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