Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ratatat: LP4

I first came across Ratatat in a commercial for -- ready for this? -- Hummer.  Back in '04, I was sitting on my couch in college and this commercial came on and my roommate and I Googled the information before the spot ended.

(Parenthetical footnote: Hummer actually had a killer commercial campaign back then, featuring this awesome spot -- set to "Swamp" by Midwest Product -- and another ad that featured Album Leaf.  When indie bands get accused of "selling out" by putting their song in a commercial, what they are actually doing is getting their music to the widest possible audience, getting paid, and making more fans!)

Tokyo Police Club: Champ

Once dubbed "the Canadian Strokes," the gang from Ontario probably had too much pressure put on them after they recorded A Lesson in Crime EP when they were teenagers.  For some reason, their debut LP, Elephant Shell, seemed to fall relatively flat.  Undeterred, the Canucks left Saddle Creek Records (free sampler) for the greener pastures of Mom + Pop, and released Champ back in May.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sleigh Bells: Treats

Sleigh Bells was perhaps the most hyped indie band of 2010 (or at least they had the most pre-release internet buzz) after they rocked the CMJ fest in 2009 and were signed by M.I.A.  The duo in Sleigh Bells, Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller, has one of the most disparate sonic backgrounds of any band out there.  Krauss was in Rubyblue, all-girl pop group, and Miller was in a hardcore band called Poison the Well.  While waiting her table in 2008, Miller told Krauss he played guitar and was looking for a singer.  Krauss' mother, also at the table, offered her daughter's vocal services, and Sleigh Bells formed.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Black Keys: Brothers

I've been on The Black Keys bandwagon since 2003 or 2004, and I feel confident saying that the boys from Akron have just put out their best or second-best album.   The name of this album is Brothers (brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department).

In a departure from Attack and Release, TBK only let Danger Mouse produce one track ("Tighten Up").  It's a great track -- and you can hear Danger Mouse's influences after the bridge -- but TBK retreated a bit to their roots (compared to A&R), rather appropriately so considering they recorded some of the songs at legendary Muscle Shoals studio, while also keeping some of the keyboard influences.  What emerges is a fantastic album -- not only their most critically acclaimed album, but also their highest selling album.  After a bit of a lull (2006's Magic Potion was the weakest link in their discography), the boys are back in town.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Band of Horses: Infinite Arms

Dropping on the same day as Brothers by The Black Keys -- and coming just two weeks after new albums from Broken Social Scene and The New Pornographers, and one week after The National -- I tried to give Infinite Arms a fair shake... I didn't want it to get lost in the shuffle.  Sadly, the album couldn't stand up to any of the aforementioned (except The New Pornos), and it eventually got pushed to the back of the listening stack.

I had no cause for worry when the album was dubbed Night Rainbows in the fall of 2009 when I caught these guys at Headliners in Louisville (that show was awesome!).  They played four songs from the new album and three of them were fantastic, but somehow I think only one or two of them made the cut into the new album Infinite Arms (for the record, I thought "Night Rainbows" was a poor name for an album,).

Monday, November 22, 2010

The National: High Violet

I missed the boat on the National until late 2007, when Paste made dubbed Boxer as the album of the year.  I gave the album a listen and was immediately repulsed by Matt Berringer's vocals.  I thought, "This is the album of the year?"  I kept listening, hoping that I would "get it."  Long story short: I got it.  Once I embraced Berringer's baritone, I was sold on the National's combination of good music and great lyrics.

At the initial listen of High Violet(only $6.99!), I was a little disappointed; I can't really explain it, but I felt like something was missing.  I think, however, that I expected to be immediately bowled over, but that's not how the National works.  For each of their albums (I got my mitts on Alligator in '08), there was a period of 4-5 listens where I had to feel things out.  Once I got through those initial listens, I was, indeed, bowled over.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Broken Social Scene: Forgiveness Rock Record

The other Canadian supergroup released Forgiveness Rock Record (FRR) on the same day as The New Pornographers put out Toghether (perhaps a bizzaro-Canadian version of the 50 Cent vs. Kanye battle?).  I'm not sure about the sales figures of the respective albums (my money would be on TNP), but as far as brilliance, the nod goes -- rather easily -- to Broken Social Scene (BSS).

I'd never been much of a BSS fan.  My brother-in-law introduced me to the band back in '05, so I picked up their self-titled double-disc album, but I could only get into about half the tracks (skipping the other half; the same holds true for You Forgot It In People).  FRR, however, doesn't have a throwaway track; pretty much every other song is a favorite and there is no skipping involved (and that's without much involvement from Leslie Feist).  Of the album's thirteen tracks, I rated seven of them as four- or five-star tracks.

The New Pornographers: Together

This Canadian supergroup (with, uhh, a unique name) put out one of 2007's best albums (top 20, at least), so I was pretty pumped about their latest release back in early May.  However, I ended up being a little underwhelmed.

Together starts off with much promise, and the first three songs have that classic TNP feel.  Pretty upbeat (read: poppy) compared to the first third of Challengers.  "Moves," "The Crash Years," and "Your Hands (Together)" are all fantastic.  The rest of the album, for the most part, doesn't seem to match the pace or the quality of the songs at the album's outset (with the exception of "Up in the Dark").  As with previous albums, I'm not a fan of the songs on which Dan Bejar (of Destroyer) sings ("Silver Jenny Dollar," "If You Can't See My Mirrors").  His voice just kills me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Plants and Animals: La La Land

I first stumbled across Plants and Animals (P&A) in the summer of '08 while watching Patrick Watson YouTube videos.  The labelmates form a pretty strong one-two punch for the small Secret City Records.  P&A's 2008 release, Parc Avenue, was absolutely fantastic, so I had high hopes for La La Land.  Like some other bands' 2010 efforts (Joe Pug, Vampire Weekend, Band of Horses, New Pornographers), I was a little disappointed.

Parc Avenue was a feast for the ears, both musically and lyrically; Land leaves a little bit of both to be desired.  I'm certainly not against bands changing their sound (hey there Sufjan), but it's got to be executed to near perfection if you're going to pull it off.  Land leaves behind the sprawling, '70s gypsy jam band behind in favor of something a little more modern (?), titling one of it's songs "Tom Cruz."  They explained that the song was all about having fun (and paranoia?), and Mr. Cruise apparently came to mind.