It’s been a while since a new record has grabbed me in the way that Arc has. This record fires on all cylinders, and is an engaging and exciting listen from start to finish. The band weaves elements of rock, pop, and hip-hop with brit-rock brilliantly, with nothing every feeling forced or out of place. The record has a nice flow, and is one of my favorites of the year so far. If you haven’t heard them yet, check out the video below for ‘Cough Cough’ and see what I mean. If you enjoy that, check out the rest of the record on Spotify below that.
Due to Hurricane Sandy, I’m not able to check out this weeks New Music. Here is what I was looking forward to though:
For more in depth looks check out tinksaysboo. I hope all affected by the storm are safe and dry! See you next week!
Shiny Toy Guns are back with III, a collection of strong songs that showcase their brand of electro-Pop with an alt-punk edge. The band embraces a softer sound on this record, due in part to the return of former Co-Lead Vocalist Carah Faye Charnow. Her alluring alto seems tailor made for a bed of dreamy synths, and is a perfect counterpoint to the slightly gruffer work by Co-Lead Vocalist Gregori Chad Petree. Their duets on tracks like “Waiting Alone” (below) and the lush “Wait For Me” make for my favorite moments on III. This is a record you can relax to, but that doesn’t mean it is without its uptempo moments. “The Sun” is a pulsating rocker that spices up the album’s latter half, and “Speaking Japanese” has a dirty guitar fueled grind to it. III has a much more focused feel than previous Shiny Toy Guns records, but that is not to say that their previous albums are unfocused. The often over used (and dreaded) term “more mature” can certainly apply here, but when writers employ that term they are usually referring to the bands focus. III feels like a complete album, one whose recording process started with a specific direction in mind. Fans have celebrated the bands ability to jump all over the musical map, but with their third record the band has chosen to send a specific tonal message, one that I found most engaging. Grab it for yourself today at Amazon MP3.
PLAY IT WITH: Metric, The Presets, Yeasayer, The Eurythmics
Pines is a record that I can get behind. The latest record by A Fine Frenzy not only tells a story, but celebrates it. The album contains 13 tracks that aren’t afraid to paint a picture as well as entertain. This is definitely a headphone record. Whispered vocals, subtle arrangements, and delicate ambiance combine to make Pines an extremely theatrical aural experience. The story of the album is about a tree that has free will bestowed upon it. I know how that may sound to some, but trust me, its not as ‘precious’ as you may think. Much of the album features quiet, light acoustic instrumentation that sets up perfect contrast heavier moments. Dynamic production is the highlight of this album, and though I have placed a track from the record below (‘Avalanches’) I’m not going to recommend any other. You should take the time with this record as a whole. Let it win you over. And when it does, be sure to check out the interactive eStorybook that was created in order to help tell the album’s story. It is available in the iTunes store, and there is a link to it at A Fine Frenzy’s website. Put the record on, relax, and enjoy the experience of falling in love with truly fantastic art.
PLAYLIST COMPANIONS: Andrew Bird, Lisa Hannigan, Florence + The Machine, storytelling in general.
Ben Gibbard makes his solo debut with Former Lives, a collection of tunes written over an eight year span. If you’re a fan of any of Gibbard’s other projects (Death Cab For Cutie, The Postal Service, All-Time Quarterback!) you will be very pleased with this record. Gibbard has a gift for crafting warm melodies that seem familiar to the listener. Not because he is ripping anyone off, but because his delivery is so inviting that the tunes feel like they have always been a part of you. ‘Bigger Than Love’ is a duet with Aimee Mann that marches along a driving tempo and bright melody. ‘Teardrop Windows’ (below) is a nostalgic ode to a bygone era. Its clean riffs and melodic structure brings to mind mid sixties pop, and you can almost hear Roy Orbison singing along. Former Lives proves that Gibbard is not afraid to experiment, featuring an a cappella tune (‘Shepherd’s Bush Lullaby’), as well as a mariachi influenced track (‘Something’s Rattling (Cowpoke)’). The reverb soaked vocals and production on ‘Duncan, Where Have You Gone?’ make the track sound like a long lost John Lennon tune. Former Lives is a delightful selection of tunes by one of this generations top songwriters, and is very worth your time. This week only, you can get the album for just $5 over at Amazon MP3.
PLAYLIST COMPANIONS: Elliot Smiith, John Lennon, Two Door Cinema Club
Within ten seconds of Vital, fans of Anberlin should have a big smile on their face. By the final punch of the aptly named lead off track ‘Self-Starter’, your neck should be sore from aggressive head nods. Anberlin has always been best when they explore the passionate side of aggression, the light within the darkness, and that is exactly what Vital is all about. The blistering guitar solo in ‘Little Tyrants’ screams along the track’s fist pumping backdrop, punctuating what was an already triumphant track. First single ‘Someone Anyone’ (below) is a great snapshot of what the rest of the album has to offer, crushing guitars, energetic rhythms, and some of Stephen Christian’s best vocal work to date. The layered ‘Type Three’ is one of the albums strongest tracks, a gentler number with tinges of acoustic guitar and piano that will help you get lost in the melody. ‘Orpheum’ is another highlight, an exciting mix of big synths and powerful riffs. Vital is an extremely strong record, one that demands your attention.
PLAYLIST COMPANIONS: Foo Fighters, Sevendust, Boys Night Out, Linkin Park
While everyone was complaining about them mentioning their influences, progressive powerhouse Muse have created and released one of their best albums. The ‘hotly debated among people who haven’t heard a single note of it’ record in question is The 2nd Law, and it is one of the best aural journeys you will take this year. The lesson to be learned by all the bloggers, tweeters, and other social media users out there is this: Shut up and listen. They were so focused on the possible inclusion of Dubstep in their beloved perennial experimenters music that they didn’t listen to anything else the band had to say. Yes, there are tracks that have a Dubstep influence, but the band also manage to seamlessly weave in Classic rock, Metal, Electronica, Progressive Rock, Funk, Broadway Pop, Classical, and U2 inspired Power Pop. Seeing as how the “Dreaded” Dubstep’s roots are firmly in Metal/Prog Rock, not to mention the band’s love of aggressive electronic sounds has been evident across their entire discography, this marriage should be viewed as a natural one. Couple that with the fact that there is only one track to wear this influence on its sleeve (The 2nd Law: Unsustainable), everyone who panicked and trashed the band publicly should feel embarrassed. What is truly remarkable though, is that the track is meant to be the sonic representation of panic and fear, juxtaposed against the suite’s calmer continuation (The 2nd Law: Isolated System).
I felt that all needed to be said about the ridiculous pomp leading up to the album’s release, but how about we look at the album itself? Opening march “Supremacy” is a triumphant salvo that sets the adventurous mood upfront. Lead singles “Madness” (below) and “Survival” are as killer as any of the bands catalog, with sways and swells that explore the bands Queen influence in a fresh light. The funky bass driven intro to “Panic Station” will have your head bobbing involuntarily across the danceable three minute tune. The aforementioned title tracked suite that ends the record is some of Muse’s most poetic and bold work to date, a truly remarkable pair of art rock. Muse has long proven themselves to be masters of mashing up genres while staying true to their core, and the fantastic The 2nd Law is another chapter in their ever ascending career. This album deserves nothing but praise, and the music is perfectly capable of arguing that for itself. However, its now time for me to shut up about it, and you to listen.
Indie darlings Matt and Kim have returned with another sunny festival of block party ready tunes. Lightning will certainly delight fans, and anyone not on board with this fantastic duo should certainly take notice this time around. Bright opener “Let’s Go” (below) is the kind of track that you’ll be humming for a week after just one listen. “Now” is a pulsating power pop jam that shimmies and sparkles. Rippling synths lay the bed for “Overexposed” and set the tracks bubbly tone. The piano led “Ten Dollars I Found” brings the party to an eloquent close after just ten short tracks. The tune is anthemic and broad in scope, but never lets go of that homemade feeling that makes the rest of Lightning so inviting. This is the kind of album that will have you smiling subconsciously throughout, and any of its tracks are sure to brighten up any playlist. This is a must add to your library.
The first in an already recorded trilogy of records Green Day‘s Uno! is sure to spark a lot of conversation about the punk rockers. A lot of the record feels in many ways like a career retrospective, which can be taken as either a negative or a positive. Longtime fans will notice the nods to Nimrod and Warning era, and the band will take a lot of flack for this. I think this referential tone was done on purpose. Any follow up to the massive undertaking that was the combined success of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown was bound to cause the band to look back on where they had come from, and perhaps this trilogy is meant to acknowledge the past as well as the future. The band feels freshest on tunes like “Let Yourself Go” and “Kill The DJ”. The former rages for its near three minute run time and boasts a frenetic guitar solo, while the latter incorporates some near reggae/funk influences into the bands trademark sound. Lead off scorcher “Nuclear Family” (Below) sees some of Bille Joe Armstrong‘s best lyrical work on the record. “Troublemaker” and “Loss Of Control” enjoy a Classic Rock influence that gives the tracks an exciting tone. Uno! will please fans of the bands 2000’s era output, and may surprise a few people.
Having struck up an affinity for bluegrass and other folksy styles in recent years, it seems as though Mumford & Sons have hit me at the perfect time. If you loved their debut record, there is much to love about Babel. The band certainly has a strong sense of who they are, and all the elements that made Sigh No More special are present, but turned up to eleven. Babel is not going to surprise anyone, but it is a stronger representation of what makes the band great. I don’t mean to say the Babel is a better record than its predecessor, but rather that the band that made this record is much more confident in its approach. They have sold millions of records across continents, and they have played to sold out arenas across the world. The record opens with the trio of barn burners including the title track, “Whispers In The Dark” and “I Will Wait” (Below). “Ghosts That We Know” is a passionate ballad that is sure to receive a lot of airplay, and I’d be mystified if it doesn’t end up in a film somewhere. “Love Of The Light” swells and crashes on a grand scale. Intensely passionate and melodic, Babel is a record that will demand your attention.
For Ben Folds Five fans, the wait is finally over. The trio’s first album in thirteen years, The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind, is here and it was well worth the wait. Songs like first single ‘Do It Anyway’ (below) show that despite the passing of over a decade, the band can still rock with the same exuberance that their earlier albums enjoyed. The track features Robert Sledge‘s trademark fuzzed out incredible bass work, and drummer Darren Jessee pounds out the rhythms as passionately as ever. ‘Hold That Thought’ is rich with harmony and a warm, inviting melody. Ballads ‘Sky High’ and the breathtaking “Away When You Were Here” show the bands versatility. They can rock with the best of them, but its the dynamic between the rockers and softer tunes that give this album its place next to the bands previous records. ‘Thank You For Breaking My Heart’ closes the record in expert fashion, leaving you with one of Folds’ finest ballads ever. Ben Folds Five are back, and after hearing “The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind“, you’ll feel like they never left. Pick up a copy today.
Mirage Rock is filled with inviting, well crafted rock. Band Of Horses shows a strong Americana influence on the record, especially on songs like ‘Slow Cruel Hands Of Time’ and ‘Shut-In Tourist’. The vocal work by Ben Bridwell certainly has a hand in that world, but his haunting tenor lends itself to just about any influence the band tackle. ‘Knock-Knock’ (below) kick things off with fuzzed out guitars and “woo-ooh’s” reminiscent of The Beach Boys. The bass lead in of ‘Dumpster World’ sets up a moody, cowboy-noir like shuffle that erupts into a heavy, distorted march. ‘Electric Music’ is a bright track that echos the tumble and bounce of early rock and roll but never sounds dated or well worn. Mirage Rock is the kind of record that would fit perfectly with an autumn campfire, equal parts exciting and mellow. It is certainly worth adding to your collection.
After a short hiatus that many expected to be the end of the band, The Killers have brought us Battle Born, a record that may arguably be the band’s finest album to date. The record is slightly darker in tone than previous efforts, but it includes all of the rock and roll bombast we’ve come to expect from Brandon Flowers and company. All of the bands previously explored influences find a comfortable home on Battle Born. ‘Flesh and Bone’ begins the record with an electro pulse that gives way to an exciting track that summarizes the sounds that we will hear later on in the disc. Single ‘Runaways’ (below) has all the shimmer and power we’ve come to expect from a Killers single, but has a magic all its own. The driving ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’ grabs a hold of the listener and doesn’t relent for its near five minute run time. Electro acrobatics crescendo into an american rock pulse on ‘The Rising Tide’, a track that will draw many comparisons to other artists but its chorus is unmistakably the bands own. The track also features an exciting guitar solo, a seemingly lost art these days. I was not hotly anticipating Battle Born, but I am delighted to say that my preconceptions were wrong. This a truly fine record, one I know I’ll be spinning for a while.
Amanda Palmer is a true artist in the digital age, and with the release of her new album Theatre Is Evil she makes that point even truer. The album was crowd funded through Kickstarter, a fantastic way for fans to support the artist they love, and Palmer’s fans certainly got what they paid for. As a whole, the record is fantastic. Palmer is famous for her brand of cabaret inspired art punk-rock, and while that theme is certainly explored on the record, there are a lot of other influences at play. Synths and effect soaked vocals begin the album on “Smile (Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen)”, and that kind of shoegaze meets electro pop shimmer reappears on other album highlights like the fantastic single “Want It Back” (Censored video below with a link to the NSFW version). “Do It With A Rockstar” pulsates with a punk rock fury that will supercharge your day. Strings blaze through the stunning ‘Trout Heart Replica’, a tender, emotional piano ballad. By the time “Olly Olly Oxen Free” crashes to its thundering close, you will have fallen in love with this beautiful record. I really cannot say enough about this album. If you are the least bit artistically inclined, Amanda Palmer is the kind of artist that will make you want to create. Head over to her website to grab a physical (CD or vinyl!) or digital copy of Theatre Is Evil, rock out, and enjoy.
‘Want It Back (Uncensored NSFW)’
I’m not quite sure what I was expecting from this collaboration between David Byrne and St. Vincent, but Love This Giant managed to take me by complete surprise. I mean that in the best way possible about this amazing album. Both of these artists styles are evident on the record, yet they created a sound wholly unique and exciting. Big rhythms and catchy melodies are augmented by beautifully arranged horns that give a feeling of Big Band style records, but don’t get me wrong. While that element is certainly at play here, Love This Giant is definitely not a Big Band album. The way they manage to undercut each arrangement with either an acoustic guitar bed or quick electric riffs is what gives the record its ‘hard to classify’ nature. Lead single “Who” (Below) is a great introduction. If you enjoy that track (and how can you not?), this is a record for you. Equal parts dangerous and safe, you really need to hear Love This Giant. I loved this record, and I know you will too.
Pacifica is a perfect example of what makes an electronic album great. Terrific songwriting, bouncy beats, bold sounds, and the will to experiment make the latest album by The Presets one not to miss. Hyperactive power pop, disco/funk, and soul all find a home on the disc, sometimes in the same tune. “Youth In Trouble” (Below) gets things off to a toe-tapping start, with the kind of ‘in your face’ vocals fans have come to expect. That mood will shift quickly come the much discussed “Ghosts”, a delicately layered, dreamy, synthpop gem that tells the story of a young soldier injured in war. “Promises” is another album highlight, a bright ode that should make its way on to many playlists as summer winds down. Album closer “Fall Epic” is a magnificent send off to the record, a bare yet powerful ballad that is a showcase for Julian Hamilton‘s intense vocals. The album’s end is moving, and will leave you wanting more. Pacifica is a wonderful record, and a must own.
At least once a month when assembling this post, there is an album that has me from second one, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have that happen right off the bat this month with the new album by indie/dance pop group Two Door Cinema Club. Beacon is an introspective, contemplative dance party that never gives up. There are a bit more mid-tempo rockers here than on their previous album, but that is certainly not to the album’s detriment. ‘Next Year’ kicks things off in spirited fashion, and the record that follows further builds on this tune’s sense melodic interplay. The band is on point, and the delicate, purposeful vocals by Alex Trimble are a perfect fit to the electronic infused indie rock sound the band has perfected. I’ve embedded lead single ‘Sleep Alone’ below to give you a taste, and also a spotify link to my favorite track on the record, the horn accented ‘Sun’. Grab Beacon in physical or MP3 today.
Jazz pianist Chick Corea has had a long and varied career, from progressive-jazz-fusion-rock (Return To Forever) his work with vibraphonist Gary Burton. The pair have worked together for nearly forty years, and on their latest album Hot House, they sound as fresh as ever. Take their exciting rendition of Beatles favorite ‘Eleanor Rigby’ (See the live version embedded below). The melody around which the duo play is familiar, but the soundtrack they create is anything but. This is an album full of two virtuoso having fun with music and enjoying their time playing with melody and composition. If you like what you hear in the video below, grab Hot House today.
I have already explained my affection for Matchbox Twenty here, and subsequently all those reasons are why I really like North. Not just out of nostalgia for a band I’ve loved, but because the songs on this disc continue to resonate with me as much as their work always has. Despite their long absence, the album doesn’t sound forced or dated in anyway. Highlights include lead single ‘She’s So Mean’, power ballad ‘Overjoyed’, and the darkly melodic ‘English Town’ Check out the link above for more info about the album, but know that if you’re a fan of anything the band has produced over the years, you will greatly enjoy this record.
Animal Collective isn’t for everyone. Their brand of art rock is augmented by strains and sounds unfamiliar in most indie rock circles, more akin to the psychedelic experimentation done in the sixties. The beauty in their music is how they use these unconventional sounds and arrangements to create the kind of songs that sound familiar as soon as you hear them. Not in the sense that they are rehashing already well trodden territory, but in that “Of course!” sense you get when you hear a song that you love before its over. The feeling you get when you are completely blown away by a song, and you wonder how you ever went without it. Now if you can imagine that feeling in between industrial sounding beats, electronic distortion, and filtered vocals, you have the epic that is Centipede Hz. If that sentence turned you off, than go ahead and skip to the next album in this post. If you were intrigued by that notion however, you should check out >Centipede Hz.
The songs on Cat Power‘s latest album Sun are just fantastic. What I mean by that is if you cam across any one of the album’s eleven tracks individually, they would immediately make you want to know more about the artist that created them. Sun is a labor of love from an immensely talented singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer, whose real name is Chan Marshall. With the exception of some mixing duties, Ms. Marshall handles every bit of Sun herself. You can hear her passion for her craft in tunes like album opener ‘Cherokee’, the album’s title track, and the fantasitc harmonies on ‘Ruin’ (below). The eleven minute empowerment epic ‘Nothin’ But Time’ swells and falls over shiny synths and thundering rhythms, and features background vocals by an almost Johnny Cash sounding Iggy Pop. His gruff vocals offer a perfect counterpart to Marshall’s sweet breathy melody, and the tune floats by like a dream. By the time you reach the hip-hop-ish closer ‘Peace and Love’, you will have found that Sun is full of warm and welcome surprises. Make it part of your collection.
Matchbox Twenty is one of the first bands of my generation that I remember discovering. Most music I was into at age Eleven was hand-me-downs from my parents, and I still didn’t really listen to the radio. I had never heard of MB20 until the summer of 1997, which I spent at a theater program at my town’s High School. The program allowed High School students to direct younger kids in a several different productions over summer break, and I looked forward to it every year. The High Schoolers were all so cool, and everyone wanted to hang out with them. I remember sitting by myself one day at lunch when one of them came up to me and started up a conversation. He was one of the directors I looked up to, so this was huge for me. We mostly made small talk about the different shows being worked on, but as would prove all to common later in my life, the conversation soon shifted to music. I didn’t really know many of the bands he mentioned, and I thought he would be impressed by my knowledge of The Beatles and other Classic Rock. He told me that if I liked rock, that I needed to hear this new band called Matchbox Twenty. His words sold the album brilliantly, and that I would especially love a track called ‘Long Day’.
I hounded my parents until they finally brought me to Tower Records (look it up kids) so i could purchase the album, and I instantly fell in love. I played Yourself Or Someone Like You all day, every day, and ‘Long Day’ was instantly my favorite song. I memorized it front to back. When school started in the fall, I used to carry it around with me in my backpack in spite of the fact that I didn’t have any kind of portable CD player. I just wanted that record on me at all times.
Rob Thomas quickly became a hero of mine, solidified by each subsequent release. I loved him because he was not only responsible for the songs I held so close to me, but his versatility as a songwriter was something I had immense respect for. MB20’s second album, Mad Season, was the first record I purchased in the new millennium, and it remains one of my favorite albums to this day. All of the different genres utilized on that record blew me away, and that quality is something I still look for and enjoy when listening to new music. Check out the very album faithful spectacular live version of ‘You Won’t Be Mine’ below.
The band’s third record, 2002’s More Than You Think You Are, was a move back towards the straight up pop/rock of their debut, and I loved every track. The band was back with a force, as evident on the live version of ‘Bright Lights’ below.
In my opinion at the time, this was an unstoppable band, but history would prove otherwise. MTYTYA would be the bands last full album for ten years. They released a greatest hits compilation, Exile On Mainstream, in 2007, and Rob Thomas released two solo records in the interim, but to me nothing replaced the feeling I got when holding a new Matchbox Twenty Record in my hands.
To say my anticipation for their new record, North, was high would be an understatement. I was trying to be very adult and patient about it, but this was something that I had been waiting for since I was sixteen. After a few listens now, I can honestly say that it did not dissapoint. North is a very poppy record, filled with great hooks and all the ballads and rock longtime fans are used to. The band experiments with a electronic rhythms at a few points, but they never stray to far from the classic Matchbox Twenty sound. The band’s song writing is on par, as evident with the stylistically different lead singles ‘She’s So Mean’ and ‘Overjoyed’, which are embedded below.
You can stream ‘North’ for free right now at iTunes, and it comes out this New Music Tuesday 9.4.12. There’s so much to love about this record, and I hope you give it a try!