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