Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz
It's Blitz is the third and very distinct release from the YYYs. This album had a much more electronica and pop feel to it and was very easy to dance to (Zero, Heads Will Roll, Dragon Queen, Dull Life). This however does not make it a bad record, in fact it was much much better than their previous release. For me, Karen-O does what she wants to do on each new album/EP and your either with her or your not. They have come a long way from their humble beginnings but the maturity is evident. The more slower paced songs (Hysteric) are some of the best songs the YYYs have written and allows Karen-O to really show off her vocal abilities. Fever To Tell will still hold as possibly their best LP, but It's Blitz ranks up there as a fine piece of work.
Here We Go Magic - Here We Go Magic
This album can be divided into two parts; the first four songs (+track 9) are songs with singing while the following four songs are pure instrumentals. Having heard them perform live first and the album second, I was instantly a fan based on the show and of how they performed songs like Fangela and the incredibly addicting song Tunnelvision. The album dips into a bit of psychedelica with not too complex vocal work. The album does have an experimental feel to it and who knows, this may be the only album from this band. If that may be the case then this is something to get a hold of and enjoy.
Wooden Shjips - Dos
Wooden Shjips is a psych/minimalist band from San Francisco. Minimalist in the sense that the baselines and percussion are very repetitive throughout all the songs but this allows for other elements of the music to take its effect. The keyboard sequences set a mellow mood which is counteracted by the guitar ripping and fuzzing into the notes. The singers voice is sometimes inaudible and tends to make background noise (most of the songs are sung with an echo) but this adds to the layering of melodies which combine to form their psychness. This band may be very difficult to get used to and may seem annoying because of the repetition but if one is looking for pretty cool psych music then this is it.
The xx - The xx
This duo from England is getting a huge amounts of praise from critics from all over. This is their first release but what gets critics and writers loving this release is the maturity shown by these very young musicians. The sound is somewhat electro rock but not in a Ladytron sense; strong melodies and vocal harmonies backed up by guitar plucking and baselines. The album production, for me, is a bit too perfect and some songs are repetitive. The album also suffers from a lack of variety in the music but it is a fairly solid release nonetheless. Songs such as Crystallized and Islands show the potential of this group and the future looks like very bright.
Sic Alps - U.S. EZ
The album is short, in fact, it's over before you even know it. Sic Alps have made a pretty good garage rock album and with a tour with Sonic Youth, the band are headed in the right direction. The album is raw and rugged but that is what makes lo-fi music great to listen to. Highlights off the album include Sing Song Waitress, the 60's pop sounding Gelly Roll Gum Drop and Everywhere, There. The album also has moments of experimentation which including the noisy N##JJ and Clubbing for $$.
Times New Viking - Born Again Revisited
Another lo-fi garage band makes the shortlist who have recently signed for Matador records. As far as being a lo-fi band goes, some songs on this album are a bit more hi-fi than others (Martin Luther King Day, City on Drugs, No Time No Hope) but the Vikings still keep it pretty raw with songs like the excellent Little Word, Half Day In Hell, and Born Again Revisited. This album is very good, fast paced, and pretty aggressive. The live shows are electric and energetic but that is a reflection of the band. Touring with Yo La Tengo will undoubtedly give this band some excellent exposure.
Mos Def - The Ecstatic
Like everyone else, I wrote off Mos Def after Black on Both Sides once he started pursuing a career in acting. His previous two releases were absolutely awful so I was very shocked to see how much better this one was. The album starts off strong with a powerful message from Malcolm X which is a message that resonates on the entire album. This is the world according to Mos Def. The times always drive Hip Hop and give it strength so it is no surprise to see that Mos included many tracks with Middle Eastern influences since this seems to be the current obsession with United States. The production is so much better on this than previously heard thanks in part to Madlib and a special one by J Dilla. The album sees Mos at his sparkling best (Auditorium) and his goofiest (Workers Comp); the only annoying bit is the super lame Kweli appearance.
Kurt Vile - Childish Prodigy
The folk artist from Philly who gets many Neil Young comparisons; recently signed to Matador this year and follows up Constant Hitmaker and God Is Saying This To You... with this release. The album starts off a little hard with Hunchback but what makes Kurt Vile interesting to listen to are songs like Overnight Religion and Blackberry Song. There is plenty of variety and spontaneous sounding music here. He is by far not the best vocalist on the planet and at times ignores melody completely but he honestly doesn't care; he'll sing a song as he sees fit which comes off with great effect even if off key. His guitar playing and strumming is quite stellar and his band The Violators back him up well. A tour with Woods earlier this year, Europe, a few shows with The Black Keys during New Years and 2010 tour with Fucked Up proves that Kurt Vile is making a name for himself.
Espers - III
III is the new album by the band called Espers which starts off very strongly with I Can't See Clear, which also sets the tone of the album. Espers have a very unique sound that is very distinct from other bands. The songs are very involved and fairly long, and reminiscent of a band of merry mistrials playing modern psych/folk rock music in the woods of Nottingham. The instrumentation on any Espers album is in abundance with layers of melodies accompanying each song and vocals of the two singers complement and play off each other perfectly. Epsers are keeping to what they know and do best and if your a fan of the band then you know what to expect.
Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
The new Dirty Projectors album may have the most appeal to the general public than most of the other releases because the album is just plain fun and enjoyable, and possibly a bit more commercial sounding. From the opening song you can hear the joy that each song brings. Its the perfect album to have playing during a lazy summer afternoon when trying to wind down from the heat. The lead singer has a very distinct voice with very tight signature guitar picking. The ladies which accompany him have an even more recognizable sound. Each of the three singers has a different vocal range and they like to harmonize together on almost every song (check out Stillness in the Move) and do lots of weird singing techniques (Remade Horizon). Useful Chamber is a song that encompasses all elements that the Dirty Projectors bring to the plate but they can slow it down a bit seen in Two Doves and Fluorescent Half Dome.
St. Vincent - Actor
St. Vincent has made an absolutely beautiful second album which does have its moments of dipping into darkness. She is a very talented musician with an amazing voice and the music is very well performed. Like Here We Go Magic and Beach House, she too has been touring with Grizzly Bear but even without their support she is selling out venues. The album's name give the record a sort of theme based on theater type of orchestration. A good example of this is are the songs The Strangers and Save Me From What I Want. They both start as if an orchestra is playing background music in between sets as the actors get ready for the next scene. St. Vincent is at her best on The Party which is a piano driven ballad and the upbeat Actor Out of Work. Sorry Feist, St. Vincent has taken over.
Crocodiles - Summer of Hate
Crocodiles is a band signed to the Fat Possum label which has had artists such as The Black Keys, R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. But don't expect to hear blues music here, what your gonna get is electro driven indie music. The band got early hype from the blog of No Age and the reviews have been mixed on these guys. I think the album is fairly good for a debut with the stand out song being Soft Skull (In My Room) which is as pop as it gets on the LP. There is much variation throughout the entire nine songs which shouldn't make this a boring album to listen to so due check it out and see for yourself whether No Age were correct in their praises.
Moon Duo - Killing Time EP
Moon Duo is alter ego of Wooden Shjips lead singer (the guy with the really long and awesome looking beard). That being said, you might know what to expect from this band; repetitive percussion and baselines with fuzz guitar throughout. But what makes this project different from Wooden Shjips is that this group has a more spacey and open feel to it. The keyboards on the song Dead West reminds of space and martian movies. The other EP they released this year, Love on the Sea, has another example of that spacey sound they are going for with the song EZ Stret Ext. The vocals are again distorted echoed out and leaves much to the imagination of the listener. Like Wooden Shjips, the songs are quite long and for a fan of minimalist music this may be another band to check out.