Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Jefferson

Add Date: November 29

Artist: The Jefferson

Album: Days Are Falling (EP) 

Label: Self-released 

Genre: Rock, pop 

Comments: From the promoter: "The Jefferson are a 4-piece melodic rock-pop anthem band based in Sydney, Australia. They are often compared to bands who exhibit huge stadium-filling sounds such as U2 and Kings of Leon."

The "anthemic" description is pretty accurate. This is a very poppy, polished, and high-energy EP, which has a very pop-punk feel to it, without sounding over-the-top cliché or "emo." Start with 3, 1 and 4.

Niki & The Dove

Add Date: November 29

Artist: Niki & The Dove 

Album: "The Drummer" (single) 

Label: Sub Pop 

Genre: Dance, electropop 

Comments: Niki & The Dove have written and produced a fantastically fun and rhythmic single. While "The Drummer" infects clubs across the urban world, I can't wait for this song to also find a happy home in rural Virginia in the studio of WLUR. Start with track 1 (haha).

The Supplement

Add Date: November 29 

Artist: The Supplement 

Album: The Supplement 

Label: Self-released 

Genre: Rock, punk

Comments: The Supplement is a high-energy punk-rock group that combines Southern rock, grunge, and punk influences into an upbeat self-titled record. A lot of this album sounds like a lo-fi version of '80s punk music. Start with 2, 4 and 5.

Ashley Fayth

Add Date: November 29 

Artist: Ashley Fayth 

Album: Wonder Wonder 

Label: Self-released

Genre: Rock, folk pop

Comments: Ashley Fayth is a singer/songwriter from Newfoundland, Canada. She writes very accessible, soft folk-pop tunes. Overall, the album is a pleasure and a fun listen. Fayth's voice has incredible depth and charismatically conveys emotion.

From Fayth's web site: "Her songs are vibrant yet warm; honest, intimate, and influenced by both contemporary alternative sounds and the traditional music of the fishing outports where she grew up."

Start with 1, 4 and 5.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Serenades

Add Date: November 29 

Artist: Serenades 

Album: Come Home (EP) 

Label: Cherrytree/Interscope 

Genre: Rock, electropop 

Comments: Serenades, the group comprised of Adam Olenius from Shout Out Louds and Marcus Krunegard, has released their first EP with Come Home. These four songs, which include a Bjorn Yttling remix of their single, showcase the duo's propensity for layering vocals, subtle electronics, and easy listening. Start with "Come Home"--a holiday song that you haven't heard 5 million times before.

Kate Bush

Add Date: November 29 

Artist: Kate Bush 

Album: 50 Words for Snow 

Label: ANTI- 

Genre: Pop, experimental 

Comments: I've always felt some sort of kinship with other people named Kate. Obviously, my name is not the most identifying trait about myself, but I believe in enough of fate, superstition, and God to think that all the girls in the world named Kate share some common and special feature. Kate Bush proves the exception to this rule--not because I don't identify with her early, yet enduring tunes or the evolved music that she has released in my lifetime, but because to say that I identify with her would seem an impossibility; she lives with her music somewhere far above the rest of us.

This removal from mere mortals can clearly be heard in 50 Words for Snow. In "Snowflake"--the straightforward story about the journey of a snowflake (voiced by her son)--Bush quietly explores the echelons of haunting pianos and high-reaching vocals in an effect that is all at once dark and heavenly. The next six tracks remove Bush even further from the norms--mainly by her dedication to long songs ("Wild Man" is the shortest track, yet it still spans 7 minutes). This longevity not only shows that Bush has earned the privilege of doing whatever she likes in this business, but that her style has grown from bits of idiosyncrasy to a sprawling illustration of the desperate, bizarre, and hazardous life.

Gotye

Add Date: November 29 

Artist: Gotye 

Album: Making Mirrors 

Label: Universal 

Genre: Alternative, rock 

Comments: In Making Mirrors Gotye (pronounced "GOE-ti-yeah"), or Australian Walter De Backer, actually makes an album evoking the constant change, illusion and confusion in a mirror house. Just when the album gets going and you think you're in for an alt-rock sound, Gotye throws in some '80s pop. And just when you get used to that, Gotye switches to blues and soul. While this could be executed poorly by a lesser man, Gotye's earnestness and conviction in his sound unites the album, so that instead of sounding disjointed and inaccessible, Making Mirrors proves highly intriguing and a lesson in the connectedness of all music types. Start with "Eyes Wide Open".

Monday, November 28, 2011

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

Add Date: November 29 

Artist: Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds 

Album: Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds 

Label: Island

Genre: Rock 

Comments: Noel Gallagher has released a fine record of atmospheric pop rock. Being a member of the defunct group Oasis, Gallagher's new album doesn't stray too far away from his roots.

From the Los Angeles Times music blog: "[In 2011], couched by cheeky diatribes in the media, Gallagher is front and center, both live and on his solo debut, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. Not as memorable as Oasis' best anthems in the '90s, or as nasally rock-ready as his brother's [Liam] latest incarnation, Beady Eye, the album hovers within a melodic good-to-average middle ground.

"If Liam hones the Stones, Noel reworks later-era Kinks, forgoing guitar theatrics for the inclusion of strings, horns and a chorus, sometimes to overwrought effect. His bright tenor, though, serves him well. Recorded in England and Los Angeles, the album encircles themes of love, melancholy and aging."

Start with 1, 2 and 4.

The Duke Spirit

Add Date: November 29 

Artist: The Duke Spirit 

Album: Bruiser 

Label: Shangri-La 

Genre: Rock, punk, pop 

Comments: From Pitchfork: "The Duke Spirit are a band you want to root for, blessed as they are with an alluring frontwowan (Liela Moss) and good taste (drawing on everything from 1980s UK indie to northern soul to murder ballads), but also a willingness to burnish those outsider sources with a considerable sass and swagger to bring the masses on-side. And yet, the masses have been mostly resistant to their charms..."

The Duke Spirit is a band whose music is both rhythm and melody-heavy. Dense guitars and driving drums fuel each of the songs on this record. The band's got a pure rock 'n roll sound that is bolstered by great songwriting and sweet vocals. Start with tracks 1, 3 and 7.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Best New Music - November 22

Give thanks for these records:

A Very She & Him Christmas

And this is just gravy: Big Deal, Sea Lions, Hindi Zahra

Darkness Falls

Add Date: November 22 

Artist: Darkness Falls 

Album: Alive in Us 

Label: hfn music 

Genre: Rock, pop 

Comments: Alive in Us is the first record from the Copenhagen duo Josephine Philip and Ina Lindgreen, soon to be known to all the world as Darkness Falls, and it's a pretty spectacular debut. Behind the terrific production of Danish techno mastermind Trentemøller, Philip and Lindgreen almost effortlessly breeze through a wide range of musical styles: early album gem "Noise on the Line" is a quiet, almost folksy pop song, but this tranquil tone quickly gives way to the bass-driven, New Wave-leaning "The Void". The title track--as do many moments on this record--will bring to mind another duo from Denmark, The Raveonettes; meanwhile, the gritty bassline of "Timeline" sets up the dark synthpop of that song, only to drop into a Kills-esque garage rocker in "Before the Light Takes Us".

There are many wonderful things going on throughout Alive in Us--I'd call Darkness Falls a band to watch out for, but it appears that they've already arrived. Spin tracks 2, 10, 4, 7 and 9.

Hindi Zahra

Add Date: November 22 

Artist: Hindi Zahra 

Album: Handmade 

Label: Naïve 

Genre: International, folk pop 

Comments: From the promoter: "The self-taught composer produced and arranged Handmade in its entirety. The story of a Berber girl born in Morocco, Hindi's father was in the army and her mother a housewife, occasional actress and singer of village repute. Her uncles were musicians in the post-psychedelic Moroccan scene of the '60s and '70s. She grew up to the sounds of traditional Berber music, the blues of the great Malian Ali Farka Touré, and desert rock 'n roll...

"This formidable new talent's storytelling will appeal to a wide array of music fans – Handmade is a melding similar to the feel of when Les Nubians or Sade burst onto the scene. This time, Hindi carves out her own path as she shifts seamlessly from American folk and jazz, to Paris tradition to Moroccan soul. A versatile multi-instrumentalist, Hindi has crafted her own soundtrack of soul-folk-jazz ballads with south Moroccan roots, on the cusp of African culture while staking her claim in today's landscape with her thoroughly original touch."

Though there's a lot going on with Hindi Zahra's music, Handmade definitely has a nice coffeehouse vibe--especially on the 6-track "Unplugged Session" that closes out the LP. I'd recommend tracks 3, 1 and 7.

Big Deal

Add Date: November 22 

Artist: Big Deal 

Album: Big Deal EP 

Label: Mute 

Genre: Rock, atmospheric pop 

Comments: From the promoter: "Fresh off a European tour with songstress Anna Calvi, the London-based girl/boy duo Big Deal are ready to make a splash in the US with their self-titled EP. An exciting sign of what's to come, Big Deal will be back early next year with their debut full length, Light's Out. With each one of the four vignettes containing nothing more than two guitars, two voices and a touch of synth... the stripped-down character helps perfectly convey the intimate nature of the deeply personal songs, all shaded with innocence, insecurity and wonder. In just 15 minutes, the adorable pair cover a lot of ground, from the upbeat catchy single 'Chair' to the atmospheric 'Mai Joy'."

I'm always impressed by bands that can do more with less, and Big Deal certainly fit that category. Start with tracks 1 and 2, and also check out their cover of Big Star's "Thirteen".

Cloud Control

Add Date: November 22 

Artist: Cloud Control 

Album: Bliss Release 

Label: Infectious 

Genre: Rock, psych pop 

Comments: From the onesheet: "Bliss Release is the debut album from Australian indie outfit Cloud Control. They hail from the Blue Mountains, just outside of Sydney. They sew a wide palette of influences together to create a truly original tapestry of aural delight. Dreamy psych pop, country, folk and soul are only scraping the surface to describe the sound of this truly unique band... RIYL: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Arcade Fire, Jefferson Airplane, Iron & Wine."

Check out "Death Cloud", "Gold Canary", "There's Nothing in the Water We Can't Fight" and "This Is What I Said".

Sea Lions

Add Date: November 22 

Artist: Sea Lions 

Album: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sea Lions But Were Afraid to Ask 

Label: Slumberland 

Genre: Indie pop 

Comments: Jangly indie pop on Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sea Lions But Were Afraid to Ask, the latest release from Slumberland Records. The album title is perfectly appropriate--it's either endearing or overly cute, depending on your point of view, but it's a good indicator of the fuzzy, endearingly cute songs contained therein. Imagine a reverb-drenched version of The Magnetic Fields, and you'd be pretty close to what you'll hear from Sea Lions, who pull off this style of pop quite well.

Don't be afraid to ask about tracks like "I Should Be Sleeping", "Grown Up", "Rainfall" and "I Loved Her So Much".

Warren Haynes Presents

Add Date: November 22 

Artist: Various Artists 

Album: Warren Haynes Presents: The Benefit Concert Vol. 4 

Label: Evil Teen 

Genre: Compilations/soundtracks, jam bands, folk rock 

Comments: Recorded in Asheville in December 2002 and serving as a benefit for that North Carolina city's chapter of Habitat for Humanity, the latest release from Warren Haynes' (Gov't Mule) Evil Teen imprint includes contributions from John Hiatt, Robert Randolph, moe., Bob Weir and more. The promoter recommends tracks 1, 8 and 9 from disc one, and 3, 8 and 9 from the second disc.

Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun

Add Date: November 22 

Artist: Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun 

Album: WILDFIRE 

Label: Greyday 

Genre: Rock, electronic rock 

Comments: Synth-laced electronic rock with a post-punk slant from the Atlanta outfit Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun on WILDFIRE, the band's debut full-length. Start with "We Were Wild".

Cherri Bomb

Add Date: November 22 

Artist: Cherri Bomb 

Album: Stark (EP) 

Label: Hollywood 

Genre: Rock 

Comments: From the promoter: "Inspired by both classic and recent rock bands like the Foo Fighters and Metallica, Cherri Bomb, the young, all-female rock band, is making headlines with their powerful sound. Their debut EP Stark features some very heavy drumming and guitar riffs."

Check out "Already Dead".

Eddy Current Suppression Ring

Add Date: November 22 

Artist: Eddy Current Suppression Ring 

Album: So Many Things 

Label: Goner 

Genre: Rock, garage rock 

Comments: The Australian band Eddy Current Suppression Ring churn out lo-fi, energetic garage-rock tunes--no surprise, given that their U.S. label, Goner Records, is the former home of Ty Segall and the late Jay Reatard. Goner has recently issued a collection of Segall's past work, which is also adding to our playlist this week, and So Many Things falls along the same lines: these tracks are a hodgepodge of B-sides and other rarities, dating from 2004 through March of this year.

Beyond the typical garage reference points, there are some noticeable post-punk currents floating underneath several of these songs; New Zealand masters The Clean come to mind on "That Time of Day", in particular. Spin tracks 3, 12, 10 and 6.

Washington

Add Date: November 22 

Artist: Washington 

Album: I Believe You Liar 

Label: Universal Republic 

Genre: Rock, pop 

Comments: Kate Nash-style pop songs from Megan Washington on her debut album I Believe You Liar, which went platinum in her native Australia. From the promoter: The "blend of straightforward power pop laden with intriguing time signature changes augments Megan's darkly poetic lyricism to make an offbeat album that is accessible enough for that second (or third) listen."

Try "1997" or "Navy".

Willoughby

Add Date: November 22 

Artist: Willoughby 

Album: "This Will Be Your Drink" (single) 

Label: Sargent 

Genre: Rock, pop 

Comments: "This Will Be Your Drink", a new single from Los Angeles band Willoughby, is a bouncy, guitar-driven bedroom pop number. Frontman Gus Seyffert, a Bird and the Bee collaborator, provides perfectly understated vocals, and his influences clearly include Elliott Smith and lots of '60s pop (think The Kinks and The Zombies, in particular). The B-side is a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows".

Eleven

Add Date: November 22 

Artist: Eleven 

Album: This Little Finger (EP) 

Label: Ras Ras 

Genre: Rock, alternative 

Comments: The now-defunct alt-rock trio Eleven is preparing a release of demos and B-sides, and here are three cuts from that forthcoming issue. Prior to forming Eleven, Alain Johannes was in the pre-Red Hot Chili Peppers band Anthym, alongside Flea; his wife and bandmate, Natasha Shneider, later became the keyboardist for Queens of the Stone Age, before she lost her battle with cancer in 2008.

Based on those musical connections, it shouldn't be surprising to find out that Eleven's spin on '90s alternative belongs on the same playlist as Soundgarden or Alice in Chains. This 3-track release also features a cover of Stevie Wonder's "You Haven't Done Nothin'".

Trophy Wives

Add Date: November 22 

Artist: Trophy Wives 

Album: Old Scratch 

Label: Latest Flame 

Genre: Rock 

Comments: From the promoter: "Louisville, KY rock quartet Trophy Wives [features] ex-members of Young Widows, Coliseum and Lords. That said, expect blistering solos, chugging chords and powerful drumming! With an album title that shares a nickname with the devil, Trophy Wives' sound is heavy enough to border on metal, yet introspective enough that it can almost be compared to '90s favorites Nirvana... [RIYL] The Jesus Lizard, Kyuss and Pinback..."

Try the hard rock-leaning "Nobody's Home" or the grungier "Picture Perfect".

The Envy Corps

Add Date: November 22 

Artist: The Envy Corps 

Album: It Culls You 

Label: Tempo Club 

Genre: Rock 

Comments: There's a LOT of Radiohead on It Culls You, the third LP from the Iowa band The Envy Corps. A lot. Indeed, there are times when it sounds like the band is going for pure emulation--for what it's worth, they pull it off rather well--so if that bugs you, then you'll probably want to avoid this record. However, two things come to mind for me: first, you can do a lot worse than pay homage to Thom Yorke and co.; and additionally, there's enough of a prog-rock (read: Muse) vibe happening here to keep this from sounding exactly like In Rainbows or any other recent Radiohead release.

So while The Envy Corps might not be the most original band on the block, their hearts seem to be in the right place, and It Culls You is a well-done alternative record. Spin tracks 2, 1 and 5.

Jerry Lindqvist

Add Date: November 22 

Artist: Jerry Lindqvist 

Album: Rivertown 

Label: Wing 

Genre: Alt-country, folk rock 

Comments: Jerry Lindqvist is a native of Finland, but his music is steeped in the traditions of Americana. Rivertown is a very solid collection of country-leaning folk tunes, as Lindqvist seemingly aspires to be a Finnish version of Townes Van Zandt or Ryan Adams. While he doesn't reach that level--few do--there are some nice moments here, particularly "Dancing With April" and "Summer Rain".

Regurgitator

Add Date: November 22 

Artist: Regurgitator 

Album: Super Happy Fun Times Friends 

Label: Valve 

Genre: Rock, indie pop 

Comments: The spirit of this record from the Brisbane indie pop duo Regurgitator can be summed up with these lines from "Super Happy Funtime": "There I met an alien who told me he was my mom/And he mentioned I should clean up my bedroom now." That's pretty much the tone throughout Super Happy Fun Times Friends--well, they do get a bit naughtier, as five tracks on the album are DNP--as the band bounces through 14 guitar and synth-driven indie-pop tunes in just over half an hour.

The album title doesn't lie; this music is super happy fun, indeed. Try tracks 1, 4 and 8.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Best New Music - November 15

Best of the week:

Los Campesinos!

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Los Campesinos! 

Album: Hello Sadness 

Label: Arts & Crafts 

Genre: Rock, indie pop 

Comments: For a band that's been around for scarcely five years, Los Campesinos! already feel like part of the underground musical establishment. Their prolific nature certainly has something to do with that; Hello Sadness is the band's fifth significant release, and their fourth full-length, since debuting in the summer of 2007 with the Sticking Fingers Into Sockets EP. (That gave us Campesinos' first major "single", so to speak, "You! Me! Dancing!", which is now making them lots of money in Budweiser commercials.) And despite the constant onslaught of new material, the closest that this UK troupe has come to a disappointment was their 2010 LP Romance Is Boring, and even that record featured several fine songs.

Everything else in Los Campesinos!' catalog is simply outstanding, and Hello Sadness is no exception. From the opening keyboard lines of "By Your Hand" to late-album rock ballads "To Tundra" and "Light Leaves, Dark Sees Pt. II", this new album is another terrific collection of pop-leaning indie rock songs. Gareth Campesinos!' extremely literate lyrics and punk-inflected delivery perfectly match the band's energy; behind him is a veritable indie-pop ensemble of guitars, percussion, keyboards, violin and the occasional horns. Though the lineup has changed during the band's short tenure, the 7-piece outfit has maintained its high level of musicianship throughout.

Another wonderful record--begin with tracks 2, 3, 1, 7 and 8.

Summer Camp

Add Date: November 15

Artist: Summer Camp 

Album: Welcome to Condale

Label: Moshi Moshi 

Genre: Rock, indie pop 

Comments: So as I was trying to come up with what Summer Camp reminded me of, I was kind of drawing a blank. A couple songs made me think of Best Coast, but that didn't quite fit the whole album. It wasn't until I read the notes from the promoter that I figured it out. Summer Camp is basically just an '80s movie, but in album form. As the promoter puts it: "the London duo’s debut album, Welcome to Condale, is the musical equivalent of a long-lost Hughes film from the '80s." 

That might sound kinda weird, but this album is great. You'll understand if you listen to it. Almost all of the songs have that bubbly, '80s synthpop feel to them--even track 3, "I Want You", which is actually a really creepy stalker song when you start to listen to the lyrics. 

If you're looking for something fun to play on air, or even just something to listen to on your drive home for Thanksgiving, Welcome to Condale is definitely a keeper. Start with 1 and 3.

Sigur Rós

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Sigur Rós 

Album: Inni (sampler) 

Label: XL 

Genre: Defies classification, experimental pop 

Comments: From the record label: "Sigur Rós is proud to present Inni, the definitive Sigur Rós live experience. Inni is comprised of a double live album and 75-minute film of Sigur Rós' last show before their well-documented 'indefinite hiatus' at the end of 2008. Recorded and shot over two nights at London's Alexandra Palace at the close of the world tour around their fifth full-length album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, Inni sees the band at the peak of their powers, captured on film for the first time as a core four-piece... Directed by Vincent Morisset (Arcade Fire's Miroir Noir), the film premiered at this year's Venice Days Film Festival..."

The film sounds pretty fascinating--I'm sure you can find a lot more about it here on the world-wide internet--but equally enthralling is Sigur Rós' music in a live setting, and this 8-track sampler includes over half of the concert, which lasted just under two hours. Spin "við spilum endalaust", "hoppípolla" and the 10-minute masterpiece "svefn-g-englar".

Thee Oh Sees

Add Date: November 15

Artist: Thee Oh Sees 

Album: Carrion Crawler/The Dream EP 

Label: In the Red 

Genre: Rock, psychedelic rock 

Comments: Calling this album from Thee Oh Sees an "EP" is a bit misleading; at 10 tracks and 40 minutes, Carrion Crawler/The Dream certainly provides enough material to be considered a full-length. And it might be the band's most accomplished work to date--after listening to the diversity that characterizes this release, it will be difficult to pigeonhole John Dwyer and company as another typical lo-fi garage-rock outfit. The dual title tracks are lengthy, psychedelic jams: "Carrion Crawler" is top-notch post-punk, while "The Dream" is nearly seven minutes of surf-rock bliss. The energetic "Crushed Grass" is more of a throwback to Thee Oh Sees' previous work, while the soul-infused "Contraption/Soul Desert" will bring to mind artists like King Khan.

Excellent stuff all around; start with tracks 1, 2, 8 and 6.

Ex Norwegian

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Ex Norwegian 

Album: Sketch 

Label: Dying Van Gogh 

Genre: Rock 

Comments: Originally from Miami, the quintet Ex Norwegian makes hook-heavy indie rock and power pop; their style has been compared to Fountains of Wayne and Weezer. Sketch, the band's second record, is a bit inconsistent, but there are some very nice moments--in particular, try "Sky Diving" and "Jet Lag".

Nero

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Nero

Album: Me and You E.P. 

Label: Interscope 

Genre: Dance, pop 

Comments: "Me and You", a single from the London dubstep duo Nero, is a dance track with a good beat, but the song doesn't really go anywhere. However, the other two selections on this EP are much more interesting: check out the remix version of the title track from Swedish House Mafia's Steve Angello, or the workup of "Promises", done by Nero and American producer Skrillex.

Electric Touch

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Electric Touch 

Album: Don't Stop EP 

Label: Island 

Genre: Rock 

Comments: Electric Touch appear to be aiming for the arena-rock crowd on the 4-track Don't Stop EP; the result is big-sounding alternative, accessible if quite indistinctive. Try the title track.

Mike Acerbo

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Mike Acerbo 

Album: The Search 

Label: Self-released 

Genre: Folk 

Comments: From the promoter: "The Search... is a fairy tale for the senses--full of dark imagery and poetry and thick with unique arrangements of cellos, fiddles, piano, recorders, brass and guitars. [Mike] Acerbo's influences are broad--ranging from Fleetwood Mac and Joni Mitchell to the alternative sounds of Kate Bush and Sufjan Stevens."

Well-constructed folk from Acerbo on his debut LP. Check out "Trilby", "Fairy Tale Love" and the upbeat, country-leaning number "Where the River Meets the Sea".

Canyons

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Canyons 

Album: Keep Your Dreams 

Label: Modular 

Genre: Electronica, psych pop 

Comments: Leo Thomson and Ryan Grieve, who together form the Australian duo Canyons, seem to be musical chameleons, pulling in musical styles and influences from their surroundings on their debut full-length Keep Your Dreams. Early album standout "My Rescue" is a synth-rock number that will bring to mind labelmates Cut Copy; speaking of fellow Modular Recordings artists, Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker drops by to provide vocals on "Tonight", which is a psychedelic pop gem that could easily be mistaken for a track from Parker's own band. Meanwhile, "See Blind Through" is an avant-garde dance song that borrows from '90s house, and "When I See You Again" is a bass-heavy disco-inflected pop tune. In between are other assorted bits of electronica and psychedelic pop, as Thomson and Grieve put their eclectic musical tastes on full display.

With everything that's happening here, Keep Your Dreams is all over the map--but not in an off-putting way, as Canyons pull off everything remarkably well. Start with tracks 8, 3, 4 and 9.

She & Him

Add Date: November 22 

Artist: She & Him 

Album: A Very She & Him Christmas 

Label: Merge 

Genre: Indie rock, Christmas music 

Comments: Honestly, Elf stands as the best holiday movie. A not-too-over-the-top Will Ferrell who is still hilarious? Check. New York at Christmastime? Check. Claymation? Check. And to top it all off, the lovely, sweeping voice of Zooey Deschanel singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside". This song and her voice mixed perfectly and propelled the actress only known for a small part in Almost Famous to two albums with M. Ward, a marriage with Ben Gibbard, and a new TV show on Fox. 

A Very She & Him Christmas is exactly what it sounds like: Deschanel's warm voice, M. Ward's guitar, and all the old Christmastime favorites. Instead of being loud and noisy, though, this album recreates these familiar songs with an air of minimalism that will quiet the hearts of holiday lovers everywhere. This is definitely an album that should be used on rotation while decorating the tree, baking cookies, and sitting by the fire.

Lana del Rey

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Lana del Rey 

Album: "Video Games" (single) 

Label: Stranger/Interscope 

Genre: Pop 

Comments: "Video Games" is the lead single from Lana del Rey's full-length debut, which is due out in January. It's a quiet gem of an orchestral pop song, with swirling synths accented by piano, strings and percussion, all carried along by del Rey's rich vocals, which sound like equal parts Lykke Li and Hope Sandoval. Definitely worth a spin or two.

Friends

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Friends 

Album: Friends EP 

Label: Lucky Number 

Genre: Indie rock, pop 

Comments: Friends are but the newest band from Brooklyn that boasts Cults-like poppiness and a ready-made blog following. There's a looseness and spontaneity to this 4 song-EP, with the lead singer's voice making for an alluring mix of sweetness and spite. With a dash of elastic bass and a sprig of cowbell action of post-punk (the band do call their sound "Tropicool" or "Rhythm and Post-punk"), the EP makes for a generically nice-sounding time.

Tracks 1, 3 and 4 are the best tunes.

Caveman

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Caveman 

Album: Coco Beware 

Label: ORG Music 

Genre: Alternative, indie rock 

Comments: From KEXP: "If you’ve never heard of New York quintet Caveman, that’s all about to change. The band has gone from underground to the spotlight, helped in part by opening spots for Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, White Rabbits, Wye Oak, Yuck, and Here We Go Magic. Of course, riding on the coattails of others isn’t impressive, but upon listening to the group’s debut CoCo Beware it’s clear that these guys are headed to the top. Synth textures waft like curtains behind melodic guitars and practiced vocal harmonies, as laid-back drums keep the group in time. It’s a blend of folk and chamber pop that’s as revelatory as it is addicting... both the keyboardist and guitarist contribute an airy, spacy, and whirring ambience that hangs behind the rhythm section and Iwanusa’s vocals. What keeps their music from spinning too far into orbit is the emphatic drumming of both drummer Stefan Marolachakis and Iwanusa. In tandem, they play tom-heavy, tribal-sounding drum lines that pound Caveman’s songs back down to earth and give them a sense of urgency that contrasts well with the spacey effects and guitar work."

Similar to Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear. Try out tracks 2, 3, 5 and 9.

The Dø

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: The Dø

Album: Both Ways Open Jaws 

Label: Six Degrees 

Genre: Indie pop, rock 

Comments: They've already had a hit-selling album in their native France, and now The Dø (pronounced "doe") bring their French/Finnish act to the US. Both Ways Open Jaws is part indie, part pop, and all artsy. Technically accomplished and full of rich orchestration and electronic flourishes, the new record somehow still manages to keep a lightness of touch and an instant pop appeal, no doubt thanks to the bewitching vocals and songwriting skills.

A promising sophomore album; tracks 8, 4, 9 and 1 are good.

Childish Gambino

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Childish Gambino 

Album: Camp 

Label: Glassnote 

Genre: Hip hop 

Comments: On Thursdays, he's Troy Barnes on NBC's hit comedy Community; on the occasional weeknight, he's stand-up comedian Donald Glover on Comedy Central specials; and when he's on a sold-out nationwide tour, he's Childish Gambino, the rapping sensation who's hoping to hit new heights with his proper debut, Camp.

Wu Tang Name Generator-name aside, what makes Childish Gambino different from other rappers? For one, Camp's backing band: led by Community composer Ludwig Goransson, the band weaves together beautiful compositions and hard-hitting beats with a dizzying array of strings, brass instruments, 808's, keys, and guitar. Think a lite-Kanye West, somewhere between Yeezy's 808's & Heartbreaks and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy eras of music.

Gambino's witticisms would have to be second on that "outstanding differences list", with lyrics cutting through critics and ~da haters~ with a sharp tongue and mind. You want double entendres, puns, and references to Invader Zim, Mumford & Sons, Princess Diana, and James Franco? You got 'em, and so much more. Any other artist would kill to have just a single rhyme like on "Heartbeat"'s "I'm going straight for your thighs like the cake you ate", yet he keeps the wordplay coming, one line after another.

And last, but certainly not least, are the back-and-forth emotions. Gambino's simultaneously on top of the world ("Man, why does every black actor gotta rap some?/I don’t know, all I know is I’m the best one") and at the bottom of the food chain ("I'm a problem/I'm lame as f*** homie"). He's lost girls and won them back; been dumped, rejected, and questioned for his race and ambitions; found success and lost friends, usually all in one song. It's this dynamic quality in the songs that keeps our attention on Gambino.

With that said, there are some drawbacks from the album. Blatant racism, sexism, and prejudice abound, and there's often some imagery that we don't want stuck in our heads over a catchy beat (Human Centipede, anyone?). And why is Glover even rapping when he has such a promising role as an actor/comedian? Short answer: because he's here to entertain us. Because he's the pop rapper we deserve, and the one we need right now. So we'll chase his career because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a non-silent guardian, a watchful rap-rotector. A Childish Gambino.

A great album, try out (clean) tracks 1, 2, 5, 8 and 13.

Ty Segall

Add Date: November 22 

Artist: Ty Segall 

Album: Singles 2007-2010 

Label: Goner 

Genre: Rock, alternative 

Comments: With his usual fuzzed-out, garage sound, Ty Segall has released this singles record full of songs from his out-of-print catalog, as well as some B-sides. Including 25 short and snippy tracks full of angst, energy, discontent, and manic frenzy, this album functions not only as a quick and extremely fun listen, but also as a full picture of Segall's MO for those of you who aren't familiar with his work. Start with "Bullet Proof Nothing".

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New Zealand @ CMJ 2011

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Various Artists 

Album: New Zealand @ CMJ 2011 

Label: New Zealand Music Commission 

Genre: Compilations/soundtracks, pop, rock 

Comments: A VERY COOL release from the New Zealand Music Commission. A description of the agency: "New Zealand Music Commission is a government-funded agency committed to growing the New Zealand music business both at home and abroad. Internationally, the Music Commission undertakes export projects and partnerships aimed at assisting music businesses to take their music to the world."

Better yet, there are some really great artists on this record; Cut Off Your Hands, Princess Chelsea, Pikachunes and Unknown Mortal Orchestra have all been on our playlist within the past few months. A great variety of indie pop coming out of New Zealand. Start with 2, 1, 3 and 6.

Yael Meyer

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Yael Meyer 

Album: Everything Will Be Alright 

Label: Kli 

Genre: Pop, indie, rock 

Comments: Yael Meyer is a wildly talented indie-pop artist who writes infectiously catchy songs. The music is layered with drum machines and synths, giving off a very Postal Service-esque feel. This album is hitting our playlist just in time for the winter; the harmonies Meyer performs are the warmest, most comforting vocal compositions I've heard in a long while.

Meyer moves perfectly from soft, toned-down tunes to upbeat catchy-as-hell pop songs. I have a feeling this album might fly under some radars, but don't let this one fall through the cracks! It's a gem! Start with 3, 1, 4 and 8.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Raleigh Moncrief

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Raleigh Moncrief 

Album: Watered Lawn 

Label: Anticon 

Genre: Alternative 

Comments: I know that the genre "alternative" doesn't have a set meaning, and it's used as a throwaway label if something is indie but not indie rock. However, Raleigh Moncrief actually deserves the title. Watered Lawn, as the promoter states, uses "homespun electronic soul infused with folksy intimacy and searching psychedelica." This music isn't easily accessible, but I'm sure that it gets better with more listens, on which I'm still working.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Various Artists 

Album: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn soundtrack 

Label: Atlantic 

Genre: Compilations/soundtracks, rock, pop 

Comments: Admittedly, being a Twilight fan is not the most embarrassing fact about me. But it is still pretty embarrassing. Whether you prefer or make fun of the sparkly vampires that have captivated the hearts of tween girls and the libidos of middle-aged housewives, it cannot be denied that the movies have used great music.

Though The Twilight Saga: New Moon had the best and most college radio-friendly music (go listen to Thom Yorke's "Hearing Damage and Lykke Li's "Possibility"), this soundtrack has its moments. Amidst Bruno Mars and one too many sappy ballads are some better-than-average songs from The Joy Formidable, Cider Sky, and The Belle Brigade.

The real test of any soundtrack, though, is how it compliments the scenes in the movie (in theaters Friday!). If you decide to review the movie and soundtrack together, look for me in the theater at midnight on Thursday. I'll be the girl in the Team Edward shirt with an oversized box of tissues.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ashtar Command

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Ashtar Command 

Album: American Sunshine 

Label: Obey 

Genre: Rock, pop, electronica 

Comments: From the promoter: "Sci-fi fans may recall the concept of 'Ashtar Command' that emerged in the 1950s--an intergalactic U.N. with the mission of assisting the human race in a time of crisis. Think evolution by enlightenment, which makes the name a fitting metaphor for the band and what they're trying to accomplish. American Sunshine evolved organically, a labor of love from veteran musicians Chris Holmes and Brian Liesegang; it's an expansive and coherent album that defies being reduced to a single genre."

This is a wildly eclectic (I hate that word, but it's true here) record that will take you on the ride of your month. Many of the songs are trance-inducing through their building energy; others are stripped-down ballads; all boast contagious melodies. The album has an anthem-type feel, which it evokes through big and powerful sounds. Start with 2, 3 and 8.

Kathleen Edwards

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Kathleen Edwards 

Album: Voyageur 

Label: Zoë 

Genre: Rock, pop, folk 

Comments: We are lucky enough to have gotten an advance copy of this fantastic release from Zoë Records before its street issue in January 2012. You may recognize Kathleen Edwards' name from the single "Change the Sheets", which we've had the playlist for the past few weeks.

Edwards writes amazing melodies and executes them perfectly with vocal chords of organ pipes. She is a singer/songwriter who has an amazing ear for how a song ought to progress; in fact, that's a major strength of this record: everything is a progression. The album is aptly named Voyageur--not only because both the title and Edwards have French Canadian roots, but also because of the directional nature of the songs as a collective whole. This album will take you for a wild, fun, and relaxing ride. This song reminds me of a well-executed version of Chris Walla's (Death Cab for Cutie) solo album.

It may be worth mentioning that Kathleen Edwards is the girlfriend of Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver), who also co-produced this record with her. Start with tracks 4, 2, 1 and 6.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Best New Music - November 8

Top five adds:


The Darcys

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: The Darcys 

Album: The Darcys 

Label: Arts & Crafts 

Genre: Indie, alternative 

Comments: So apparently a lot of people are really pumped for this Toronto band's new self-titled Arts & Crafts album. (Arts & Crafts is Broken Social Scene's label.) The promotor gave us some really shining reviews, so I'll share the most interesting and enlightening of them: "These guys have a serious knack for creating massive, lushly layered soundscapes punctuated by fuzzy guitars and ethereal falsetto," says Uptown Magazine; Ben Rayner of The Toronto Star called the album "a monstrously tuneful prog rock epic that improbably finds common ground between Radiohead and Steely Dan."

So if that doesn't get you excited to check them out, I don't know what will. This is a good album. According to the promotor, you'll like The Darcys if you like British Sea Power, The Stills, The Dears or Radiohead. This album is about what you'd expect after hearing that, I think. If you're looking for something slower and more chill, try tracks 1 or 4. If you want something a little more high-energy, go with 2, 5 or 7. 

Korallreven

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Korallreven 

Album: An Album By Korallreven 

Label: Acéphale 

Genre: Electronic pop, ambient electropop

Comments: A fine collection of ambient electronic and Balearic pop from the Swedish duo Korallreven, comprised of Daniel Tjäder, keyboardist for The Radio Dept., and Marcus Joons. An Album By Korallreven gets a major boost by the presence of Victoria Bergsman (Taken By Trees), who sings on three tracks, and Julianna Barwick, who provides her ethereal vocals on "Sa Sa Samoa". The entire record has a downcast, dreamy feel, as if the quieter, more contemplative moments of jj and Air France were isolated into one LP.

While this stylistic continuity gives An Album By Korallreven a great flow from start to finish, it also means that isolating standout tracks can be difficult. It's not an impossible task, though--"The Truest Faith" and "Honey Mine" are radio-ready singles; also check out "As Young As Yesterday" and "Sa Sa Samoa".

yMusic

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: yMusic 

Album: Beautiful Mechanical 

Label: New Amsterdam 

Genre: Defies classification 

Comments: The New York sextet yMusic's album Beautiful Mechanical features the chamber outfit tackling compositions by Shara Worden (My Brighest Diamond), Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and Anticon artist Son Lux, among others. It's been issued by New Amsterdam; the last release we had from that label was Sarah Kirkland Snider's song cycle Penelope, featuring vocals from Worden, which arrived around this time last year. (Beautiful Mechanical also includes Snider's "Daughter of the Waves".)

Unsurprisingly, this is top-notch; what quickly becomes apparent is the musicianship of the players--Hideaki Aomori (clarinet), C.J. Camerieri (trumpet and horn), Clarice Jensen (cello), Rob Moose (violin and guitar), Nadia Sirota (viola) and Alex Sopp (flute and piccolo)--as well as the beauty of the compositions.

Fans of Snider and Worden, as well as Clogs or Owen Pallett, will enjoy Beautiful Mechanical. My favorites are Son Lux's work, which provides the title for the record, as well as Snider's piece, but you can't go wrong with any of these selections.

Julie Slonecki

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Julie Slonecki 

Album: Act Tough 

Label: Self-released 

Genre: Rock, folk pop 

Comments: Julie Slonecki is not only an extremely talented singer and songwriter, but also a recent graduate of W&L (Class of 2011). Her newest release, aptly named Act Tough, emits boldness and confidence from an up-and-coming pop artist. At its core, the album is a look inside Slonecki's personal transformation that paralleled her move from her "back porch in western Virginia" to "finding what [she] want(s)" in the world. Her lyrics are poetic, meaningful, and deeply personal. When she sings, it's as if you're listening in on a very private conversation between her and a close friend. What makes her lyrics even more appealing is Slonecki's phenomenal vocal ability. This girl must have organ pipes for vocal chords. Her voice has an amazingly sincere tone with depth and range similar to that of Jenny Lewis.

Slonecki uses a variety of musical techniques to capture attention and elicit emotion. While most of the record can be characterized as folk-pop tunes, funk, rock, and even a glimmer of hip hop (see track 4) find a perfect setting in these songs. Act Tough seamlessly moves from heavily rhythmic pop songs to stripped-down folk tunes and back again, providing balance and variety throughout the entire experience. That's exactly what this record is for us listeners: a compelling experience, and certainly one worth checking out.

Start with tracks 5, 1, 6 and 4.

Bleeding Knees Club

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Bleeding Knees Club 

Album: Virginity (EP) 

Label: IAMSOUND

Genre: Punk, rock 

Comments: From the promoter: "An irrepressible garage-pop 'n' surf-punk pair that burst out of Australia's Gold Coast in 2010, Bleeding Knees Club have won hearts and minds through a reckless live reputation and, on the recorded front, with a swag of super-catchy tunes on their debut EP Virginity."

I'm no punk rock connoisseur, but I know enough to recognize this as a fantastic garage/surf record. Reminiscent of the Ramones and at times even the Pixies, Bleeding Knees Club have brought a lost sound back to life on their debut EP Virginity. I really like this one. Start with 1, 3 and 4.

The Jigsaw Seen

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: The Jigsaw Seen 

Album: Winterland 

Label: Vibro-phonic 

Genre: Rock, post-rock 

Comments: This is a rock album focused on winter and Christmas. Heavy guitars, big drums, prominent lead solos and catchy vocal melodies characterize the majority of this record. The group does meander between a dirty heavy-rock sound and a more toned-down jazzy pop tone throughout the record. Although The Jigsaw Seen is somewhat difficult to nail down, I could understand this playing as a strength for some listeners.

Start with 3, 1 and 5.

Pert Near Sandstone

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Pert Near Sandstone 

Album: Paradise Hop 

Label: PNM 

Genre: Modern bluegrass 

Comments: From the promoter: "An American-with-a-capital-A band from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Pert Near Sandstone brings a new contemporary twist to old-time bluegrass music. Their twangy, foot-stomping, dance-frenzied fiddle melodies complement their unique name; derived from an old rural saying for 'almost there' and combined with references to the band's roots down by the Mississippi River."

Pert Near Sandstone write songs that are inspired by the land. Whether it's about Appalachian women, the Mississippi River, or hitchhiking across the West, the lyrics on Paradise Hop are rooted in the landscapes the band has experienced on their travels around the country playing shows in a range of places from small-town bars to big-city venues. This is an excellent modern roots/bluegrass record that boasts top-shelf musicianship and songwriting. Start with 3, 2, 5 and 9.

The Lower 48

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: The Lower 48 

Album: Where All Maps End 

Label: Self-released 

Genre: Folk, rock 

Comments: The Lower 48 write stripped-down melodic and catchy-as-hell folk songs. There are two lead singers; a guy and girl harmonize almost every lyric together on the record. The acoustic guitar is strummed in a driving rhythm on most songs and perfectly supports the upbeat melodies. Each song on this record is unique, a true feat for a simplified folk-pop duo.

Where All Maps End is a really great lo-fi folk-pop record. Start with 1, 2 and 4.

Honest Haloway

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Honest Haloway 

Album: The Towns (EP) 

Label: Self-released 

Genre: Synth pop, electronic rock 

Comments: Turns out that Toro Y Moi isn't the only Palmetto Stater making interesting electronic-based music these days: enter South Carolina duo Honest Haloway and their eponymous debut EP. The Towns is a nice mix of chillwave and synth pop, with the occasional hint of New Wave seeping in. Check out tracks 1, 3 and 2.

The Hours

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: The Hours 

Album: I Want More (EP) 

Label: Adeline 

Genre: Rock, pop 

Comments: A fairly eclectic mix of music from London's The Hours, who combine piano pop, angular indie rock and even some folk into their own convincing version of Brit pop. Pulp is a major influence--frontman Antony Genn once played in Jarvis Cocker's masterful outfit--while the band has also drawn comparisons to Snow Patrol and Duran Duran. Try tracks 2 and 1.

Cass McCombs

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Cass McCombs 

Album: Humor Risk 

Label: Domino 

Genre: Psych pop, folk rock 

Comments: Humor Risk is Cass McCombs' second LP of 2011--following up on his outstanding April release WIT'S END--and it sees the California native changing up his style just a bit. As another collection of beautifully constructed folk songs, WIT'S END fell in line with McCombs' previous work; Humor Risk is a psychedelic pop-rock record, as he channels '60s pop icons like The Zombies or The Kinks, all without abandoning his folksier roots.

McCombs doesn't pull off psych pop quite as seamlessly as his ethereal folk-rock numbers, so Humor Risk is somewhat inconsistent. But the high points are incredibly good, so check out "The Same Thing", "Love Thine Enemy" and "Robin Egg Blue".

JEFF the Brotherhood

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: JEFF the Brotherhood 

Album: "Whatever I Want" (single) 

Label: Third Man 

Genre: Rock 

Comments: If you're looking for value in a 7-inch release, JEFF the Brotherhood's new Third Man issue will give you your money's worth: the two tracks here clock in at a combined 12 minutes. A-side "Whatever I Want" is a sprawling alternative song with drawn-out guitar solos--and, as Jack White inevitably makes an appearance on these issues from his record label, some Hammond organ work as well--while the B-side is an excellent version of '70s rocker Tiger B. Smith's "Everything I Need".

I'm not sure if the band intentionally paired those two songs just because of their titles, but they're both worth a spin.

The Black Belles

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: The Black Belles 

Album: "Honky Tonk Horror" (single) 

Label: Third Man 

Genre: Rock 

Comments: Of all the artists who've recently passed through Nashville's Third Man studios for the label's ongoing 7-inch series, Jack White is probably proudest of The Black Belles, an all-girl quartet that he discovered and signed. Third Man describes their sound as "garage goth," which is a pretty accurate description for the two songs on this release. There are also some country undercurrents on the aptly-titled "Honky Tonk Horror".

Good stuff--check out both tracks.

Joker

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Joker 

Album: The Vision 

Label: 4AD 

Genre: Electronica, dubstep, pop

Comments: After a string of well-received EPs and remixes, the 22-year-old Bristol artist Joker is releasing his debut full-length, The Vision, on 4AD. From the record label: "Joker's music escapes easy characterization. Keen to avoid generic formalism, he has even publicly distanced himself from being labeled 'dubstep'. It's understandable, since his music runs deep with R&B, funk and soul influences, combining with his trademark pounding bass wobbles and ascending crystalline synths...

"Debut album The Vision finally appeases his waiting public and represents the sum of five years of hard work. Old fans will be pleased to know that trademark instrumentals are there in abundance... These are complemented by a number of startling vocal collaborations that also show just how far his sound has come..."

Interesting, if not overwhelming, electronic pop music with a dubstep slant. Spin tracks 4, 3, 9 and 2; late-night hosts should also check out tracks 10 and 8.

Kurt Vile

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Kurt Vile 

Album: So Outta Reach (EP) 

Label: Matador 

Genre: Rock 

Comments: Five of the six songs on the So Outta Reach EP were written at the same time as the tracks on Kurt Vile's terrific springtime release Smoke Ring for My Halo, and as such it's a nice complement to that full-length. It's also worth noting that, just a few months after Vile's former band, The War on Drugs, put out its excellent sophomore release, Slave Ambient--about which, in its review, Under the Radar coined the term "bossgaze"--this EP features a fine version of Bruce Springsteen's "Downbound Train". (Could that last sentence be even more convoluted? Sorry...)

So Outta Reach doesn't sound at all like a collection of B-sides, but rather like a few more quality tunes from one of the best musical minds around. Try "The Creature", "It's Alright" and that Springsteen song.

Wise Blood

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Wise Blood 

Album: These Wings (EP) 

Label: Dovecote 

Genre: Electronic pop 

Comments: Wise Blood's These Wings takes the sounds of Panda Bear and James Blake and mellows them. On this 7-song album, Wise Blood takes dreamy, electronic backgrounds, mixes them with ghostly vocals and adds a touch of soul. While it's definitely not the most accessible album and even scared me off (the horror!) the first time I listened to it, the album gets better each time around. Worth the effort you will put into it.

Twin Atlantic

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Twin Atlantic 

Album: Free 

Label: Red Bull 

Genre: Rock 

Comments: Twin Atlantic's sophomore album, Free, sounds like something you would hear in Hollister as you're asphyxiating from the over-perfumed rooms. Not bad music by any means--there is talent in this Scotland group. These are just typical mainstream rock songs that fall belong in the early '00s. If you're looking for a throwback to your middle school years, full of Vans and PacSun, pick up Twin Atlantic.

David Lynch

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: David Lynch 

Album: Crazy Clown Time 

Label: Sunday Best 

Genre: Electronic pop 

Comments: If you've seen David Lynch's films, you'll get his debut album. Just as surrealism is his directorial trademark, so too does it become his musical trademark on Crazy Clown Time. This electric, eclectic pop album moves from dark dreamscapes to a pure sense of a foreboding. And with the album lasting over an hour, the tracks take on a jam session quality. Start with "Pinky's Dream", featuring Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Built Like Alaska

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Built Like Alaska 

Album: In Troubled Times... 

Label: Future Farmer 

Genre: Rock, dream pop 

Comments: Guitar and keyboard-based pop rock on In Troubled Times..., the first album in six years from the California troupe Built Like Alaska. Frontman Neil Jackson is heavily indebted musically to the likes of Jason Lytle and the late Mark Linkous; hence the promoter's comparisons to Grandaddy and Sparklehorse. Most of the LP floats by as dreamy, ethereal pop--standouts include "John Henry" and "Antique Love"--but for a change of pace, try the bass-heavy post-punk jam "Rotten in the Film Bag".

Owen

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Owen 

Album: Ghost Town 

Label: Polyvinyl 

Genre: Folk, indie rock 

Comments: Another downbeat collection of contemplative folk-rock tunes from Mike Kinsella on Ghost Town, his latest release on Polyvinyl (of Montreal, Loney Dear, Vivian Girls) as Owen. As usual, Kinsella's melancholy vocals are perfectly set to acoustic guitars and percussion, with the occasional chamber-pop flourish--check out the strings on early-album standouts like "Too Many Moons" and "O, Evelyn..."--or the swirl of an electric guitar, like on closer "Everyone's Asleep in the House but Me". And while there's great instrumentation all around, Owen records are always highlighted by Kinsella's thought-provoking, emotive lyrics. Ghost Town is no exception.

If you're in the mood for a mindless pop song, then this isn't the record for you. However, if you want to add some substance to your set of indie rock and folk, then spin tracks 1, 9 and 3.

Said the Whale

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Said the Whale 

Album: New Brighton EP 

Label: Hidden Pony 

Genre: Rock, indie pop 

Comments: The New Brighton EP from Vancouver's Said the Whale is, at heart, an indie-pop release, but there are some other notable undercurrents here. "Sandy Bay Fishing Song" is an intriguing off-kilter rock tune, sounding like some sort of weird (but workable) hybrid between The Sea & Cake and The Crane Wife-era Decemberists; "Lines" and the title track are '70s-leaning pop numbers; "Little Bird" is a folk song. Everything is performed quite capably.

In short, there's enough going on here that New Brighton is worth your time. All four tracks are good, but start with 3 and 2.

Oh No Not Stereo

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Oh No Not Stereo 

Album: In Case of Stares Use Fire 

Label: Self-released 

Genre: Rock 

Comments: In Case of Stares Use Fire, the third LP from the LA band Oh No Not Stereo, is full of energetic, albeit generic, pop rock. Opening track "Make My Move" borders on pop punk, and for better or worse, it's probably the most interesting thing happening here.

The Trews

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: The Trews 

Album: Hope & Ruin 

Label: Bumstead Productions 

Genre: Rock 

Comments: The Trews make guitar-driven songs that borrow heavily from '70s classic rock, with some elements of roots rock, pop and '90s alternative thrown in for good measure. "Misery Loves Company" has a Gaslight Anthem feel to it, while "One By One" is a bit folksier.

This Town Needs Guns

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: This Town Needs Guns

Album: Adventure, Stamina & Anger (EP)

Label: Sargent House

Genre: Alternative rock

Comments: This Town Needs Guns is a band from Oxford. Their debut LP came out in '08 in the UK, '09 in the States. Here's the deal with them: they started working on a new album, but two songs in, their vocalist became a father (yay!) and they had to pause and regroup. Rather than scrapping these two songs, however, they decided to go ahead and release them. And that's what we have here! Now they've got another guy as vocalist, and their full album is supposed to come out in the spring. 

Both of these songs have pretty catchy beats, so I'd say either of these would be pretty good for the radio, but I think I like track 2 better. 

The Poison Oaks

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: The Poison Oaks 

Album: Pine (EP) 

Label: Self-released 

Genre: Indie, alternative 

Comments: Things to know about The Poison Oaks: if you check out their tumblr page, you'll find a sweet recipe for ginger-coconut dark chocolate bark. On Twitter, they seem extremely concerned about Kim Kardashian's recent divorce. But really. The Poison Oaks are fairly recent, and began as a side project of Laura Cortese, the vocalist. Cortese is an American singer, songwriter and fiddler who has performed with Band of Horses, Uncle Earl, and Michael Franti.

The songs we have here are for the most part fairly upbeat, sort of feel-good jams. Even track 2, which is called "Tragedy", is a pretty feel-good tune. The promoter says that you'll like The Poison Oaks if you're a fan of Meiko, Bat for Lashes, Ingrid Michaelson, Cat Power or St. Vincent... Let me just tell you, I definitely like all of those, and I love The Poison Oaks.

Definitely check them out if you're a sucker for good female vocals, clever lyrics and upbeat tempos. Start with 1, 2, and 4. But let's be real, there are five songs, and they're all really great.

Grubstake

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Grubstake 

Album: Anyhow 

Label: NMR 

Genre: Rock, alternative 

Comments: Rock, pure and simple: that's what longstanding band Grubstake is delivering with their newest record, Anyhow. With a new bit of grit thrown into their mix of lo-fi analog home recordings, their repertoire now includes some old-time-like tunes and a cover of two older bands (i.e. Ramones and The Minutemen). Things are quieter on the album (for the most part), and they obviously are not competing for the same audience as The White Stripes, but the band is still able to grab your attention with their rock'n ways.

Track 4, 12, 5 and 8 are keepers.

Bombadil

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Bombadil 

Album: All That the Rain Promises 

Label: Ramseur 

Genre: Indie rock, folk 

Comments: After a two-and-a-half-year hiatus, Bombadil is coming back with a more humble and simple outlook on life. This new "ode to the small things" outlook is clearly seen in All That the Rain Promises, with songs hinting at the potential for light after darkness. As The Washington Post says, "[Bombadil] clearly has the heart of a dozen hipster 'it' bands," not to mention the impressive showmanship and downright uplifting harmonies.

For fans of The Avett Brothers and The Kinks; try out tracks 3, 6 and 7.

Ski Lodge

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Ski Lodge 

Album: Ski Lodge 

Label: Dovecote 

Genre: Indie rock 

Comments: Ski Lodge's self-titled debut EP has the summery indie popness of Vampire Weekend, combined with the quirky tick of The Drums. Ski Lodge makes for a wonderfully quick listen (only 11 minutes!) that makes up for the time loss by being full of "light, feathery, and catchy as hell" hooks.

Want some post-punk/surf pop tuneage? Try any of the four tracks off the EP.

Brite Futures

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Brite Futures 

Album: Dark Past 

Label: Turnout 

Genre: Alternative, electropop

Comments: Brite Futures, formerly known as Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head, are leaving behind the Oscar-winning actress and bringing their own V for Vendetta against generic, everyday pop hits. Their second album, Dark Past, has enough synchronized synth, bass riffs and unexpected saxophone appearances to make for some catchy tunes. They're daring you to love their giddy lyrics and instrumental work, and with their 10 Things I Hate About You soundtrack vibe, it somewhat catches on.

Tracks 1, 4, 9 and 8 are the most infectious electropop diseases from the album.

Zun Zun Egui

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Zun Zun Egui

Album: Katang

Label: Bella Union

Genre: Defies classification

Comments: Wikipedia tells us that "The Katang are an ethnic group living in Laos." However, I don't think many natives of Laos have access to amplifiers and other expensive pieces of hardware. In fact, this band is based in Bristol. So, I suppose such an obscure reference must mean this is either a very serious artist, or a very pretentious band. Actually, the only ethnicity-driven component of this album is the vocalist--he croons in several different languages. Also, he has a very upbeat, staccato way of singing, which plays very well with Katang's clashing, yet never monotonous, guitars. I see a whole lot of Talking Heads in Zun Zun Egui, minus the art-rock. Listen to "Fandango Fresh".

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Friends & Friends of Friends

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Various Artists 

Album: Friends & Friends of Friends, Vol. 4 

Label: Tender Loving Empire 

Genre: Compilations/soundtracks, rock, pop 

Comments: From the promoter: "Friends & Friends of Friends, Vol. 4 is the latest in a series of musical compilations designed to promote the music of Portland, OR and beyond to local and national listeners alike, as well as propagate relationships between independent bands and labels who wouldn't normally get a chance to collaborate. These two discs contain a sampling of some of our current favorite musical talents."

Some of these bands you've probably heard of (The Builders and the Butchers, Jared Mees & the Grown Children) but there's many artists and bands featured on this compilation yet to hit it big, even on the college radio circuit. Definitely worth taking a listening and finding new music to become obsessed with.

Rob Crow

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Rob Crow 

Album: He Thinks He's People 

Label: Temporary Residence Limited

Genre: Indie pop 

Comments: At 33 minutes, He Thinks He's People is a rather compact album. This is good; solo artists generally have difficulties with longer albums, merely because there's only so much one mind can think of. For example, Crow can switch between dense and intricate to light and poppy on a per song basis. Yet his drum skills are lacking. (Actually, his ability to program a drum machine is lacking.) Bland, vaguely math-y patterns seem subdued and don't add anything besides a tedious beat. In total, however, what we have here is a slightly above-average indie record. Try "I'd Like To Be There".

First Aid Kit

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: First Aid Kit 

Album: "The Lion's Roar" (single) 

Label: Wichita 

Genre: Folk, rock 

Comments: In anticipation of the followup to their much-lauded debut, The Big Black & the Blue, First Aid Kit has released the first single from their next album, which is due out in January. "The Lion's Roar" highlights the Swedish sisters' mastery of folk ballads that are equally beautiful and sad. A song about love, loss and frustration, "The Lion's Roar" is one of those tunes that you will listen to over and over again, at least until the full album reaches the shelves.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Atlas Sound

Add Date: November 8 

Artist: Atlas Sound

Album: Parallax

Label: 4AD

Genre: Shoegaze, alternative, noise rock

Comments: When listening to The Strokes' Is This It, I am always impressed by the album's consistency. That is, all the songs seem to have a similar "sound." Bradford Cox must strive for a similar element in his music, as Parallax, the most recent album from his solo project Atlas Sound, is one of those records you can easily lie down with and play from start to finish. Yet, while there are no weak tracks that you would want to skip, there are also no outstanding ones to replay. All the songs just seem to blend into one another. 

Parallax is Cox's most accessible record. There's honestly nothing to dislike. Which is surprising, as Atlas Sound has generally been perceived as a medium for Cox's work-in-progress songs. In any case, listen to "Te Amo" and "Terra Incognita".

Friday, November 4, 2011

Best New Music - November 1

Open those Air Waves:


Peggy Sue

Add Date: November 1 

Artist: Peggy Sue 

Album: Acrobats 

Label: Yep Roc 

Genre: Rock 

Comments: Peggy Sue's sophomore full-length, Acrobats, represents a change in direction for the London trio. The band's 2010 debut Fossils and Other Phantoms was folk rock of the highest order, immediately putting them on par with Emmy the Great or fellow Briton Laura Marling. Now, Katy Young, Rosa Slade and Olly Joyce have opted for a darker, post-punk-infused sound that brings to mind Warpaint or even The Breeders, whose music is an admitted influence for Peggy Sue.

For the most part, the transition works quite well. There's just a hint of the band's folk roots floating throughout Acrobats, and the songwriting hasn't really changed from one album to the next--it's just that everything acoustic has become electric; and while Peggy Sue wasn't exactly known for whispery roots music before, the songs here are definitely louder and brasher. Check out tracks 2, 11, 6, 8 and 1.

Dirty Projectors + Björk

Add Date: November 1 

Artist: Dirty Projectors + Björk 

Album: Mount Wittenberg Orca (EP) 

Label: Domino 

Genre: Rock, folk, experimental pop

Comments: Originally released back in the summer of 2010, this 7-track effort from Dirty Projectors and Björk is finally getting a proper physical issue from Domino this fall. The EP has a very nice feel to it--in the true spirit of collaboration, some tracks ("On and Ever Onward", "Sharing Orb") sound like Björk tunes, with routinely splendid backing vocals from Angel Deradoorian, Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle; others ("When the World Comes to an End", "No Embrace") are Projectors tunes, with Björk in a supporting role. And by the way, we're talking about the quieter, folksier side of both acts--not the explosive rock of songs like "Useful Chamber" or the electronic-based compositions that you'll find on Biophilia.

My only complaint is that, at 21 minutes, I'm left wanting for more. Guess I'll have to settle for Björk's current album, and lie in anticipation for Dirty Projectors' next LP, which is due out next spring. Spin tracks 2, 6, 3 and 5.

The J. Davis Trio

Add Date: November 1 

Artist: The J. Davis Trio 

Album: Vintage (EP) 

Label: Yo Yo Smuggler 

Genre: Hip hop, jazz

Comments: The J. Davis trio make old-school, jazz-based hip hop that will appeal to fans of A Tribe Called Quest or Jurassic 5. The term "trio" is used loosely here; on this 4-track EP, featuring two versions (vocal and instrumental) apiece of "The Answer" and "The Firm Swing", Julio Davis is accompanied by no fewer than 14 other musicians, creating a very neat full-band sound. Try 1 or 3.

Tom Waits

Add Date: November 1 

Artist: Tom Waits

Album: Bad As Me 

Label: ANTI- 

Genre: Folk, blues, rock

Comments: From the promoter: "Bad As Me is Tom Waits' first studio album of all new music in seven years. This pivotal work refines the music that has come before and signals a new direction... From the opening horn-fueled chug of 'Chicago', to the closing barroom chorale of 'New Year's Eve', Bad As Me displays the full career range of Waits' songwriting, from beautiful ballads like 'Last Leaf', to the avant cinematic soundscape of 'Hell Broke Luce', a battlefront dispatch. On tracks like 'Talking at the Same Time', Waits shows off a supple falsetto, while on blues burners like 'Raised Right Men' and the gospel-tinged 'Satisfied' he spits, stutters and howls. Like a good boxer, these songs are lean and mean, with strong hooks and tight running times. A pervasive sense of players delighting in each other's musical company brings a feeling of loose joy even to the album's saddest songs."

Pretty much everything you'd want and expect from a Tom Waits record. Spin tracks 1, 2, 7, 5 and 10.

Alamo Racetrack

Add Date: November 1 

Artist: Alamo Racetrack 

Album: Unicorn Loves Deer 

Label: Excelsior 

Genre: Indie rock 

Comments: Alamo Racetrack's Unicorn Loves Deer comes straight out of the Midwest sound--acoustic guitars, harmonizing vocals, and extremely eclectic lyrics. While eclectic can be good, the album does not have that all-engrossing factor so needed for staying power. Instead, the songs get a little repetitive. Start with "Shake Off The Leaves".

James Ferraro

Add Date: November 1 

Artist: James Ferraro 

Album: Far Side Virtual 

Label: Hippos In Tanks 

Genre: Electronica 

Comments: From the promoter: "Far Side Virtual is a look into the 21st-century lifestyle that is engrossed with electronic devices and media. It's a radical departure from his previous work--there's no distortion, no tape-hiss, no obvious signifiers... with the backbone of peppy keyboards, Ferraro takes us on a virtual ride into the future."

But really, this sounds like something you would hear in the background at Epcot.

Bombay Bicycle Club

Add Date: November 1 

Artist: Bombay Bicycle Club 

Album: A Different Kind of Fix 

Label: Universal 

Genre: Indie rock 

Comments: You've probably heard the work of Ben H. Allen and not known it. No, he is not a member of Bombay Bicycle Club, but rather the producer of their third album, A Different Kind of Fix. With hugh credits to his name (Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion, Deerhunter's Halcyon Digest, and Washed Out's Within and Without), Allen moves Bombay Bicycle Club's sound from a quieter, acoustic-driven band to a much more mature band with much more to say.

Distorted guitars and distant vocals drift through the entire album, bursting in moments of pent-up desperation and exasperation that comes with relying on another. In "How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep", frontman Jack Steadman asks the girl lying next to him in bed if she "can back him up."  In "What You Want", he concedes that "what you want, anything you want."  These lyrics skip the emotional tackiness of many others and profess such sincerity of emotion that A Different Kind of Fix will be one of those albums you get overly attached to.

Rah Rah

Add Date: November 1 

Artist: Rah Rah 

Album: Breaking Hearts 

Label: Hidden Pony 

Genre: Indie rock 

Comments: Based in Montreal but originally from Regina, Saskatchewan, the 7-piece outfit Rah Rah will immediately bring to mind Canada's finest rock collective, Broken Social Scene; the first two tracks on Breaking Hearts, "Arrows" and "Ghosts", sound like they might have been written after a few listens to that Toronto band's eponymous 2005 release. But Rah Rah aren't BSS copycats--check out the (unfortunately radio-unfriendly) "Henry", which could have been a lost track from a Los Campesinos! album, while songs like "Lightning" and "Hurt You Bad" see the band paying a bit of homage to Arcade Fire.

Breaking Hearts continues on for 38 minutes of lo-fi indie-pop bliss, as Rah Rah carves out its own niche in the somewhat crowded Canadian rock landscape. "What About Love?" is an excellent piano-driven avant-rock song that, sadly, lasts just two minutes, and "Communist Man" borders on twee. Indeed, Rah Rah seem adept at many different styles, so take your pick among tracks 1, 9, 2, 5 and 7.

Surfer Blood

Add Date: November 1 

Artist: Surfer Blood 

Album: Tarot Classics (EP) 

Label: Kanine 

Genre: Rock 

Comments: Excellent pop-rock from the Florida band Surfer Blood on the 4-song Tarot Classics EP. Frontman and songwriter John Paul Pitts has made no secret of his affinity for Brian Wilson, and his penchant for combining '60s pop melodies with '90s alternative-style rock came to fruition on the band's January 2010 debut, Astro Coast. This EP is the first proper Surfer Blood release since then, and it's both a continuation of the guitar-pop covered by the LP--try "I'm Not Ready" or "Miranda"--as well as exploration of some other musical territory, such as the Strokesesque "Voyager Reprise" or the New Wave-leaning closer "Drinking Problem".

All four tracks are spin-worthy.