Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Year in Music...So Far

2007 has already been extremely busy with many new releases in the first third of the year. Here's my list of the early highlights...

The Shins released their third proper, Wincing the Night Away. While I wasn't originally thrilled with this album, too somber, seeing them in concert helped me "get" this album. By juxtaposing Wincing's tracks with their previous works, I was able to see where this record fits in the catalog. The songs really translated live. Although this album might only be the third best Shins' album, it's still much better than 99% of the releases put out by the record industry every year.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah released their much anticipated follow up to 2005's self-titled debut, Some Loud Thunder. Although they were a little heavy with the bass (ruining the opening track), the album defies all sophomore jinx theories. The album moves away from sounding too much like the Talking Heads...but not too far away. I am really looking forward to seeing these guys in May for the first time.

Bright Eyes has put out two solid releases so far. The first was the preview EP for the album Cassadaga. Four Winds is highlighted by the great title track and the most haunting BE song ever, a duet with M Ward called "Smoke Without Fire". The LP is no slouch either. Those more accustomed to Conor Oberst tearing himself to shreds will struggle with the outward lens he utilizes in this release. but I believe that is short-sighted. His music is simply maturing. This work is a transition to a more mature, not-so-emo Bright Eyes. I, for one, welcome this change.

One of my all-time favorite bands, Modest Mouse, released their fifth full-length, the classically Isaac Brock titled We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. After losing their way since signing to a major label, it seems that Modest Mouse is moving in the right direction once again. You could feel this transition (much like the Bright Eyes' movement) as their last two releases seemed to stray from what made Brock's early work stick out in the indie world. He is finally finding a way to balance the Modest Mouse sound with the resources a major label offers. I credit this largely to Johnny Marr's influence. The former Smiths' guitarist seems to be the connection Modest Mouse needed between indie rock eccentricities and major label success. The result is the best Modest Mouse record in ten years and a spot atop the Billboard charts.

My new indie darling, Beirut, released an EP this winter. Lon Gisland shows that Beirut is more than a kitschy indie fad. The highpoint of the release is the more organic take on "Scenic World" that puts away the keyboards for a more Beirut-esque sound. This EP - like most EP's - just gets me excited for the next full-length due later this year.

Finally, I am able to listen to all of The Arcade Fire's Neon Bible. I thought that I was smart when I pre-ordered this release on vinyl accompanied by an MP3 code. Well, the label's manufacturing screwed up the pressing, delaying my shipment by two months. Anyway, just last night some friends loaned me their CD which I promptly saved onto my iTunes. In fact, right now is my first listen. It's a pretty amazing album. The first four songs might be the best first four songs I've ever heard on an album! The record levels off in the middle - much like the band's other releases - but these songs are still good songs. I just love the urgency and passion in the Arcade Fire. They have recaptured the idealism of early rock 'n' roll mixed with the importance of a John Hughes' film to a thirteen year old while speaking to issues that are important to thirty-somethings that struggle with the transition from young liberal to adulthood...or something. God, I love this band!

I'm still looking forward to several releases (or possible releases) due out this year. The White Stripes, Stephen Malkmus, Iron & Wine, and Wilco have much-anticipated records coming out later this year. I'm hopeful that Sufjan Stevens will put out at least one more state album. Last word was that he has Oregon and New Jersey in the works. The new Feist album even looks/sounds very enticing. I really like her new American Apparel-meets-The Gap ad video. It also looks like Pavement will re-issue another album...surprise, surprise. I'll still buy even though I have the original. 2007's off to a fine start...musically.

No comments: