For weeks I've been telling you all that I've been catching up on old albums as a way of freeing myself for a wave of fall releases. I've eluded to it so often without offering any proof that many of you have probably doubted the existence of said albums. Well, I'm happy to bring you the first tide of fresh material. This week saw several highly anticipated albums in my world and I've been listening to them religiously. Just to keep it interesting, there are a few albums from the past thrown in for flavor. More new releases to come next week. Enjoy.
Arctic Monkeys - AM: There's something so fantastic when a band not only lives up to the hype of their earliest days, but then goes on to surpass it. This is the case with the Sheffield lads whose 2006 debut album was hailed as the saving grace of British rock. Now with their fifth album, due out this week, they've cemented themselves as one of the best rock bands around. AM maintains the heavier groove of their last album, but adds the eerie elements of psychedelic pop. They're not as angry as they were on their first two albums, but they make up for the lack of angst by upping the musicianship to yet another level. Easily one of the best albums of the year so far, it is packed with amazing songs. "RU Mine," "Arabella," "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High," and "Snap Out of It" are among my favorites.
Babyshambles - Sequel to the Prequel: It's been six years since Pete Doherty's band last released an album and in that time, it looked as if not only would the band never release another album, but that it was unlikely Pete would survive his well-publicized addictions. And though recent footage shows that he is still struggling heavily, it doesn't show through on this wonderful comeback album. Pete is definitely one of the voices of his generation, offering poetic insights on the world through the perspective of a disillusioned and tragic romantic. Musically, like previous Babyshambles records, the album draws on a wide-range of influences that come together in vagabond brilliance. I've been loving this record from beginning to end, but "Dr. No," "Minefield," "New Pair," and "Nothing Comes to Nothing" are definite stand-out tracks.
Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom: During his years in Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt recorded some of my favorite albums. Then he went on to form the interesting progressive folk band Matching Mole. In 1973, he considered reforming Mole, but the plan was sidetracked when Wyatt fell from a third story window, paralyzing him from the waist down. This 1974 solo record, while the songs were written prior to the accident, captures the lost feeling that must have followed, as the title suggests. It continues the jazz folk hybrid sound that he created with his earlier bands. What I love about his music is the sense of storytelling that exists within the sounds. This is a beautiful and fragile record, not for all occasions, but perfect for some.
Fresh Maggots - Fresh Maggots: This 1971 self-titled album is the only release from this UK psychedelic folk duo. It's one of those lost gems of the genre that I'd been searching out for quite a while. The tin whistle, combined with searing guitar gives the album an early Jethro Tull sound, which certainly is a good thing. But there is also some beautiful melodies, rooted in traditional folk that create an authenticity to their sound. It's rare to find true psychedelic folk albums, and this is one of them.
Okkervil River - The Silver Gymnasium: It's been two years since their last album, but the wait finally ended this week with the release of the Austin indie folk band's seventh album. One of my favorite bands of the last decade, Okkervil River is always consistently on their game. This album feels like a return to "The Stand Ins"/ "The Stage Names" era, losing the rock edge from their last album. Though I enjoyed the last album, it take me time to warm to it, whereas this album slipped right on like an old favorite shirt. "Down, Down The Deep River," "Pink Slips," and "Black Nemo" are exceptional tracks.
Black Spiders - This Savage Land: The Sheffield stoner metal band's second album, released this month, is an in your face rock opus. What makes it stand out is the obvious Judas Priest and AC/DC influence that blends extremely well with modern stoner rock riffs. Meanwhile, there is a punk attitude to the lyrics, all of which adds up to something that sounds fresh and familiar at the same time. It's an album to crank up and play LOUD!
Children Eating Birds - Of Hospitals: Another side project of the great Jordaan Mason, who frequent visitors to the Roundup will recognize as one of the songwriters currently occupying a big place in my imagination. His lo-fi warblings, reminiscent of Jeff Mangum, are so transportive, taking me into another world that is slightly different from the one we exist in. I love listening to his music while I'm writing, it just seems to capture the same mood that I often aim for. This album is available for free download on bandcamp.com.