It was back to work this week and back to my regularly scheduled listening. It's also that time of year when a slew of albums comes out ahead of the summer touring season, which means it was a week of listening to mostly 2011 releases. This year has a been a little slow to start musically, but that seemed to change over night as I listened to the albums on this week's list. These are all new albums by bands that I own and enjoy previous albums by, so it was an exciting time for the audio inputs. Viva 2011...Enjoy!
Arctic Monkeys - Suck It and See: The lads from Sheffield are back with their first album since 2009 and their best album since their debut in my opinion. Though I enjoyed the heavier sound of 2009's Humbug, I felt Josh Homme's hand was too involved and steered the band away from the originality they've always shown. This album shows a progression to more intimate songs and is more mature musically. Easily one of my favorite albums of the year so far. "Piledriver Waltz" is amazing and "Don't Sit Down..." is one of the more distinct songs they've made in years.
Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital: The Montreal duo's first album since 2009 could also be their best. Dan Boeckner (half of Wolf Parade) is at the top of his game here, as he was on last year's Wolf Parade album. Gone is the overly Bruce Springsteen-y influence of the last album, replaced with a more frantic tempo that makes for a great indie rock album, a refreshing change from all the folk trends of late, which I love, but sometimes you need a little rock and this is supplies it.
Bon Iver - Bon Iver: The second full-length album from the Wisconsin art-folk band doesn't deviate much from 2007's For Emma, Forever Ago. That wouldn't be such a bad thing...if it were 2008. My love affair with this band has faded drastically during the years between. I loved the debut album, and listed it as my favorite of the year back in 2007. But then came a terrible EP and some not-so-great side-projects, and then recently I listened to For Emma and honestly wasn't that into it. My problem is that the songs all tend to sound alike and there's this level of pretentiousness that completely multiplies on this album. That said, it's a solid listen with a handful of decent tracks. But over all, it's kind of forgettable in my opinion. I'm sure thousands of rabid fans will disagree and launch into the many reasons why I'm wrong...it won't change my mind.
The Antlers - Burst Apart: Though this is the Brooklyn indie folk band's fourth album, but it's the first one I've acquired, though I'm familiar with them through their Daytrotter Sessions. I've been intrigued by them for quite awhile, finding some amazing songs while finding other tunes to be a little too far on the chamber folk scale for my taste. This album continues that trend. There are a few songs I could do without, but the songs that grabbed me are nearly perfect. "Putting the Dog to Sleep" and "Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out" are real stand-outs for me. A solid album.
Alamo Race Track - Unicorn Loves Deer: This Amsterdam's last album, 2006's Black Cat Tom Brown, is one of my favorites from the last decade. So obviously, I was excited to hear their first album in five years. The band's sound has changed a lot since then. Instead of the darker fairy tale tone of the previous album, these songs take a more upbeat approach. It reminds a little of a great French band called Cocoon, but doesn't pull off the sound quite as well as they do. I prefer the darker sound, but that said, I'm sure others will much prefer this album.
My Morning Jacket - Circuitical: Having been on the forefront of the indie folk/ y'alternative movement for a decade, it would seem that My Morning Jacket would begin to lose it's thunder, but it appears to be just the opposite. With each album, this band grows on me and this is easily my favorite of theirs, just topping Evil Urges (their previous album). They've perfected their Wilco meets The Jayhawks sound into a wonderful folk album that beckons to the '70s but without feeling stale. I've been listening to this one a lot.
White Denim - D: This Austin trio has been releasing an album a year since 2008 with their earlier albums being a frantic blend of garage rock and classic rock influence, spun around on its head and played faster. Though I've enjoyed their previous work, it felt a little messy at times. I'm happy to say that this album shows a great maturity and a more defined groove. It's amazing with a touch of folk will do. Their trajectory reminds me a pit of Dr. Dog, which can't be a bad thing.
Man Man - Life Fantastic: One of the more interesting bands of the last decade, this Philly's band's previous three albums are chaotic blend of Captain Beefheart meets the current world of experimental indie rock. Sounding a bit like a roving band of gypsies is what has always given Man Man their original appeal and this album is no different. Starting with 2006's Six Demon Bag (a masterpiece) to 2008's Rabbit Habits (an album I loved and have recently been listening to a ton) to this album, the band has mellowed a bit. Though anyone who knows these albums knows that 'mellow' is a relative term. There's something of a Burrough's surreal nature to these albums, like a Tom Waits album on a dust. Life Fantastic is fantastic indeed.