Cults debut album Cults

The debut album from Cults (amazon) (itunes) is the type of sound that makes you nostalgic for an era you never lived through.  At times it feels like I’m sitting in a retro 50’s throwback diner, spinning singles in a genuine jukebox.  A handful of tracks bring me back to the mid seventies (which I never experienced), wistfully slotting wildflowers into rifle barrels.  Yet, at the same time, this album is grounded in today; each song is unique, breezy, and easy to listen to multiple times.

mp3 : Cults – Go Outside
mp3 : Cults – Bad Things

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We Were Promised Jetpacks album In The Pit of the Stomach

The Scottish quartet released a rollicking sophomore album this month and it is solid.  If you enjoyed their debut in 2009 then this followup, In The Pit of the Stomach (amazon) (itunes), will fit nicely with your expectations.  Although this album is a bit darker in nature it never strays too far from solid riffs and insanely addicting guitar melodies.

mp3 : We Were Promised Jetpacks – Circles and Squares
mp3 : We Were Promised Jetpacks – Act On Impulse

Circles and Squares is the opening track from the new album and from the very first second you can tell this is a slightly more grandiose version of We Were Promised Jetpacks.  Act on Impulse is the fourth track from the album  and I love how it builds slowly, patiently, resolutely refusing to be a three minute pop song.  After repeated listens I think I enjoy this track so much because the underlying repeated guitar line sounds a lot like the guitar in The Past is a Grotesque Animal by Of Montreal.

Bottom line, solid album that easily escapes the prototypical sophomore slump.

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Beach House album Teen Dream

I blame it on the general malaise that assails all creative types when the world is cold, gray, and mostly dusk and darker.  I blame it on the slowing of blood in vessels constricted due to perpetually cold weather more conducive to sitting still, hibernating, than to exploring and creating.  I even blame it on the rain that was falling.

For whatever reason I completely missed out on this album in 2010 and it is a shame.  In fact I missed out on a few great albums last year that would have easily crept into my best of list.  Limited time, need for sleep, and general life duties be damned; I should have listened to Beach House.

mp3 : Beach House – 10 Mile Stereo

Fortunately their album Teen Dream (amazon) (itunes) is still good a full year after being released and you don’t need to make the same mistake that I did.  If, for whatever reason, you still haven’t listened to Beach House then get out of the house, feel the spring approaching, and experience this album.

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The Best Albums of 2010

The past year was filled with unforgettable music.  As I was poring over all of the great albums I began agonizing (often vocally to my wife) about how I was possibly going to choose which albums would make this list.  Throughout the past two months I’ve been listening to twenty albums on constant repeat and below I present to you the fruits of this labor.

01 : The National – High Violet (amazon) (itunes)

The National crafted an album in 2010 that surpassed all of the hype that has been surrounding them since they released their album Alligator in 2005.  Of all the great music in 2010 this album narrowly surpassed the rest of the pack in grabbing and holding my attention the most.

mp3 : The National – Sorrow
mp3 : The National – Conversation 16

02 : Cloud Cult – Light Chasers (amazon) (itunes)

There are five or six albums in this list that could have easily laid claim to the coveted number one position.  Light Chasers sits at number two on the list because every single song adds to the story arc and each track contributes something new, yet cohesive, to the experience.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – The Invocation (p.1) – You’ll Be Bright
mp3 : Cloud Cult – The Arrival – There’s So Much Energy In Us

03 : Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz (amazon) (itunes)

Many people didn’t know what to think of Sufjan’s return to music.  He eschewed his well known banjo and modern folk interpretations and instead produced a sprawling epic that combines intricate storytelling with even more intricate electronic compositions.  Truly a great album.

mp3 : Sufjan Stevens – Now That I’m Older
mp3 : Sufjan Stevens – Vesuvius

04 : Jonsi – Go (amazon) (itunes)

Jonsi went solo this year from Sigur Ros and he came up with an album that sounds as great as his band, but it moves along with a joy and brevity that they don’t typically employ.

mp3 : Jonsi – Kolnidur

05 : Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (amazon) (itunes)

When you see Arcade Fire at fifth on this it’s easy to see just how hard it was to arrange the top ten.  The only problem I have with this album (which is the same as everyone else) is that it isn’t full of songs on the same level as Wake Up.  I know that isn’t fair, but it’s what we’re all waiting for.

mp3 : Arcade Fire – Rococo

06 : Vampire Weekend – Contra (amazon) (itunes)

In 2008 I was ready to write these Ivy League yuppie kids off as a typical flash in the pan.  On their sophomore album they’ve found a way to turn smug indie rock into something worth listening to over and over again.

mp3 : Vampire Weekend – Horchata

07 : Broadcast 2000 – Broadcast 2000 (amazon) (itunes)

The only reason this great album doesn’t move higher on the list is that many of the songs appeared two full years ago on their debut EP.

mp3 : Broadcast 2000 – Rouse Your Bones

08 : Freelance Whales – Weathervanes (amazon) (itunes)

Having been released back in early April it’s easy to see why many list makers completely forgot about this slice of well crafted folk pop.  The entire album is well crafted and infectious.

mp3 : Freelance Whales – Generator Second Floor

09 : Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (amazon) (itunes)

While I don’t agree with his lyrics, his message, his ego, or his personality I do agree with critics and listmakers across the globe that realize this album is worth looking past Ye’s flaws.

mp3 : Kanye West – Lost In The World (feat. Bon Iver)

10 : Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History (amazon) (itunes)

Each year I seem to find one amazing pop album that I can listen to again and again.  In 2009 it was Phoenix and in 2010 it was Two Door Cinema Club.

mp3 : Two Door Cinema Club – Eat That Up, It’s Good For You

Those are my top ten albums for 20010.  If you’d like to see my previous lists follow these links; 2009, 2008, 2007 (or click here to see all 4 years on one page).  I’m looking forward to 2011 in music as there will most likely be albums by Radiohead, Coldplay, Bon Iver, and The Strokes.  Enjoy the music.

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Sufjan Stevens Announces New Album, The Age of Adz, and Releases First Single

This has been a glorious week.  First Sufjan released an EP (8 songs, and a full 60 minutes of new music) last week and today even more good news.  On October 12th Sufjan Stevens will release his first full length studio album since 2005.  It will be titled The Age of Adz (pronounced odds) and the album is largely introspective in nature.  Gone is the folk narrative and historic tales.  Here Sufjan will turn the lens upon himself and let his musical imagination trip out on whatever he finds entertaining.  Just listen to the first track.

mp3 : Sufjan Stevens – I Walked

That, quite decidedly, does not sound like standard Sufjan Stevens music.  It also, quite decidedly, has me very interested in what the rest of the album will sound like.  Head over to Sufjan’s bandcamp website to preorder the album and get a digital copy two weeks in advance of the street date.

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Two Door Cinema Club album Tourist History

If you took a few British boys, told them to mix together the pop sensibilities of All American Rejects and Phoenix, then for good measure throw in the insanely catchy beats of !!! and a little zest of Postal Service and you’ll probably find Two Door Cinema Club.  And if you look closely you’ll find the best pop album that has been released so far this year.  And if you really scrutinize the album you’ll be even more impressed that Tourist History (amazon) (itunes) is the debut album for this trio.

mp3 : Two Door Cinema Club – I Can Talk
mp3 : Two Door Cinema Club – Eat That Up, It’s Good For You

These are my two favorite tracks on the album although, to be fair, the entire album is solid from start to finish.  It clocks in at just over half an hour and it is filled with catchy lyrics, danceable beats, and plenty of radio ready hooks.  The bottom line is that Tourist History is an extraordinary well crafted debut album that bodes well for the future of Two Door Cinema Club.

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The National album High Violet

At some point over the last three months I lost track of this brilliant album.  This album that will probably sit at or toward to the top of most year end lists five months from now.  The odd part is that I literally listened to this album on repeat for over a full month.  I listened to it so much that my fiance (now my wife) groaned every time we took my car anywhere because it was literally all The National all the time.

So what happened?  And why review it now when it’s a already old news?  It’s because I forgot about this album.  It’s not that I forgot it existed or that I grew bored with it.  In fact I’m listening to it right now and it’s still solid from start to end.  It was rather the album is so good, so instantly timeless, that my subconscious filed it away with albums I’ve loved over the last 15 years of my life.  Now bear with me because this is where my review turns more personal anecdote, but it’s my blog, I pay the bills, so I’m allowed to indulge occasionally.

As part of getting married (about two weeks ago) I moved to a new location which requires a 40 minute commute to work each day.  This commute, although frustrating in that I have to commute at all, is very relaxing for me personally and has allowed me to listen to a new album, all they way through, twice a day.  To be honest it’s the most dedicated music listening I’ve been able to spend in the last three or four months combined.  And on these trips I decided to take a tour through my old favorites.  I started with Sufjan Stevens’ Greetings from Michigan.  Then I moved on to the Smashing Pumpkins album Adore, followed by Page France with Come I’m a Lion, and Radiohead’s Kid A.  For good measure I listened The Weakerthan’s Reunion Tour before rocking on with Weezer’s The Blue Album followed immediately by Weezer’s Pinkerton.

Most of these albums sit similarly in my brain on two levels.  First they’re great albums which I’ve loved for a long time.  Secondly, by some freak of memory, I still know almost every lyric to every track on all of those albums.  At some point, somewhere deep into this trip into my high school and university musical infatuations it hit me, I realized that my brain had already catalogued the latest album from The National, High Violet (amazon) (itunes), as “music that is inherently so well put together I’ll still like it 5, 10, and 20 years from now.”  I hadn’t forgotten about this musical masterpiece I had simply assumed that anything that sounds as complete as High Violet does must be filed away separately from all other current albums.

mp3 : The National – Runaway
mp3 : The National – Conversation 16

By far Conversation 16 is my favorite track on the album – it speaks of zombies and being afraid, what more do you need?  The rest of the song are brilliant in their own way, and yet together the 11 songs on High Violet find a way to combine for an even greater musical experience.  Everyone alive should hear this album at least once.

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Josh Ritter album So Runs The World Away

Josh Ritter has a new album and I’m still confused as to what I really think of it.  I’ve put it on repeat in my car and I don’t really know what to say.  At times the album is absolute genius.  The opening three tracks are solid from the instrumental opener Curtains, through the pop folk buildup of Change of Time, and continues into what is arguably the best song on the album (maybe even the best song released this year), track three The Curse.  From this point on, unfortunately, the album takes random lefts and rights seemingly at will.  It’s as if after writing three wonderful Josh Ritter songs he couldn’t figure out what he wanted to sound like for the remainder of the album.

It’s hard to love this album as a whole because it feels like Josh Ritter couldn’t decide on who he wanted to imitate on many of his songs.  At times it feels like he’s borrowing from The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, the always present Bob Dylan, and on one track in particular (track seven, Lark) Josh literally sounds as if he’s Paul Simon.  And while, on one hand, it’s great to incorporate past genius into our present day creative process, on the other hand it’s just as important to find our own voice.  Ultimately this is what’s most confusing about this new album; Josh Ritter has done a great job of establishing himself as one of the preeminent singer/songwriters currently making music, and he did so by finding a modern folk sound that he owned, but on this album, at times, it feels as if he’s drifting away from himself.

mp3 : Josh Ritter – The Curse

If you get a chance to hear the entire album, So Runs The World Away (amazon) (itunes), listen specifically for the way that Josh continually drifts from one influence to another in a rather disconcerting way.  Probably the most offensive of the transitions comes when the brilliant track The Curse segues into quite possibly the worst track on the album Southern Pacifica.  Ultimately it’s a great album, possibly even a top ten album of the year, but it could have been brilliant if it was filled with Josh Ritter songs and not cluttered by his various ventures into aping other artists.

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MGMT new album Congratulations

The new album by MGMT finds the dynamic duo pushing further into the historical bog of rock music.  If their first album, Oracular Spectacular, was a tribute to an acid trip through the deserted 80’s then their new disc, Congratulations (amazon), is a tribute to the slower 60’s and 70’s rock of acts like The Kinks .  Gone are the glimmering synthesizers and the driving pop infused (and largely radio friendly) beats of their previous effort.  Gone are the hallucinatory drug influenced songs.  In place now you’ll find sprawling hippie landscapes more associated with flower power, peace, and love.  What you’ll find here is people smoking dope, not tripping on acid.

mp3 : MGMT – Flash Delerium

It’s hard to decide if this album is a breath of fresh air or too much of a departure from what we all thought their trademark sound was going to be.  For those of us who grew up listening to classic rock radio stations, for people who love The Kinks as much as Kings of Convenience, this will be an album that feels like an old friend coming home.  For those fans who were really wanting the band to continue in the prog rock vein of their first album, well, you might feel betrayed.

But I encourage you to listen through the entire album a few times.  I encourage you to let the subtle textures and interwoven melodies grow on you.  Let the idiosyncrasies of this album worm their way into your brain and wash away the fact that this album is more about the boys of MGMT becoming career musicians and less about them making an album that everyone will instantly love.  Hopefully that was their aim when writing and recording because that’s exactly what they’ve done.

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Jonsi new album Go

Jonsi Birgisson is most well known for his work as the front man for the Icelandic group Sigur Ros.  On their albums he usually sings in Icelandic or a made up language he coined Hopelandic.  On the rare occasion he switches over to English but those tracks are few and far between.  This is not the case on Jonsi’s debut solo album.  Each track is packed with energy and the album only contains one track not sung in English.  What it boils down to is this album feels like Jonsi has recorded everything he wanted to sing that didn’t quite fit in with his Sigur Ros compatriots.  (And note, this album is head and shoulders above the Jonsi and Alex album from last year).

mp3 : Jonsi – Go Do
mp3 : Jonsi – Boy Lilikoi

Overall this album tends to be more joyous and more pop oriented that Jonsi’s previous efforts with Sigur Ros.  Where his band leans toward atmospheric sparse soundscapes filled with melancholic emotions his solo effort veers toward territory that is undeniably happy.  Melodies are playful and many tracks drive about with the abandon of children of play.  It is undoubtedly a solid solo effort and it proves that Jonsi is a huge part of the Sigur Ros talent pool.  The album, entitled Go (amazon) (itunes), will be released on April 5th.

And because I’m a huge fan of Jonsi’s music I thought I would throw out this cover he performed on BBC 1 during an interview.

mp3 : Jonsi – Time to Pretend (MGMT)

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