Some music quickies...
The new Iron and Wine, The Shepard's Dog is wonderful (everything he has done in the past and much more). He expands his musical palette and we should be grateful.
While I have always thought he was a bit too precocious for my tastes, I enjoy Devandra Barnhart's Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon. It is far better than either of his last too albums. Imagine Jim Morrison fronting a Mexican Jam band living on a commune.
I cannot get into the latest Rilo Kiley, Under the Blacklight. Don't get me wrong, there are some great songs and my wife thinks it is very good. However, the increase in production values and the editing of Jenny Lewis' lyrical excesses take away from the overall charm of the album. While it is still a good album (because Jenny Lewis is one of the special musicians of this era), Give me More Adventurous any day.
I have been a New Pornographers fan for quite a while, enjoying the pop sensibilities and vocal harmonies. However, I was not prepared for the wonder that is Challengers. This album is beautiful. Destroyer's Danny Bejar gets to write 3 songs, including the best song I have heard this year (besides Dashboard by Modest Mouse), Myriad Harbour, a majestic duet with Neko Case. In the past I have felt A.C. Newman tried too hard to reach the Holy Grail of Beach Boys meets ELO meets Beatles with a little Bay City Rollers for good measure. He has finally calmed down and let the songs come to him (in BBall parlance). And, boy do they. Just listen to My Rights Vs Yours, which is the prettiest pop song in quite a few years. You can hear both on their myspace page. This album will make it into my Top 5 for the year.