This was one of those weeks of unexpected new releases from bands I was unaware had a new release scheduled. I love those kinds of weeks, especially when the bands are among my favorites. In the midst of that, I also rediscovered some things that I'd neglected for too long and decided to include those as well. And in case you ever wondered how I make these lists, basically I get up on Sunday's, look at the albums waiting to be reviewed, and pick ones based on what I feel like listening to that day. It is rare that I don't listen to the album as I write the review, just in case something fresh hits me. Anyway, plenty here to digest. Enjoy.
Manic Street Preachers - National Treasures-The Complete Singles: Though a contractual Best Of called Forever Delayed was released in 2002, it wasn't complete by any stretch. This double album, with nineteen tracks on each, includes every song the band has released as a single, in chronological order. Reviewing these kind of albums is tough, because it is essentially a review of the band's career, in this case, one of the greatest bands of the last twenty years in my opinion. You really hear the band progress from their early rebellious Motorcycle Emptiness phase, into their If You Tolerate This era of epic beauty and tragedy, and finally onto the reflective current period. What shows through is the consistent brilliance of one of the most political bands of all time. Impossible not to give this 5 stars.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill: After reuniting with his oft backing band earlier this year for their take on Americana, the Godfather of Grunge and Crazy Horse have given us this double album of goodness. I have to admit to being weary of this album. Though one of my all time favorite songwriters, Neil's recent albums, while not embarrassing by any means, have tended to bore me. But I gave this a go, mostly because of how much I enjoyed Americana. I'm glad I did. This easily his best album in decades. The opening epic 27minute track "Drifting Back," is not only amazing, I would suggest it deserves mention among Neil's best. The rest of the album is also extremely strong, lacking any real wasteful tracks. I love the way his past material sometimes creeps into these songs, like the past is blending with the present. Psychedelic Pill is proof that great artists always have the potential for greatness, it's the reason why we dedicate ourselves to following their work.
Andrew Bird - Hands of Glory: With his second album of 2012, following springs stellar Break It Yourself, Andrew Bird continues to be in top form. These nine tracks are less ambitious than those on the other album, but no less amazing. There's more of indie folk vibe here as compared to the more chamber folk sound Andrew Bird usually delivers. The only question I have is which of the two will make it higher on my best of the year list because right now it's really hard to tell, both are fantastic.
Godspeed You Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!: The gloomy Canadian drone rock band has had a bit of cult following ever since 2000's Lift Yr. Skinny Fists... album, one that I own and enjoy, though never really understood completely the reverence in which it's held. They return here with their first full length album in 10 years and not much has really changed. Consisting of two 20-plus minute tracks and two 6-plus minute tracks, their instrumental music never fails to create vast soundscapes. It's very weighty album, though, as I've always felt with them, probably not as weighty as they would like to believe judging from their Joycean choices of titles. Still though, quality through and through, but personally I think Earth does this type of thing slightly better.
Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am...: Far from new, I've had this album since 2006, the year it was released, and the band has remained a favorite of mine ever since. I decided to include this album on this week's list because I pulled out the CD the other day and listened to it for the first time in probably over two years. I found myself re-blown away by how aggressive and original it still sounds today. It's a raw and emotional observation on life in the modern age, full of justified cynicism and tongue in cheek wit. But above all of that, it rocks as hard as anything The Stooges ever did. There's a good reason why this album made waves in the UK. Definitely should have made more waves here in the US.
The Music Tapes - Mary's Voice: Julian Koster's fourth release as The Music Tapes in the last 13 years is a beautiful record. One of the members of Neutral Milk Hotel, Julian has been involved in many of the Elephant 6 projects since it's early days. The Music Tapes has always been his baby, and has always attempted to make imaginary worlds that sound almost like field recordings from a circus that never was. This album isn't any different. There are lot of accordion/saw interludes between the traditional songs, but those songs are some of the best on any of his albums. "To All Who Say Goodnight" is absolutely amazing.