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Friday, February 1, 2013

This week in music (week of 1/29/13)

The first couple weeks of the year are usually pretty slow in terms of new releases. Outside of the Wooden Wand album that I wrote about a couple weeks ago, not too much has caught my ear. That is until recently when things have really started to pick up.

Album of the week - Hummingbird by Local Natives

I mentioned this album in my last "This week in music" post. At the time, the band had just released the song "Heavy Feet." I still can't get enough of that song in particular, but the rest of the album is wonderful as well. If you're familiar with the band's excellent debut "Gorilla Manor," you're in for a bit of a sonic change. While their last album was full of catchy sing-a-long songs (like "Wide Eyes," "Sun Hands," "Camera Talk," and "Cubism Dream"), this album feels a bit more cohesive as just that, an album. It reminds me more of someone like Grizzly Bear (who I actually haven't gotten that into, but that's beside the point). "Gorilla Manor" had numerous songs that would make me perk up whenever I heard them, but as a whole, the album wasn't one that I really found myself listening to repeatedly. With "Hummingbird," Local Natives seem to have found a way to make an album greater than the sum of its parts. That's not to say there aren't standouts here too, it just takes a little while to find them. Part of it may be that "Heavy Feet" lodged itself in my ears and wouldn't allow me to move on to other songs for a while, but "You & I" and "Breakers" are other standout tracks. The album has been well received pretty universally, and it is for good reason. I've already listened to this album more than any other album this year, and I plan on listening to it quite a bit more in the coming weeks/months.

For the next week plus, you can stream the album here if you want to hear it. Since I already posted "Heavy Feet" a couple weeks ago, here's a taste of the album with the lead track "You & I".

Other albums of interest...

* Amor de Dias had two things going for them that made me check out their new album, "The House At Sea." The first is that one of the members is from the British dream pop group The Clientele. The second, more important, reason is that they released this album on Merge Records, a label that rarely lets me down. Shades of The Clientele are definitely still present (like in that unmistakeable voice), but the album spans all sorts of other genres and styles too. There are folk, . I'll have to listen to it a few more times, but initially, I'm really enjoying it. You can sample a song here, and download it if you enjoy it.

* I just stumbled upon this one today, but the debut EP by Wake Owl is on repeat for me right now. I can't quite put my finger on who it reminds me of (maybe Blind Pilot?), but the mix of country/folk/pop is carried out excellently regardless. You can stream the whole EP from Soundcloud just below.

Misc news, notes, and whatnot...

* A couple days ago, M. Ward / Zooey Deschanel project She & Him announced the release of their third (non-Christmas) album, "Volume 3" due out in May. They also announced a slew of tour dates to accompany the release. In even more exciting (albeit less official) news, the world will be getting a second Monsters of Folk album (M. Ward, Conor Oberst, Jim James, and Mike Mogis supergroup)! 2013 is shaping up to be a good one.

* Pre-release album streams seem to be the new hip thing. It's probably a way to discourage people from illegally downloading leaks. Whatever, the motivation, it's a very welcome trend. Just this past week or so Frightened Rabbit, Jim James (of My Morning Jacket and Monsters of Folk), Eels, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Thao & The Get Down Stay Down all made their albums available for streaming (click the band name to head to the streams).

* Joe Pug posted a live video of his slowed down version of "The Great Despiser." When I saw him perform a couple months ago he told the audience that they wrote the song this way, but when they got into the studio they thought they were Tom Petty and ended up with a more rockin' version. Joe Pug is one of my favorite artists around, so I think both versions are pretty great. Here's the new one:

* Morrissey is currently touring and had to cancel some dates due to what was deemed band member illness at the time. Minneapolis record store The Electric Fetus had the best reaction to the show cancelations on their Twitter and Facebook pages: "Heaven knows Morrissey fans are miserable now." It turns out it was actually pretty serious and Morrissey himself was hospitalized for a bleeding ulcer. Here's wishing him a speedy recovery.

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