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.
Just saw that this record was released TEN YEARS AGO today. This was a big part of my soundtrack in high school, and the lyrics to the track never rang as true for me as they did listening this morning. This record described a lot of what I was going through at the time of its release, good times with friends and the ups and downs of being young. What I neglected to appreciate at 16 however, was that the author of these anthems that were defining my youth was writing them from an older man’s perspective, one I now relate to more than ever. I’ve embedded the title track below because even if you aren’t a fan, it’s sentiment might still move you.
“The Hero Dies In This One” has always been one of my favorite tracks.
At age 16, So Long, Astoria made me think about how much I loved where I was at that time. I loved all of my friends, and I knew that in a short time we would all be divided up across the country. I knew that despite the inevitability of change, I wanted nothing more than to just freeze myself in that time permanently. I loved all of them so much, more than they may have known at the time.
Time has come and gone, and life has taken us all in various directions. I certainly don’t regret anything in the last ten years, as its brought me to where I am now, and I am very happy in my life. I’m very lucky for multiple reasons, and I remind myself of that on a daily basis. However, every now and then, especially when I hear the fuzzed out guitars, hard rocking percussion, and gruff vocals on So Long, Astoria, I’m reminded how amazing that time in my life truly was. I’ll end this post with “In This Diary”, the album’s nostalgic lead single.
If you haven’t already, check out the whole record on Spotify and take a trip back in time.
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!
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!
This weeks releases are Funky, Imperfect, and Superpowered. Shall we?
Its been a good couple of weeks for the ladies of soul. Elle Varner‘s debut full length record is a wonderful mixture of old school R&B with today’s pop stylings and production values. Varner’s soulful voice gives each tune heart and pathos, even when she’s singing about less than emotional matters on the ‘What did I do last night?‘ anthem “Oh What A Night”. The track could have been a novelty throw away tune to bad out the record, but instead it remains just as compelling as album highlights “Only Wanna Give It To You”, “Refill” (shown below), and the sultry, funky “Sound Proof Room”. Perfectly Imperfect resonates with all the hooks and beats to light up today’s Hip-Hop charts, but its minimalist production hearkens back to a mix of 70’s funk and early to mid 90’s R&B. With so many influences in the mix, you really need to check this album out.
There is certainly no better title to this record than Funky Was The State of Affairs. Fergus & Geronimo take a lot of chances on this album, and I am all for it. A mixture of music and spoken word, this seemingly crowded sixteen track disc may look intimidating in your Spotify window, but the whole piece clocks in around thirty-two minutes. Fake accents and absurdest whimsy can distract the casual listener from the crunchy riffs and solid bass lines that make up the Ramones style post-punk attitude of the music. Think Pixies meets a Portlandia influenced sensibility. I took a chance on this record this week, and you should too.
Most people have such a love/hate relationship with Dubstep that I’m sure you just had a reaction to me mentioning it right now. Whatever your preconceived notion, if you love any kind of electronic music you need to check out The Polish Ambassador, the brainchild of David Sugalski. On his latest release, the EP Superpowers, Sugalski uses samples, synths, and big beats to create laid back grooves and melodic playscapes. Your first reaction to hearing this EP may be that the music seems very Sci-Fi inspired, but if that isn’t your cup of tea don’t let that description deter you. Sugalski’s ability to take that world and mesh it with today’s David Guetta style production is tremendous. Check out the Sci-Funk (thats how genre’s are born) for yourself on “Flesh Prayers” embedded below, then head over to The Polish Ambassador’s website. There you will find not only a free download of this magnificent EP of spaceman baby making gems, but also a free download of everything The Polish Ambassador has ever done. That’s seven albums and 30 remixes of songs by everyone from Bon Iver and Local Natives to George Michael and Next for FREE.
Here are some indie bands that I’m absolutely loving right now! Give them a look:
Fronted by the golden voiced Greta Morgan (The Hush Sound), Gold Motel is the kind of band you can fall in love with instantly. Their brand of iPod friendly head boppers make for perfect summer playlists. They just released a new self-titled record that you can read more about here, but the music in the video above should speak for itself. Older tunes are available on the groups Bandcamp page, and their new record is over at Amazon MP3,.
I was introduced to these guys by a friend of mine, and from the first listen to their EP Italian Ghosts I was hooked. Their music gives me that exciting spark of “Where has this band been all my life?” that keeps us new music seekers forever on the hunt. Elements of progressive rock, funk, jazz, and hard rock are fused together so effortlessly, you’ll forget just how improbable these riffs and tempo changes are to pull off. The best example of their stylistic brilliance can be found in the video below, where the band covers Carly Rae Jepsen‘s omnipresent “Call Me Maybe” and turns it into a Prog-Rock powerhouse. Even if you’re so sick of that song that the last sentence made you queasy, trust me on this one and give it a listen. Also embedded above is the Italian Ghosts EP from the bands’ Bandcamp page.
THE SINISTER TURNS
This is a band that knows how to craft smart, effective, piano driven power pop that hits every time. Their records are packed full of intelligent and thought provoking lyrics, hypnotic rhythms, and tremendous guitar riffs that remind the listener that The Sinister Turns can rock you as well as move you. My personal favorite tracks are embedded above, but you can’t go wrong with any of the bands work. Pick up their stuff at Bandcamp, and if you live in Massachusetts check them out live. For tour dates and other info, hit up their Facebook.
CLARE & THE REASONS
I missed this group’s new record in my last New Music Tuesday post, so I’m making up for it here. Kr-51 is packed end to end with left of center “indie” pop that will keep you guessing as well as entertained. There is more happening in each cut then a first listen would have you believe. Their songs may sound straight forward at first, but each tune includes intriguing twists or unpredictable layers that will have you hearing something new with each listen. True “indie” music is all about the freedom to explore and execute an artistic vision to its fullest, and that exactly what you get with Kr-51. You can pick up the record at Amazon or with the rest of the bands fine work at their site’s record store.
Chairlift’s Something is a fantastically varied and well produced record. The above track “I Belong In Your Arms” just makes me happy. The bands sound goes back and forth between electro and more baroque styled tunes, a shift that may sound jarring on paper, but is expertly displayed on tracks like “Frigid Spring” and “Wrong Opinion”. I really love this record, and you should pick it up if you haven’t already. The bands website has links to digital and physical retailers, so whatever your preference is, Something should be added to your collection immediately.
Another week, another eclectic week of new music!
One of very few bands to boast the accomplishment of having songs on both hits of the 80’s compilation infomercials and prog-rock mixtapes, supergroup Asia packs many influences into their stellar new disc. Powered by all the pomp and grandeur of their individual members 70’s prog beginnings, tunes like the introductory “Tomorrow The World” and the triumphant “No Religion” spring to life with the kind of sharp melodic perfection you’d expect from a group of men who have spent a lifetime defining their musical chops. Asia has not grown soft with age in the least. Instead, they attacked XXX like all of their previous efforts have led to this. This is not a record by aged veterans who were just looking for an excuse to tour. Just take a listen to the spirited vocals of John Wetton and see for yourself. XXX is a carefully crafted Progressive Rock masterwork, created by some of the genre’s highest level musicians.
People who have read this blog in the past may be shocked to see this disc among my picks for this week. The reason I chose this record is simple: Despite the headlines, the hashtags, his personal life, and whatever your friend heard about him that one time, Chris Brown is making some of the most exciting and enjoyable Top 40/Hip-Hop/R&B out there today. Yes, he has all the best songwriters and all the best producers to help him, and yes he has all the major label money to broadcast his mug throughout the stratosphere, but he also has one of the strongest male voices in pop today. Before the “YIKES!”, he was poised to take over the mantle of “King Of Pop” and on Fortune, he reminds us why. Forget your preconceptions. Do as he says on the album’s dance hall anthem and just “Turn Up The Music“.
Remember when you were a kid and all music did was make you happy? There was no pretension, no search for a personal philosophy, no “Scene” influencing your opinion. Tunes just made you wanna dance your ass off. Well, Teenage Bottlerocket has crafted just the record to help you recapture that time of your life. Freak Out! is chock full of slick pop melodies and dirty punk rock riffs that feel exciting and fresh for a genre that has been dissected and twisted a million different ways. If the titles to songs like “Necrocomicon”, “Punk House of Horror”, and “In The Pit” make you smile, then the music that accompanies them will be stuck in your head for weeks. This is the kind of pop-punk that was blaring in your friends ninety degree basement when you had your first adult beverage and never wanted the summer to end. Pure, BS-less, and just plain fun rock and roll.
Fans of the currently on-hiatus band The Hush Sound should be ecstatic that Greta Morgan (formerly Salpeter) is still making the kind of ernest, bouncy alt/pop that made that band stand out among the quickly crowded Fueled By Ramen roster of the mid to late 00’s. Morgan’s charm as a singer songwriter is matched evenly by her male counterparts on this self-titled sophomore record. I dare you to listen to the shimmering jangle pop of “Your Own Ghost” or sixties girl group inspired “These Sore Eyes” and not fall in love with this records warm embrace. Hipstery enough for those with ironic facial hair, inviting enough for the general audience, Gold Motel is a melodic gem from any perspective.