Sunday, September 30, 2012

Now Hear This!: Don’t Mind Me, I’m Currently in Music Ecstasy.

If you love music as much as I do, then you know that it’s been an amazing two weeks of new releases. So amazing, I don’t think my ears have had time to fully recover from the copious amounts of eargasms I’ve encountered over the past eleven days.  I told you these days were coming so I hope you downloaded or purchased all of this fantastic new music. If you haven’t yet, for what it’s worth let me give you my two cents.

Band of Horses - Mirage Rock
The fourth studio album from Band of Horses is not what I expected. The stunning harmonies are there but to my dismay, gone are the grinding guitars, heavy drums and except for one song, even the strings. Minus the lead single, “Knock Knock”  and the songs “Feud”, “Ego Nightmare” and a third of the song “Dumpster World”, the latest effort from the Carolina rockers is a stripped down, acoustic heavy album that very easily could’ve been recorded in the 70’s. It features an eclectic mix of dusty slide guitar country rock, stoner rock and even lazy California rock on the track, “Long Vows”, a song that kinda reminds me of, dare I say, The Eagles. And the 70’s flashback doesn’t end there.To my surprise, even the sound of Elton John sashays its way into the track, “Electric Music”. It sounds a little like “Honky Cat”.

The sleeper of the album is “Heartbreak On the 101”. It’s a heart wrenching song that features strings reminiscent of “Factory” and the voice of a very weary and broken man. You can hear the anguish in his voice with lines like, “Couldn’t really think that I’d just stand aside? Take up something new, start another life.” and “I know it’s over and it sounds a bit cliché, but I want you back so bad, leave the pieces where they lay.” 

Mirage Rock is not the high energy or guitar filled rock albums like Everything All The Time or Cease to Begin, it’s closer to Infinite Arms without the glossy production. If you're a fan, it's definitely worth the listen and if haven't been, maybe it will encourage you to go back and take a deeper dive into their full discography. 

I give it 3.5/5 and an Open Hatch.

Sounds Like: Dawes, The Moondoggies, Hacienda, The Avett Brothers and America

Grizzly Bear - Shields
I was so pleasantly surprised by this album that it took my personal award for Album of the Week, beating out both the favorite Band of Horses and The Killers. However in saying that, of the four reviews, this one was the most difficult. I feel like I can’t find the right words to describe this band. It’s not that they are so much better than the hundreds of indie/alternative bands out there; it’s just that they sound so different. It’s safe to say that Grizzly Bear probably isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking to be fully engulfed in blissful harmonies, pounding percussion and dream inducing vocals, then put this album on, press play and let yourself go.

The three years since Veckatimest have unquestionably been worth the wait. In my opinion, Shields has to receive album of the year consideration.  Droste and Rossen sound amazing and the backing arrangements are spot on. It's interesting to note that there was a concerted effort to strip away the dreamy atmosphere, but I still feel it on tracks like “Half Gate”, “Sun In Your Eyes” and “The Hunt”. My favorites are “Sleeping Ute”, “Yet Again” (new video below), “A Simple Answer” and “Gun Shy”. Although my album of the year talk might be a bit premature, Shields without a doubt will pepper quite a few short lists.

If this is your first listen, I suggest you go back to some of their older stuff like: “Knife”, “Little Brother”, “Shift”, the cover “He Hit Me” and Veckatimest.

I give it 4.5/5 and an Open Hatch.

Sounds Like: Atlas Sound, Daniel Rossen, Deerhunter, Beach House and The Antlers

The Killers - Battle Born
The Killers’ debut album, Hot Fuss, has left such a vivid impression on me that even eight years later, I can still remember what was going on in my life. That’s a big deal considering I’ve forgotten or blocked out quite a bit over the years. It’s really not fair for me to bring up Hot Fuss, but since 2004 and every release after, I’ve been eagerly awaiting it's return. So even before the first listen my expectations teetered somewhere between Hot Fuss and Sam’s Town and that’s exactly where it landed. Maybe my expectations are too unreasonable for The Killers, but this album has not impressed me.  New listeners might enjoy, but give me, “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” or “All the Things I’ve Done”.

Besides “Runaways” and “Miss Atomic Bomb”, every time they try to speed things up, it just feels uneven and thrown together. Add that unevenness to some of the silliest lyrics and some cheesy 80’s echo sound effects and you have an album that could’ve been so much more.  A perfect example of the uneven feel is the title track, “Battle Born”. It begins with a lone electric guitar, backing synthesizer and cymbals that quickly rush towards a crescendo of crashing drums. I was thinking, okay here we go and then in comes the acoustic guitar. These let downs can be found throughout the entire album

The lead single, “Runaways”, the MVM from earlier this week, is far and away the best track on the album, followed closely by “Miss Atomic Bomb”. Other highlights include:  “The Way It Was”, “Here With Me” and “Be Still”

I give it 3/5 and an Open Hatch (only because of Runaways, Miss Atomic Bomb and Be Still)

Sounds Like: The Bravery, Bloc Party and Muse

Mumford & Sons - Babel
I don’t know if it was me being shitty stubborn or just suffering from folk music overkill, but when Mumford & Sons were everyone’s darlings, I was a little luke warm. Sure I rocked out to their radio hit, “Little Lion Man”, loved “The Cave” , “Roll Away Your Stone” and “White Blank Page”, but after that I couldn’t tell you another song from their debut. It’s not that I didn’t like them. It’s just that I could take them or leave them. I think Marcus Mumford has a great voice and the band’s harmonies are amazing, but I could never really commit. So with Babel, I told myself that I would sit down and listen to it, interruption free from first song to last. No TV, no work, just the music and maybe a beer or two. I’m glad I did, because I’ve been generously rewarded with a very good album.

The “frantic folk” comes out swinging with the title track “Babel”. It delivers with the familiar growl of Mumford, the fast paced guitar and banjo chords comparable to “Roll Away Your Stone” and one of my most favorite lyrics from the album, “Press my nose up to the glass around your heart. I should’ve known, I was weaker from the start. You’ll build your walls and I will play my bloody part to tear, tear them down." Along with “Babel”, the next three songs, “Whispers in the Dark”  “I Will Wait” and “Holland Road”, keep the controlled chaos going, but from there the pace noticeably slows.   

With the commercial success of Sigh No More, they were smart not to deviate too much from the formula that made them worldwide sensations. I’ve read that they are not ashamed of making such a similar album and usually I agree. Sometimes it’s a real head scratcher when artists start experimenting on their sophomore albums. There is none of that here and that’s my biggest problem with Mumford & Sons. Babel is safe, so safe that the first two tracks sound so similar that I almost couldn’t tell when one ended and the other began, but for those that loved Sigh No More, you will not be left disappointed. My favorites are: “Babel”, ‘I Will Wait”, “Reminder”, “Where Are You Now?”

I give it 3.5/5 stars and an Open Hatch.

Sounds Like: Dave Matthews, Of Monsters and Men, The Shins and Typhoon 

I'd love to hear your thoughts about these albums, agree, disagree or just tell me I've gone Helen Keller. And if you have any new releases that need to be heard let us know. I hope your ears have had as much pleasure as mine and remember to live your soundtrack out loud.


  1. I think you like the rockier albums more than I do, so our taste probably differs.

    The Killers album was somehow too polished and lyrics too cliche to really strike a chord with me emotionally.
    I enjoyed Yet Again - Grizzly Bear(video impressed me too), and thanks for the track suggestions(old and new). I'm not familiar with that band.

    Recommendations from 2012, that I think suit you, hmm...Fear Fun by Father John Misty is good, if you like Fleet Foxes. Observator by The Raveonettes is a new rock album I liked( are streaming it for free)
    Clear Heart Full Eyes by Craig Finn is an underrated LP a little similar to Dylan,Jackson (Live on KEXP) is my fave.

  2. Totally agree about Mirage Rock. I like the album but it's different. Kinda feel like I'm listening to John Denver or something. I've had "Heartbreak on the 101" in my head for a while now.

    I need to give Grizzly Bear another shot. I listed to "Yet Again" all the way through and I liked it.

    I really need to invest in the new M&S. I really like "I Will Wait".

    Great post!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Yeah I hear John Denver, Dan Fogelberg and I've said a couple of times to T, Joe Walsh. I like the album. I think you'd like Infinite Arms. Grizzly Bear is one of those bands who either grow on you or you just don't like them. Obviously Two Weeks was their break out hit, but they have quite a few good tunes. I got you covered on the M&S.

  3. Chris thanks for the recommendations. I liked Father John Misty. I actually forgot about that album being released. The Raveonettes remind me a lot of a 90's band called Belly. Thanks again for sharing.

  4. Nobody talks about it much, but my favorite Mumford song will always be "Feel the Tide."