Not surprisingly, it is a thin week for new releases. Many record companies hold off on releasing albums during the week of Thanksgiving because it’s so much more difficult to get the attention of media and music consumers due to the holidays. That said, there are a few albums out this week that we highly recommend, including the new debut LPs from Sunbears and Sea Lions.
Since 2008, Jacksonville, Florida musicians Jonathan Berlin (vocals, bass, guitar, keys, synth) and Jared Bowser (drums, percussion) of Sunbears have been wooing and wowing audiences with their own brand of psychedelic indie rock. To date, the band has released a handful of EPs and singles, including a song for the hit kids’ TV show, Yo Gabba Gabba, followed by a short stint on their Super Music Friends Show tour in the fall of 2010. In addition, Sunbears have also toured with Mates of State, Black Kids and Dredg, among others.
Recorded at New York City’s Singing Serpent Studios with producer Jeremy S.H. Griffith, You Will Live Forever channels the ghost of The Dakota, conjuring equal parts Plastic Ono Band, Dark Side Of The Moon and Quadrophenia. On “Dying Alone, Without Yourself,” electronic creations are intricately layered upon a gorgeously strummed acoustic guitar, accompanied by haunting choral back-ups. “Give Love A Try” is the album’s infectious “feel good” first single, and in our opinion, one of the best indie songs of the second half of 2011.
“Give Love a Try” – Sunbears from You Will Live Forever
The album is full of songs that explore all kinds of musical styles and themes, and at times you swear you were hearing different artists you already know being channeled through the incredibly talented duo. Sunbears is a band we will be watching in 2012. There are many fantastic songs this year that we’ve heard from relatively unknown artists and band. Sunbears now occupies two or three, maybe more, of those slots, thanks to what is also one of the best debut albums of 2011, You Will Live Forever.
We’re not going to list all of the songs from the album, but a couple more to add include The Flaming Lips-sounding, “They Think They Are Sooo Philosophical,” and the sorta John Lennon like, “Together Forever.”
“They Think They Are Sooo Philosophical” – Sunbears from You Will Live Forever
You Will Live Forever is a colorful, psychedelic sonic journey through various musical landscapes, marked by introspective, superbly written, amazingly arranged, and wonderfully produced songs that leave the listener with the sense that they just experienced something special. If you dig these three tracks – and it was a challenge to pick only three – then you’re probably going to really enjoy the album.
Having somehow just made it through the appalling 2011 American Music Awards when we first listened to You Will Live Forever, it was so refreshing to hear original, dynamic music created by talented musicians almost no one has ever heard of. If all the right pieces fall into place in the next few months, Sunbears could be one of the biggest indie bands of 2012.
The long-awaited debut album from the post punk/60’s pop Oxnard, California indie quartet, Sea Lions, officially dropped this week, and is being welcomed with a decent number of encouraging reviews. AbsolutePunk gave the album a 7-star rating, stating, “Despite the occasional flat execution, Sea Lions’ knack for constructing timeless melodies is undeniable, and the golden oldies era is obviously a pervading influence on the album.” There is no doubt about that, from the vintage pop of “I Don’t Wanna Go Out” to the C-86 guitar jangling of the album opener, “I Should Be Sleeping,” this debut album is a formidable release, and definitely among the top indie pop – if we were to pick one genre to describe it – debut albums of 2011.
“I Should Be Sleeping” – Sea Lions from Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sea Lions But Were Afraid To Ask
If you’re a sucker for golden oldies, the C-86 post punk movement of the 1980’s, and jangly guitar pop, you will probably enjoy Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sea Lions But Were Afraid To Ask from start to finish (with a couple of small exceptions). We certainly have.
That said, none of the 15 tracks are over three minutes long, and the problem with that is that it makes it harder for the songs to stick in your head afterwards; in fact, there are many terrific songs, unfortunately, on this album that, just as you’re getting into them, end too soon.
“Grown Up” – Sea Lions from Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sea Lions But Were Afraid To Ask
“As Times Change” – Sea Lions from Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sea Lions But Were Afraid To Ask
This next cluster of great tracks from new albums out this week is really an excellent collection of songs that really exemplifies the talent of all of these artists who have very different musical styles, from country rock to punk rock, and electro-pop to hard rock.
Eddy Current Suppression Ring belts out some raw garage punk rock – somewhat reminiscent of early Arctic Monkeys meets Beastie Boys – on the single “You Don’t Care”; Trentemøller delivers a slow, haunting, semi-industrial track with “Neverglade”; Wooden Wand and the Briarwood Virgins slug through a 70’s style country rock song, “Big Mouth U.S.A.,” that would be perfect on the soundtrack of a road trip movie or an Almost Famous 2; Fonda‘s “Better Days” is a charged, guitar buzzing track from the just-released EP, Better Days; and Toronto house mavens Azari & III‘s new dance single, “Into the Night,” was officially released this week.
“I Don’t Wanna Go to the Party” – Marvelous Darlings from Single Life
– Eddy Current Suppression Ring from So Many Things
“Better Days” – Fonda from Better Days EP
– Trentemøller from Reworked/Remixed
“Big Mouth U.S.A.” – Wooden Wand and the Briarwood Virgins from Briarwood
“Into The Night” – Azari & III from single
Calexico’s Road Atlas, The Antlers Cover The xx, Orange Juice in a Box, Giant Sand Reissue
Other releases this week include some singles, box-sets and re-issues. First, The Antlers released their (together) EP, featuring a cover of The xx‘s track “VCR”; one of our favorite alt. country rock bands, Calexico, released their compilation, Selections from Road Atlas, 1998-2011; the band Giant Sand reissued an expanded version of its 2000 alternative country rock album, Chore of Enchantment; the indie pop rock pioneers Orange Juice officially released their Coals to Newcastle box set this week.
“VCR” (The xx) – The Antlers from (together) EP
“Music Arcade” – Giant Sand from Chore Of Enchantment (expanded reissue)
“Rip It Up” – Orange Juice from Coals to Newcastle
Way Back Now: Magazine Releases First LP in 30 Years, No Thyself
The Way Back Now segment is a new addition to the Best New Releases series that highlights bands who have released their first album in more than a decade. In the case of the Manchester, England post-punk gods Magazine, the release this week of their fifth album, No Thyself, might not be as big of a deal if it wasn’t for the fact that it marks the band’s first album in 30 years – since 1981’s fairly disappointing, Magic, Murder and The Weather, which lacked the departed John McGeoch.
“Holy Dotage” – Magazine from No Thyself
Last year, Howard Devoto, who started out with Buzzcocks before he founded Magazine in 1977, dialed up guitarist Noko and bassist John “Stan” White (who replaced the unavailable Barry Adamson) to make another Magazine. What No Thyself proves is that the band have not lost their edge after such a long hiatus, that they are more talented than ever before, and Devoto still has great vocals that sound as good or better than they did three decades ago. A few of the standout tracks include the dark rock grind of “The Burden of a Song,” the urgent, synth rocking post punk of “Holy Dotage” and the unusually uptempo and catchy, “Physics.”
“Physics” – Magazine from No Thyself
New Releases from In Dee Mail: Wait For Green, Fires in France,
We receive literally hundreds of music submissions a month, and it’s near impossible to keep up with them all. One way to make it easier to manage is that we started highlighting new releases we receive via our submission form for the week in which the album, EP or singles are officially released.
We don’t receive much indie music from Boise, Idaho, but this week the unsigned indie band from Boise, Fires In France, released their self-titled, debut album and sent along these two tracks to post. Their sound is big, shimmering, more pop than rock, and we think, promising. Perhaps Fires in France’s overall sound is a bit more leaning to the side of polished Hollywood rock radio, but we’re confident some of you will find it worthy of downloading to your MP3 player.
Among the bands they list as their biggest influences include Jimmy Eat World, The Beatles, The Smiths, Awolnation, Neon Trees, The Format, Coldplay, Nirvana, and Edward Sharp.
– Fires In France from Fires in France
“Sing” – Fires In France from Fires in France
Also, in the past week, on Nov. 16th, the unsigned Austin indie pop/alternative rock band Empire Machines released their self-titled EP, which arrives two year after the band first formed. Now, we say it all of the time, but to be an unsigned indie band in places like Austin, or Brooklyn, or San Francisco, or Portland, is quite the challenge these days.
In order to stand out among the thousands of DIY artists and bands in cities where the competition among bands is fierce, bands need to come up with one or two hot singles that get people’s attention, not just with deejays and music consumers, but also with their peers – who are often times simultaneously rooting for, and against them – artists need to make a splash.
We are a little surprised that Empire Machines have not played live in Austin. In fact, they consider themselves a studio band, but we think it would be a good idea if they got some gigs.
– Empire Machines from Empire Machines EP
– Empire Machines from Empire Machines EP
Wait For Green is a Go For Broke Records’ indie band out of Venice, California that sent in some tracks from their self-titled debut release, but failed to provide us any details about who they are other than to describe their music style as alternative, funk, pop, reggae, and hiphop.
– Wait For Green from Wait For Green
“Slow Riding” – Wait For Green from Wait For Green