Okay this is ridiculous. The first eight months of 2011 were insane. We’ve seen the releases of new albums from top-tier bands like Radiohead, TV on the Radio, Bon Iver, Bright Eyes, Fleet Foxes, Panda Bear, tUnE-YarDs, Lykke Li, My Morning Jacket, The Decemberists, Arctic Monkeys, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and R.E.M.! Even The Strokes released a frigging album! Not bad for an entire year – but 2011 isn’t over yet, and the music just keeps churning out. With the impending release of the new Coldplay album, even more AAA bands have found time to get in on the act before the calendar turns over. The past week alone has shown what musical goodness remains in store for us, as many new albums have been dropped on the internet (legally) for a free preview.
Wilco, ‘The Whole Love’
Okay so I’m a huge Wilco fan, but not a fan at all of their last album (“Wilco: The Album”). So let me make this clear: I love this new one. For 24 hours over the weekend, Wilco put its new unreleased album online for all to hear. From the opening track, ‘Art of Almost’, you immediately recognize that Jeff Tweedy and the band are trying something new. Like ‘I Am Trying to Break Your Heart’ or ‘Spiders (Kidsmoke)’, its good to see Wilco branching out with different sounds, and makes for a great intro to The Whole Love. If you’ve ever seen them live, you know they enjoy a bit of jamming as much as the next group (which is great since they’re incredibly amazing musicians, Nels Cline and Tweedy should shred more often), and they aren’t afraid to drift into some great jams on this album. Wilco comes to Atlanta for two shows at the end of September, and the album officially drops September 27.
St. Vincent, ‘Strange Mercy’
I think St. Vincent is sort of polarizing. Weird at times, dark and haunting at other times, Annie Clark can be cool, badass, and beautiful when she wants. I personally love her previous record, 2009’s ‘Actor’, and was eagerly looking forward to a new release after hearing a couple of songs online. The new album is streaming free on NPR this week, and ‘Strange Mercy’ does not disappoint. The incredibly talented Clark tears through some of the most unique guitar riffs you’ll hear all year. Accompanied by her gorgeous voice and funky techno beats, this is one of the most intriguing (and best) albums you will hear this year. Go check it out online, and pick it up next week when it’s released. Also be sure to watch the wacky video for ‘Cruel’ while you’re at it.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, ‘Hysterical’
The third album from the odd-sounding Brooklyn band (their first in four years) is (1) shockingly good and (2) teasingly short. Maybe it took them four years to figure out how to stretch their sound beyond what we’ve heard before, but I am very impressed at what the new album manages to accomplish. CYHSY didn’t get lazy, they didn’t rest on the same old sound that made them popular, and they succeeded in exceeding my expectations on their comeback album. Nothing worse than waiting desperately for something new from one of your bands and they swing and miss. Welcome back, Clap Your Hands. Album is streaming free online now and releases September 20. Listen.
Also worth your time: The self-titled first album from Wild Flag, led by Sleater-Kinney/NPR critic Carrie Brownstein. Check it out on NPR for free, its good stuff. Also streaming free online is the new release from Blitzen Trapper, ‘American Goldwing’. Coming to Variety Playhouse on October 18, I’m very excited to finally see the Portland folk band in person. But hopefully they’ll prove me wrong about the new record, which failed to excite me at all. Honestly I wasn’t all that thrilled with their last album either. Hopefully they’re not one of my bands headed in the wrong direction. Give it a listen for free at Paste and prove me wrong yourself!
New music aplenty! And good lord it makes me happy.