Wednesday, October 9, 2013

New Tunes Reviews, October 8, 2013: Parquet Courts, Tim Kasher, Amos Lee, Alex Chilton

Parquet Courts released an EP called Tally All the Things that You Broke, which is retro guitar-heavy 90s alt-rock at its best.  If you enjoy bands like Pavement, etc, check out this band. Their debut full-length, Light Up Gold, is also great. 

It feels like Tim Kasher never changes. The front-man from of Cursive and The Good Life, released a full-length called Adult Film.  Drunk, cynical, and romantic, the songs are enjoyable and Cursive-y.  (If you know what that means, you're halfway there. Give this release a try.)

For your easy folk-rock, public radio listening pleasures, Amos Lee released Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song. It feels like a fall-weather album with quiet guitars and delicate vocals. There are some harmonies but for the most part it is just Lee, strumming a guitar and singing his feelings. 

Did you ever want to listen to an album that captures the intimacy of an open-mic night, except the singer isn't an amateur but instead is Big Star's Alex Chilton?  Well, you are in luck.  This week his Electricity By Candlelight / NYC 2/13/97 was released.  After some research, I found out this recording was captured after the lights went out before Big Star was about to start a second set at the Knitting Factory. The end result was an impromptu, relaxed acoustic performances of "I Walk The Line," and "Surfer Girl," "If I Had a Hammer," "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" and more.  I love recordings like this. It really shows the true personality of this influential band.

And of course, this week's releases cannot come to a close without mentioning William Shatner's prog rock album, Ponder the Mystery.  Think about that for a second: William...Shatner...prog...rock. That is all. 


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

New Tunes Reviews, October 1: Basia Bulat, Lorde, Yuck, Johnny Flynn, and more

Currently the field of female indie-pop bands is quite crowded so there is a lot to check out, especially this week when a bunch of buzzed-about female artists released albums.  These three artists (Lorde, HAIM, and Basia Bulat) are all dreamy vocalists with a fondness for electronica drum beats and general whimsy. 

I enjoyed Basia Bulat's powerful gospel-infused voice.  Her album is called Tall Tall Shadow, and is a follow-up to 2007's Oh My Darling. With a mix of song types and tempos, this album is recommended. In a few of the songs, like "It Can't Be You," the music is secondary to her vocals. Other songs, like "Wires," are very dancey. 

[Watch this video of Bulat covering "Glory Days" for AV Undercover. It gives a little preview of her impressive vocals and awesome hammer-harp skills.]

A few tracks into Lorde's Pure Heroine, I was finally able to place where I'd heard her before. "Royals," the "single," is currently the song de-jour of department stores, coffee shops, and TV montages. This song is everywhere and, you know what, the album does not disappoint.  I usually like my female vocalists to be a little tougher (ie. Neko Case and Liz Phair on Exit in Guyville), but I can see the appeal of Lorde. It is like Feist, mixed with CHVRCHES, with some Grimes thrown in. And she's only 16.

HAIM's release, Days are Gone, was the most buzzed about. SiriusXM has been playing songs from his quartet of sisters for months. They are obviously influenced by indie-pop and R&B.  There appears to be some sampling and remixes. Overall, though, this release probably ranks third overall. 

Yuck released their first album since the departure of singer Daniel Blumberg.  Entitled Glow and Behold, it reminiscent of Big Star with a 1970s breezy vibe. 

Fuzz's self-titled debut is just what you may think: an album of fuzzy rock.  Ty Segall's latest project is full of guitar solos and heavy riffs. Not for me, but recommended if you like the fuzz.   

British singer-songwriter Johnny Flynn released Country Mile. This is his first album since 2010's excellent Been Listening (although he did score A Bag of Hammers in 2012). As a former actor, Flynn is an excellent wordsmith and the lyrics reflect his narrative ability. I definitely recommend it especially if you haven't listened to Flynn before and enjoy folksy singer-songwriters - ie Frank Turner.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New Tunes Reviews, September 24: The Horrible Crowes, Deer Tick, CHVRCHES, and Tim Kasher

The Horrible Crowes (Brian Fallon of Gaslight Anthem and Ian Perkins) released Live at the Troubadour this week. The album has songs from 2011's excellent Elsie and full covers and singular verses. There is some light banter about the band's formation, tramps, relationships, and being fancy sprinkled throughout the recording.

Fallon received some flack recently after his Tumblr post entitled "Tonight You Have Broken My Heart." In the post, he addressed the direction of Gaslight Anthem and the "play all the hits"/"BRUUUUCE" attitude of many fans after some specific incidents in July 2013. After reading the blog post (and the oddly awkward out-of-context pull-quotes used in some cases), my respect for Fallon grew. Yes, nothing can live up to The 59 Sound.  But, artists need to grow. They cannot be expected to play every song you want to hear and every cover they performed once.  Each release by any of his main-projects or side-projects is testimony to his growth and "don't take people's crap" attitude.  

And the cover of "Teenage Dream" is ridiculously fun.

(Ed. Note: This blurb was written without a single reference to Bruce Springsteen and for that, I am proud.) 

Deer Tick's quiet moments are often the most enjoyable, as seen in the song "Big House" from their latest release Negativity. The songs are all over the place.  They go from raucous and drunk to easy-going and romantic.  Another great release from this band that puts on one of the most fun (and destructive) live songs I've seen to date.

CHVRCHES released their anticipated debut album called The Bones of What You Believe. Another one of those electronic-pop"buzz-bands," this release is just as expected. The songs are catchy and darkly danceable. For fans of that type of music, this will likely be a BNM (best new music).   

Tim Kasher (of Cursive and Good Life) released a 2-song EP called Truly Freaking Out. It has the usual themes of drunkenness, anxiety, and aging. It never gets old (even when we do). 

Follow my Best Songs of 2013 playlist on Spotify. Updated weekly, this playlist features some of the best tracks from new releases.  Check out the playlist below! 


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Happy Fall! Here is a playlist!

Hello faithful readers, I am currently on vacation but below is a playlist for the start of fall. Its only a few songs right now. I will be adding to it over the course of this most favorite season. 


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

New Tunes Reviews, September 10: The Pixies, Arctic Monkeys, Arcade Fire, and more

If you were not lucky enough to secure a copy of Pixies EP1 last Tuesday when ordering was announced, you can listen to it now on Spotify. These 4 songs are the first in a series of EPs to be released in the next 15 months (via article in NYTimes).  "Andro Queen" sounds like a dreamy Flaming Lips-inspired song, while the other three tracks follow the typical Pixies' quiet-loud-quiet formula. "Another Toe in the Ocean" does seem like a refined version of that equation. "Indie Cindy" and "What Goes Boom" are a great throwbacks, complete with Black Francis's talk-singing. 

For fans of Sonic Youth and noise-rock, Body/Head's Coming Apart came out this week. The new project of Kim Gordon and Bill Nace is definitely for those like guitar noise albums.

UK garage-rock band Arctic Monkeys released a new album called AM this week.   With more harmonies and a crisper sound, this album does have some good songs. "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High" seems like the next logical step after 2007's "I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor." But again, it sounds mature and toned down.  The club/barroom sentiment is still there.  As Franz Ferdinand's latest album went more 80s-new-wave, this album continues with a more refined garage sound.  If you are a fan of bands like The Strokes, this album may be up your alley. 

Baltimore-based indie rock band Arboretum released Coming Out of the Fog. I saw them open for Band of Horses at Carnegie Hall in 2009 and was very impressed. Their new album feels very much like roots rock. It is worth a listen if you enjoy that genre and are looking for modern bands that do retro things.   

Another album for those who are in the mood for a more retro release, listen to Trombone Shorty's Say That To Say This.  Brass instruments are front and center on this great new album from New Orleans-based musician Troy Andrews and his band, Orleans Avenue.

Arcade Fire posted a song called "Reflektor," from their forthcoming album. Based on this song it seems like the album, produced by James Murphy, will be more electronica-dancey than previous releases. Thoughts?  I like it especially the mix of French and English lyrics.WNYC posted a round-up of bloggers' "knee-jerk" thoughts of the song, as well as links to the interactive and music video. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

New Tunes Reviews, September 3: Neko Case, Okkervil River, Glasvegas, Nine Inch Nails

photo from Amazon
Neko Case's The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You is another departure from her alt-country roots records. It is more of a rock album but there are quiet moments. The intro to "Calling Cards" is a soft-track reminiscent of Gaslight Anthem's acoustic gem "Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts." "Bracing for Sunday" is an example of Case's story-telling.  "Man," is a hard/fast song representative of Case's energetic and fierce songwriting and vocal style. "Madonna of the WASPs" features guest vocals from M. Ward. "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu" was the weakest track. Overall, great album, Neko! 

Is there a more Scottish band than Glasvegas? Their new album Later...When the TV Turns to Static is nothing short of a deep bunch of moody, rainy-day, emotional, bitter lyrics with dark, wintery, moody melodies. C'mon, the album includes a song called "I'd Rather Be Dead (Than Be With You)."  Depressing as always but intricately melodic, if you are in the mood for that type of sound, check this album out.  Or their excellent self-titled album from 2008.  

photo from amazon

Okkervil River's The Silver Gymnasium is another one of their concept albums.  This time the album centers on characters living in Meriden, New Hampshire in the mid-1980s (according to this NPR post from All Songs Considered)). The album is conceptual but real. It doesn't have any interludes like The Stand-Ins. "Pink Slips" and "Down Down the Deep River" are very good.  It is a more straight-forward pop-record.

Nine Inch Nails released their first album in almost over 4 years. Entitled Hesitation Marks, it is a great example of how to do industrial, goth dance pop successfully.  I was enchanted from the moment "Copy of a" began and never bored as the record moved along. 

As I mentioned last week, I also recommend Julie Ruin's Run Fast, which was released yesterday.