is the "Map of Tasmania" video, but failed to notice there's actually an album that goes with it, and also the fact that it's available for download for as little as $0.69 right now, at that!

Apparently, Amanda Palmer's Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under came out Friday, but it's streaming on Spinner beside this week's releases; so, I'd say it's fair game for our latest installment of Drop It Like It's Hot.

Palmer's partially-live, primarily-down-under-themed album tells a series of highly-colorful comedic (see: "Vegemite," yes-- it's actually about vegemite and being unable to tolerate a lover's eating it) and heartbreakingly emotional story-songs accompanied by ukulele or piano. I have always thought her an absolute genius as a storyteller and a painter of scenery with notes and words. Down Under doesn't change my mind about that one bit. Love you, AFP.

Shock aside and Palmer downloaded. Moving on...

This week seems to be the week of the Kids. There are Get Up ones and Cold War ones, and they both came out to play today.

There Are Rules is the first album The Get Up Kids have released in damn-near 7 years, and as stoked as old-school fans may be for it, they could be in for a surprise. I'm not implying that the heavy electronics and less guitar-driven sound of Rules are at all a bad thing. I'm just warning you not to expect Guilt Show Part II.

A stand-out track on the album for me is "Rally 'Round The Fool." Stripped-down and ominous, the song progresses with the texture of changing drum beats until it climaxes eerily in vocalist Matt Pryor's distantly wailing "It's all over." As I described in my ACRN review, the beat is suited "for dancing at a strobe-lit séance."
If for nothing more than nostalgia, curiosity and "Rally 'Round The Fool," I would highly suggest checking out TGUK's latest effort. Also, I may be a little biased because I love Reggie & The Full Effect and James Dewees is the touring keyboardist for my favorite band, but he completely kills with skills on Rules.

Cold War Kids, the second Kid-named band in my post (phew, thank God the "Rock" one isn't around this week), released Mine Is Yours today. Cold War Kids triumph, as usual, in the pureness of the vocals of their music. I could listen to Nathan Willett's voice forever. Mine Is Yours brings more of their signature piano-and-voice-focused funk sound. Fans of the band will be pleased, but probably not too surprised.

Last night, as I watched CONAN, knowing I would have to write this post, I tried to pay attention to the performance by musical guest Iron And Wine. I really did, but it just made me more sleepy, and I had homework to complete; so, I had to tune it out. The performance may have been dull, but Iron And Wine's latest, Kiss Each Other Clean, provides a beautiful and moving listening experience.

I wouldn't suggest listening to it early in the morning; as, it may be the lullaby that puts you straight back to sleep, but if you want to chill and contemplate life matters, Kiss Each Other Clean makes a perfect soundtrack. Staff Writer Amanda Norris, who is more versed in this musical style than I, must have liked it based on the 8/10 she gave it in her review. The storytelling lyrics showcased on Kiss demand attention, and the folk soundings surround and blanket those words with such pillow-y sweetness that it becomes easy to fall into the songs.

Do I sound sleepy? Perhaps that's my cue to end this post.

--Cassie Whitt, Blogs Editor

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January 18 Album Releases

There’s no better way to start a quarter than with some fantastic new music.

Thankfully, that need is being fulfilled during Week 3 (better late than never), and I’m thinking it’ll be just the accompaniment I need to power me through the papers and quizzes that Week 3 tends to arouse.

Kicking off the Week 3 pick-me-ups are The Decemberists with The King is Dead, and I would just like to say:


My relationship with The Decemberists over the years has been very love/hate in a Jekyll and Hyde sort of way, to say the least, but this album most definitely earns my love, starting with the stellar opener “Don’t Carry It All.” The album displays a more stripped-down side of the band – one which, in my opinion, is overridden by excessively theatrical instrumentation much too often. Instead of going the big-band-anthem route, The Decemberists have produced a more Southern-fried sound: A satisfactory shift.

I tend to think that the hate part of my relationship with the band stems from my innate abhorrence with whiny, high-pitched, nasal-y vocals, which is very characteristic of frontman Colin Meloy. However, I actually enjoy his vocals in the musical framing that The King is Dead provides.

Another highlight of this week is Low Country Blues, the latest solo album (and first in 14 years – ballin’!) by my favorite Allman brother, Gregg. Low Country Blues is a covers album produced by T Bone Burnett, and it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect from Gregg Allman.

When rock royalty (especially veteran rock royalty) goes blues, it can almost never disappoint. And disappoint Allman surely does not with track-after-track of his take on hits by BB King, Otis Rush and Skip James, to name a few. My personal favorite? “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” Allman’s cover of the Muddy Waters classic. Takes the cake.

The punk kings of Social Distortion release Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes this week as well. And to be honest, I’m underwhelmed.

It’s not a terrible album, but it just doesn’t do anything for me in that blood-pumping, muscle-tensing way that a good punk album should. I struggle to even refer to Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes as a punk album at all. It’s got a sort of West Coast motorcycle rock vibe to it, which, if you know me at all, you know I don’t mind. It’s just not what I expected out of them.

Unfortunately, it seems that Social Distortion’s relatively old age is really starting to affect the music. Hate all you want – all I’m sayin’ is Ted Leo’s still got it. There’s no excuse.

The last release worth mentioning is Teenage and Torture by Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers. To be honest, I haven’t heard the whole album – just “Heaven in Stereo” and “Venus Shaver” – but the snippets I heard absolutely worked up my anticipation to hear the entire thing.

I mention Shilpa Ray because that band holds a little soft spot in my musical heart. They played at Athens’ very own Blackout Fest at The Union in April 2009, and I had the pleasure of watching/dancing (and subsequently fostering a bit of a girl crush on Ms. Ray) with former Managing Editor Jen Kessler. Ah, the good old days.

Being the Cold War Kids and Iron and Wine fan that I am, I’m realizing now that I’d probably be much better versed on the releases that next week is slated to bring. However, this week’s aforementioned releases are certainly deserving of my excitement and therefore have my full attention until next Tuesday.

--Courtney Baldasare, Editorial Director