This weekend, I'm only reviewing new releases. There have been a lot in the last few weeks, but this is one week that I'm especially excited about. It's been a long time since there was a week when so many artists that I've followed for years have new records at the same time. Some have been a little disappointing, while others have surprised me by surpassing expectations. Either way, it's been enjoyable listening over the past few days. Enjoy.
Manic Street Preachers - Rewind the Film: With their eleventh album, the Manics return after a three year break. Easily one of my favorite bands of all time, each new release is an event I look forward to. This album is a change of pace from some of their more recent work. There are moments where they echo their Everything Must Go album, others where they channel Lifeblood and This is My Truth. In mood, it definitely continues the maturity of the last album, moving away from their more radical politics to a sense of living for ourselves. They no longer seem to be preaching an all out revolution so much as a revolution of perspective and personal discovery. There are truly amazing songs on here, "3 Ways to See Despair," "As Holy as the Soil," "Anthem for a Lost Cause," and the title track among them. Not their most immediate record, but then again "Wish you Were Here" wasn't Pink Floyd's most immediate album either.
Placebo - Loud Like Love: Hard to believe this British indie rock band has been around for 20 years, and yet still don't seem to age. Four years ago, Battle for the Sun was a return to form for the band, packed with the kind of glam-rock eccentricities that they've always done so well. I was looking forward to this album, but it left me feeling a little flat. The crafting is fine, the presentation is fine, but somehow the album lacks imagination, almost as if they weren't really inspired. There are still moments where their greatness shines through. "Scene of the Crime" is the real stand-out song in my opinion. Worthwhile for fans, newbies should check out some of their previous work first.
Travis - Where You Stand: It's been five years since the band from Glasgow last released an album, and 16 years since their debut. During their career, Travis has always delivered high quality indie-pop. I've always thought they should be bigger, being much more talented than Coldplay, yet always overshadowed. Their 2001 album, "The Invisible Band" is a near masterpiece of the genre. This album carries the same feel, if not quite the same weight. Or perhaps it's their consistency that makes this album feel less interesting. Perhaps if this had been the album I'd been listening to for over a decade, I would see them oppositely. This album has that potential. The songs are simple, beautiful, and super easy to listen to. A great morning album for the Fall.
Neko Case - The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight...: Four years ago, Neko Case looked as if she was going to be the biggest star in the indie alt-country genre, riding a wave of success from 2006's "Fox Confessor" and 2009's "Middle Cyclone," not to mention the rise of the band she was in, The New Pornographers. But without a release since, others swooped in to fill the void. Back now after such a long break, Neko returns with her best work to date. This album sounds like a coherent folkish version Fionna Apple. The songs are amazing and meaningful...one that will definitely get a lot of play and be a contender for my best of the year list. "Night Comes Still" is fantastic.
Mazzy Star - Seasons of Your Day: For the longest time it appeared we'd never get another album from this phenomenal L.A. dream pop band. But next week, after 17 years, the world is given the gift of another Mazzy Star album. I still remember clearly the first time I heard "Among My Swan." It was late one December night in 1996, having just come home from a Christmas party at Windows on the World, the restaurant that was located on the top floor of the World Trade Center. I had bought the CD earlier that afternoon and wanted to hear it before going to bed. I laid on the bed of my St. Mark's apartment and drank in the heartbreaking beauty and it's been one of my favorite albums ever since. This album, though not as outwardly drenched in sadness, feels very much like the natural continuation of its predecessor. Every song is soothingly beautiful, and captures the wonder and worry of being alone. Worth the wait...definitely.
MGMT - MGMT: Five years ago, MGMT proved to be a band worth watching after the release of their fantastic "Oracular Spectacular." Two years later, they seemed eager to abandon the formula that endeared them to most, and went into a new phase with "Congratulations," which in addition to being unfocused and meandering, also happened to feature some of the worst cover art ever. I wasn't expecting much with this new album, and perhaps that's exactly why it snuck up on me. This is the refined sound of the messy bits from the last album. There is a definite Flaming Lips vibe to this record, with many layers to its psychedelic soundscape. Sounds better than anything Radiohead has done in a decade.