2012 First Quarter (Plus One Month) New Music Guide February 13, 2012Posted by Matt in Best of 2012, music.
Tags: 2012 new releases, Alabama Shakes, Andrew Bird, Bruce Springsteen, Heartless Bastards, Jack White, Justin Townes Earle, Lucero, M. Ward, music, Sleigh Bells, Todd Snider
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I’m a little behind on this, but I wanted to go ahead and give a quick head’s up on what’s new in the world of music. There have been a handful of interesting releases in the generally dead months of January and February: particularly Leonard Cohen’s hauntingly beautiful “Old Ideas,” Dr. Dog’s catchy “Be the Void,” and Craig Finn’s (frontman of The Hold Steady) solo work “Clear Heart, Full Eyes,” but other than those, few releases have caught my attention yet. Looking ahead to the next few months, the music calendar becomes more interesting, lucky for you, I’m here to dig through the plethora of releases and tell you what merits your listening. Here are the ten upcoming works I’m most anxiously awaiting.
Heartless Bastards – Arrow (Feb 14)
With the dark, Southern gothic imagery and the expansive, throaty vocals of Erika Wennerstrom, the Heartless Bastards have been on my radar since their excellent 2009 release, The Mountain. This is the one album on this list I’ve cheated on a bit and already listened to on NPR, and let me tell you, it’s great. You can hear “Parted Ways” here.
Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror (Feb 21)
Noisy and loud, I was quickly drawn to Sleigh Bells last album “Treats,” and I eagerly await this follow up. The duo has a surprisingly full sound, with shoegazing-esque female vocals over crashing guitars. You can stream one of the new songs, Comeback Kid, here.
Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself (Mar 6)
Over the years I’ve listened to him, I’ve been drawn to the way that Bird can so effortlessly incorporate different genres, from jazz to indie rock, into his songs, thus I’m intrigued to see where this multi-instrumentalist goes with his latest batch of recordings. Stream the song, “Eyeoneye,” here.
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – Wrecking Ball (Mar 6)
Now into his 60’s, the Boss is still the boss and there are few people who can bring it was well as he can. His last few albums have been excellent and I expect nothing less from this, his first post-Clarence Clemons release. Check out the song “We Take Care of Our Own.”
Todd Snider – Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables (Mar 6)
Snider has been around a while, but his biting social commentary and funny lyrics never fail to disappoint. I can’t find any songs from this album, so you’ll have to take my word for it.
Lucero – Women & Work (Mar 13)
Probably my second most anticipated album of the year (Sorry, guys, you lost out to the Boss), Lucero has been a favorite band of mine for years, and after seeing them several times last year, including an epic 3+ hour Memphis show just before Christmas, I’m more of a fan now than ever. Listen to me: Support this band. Check out the new tune “Sometimes.”
Justin Townes Earle – Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now (Mar 27)
This progeny of the great Steve Earle has carved out his own interesting niche in the music world, releasing a catalogue of excellent albums that would make any artist jealous. I have high hopes for this one as well. Check out the title track here.
Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls (Apr 10)
Alabama Shakes have been making some noise on the Southern rock scene lately, backing up favorites of mine like the Drive-By Truckers, so I’m eagerly awaiting their full-length debut and perhaps a visit to Memphis. Check out the title song here.
M. Ward – A Wasteland Companion (Apr 10)
Singer-songwriter M. Ward has been quietly working the scene for years with mellow vocals and gentle, fingerpicked guitars and I’ve always found his work to be enjoyable. You can hear new song, “The First Time I Ran Away” here.
Jack White – Blunderbuss (Apr 24)
I’m a longtime disciple of Jack White, from the White Stripes, to the Raconteurs, to the Dead Weather, so I will quickly snatch up any recording bearing his name. This solo debut is no exception to that rule. His new song “Love Interruption” is an acoustic number, with the guitar god taking a different tact than his normal furious blasts of loudly distorted solos, but it is still quite good.
What releases are you most anticipating?
Best of the Decade – Music Edition (61-70) December 8, 2009Posted by Matt in Top 100 of the Decade.
Tags: 2000s, Andrew Bird, Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay, Eddie Vedder, Jay-Z, josh ritter, Michael McDermott, music, Sinead O'Connor, The Avett Brothers, top 100, Vampire Weekend
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70. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha (2007)
Armed with a college degree in violin performance and proficiencies in a number of instruments, Andrew Bird created this gem of an album from 2007. Bird has great pop sensibilities and an even more impressive vocabulary, one that will keep you searching through the nearest dictionary. The song, “Imitosis” has one of my favorite lines – “What was mistaken for closeness / Is just a case of mitosis.” In addition to that, check out the excellent song “Plasticities.”
69. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You (2009)
The Avetts made a name for themselves on the indie circuit with their energetic live shows and a unique neo-bluegrass-alt rock fusion sound. For their latest release, however, the brothers reign in the banjo a bit, opting instead to focus on piano-driven ballads. In so doing, they created one of the most beautifully crafted albums of the decade. Check out tunes like “January Wedding” and “Tin Man” to get a feel for the band’s sound and then grab the whole album. It is truly great.
68. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (2008)
The Ivy League-educated guys in VW must have been raised with a copy of Regatta De Blanc close at hand, for the influence of The Police permeates throughout this excellent debut album. Their sound is light and poppy, mixing Afro-beats and alternative rock in a altogether fun conglomeration. I greatly anticipate their sophomore release, scheduled to come out 2010. For now, though, check out “Mansard Roof” and “A-Punk” to get a feel for the band.
67. Sinead O’Connor – Theology (2007)
It is no secret that I heap tons of disdain upon the contemporary Christian music industry, but that does not equate to an outright abhorrence of all things both musical and Christian. This double album, one which you will probably never hear of on K-Love, is the perfect example of one that is definitely in that vein that I absolutely love. The release consists of two discs, both of which contain most of the same songs but with differing presentations. One of the discs employs a full band, but my personal favorite is the other one which, for the most part, consists of only her and an acoustic guitar. Songs like “Something Beautiful” and “Out of the Depths” are incredibly beautiful and heartfelt.
66. Jay-Z – The Black Album (2003)
Bold, brash, and inventive, Jay-Z separated himself from most of the rap world over the course of the late 90’s-early 00’s as the best around. Utilizing samples from artists as diverse as Madonna, Mountain, and Run DMC, mixed with his own prodigious skills, this release is really a great work in a community not always known for producing good albums. “99 Problems” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” are killer, hard-hitting tunes.
65. Coldplay – Parachutes (2000)
Say what you want about Chris Martin’s ultra-popular band – that they are conventional or guilty of plagiarizing – but, regardless of that, they have had quite a run in the first decade of the new millennium. This, their debut album, vaulted them atop the music world back in 2000, largely on the back of “Yellow,” (which, in my opinion, is one of the least interesting cuts on the album) their lead single in America. Check out the songs “Don’t Panic” and “Spies” instead for better representations of the release.
64. Bruce Springsteen – The Rising (2002)
Written in response to the attacks of 9/11, the album is brimming with both sadness and hope in a way that only Springsteen, America’s everyman hero, could do. For this grand return The Boss reassembled the E Street Band for the first time in 18 years and was soon on top of the world again. This is probably my least favorite of his three E Street Band releases from the decade, but it is still very, very good and deserves a spot in the top 100. The release is full of great songs, but my favorites are probably “Lonesome Day,” “The Rising,” and the poignant “My City of Ruins.”
63. Michael McDermott – Noise From Words (2007)
My friend Scott introduced me to singer-songwriter Michael McDermott with the release of this album and I quickly became a fan. “Still Ain’t Over You Yet” is an excellent piece of sad, lovelorn Americana and “I Shall Be Healed” is a spiritual tour-de-force that should be heard by everybody.
62. Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (2007)
Over the course of the past decade, I’ve become more and more convinced that Josh Ritter is the best songwriter of my generation. In a truly just world he would be our Springsteen or Dylan, but, as things currently stand, he still resides just below the radar playing small venues like the one I caught him at last year in Little Rock. This release diverged a bit from his prior albums, which were mostly acoustic folk rock pieces, but it is no less interesting. I’ve listened to it over and over again and have yet to tire of the entire work, but my favorite songs are probably “The Temptation of Adam” and the Dylanesque “To the Dogs or Whoever.”
61. Eddie Vedder – Into the Wild (2007)
What do you get when you combine one my favorite writers (Jon Krakauer), a tragic story of self-discovery, and the vocalist for one of my favorite bands of all time? Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam fame lends his voice and a mountain of heartfelt understanding to this soundtrack to the tale of Chris McCandless. The music itself is stark and lonely, yet hopeful and idealistic, much like the protagonist of the book and film. I love the song “Guaranteed” and its message of avoiding a life of quiet desperation, something that I strive to do in my own existence. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to see Eddie Vedder solo and found it to be quite touching when he talked of writing the song “No Ceiling” for his kids. You need this album.
2009 In Music – A Look Ahead January 21, 2009Posted by Matt in Best of 2009.
Tags: 2009, album releases, Andrew Bird, Bon Iver, Bruce Springsteen, Dan Auerbach, Dave Matthew Band, Justin Townes Earle, M. Ward, music, neko case, The Decemberists, U2
Over the past two weeks I’ve taken a look at the best (In my opinion, at least) music releases of 2008. Now, though, it is time to look to the future, to gaze into that proverbial crystal ball and try to glean from it the upcoming releases that I most look forward to. I used the upcoming releases listed on Metacritic as my source, so if anything is incorrect you can lay the blame on them. Below you will find my top ten announced releases as well as five more taken from the “anticipated releases” tab that I certainly hope come to fruition.
10. Justin Townes Earle – Midnight at the Movies (expected release date: March 3)
Last year’s release from Steve Earle’s son proved to be an excellent collection with that classic country sound that is so rarely heard anymore, so I am greatly looking forward to what else he has in store for us.
9. Bon Iver – Blood Bank (Jan. 20)
This would probably be much higher on the list if it were more than a 4 song EP, but for now it will suffice from Justin Vernon. His For Emma, Long Ago was one of my favorites of 2008 and I see a great future ahead for this young singer-songwriter.
8. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast (Jan. 20)
Bird’s 2007 album, Armchair Apocrypha, quickly became a favorite of mine and has been a staple on my Ipod. I heard some of his latest release on NPR and was again greatly impressed. Though it has already been released, I have not yet downloaded this. But, mark my words, it will soon be on my Ipod.
7. Dave Matthews Band – Title TBA (Apr 14)
DMB is one of the few artists classified as a “jam band” who have released studio albums in the past that almost rival their incredible live shows. Though I have been a bit disappointed with their releases in recent years, I will still most likely pick this up.
6. M. Ward – Hold Time (Feb. 17)
I’ve been a big fan of M. Ward’s retro singer-songwriter style for the past few years and greatly enjoyed his 2008 collaboration with Zooey Deschanel. He has proven himself to be one of the best young artists working today and I expect this album to again show off his bourgeoning greatness.
5. Dan Auerbach – Keep it Hid (Feb. 10)
Auerbach is the guitar/vocals half of one of my favorite acts working today, The Black Keys. Their incredible blues-rock sound is in a world of its own compared to their contemporaries. I expect their down-and-dirty blues sound to be no less apparent on this solo debut.
4. The Decemberists – Hazards of Love (March 24)
I first became a fan of this hyper-literate band from Portland, Oregon, after listening to their 2005 release Picaresque. Their storytelling style, employment of a vast arrangement of instruments, and strange sound (at least compared to other popular acts) caught my ear and has not let go since.
3. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone (March 3)
It only took one listen to Case’s 2007 opus Fox Confessor Brings the Flood for me to fall completely head over heels in love with her. I listened to it over and over and never grew tired of her enchanting wail. She is one of those few people who could sing the phone book and I would listen attentively.
2. U2 – No Line on the Horizon (March 3)
Every release of Bono’s crew is greatly anticipated by fans and this one is definitely not an exception to the rule. Give me their signature, stadium-ready style any day.
1. Bruce Springsteen – Working on a Dream (Jan 27)
It’s hard to beat the Boss, so this follow-up to 2007′s excellent Magic is without a doubt my most anticipated upcoming release. He is an American icon who must be present in the music collection of anyone that calls themselves a lover of music.
As promised, there are also 5 “anticipated releases” that also have me greatly intriqued.
The New Pornographers
This collaborative effort, which includes the aforementioned Neko Case, has consistently put out stellar albums and I expect this one to follow along in that mold as well.
If she would just clean herself up and stop doing crack, I would be totally in love with her.
Seriously, this guy just keeps plugging along with mind-blowing releases.
Jeff Tweedy’s group is one of the best working today, so every release deserves several honest listens.
They are without a doubt one of my favorite bands of all time so I always look forward to their releases and hope that they will perhaps stop here for a show.
Ten For Tuesday: Top Albums of 2007 (the first ten) January 8, 2008Posted by Matt in music, top ten.
Tags: Andrew Bird, Arcade Fire, Avett Brothers, Bright Eyes, Kings of Leon, music, Of Montreal, Okkervil River, Sinead O'Connor, The National, top ten, Wilco
As many of you know, I listen to a lot of music and ever since I received my Ipod a year ago, that has amount has increased more than ever before. Through my use of emusic (it’s a great deal! Let me know if you are interested) and the input of online friends, I’ve been able to expand my collection into realms I never even thought of before. That being said, I came up with a top 20 albums of 2007 and this is the first ten of those. Enjoy.
20. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
The second half of this Of Montreal opus tends to drag a bit, but, with the best song title of the year (and a great song) in “Heimsdalgate Like a Promethean Curse,” Kevin Barnes earned his way onto the list.
19. Kings of Leon – Because of the Times
A good, not great, release from one of the best young bands around today. Though it may not be as strong an album as their last two, it is still certainly worth checking out.
Download: “Black Thumbnail”
18. Sinead O’Connor – Theology
I’ve never really been a fan of O’Connor, but this two CD collection of Christian songs is absolutely beautiful. Both CDs contain the same songs, the first one is a stark, acoustic collection and the second is with a band backing her up. The simple emotion of O’Connor and her acoustic guitar is truly something that should be heard.
Download: Psalm 33
17. Bright Eyes – Cassadega
Sure, Conor Oberst is a head case, but the 27 year old is a heck of a songwriter. This album shows the band really coming into its own as one of the best young groups working today.
Download: Four Winds
16. Okkervil River – The Stage Names
At first, I almost dismissed this album as overly-emotional garbage, but then I started listening, really listening and now this Austin-based band is turning into one of my favorites. It just keeps growing on me.
Download: Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe
15. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
With songs entitled Imitosis (“what’s mistaken for closeness / is just a case of mitosis”) and Scythian Empires (according to Wikipedia, the Scyths were a nation of horse-riding nomadic pastoralists), this singer-songwriter shows a brilliant penchant for the obscure.
14. The National – Boxer
Anchored by Matt Berninger’s deep, even baritone, The National’s latest album is one of the most intriguing ones of 2007. Their songs bring about lonely images of city streets, feeling detached and alone despite the multitude of people around you.
Download: Mistaken For Strangers
13. The Avett Brothers – Emotionalism
The Avett Brothers are one of those bands that defy categorization, but their incorporation of a banjo into songs that range across a wide variety of genres are a pure delight. My girls love the song “Die, Die, Die,” which I should probably find disturbing, but…at least they have good taste.
Download: Paranoia in B Flat Major (rocking out on a banjo!)
12. The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
The Arcade Fire really set themselves apart from the pack with the debut album, Funeral – a trend that has continued with their latest release. They have become what amounts to indie rock royalty, and for good reason.
Download: (Antichrist Television Blues)
11. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky
Jeff Tweedy’s post-Uncle Tupelo venture has been pushing the boundaries ever since their mid-90’s inception and, while this may not be a landmark album like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, it is still a pure joy to listen to. It was one of my most anticipated albums of the year and it definitely fulfilled expectations.
Download: Impossible Germany
The top ten will come either later today or tomorrow…