Music-wise, it’s been a huge summer. Tons of high-profile indie releases (remember the time when that phrase would have been considered a contradiction?) and another ton of unexpected pleasant surprises have kept my ears happy and my wallet empty since May. Here’s what I’ve been listening to this summer (I’m defining “summer” as Appalachian’s summer vacation, not the actual season), with a few notes on each. Also, check out the player at the bottom, with one of the "Standouts" from each album. Enjoy!
The New Pornographers Together 7.5 (out of ten)- Great upbeat rock with a little class (most songs feature well-done string arrangements). Copious amounts of sunlight (read as: windows should be open, whether at home or in your car) recommended for maximum effect. Standouts: “Moves,” “Crash Years,” “We End Up Together”
The Hold Steady Heaven Is Whenever 6.5- Not the finest offering from the Twin Cities’ favorite bar band, but worth a listen for fans. If you’re not familiar with the Steady, do yourself a favor and check out their other albums first (I suggest Boys And Girls In America and Separation Sunday). Standouts: “Sweet Part of the City” “Weekenders,” “Slight Discomfort”
LCD Soundsystem This Is Happening- No score for this one. Not usually my style of music, I don’t feel comfortable rating it. However, for whatever reason, I keep coming back to certain songs on this album. If you enjoy electronic/dance music (and you’re not afraid of five-minute-plus songs), it’s worth a few spins. Standouts: “Dance Yrself Clean,” “All I Want” “I Can Change”
Broken Social Scene Forgiveness Rock Record 7.5- Worth it just for the redemptive title, the music is great as well. Big, soaring songs with plenty of tempo-changeups to keep things interesting and some killer solos abound. Standouts: “World Sick,” “Forced To Love” “Sentimental X’s”
The Black Keys Brothers 7.9- For Black Keys fans (such as myself) that enjoyed the branching out of 2008’s Attack and Release but missed the raw blues of the band’s earlier work, Brothers will be sure to please. Despite a plethora of muscle and soul, the Keys manage to remain lighthearted and seem to just have fun with this record (just look at that album cover). Standouts: “Next Girl,” “Tighten Up” “Sinister Kid”
The National High Violet 8.5- Kings of the slowburn, sultans of the late-night jam, The National return with another killer. Mature, calculated, and masterfully crafted, this is an extremely rewarding listen. Depressing, maybe, but in an almost triumphant way (that’s only a contradiction if you’ve never listened to these guys). Standouts: “Terrible Love” “Afraid of Everyone” “Runaway”
Gogol Bordello Trans-Continental Hustle 7.0- Here it is, my fascination with Eastern European music. Gogol Bordello have always been known (or not known, whatever) for wild ethnic parties of albums. With uber-producer Rick Ruben (no other name raises my hackles quite as much) at the helm, things are a little more controlled and calculated on the gypsy-punks’ latest. However, it’s still worth a spin simply to hear singer Eugene Hutz ramble shout in a mixture of wonderfully-broken English and Ukranian over a crazed violin-riff. Standouts: “Pala Tute,” “My Companjera” “In The Meantime In Pernambuco”
Band of Horses Infinite Arms 6.5- For whatever reason, this album just never clicked with me. I wanted it to, believe me. Perhaps it was just bland next to the other stellar releases of the summer, or maybe it’s just flat-out bland. It’s not horrible, just not as good as the band’s previous offerings. Standouts: “Compliments” “Laredo” “Northwest Apartment”
Sleigh Bells Treats 9.0- This album is scored high for two reasons. 1) It’s different. The elements are familiar (the crunk beats, the indie-sweet vocals, the chunky chords, the otherworldly synths), they’ve just never been mashed together in such a way before. 2) It’s an extremely well-done album. While many of the songs stand great on their own, listening to the whole thing through (cranked to the max, of course) is a seminal pleasure. Standouts: “Tell ‘Em” “Rill Rill” “Crown On The Ground"
Tokyo Police Club Champ 7.0- TPC seem to be known for second-rate indie music that usually collapses into emo-pop, but on Champ they seem to rise above the meager expectations and deliver something quite listenable. It’s not challenging music, but it’s fun and great for the summer. Standouts “Breakneck Speed” “Wait Up (Boots of Danger)” “Bambi”