The roundup is back! Sorry about last weekend, I was traveling and didn't have the energy to write up reviews by the time I returned to my office in the late afternoon. Not that I'm really concerned that anyone's weekend was ruined by it, or even that anyone noticed, but still I feel the need to explain myself. Anyway, I'm back this week with new reviews of albums I've been listening to of the past few weeks. Some new releases, some from the past few years that managed to slip through the cracks, and some just plain oldies but goodies. Enjoy.
The Cave Singers - Invitation Songs: This is the Seattle folk rock band's 2007 debut, but I'm only coming to it after hearing their third and fourth albums. While later albums focus a little more on the "rock" aspect, this album is more rooted in the "folk" aspects of their music. One review I read said the first four songs sounded like Lindsey Buckingham, which nearly ruined it for me, until I realized it wasn't completely accurate. In fact, this album feels more akin to the Fleetwood Mac years between Peter Green and Lindsey Buckingham, an era that I feel is greatly underrated. There is a powerful spiritual element to this record that really makes it stand out. "Called," "Dancing on Our Graves," and "Cold Eye" are among my favorite tracks on a really solid album.
The Antlers - Hospice: Released in 2009, this is the NYC indie folk band's breakout third album. I've been familiar with some of the songs from this album from the Daytrotter Sessions they did for it, which I love, but for whatever reason never picked up the whole album. A few weeks ago, I finally gave it a full listen. It's a concept album about being in the hospital, and there are very emotional moments of beauty and loss. It's lyricism is undeniable, but at times feel muted into a sleepy haze. Though I like this album, I have to say that My Chemical Romance's "The Black Parade" is a better concept album about sickness. The song "Two" is one of my favorite songs of the last several years, though I prefer the acoustic version that can be found on Daytrotter.com.
The Kooks - Junk of the Heart: For whatever reason, I failed to get this album when it came out two years ago, despite enjoying the album previous. Now that I've been listening to that album a lot, I went back and finally acquired this one. Like their other work, this is pop rock heavy in Britpop roots. The album opens with the phenonmenal title track, a trademark love song with a touch of up tempo sadness. "Killing Me' is one of the band's finest moments, a perfectly catchy pop rock song. "Mr. Nice Guy" has a good Suede meets Travis feel to it, which actually might be a good way to describe them in general. A solid album and I hope they release something new soon.
Marianne Faithfull - Marianne Faithfull: The iconic performer's 1965 debut, recorded when she was a teenager. I picked this up several months back on vinyl for a few dollars. The album features the Jagger/Richards penned hit "As Tears Go By," and her other early hit, "Come Stay With Me." Basically a compilation of her early singles, this shows the slightly more pop side of the singer who would later become a figure more associated with the underground. As always, her amazing voice makes the album what it is.
Belle and Sebastian - The Third Eye Centre: Released this month, this is the band's third compilation of B-Sides and rarities, this one comprising of songs from the last few years. In the last decade or so, they have moved away from their folk pop roots to become a more indie pop band, but the sound serves them well. Being a compilation, this album features a lot of different styles. Having not been familiar with their recent singles, all of these songs were new for me and serve as a nice showcase. What I thought would just be a curiosity album has become one of my favorites of the past week. Even after almost 20 years, they are as fun and insightful as ever.
Dead Meadow - Warble Womb: One of the reigning kings of stoner rock returns with their first album in three years. Due out this Fall, Warble Womb is another fantastic achievement in fuzzed out stoner bliss. I've always loved the way they meld heavy psyche influences from the late '60s with heavy riffs, yet manage to keep this California easy vibe going. This is definitely one that will be on my radar for my best of the year list.
Red Sled Choir - Wintersongs: I discovered this beautiful EP via Jordaan Mason's bandcamp page and have absolutely loved it. Hailing from New Paltz, my neck of the woods, Red Sled Choir is Matt Gordon. This was recorded and released in 2009, and was an attempt to capture the mood of snowy winter days. It does so perfectly in five mainly instrumental avant folk pieces. It's perfectly suited for those cold grey days of staring out the window. I highly recommend picking this up before the season. It's available for free download on bandcamp.