The new Bright Eyes song "Shell Games," is pretty fucking amazing. I'm so glad this dude is back at it. Aside from "Cape Canaveral," and maybe one or two other songs, the bulk of the material from his last two albums have been hot messes. "Shell Games," is a return to form and holy hell does it make me happy. Music needs this guy to be on his A game far more often. Download it.
This went public in the staff forum last night and I thought I'd bring it to the attention of those of you that aren't staff.
It is with a heavy heart and much sadness that I am informing all of you my decision to resign from my post as album reviewer at AbsolutePunk.net effective Jan. 1, 2011. After two years and 300-plus reviews I feel I am being called to pursue other opportunities and so I must go chase them down. While the decision was hard to come by it is something that has been weighing on my mind for the better part of the last seven months. However, after much deliberation I feel it is time for me to move on. The entire experience has been beyond my wildest dreams and has been a thrill ride of epic proportions. Do know that while I am resigning I still plan on visiting the site daily and keeping in touch with all those of you I have become close to. There's a bevy of words that I could probably say to wax rhapsodic about my entire experience, but I will close it with these succinct and blunt words: It has not sucked.
I look forward to the remaining six weeks and wish all of you a most pleasant Thanksgiving.
Those of you that want to continue to read my writing can do so at the following two freelance media blogs: www.GregRobson.net. and www.residentmediapundit.com. If any of you ever feel like giving me a shout, I can be reached via Twitter, @GregoryRobson.
I realize most people don't read this thing and that my musical tastes aren't exactly cutting edge, but I saw two shows worth celebrating this weekend.
Friday night Matt White and Edwin McCain shared the stage at Bay Shore's Boulton Arts Center. A former movie theater, the arts center is a gorgeous venue in a vibrant and buzzing downtown. Their fall season has already garnered a ton of top notch talents and Friday night's show was no exception. White walked on stage dressed to the nines. His hair was gelled, he had a Brooks Brothers blazer on, Burberry jeans and Italian leather shoes. He walked on stage with an heir of arrogance and a chip on his shoulder. And then he opened his mouth and hot damn he killed it.
Opening with "And The Beat Goes On," he coasted through his set with more effortlessness, swagger and attitude than any singer-songwriter I've seen this year (that's a list of about 50-60). Though his set was bogged down by saccharine relationship material, there were some clear standouts. "Taking on Water," and "Therapy," revealed a deeper, matured approach to songwriting while radio-ready hits "Falling In Love With My Best Friend," and "The Honeymoon Phase," pointed towards Jason Mraz 2.0. Four years ago White emerged as a major player in singer-songwriterdom with his Geffen-release Best Days, which received commercial and critical acclaim.
ut when Geffen severed ties with the likes of Weezer and Counting Crows to name a few, White also got the axe. He resurfaced again this year with It's the Good Crazy on new label Rykodisc and is returning to the forefront again with McDonald's McRib commercial. For more on White and his resurgence, head here.
McCain took to the stage with grace, humility and charm. Always comedic, always appreciative and unarguably one of the most charismatic performers this writer has ever seen, his set was passionate, polished and nothing short of terrific. Debuting new material, he offered up the driving rockers "Love Is For When It's Hard," an ode to his mother's battle with cancer; and "Sorry I'm A Little Sober," a nod to his battles with alcoholism.
Sprinkled in were old-school offerings like "Guinevere," and "Sorry to a Friend," as well as "White Crosses, " a yarn about illegal immigration. Of course his two romance ballads "I Could Not Ask for More, and "I'll Be," made the set list of course, but were far from the standouts. That distinction belonged to the sax-fueled crowd favorite "Darwin's Children,"; the criminally underrated "Shooting Stars,"; and current single "Walk With You," a timeless ballad about fatherhood. Having seen McCain more than two dozen times in his 15-year career, he has honestly never sounded better.
A day later at High Line Ballroom, Harper Blynn opened up for Greg Laswell. Rarely does an opening band ever steal the spotlight, but sure enough HB did it. Though they dabbled mostly in material from their new EP, the set was punchy, polished and nary a flaw. Though vocally, J. Blynn outshines Pete Harper, the duo possess the kind of connection and charisma eerily reminiscent of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.
Though their cover of Beyonce's "Halo," was the undeniable crowd favorite, equal weight should be given to new song "Bend And Break," and the utterly infectious "Models/Dancers." The quartet returned to the stage 15 minutes later as Greg Laswell's backing band but Laswell's clumsy between-song banter and his mumbling vocals gave the headlining set an awkward and uncomfortable feeling. Even though few wanted to say it, it was very clear that the evening had peaked with Blynn.
Six years ago Smartpunk.com was my Bible of music. Sherwood, The Academy (later The Academy Is..) This Day and Age and Valencia were all brought to my attention because of that site. There are others of course, but those four take the cake as the ones that made an indelible impression. Smartpunk has undergone a sea change in the six years since but having teamed up with PureVolume earlier this year, the site seems to be back in its groove.
Now granted, these aren't some of my favorite bands and much of it would probably appeal to me if I was 15. But honestly, thees are pretty some solid bands. Sure there's no Sherwood or This Day and Age out there, but these are still bands worth passing along.
If there's any singular problem with the CMJ Music Marathon, it's the amount of music taking place in any given hour. On any given night, New York City naturally is host to thousands of live music venues and thousands of bands. During CMJ week, those thousands are only increased exponentially. Pinning down what to say and what not to see is never easy, but with any luck, cross your fingers and hope your lucky stars shine on you.
The following is a recap of six sets that made an immediate impact.
The opening band of the Buzznet.com evening set, the Brooklyn quartet carved their way through a blistering, jagged and undeniably cohesive set. Lead vocalist Dylan Rau's yelpy warbling and less-than-sonorous timbre gives the band's output a raw and straightforward sentiment without sacrificing quality. Guided by thumping bass, propulsive drumming and nuanced guitar work, they were nothing, if not, stunning. Older tracks like "Long lean Queen," and "Golden," were crisp, lucid and packed a major wallop. As impressive as they were though, the band's newer material, most notably the jaunty lead single, "What a Drag," were the true stand- outs. Armed with a new EP (due out in November) and armfuls of confidence, there's little reason to think Bear Hands won't make waves in 2011.
Having hit the ground running since forming four months ago, the improv-jazz quartet performed a near-flawless, if not effortless set of seven, deeply textured, emotionally resonant instrumentals. Guitarist Saen Fitzgerald and trumpeter Ducan Tootill spent as much time twisting knobs, pressing pedals and banging on keyboards as they did their own instruments. Whereas most efforts would come across as wanton, misguided and overbearing, their key patterns helped make the orchestrations that much more supple, palpable and sensual. Bassist Julio Tavarez, who served as the group's mouthpiece for much of the night fed off the syncopated stylings of drummer virtuoso Cliff Sarcona as Tootill's sonorous trumpet weaved and soared through the 40-minute set. Highlights included set opener “Untitled Graffiti,” “Autumn Rhythm,” and sensational closer “A Swallows Tail.”
Electro-pop is not going away, so just suck it up and embrace it. Of the laundry list of acts creating electro-pop, few are as enjoyable as the Brooklyn-based Plushgun. Sure, Daniel Ingala’s rhymes can get a bit silly and inane, but the splashy harmonics are hard to argue with. Whether it’s the nostalgic “How We Roll,” or the heart-on-sleeve, “Just Impolite,” there’s something freewheeling and light-hearted about every passing second. Not every band has to make you think, some just want you to shake your ass. Plushgun prescribes to the latter, and hot damn, they do it well.
The Black Atlantic
Few if any people knew about this Dutch band prior to their set, but the minute it ended, people started talking. Mouths agape with awe and reverence, these Europeans performed a near-flawless, air-tight set of pristine balladry. Guided by vocalist Geert van der Velde’s soulful vocals and Matthijs Herder’s inspired piano playing, each song was majestic, transcendent and cinematic. One thing is for certain, if this band’s songs aren’t on movie soundtracks by the end of 2011, something is horribly wrong.
Though he was surly and visibly upset about an unnamed occurrence, Canadian singer-songwriter, performed a dazzling and spellbinding set of eight intimate affairs. Shuffling between a chair and center stage, he employed a kick drum, loops and a harmonica to buttress his sterling tales of woe, melancholy and fear. Like an amalgamation of Justin Vernon, Jim James and Ryan Adams, JBM left the crowd wanting more.
Mike Grubbs and company barreled through a 12-song set with the swagger of seasoned veterans. Bouncy cuts like “22,” “The Oh Song,” and the driving “Almost Everything I Wish I Said The Last Time I Saw You,” kept the crowd frenzied and dancing, while plaintive ballads, “War Sweater,” “Dance So Good,” “Brooklyn Fire 1976,” and “Light Outside,” kept the girls fawning. Even on the syrupy ballad “Great Lake Love,” which Grubbs admitted was the song’s live debut, the band employed a heartfelt sincerity that seems to be genuinely lacking in popular music. The live set’s true gem was violinist wunderkid Patrick Doane, who blistered through solos with the efficiency of a powertool. Dimunitive, humble and unassuming, his presence, combined with Grubbs made for a veritable one-two punch of charm, skill and sex appeal.
Forget about all those ukulele-toting wannabes on YouTube and focus your attention on 33-year-old Hawaiian Jake Shimabukuro. You mean you haven't heard of him before? You haven't checked out his YouTube videos. Well, hot damn, it's time to do something about that. After all, he just might be the greatest ukulele player that ever lived.
To date, he has drawn comparisons to the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis, and the mild-mannered, unassuming virtuoso is no stranger to high praise. But after last night's set at High Line Ballroom, a whole new set of praise just might be in order: Shimabukuro is arguably one of the greatest players of a fretted instrument under the age of 40.
During his set Monday night in Manhattan, he performed with gusto, kinesis and flair, often times inducing rapturous applause. Vernal cut "Five Dollars Unleaded," an homage to his father's truck, was wistful, surreptitious and deeply resonant. Equally impressive was the dizzying and head-spinning "Me and Shirley T."
When he felt like being romantic, sincere and achingly tender, he was equally as affective. The poignant "Blue Roses Falling," and the intimate "143," were hypnotic, halcyon and deeply moving. Shimabukuro seemed to draw the greatest applause on extended solos during the ebullient "Dragon," and a jaw-dropping rendition of crowd favorite "Trapped."
Being that he's only an instrumentalist, Shimabukuro's chances for commercial acclaim appear faint at best. But one has to think a CD full of session guests and heavy-hitters, a la Carlos Santana, might not be wishful thinking. Having played the instrument since the age of four, and having released more than a dozen albums, the Hawaiian maestro is certainly more than ready for his time in the spotlight.
Earlier today, Daniel Nigro, former lead singer of As Tall as Lions, released his new single "Hourglass," on his Facebook and Bandcamp page. The song's debut comes after months of waiting, rumors and endless speculation. What would it sound like? Solo acoustic? Something meatier and electric? Turns out the solo project, which uses the stage name Blocks, is something altogether different.
Self-described as minimalist crooning hip-hop, the song borrows shades of Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel and Elbow to help make for a most rewarding listen. While initial reaction has been mixed, there's little about "Hourglass," that isn't enjoyable. Subdued, intricate and endlessly winsome it's as promising as anything Nigro has ever touched. The chorus is buoyant, bubbly and anchored by lingering melodicism. In the end, the song finds its way and the results are nothing short of indelible.
Those that enjoyed Nigro's reedy vocals are certain to find favor with Blocks. If "Hourglass,' is just the beginning, then it seems that Blocks is most assuredly destined for success.
One of the good and bad things about reviewing so much music, is that so much amazing stuff gets swept under the rug. The following is just a list of songs and bands that have been grabbing my attention lately:
Foster the People: Lead single "Pumped Up Kicks," features a laid-back groove, a definitive dance angle and a contemporary pop landscape that seems destined to be a commercial splash. To me it's like Chester French and Black Kids came together and had a block party. This Los Angeles quartet has a bright future. Here's a great write up in The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010...-foster-people
Black Gold: Saw them open up for The Young Veins and Rooney, earlier this summer. Bought their disc because their live show had a lot of swagger and energy. The disc feels very ho-hum and puts me to sleep in places. It just feels pedestrian. The pop anthems are good and revisit that live energy, but there's still something accessible and worth pursuing on here. That being said, "Shine," and "Breakdown," are freaking gems. As enjoyable as any songs I've heard in the last two years.
Doug Paisley: His lead single "What I Saw," is a laid-back gem with gentle acoustic guitar, warm rhythms and a light organ. Adding Feist's vocals to the whimsical chorus helps make this amiable summer treat that much more winsome. While Paisley does have a slight country lilt to his vocals, there's nothing entirely too alienating. In fact, this just might become your subdued jam of September.
Polyamorous Affair: Lead single "Bright One," features splashy synths, jaunty guitars and dark dreary vocals not unlike Dave Gahan or The Psychedelic Affairs. Not exactly Depeche Mode 2.0, but pretty darn close. If every song is as strong as "Bright One," this band might just make some noise in 2011. Plus with a name like Polyamorous Affair, how in the hell can you go wrong?
Bob Lefsetz: Okay, he's not exactly a musician, but without him I'd have absolutely no idea about Cee Leo's "Fuck You," and for that I can only thank him immensely. Do I get tired of his bloating and his braggadocio? Absolutely. But his comments about most things are usually dead-on. That being said "Fuck You," should be the breakaway single of the year and legit one of the best songs released in years. But it has a foul-mouthed refrain. Do we give up our PC mores and embrace it, or do we keep it in the underground and let the social networks and guerilla marketing kick it to fame? The latter is already taking place, so who really needs radio these days?
Though I've reviewed roughly 100 albums so far this year, few have been as enjoyable or as rewarding as Harper Blynn's Loneliest Generation. The band is currently out on the West Coast wrapping up a tour with Cary Brothers. J. Blynn and Pete Harper recently took a few minutes to answer some questions. Enjoy!
Fifteen Questions with Harper Blynn’s Pete Harper and J.Blynn
How’s the tour going?
Great! We've been out all summer opening for a co-headline bill of Greg Laswell and Cary Brothers. We also act as their band, so we're on stage for 3 hours a night. Technically speaking, we could be the hardest working band in show business. Don't quote me on that though, I gotta take a look at the numbers.
Is this your first time out west since releasing the new album? Do you have any expectations? Fears?
YES! We are jubilant. It's nice to finally deliver on a promise to fans that they will now be able to take the songs home with them. I think I expect, or rather HOPE, that they'll dig the record. I think we have similar fears that any band shares upon releasing their baby into the wild. Will she survive, or be shredded by wolves? In the end I think we are confident in the album we made, and there is an excitement in and around the band that has made this Summer's tour a great one.
You recently released a video of y’all covering Halo by Beyonce. Was covering the song a planned event? Had you all talked about it for a few days, or did it happen spur of the moment? To that degree, have you made it a live staple, or was that one-time thing? Pete: We actually were just playing the song in the van once and J started singing along. Truth is there are very few people in the world that can sing that song and J is one of them. Having a guy sing it changes everything I think. Then one night I was dreaming about what to do with the bridge and the Dirty Projectors thing popped into my head. I know that Solange (Beyonce's sister) had covered a Dirty Projectors song and that Dave Longstreth was a huge Beyonce fan. It just seemed to make sense. Truth is it took a bit of convincing to get J to do it but once we started working on it, we knew we were going to have a blast. For our big shows in New York, we always like to do a cover of a song we love, so we did Halo for our CD release show at Brooklyn Bowl. It went over smashingly and we've been doing it ever since. It's become a staple in our set. It's too much fun to not do at this point.
Having received so much praise for Loneliest Generation, do you now feel like there’s a target on your back, and you’re having to kick it up a notch to match the praise?
I guess you never know when a sniper is gonna take you down until you're lying in a gutter. And, while we don't feel like there is a target on our back, we do certainly want to give people a great show so they feel satisfied when they leave at the end of the night. Everybody wins that way.
What has been your favorite moment from touring so far this year?
We had just played a sold out show at Schubas in Chicago with our friends Pretty Good Dance Moves, and we had 3 fans drive 8 hours from Missouri to come see the show. Evidently they found the new record online and loved it. When they told me how far they had driven I almost laughed in disbelief. It was an amazing moment for us, and quite touching.
Give us a brief run-down of how you got into music and how you started writing songs. J: I started writing songs for my high school band, which I started with our current drummer, Sarab. The band split up when I went off to college, and I met Pete my sophomore year. The partnership with Pete has developed and challenged my songwriting in an amazing way. And we've gotten ourselves into some pretty lively shenanigans over the years. Pete's story is actually quite similar. We've both been writing songs since we were 14. I think most people have to write 200 songs before they write a great one, or at least one that lasts for years without the songwriter getting sick of it. Of course that's not true across the board, but certainly we keep getting better.
How did you approach the writing of Loneliest Generation? Was it a cathartic experience and did you have specific themes you wanted to address?
Our first couple years of touring as a duo provided us a lot of caffeine induced conversation in our little Toyota Corolla, which incidentally was named the Jackal - hence our label, Baby Jackal Records. During that time (and to this day) we talked a lot about our generation and the challenges we face growing up in the post-hippie, technology whatever-you-wanna-call-it era. I think generations now are defined as ending every 2 years now. It's crazy how fast things continue to change. You'd think all these options and all this social networking would bring people closer. We're not convinced that it really makes people more social or happier. But music sure does. We certainly didn't set out to make any kind of concept album, but a lot of those themes ended up on the record. It was cathartic in the sense that we felt like we expressed what we wanted to express in a musical environment where we feel like that kind of commentary is a bit sparse. I could be wrong about that, and maybe I'm looking in the wrong places, but I just don't hear it.
A few of the songs are about love, of course! Rock and roll would be nothing without love, and love gone wrong.
Did the album take a long while to record?
Not at all, in fact. We did a few pre-production sessions with David Kahne, and then nailed all the basic tracks (drums, bass, guitars, piano, keys) in one day. After that it took about 10 subsequent sessions to finish it up.
What are your personal highlights from Loneliest Generation?
Working with David Kahne was certainly a big highlight. He's an amazing guy, and he challenged this band to do everything better. There were a lot of small victories along the way, mostly in feeling like we had compiled a coherent set of songs without an obvious weak link. We are proud of every song on this record, and maybe we are most proud of that fact. I actually think that the ballads ("The Doubt" and "All the Noise") came out as some of the strongest tunes.
Many of the songs on the album are very introspective, especially songs like "25 Years". What is that song about? J: I started working on "25 Years" after a few trips back home to Philadelphia. I noticed I started getting a lot of marvel at the fact that I was actually still playing music and doing it for a living. Don't get me wrong, we're blessed to be able to do this, but it made me want to say to them, "well, YES, I'm doing this, and you should too, that is, whatever you are passionate about and want to do the most in this world". at least give it a shot. if you don't, you'll regret it. "25 Years" tries to draw out the insights in those conversations, and maybe spur people to examine more closely where they are and what they're doing with their lives. There is a lot of fear of failure that exists in the world, but if you aren't willing to take the plunge into something uncertain, you certainly aren't going to find happiness as easily.
How do you usually go about writing a song? Do you write on acoustic guitar mainly? Or do you prefer piano? J: I write pretty much on guitar only. But a lot of the time I'll write humming and walking around the city, or in the van. Pete writes on both piano and guitar, oh, and street humming too for sure.
Would you ever write for other artists as a sideline to your own music?
Sure! We both write a lot of music, and a lot of songs end up falling by the wayside. I would love to give them the light of day through other bands we love around New York or elsewhere. We've already done it a couple times, one being with the amazing guitar player Jim Campilongo, who plays every Monday night at the Living Room in NYC. We wrote lyrics and part of the melody to one of his songs called "Lila". Jim writes beautiful music, and that tune is no exception.
What's the most played album on your iPod right now?
I've been really digging the new Beach House record, "Teen Dream". Also, the remaster of "Exile on Main Street", which sounds even more ruckus than the original, if you can believe that. We got that one on CD for Gus. Gus is our van.
Describe the New York City and Brooklyn scene. Your sound is somewhat different, a bit more retro, and more of a throwback from many of the bands emerging from there, do you think this is a detriment or beneficial?
It's always easier to make music that seems "trendy". And chances are if you do, you will be immediately accepted in certain circles. But you probably then end up chasing some trend that has already happened, or arriving late in a conversation that is likely to start heading in another direction. We are intent on making the music that we love and connect with emotionally. Hopefully others will, too. We're certainly aware of as much happening in Brooklyn as the next guys, and are close with many of the people making that music. We have great respect for great art. If someone decides or has decided that our music is cool, then great. If not, maybe they will one day. It's all a game of what certain people think is cool. We don't really want to play that game, we just want to make meaningful music. There are too many scenes in this country and world to get too caught up in one.
Discuss working with Malcolm Burn and David Kahne. I imagine that must have been pretty surreal. How did they help shape the formation of the album? What nuances or ideas did they bring to the album?
Both experiences were amazing in their own unique ways. We actually recorded most of the songs on "Loneliest Generation" with Malcolm a year before we started working with David. And though we ended up realizing that a lot of the recordings didn't turn out quite right for some of the songs, for the ones that did work, Malcolm's touch was invaluable, and his contributions add a whole different color to the record. His approach to the songs opened up tons of ideas: add melodies where melodies are needed, and don't think about it, just hit record and PLAY. We were bummed when we decided scrap a bunch of the songs we did with Malcolm, but I think it became an essential learning and filtering process that landed us at David's door with a few new songs and ready to knock the rest of the record out. David's ears are simply amazing when it comes to teasing out the most emotional vocal takes. And he insists on nothing less. He'll do it until you get it right. The arrangements of the record were essentially done by the band over the course of 2 years of touring. So the finishing touches each producer contributed were just finding new angles to approach the tunes. Making records is so much fun.
BONUS QUESTION: Any predictions on this year’s World Series? Pete: Cubs! Go Cubs! I know, the Cubs suck. They always do. But I will never give up.
I realize not many people on this site are as into country music, bluegrass and alternative country as am, but I don't mind. The reason I'm writing is because I recently conducted an interview with the lead singer of up-and-coming NYC alt.country band My Cousin the Emperor.
The interview was conducted mostly for my freelance media blog Resident Media Pundit, which focuses mostly on indie films, country music and under-the-radar singer-songwriters. In its three year run it has tackled a host of other subjects, but that's mainly what it sticks to. Having conducted at least 50 interviews in the last four years,
I can't remember an artist putting together more well thought-out, more lucid and more detailed responses than Reischel. Not only that, they're chock full of substance and bring a lot to the table. So while their music may not be your thing, do me a favor and at least check out the interview. Leave me your thoughts on it as well, if you feel so inclined.
As most people know, I tend to stay far away from what's popular. Two of AP's biggest buzz bands have been Neon Trees and The Gaslight Anthem. My brother was in town this weekend and since he's on the pulse of everything that's hot, he decided to play me both discs. Without further ado, here are my thoughts.
Neon Trees: The disc has energy and swagger. That's about all I can say. The opening three songs are solid, but I lost my attention after that. The closer was strong, but every song seems to bleed together. Would it kill them to do something different. Also, their whole aesthetic is very troubling. What are they going for? If its any consolation, their drummer is a babe. I definitely get a Killers and Head Automatica vibe out of them, but still not sure they are as good as either of those two.
The Gaslight Anthem: Holy crap. This album is good. This destroys The 59 Sound. Such a great disc. Wow, they really knocked the cover off the ball on this one. Not fond of the opener, but after that I had trouble finding a clunker. Really top notch album. Man they know how to get it done. Just blown away by this. Definitely going to make a play for Top 10 AOTY before it's all said and done (I think).
Say what you want about Ryan Ross, but the man is doing what he wants, his way and on his terms. From the wreckage of his climactic fallout with Panic at the Disco, he has crafted The Young Veins, a bristling, sun-drenched ode to 1970s California pop. Appearing at Irving Plaza, in support of fellow Californians Rooney, Ross and his band mates seemed entirely comfortable and at ease on the big stage, barreling through a 40-minute set with nary a flaw. Though it was certainly sleepy and even a bit too stoic at times, inspired numbers like "Cape Town," and "Defiance" revealed a confidence and professionalism that was both uplifting and unexpected.
That's not to say there weren't limp moments. "Take a Vacation," and "Dangerous Blues," certainly left a lot to be desired, but thankfully Nick White's lilting keyboards added a density to nearly all of the 10 songs played. While the Take a Vacation songs were indeed engaging, the band sounded the most at ease on a sterling cover of Jackie DeShannon's "Walk in the Room." Perhaps even more impressive was Ross himself, who was humble, polite and completely without pretense. In many ways, watching him perform with his new band mates was refreshing. He seemed entirely in his element and never as if he was out to impress. He was just a singer belting out his stories.
While it may be an unpopular opinion, attitude and approach sometimes make all the difference and with The Young Veins everything about their presence feels mature, refined and deeply felt. Sure it might not be for everyone, but at least it's an honest reflection of the inherent musicians that they are.. In the end, can an audience really ask for much more?
One of my favorite records of last year was Connecticut's Bronze Radio Return. The band plays a crisp, effortless blend of roots-rock not unlike fellow Connecticut natives The Alternate Routes. While browsing their Myspace to catch up on their touring schedule, I ran across this EPK. It's one of the better ones I've seen and I'm hoping it generates some steam from you devoted users. How this band is not on more people's radars remains a big-time mystery.
Hopefully you all have seen my picks for the Top 10 records so far this year. Without further ado, here's the rub for my top 10.
No album released this year has paralyzed me quite like Contra by Vampire Weekend. It's brainy, it's sexy, it's rhythmic and it's so damn infectious. Josh Ritter and Mumford and Sons are taking folk music to levels unimagined and both have put forward their best efforts to date. Beach House and Freelance Whales take electro-effects to new levels. While the former paints a luminescent veneer of prettiness, the latter tackles Death Cab-like heights. When R and B/soul is done right, it should sound a lot like the albums from Janelle Monae and Chicago's The Right Now. The latter is barely known outside Chicago, but Lord willing Carry Me Home changes that. As for Monae, she's in a class all by herself. Phosphorescent and The National have both released albums that do a lot with very little. For High Violet, vocalist Matt Berninger carries the disc forward with his distinct voice, spartan instrumentation and smart production. Phosphorescent's Matthew Houck digs deep into his Southern roots and finds his most confident stride, making for what is easily the best release of his career. As for Ted Leo, easily my most favorite album of his by a wide margin. Cannot stop listening to it.
25 other discs that grabbed my attention this year:
1. Harper Blynn - Loneliest Generation
2. Wakey Wakey - Almost Everything I Wish I'd Said the Last Time That I Saw You
3. Frightened Rabbit - The Winter of Mixed Drinks
4. Mark Erelli - Little Vigils
5. Rene Lopez - People Are Just People
6. Drink Up Buttercup - Born and Thrown on a Hook
7. Titus Andronicus - The Monitor
8. Dr. Dog - Shame, Shame
9. Natalie Merchant - Leave Your Sleep
10. The Depreciation Guild - Spirit Youth
11. The Morning Of - The Way I Fell In
12. Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt
13. Besnard Lakes - Are Roaring High
14. Spoon - Transference
15. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
16. Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM
17. Everybody Was In The French Resistance
18. Portugal the Man - American Ghetto
19, Jonsi - Go
20. Fair - Disappearing World
21. Allison Moorer - Crows
22. Cary Brothers - Ghost Town
23. House of Heroes - Suburba
24. Band of Horses - Infinite Arms
25. Mercy Mercedes -Let it Ride