Sunday, July 6, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

After taking a week off from reviewing new music, the Roundup returns to its regularly scheduled program of random thoughts on random albums. The week started off with scorching weather, but has quickly turned to autumn breezes, and with it, brought a strong return of folk inspired listening. This was one of those rare weeks when a number of my favorite bands released new music. After a few slow weeks, it was almost an embarrassment of riches. Granted, some of these favorite bands fall on the more eclectic end of my listening spectrum and may not be as eagerly anticipated by the rest of you, but them's the breaks. There's plenty on here to explore however, so hopefully you feel up for a little exploration. Enjoy!

Big Blood - Unlikely Mothers: Just a couple of weeks after their first album of the year, the Portland Maine psychedelic folk band released their second album of the year. Despite the title of the last album claiming it to be "Volume 1" this album is not the companion album to it, though it features a lot of songs entitled Part II. These sequel songs however belong to the band's 2012 album Old Time Primitives, one of my favorites in their extensive catalog. The band's strength consists in their ability to make music that feels out of time, as if it were born in some alternate reality that only exists in stories of the past. Their records, including this wonderful one, have the power to ignite my imagination in ways that few can, and for that I'm grateful. I get some of my best writing done while listening to Big Blood. "Leviathan Song Pt. II" is an eleven minute masterpiece. "It's Alright," "Away Pt. III," and "Endless Echo" are also standout tracks. 

Manic Street Preachers - Futurology: After a three year layoff, the Manics finally released a new album last year, with promises for a second album to follow shortly. This week they make good on that promise with the release of this, their twelfth record. Being one of my favorite bands, I always have high expectations for their albums, sometimes too high, which might be the case with this one. Though it's a solid record, it is their weakest in quite some time. Perhaps that has to do with its focus on the European zeitgeist, trying to capture the hollow and dejected spirit of modern Europe, something that I'm not directly in tune with. After my initial disappointed though, the album has been growing on me. Sometimes it just takes a few listens to appreciate what they doing. Surprisingly, it's the album's softer moments that feel strongest. "Walk Me to the Bridge," "Let's Go to War," "The View from Stow Hill," and "Black Square" are my personal favorites. A bonus disc of demo versions of each song is almost more interesting in my opinion.

Antemasque - Antemasque: Earlier this year when I heard that Omar Rodriguez Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala had re-joined forces to form this new band, I was hoping that they'd pick up where Mars Volta left off, and though the early singles seemed to suggest that possibility, now that the album is out, it turns out that hope was misguided. Instead, this is really the long-awaited follow-up to their previous band At The Drive-In's 2000 masterpiece "Relationship of Command". These ten songs have more in common with that post-hardcore energy than with Mars Volta's prog-rock. The results are pretty spectacular and this will certainly be near the top of my list come the end of the year. Every song is great, and it's perhaps the best rock album in I've heard all year.

Klaxons - Love Frequency: The London band's first album in four years was released last month. It's their third record, and gone are the dance-punk elements that made them so intriguing when their 2007 debut came out. This album is more synth pop, without the edge that made songs like "Golden Skans" stand out. That said, this still isn't pop, there's too many indietronic elements for that. Overall, I found it a little disappointing and surface level, though there are a few songs that are extremely catchy, such as "New Reality," "There is No Other Time" and "Out of the Dark". At it's best, it echos New Order, or Pet Shop Boys mixed with The Rapture. The good songs are definitely going to be played a lot this summer, I just wish it was more of an event. 

Comet Gain - Paperback Ghosts: Just about every three years over the past twenty, this Oxford band has released an album, but shockingly this album due out next week is the first music of theirs that I've encountered. This is a quiet indie folk album that I've really been enjoying this week. It reminds me of Connor Oberst in many ways, but with a distinctly British feel of rainy days and bleak outlooks. Not a completely earth shattering album, but quite enjoyable. "Long After Tonite's Candles Are Blown," "Sad Love and Other Short Stories," "Confessions of a Daydream" and "Breaking Open the Head Part 1" are particularly good. Well worth checking out if you're looking for quality indie folk.

Natural Snow Buildings - The Night Country: After several years of epic output, things have been quiet from the French drone-folk legends over the past couple of years. This is their first album in two years, by comparison, they released several hours of music as shortly ago as 2009. It is obvious from the very beginning that the time off was well spent. This is their most focused album in quite some time, and features the welcomed return of vocals to some of the songs, including the epic "Rusty Knives Valley." From the song titles, the theme of this album seems to be the horror of a abandoned countryside and all the terrors, both real and imagined that come to visit. "Sandman Traps" is another stellar achievement, and perhaps one of their best songs ever. This is their most accessible album since Sunlit Stone and I highly recommend checking it out, even if drone folk isn't your thing. It's like a beautiful novel in sound and I believe I will be hearing a lot of it in the coming weeks.

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