New Album releases!

After saying something in an earlier post about how little music is released at this time of year, I’ve gone on to discover over a dozen new albums that I am really enjoying! So here’s a quick taste of some of those albums – I think it’s about time I did regular music recommendations again, yes?

This week I have three singer-songwriters who have all blown me away as well as a psychedelic band who you might half-know…not in that order though. As always all albums have clips of songs and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Pond – Man It Feels Like Space Again

The Aussie psychedelic rockers (who share members with Tame Impala, as their sound suggests) are back with another winner. Released in late January, this one taps more into the upbeat energy of their albums from a few years ago while also keeping a more accessible sound (similar to TI in that respect) so that you don’t quite feel like you’re losing your mind while listening. Almost, but not quite. As for this weird video….erm…watch at your own risk? (It’s mostly fun)

Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass

I stumbled across this stunning American singer-songwriter mostly by chance last week as she released her debut, self titled album around the world, but to be honest I was likely to have discovered her eventually anyway. With a soulful voice and slightly jazzy instrumentation she makes music that is at once sweet and melancholy and is easily some of the most intelligent pop music I have heard in a long time. For me, this is an instant classic. About 30 seconds into this song I found myself just smiling at how good it is. The clip is very thought provoking too:

Andy Shauf – The Bearer Of Bad News

Okay, this is new-ish. It was actually released a couple of years ago, but from what I can gather only in Canada from where this songwriter comes. Which is strange for an album he spent four years on, when you think about it. But finally he has released it in America and around the world as of this week – thank goodness for that. He himself cites the likes of Wilco, Elliot Smith and Neil Young as his influences although he has also been favourably compared to Nick Drake, but while his music is mostly folk there are elements of pop and other genres lurking beneath the surface, plus some very lush instrumentation as the songs go on.

Robin Bacior – Water Dreams

A haunting album of melancholy songs that are hard to place into any one genre, this American songwriter has captivated me since this release a couple of weeks ago. Her voice is powerful and yet gentle, reminding me vaguely of Dolores O’Riordan (singer from The Cranberries), while the music is very evocative of snow capped mountains, glaciers and, as the title suggests, the dark depths of the oceans. This is already a favourite album of this year so far – give it a listen and see why!

What have you been listening to lately?

My Top 10 Albums of 2012

This has been an amazing year for music, so deciding on a top 10 albums list has been verging on the impossible. My first short-list consisted of 48 albums, and this was then short-listed down to 23 before deciding on the final 10.

With each one I’ll briefly describe the album, my reasons for choosing it, and will also include clips of my favourite songs. Enjoy!

The Late Blue10. The Late Blue by Gypsy & The Cat

Gypsy & The Cat are a duo from Melbourne, Australia, who debuted in 2010 with a synth-pop album of sorts titled Gilgamesh, which proved a hit both with the alternative and popular crowds. This second offering, while retaining the general dreamy feel of their first album, is much more psychedelic in sound and influence, and includes less synth, more real instrumentation, and a lot more experimentation. As far as I’m concerned though, they pulled it off quite well, and I think this album absolutely deserves to be on this list.

Kisses On The Bottom by Paul McCartney9. Kisses On The Bottom by Paul McCartney

I’ll admit it – I really like Paul McCartney’s music, and I think some of the best material of his career has appeared in the last decade or so. With this album, he covers some of his favourite songs from his childhood, mostly from the first half of last century, and many of these songs aren’t necessarily well known songs but ones which have a special meaning for McCartney himself. The album is a beautiful easy listening album, this ex-Beatle asserting himself as a successful crooner. It also features two original songs, including My Valentine, which was released as a single.

Something by Chairlift8. Something by Chairlift

Chairlift are another indie band with that electro-pop feel to them. This is their first album since one of their founding members left, but to my ears this album sounds much sharper and focused than their earlier work, being both catchy but also quite layered and clever, and I listened to this a lot at the start of this year. If you listen to the song below that I’ve included, make sure you listen to the whole song – one of my favourite moments on the whole album is towards the end of this song (about three or four minutes in if I remember correctly).

Rattle Them Bones7. Rattle Them Bones by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy are among several bands who were part of the big band and swing revival of the 90s, and they have managed to remain successful, innovative and relevant ever since. This, their latest offering, is one of their most energetic albums to date, with a mixture of covers from prohibition era America through various swing sounds to relatively modern ground, as well as half a dozen songs penned by talented frontman Scotty Morris. Even if you don’t listen to this style of music, you’ll struggle not to tap your toes to this brilliant album that shows a unique band at their creative peak.

All The Wars6. All The Wars by The Pineapple Thief

After spending a decade or so playing around with prog rock, The Pineapple Thief have more recently started to branch out toward different sounds which has resulted in increased success for the band in both album sales and touring. Their latest album retains the intelligent song writing from their earlier career, while cutting a fine balance between hard hitting heavy rock songs and beautifully layered alternative rock. This album shows a band who is growing, and is clearly destined for greater things – a band to watch, in other words.

Beard Wives Denim5. Beard, Wives, Denim by Pond

Psychedelic rock has been making a comeback in recent years, owing in particular to the success of Tame Impala, a band who shares several members with Pond. This album, Pond’s fourth, is by far one of the best and most fun psychedelic rock albums in years. While many bands aiming for this sound write slow, trippy songs, this album is utterly bursting with energy, with songs taking influences from 60s and 70s rock, but still retaining an appealing modern sound and a great sense of humour (typical Aussies). If you want a rock album to actually rock out to, go no further than this!

Leave Your Soul To Science4. Leave Your Soul To Science by Something For Kate

Something For Kate are a three piece alternative rock band from Melbourne, Australia, and have had quite a large following in Australia for the last decade and a half. After taking a break while frontman Paul Dempsey released his stunning solo album Everything Is True, they have returned with this, their sixth album, with a new energy and approach. The album is daring and varied in musical direction, being hard to pin down to any one style, the lyrics are poetic and philosophical though also humorous, and the song writing is absolutely first class. This album was a reminder of why Something For Kate has been a favourite band of mine for so many years.

Rhythm and Repose3. Rhythm & Repose by Glen Hansard

Glen Hansard is no newcomer to the music world, having been frontman for much loved Irish band The Frames, star of award winning film Once, and one half of the duo The Swell Season. However, on this, his first solo album, we hear a very different Hansard. This is the quietest material he has ever written, and while some critics have viewed this negatively, I think they are simply disappointed that it isn’t as loud as his older music. But for me, the intimate intensity of his singing, the restrained and gentle guitar playing, and the haunting melancholy that lingers throughout the record all contributes to what is quite a good album. Don’t judge this on your first listen, it takes several plays before you can fully appreciate the subtle brilliance at work here.

Rufus-Wainwright-Out-of-the-Game-600x6002. Out Of The Game by Rufus Wainwright

After the melancholy and intimate sound of Rufus Wainwright’s previous album (which featured only vocals and piano), he wanted to return to a more upbeat pop music sound on this, his seventh album. And that is exactly what he does, but not without keeping that incredible song writing, big instrumentation and simply huge voice of his. Though the pop styled songs that fill most of the album are fun, my favourite three songs are the last three, and are probably the most serious too, but these last three songs are among the most beautiful Wainwright has ever written. This album ranks among the best work of a man who has already established himself as a musical genius.

Storm Corrosion1. Storm Corrosion by Storm Corrosion

I think when I first finished listening to this album the whole way through, halfway through the year, I knew there and then that this was my favourite album of the year. A collaboration between English prog rock genius Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, a solo artist, and various other bands), and Swedish prog metal artist Mikael Åkerfeldt from the band Opeth, this album interestingly sounds like nothing either have done before. It’s progressive alright, but it’s so quiet it barely contains drums for the majority of the six track album. But the songs are ambient, orchestral, haunting, even disturbing in places, yet also beautiful and intense. It is hard to describe this album, but it is one of the most ambitious and brilliant albums I have heard in a long time, and I have no hesitation in declaring it my favourite album of 2012.

This was truly a tough Top 10 to decide, and what astounds me are the artists I cut, as many are among my favourites – Martha Wainwright, Ben Folds Five, Dave Matthews Band, Regina Spektor, Band of Horses, Metric, Serj Tankian…there were so many who just didn’t quite make the final group. But it is what it is, and for me I feel I have chosen ten albums that left the biggest mark on me this year.

What were your favourite albums of 2012? Do you think it was a good year for music as well?

30 Day Music Challenge Day 5: A band/artist you’d recommend to someone with similar tastes in music

To recommend a band or artist to someone with similar tastes in music is both more fun but in some ways more challenging than advising a person with radically different tastes, because while it’s much more likely that they will enjoy whatever you do suggest, chances are they have already heard it, as well.

And so when thinking of how to answer this topic, I have been trying to think of an awesome band under (or vaguely under) the rock genre, who haven’t been heard by many of my readers. Luckily, being an Australian blogger with a fair majority of my readers from elsewhere in the world, that gives me quite a lot of options, and despite the protests of a small number of fellow Aussies, I personally think we have a pretty awesome rock music scene over here.

The band I am going to recommend is an Aussie band from Perth known as Pond. A psychedelic rock band, they feature an ever changing line-up with several core members who remain, including sharing three members with the band Tame Impala, another psychedelic rock band. This year they released their album Beard, Wives, Denim to critical acclaim, and have taken the touring for the album beyond our local shores to the United States, which is exciting for any musical act from this little island down in this corner of the world.

For a taste of this awesome band, check out the song below, entitled Fantastic Explosion of Time: