New Music – The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread
It’s beyond pitiful and shameless that I’m only now posting for the first time in 2011. I’m not even going to attempt any excuses. I will soon be posting my “Best Albums of 2010″ post, that has been sitting about 90% complete in my draft posts box for 6 months now. Here are some of the albums I have been digging lately, no fancy write-ups but wanted to get them out there anyway.
The Antlers – Burst Apart
Burst Apart is a much easier listen than their last album, still some dark content but not nearly as dark as their last album, Hospice – if the title didn’t give away the nature of that album the songs sure did.
Download Burst Apart here
Middle Brother – Middle Brother
Great “super group” collaboration from the leads of Deer Tick, Delta Spirit, and Dawes. They all take turns penning and singing lead on a great bunch of what I could only describe as dive bar folk country rock. What a horrible description, but the music speaks for itself. Think Neil Young mixed with the un-poppy country side of Ryan Adams, Wilco and maybe a little Exile On Main St.
Every track on here is great, and this is quickly becoming one of my most played albums. Thanks to my friend Charlie for pointing it out to me. I like Delta Spirit and Deer Tick, but I really like this collaboration. There isn’t a bad time of day or mood for this album, but it goes especially well with a glass of whiskey and friendly bar.
Download Middle Brother here
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Speaking of one of my most played albums, I’m bordering or near obsessive repetitive listening to the new Fleet Foxes record. I like their EP and first LP, but after a while the tracks back to back started to all meld into one for me. Not true with their second LP, Helplessness Blues. I love every track on this record, the lyrics are spectacular (especially the opening track), a theme I can kind of relate to and I’m sure we all have our bouts of “Oh man what I used to be, oh man oh my, oh me”. Maybe I’m so enamored with the lyricism in this album because in many of the themes, they really align with my own crazy thoughts rattling around my brain. I occasionally have a fleeting thought that I’m not doing enough with my time walking the Earth, that combined with the fact that I’m now in my thirties and by this time in my parent’s (and some friends lives) they were well on their way to raising kids etc. I know times have changed somewhat, but can’t help feeling like a procrastinator some times.
Excellent song writing all around on this album, poppy hooks, excellent harmonies, and you gotta love the unmistakable vocal delivery from Robin Pecknold.
Download Helplessness Blues here
The Paints Of Being Pure At Heart – Belong
If The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart set out on this album to break free of the comparisons to 80s shoegazer new wave pop like The Cure, they failed miserablly. I’m guessing that was not the attention though. They did set out on the first two tracks by adding a fuzz pedal to the shimmery guitars, but that quickly fades back into the bells synths and hooky riffs they have mastered so well. It’s almost unfair how good this band is at writing pop hooks, as an aspiring musicision you almost have to hate them for making it seem so easy.
One of the downfalls of having such shimmery, poppy tracks is focus tends to shift towards the sound and hooks away from the lyrics, kind of the exact opposite effect of the Fleet Foxes record where I hang on every line.
Needless to say this another excellent album, I will say I am guilty of losing a bit of my attention span towards the end of a few album listens, but taking any of theses tracks one at time and really listening to them, they are all really great. I think they are all so well done that you almost look for that “not so good” track to help create a little parity between great pop 80s new wave goodness. I ranked their last LP top of my best album lists in 2009, and this follow-up LP is actually better.
Download Belong here
TV On The Radio – Nine Types Of Light
It took me far too long to realize what really makes TVOTR so freaking great – it’s the rhythm section. Spectacular. I have historically had a love/hate relationship with TVOTR, but the first half of 2011 theme for albums I’ve been listening to seems to be focusing on tight, “accessible” albums. Nine Types Of Light is by far my personal favorite of all their releases, it just feels like a tighter record to me, and probably most would consider this to be their most “radio friendly” album. I don’t mean that in a Top 20 radio type of insult, I mean it’s not a challenging record that takes effort to fall in love with. There are still some great diverse threads and elements to these songs, that will reward even the most pop challenged “Super-Indie” fans. Great album, and possibly my favorite so far in 2011. I really struggled to pick only one song to share from this album. Please go out and buy this album and give it a chance, you will be happy you did.
Download Nine Types Of Light here
Radiohead – The King Of Limbs
I don’t think anyone needs a primer on what Radiohead is about. With every new release, they continue to re-invent themselves once again, but always with little elements that hearken back to previous work, and always built on the solid framework that this set of amazing musicians first starting building their songs around. I had a gloroius long write-up drafted about this album when it was first released, but I’ve come to the realization that the most effective way to get my thoughts actually posted and readable are to just do these short sweet recaps.
It’s no secret that frontman Thom Yorke is a big fan of electronic music including dubstep, recent collaborations with the likes of Flying Lotus and others, didn’t tee me up for too much of a surprise when I first heard this album. There are definite elements of these genres in The King Of Limbs, but in classic Radiohead fashion, these songs sound instantly new and different, but simultaneiously instantly familiar. I’ve listened to this album more than any other in 2011 (to be fair it was an early year release). I use the iTunes 5 star ranking system religiously to help me create smart playlists and navigate through my vast music collection. I rarely hand out five star rankings on songs, this album has three (if you are curious, they are “Give Up The Ghost”, “Lotus Flower”, and “Separator”). ”Separator” is easily one of my favorite Radiohead songs of all time. Kind of has a “House of Cards” feel to it.
Download The King of Limbs here
Ask pretty much anyone with a pulse if they know/like Radiohead. I can’t think of another band formed within the last 25 years that could appeal to so many different listeners, and on top of that, record music that still sounds as cutting edge 10 years after the year it was created. Most would probably cite OK Computer or The Bends as their favorite Radiohead album. I listened to both of those albums obsessively, but for The Giant Panther, it’s 2000′s release Kid A that no matter how many times I listen I never tire of. Some Radiohead fans were disapointed with the “new sound” Kid A and the album that followed, Amnesiac brought on. For me, it was the perfect progression, and a sign that Radiohead would never fall victim to doing the same old thing for the rest of their career.
I still remember the day I bought Kid A, I hadn’t heard any of the singles on the radio or anything, and I guess I was the only person who didn’t grab it months early on Napster. This was my very first experience with the album. I put the CD into my car stereo, then the organ riff came on from “Everything in its Right Place”. The sounds in the background that sounded like they had taken apart a CD player and just moved the CD back an forth on one sound like scratching a record, the pulsing and building of the song had me believing I was in for something spectacular. I was absolutely blown away. The drum beat in the title track Kid A, and the realization that sometimes words really don’t matter to make a great sounding song. Sigur Ros has made an entire career off of this theory. The bass riff on National Anthem. The loneliness of How To Disappear Completely, with the beautiful scale changes at the end. Here we reach the first question mark of the album in Treefingers, just under four minutes of synth. It does serve as a good bridge between the darkest track of the album to the most radio friendly cut in Optimistic, which is followed by In Limbo, these two songs to me come closest to Kid A’s predecessor OK Computer, in that they are mainly traditional instruments and lack the glitchy, electronic feel the rest of the album has. Next is Idioteque, which could be my favorite Radiohead song of all time. The beat is undeniable, the dark chord progression sets the tone for the song with perfection. Then Morning Bell (they also did a slower version of this on Amnesiac), with the beautiful hook “Release Me” following the minor verses. The album is capped off by the epic “Motion Picture Soundtrack”, with flowing harps and cellos.
I remember hearing a radio DJ not long after trashing the album, and wondering what the hell he was smoking (or maybe not smoking enough of). For me this was light years ahead of its time, and still is today. Sometimes 3 or 4 months will go by and I will find Kid A again on my Ipod or something, and get so excited to listen to this album again. There are very few albums that I can’t make myself sick of. Believe me I have put Kid A to the test, and I never get sick of it.
Amnesiac was released the year after, which contained other recordings from the Kid A sessions. Some though this was a cop out and not a “true album”, but there are plenty of Radiohead songs on Amnesiac I couldn’t live without, like I Might Be Wrong and Packt Like Sardines In A Crushed Tin Box to name a few.
Any fan of Radiohead or good music in general should own Kid A.
Download Kid A here
Radiohead on MySpace