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