'Twas the weekend before Christmas and all through the house, speakers were blaring, annoying the spouse. Well, not really. I have a pretty damned awesome spouse! Welcome to the last traditional Roundup of the year before I roundup my personal favorites of the year the was in music. This week I take a look at some new releases that I finally got around to listening to. Over the next several days, I will revisit my favorites records of the year and try to settle on a final list. Until then, enjoy.
Jim James - Tribute to 2: The My Morning Jacket's lead singer releases his third solo record, and this time it's an album of covers that range from country classics, 70's pop, and legendary folk all reinterpreted in James' eternal groove. As with any covers record, the key is to put your own signature on the songs, and he accomplishes this. All of these sound as though they could be James originals. Certainly something fans will want to check out. "Baby Don't Go," "Crying in the Chapel," "Funny How Time Slips Away," "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," and "Lucky Man" are my personal favorites.
Simon Joyner - Step Into the Earthquake: The indie singer songwriter's new album follows suit with his catalog of releases. For the past two decades, he's been one of the more prolific, and yet still widely unknown indie artists, despite playing a brand of Americana folk that has a wider following than he. I've come in and out of his albums, certainly not hitting every one, but enjoying those I have. This album reminds me of Silver Jews in it's delivery. An honest and interesting album with "Hail Mary," "I'm Feeling It Today," and the amazing "Flash Forward to the Moon"
Elizabeth and the Catapult - Keepsake: The new album from the Brooklyn based indie band pays homage to '70s pop-rock and folk-rock, as does her previous albums. I love her Carol King meets Karen Carpenter sound, though to be sure, steeped in contemporary indie pop. There's something timeless about her work, something the reminds me of the radio of my childhood. "Magic Chaser," "Better Days," "Land of Lost Things," and "Wishing Well" are my personal favorites.
Bjork - Utopia: Two years after her last record, which was fantastic, the Icelandic icon returns with another record that combines chamber music, ambient, and electronica into an elevated piece of art. Probably not as accessible as some of her work (though some would argue that none of her work is accessible) this is what she does best. She experiments with voice and sound until she creates something new, and that's what I really like about this album. It doesn't sound like anything else, and that's a rare thing these days.
Morrissey - Low In High School: It's been three years since Moz's last album and the ex-Smiths leader hasn't lost his touch. At nearly 60, he's angrier than ever at the world, yet hasn't lost his touch at expressing his frustration at world futility in most poetic terms. Musically, this album is more aggressive than recent albums, and it benefits from it. Easily his best since 2004's You Are the Quarry. "My Love, I'd Do Anything for You," "Spent the Day in Bed," "All the Young People Must Fall in Love," and "Who Will Protect Us from the Police?" are standouts for me.
The Sun Machine - Turn On To Evil: The Austin five-piece's newest record is a fuzzed bit of psychedelic bliss that takes from the '60s and adds a California sunshine glow to it. Reminds me a bit of Skygreen Leopards in mood, but with more of a lo-fi garage sensibility. I really enjoyed it, as did my 2 1/2 year old, who asked with each song, "Is the The Sun Machine? I like this music." So there you have it, straight from the mouth of babes...this is music worth liking. " I Want to Do Drugs (With You)," "The Wasp," and "The Wolf" are my personal favorites.