Sorry about last weekend, I was out of town and hoping I'd have some time to throw together a Roundup, but the fates were against me. I hate missing a Roundup, especially seeing as how it's the only consistent feature of this blog. But I'm back this week with another list of all 2014 releases. I'm trying to catch up on the albums from the past few months in time for summer. This week was another one featuring new recordings from familiar favorites. There's a few different genres represented here, but be it folk or rock, they all seem to match sunny and breezy weather that has invaded the area. Hopefully there's something on here for each of you to get excited about. Enjoy.
The Black Keys - Turn Blue: The long-awaited follow-up to 2011's El Camino finally came out last week and once again the Akron blues rock duo delivers. This album is more bluesy than the power rock of the previous album. Though I enjoyed that album very much, I prefer this trip into a more psychedelic garage vibe. It feels like it has more range, and feels more personal. "Weight of Love," "Turn Blue," and "Year in Review" are stand out tracks. Certain to get a lot of play time over the summer months.
Swans - To Be Kind: Released this past week is the latest experimental rock behemoth from the NYC band that has been together for over 30 years. Admittedly, I'm more of a fan of Michael Gira's other band Angles of Light, but every now and then I do drift back to Swans. Clocking in at a play time of 2 hours, it's needless to say that this is an expansive album incorporating a lot of post-rock and drone elements. If anything, it suffers from being too long, creating a undeserved feeling of repetition for an album that is a constant exploration of dramatic waves. The last two songs are my favorite, which made the entire voyage worthwhile. "Nathalie Neal" and "To Be Kind" remind me of Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra. A great album to have on while writing, but one of those records that is hard to listen to repeatedly.
Conor Oberst - Upside Down Mountain: Due out this week is the first solo album in six years from the Bright Eyes and Monsters of Folk frontman. Over the past two decades, Conor hasn't strayed far from the Midwestern indie folk sound that he's perfected. In that way, this album holds few surprises, but it's still one of his most consistent releases in quite some time. I've been enjoying it all week long, choosing to listen to it most mornings. "Time Forgot," "Zigzagging Toward the Light," and "Enola Gay" are my favorite tracks at the moment.
Sharon Van Etten - Are We There: The NYC based singer songwriter's fifth album is due out next week and it's quite spectacular. The album blends folk and dream pop with a shoegazer aesthetic to create an album that feels rich and beautiful. It reminds me of the new Warpaint album, which is currently one of my favorites of the year. The relaxed vibe makes it a great album for lazy summer days of letting the music wash over you. "Taking Chances," "Our Love," and "Break Me," are the real standout tracks on a thoroughly enjoyable record.
Guided by Voices - Cool Planet: In their continued marathon output, the Ohio kings of lo-fi released their second album of the year last week, which is their fifth in the last two years. It seems as if their work schedule is finally taking it's toll. Though this is another solid record, it does lack the immediate sense of success that their previous post-reunion albums have had since 2012. Like all of their albums, it's a collection of short songs that choose not to linger and instead attempt to capture the moment in flashes. Not their best effort, but any GBV record is a welcome addition. "Fast Crawl," "The Bone Church," "Ticked to Hide," and "Authoritarian Zoo" are my current favorite tracks.