Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 30 Releases, 2012

By: Colin Roose, News Editor

Christmas and folk. This is the music we get the day before Halloween. No Rob Zombie, no Alice Cooper, but chestnuts roasting on an open fire and a man with a violin.

Alright, well, Neil Young can make some pretty good sweater music. But Christmas albums? Seriously? Who decided that October 30 was a good time to start singing about marshmallows for toasting and caroling out in the snow and scary ghost stories…oh.

Anyway, let's start with the man still searching for a heart of gold. Neil Young's newest album Psychedelic Pill is the first album of new material with his backing band Crazy Horse since 2003's Greendale, and accordingly is a rougher, more jam-centric album than the other six solo albums he's done since then. And if that seems like a lot of work for a 66-year-old man in eight years, consider that this is his 35th record overall. That's not even counting his various collaborations with Crosby, Stills and Nash or Buffalo Springfield. The man has been a slave to you, people. If nothing else, he deserves the opportunity to reminisce about the first time he heard "Like a Rolling Stone."

The other workhorse this year is Andrew Bird, for whom it did not suffice to release just the hour-long Break It Yourself earlier this year. The companion EP Hands of Glory adds an additional 35 minutes of re-recordings and strum-strummy covers of old singer-songwriter music. If the whole laid-back group-chorus old-time sleepy violin sound appeals to you, you've probably already known what Andrew Bird is up to and I'm talking to myself now. Actually, I must confess that I am not familiar with Mr. Bird's considerable output, despite his appearance at the Nelsonville Music Festival this year. Maybe I'd better not admit I listened to Mumford & Sons for the first time this past weekend before the folk community beats me with mandolins.

And so, the Christmas albums. I'd like to direct your attention to the left to take a look at the miracle of Photoshop that is Cee-Lo's Magic Moment. The Gnarls Barkley singer has now apparently taken the place of Santa Claus, flying through the night with his sports car pulled by a majestic array of steeds. Or maybe this is his way of telling us he's a brony? But anyway, he duets with such varied talent as Christina Aguilera, B.o.B. and The Muppets.

If flamboyant Vegas style rap does not immediately spring to mind when you think of the holidays, there is also Rod Stewart, who has taken a break from his copious renditions of the Great American Songbook to make an even more friendly album for Mom and Dad called Merry Christmas, Baby. On the other hand, there is an innovative Yuletide-indie crossover by Everything But the Girl vocalist Tracey Thorn. It may be called Tinsel and Lights and have song titles like "Maybe This Christmas" and "Snow," but it's actually mostly original songs and has a paranoid post-punk sound. Really. Well, I think it's about damn time someone tried to unseat "Same Old Lang Syne" as the newest Christmas song to be played on every FM station.

There's also Flyleaf this week, who are releasing their last album with singer Lacey Mosley, and Lulu Gainsbourg, the son of French popmeister Serge Gainsbourg. Other than that, well…if you like Toby Keith

Ok, I'm going to end this before the folkies start shouting "Judas!" at me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October 16 Releases, 2012

By: Colin Roose, News Editor

Well, it looks like the well of monster releases in September and October is finally running dry. Green Day, The Killers and Muse have all played their cards, and this week's list languishes in the obscurity of side projects and bands with names like "Police Teeth." But there is still an oasis or two in this desert of fringe albums (sadly, none of the Gallagher variety). So, let's hit on the big ones.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor will be expounding upon their affinity for exclamation points this week with the release of Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!. With their first album since Yanqui U.X.O. ten years ago, they have managed to reform almost their entire original lineup. No mean feat for eight members. Dissonant, distant post-rock weirdness is what you'll find here, with two of the songs actually written before their long hiatus. I really can't say I understand song titles like "Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable," but all signs point to them still being the latest and greatest in post-post-modern rock-as-art.

And next, we'll be getting Sunken Condos from the venerable Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, a band that has seemingly been forgotten by everyone except classic rock radio. Although he may be "Reelin' In The Years," he's still going to "Do It Again" and put out something that will get him on "F.M." again, heh heh…okay, I'll stop. It sounds like it's just about the closest thing to another album from the Dan that can be expected, with the same brand of neurotic jazz-pop. A dusky, driving-through-the-city kind of sound. Poppy and unpretentious while still having a sophisticated flair. Those last two sentences didn't really mean much, did they? Anyway, this guy is way too talented to be as obscure as he is. Roll over Peg, tell Josie the news: Donald Fagen is back.

In other news, Ben Gibbard certainly seems rather depressed. Take a look at that there gloomy cover. And with song titles like "Teardrop Windows" and "Oh, Woe?" Watch out everyone, I think we have a high-profile breakup album on our hands. I can't help but feel he should have cut the cryptic symbolism of Former Lives' name and just subtitled it Specifically, The One Before I Split Up With Zooey Deschanel. But I digress. From what I hear, the record goes to show that Death Cab for Cutie does not necessarily equal Ben Gibbard. There's less of an indie band sound here and more experimentation, like on the twee "Something's Rattling (Cowpoke)." It's also nice for a fan like myself to hear that he can still craft melodies and still sings like he's about 11 years old. But then again, his band just released a new album last year. I hope this solo venture won't mean we'l have to wait even longer for another Death Cab album.

And if you're into Phish, there is a new Trey Anastasio album out called Traveler. Which is good news considering that his home band is quickly becoming the new Grateful Dead, putting out millions of live releases instead of new studio material. This one is everywhere though, jumping between drum n' bass experiments, straightforward country-flavored rock and the jam band sound for which he's known. Such a work ethic, too--he's put out almost as many bands in the last decade as Phish has in 20 years. He's also covering "Clint Eastwood" by the Gorillaz, making it somewhat less intoxicated-sounding than the original. That song has special meaning for me, being one of the first pop songs I was exposed to long before I understood the meaning of "sunshine in a bag."

But that's pretty much it in terms of high-profile stuff. Unless you would like to hear about More Lullbaby Renditions of U2 or Piano Tribute to KISS. But looming large on the horizon for next week is the new Taylor Swift album. Inevitably, everyone and their teenybopper little sister will help it to break all the sales records, but you, the discriminating music aficionado, know better, don't you? Drop It Like It's Hot will cover the real noteworthy stuff just for you. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

October 9 Releases, 2012

By: Rachel Haas, Features Editor

Wow, kids! Can you believe it’s already the second week of October? Pretty soon it’ll be Halloween, Thanksgiving and then *gasp* Christmas! But for now, let’s focus on the tracks released this week before we get too ahead of ourselves as there are a few exciting releases worth a shout-out.

First up, the release I am MOST stoked about for this week is II from the Bad Books, which is comprised of Manchester Orchestra's Andy Hull and lovely singer-songwriter/personal favorite Kevin Devine. Their self-titled debut was a delightful mix of soft acoustic and alternative rock tracks--or a blend of the in-between--with Hull and Devine's voices complimenting each other to near perfection. This album is more of the same, but in the absolute best way possible. The songs are just as enjoyable and both artists shine. It's so cool to listen to them meld into one insane, super musical identity instead of just being those two dudes from those two bands. Also, the song "Forest Whitaker" is so infectious you won't be able to pass up listening to the entire album. Yeah, that's a challenge.

Tame Impala released their second album Lonerism and, if this recommendation isn’t enough, maybe Pitchfork’s 9/10 review will convince you to take a listen. The band has kept up with the psychedelic sounds featured on their debut Innerspeaker, but have seemed to cultivate a fuller, more developed atmosphere. Enjoy this richly layered time machine, break out those groovy bell bottom pants and get ready to dance around a little when you put it on.

Jakob Dylan—yep, son of harmonica-wielder Bob—is back. The Wallflowers haven’t released an album since 2005 (that’s 7 years ago for those of you, like me, that are mathematically impaired). But finally, Wallflowers fans can get their fix with Glad All Over, the sometimes funky, usually catchy sixth studio release. It doesn’t sound like a bad album per se but, let’s be honest, we really all just want to go listen to “One Headlight” (or maybe that’s just me). However, former Clash guitarist Mike Jones appears on two of the tracks, which is pretty damn cool.  

Also, Ellie Goulding, the girl who sings that “Lights” song and is dating Skrillex, dropped Halcyon this week. The first track, “Don’t Say A Word,” softly opens the album, slowly building and building until reaching a predictable burst of peppy beats and high-pitched girlish vocals. The song teeters between dance-y and epic Robyn-meets-Florence ballad—kind of weird, I know, but it works. Actually, that pretty much sums up the album. I don’t think it’ll disappoint for those searching for that sort of thing. Plus she is super adorbs.

Fitz & the Tantrums, Freelance Whales, The Script and KISS (yes, Gene-Simmons-face-paint-I-wanna-rock-n-roll-all-night KISS) also dropped some tunes this week. Want to know who else dropped an album? Rick Springfield. RICK SPRINGFIELD. His album Songs for the End of the World is now out if you’re so inclined to have a Springfield listening party.

Speaking of which, brb, going to listen to “Jessie’s Girl” now.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October 2 Releases, 2012

By: Chris Dobstaff, Reviews Editor

What up, October? You're looking real good right about now. Hot apple cider, pumpkins and the changing colors in the trees are just a few of my favorite things about the fall. And of course, there's fall music. You know what I'm talking about: good ol' sweater-wearing music. Luckily, we have some interesting records coming out to kickstart October and, just like those leaves, new albums are going to keep dropping throughout the fall season.  

Muse is back in a big (not unexpected) and interesting (again, not unexpected) way. The British band released its sixth studio album, The 2nd Law, on Tuesday and naturally they've already pissed some people off. That's just what Muse does, isn't it? Reviews have generally been positive thus far, but the group is naturally alienating fans by embracing electronica and dubstep influences this time around. I'm all for musicians changing up their sound every once and awhile, but Muse's epic reach may just be going a bit too far for some fans. 

Flying Lotus, on the other hand, nailed it this time around. With Until The Quiet Comes, Steven Ellison has created one of the best electronic albums of the year. Flying Lotus' fourth album is currently flooring critics, including myself, with songs like "All In," and "Sultan's Request." The album is completely organic in a way that too few electronic albums are. These songs are ones to get completely immersed, and sometimes lost in. Thanks to artists like Flying Lotus, I can firmly attest that there is reason for electronic music to exist other than those damn club settings.

The indie world was also well represented this week with The Mountain Goats, The Hood Internet and Matt & Kim all releasing new material. For The Mountain Goats, Transcendental Youth is their 14th (!!!) album, and their second on the Merge label. As per usual, John Darnielle has put together a collection of songs that will ultimately be pleasing to anyone out there who even slightly enjoys the indie genre. That's the thing about bands like The Mountain Goats: it's hard not to like them.

The Hood Internet released a record called Feat, which features lead singer of The New Pornographers A.C. Newman adding his vocals to an electronic track. I'm not gonna say it's bad, but I will say it's weird. A.C. Newman has such a wonderful voice, and hearing it with those darn computerized noises in lieu of an acoustic guitar rattled me just a bit. Additionally, Matt & Kim released Lightning,  the duo's fourth studio album. I may be in the minority here, but I think Matt & Kim are kind of boring. Sure, "Daylight" was a flipping excellent song, but other than that nothing has really hit a chord with me. But that doesn't mean I won't be checking Lightning out, 'cause I definitely will. The group's infectious energy will undoubtedly be fun to turn on for a bit of cleaning around the house.

So there ya have it. October has started off right with what appears to be a pretty interesting week in music. As usual, not all of it's going to be great, but I'm a firm believer that any album one listens to when the leaves are falling can be magical. 

And if that sappy sentiment doesn't work for you, just go listen to Flying Lotus. Seriously, Until the Quiet Comes is damn good.