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Monday, April 2, 2012

New Releases from January – March 2012

It continues to amaze me just how great 2012 is shaping up in terms of new music. Part of it could be that I’m a little more tapped into everything that is being released right now than I have been in the past, but a lot of it is just that there are some really fantastic records being released. Just as I did after each quarter of the year last year, here’s my first quarter of 2012 roundup (with a look ahead to the second quarter of the year):

My Favorite Albums released January – March 2012

1) First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar

I wrote about this album back in late January, and it continues to be a contender for album of the year. If you missed the initial write up, it is two sisters from Sweden who sing absolutely wonderful folksy/alt country tunes characterized by beautiful harmonies reminiscent of Fleet Foxes. Their song “Emmylou” really grew on me and became one of my favorite songs I’ve heard in quite some time. The album’s title track and songs “Blue” and “King of the World” are other highlights, but really the whole album is fantastic.

2) Good Old War – Come Back As Rain

I hate that I haven’t had time to do a full write up for this band because I have been obsessed with this album for a few weeks now. This is another alt-country release that has just seemed to be the perfect soundtrack to driving/walking around in this early spring we’ve been having lately. The songs “Better Weather” and “Calling Me Names” are two of the highlights, but I’ve loved the whole album. Special thanks go out to the blog Tympanogram, which coincidentally chose today to announce the end of their blogging, for introducing me to this group because I may not have stumbled upon them otherwise. Once I get over my initial obsession with this album, they have a couple older albums that I can’t wait to dive into as well.

3) Heartless Bastards – Arrow

Here is the first deviation from the alt-country trend of my top two albums. Honestly, spots 2 through 4 on this list could be arranged any way because they are all really solid albums. Heartless Bastards are a band solidly entrenched in the rock genre, and lead singer Erika Wennerstrom provides wonderfully powerful (often haunting) vocals. The first two bands on this list are new discoveries to me this year, but I’ve been familiar with Heartless Bastards for a few years now. For whatever reason their older albums never really hooked me for more than a few listens. However, Arrow is an album that I know I will return to over and over (and really I’ve listened quite a few times already). As friends of mine and readers of this blog can attest, I listen to a lot of calmer / quieter folky music, so this album is one I turn to pretty often now when I want something to provide a little energy to my day.

4) Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur

This is Kathleen Edwards 4th album, but it's the first one that I've heard. Somehow despite being familiar with the name, her music had never crossed my ears until Justin Vernon provided a recommendation of the new album (although the fact that he's allegedly dating her may bias that). Well the album is really solid top to bottom, and songs like "Change The Sheets" and "Empty Threat" are real favorites of mine. In "Empty Threat" the chorus declares "I'm moving to America... it's an empty threat," which for whatever reason I find endlessly delightful.

5) Hospitality – Hospitality

Hospitality is a Sasquatch band that I hope to write a little more about at some point. The band is signed to Merge Records, which is home to many favorite artists of mine. Despite that, I still may not have checked the band out if not for the fact that Alia Shawkat (aka Maeby Funke of Arrested Development) is in the music video for the first single "Friends of Friends." Since learning of the band and listening to their debut album, I've immensely enjoyed the whole album but especially the song "Betty Wang." This album also shows that early 2012 is being dominated by women (at least according to me), as four of my top 5 albums thus far are female fronted.

6) Bahamas – Barchords

For a few days, I just could not stop listening to this record. There are still a few songs on here that rank among my favorites of the year so far, but the record as a whole falls just a bit short of some of the others higher up on the list. I’ve got a post somewhere in the future that will involve the song “Okay, Alright I’m Alive,” which is an absolutely fantastic summer song that I’ve already listened to 20 or so times and will probably listen to another 20 times before the warm weather leaves us again. “Time and Time Again” and “Be My Witness” are the final two tracks on the album and close it really strongly.

7) Elliott Brood – Days Into Years

Another blog discovery, I came across this band on the blog All Things Go. Technically I guess this album came out last year, but it got a wider release this year, so I'm counting. The band is an alt-country trio from Canada. Check them out!

8) Suburban Dirts – Suburban Dirts

I learned of this band from my favorite music blog Listen Before You Buy. The band is clearly influenced by Bob Dylan, especially on the track “Lost in Transcription,” which could easily be mistaken as “Subterranean Homesick Blues” era Bob Dylan if one weren’t listening closely. Listen Before You Buy’s review is so much better than anything I could write, so check it out if you’re interested. The short version though is if you like more up-tempo folk rock / rockabilly music, make sure to check out Suburban Dirts. You can stream several of their songs on Soundcloud for free (or the whole album is on Spotify).

9) Ben Kweller – Go Fly A Kite

I think Ben Kweller may be the most sort of mainstream artist on this list, but I’m not always very tapped into who is and who isn’t. Anyhow, he started his musical career pretty early, releasing albums when he was just 13 and 14 with a band named Radish. He started his solo career around the age of 19 in 2000 and has released six albums since then, most in the alt/indie rock/pop genres with some folk and country elements here and there. My favorite album of his was “Changing Horses,” which was really just a country album. For whatever reason, I don’t usually listen to him a ton, but whenever I do, I realize that I probably should listen more given the catchy and enjoyable nature of his songs. “Jealous Girl,” “Full Circle,” and “The Rainbow” are the highlights on this album in my opinion.

10a) Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

This album has gotten pretty strong reviews from all over. The song "Serpents" is pretty amazing, and I love the imagery from the lyrics. The rest of the album hasn't grabbed me as much, but I have a feeling once I listen to it more it will. The strength of that one song and the promise in future listens are what allow this album to sneak onto the list.

10b) Justin Townes Earle – Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now

This is how bad my infatuation with music this year has gotten. In the past I’ve usually only done a top 5 list each quarter of the year, and this year I can’t even limit myself to just ten albums. I got to see Justin Townes Earle open for Iowa favorite William Elliott Whitmore a few days ago. Unfortunately, people felt the need to talk pretty loudly over most of JTE’s set, but the parts you could hear were pretty fantastic. This album is a solid addition to his Americana / folk catalog. This album along with Suburban Dirts came out just a few days before the end of the month, so I haven’t been able to spend too much time listening to them yet.

Albums That Need A Few More Listens

Islands – A Sleep & A Forgetting
Memoryhouse – The Slideshow Effect
Bowerbirds – The Clearing
Lost In The Trees – A Church That Fits Our Needs
Yellow Ostrich – Strange Land
Delta Spirit – Delta Spirit

Upcoming Releases for April through June

4/3 - Rocky Votolato - Television of Saints
This album can be streamed here, and it might be my favorite Rocky Votolato release in the last several years.

4/3 - Of Monsters And Men - My Head Is An Animal
Highly anticipated, as discussed in this post, and also streamable here.

4/10 - Trampled By Turtles - Stars and Satellites
A new release by the delightful Duluth, Minnesota bluegrass band.

4/10 - M. Ward - A Wasteland Companion
I love just about everything M. Ward touches, and after streaming the album here, my only complaint is that the album isn't longer. I can't wait for the actual release!

4/10 - Alabama Shakes - Boys and Girls
This band has been getting a TON of buzz lately, and it seems well deserved. They play soul / blues rock music. It can ALSO be streamed here. Man the internet is great!

4/17 - Horse Feathers - Cynic's New Year
I've heard one track from this indie folk band, and it led me to believe this release has some real potential.

4/24 - Diamond Rugs - Diamond Rugs
This is yet another side project featuring Deer Tick front man John J. McCauley III. The last of those side projects was Middle Brother, which topped my list of the best albums of 2011.

4/24 - Joe Pug - The Great Despiser
Joe Pug is one of my favorite artists currently around, which I've written about before. Follow this link if you want to download a few songs for free.

5/8 - S. Carey - Hoyas EP
A new EP from the drummer of Bon Iver.

5/15 - Beach House - Bloom

5/29 - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes - Here

5/29 - Sigur Ros - Valtari

6/12 - Metric - Synthetica

6/12 - The Tallest Man On Earth - There's No Leaving Now
Everything The Tallest Man On Earth has recorded to date has been amazing, and this album is sure to follow suit. Here is a live version of one of the new tracks. It got about 5 plays in a row from me when I first heard it.

January Through March Mixtapes!

Here is a link to a Spotify playlist of my favorite songs. It's 26 tracks and about an hour long and full of lots of absolutely wonderful tracks.

If you don't have Spotify, you can listen to the embedded mix below from 8tracks.com. Due to different restrictions of what is allowed, it is slightly different (shorter) than the Spotify mix.

My Favorite Tracks from January to March 2012 from rynestonecowboy on 8tracks.

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