Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Crazy Good Music Year so far

So far 2010 has been an embarrassment of musical riches, topped last week by a Tuesday that saw the release of the latest by Frightened Rabbit, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Broken Bells (Danger Mouse and lead singer of The Shins), Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Titus Andronicus, Gorillaz, The Besnard Lakes, Liars and an ep by We Were Promised Jetpacks. Drive-by Truckers latest drops today, along with a new one from the normally solid The Whigs. That is almost too much good music released in too short of a timeframe. There is no way to digest all of it when you have a job.

In a little more than 2 months, we have already seen Spoon, The Soft Pack, Joanna Newsome, The Knife, Yeasayer, Vampire Weekend, Alberta Cross (officially released, even though it had been around a while), Basia Bulat, Johnny Cash, Clem Snide, Cold War Kids (ep), Eluvium, Four Tet, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Peter Gabriel, Shearwater, Laura Veirs, These New Puritans, Surfer Blood, Magnetic Fields, Midlake, Man/ Miracle, Local Natives and the controversial Mumford and Sons (how can a bluegrass band be so controversial? Well most people love it and a few music reviewers hate it).

Many of these listed would have been in my list of the top 10-20 albums if they had released a work in the inferior years of 2008-2009 (a few did and made the list). Beyond Titus Andronicus and Frightened Rabbit I cannot be sure which of these releases will be near my top 10 by December.


Well, we still have The National, Arcade Fire, M.I.A, She & Him, Erykah Badu, Wu-Tang, David Byrne/ Fatboy Slim, Matt Pond PA, MGMT, Roky Erikson/ Okkervil River, Kate Nash, New Pornographers, Broken Social Scene, Hold Steady, Josh Ritter, Minus the Bear, Woods, The Black Keys, Gaslight Anthem, Deer Tick, The Roots, Stars, Gogol Bordello, Blitzen Trapper and Thom Yorke’s project with Flea. And that is just the first half of the year. I cannot even fathom what may happen between July and December.

From what I have heard so far this year, I heartily recommend:

The Winter of Mixed Drinks by Frightened Rabbit- I did not think it was near the absolute masterwork that is Midnight Organ Fight, their sophomore release. However, with each listen I am astounded at the maturity of the lyrical content, the beauty of the arrangements (it is not as raw, on the verge of ripping apart as the last album) and the vulnerable power of lead singer Scott Hutchinson, the closest thing to Young Bono we have had in a long time.

Gorilla Manor by Local Natives- Take 1 part Vampire Weekend/ Harlem Shakes rhythm section and 2 parts Fleet Foxes, Blitzen Trapper harmony heavy vocal arrangements (with stronger lead singing) and add some crunchy guitar work and Coldplay-esque Christian-lite spirituality, while taking away much of the restraint those bands strive for and you end up with this debut album by Local Natives. If it sounds like it was put together in an Indie Rock laboratory, then those guys should get a Nobel Prize for the formulation that makes me groove.

Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons- If they have an Indie Rock lab, then Mumford and Sons were created there also. So, this year, those lab geeks deserve a Nobel and a MacArthur Genius Grant. Sure, it is derivative. Sure, it has elements of Devotchka, Fanfarlo, Avett Brothers and Toad the Wet Sprocket with overly emotive singing, continually crescendoing rave ups and vulnerable pseudo spiritual lyrics. Yes, it is on the verge of descending into some purgatory of becoming the bluegrass Coldplay, but it stops on that line and dances a jig. I just hope Mumford doesn’t fall into the musical Hades next time out.

Transference by Spoon- It sounds like Spoon. That is always a good thing. In a just world, or a world in which there was still real rock radio and record labels that held any weight, these guys would be HUGE.

The Monitor by Titus Andronicus- I am still digesting this album and it demands many listens, but this could be the best thing released so far this year. I will get back to you.

More of those releases next time.

(Come back later today and I will add links to some of this music to make it easier for you to access)

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