Monday, August 29, 2011

3-Sentence Reviews: Good New-ish Music

Pickin' Up the Pieces by Fitz and the Tantrums, which comes recommended courtesy of my dad, is much less indie than most things I listen to--not that there's anything wrong with that!  It's '70s R&B meets Broken Bells by way of Cee Lo Green and refreshingly well produced compared with many of the mainstays of the 2011 indie circuit.  Timelessly angry lyrics and creative, unconventional instrumentation combine to create an album that fans of a dozen different genres can agree on.

We've waited quite a long time for the follow-up to Among the Oak and Ash's self-titled album, and Devil Ship finally sailed this month.  On a whole, it's a little weaker than the self-titled debut, suffering from shaky production in a few spots and sorely missing Garrison Starr's harmonies.  But it still has its standout tracks ("Billy and the Good Girl," "Devil Ship"), and it's good to know that Josh Joplin's mission of preserving the Appalachian music tradition continues.

The rebirth of Paste Magazine as an electronic publication has been an unprecedented success, and one of many things it's done well has been to preserve its "Best of What's Next" issue.  Invoking comparisons to both Stars and Eisley, it made Kopecky Family Band seem like a can't-miss--and the music did not disappoint.  Strangely, The Disaster is at its worst when Kelsey Kopecky channels her inner Amy Millan ("Birds" halts the middle of the album like a speed bump), but the ambitious arrangements and excellent vocal performances on "God and Me" and "Red Devil" make Kopecky Family Band one of my favorite discoveries of 2011 so far.

I have Stephanie to thank for introducing me to Vespers, whose Tell Your Mama contains some darn fine indie folk.  A family-ish outfit reminiscent of Eisley, Vespers aren't as deep vocally or experienced musically, but that should improve over time for the young band.  Vespers are at their best when they make the most of their myriad guitar alternatives (banjo, ukelele, and mandolin at the very least) and when they're unabashedly bluegrassy about their indie folk with a Nashville flavor.

Another offering from Paste's "Best of What's Next," and one I was much more surprised that I liked, was The Bright Light Social Hour's self-titled album.  Paste promised me their music was for fans of Franz Ferdinand and the Killers (which I am, if a little distantly), and the comparison is apt if a little misleading.  Most of the album sounds like it could comprise the soundtrack to a sports video game or a slightly-more-musically-savvy-than-average fraternity, and it's a little unclear why half the songs are interspersed with Spanish non sequiturs, but it's at least a nice change of pace--and potentially much better than that.

Currently listening: "Love the Way You Walk Away," Blitzen Trapper

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