Best New Releases – Broken Bells, Generationals, Peter Bjorn & John, Mountain Goats, Obits, Funeral Party, AFM, Secret Cities
This dynamic super duo blasted onto the scene in late 2009 with a couple of sick singles, followed up by their early 2010 self-titled, debut LP, which found its way on to many folks ‘best albums of the year’ lists for last year. And no wonder. It’s amazing.
Broken Bells follows that up with a four-song EP, Meyrin Fields, out now. It has a deeper, more drab feel than their debut LP, but shows once again why James Mercer (The Shins) and artist-producer Brian Burton (aka, Danger Mouse) are so highly regarded in the indie-alternative music space. What do you think of this single, “Windows”? You can buy the EP by clicking on the title below.
What can we say about the Generationals that hasn’t already been said? The New Orleans indie rock trio have really busted out in the past year, and their latest album, out this week, proves why. They are an IRC Band to Watch in 2011 (in upcoming edition of that series). Get this album.
After taking a break to pursue other interests, the Stockholm trio Peter Bjorn And John are back with a new LP, Gimme Some. We haven’t had a chance to listen to the entire album as of yet, but the few songs we have heard, it sounds like the band have returned to the indie pop sound that made them famous after experimenting with hard beats and overly layered vocals on 2009′s Living Thing.
One of our Bands to Watch in 2011, Alcoholic Faith Mission, released a new EP this week that we are listening to right now, and loving. Now it makes even more sense to us that we selected AFM as one of the bands to watch. The five-track EP, And The Running With Insanity, distinguishes the five-member band as a magnificently talented collective of musicians.
The ridiculously melodic song “Dancing Fools” has a cool, steady beat accompanied by an additional snare, tambourines, piano, electric guitar and bass – along with the band’s rising choruses (a common element in AFM’s music) which all come together in a perfectly enjoyable track.
You can tell by listening to AFM that there is a great deal of conceptualization that goes into each track; the compositions are not simple constructs, rather, they are intricate and complex, comprised of many deliberate pieces that are carefully arranged. And yet their songs are so accessible. Alcoholic Faith Mission are likely to be most appreciated by folks who like Freelance Whales, Sufjan Stevens, even a bit of Arcade Fire.
The band’s 2010 album, Let This Be the Last Night We Care, is what really put AFM on the indie map, so to speak. After hearing that album, some bloggers and music lovers like ourselves and friends, went back to their other releases, including the magnificent album 421 Wythe Avenue. You can go back to IRC’s profile of AFM in a recent edition of Bands to Watch in 2011 to listen to tracks from both of these albums.
This week also marks the official drop of Dirty Beaches‘ debut album, Badlands. Not to over play the subject matter, but Dirty Beaches is yet another ‘band’ to watch in 2011, or at the very least, a bright blip on the indie music radar.
Alex Zhang Hungtai is the Taiwanese born one-man band behind Dirty Beaches. He has lived in a number of places over the years, including Toronto, Honolulu, Montreal, and Vancouver. His musical influences include Depeche Mode, Roy Orbison, Lou Reed and Misfits, among others. Talk about an eclectic mix of musical styles.
Badlands is deliberately low fidelity, packed with assorted organic snack tracks that somehow sound pretty good despite the lo-fi quality. One of the best examples of this is the song “Lords Knows Best.”
If we had to compare Dirty Beaches to another indie solo artist, we’d probably have to go with Lord Huron. If you’re not familiar with him, we included a Lord Huron track for comparison. However, Lord Huron’s sound is way more hi-fi.
“Mighty” – Lord Huron from Mighty EP (2010)
Still teasing fans for his upcoming April release of Tomboy, Panda Bear officially released yet another 7″ single this week, the sunny pop chillwave track, “Surfer’s Hymn.” Earlier this year we decided to put an end to our part of the remix craze because one, it’s gotten out of hand, and two, there is just way too much excellent original music.
However, every once in a truly hot, stand out remix will come along that we’ll post for that reason alone. Today, is one of those times. The band Actress spun up a nug of remix of “Surfer’s Hymn” in short order, and did it so well that it’s almost as good (some say better) than the original.
All the while, fans of Animal Collective founding member Panda Bear (aka, Noah Lennox) have been waiting for the follow-up to his 2008 solo debut masterpiece, Person Pitch. That album is easily one of the best solo albums of the past two decades. And it’s not simply our position – the consensus among bloggers, mainstream press and music lovers has been in for some time. That is, Person Pitch is a classic album for all time.
With that in mind, one can only imagine the pressure on Lennox to live up to the huge expectations with the release of his follow-up sophomore LP, Tomboy. Since last summer, bits and pieces of Tomboy have been released here and there. But finally, the wait for the official, full release ends on April 2nd. You can pre-order a CD or vinyl copy of Tomboy. Plus, click on the single title below to order the seven-inch vinyl.
Order the single here.
“Surfer’s Hymn (Actress Remix)” – Panda Bear
The release this week of All Eternals Deck marks the Mountain Goats 13th studio release since their 1994 debut, Zopilote Machine. For All Eternals Deck, Darnielle hired ex-Morbid Angel guitarist, and producer, Erik Rutan, who has produced death metal artists like Cannibal Corpse. That’s quite an interesting collaboration, but don’t worry, the ‘Goats haven’t gone death metal. This is the ‘Goats first release on Merge Records, who supplied the first single from All Eternals Deck titled “Birth of Serpents.”
The band was founded by Claremont, California singer-songwriter John Darnielle two decades ago. Slowly, but surely, Mountain Goats have acquired a huge following internationally, but mainly in the U.S. and Canada. Darnielle is considered one of the most influential indie folk rock songwriters. In fact, New Yorker music critics Sasha Frere-Jones hailed Darnielle as “America’s best non-hip hop lyricist.”
The New York City indie pop band, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, have dropped their sophomore album, Belong, the follow up to their widely praised 2009 self-titled debut LP. While we’ve not heard all of Belong yet, we are encouraged by what we’ve heard so far, which is a richer, fuller sound.
KEXP‘s music director Don Yates said of the band’s new sound – boosted by veteran sound wizards Flood and Alan Moulder – is “a more massive, muscular and aggressive take on their fuzzy noise-pop sound, with the band’s beautifully crafted songs blending trebly, distorted guitars, celestial keyboards, tight rhythms, soft, hazy vocals and an abundance of bright, melodic hooks.” We agree, The Pains have really stepped it up in a short period of time. So, it’s no surprise that they are one of the most popular indie pop bands of the past couple of years.
It doesn’t end there. Ideally, this maybe should be broken into two parts, but the reason we’re not doing that is for readers who like to stream the entire playlist mix to help them decide which albums they want to buy.
All Tiny Creatures‘ track “Glass Bubbles” is a sweet, uptempo, shimmering instrumental with some vocals; almost sounds like glass bubbles are being formed as you listen. And in a similar theme to All Tiny Creatures, the band, Erland and the Carnival, put synthesizers at the core of their music, but with more vocals and percussions than ATC. Plus, check out the impressive new single, “Nothing Can Tear It Apart,” from the artist L’Altra.
“Nothing Can Tear It Apart” – L’Altra from Telepathic
Discovered firsthand by Luaka Bop A & R man Wills Glasspiegel in the parking lot of a Newton, N.J., strip mall, Delicate Steve was already signed to Luaka Bop before anyone there even heard the band’s music. We guess that says either they’re really stupid or Delicate Steve is really that good.
Delicate Steve weaves majestic instrumental guitar pop tracks that can hardly be called delicate. His overall style is influenced by Afro-pop riffs, psychedelic experimentation, synthesizer intricacies and flourishes of acoustic slide-guitar as demonstrated on the lead single “Butterfly.” Knoxville indie rock band, Royal Bangs, dropped their new album, Flux Outside, this week, fronted by the single, “Grass Helmet.” Athens, Georgia punk pop group, Five Eight, have a new album out this week, led by the possibly controversial single, “Your God is Dead to Me Now.”
Does it feel like you already have too many new releases to buy and/or listen to? Well, there’s more. In fact, the Brooklyn garage punk indie band, Obits, dropped their follow-up LP to 2009′s debut album, I Blame You. For Obits’ fans, or first time listeners of their sweet sounds, the band is sharing two free singles from the new LP.
Plus, the Oakland based band, Hunx and His Punx, released their debut LP, Too Young To Be In Love, this week. In 2009, they toured with Jay Reatard and Nobunny, and last year, officially released their debut singles compilation, Gay Singles, which features songs they’ve drop over the years, but never had an official release on an album. Combining power pop and punk music, Hunx and His Punx are showing up on more music radars in recent months, thanks in large part, to the release of the two advanced singles below.
We were surprised that Fargo, North Dakota indie band Secret Cities do not currently have an entry in Wikipedia. Afterall, they are not as obscure as other artists who have a Wiki profile, and they’ve been around for almost a decade. Helloooo. That said, for those unfamiliar with the band, Secret Cities came to fruition in 2002 after former teenage band camp buddies MJ Parker and Charlie Gokey began recording together. They began to manipulate and add to one anothers’ work.
Over the years, the pair had amassed a collection of original songs and added drummer Alex Abnos. As their music evolved into an electro pop Spector-esque style, critics began to take note. Last year, Stereogum adopted Secret Cities as a band to watch, calling their eclectic sound “The Antlers in a blender” or a “chillier Grizzly Bear brought up on The Unites States of America (the band)”.
In fact, Secret Cities’ debut album, Pink Graffiti, was one of our favorite debuts of 2010. In less than nine months, the trio have followed up their debut with the new LP, Strange Hearts – a definite must-have for anyone who really enjoyed the debut. Also, check out these new-to-us bands, My Cousin The Emperor, Moon Duo, and Those Darlins.
Even though Funeral Party they’ve been together since 2004, they only really emerged on to the indie scene during the past two years. Alas, they signed to Sony for the release of their debut album, The Golden Age of Knowhere.
While there are three to four ‘keeper tracks’ on the album, unfortunately, it lacks the personality and originality that the band may have been able to convey if they had signed with an indie label, like Subpop, or just remained a DIY brand. As with so many rock bands that sign to major labels, their songs have a tendency to mesh together, and often fall victim to the over-production of the label appointed producer, mixer and engineer – most of whom default to “safe” format – a common approach, the same chords, and close-to-cookie-cutter compositions. We think the band is great, but obviously really feel they’d be even better on an indie label. Think about it guys.
That said, NME listed the band in its top bands of 2010, and we know that some our of readers like their music. This was evident when 448 folks on our Hypem roll hearted the track, “Car Wars.” All in all, it’s a good album, not great. It could have been much better if it was more lo-fi and less over-produced. Other stand-out tracks for us include “Finale,” “City of Silhouttes,” and their first official single, “New York City Moves To The Sound Of LA.”
“Car Wars” – Funeral Party from The Golden Age of Knowhere
And so, the list of new releases goes on and on this week. Therefore, we’re going to bundle a few more tracks from fresh albums to close out this week’s best new releases.
Did You Know? You can find out which songs you like the most just by clicking the first song. That will fire up the built-in Yahoo player which will automatically stream through all 25 tracks in today’s mix so that you can do other things while you listen – kind of like the radio without any commercials or annoying deejays who talk over the music. When you dig a certain song or band, you can click on the album title to purchase it through Amazon in just a couple of easy steps.
While Parellels is not our kind of dig, we’ve included this single from their new track for the folks out there that do like this kind of music. Plus, check out these song links for The Sandwitches and Sarandon.
“Salomé” – Parallels from Visionaries (self-released)
“Joe Says” – The Sandwitches from Mrs. Jones’ Cookies
“Piglet” – Sarandon from Age of Reason
The Japanese band, Zoobombs, newest LP is gaining traction, so it is only fitting to include them in Best New Releases post since they dropped their fresh album, La Vie En Jupon (interestingly, means ‘life in Japan’ in French), this week in the U.S. The thumbs up reviews have been coming in rapid fire.
Wired magazine wrote: “Since 1994, Tokyo’s veteran garage thrasher Zoobombs has mashed unhinged ’60s psych-rock with postmodern snarl.” The Toronto Sun offered this critique: “The supersonic Tokyo band somehow morphed from Stonesy punk-rock maniacs to freaky jazz-rock jammers without losing a beat, or losing a tad of their record-breaking intensity.” – Toronto Sun. We agree, check out Zoobombs.
Plus, The New York Times called their album, Let it Bomb, a masterpiece of “the Japanese next wave” rock movement.
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