British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?
With a mixer squawk and ominous booming drum, British Sea Power start their third record Do You Like Rock Music? Immediately, their anthemic sound draws comparisons to Arcade Fire. Lights Out For Darker Skies puts to use the bands musical talents, featuring a building lead guitar that will test the limits of any wannabe Guitar Hero. Lyrically, this is a political record, references and motifs of warfare, patriotism, encroaching darkness. But there’s a solidarity, “We’re all in it,” perhaps found in the essence that is rock music. Other standout tracks: Waving Flags, Great Skua, Atom.
Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts I-IV
On the coattails of Radiohead, Trent Reznor has become an anti-establishment rabble-rouser. It’s a welcome change, as With Teeth and Year Zero felt like some of his most commercial records. Out of nowhere he’s released Ghosts I-IV, 36 tracks of instrumentals. Most are ambient, atmospheric (similar to The Fragile), though some return to the angry energy of his earlier work. The entire package is incredibly professional, complete with a pdf (or printed book, depending on what you purchase) of high quality photographs to complement the music. The record has a cold aura, stark vistas of naked trees, winter skies, rainy days, etc. Ghosts III is a bit more industrial, II minimalist. Even better, Trent’s released the thing under Creative Commons, so quality remixes and music videos should be on the way. Stand out tracks – 3, 12, 16, 22, 28, 32.
Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
A name like Vampire Weekend instills images of club-going Dracula, or at least city denizens slavering over some sort of bloody vice. Instead, we get a jolly pop record of bouncy baselines, garage-band guitar and orchestral accompaniment. The record feels like the spiritual sibling to The Strokes (A-Punk, Campus), but its more lyrical, namedropping preppy brands and locales, and often ditching the grunge for summery island riffs (Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa). M79 opens with a harpsichord arrangement fitting for Louis XIV’s court, settling into a snappy bass jam. And Walcott’s the sing along standout – I can only imagine the hipsters screaming along “Outta Cape Cod tonight!” If the season’s got you down, this is the essential spring-time record.
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
Melancholy Folk will always have its place, and there’s no better time to indulge then late winter. Bon Iver is the stage name of Justin Vernon. He starts with the standard acoustic guitar and blends in ghostly ambience and reverb, in some songs (Lump Sum) even replicating his voice into a blissed out cathedral drone. The lyrics are sad, appropriately mournful, his voice betraying a sort of wild colloquial Americana (recorded in a remote Wisconsin cabin). The Wolves (Act I and II) and Blindsided are the twin peaks of the record, the first ascending a path of rattling railcar percussion, the latter a slow build, filled with imagery of snow and crows. The same crow motif is repeated on re: Stacks, the record’s closer and best song. “This is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization,” he sings. “It’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away.”
Daft Punk – Alive 2007
Daft punk have always been the biggest spacehelment-wearing French House artists around, but 2007 saw a rise in popularity aided by Mr. Kanye West. They also released a live record featuring all the songs that made them so legendary in the fist place. Their format – mix two (or three) songs in a pulsing escalation. Example – Around the World / Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. Sound quality is strong here (its electronic music after all), with enough hints of the crowd to up the energy. Other Standouts: Too Long / Steam Machine, One More Time / Aerodynamic.