Monday, May 23, 2022

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

It’s official. My taste is turning solidly toward the folk and folk rock quarter. I still need dense enough instrumentation to keep me going (full-on acoustic singer-songwriter down-tempo on every song still doesn’t to it for me), but with nearly five months straight of my top album being in the folk/folk-rock/alt-country vein, it’s time to stop pretending it’s unusual for me to like this stuff. A couple of years ago, I didn’t really, which is why I keep being surprised. Tastes change. I’m learning to accept it.

One Little Plane – Into the Trees

I have a few different ways of finding new bands to listen to – friends recommendations, music blogs (though I’m bad at keeping up with them), Pitchfork reviews (I rarely agree with their reviews, but they turn me onto some good bands), NPR’s First Listen. Sometimes I just look up all the releases coming out in a week and randomly add albums to my Spotify playlists because I feel like I’ve vaguely heard of the band before, or just because I like the sound of their name. It’s a total crapshoot that sometimes pays off. That’s the case with this band. I have no idea why the name “One Little Plane” struck a chord with me, but I took the plunge and started up the first song and was in love within five seconds. Led by folk singer Kathryn Bint from Chicago (whose gorgeous voice easily slides into the same zone as Amy Millan or Emily Haines), this album is folk rock with just enough contemplation mixed with just enough rich orchestration to keep me enamored.

Super-sized edition this time, combining March and April since I didn’t have time to compile this post for March. But now there’s some certifiably great stuff to include, so I guess it works out okay. I’ve also switched to Spotify play widgets, which I realize are great if you have Spotify and worthless if you don’t. I apologize for that if you’re in an area without Spotify service, but the formatting on the YouTube videos I was including before was driving me crazy, and this is much cleaner and nicer. I’ll still include one YouTube video, of course.

Also, since I was going with the Spotify integration anyway, I’m going to start including a Mix at the bottom of the post with my favorite songs of the month (or two months in this case). Not only is this a good way to highlight my favorite songs off these albums, but I’ll also include songs that I really liked from albums I didn’t care for enough as a whole to include here, so you can find and check those out if you want. You can always head over to my Listening page and listen to my playlist of all my favorite songs for the year, which I update often.

As of right now, the Spotify embeds seem to be a little glitchy, so I’ll include the direct link to the mix in case it doesn’t work in the post. The albums I’ll trust you can look up on your own if you want to. 🙂

Jack White – Blunderbuss

I haven’t always been as big a fan of Jack White’s non-White Stripes stuff; his solo stuff was too alt-country for me (though my tastes seem to be changing on that front and I should probably revisit those), and The Dead Weather a bit too harsh, though the Raconteurs are admittedly up my alley. So even though I liked the first couple of singles, I wasn’t totally sure how I was going to feel about this album as a whole. I needn’t have worried, because I love pretty much every second of this album. So much so that I will be very surprised if it’s not in my top five at the end of the year. Bold claim, since there’s still a lot of music left to come out this year. I think this is probably the closest to the White Stripes sound he’s gotten since they split up, and for me that’s a good thing. There’s a lot of variety on the album, from the wailing minimalism of “Love Interruption” to the lilt of “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” and the Elvis-channeling of “I’m Shakin'” – and it’s all good.

The Magnetic Fields – Love at the Bottom of the Sea

Jonathan first got me into the Magnetic Fields, who are, it’s safe to say, his favorite band. Stephin Merritt is to him what Jenny Lewis is to me, in other words. I enjoyed the mix he gave me and need to delve deeper into their back catalog, but with this release, I’m definitely a fan as well. Usually I gravitate right toward how the music sounds and choose what to listen to based solely on that, but with The Magnetic Fields, the lyrics grabbed me just as quickly. They’re incredibly clever for one thing, but always with a jab of poignancy that gets you when you’re least expecting it. There’s also a very interesting approach to gender expression that runs throughout the lyrics, especially in the songs Merritt sings himself, but also to some degree in the ones Claudia Gonson sings (which are split about half and half on this album). Just listen to the supremely catchy “Andrew in Drag” to see what I mean. Most of their other albums have kind of a “theme” to them – distortion, 69 songs about love, songs that start with the letter “i”, etc. – but this one is kind of a mix. Lots of different styles and approaches, and yet they’re pretty much all memorable.

Click here to read more!

My Tunes Worth Hearing post for albums released in March will be out one of these days, but until then, here’s a collection of live performances my favorite band from February performed for Laundromatinee recently. They follow the same black and white aesthetic that the band’s single video for “Parted Ways” did, which I think works really well for the band’s old-school rock country sound, with Erika Wennerstrom’s signature emotion-filled growl leading the way. Incidentally, “Parted Ways” is still sitting atop my playlist of favorite 2012 songs.

Enjoy!

Month number two of keeping track of my favorite music releases ended up quite well, even if I spend a good part of the month continuing to listen to stuff from January. I guess that’s how it should be, eh? A bit of variety this month, with a bit of electronica, some country rock, some noise rock, some indie pop, and even a silent film connection. I should note that unlike my Scorecard post for movies, I’m not listing everything I listened to, but only stuff I liked to one degree or another. You can see how these fit in with the rest of the albums I’ve heard this year on my 2012 Favorites page (below the movies). And you can listen to my favorite songs of the year over here on Spotify.

Goldfrapp – The Singles

Okay, so this isn’t strictly speaking NEW music, but the album did release in February, and I have been listening to it a whole, whole lot, and I do kind of consider it my re-introduction to Goldfrapp, so I’m counting it. I’ve heard a few Goldfrapp songs before (notably “Strict Machine”), but I wasn’t enough into electronic-infused music until now to really get into her stuff. I guess Jonathan is having an effect on my musical tastes as well. I’m still not hugely into electronica, but this falls somewhere closer to the electronic end of rock for me – just a step or two beyond the synthiness of Metric or Blondie, and with good vocals and melodies layered in. It pretty much hits all my buttons, and it’s been almost on repeat all month (don’t worry, I still made time to listen to some other things), and it may not stop anytime soon. Granted, a singles album has a leg up on other albums since it’s kind of a “best of” record, but yeah, whatever.

Watch video for “Strict Machine”
Watch video for “Ooh La La”
Watch live performance of “Lovely Head”
Listen on Spotify

Heartless Bastards – Arrow

I may have to rethink my anti-country music stance, because both of my favorite actually new albums this year have been either country or folk inflected to some degree (the other being First Aid Kit – see last month’s post). Apparently if there’s enough rock in your country rock, I may quite easily become a big fan. Which leads me to believe that it’s just modern-day Nashville that I don’t like. Erica Wennerstrom leads this band with highly distinctive growling vocals, just the right sound for this raw sound. Something in the instrumentation and power vocals (especially on “The Arrow Killed the Beast”) also reminds me of my favorite Neko Case album, Blacklisted, which I’ve heard described as “country noir.” That epithet fits Arrow as well.

Listen to “The Arrow Killed the Beast”
Watch live performance of “Simple Feeling”
Listen on Spotify

Tennis – Young & Old

One of the cool things about Spotify is that I can introduce myself to bands that I had no idea existed before – I can usually find out about hot new bands from Stereogum or other buzz-tracking blogs, but sometimes one slips through the buzz cracks. Tennis is husband-wife duo (my favorite thing!) Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley from Denver, and they’re on their second album with Young & Old. I’m not sure they’ll reach the upper echelons of my musical taste that husband-wife duos like Mates of State and The Submarines enjoy, but they definitely put a smile on my face with these songs.

Listen to “Traveling”
Listen to “My Better Self”
Listen on Spotify

Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror

After hearing the opening bit of this album, I was all prepared to dislike and dismiss it – it’s a little too noisy and chaotic for me at the beginning, with the shouting going on under the singing. But I decided to stick it through and listen to the whole album at least once, and somewhere by the fourth song or so, I found myself genuinely enjoying it, as it settled into just the right amount of noise rock. By the end, I was ready to immediately play it again. That’s not been the norm as I try to take in two or three new releases a week lately, so it was a refreshing surprise. (I can’t remember if I’ve listened to their previous releases or not; I’ve certainly been aware of the name, but perhaps I dismissed them too early before, as I almost did this time.)

Listen to “End of the Line”
Listen to “Born to Lose”
Listen on Spotify

Fanfarlo – Rooms Filled With Light

Fanfarlo is a fun band, and very personable the time I met them after a show at Amoeba – I even have a signed ‘7 from them. 🙂 Even though I find this new release lightly enjoyable, I can’t say I’m a big fan, though. I won’t turn it off, but it runs a bit to the overly twee/hipster side, even for me. The song “Shiny Things” (see video below) is fairly solid and avoids some of the unnecessary quirk, but it’s all over “Replicate.”

Watch video for “Deconstruction”
Watch video for “Replicate
Listen on Spotify

Air – Le Voyage Dans La Lune

Being the burgeoning silent cinema aficionado that I am, I couldn’t let this one pass me by. I’ve heard various things by Air over the years, and it’s never really been my thing as anything but a novelty, and to be honest, that’s pretty much what this is. They were tasked with writing a new original score for Georges Méliès A Trip to the Moon, newly restored in its original hand-colored version, and this album is that score plus a few more tracks. I don’t love it, but it’s an interesting fit with the film most of the time.

Listen on Spotify

Most of my music posting ends up limited to the random music video I happen to come across when I’m in a posting mood and year end-lists. I still want to focus mostly on movies here, but I figured as I’m using Spotify heavily this year to try to at least listen through a whole bunch more albums this year, I could do a month-end post with the things I’ve discovered or enjoyed the most.

The one major caveat with music as opposed to movies is that music tends to jump around far more wildly on my lists than movies. Movies I can generally watch once and have a pretty good idea how much I liked it. My feelings towards specific music is far more variable, and depends a lot on how much I listen to it. Of course, if I really dislike something, I’m unlikely to listen to it again, but among things I like or love nothing’s ever set in stone. All I’ll say are these are all albums I’m enjoying now to one degree or another, and that deserves a mention in case you might like them too.

Also: ongoing Spotify playlist of my favorite songs of the year

First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar

The first album of the year that I’ve really loved, and after only a couple of listens, too. Usually it takes more than that, but this Swedish duo with their hippie-looking cover somehow snuck into earworm status almost immediately. The country-folksy thing doesn’t always work for me, but this is well within the indie style country folksy that I’ve grown to like. Beyond that, it’s got a touch of an almost medieval feel in cadence and intervals (at least in some of the songs – the title song in particular). And I love those close harmonies and epic orchestrations. Yeah, instant fan.

Watch video for “The Lion’s Roar”
Watch live performance of “Blue”
Listen on Spotify

Howler – America Give Up

This is just good old-fashioned rock. I didn’t even realize until I was just looking up videos for this post that these guys are apparently all 14 years old. Probably not really, but they definitely look young. Whatever, they make music that I can totally jam out to over and over. A scary number of the songs on this album have already made it on my ongoing Favorite Songs of 2012 playlist.

Listen to “Beach Sluts”
Listen to “This One’s Different”
Listen on Spotify

The Big Pink – Future This

I liked The Big Pink’s previous album, but I never quite listened to it enough for it to reach loved status, and I mostly remember the couple of singles off it. I’m getting the jump on this new one, and I quite like it as well. Some songs get a bit too “dance-y” for me, but for the most part, it’s bit anthem rock, and it’s pretty catch stuff.

Watch video for “Stay Gold”
Watch video for “Hit the Ground (Superman)”
Listen on Spotify

Imperial Teen – Feel the Sound

This video places these guys firmly within the quirky indie rock tradition, what with all the cut-out words and jumping around switching clothes. That’s all right with me! The rest of the album has the same upbeat feel. I only recently started listening to this one, but I imagine it will get a lot more play over the next few weeks and months.

Listen to “No Matter What You Say”
Listen to “Don’t Know How You Do It”
Listen on Spotify

Nada Surf – The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy

I actually remember picking up a Nada Surf CD from the library when I was back in college and beginning to explore what different music was out there. I couldn’t tell you now which album that even was, but I enjoyed it without really latching onto it. When I saw this new one pop up on NPR’s First Listen, I figured I’d give it a try, and it’s also pretty enjoyable stuff. Definitely worth a listen, and I might go back and try out some of their older stuff again as well. Also, the title is awesome.

Listen to “Clear Eyes, Clouded Mind”
Listen to “Jules and Jim”
Listen on Spotify

Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur

Not always do I get into singer-songwriter type stuff, but Edwards quite reminds me of Kathryn Calder, the New Pornographers singer who came out with a solo album I liked very much a couple of years ago. Similar pure voice, solid songwriting backed up by some really nice and often very full orchestrations. I think Edwards has actually been around longer, but whatever. This may not stay high on my list as the months go on, but I do like it.

Watch live performance of “Empty Threat”
Watch live performance of “House Full of Empty Rooms”
Listen on Spotify

Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory

I’m kind of split on this one – some of the songs (like the ones I’ve included below – you actually have to click through to YouTube for them; embeds are limited) are pretty awesome, with strong instrumentation of the type that makes me not mind when songs have long instrumental sections, and raw vocals that work with the music. Other songs sound like a mediocre alternative band from the ’90s. Plus, the whole thing is rather short. Still, when this album is good, it’s very, very good.

Listen to “Wasted Days”
Watch video for “No Future/No Past”
Listen to “Stay Useless”
Listen on Spotify

Here it is, my top ten albums of 2011. If this looks familiar, it may be because you saw this exact list on Row Three when we published our music picks earlier this week. But! I did change one video from a live performance to the music video. So there’s that.

10. Blondie – Panic of Girls

Blondie have been making music for longer than I’ve been alive; when I heard they were coming out with a new album, I was only mildly interested, since most of the time older bands who come back to make new records don’t always work too well for me. But this album both sounds recognizably “Blondie” and also quite current. I guess that makes sense, because even Blondie’s 1970s and 1980s music sounds fairly current right now – so many indie bands are picking up their style and using it themselves. Blondie pays back the favor, even, covering Beirut’s “Sunday Smile” but giving it their own flavor that makes it almost sound like a sequel to “Sunday Girl.” The band is showing their age a bit in the video for “Mother” (below), but they can still rock it out and sound great.

9. The Raveonettes – Raven in the Grave

Each new Raveonettes album and tour stop is definitely an event in my home – they put on one of the best live shows I’ve seen – and after their previous In & Out of Control neared the top of my 2009 charts, I was particularly excited for this one. It’s not quite the instant favorite with me, but its quieter and more melancholic riffs have a way of haunting me when I least expect it.

8. Death Cab for Cutie – Codes and Keys

Somehow despite my obvious hipster-ish music tastes, Death Cab always passed me by until this album, which I mostly picked up out of curiosity to see if they still had whatever it was that made them such a household name in my circles. Technically, I still don’t know, because I haven’t done enough listening to their back catalog yet, but holy crap did I fall for this insanely catchy album immediately. It pretty much just took the main guitar riff from “You Are a Tourist” (see below) and I was gone. So much so, you’ll note this is the only all-male band on my whole list. 🙂

7. Vivian Girls – Share the Joy

I have a thing for all-girl bands (and co-ed bands, as you’ll notice), so whenever I hear about one, I usually give it a listen, but I really didn’t like Vivian Girls’ 2009 release Everything Goes Wrong – a little too noisy and unfinished-sounding for me. This time around, though, they’ve cleaned it up, giving a much brighter, clearer sound without sacrificing too much of their fuzzy roots. More mainstream-friendly? Sure. But that’s not always a bad thing. From the bait-and-switch opening of “The Other Girls” to the self-consciously ’60s-pop of “Take It as It Comes” (below) and the minorly-inflected “I Heard You Say,” I’m with this album all the way.

6. The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar

My fiance introduced me to this band last year, and I’d just gotten really into their earlier album (which at 8 or so songs is much too short) when their first real full-length dropped – perfect timing for this trio of epic Welsh rockers to blow me away. So many of these songs are great, it was hard to pick just one, but “I Don’t Want to See You Like This” has a great video as well, so that barely got the nod. Whenever I just need to kick back with some densely-orchestrated, big sounding tunes, this is what I reach for.

5. Givers – In Light

An EP from Givers last year had me intrigued, but not totally sold – songs like “Up Up Up” are infinitely catchy, and the rest of the album bore out the promise of that initial single (which is included on both last year’s EP and this year’s album). The band is out of Lafayette, Louisiana, and Southern charm radiates from them – there’s nothing but joy on this album, and that comes through every note.

4. The Submarines – Love Notes/Letter Bombs

The Submarines are one of my favorite bands, so I was pretty sure they’d feature somewhere on my list when I heard they were releasing an album this year. The story of the now-married couple’s lives is basically told obliquely through their albums (courtship, breakup, reunion, marriage), and with this third one they settle into married life and the challenges and joys that come along with that. Their music is adorable and upbeat, but the lyrics always have unexpected depth – it’s not surprising to learn that Blake Hazard is F. Scott Fitzerald’s great-granddaughter.

3. Grouplove – Never Trust a Happy Song

This album has been steadily climbing my charts (just a week or so ago when we started putting together this post, they were in 6th place), because I cannot get their songs out of my head for the life of me. I’d heard but not been impressed with their EP last year, but the full-length takes all the things that were good about that EP, trimmed off the things I didn’t like, and ended up with an album that hits all my buttons, including ones I didn’t even know I HAD.

2. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

I’ve moved this around on my list a lot, too, but every time I pop it in, I’m overcome with the raw emotion that Lykke Li has captured this time around. I’ve tried to like her earlier album Youth Fiction without success, but this one – every lyric, every musical choice, every orchestration is simply perfect. And this video has Stellan Skarsgard in it. So there’s that.

1. Cults – Cults

Last year, Cults’ 3-song EP would likely have been on my top ten list if I didn’t resist putting EPs on my top ten list. This year, they have a full-length (with a couple of the same songs as the EP), so it’s not surprising that it’s on here – it does surprise me a little that it ended up this high! But if I mess with the list any more, I’m going to go insane, so here it stays. The indie pop catchiness of “Go Outside” and the retro ’60s stylings of “You Know What I Mean” are clearly up my alley, but there’s not a song on here I don’t like. And it doesn’t hurt that they’ve got some of the more intriguing music videos, too – especially the one for “Go Outside,” which places the band Cults inside an actual cult, blending new and archival footage to put them at Jonestown.

You probably thought that Honorable Mentions post was my 11-20, right? Wrong! I couldn’t squeeze everything into a top ten or fifteen this year, so I did a top twenty, split into two parts. My top ten will post tomorrow, though between you and me, you could hop over to Row Three and see it now.

20. The Belle Brigade – The Belle Brigade

The first album from local sibling act The Belle Brigade was a self-produced collection of solid and sweet folksy songs. This time around, they have a label, a bunch of promotion (I’ve even seen them featuring on some big-name year-end lists!), and a bigger, bolder, more rollicking sound. Los Angeles musicians have their own take on country, sort of an indie-country hybrid, and I like it.

19. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong

Every time I hear The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, I really enjoy them (also lead singer Kip is like the nicest guy ever). They don’t stick with me for that long, though, which is the main reason this album isn’t even higher on my list. This one’s even catchier and more fun than their previous stuff, if possible, and the video for “Body” is a great tribute to the endless summers of childhood.

18. The Dodos – No Color

I quite liked The Dodo’s first album Visiter, but didn’t care for the second at all – with No Color, they’re back in form, with intricate arrangements and exuberant drumming backing up soaring vocals. Plus, this time they’ve got Neko Case on background vocals, which lends an extra air of awesome to many of the songs, especially “Don’t Try and Hide It.”

17. Los Campesinos! – Hello Sadness

The most surprising thing about this album is that Los Campesinos! haven’t used this title before. Yes, you won’t find much new on here if you’re a long-time Los Camp! fan, but if you are a fan, you’re probably okay with that. It continues the slightly slower, gloomier tone that characterized the second half of Romance is Boring, with lyrics that are slightly more mature and considered. Losing more original members is starting to take its toll, though – nothing against the replacements, who are solid, but Aleks’s sunny counterpoint to Gareth’s desperation is missed.

16. Wild Flag – Wild Flag

A band combining former members of Sleater-Kinney, Helium, the Minders, and others, I knew I had to check Wild Flag out as soon as I heard about them. I don’t love all of the songs (some tend toward the same noisiness that makes Sleater-Kinney just a sometimes band for me), but the ones I do like I like a LOT. Especially “Romance,” which also has a really fun video – basically a short film, really. Carrie Brownstein is also active as a comedienne (currently on IFC’s Portlandia with Fred Armison), and that sense comes through here.

15. Ida Maria – KATLA

Somehow I missed until a few weeks ago that Ida Maria had a new album out this year! Thankfully I got hold of it in time for this list, because this is one fun punk throwback album. There’s a few songs that tend a bit too abrasive for me, but for the most part, KATLA is immediately and unavoidably catchy. Throw in Ida Maria’s sly wit, and this is at least as fun, maybe more so, than her debut. “Cherry Red” is one of my favorite songs on the album; this version is acoustic, but the album is not.

14. Florence + the Machine – Ceremonials

I didn’t give Florence + the Machine’s debut album Lungs nearly enough listening time when it came out, beyond the two or three singles that got a lot of play, but I tuned into this one more. I’m still not totally sold on the whole package – her voice is amazing, there’s no doubt of that, but it often overpowers everything else that’s going on. I think that’s part of the point. But there’s a lot to appreciate here, and there are several songs definitely standing out to me on here.

13. Mates of State – Mountaintops

It’s so great to hear Mates of State back doing original music again after an admittedly-great cover album. I need more time with this one; the second half starts to get a bit same-y to me, and they’re definitely moving into a more melodic and pared-down style that I like, but doesn’t excite me as much as Bring It Back, which remains my favorite of their albums. That said, songs like “Palomino” and “Maracas” are right up with their best.

12. Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls

A friend has proven to me he shared UK band Veronica Falls with me last year, which I don’t remember at all, but after stumbling across them on Stereogum earlier this year, I find myself more taken with Veronica Falls’ eponymous debut LP every time I hear it. The combination of gentle vocals with melancholic chord progressions, tight harmonies, and just a hint of medieval intervals feels fresh and unique, and imminently pleasing.

11. Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams / He Gets Me High EP

The EP He Gets Me High was my #1 of the first half of the year. I still love it, and I quite like Only in Dreams as well, but it’s a lot less noise-poppy and a lot more polished than their previous album, which is throwing me off. With more time to get used to Only in Dreams, I’ve little doubt this pair of excellent discs would jump back into my Top Ten, but as of right now, I’m not getting the same exhilaration from Only in Dreams that I got from the EP or their previous album, so I’m reluctantly bumping them down here.

Over the next few days, I’ll be listing out my favorite things of 2011 – music, movies, games. I’d do books, but I only made it through a pitiful number of books in 2011, not even worth listing. All this stuff is listed on my 2011 Favorites page, which I’ve been keeping updated all year, but calling my favorites out with a bit of explanation is something I always look forward to doing.

To start things off, here are ten albums (in no order) that I really enjoyed, but didn’t quite make my favorites of the year.

Neon Indian – Era Extraña

I came across Neon Indian via NPR’s First Listen – I often check First Listen to preview albums I’m planning to buy a week early, but once in a while I find something I’d never heard of before. Neon Indian are a bit heavier on the electronic-sounding distortion than I usually like, but something about their sound really pleases me, especially when it falls into fuzzier distortion. Both “Hex Girlfriend” and “Polish Girl” would rate among my favorite songs of the year, but the rest of the album left me colder – kind of same-y and unmemorable, knocking it down into the honorable mentions.

St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

I can easily see this album being in my top twenty if I’d given myself more time to get accustomed to it, but I find St. Vincent something of a tough sell, personally. I don’t know why; lots of people whose taste I generally share love Annie Clark a lot, and I can see the appeal, but she just doesn’t grab me immediately. Like I said, with more time to let it seep in, it might.

An Horse – Walls

The third album from this Australian duo takes their basic sound and polishes it up a bit – not quite so much reliance on the fourth interval, for one thing, which is welcome.

Braids – Native Speaker

A January release, so this one has had plenty of time to earworm me, but only the opening song “Lemonade” has succeeded in sticking with me very long. That song is killer, a pop-happy experimental number that promises more than the rest of the album can quite deliver.

The Pauses – A Cautionary Tale

It’d be disengenuous of me not to mention that I’m pretty good online friends with this Florida band’s drummer; I wouldn’t know they existed otherwise. They have a very pleasing indie pop sound, with strong vocals and a bit of experimentation around the edges that sets them apart from the crowd.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Hysterical

I’ve not really liked Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s previous albums all that much, but listened through this one on a whim and was duly impressed. It’s tighter and stronger than what I’ve heard before, with catchier hooks and a great sound.

Pepper Rabbit – Red Velvet Snow Ball

I saw these guys opening for another band several months ago and remembered enjoying their set, so when I saw they had an album out now, I figured why not check it out. Often I enjoy opening bands at the show because, well, live music is awesome, but Pepper Rabbit followed through in the studio.

Feist – Metals

Most people who like the bands I like put Feist way up at the top of their lists. I like her all right, but I just can’t quite love her stuff (aside from her vocals with Broken Social Scene, of course – those are awesome). It’s a little too spare, a little too quirky, or something. That said, I enjoyed listening through Metals more than I’ve enjoyed her other albums. Maybe next time is the charm?

The Violet Lights – Sex & Sound EP

Another band I’m friends with, but I think this EP is really strong aside from that – an LA-tinged throwback to Britpop, like a touch of Oasis mixed with a dash of the Libertines, and then a sprinkling of Jack White thrown in on top.

Twin Sister – In Heaven

A bit of an electropop touch layered in makes this album really listenable; with a bit more time it might’ve risen higher, but on the other hand, it’s maybe a tad forgettable outside of definite earworm material like “Bad Street.”

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