This was a sad week in music for me as I learned that one of my favorite singer songwriters of all time passed away last weekend. Jason Molina, of Songs:Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. died at the age of 39 after battling alcoholism for years. I spent a better part of the week listening to his many, many wonderful albums, but found it too sad to review them all this week as I've done in the past for other favorite artists of mine. Perhaps next week, or even some time during the week, I'll pay a proper tribute. Instead, I decided to follow the usual format and share with you some recent releases that I've been listening to. Enjoy.
Amplifier - Echo Street: Though they've been around for over a decade, this is only the Manchester progressive rock band's fourth studio album, with three EPs mixed in. This album has the same sort of pace and desperation of a good Porcupine Tree album, following the Pink Floyd aesthetic of the slow build as heard on "Wish You Were Here." Though I wouldn't say this album covers any new ground, I will say it does what it does extremely well. Definitely worth it for fans of the current prog/space rock sound being made.
The Cave Singers - Naomi: The Seattle indie band follows up 2011's wonderful No Witch with their fourth album, released earlier this month. I really like the way this band incorporates classic Americana elements into their brand of indie folk. Their songs have a pureness to them that is quite refreshing. I do miss the darker edge that can be heard on the previous album. This is a much more rhythm based album, and it works, but I just prefer the hint of gloom from No Witch. However, others will definitely respond to this album more. "It's a Crime" is a real standout track for me.
Phosphorescent - Muchacho: It's been three years since this Athens, GA band released their last album and I was very much looking forward to this one. Their southern influenced style of indie folk has a warmness to it that harkens back to Arlo Guthrie and incorporates a playfulness to the traditional country elements. There is a really nice flow to this album, one song moving nicely into another. Quite a good album and stands out enough from other records in the genre to make it a worthwhile addition.
My Chemical Romance - Conventional Weapons: It seems appropriate to review this on the week the band announced their split. This album is a collection of songs previously released as five singles over the past few months, and were recorded after the band's triumphant Black Parade album. Essentially it is a scrapped album, the band opting instead to release Danger Days, four years after the Black Parade. Having listened to his album now, I have no idea why they made that choice. I found Danger Days to be very disappointing, while this album is exceptionally good. Had they released this, there is no doubt in my mind they would have remained one of the biggest bands around, as they were with the release of Black Parade. It has all the aggression of their best work, while still showing a progression, which is what I think worried them. It includes some of their best songs. If you have ever been a fan of this band, I highly recommend picking this up.
The Besnard Lakes - Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO: Due out next week this is the fourth album in ten years from the Montreal based band. They've always had a Pink Floyd ability to create swirling soundscapes, but this album certainly moves closer to a shoegazer sound than their previous efforts. These eight songs create a lush and beautiful atmosphere. There is a definite '80s influence on this record, just minor things that creep into it, not in a bad way, but enough to distract me at first. It's not that it doesn't work, but more that it caught me off guard. "Catalina" and "46 Satires"are my favorite tracks on here.
Suede - Bloodsports: In the mid 90's, Suede was one of the best British bands around, reinventing glam rock on their first three phenomenal albums. Then came 1999's disappointing Head Music. Two other forgettable albums followed, and then Brett Anderson recorded a couple of decent solo albums and one great album with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler under the name The Tears. Slowly, over the last decade, he has seemed to get his stride back and this album continues that trend. Though lacking the deviant extravagance of their earlier work, this at least sounds like a Suede album. There are some very fine songs on here that sound as if they could have come from the band's heyday. "Snowblind," "Sabotage," and "Faultlines" are stand out tracks for me.
Curren$y - New Jet City: The newest mix tape from the NOLA rapper is another quality release of diverse hip hop. The man has been on quite a winning streak the last few years, mixing top quality beats with his outstanding delivery. If anything, this mix tape suffers from too many guest spots that don't live up to smoothness of the guy at top billing. Over the past few months, Curren$y has crept to the top of my list of favorite new hip hop artists of the last few years. Definitely worth checking out.