Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Mix 2014

Halloween is by far my favorite holiday. There are no family obligations, you can celebrate pretty much anyway you want (including staying inside and watching movies), it's the one time of the year my fascination with the macabre isn't considered weird, and candy, candy, candy. To celebrate, here is an alternative mix of season appropriate songs. I avoided the completely obvious ones you'll hear at least 10 times today no matter what ("Monster Mash," "Werewolf of London," "Thriller"). Instead, I went with some classic hip hop (Geto Boys, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince), punk (Ramones, The Dead Milkmen), 80s and 90s favorites (Dinosaur Jr, Letters to Cleo), current favorites (Benjamin Booker, Sallie Ford), and, of course, a smidge of metal. It's longer than our normal mixes, but 31 is 13 backwards, and 2 hours is about as long as trick or treating lasts. Plus, I love Halloween. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

First Listen: New Releases for October 28

I really don't know what to make of this week:

Lagwagon - Hang: Our 90s-tastic release week begins with a new album from Lagwagon, their first in nearly a decade. My teen years had a ska phase, but I could never really embrace the punk side, and Lagwagon is firmly there. If you've been missing out, there might be a lot here for you to love, but for me, this wasn't quite it.

The Twilight Sad - Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave: An album I queued up because I thought they were a different band (probably the Twilight Singers), this was actually a pretty high quality dour indie rock record. The vocals are really distinctive and the songs memorable as they sort of lodged themselves into my brain. I will definitely seek out more of their stuff, but for now, this new album deserves a listen in a somewhat thin week.

Lily & Madeleine - Fumes: Lily & Madeleine are fairly prolific, with their third album they definitely expand their sound a little and the result is a pretty positive evolution. From the opening title track on, we end up with a really nice indie folk record that fits right in with groups like First Aid Kit. Definitely the release of the week, check this one out.

The Flaming Lips - With a Little Help From My Fwiends: This is a cover album of The Beatles's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It's borderline unlistenable, I don't know what to make of this or what to make of The Flaming Lips in general anymore. Maybe if you have interest in The Beatles, this might be a good curiosity piece, but wow...

Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2: The El-P and Killer Mike collaboration continues with a pretty solid rap album that, even though it's released traditionally, retains a madcap mixtape feel to the proceedings. This isn't a standard rap album, but it's not some sort of fly-by-night indie thing, either. I don't think I love it, and I don't even know if I like it, but it's an interesting piece of music in a week that needs it, and this one might grow on me.

Rancid - ...Honor is All We Know: Rancid, punk stalwarts, come out with a new album this week that stumbles a bit out of the gate but ends up feeling like a good Rancid album by the end. To think that Rancid used to be the band people who hated The Offspring's direction would turn to in high school blows my mind, and they've been around for a while and still know how to do it. It's not one of their best albums, but there are a lot of solid moments in the middle and end to give this one a spin.

The Coral - The Curse of Love: The Coral, currently on a hiatus, unearthed this "lost" 2006 album and released it this week, and one can kind of understand why it was lost. It feels rather directionless and plodding, with none of the joy that their early records started out with. Skip it.

The Ting Tings - Super Critical: The Ting Tings release their third album, their first since Sounds From Nowheresville a few years ago. The prior album was an uneven affair in comparison to their stellar debut, and the new album, while not as exciting, is still a step forward. Very danceable, a lot of good club-style tracks, and enough to make me want to come back and listen again. If you're a fan or like dance music, it's worth a shot.

HAERTS - HAERTS: The debut album from HAERTS is along the same lines of a lot of the indie dream pop that a lot of singers are doing as of late, and this is truly one of the better ones. If I have a complaint, it's that the album feels somewhat constrained from a production standpoint, but the solid songs (most notably "Call My Name") definitely overpower any nitpicking that could go on. Definitely worth a listen this week.

Also out this week:

* Live - The Turn

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Live Shows: Benjamin Booker and Blank Range, TT the Bear's Place, Cambridge, MA 10/22/14

My obsession with Benjamin Booker has been pretty well documented on this site. Having missed him coming through Boston twice in the spring (opening for Hurray for the Riff Raff and Courtney Barnett), but catching him live at the Newport Folk Festival this year, I jumped at the chance to see what I believe was his first headlining show in Boston. Plus, he was playing the 300 capacity TT the Bear's. I can't imagine he'll be playing small clubs like this one for much longer.

Live, Benjamin Booker is an absolute revelation. He's what Kurt Cobain could have been if he had followed his bluesy side further. His three piece band tore through his first and only album. His folk side came out when he put down his guitar for "Slow Coming." Accompanied by his drummer on ukulele and his bassist on fiddle, somehow the most mellow song of the night was one of the highlights of an otherwise fiery set. For an encore, he closed with an 8 minute noise jam of "Have You Seen My Son?" that included sitting on the speakers while falling back into the crowd. He left his guitar face down on the stage causing one of the most obnoxious feedback loops I've ever heard. Yes, the show will be legendary for anyone who saw it.

Blank Range opened the show with their Sonic Youth covering Big Star sound. Hailing from Nashville, they have a smidge of country in there as well. Add the frantic energy of the Ex Models live, and you have a fantastic pairing with Benjamin Booker. Their second song was a cover of Bob Seger's "Night Moves," and seemed to have been done without a hint of irony. I highly recommend you checking them out when you get a chance.

The majority of the crowd was insanely young, but it was a Wednesday night small club show. Luckily, anyone that plays Newport and has the blessing of NPR will always attract some of the gray haired crowd, so the Creepy Old Guy Factor was kept mostly in check.

For more info on Benjamin Booker, including tour dates you must go to before he's playing large theaters, head on over to his website. To check out Blank Range, go here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

First Listen: New Releases for October 22

A much lighter week in all regards.

Nude Beach - 77: A lot of acts are certainly throwbacks, but Nude Beach is really the best outright nostalgia-sounding act I've heard in some time. It feels like an indie/alt-rock album from 20 years ago and it's a great, albeit a little long, listen. Absolutely the release of the week, a solid listen.

Jukebox the Ghost - Jukebox the Ghost: I've always been a fan of Jukebox the Ghost even though I never actively seek them out, and the new album should really be a reminder to me that I should change that. It's a tight, well-paced album with a lot of good songs (including one of the better leadoff tracks I've heard lately), and I feel like the band simply doesn't get enough credit on a whole. Definitely worth a listen for this week.

Cold War Kids - Hold My Home: I, like most others, got turned onto Cold War Kids through the great "Hang Me Out to Dry." They haven't been successful at replicating that for me, but Hold My Home is the closest they've come so far. It's the first album of their's I've enjoyed from start to finish period, and it has some good, catchy songs that could end up being staples later. For a band that I was hoping to see some more out of, it's good to see them expanding their sound while still sounding like themselves. Give it a shot.

Thurston Moore - The Best Day: Ken is the resident Sonic Youth fan here, and when he thinks an album from one of their lead members is good but predictable, I feel comfortable saying the same. I didn't hate the album, but it's certainly a little droney and overlong at times. Not really a winner for me, but Sonic Youth fans may find things to like.

Scott Walker and Sunn0))) - Soused: Rarely does an album leave me speechless, but this was my first exposure to Scott Walker and... yeah. You know what you're getting if this is of any interest to you.

Bush - Man on the Run: Before the Nude Beach album, I would have probably said this was the release of the week, surprisingly enough. Bush has come a long way from Sixteen Stone, and have struck that balance that a lot of acts don't always seem to hit. I promise this is at least worth a run through for you, if only so that you can listen to this and have excitement for something that isn't the new Gwen Stefani instead.

Also out this week:

* Horse Feathers - As It Is With Us

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dom Flemons - "Bubblegoose" (Wyclef Jean cover)

We love covers here at If It's Too Loud..., and we love Dom Flemons. Typically, he goes way in the past of American music for covers, but he recently released a video of his band and himself covering Wyclef Jean's "Bubblegoose." Wyclef is somehow both the most overrated and underrated artist of the last 20 years, and this is a great take on his song. Dom Flemons' version strays away from the R&B of the original and gives it more of a hip-hop/folk twist that would have made the original a much better song. In the middle they cram the chorus of Outkast's "Ms. Jackson." Not really sure why since it seems forced and distracts from the rest of the song, but it's there.

For more info about Dom Flemons, including ordering his fantastic album from earlier this year, Prospect Hill, head on over to his website. He also has some dates coming up with Wesley Stace's Cabinet of Wonders and Old Crow Medicine Show. You can also follow Wyclef on Twitter to see what he's been up to.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sleater-Kinney - "Bury Our Friends"

As much as I loved Wild Flag's first and only album, when I heard they were breaking up, there was a hint of hope that it meant Sleater-Kinney might reunite. Then, all three members joined Pearl Jam on stage to cover "Rockin' In the Free World." On Friday, reports surfaced of a mystery 7" to be included with their new Start Together box set. Yesterday, it was confirmed that Sleater-Kinney is indeed reuniting, and they have a new album coming out that was secretly recorded. No Cities to Love is due out on 1/20/15 on Sub Pop, and yes, there is a tour.

You can get a download of "Bury Our Friends" for the cost of an email address at Sleater-Kinney's website. You can also check out their tour dates, which I couldn't be more excited for. For some reason, they were that band I never got out to see for no real reason, and I'll thankfully get another shot.

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper - "Girl Called Alex" (Kurt Vile cover)

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper is currently recording her second, the follow up to my #1 album of 2013, and to satiate our need for the new album, she just posted a cover of Kurt Vile's "Girl Called Alex." I'm personally not all that into Kurt Vile, but this cover makes me want to give him another listen. It's a beautifully trippy version that makes me want her second album all that more. It's a bedroom recording, which hearkens back to her very first recordings.

Besides the Kurt Vile cover, you'll want to check out her entire SoundCloud page, which also includes covers of Emmylou Harris and Cher. Oh, and "Girl Called Alice" is available as a free download.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Dead Milkmen - "The Sun Turns Our Patio Into a Lifeless Hell"

The Dead Milkmen have released a new video for their song "The Sun Turns Our Patio Into a Lifeless Hell." The song is inspired by an infomercial Rodney Anonymous saw depicting how awful your life can be without a patio awning. The video was inspired by old silent German expressionist films and features all the creepy baby doll heads you could possibly want. It's all the perfect blend of humor, trippy abstraction, punk, and humor that categorizes the best of The Dead Milkmen. 

You can watch the video below. If you happen to be in either Baltimore, MD or Lancaster, PA, you can see them next weekend at Metro Gallery or Chameleon Club respectively. And in case you haven't, go to their website for more info and order their album on Amazon (the cd format is currently on sale for $9.00!).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

First Listen: New Releases for October 14

Things are slower than last week, but that doesn't say too much. A lot of interesting releases this week:

Sallie Ford - Slap Back: Blog favorite Sallie Ford puts out her first solo album this week, and it's actually a lot more straightforward than I personally expected. The blues/soul stuff that we've gotten used to with her Sound Outside albums is muted somewhat in this album and replaced with a more straightforward rock attitude that has a lot of interesting wrinkles to it. On first listen, I like it but I expected something different. A lot of this, much like her last album, might be a grower, and I'm more than happy to give it an opportunity.

Winterpills - Echolalia: I knew I wanted to listen to this one when I saw it on the new release schedule, but I couldn't quite figure out why I remembered this band until I realized that their previous album was on constant rotation for me for quite a while. Echolalia is a covers album, and it wouldn't be immediately obvious because of the way they transformed the songs. Sometimes it works really well (like with "Time of No Reply"), other times they sound like Winterpills songs (which is a compliment), but the album on a whole is more interesting than truly great. Worth a listen as most cover albums are.

Erlend Øye - Legao: Of all the things I expected from the new solo album by Kings of Convenience/Whitest Boy Alive member Erlend Øye, a eggae-style outing was not high on the list. The album does feel very tropical, and while that's the point, I'm not sure I'm currently able to square the two. For what it is, it seems okay, but be aware that it might not be what you're expecting.

Kele - Trick: I've been a fan of Bloc Party since the beginning, and when lead singer Kele Okereke released his first solo album a few years back, it really failed to connect with me on a number of levels. I'm not sure why, but it just felt like a bit of a mish-mash of musical things that didn't fully click. Trick, in comparison, is a much more straightforward record of club-ready tunes that really works for me. I know he's been doing some DJing over the last few years, so perhaps this restored the focus, I'm not sure, but in terms of a solid, danceable album, this delivers. Definitely worth a listen.

Frazey Ford - Indian Ocean: Frazey Ford's second solo album continues along the same road that her debut solo album laid out, with some solid, quiet indie-style music. Her voice is so distinct that it's hard to not be immersed in what's put forward no matter how good the song is. Definitely one of those albums that takes the folk music tropes and expands on them in an interesting, accessible way.

Electric Six - Human Zoo: Here's the thing with Electric Six. I think there's a lot of room in the music marketplace for bands like this - bands that don't take themselves too seriously, who try to fill a niche interest. I just don't know what Electric Six are trying to accomplish anymore, and that the music hasn't been significantly engaging in some time now doesn't help, either. In a way, this is my least favorite listen in a while due to the context of their prior work, but I can't help but feel disappointed in where things have gone. Honestly, skip this unless you're a superfan.

We Were Promised Jetpacks - Unraveling: I thought We Were Promised Jetpacks had been around for a long time, but it turns out that this is only their third album. In terms of rock music, this isn't breaking any new ground, but that's okay, as it's a perfectly viable album from start to finish and works at what it sets out to do. Won't blow your socks off, but a decent album.

OK Go - Hungry Ghosts: My love of OK Go goes back quite a ways, from the TNFC/"The Unrequited Orchestra of Locomotion" days through the accidental viral era. The last couple albums have stretched what I've loved about them quite a bit, but the new album, which has electronic influences and Dave Fridmann all over it. It's not a bad album by any means, but the music almost seems secondary to the little cottage industry that OK Go has created for itself with the innovative videos and the sort of maker-style fanbase to go along with it. So the album, outside of "The Writing's On the Wall," might not really resonate for you, but you know you're still curious as to what's going to come next for them.

Stars - No One is Lost: The cover of this album depicts some teens in a roller rink, and the first song sounds exactly what you'd expect to hear there. That sort of pseudo-retro sound permeates throughout what is really a decent, but strange, Stars album. I remember the first time I heard "Elevator Love Letter," and this is very, very different from where they started out. Kudos to the growth, but I'm not really 100% sure what to make of this on a whole on first listen.

JD McPherson - The Warm Covers EP: This is a four track covers EP from JD McPherson, who has always worn his influences on his sleeve. This EP is a chance for him to really wear them proud, with some straightforward, faithful versions of classic songs you know and don't realize. It's a very quick hit, but worth a slot in your rotation for a bit.

The Melvins - Hold It In: I asked Ken whether he'd be covering this album (given his King Buzzo concert this past summer) or if I should listen for First Listen, he replied "You can cover it. That should be amusing." So I listened, and this was my first exposure to The Melvins proper, and...yeah, it's weird. I get a Dandy Warhols vibe from it from time to time, but I can understand why they appealed to the grunge generation and I can get why people like them. As for me, I'm not so sure.

Also out this week:

* An Americana Christmas

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Two Music Podcasts to Check Out

I've become very enamored with podcasts over the last couple years (I know I'm about 10 years behind the trend), and over the last few months I've been exposed to two great music podcasts that are both different than anything I've heard and have become fixtures in my podcast rotation.

Pitch is a podcast about music stories, sort of like the 99% Invisible (not a music podcast, but one you need to be listening to) of music. Only 9 episodes in, the stories range from karaoke experiences to learning how to play piano for a major Broadway production to whether a drummer missing a hand really found love. At typically under 15 minutes a pop, they're the perfect quick hits for the short drives, and I can truly say that none of the episodes have failed me yet.

Song Exploder is another short podcast with about 20 episodes under its belt. This podcast, instead of telling stories with music in the framework, actively deconstructs songs with the musicians who wrote and/or performed them in order to figure out how a certain sound was made, what caused a certain choice to happen, and so on. I started out only listening to the episodes about the songs I knew (which, at that point, were basically The Postal Service's "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight," Spoon's "Inside Out," and the theme to Bob's Burgers, but I've started going back and listening to the ones I didn't know and gaining a new appreciation for the songwriting process as well as songs I wouldn't have given a shot otherwise. This is a really fascinating one with a cool structure behind it.

Martyrs - 2014

When I heard Tee Jay, the drummer for Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys, had a side project described as "... early 90's melodic hardcore... blended with some shoegaze..." I knew I had to check Martyrs out. This is about as far from the folk/gypsy/punk/burlesque that defines the Army of Toys, and I'm thrilled to hear something so different come from a member of that band. The description the band uses is perfect, and it definitely has more of a At The Drive-In feel to it than Jawbreaker. Picture Dischord Records signing a shoegaze band. It's heavy and beautiful and just about perfect. The fact that it was recorded last month and is already out for free download is what I love about the current music scene.

I can't find any website or social media outlet for Martyrs, but they do have a Soundcloud where you can stream or download their debut for free.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tom Morello & Zack De La Rocha Both Have New Songs Out

Tom Morello at the 2012 Newport Folk Festival
First up is a new song from Tom Morello's Nightwatchman persona, which has seen him dabble more in the acoustic folk song realm of music. "Marching On Ferguson" is, of course, a protest song inspired by the death of Michael Brown and the protests that followed it. It's available free at Ferguson October, but donations are being accepted to assist protesters in paying legal bills associated with any arrests during the protests. Politics aside, the song is good, but not great. It's the closest The Nightwatchman has gotten to Rage Against the Machine yet. It's basically a blues song with Morello's signature riffs and solos from his time with Rage. If you've read this far, you probably need to check it out.

Run the Jewels (aka Killer Mike and El-P) have a second free album coming out soon, and they just released a new song for it. If you're releasing a free album, why not include Zach De La Rocha in a rare appearance? "Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)" is one of the best hip hop songs of the year. De La Rocha only appears on the final verse, and he's his usual brilliantly angry self. Run the Jewels is also one of the best hip hop collaborations out there, so you'll want to pick up their album as soon as it comes out. And, hey, it'll be free!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Monday Mix: Unexpected Duets

I love a good duet. It's no surprise that two of my favorite songs of all time (The Dears's "27: The Death of All Romance" and Hayes Carll & Cary Ann Hearst's "Someone Like You") are duets, so I figured this would be a good week to highlight some duets given the surprise of Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino singing on the new Weezer song "Go Away." With the exception of The Dears, I tried to keep the songs to surprising collaborations (like Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johannsen or Jack White and Alicia Keyes) or interesting combinations (Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris, Taylor Swift and Gary Lightbody). I also expect this to be the last time Taylor Swift makes one of these mixes.

With that said, enjoy!

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Dead Milkmen - Pretty Music For Pretty People

We're now two albums into the resurgence of The Dead Milkmen, and the band still hasn't slowed down. Most punk bands from the 80s and 90s started watering down their sound, becoming more and more mellow and generic. Happily, The Dead Milkmen still sound like The Dead Milkmen. It's almost like they didn't go away, they were just paused for a decade or so before coming back.

Somehow they still seem just as angry as ever. It could be because so many of the same issues they sang about 25 years ago are still relevant. A song like "Right Wing Pigeons" from 1985's Big Lizard in My Backyard still has some of the same themes as "Welcome to Undertown," 29 years later. They even still get to take shots at Ronald Reagan in "Ronald Reagan Killed the Black Dahlia."

It's not all politics that The Dead Milkmen rage against on their new album. "Pretty Music For Pretty People" criticizes today's pop (and rock) stars who don't seem capable or interested in making music that stands for anything besides being something for the pretty people to mindlessly enjoy. "The Great Boston Molasses Flood" remembers one of the more obscure but important historical events from last century and also name checks The Dresden Dolls. "Now I Wanna Hold Your Dog" might be the heaviest thing they've ever recorded. And it wouldn't be a true Dead Milkmen album without truly bizarre songs like "The Sun Turns Our Patio Into a Lifeless Hell."

For anyone worried Pretty Music For Pretty People will tarnish the legacy of The Dead Milkmen, don't be. This could have come out anytime during their entire first run. I can't wait to see what comes next.

For more information, and to order Pretty Music For Pretty People, head over to the band's website. They currently only have two tour dates coming up (10/25 Metro Gallery in Baltimore, MD and 10/26 at Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA) but have promised more, hopefully soon.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

First Listen: New Releases for October 7

A ridiculous amount of music came out this week, so let's not waste any time.

Flying Lotus - You're Dead!: This is my first exposure to Flying Lotus and his brand of electronic jazz/hip-hop. It's not an album I feel like I can give a fair shake to, as it's way outside my areas of knowledge and typical listening, but I will say that I was grooving at a number of points during my initial listen. It's worth tossing in your rotation just to see what the fuss is about.

O'Death - Out of Hands We Go: O'Death's third full length album continues to send them along the trajectory of this gothic-style alt-country that they do so well. Filled with a number of memorable songs and providing a bit of a unique atmosphere, this is an album that sounds unlike anything I've heard as of late, and really fits in well with a lot of what we tend to highlight here. Definitely worth a listen.

Vashti Bunyan - Heartleap: I remember when Vashti Bunyan's second album came out and how much of a surprise it was to many. A long-forgotten folk artist that came back into some sort of popularity with the rise of the indie folk movement, Heartleap is said to be her final album and continues along the same, meticulous, stark lines of her previous work. Essential if you enjoy folk music in any form, if only because of where she came from and who she has influenced.

Scars on 45 - Safety in Numbers: Scars on 45 had a debut album that I really loved. While it didn't forge much new ground, there's a place for the alt-pop rock in the canon, for sure, and Scars on 45 absolutely delivered. The follow-up album, with that in mind, is a massive disappointment, trading catchy hooks for what feels like the same tired radio retreads they did such a good job avoiding on their debut. A supreme step backwards for the group on a whole, you're better off skipping this.

Minnie Driver - Ask Me To Dance: Minnie Driver releases a new album of cover songs this week, her first album of music in quite some time. I actually liked her previous album and find her voice to be pleasant, as well as her take on many different songs (ranging from The Cure to Stevie Wonder) to be interesting. It's always a crapshoot when actors go into music (and vice-versa, for that matter), and Driver's music is inoffensive enough where it may not stir you up much, but I enjoyed this for what it was completely.

Minus the Bear - Lost Loves: I only recently got turned onto Minus the Bear, and was surprised that this post-punk-style indie rock album felt so uneven at points. It turns out that it's an album of extras from their first few albums, which explains a lot. The compilation is pretty solid without that information, and becomes all the more impressive knowing the details of what it represents. Minus the Bear probably deserves more attention than they've been getting as of late, so check this one out.

SBTRKT - Wonder Where We'll Land: SBTRKT (pronounced "subtract") is an electronic artist best known for his hip-hop remixes, and this album feels, in a lot of ways, like many of the electronic hip-hop albums of the electronica era back in the 1990s, with the rap elements being secondary to the electronic pieces. The guest list on this is impressive, and while it's a little longer than it needs to be and doesn't always work, it's a pretty solid achievement in and of itself, and worth a listen.

The Vaselines - V for Vaselines: After being dormant for something like 20 years, The Vaselines have now released two albums in a relatively quick succession. Sex With an X was awesome, this one is... not so much. It's a little more plodding at points, but when the songs feel like those classic Vaselines songs we've come to know and love, there's not much better out there. It's a step backward, but not a massive one.

Lewis and Leigh - Night Drives: This was a surprise release for me. Having been a fan of Alva Lewis in the past, this new EP from the London-based duo is, somewhat ironically, the purest form of Americana I've heard in some time. It's a solid, quick hit of four good songs that really just tease me into hoping there will be more coming from the two of them in the future. Highly recommended.

Childish Gambino - Kauai/STN MTN: Childish Gambino put out two pieces this week. I haven't listened to the STN MTN mixtape yet, although it's a free download off his website right now. As for Kauai, Ken found it to be boring but I found it to not be what I expected, but still having some good moments. It's clear that Glover is still trying to figure out the balance in his performing, and we all get to go along for the ride. His EPs and mixtapes have traditionally been the experimental grounds on these attempts, so, at the very least, he's left me interested in what comes next.

Johnny Marr - Playland: Who would have thought that my favorite things to come out of Johnny Marr would be his solo work. After The Messenger ended up impressing me more than I expected, I had forgotten how much I ended up liking it by the time Playland hit, and it turns out that it's more of the same quality pop rock coming from the former Smiths guitarist. In a time where Morrissey is really becoming a caricature of himself, it's interesting to see how Marr has, after some time with Modest Mouse and working on other projects, has translated it into some interesting rock music. Definitely worth a listen, but may be jarring to Smiths fans.

Zola Jesus - Taiga: I've spent a decent amount of time talking about the "dark" pop that we've seen, and Zola Jesus brings a more independent angle to that trend on her third, and arguably best, full-length. It's a solid album from start to finish, with equal parts accessible and challenging throughout. I'm not sure if she'll ever get the fame she deserves at this rate with how difficult some songs are in comparison to the stuff she's up against, but this is an album you need to give a shot.

Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn - Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn: One of the best banjo players going right now with one of my favorite Americana singer-songwriters? Sign me up. A long-overdue album, the two of them perform really well together and offer a mix of classic songs and some new takes. I first saw Bela Fleck close to 20 years ago when he toured with Dave Matthews Band, and it's great that his progressive-bluegrass-style play mixes so well with the more traditional stuff Washburn plays. Easily my favorite album of the week, and a must hear for fans of this blog, especially the opener, "Railroad."

Paloma Faith - Perfect Contradiction: Retro songstress Paloma Faith is back with another solid album, finally being released in the United States after a long delay and filled with songs that make you think they're takes on other things and yet still feel fresh and new. I enjoyed this for what it was, and I get that it won't be everyone's cup of tea (that the leadoff track feels like it's trying to be "Blurred Lines" was initally jarring, and that Pharrell Williams produced it is not a shock), but it's worth a shot in any regard.

Shakey Graves - And the War Came: Ken turned me onto this one and it came as a total and complete surprise how much I like it. A sort of stilted folk-type album, it has a lot of very strong moments throughout, especially the handful of tracks featuring Esme Patterson. In a crowded week, this isn't getting as much attention as I feel it should, but I recommend trying to find a place in your rotation for it.

Ex Hex - Rips: Finally, a full album from Mary Timony's (Helium, Wild Flag) new band. This feels like a clean punk album in many regards, and it's pretty much exactly what I hoped it would sound like and it works from start to finish. Truly, you're going to know if you're going to like it from the first moment, it's rock without any real pretense to it. Well done.

Allo Darlin' - We Come From the Same Place: Allo Darlin' is a band that is associated with musicians I love and sound like bands I adore, but I've never really been able to get into them fully. This new album seeks to change that a bit, as it's a very solid piece of work from start to finish, feeling very cohesive and sounding like it's all figured out. If it weren't for the Fleck/Washburn album, this would likely be my favorite of the week. If you like Belle and Sebastian, appreciate Darren Hayman's style, or miss the sort of twee pop of a decade ago, listen to this right away.

Philip Selway - Weather House: While Thom Yorke and Radiohead are Spotify-phobes, drummer Philip Selway apparently doesn't have that same problem, as Weather House is available for a listen. I've liked his solo stuff in the past, and this is no different, being a bit of an electronic Elbow-sounding affair. A pleasant palate cleanser for the busy week, in any regard.

Also out this week:

* Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright In the End (Ken covered this in depth yesterday.)
* The Dead Milkmen - Pretty Music for Pretty People
* Dinosaur Feathers - Control