Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Monday Mix on a Tuesday: Best of September

A day late, but not a track short, this month's best music features my favorite release of the month from The Red Headed Indian as well as tracks from the new Alt-J, Ryan Adams, and more. Check it out!

Quarterly Report: Even More Albums We Missed So Far

As releases are slow to hit Spotify, or if we just miss an album here and there, it's always fun to take a look back at what we missed. Here are some from the last few months:

Self - Super Fake Nice: Of the bands that sort of drifted off and that I didn't expect to hear from again, Self might have topped the list. This seven song, super short EP sounds like Self, which is, at least to start, exactly what I'd want. While songs like "Hey, Hipster" are a little grating, it's more than made up for with "Runaway" and "Splitting Atoms," and, well, the rest of the EP. Here's to hoping we have more Self music to look forward to.

Wussy - Attica: Wussy sounds like that classic 1990s alt rock band you loved. Yeah, you know - that one. Attica is their fifth release and it straddles that line of polish and more indie sensibility very well. The louder songs, on a whole, are better than the quieter ones, but this album has a lot of solid moments behind it. Worth a listen.

Mirel Wagner - When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day: There are any number of people doing the dark, stark folk thing, so it's probably pretty difficult to break through the noise. Mirel Wagner, in signing with Sub Pop, certainly tries, and while there are some standouts in this album, it ultimately doesn't sit at the heights of the opening track, "1, 2, 3, 4." I can see pulling this out when I need this specific mood, but beyond that, I simply wanted more.

L. C. Cooke - The Complete SAR Records Recordings: There's an alternate universe out there where soul/R&B singer Sam Cooke is unknown and his brother, L. C., is the famous one. The Complete SAR Records Recordings is an adventure of sorts into that universe, where we get L. C.'s takes on some songs that were set to be released 50 years ago but were ultimately shelved following Sam's death. It's a really solid album - you can hear a lot of Sam in L. C.'s voice - and it is enjoyable both as a collection of good songs and as a question about what could have been. Definitely worth a listen.

Allison Weiss - Remember When: Allison Weiss, who released one of my favorite albums of last year, returns with an EP that continues the strong songwriting and performing that her album from last year demonstrated. A couple strong songs, a solid cover of Robyn's "Call Your Girlfriend," and you end up with a good EP that sets the table for what comes next. A great listen.

Wunder Wunder - Everything Infinite: Wunder Wunder's sound reminds me a lot of Temples from a while back - the sound is a true throwback with a lot of 1970s psych rock peppered with some modern flair. Kicking right off with the title track, the album pretty much keeps going full-steam ahead the rest of the way. Very much a summer album in many regards, and I like it more and more with every listen. Definitely recommended.

Movement - Movement: There isn't enough electronic sexy jazzy/soul music out there, and I'm glad Movement is here to fill that gap. It is an awkward EP in some respects, but extremely compelling regardless, a quick hit of six songs that straddle multiple genres seemingly without much effort. I'm really interested to hear what a full length from them might sound like. Check this one out.

Look Again To The Wind: Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears Revisited: With the lineup on this tribute album including The Milk Carton Kids, Emmylou Harris, and Gillian Welch, I really wanted to love this compilation. Instead, it appears that everyone opted to indulge their super rootsy side and the album instead feels a little more like a drag than a tribute. There's certainly some things to like here, but I confess to really wishing that this was a lot shorter as I listened. Not sure I can recommend.

Cassie Ramone - The Time Has Come: Cassie Ramone, former singer of Vivian Girls, releases her first album, a short, lo-fi, eight song affair that really only sounds like Vivian Girls in terms of production value and, perhaps more damningly, provides little incentive to really want to stick with it. I really didn't care much for wht's going on here, but fans of lo-fi and/or shoegazey stuff, or hardcore Vivian Girls fans, might find something here to like.

King Buzzo - This Machine Kills Artists: As I have no frame of reference for The Melvins, I'm in no spot to review this on any real merits. Ken saw King Buzzo on his solo tour, so you might want to refer to that as a starting point.

SZA - Z: SZA's release Z is very chameleonlike in many ways. Perhaps marketed as an R&B album, it has a bit of an electro/dance flavor, it features a number of popular rappers, and it's, overall, a pretty solid release even if it's difficult to pigeonhole. While I know it won't appeal to everyone, it might have parts you'll love. At the very least, "Julia" is a strong contender to be a favorite song of the year for me.

Beck Song Reader: A couple years ago, Beck released an album without recording it, instead offering the sheet music up as a way to allow people to interpret and hear the songs their own way. This compilation has a number of artists taking on those songs, often in their own style. While I'd honestly rather hear Beck's versions, there are some winners in here to go along with some efforts that are really hit or miss. Worth listening, I guess, but I wouldn't necessarily assume you're missing much.

Nickel Creek - A Dotted Line: This album took forever to get on Spotify, but it was truly worth the wait. Their first album in a long time, the members have clearly brought back a lot of what they've picked up during their hiatus and brought it to the table. While "21st of May" and "Destination" are obvious winners, a shoutout has to go to "Hayloft," which is a pretty great, rollicking number in its own right. Glad this finally ended up on Spotify.

Squarepusher xZMachines - Music for Robots: This is an EP of an experiment with of Squarepusher and some robots he had perform his music. It sounds like The Bad Plus on acid, which I suppose might be the point, and it's an interesting listen although it might not be what I'd call an enjoyable one. It's absolutely worth a listen in any regard, but this is one that you need to know the idea behind before going in.

The Color and Sound - Peace of Mind: Boston-based band The Color and Sound came out with a great new EP that has a ton of solid moments going for it. I feel like they're a bit of a mix between Of Mice and Men and Freelance Whales, and it works. You'll know if you like it within the first few seconds of "Cigarettes," and I think we're going to see great things for this band in the future. Highly recommended.

Front Country - Sake of the Sound: I didn't realize how much I was looking for a new, traditional-sounding roots/bluegrass record until Ken sent me Front Country's album. It's not forging new ground, but it really deserves to be in the same conversation as many of the modern, traditional artists out there right now. Another band that deserves a wide audience, give this one a listen.

Ought - More Than Any Other Day: If you're anything like me, you have an idea in your head as to what post-punk sounds like, and Ought fills that role very nicely. It's a good, somewhat complicated album that has survived multiple listens for me while I'm still trying to figure it out. That's usually a good sign, so it's worth giving this one a shot.

Shovels and Rope - Swimmin' Time: A confession: I've never loved Shovels and Rope in part because I've felt like it's kept Cary Ann Hearst from doing the solo stuff I love so much. With that out there, the new Shovels and Rope album is a really good time from start to finish. Some great rootsy rock, a number of really catchy songs (I love "Coping Mechanism" in particular), and it's easily a favorite of recent times. Don't be dumb like me.

Eno and Hyde - High Life/Someday World: Brian Eno and Karl Hyde (from Underworld) collaborated on two different albums this year, and they're both pretty solid from a musical standpoint. From this perspective, the album doesn't really sound like what I'd expect from either Eno or Hyde, but that expectation provided me with some fresh ears for both listens. It's a solid set of releases, but if you're looking for better electronic stuff, we've had a few good weeks recently.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ha the Unclear - Bacterium, Look At Your Motor Go

Hailing from New Zealand, Ha the Unclear have one of the more unique releases of the year. It's a combination of quirky indie pop with classic, vintage 60s California pop. It will probably draw a ton of comparisons with Alt-J, but to me it sounds more like a mix of Arctic Monkeys and The Kinks.

The standout track is the first single, "Growing Mould." It's universal theme of discovering that you've been broken up with without an explanation, and the ensuing one sided conversation as you try to figure it out is paired with one of the catchiest choruses of the year. 

"Secret Lives of Furniture" is the type of song that could become the surprise hit of next summer. It features a killer bass line and a tempo that you keep waiting to explode, with a chorus that is nearly hypnotic. We'll spend the entire winter listening, and get then hear it everywhere next year.

Bacterium, Look At Your Motor Go is out on September 30. You can check out their website here, and listen to "85" below.

Get Free Music From The Red-Headed Indian and Dom Flemons

Here at If It's Too Loud..., we love free music, especially when it's something we've recently raved about. Which is why we were thrilled to discover 2 of our recent favorites for free (or at least partially for free) on Noisetrade. Just last week, Jeff was gushing about Honey, the debut EP from The Red-Headed Indian. Turns out, you can download the entire EP for free right now over at Noisetrade!

Another album Jeff recently loved was Prospect Hill, the solo debut from Dom Flemons. He referred to it as "... one of the better folk records [he's] heard in a while." Right now you can download 6 of the album's tracks on Noisetrade.

Of course, if you're downloading their music for free, you should at least check out their websites for more info, including tour dates. You can find The Red-Headed Indian here and Dom Flemons here. These might be the best free music you get all year.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Freebie: Lucius - Lucius Get Noisey

Currently over at Noisetrade is a short EP of live songs from blog favorite Lucius titled Lucius Get Noisey. The live version of "Turn it Around" is great as well as the song they did for the Radiolab podcast.

Check it out!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

First Listen: New Releases for September 24

A pretty busy new release week, all things considered. Lots of interesting stuff, so let's dive in.

Future Sound of London - Environment Five: A common theme with the reviews this week will be the expectations that a lot of the artists provide. For example, with FSOL, I've come to expect some pretty good electronic stuff, often understated but uniquely FSOL (and especially with their Environment series). This album slots right in with what I was hoping to hear, and works for me on a whole. Significant fans might quibble with some of it or still wish it was closer to a lot of what they were doing two decades ago, but I really enjoyed this and those who like electronic music and need a break from the new Aphex Twin would be wise to check this out.

Mr Twin Sister - Mr Twin Sister: Formerly simply Twin Sister, I expected something a lot different than the dreamy indie pop we got from this. It's an interesting listen, but I'm still on the fence as to whether it's a good one. Perhaps more time with leaving my expectations at the door could help, but this failed to grab me on first listen.

Marketa Irglova - Muna: Marketa Irglova, the girl from Once and one half of The Swell Season, has had a rocky solo track record for me. I've never quite felt that she's achieved what I hoped to hear given her work on Once, but Muna is a pleasant surprise as it sounds like she's finally hit what I wanted to hear. A truly gorgeous folk-style record with a lot of sweeping musical choices along the way, this is a really high quality album that I hope doesn't fall through the cracks in what's been a pretty good year so far. Highly, highly recommended.

Lights - Little Machines: Lights keeps getting better. Her first album was solid, but her second, Siberia, was really solid. A lot of those songs still get stuck in my head years later. Little Machines is the latest release and continues her trajectory into a more pop-oriented electronic sound with songs like "Up We Go" just lodging themselves into my ear and not getting back out. A really great album for fans of the electro-pop genre, really something I loved.

Perfume Genius - Too Bright: Perfume Genius is one of those indie buzz artists that I never 100% seem to get into. This is a star-studded, sparse affair with some beautiful stuff happening, but none of it is really grabbing me on first listen. It's going to need a few more listens for me, but, like the Mr Twin Sister record, this isn't what I was necessarily expecting.

Aphex Twin - Syro: Release of the week for me is Aphex Twin's first release (well, first as Aphex Twin) in 13 years, Syro. Stereogum offered a track from it last week, and I recall comparing it to a warm blanket of sorts, a weird analogy for an artist that seems to exist to circumvent expectation and prefer a difficult listening experience. No, Syro, like pretty much anything since I Care Because You Do, is not straightforward in almost any way shape or form, and that means that it will inevitably turn off most listeners. Those, however, who find his type of music appealing will be very happy with this latest release. It feels out of time in a sense, as it sounds unlike anything coming out right now as well as unlike anything that came out in 2001 when we got Druqks. I personally love the album as an Aphex Twin fan, so take that as you will. It's my favorite release of the week, and is worth a few minutes at least.

Leonard Cohen - Popular Problems: One of two people in their 80s featured on the blog this week, Leonard Cohen's Popular Problems is a hard album to review or describe, as it's got some spoken word bits, got some sung bits, and is...well, it's an interesting listen. It's nice to know he still has it, but I still have the nagging feeling that I like Cohen more as a songwriter than a performer, and that might shade things a bit. It's worth listening because, hey, it's Leonard Cohen, but temper your expectations.

Imelda May - Tribal: It was roughly 15 seconds into the awesome opening song, "Tribal," that I realized that I thought Imelda May was someone else entirely. I still don't know who I've confused her with, but I'm glad I did because I wouldn't have discovered this retro-sounding songstress otherwise. The album is a throwback in all the good ways, moving at a brisk pace from start to finish and sounding like an old rockabilly record in the process. Definitely worth a listen if you're someone reading this blog.

Julian Casablancas and The Voidz - Tyranny: Julian Casablancas of The Strokes with a different band making a truly strange album that defies description and is completely out of left field in every way simply doesn't work at all. This is very avant-garde in some respects, and I really didn't like it at all. Highly recommend skipping this one.

Tweedy - Sukirae: Tweedy, the project of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer, well, it's okay. It doesn't feel like a Wilco record (and I haven't really enjoyed Wilco in some time), and it does feel like a pretty standard folk rock album, but it feels almost like dad rock in a sense, and I don't really know. It's an album that a lot of people will like, and fans of Wilco or Jeff Tweedy would love, but it's not working for me on first listen at all.

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga - Cheek to Cheek: Tony Bennett is 88 years old, and you'd never know it. Lady Gaga is in her 20s and has left her out-there pretenses at the door for an album of jazzy vocal standards that really works for what it is. The two clearly work well together, Bennett still has a great voice at his age, and the only negative about this is the truly scary photo they use on the album cover. There's always going to be a time where you'll need an album like this, and this is a good one to throw into that rotation, really. Pretty well done.

The Red-Headed Indian - Honey: The final release this week is from newcomer The Red-Headed Indian, who offers something sort of soul, sort of folk, but otherwise completely brilliant from start to finish. It caught me by complete surprise, as these debut EPs can often be lacking in the production or songwriting area, but this just brings it. There's not a bad song on the EP, and the only downside is that it's only 6 songs long. This gives me the same feeling that Lady Lamb the Beekeeper's album from last year did, and I can't wait to see what we're going to get next. Highly, highly recommended.

Also out this week:

* Laetitia Sadier - Something Shines
* Gary Clark Jr. - Gary Clark Jr. Live

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Dead Milkmen - "Make It Witchy"

The Dead Milkmen have released a 2nd song of their forthcoming (and fantastic) album Pretty Music For Pretty People. "Make It Witchy" is a synth-heavy punk song that leans very heavily on Rodney Anonymous' trademark snarl. It sounds like a lost song from the Bucky Fellini sessions. You can listen to it below, and while you're at it you can preorder Pretty Music For Pretty People at Amazon, and check out the Dead Milkmen's official website.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

First Listen: New Releases for September 16

A bit of stuff came out in pre-release this week, surprisingly. Here's some highlights!

U2 - Songs of Innocence: One comment I read said that this U2 album is the best they've done in years. Another, in a comment about Apple putting out a program allowing users to remove the album from iTunes, said that Songs of Innocence is "so terrible it should be considered malware." As someone who legitimately thinks U2's best album is All That You Can't Leave Behind, this album is... somewhere in the middle. It's a solid album from a band that's been around longer than I have, but I'm not sure if it's really anything world-shattering outside of the distribution method that got it into the hands of possibly hundreds of millions. Kudos to U2 for the marketing ploy, not so much sold on the end result, though. As someone who isn't a U2 guy, though, I may not be the best judge.

Megan Washington - There There: At some point in the last few weeks, some music blog put up "My Heart is a Wheel" from this album and I really liked it. It's sort of an off-center pop song, and it doesn't always take much for me to enjoy that. When this album popped up on Spotify early, I was excited, and it largely met my needs. It's got some great moments, a number of solid songs, and a somewhat retro feel in many regards. It does suffer from the current pop mindset where the album needs to be about 10-15 minutes shorter, but beyond that flaw, it's definitely worth a listen.

Alt-J - This Is All Yours: An Awesome Wave was my favorite album of 2012 by a longshot, and I'e been eagerly awaiting this follow-up since it was announced. It's a very different album than the debut, with a lot more reliance on instrumental bits than fully-formed songs, but this means that it's more of a mood piece than anything else. Yes, "Every Other Freckle" and "Hunger of the Pine" are great, awesome songs, but if you're expecting a darkish singalong like the debut album, you might be disappointed. For me? I really loved this on first listen, and I'm looking forward to spending a lot more time with it.

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour - Out of Frequency: Most only know Asteroids Galaxy Tour from their Apple commercial seven or so years ago. They're actually a pretty great band, all things considered, and while the latest album lacks that song like "Around the Bend" or "Heart Attack" that grabs you immediately, there are still a lot of solid moments throughout. We'll see if this has staying power, but I fear it's not going to be the breakout effort I was hoping for as well.

This Will Destroy You - Another Language: Upon realizing that I'm not actually against instrumental rock music after really enjoying Mogwai's latest, I decided to give this a shot. It's enjoyable enough, more a soundscape than anything else (and a loud one at that), and fans of more instrumental, harder rock music will find plenty to enjoy here on a whole, I think.

James - La Petite Mort: Karoake mainstays James released a new album in the US this week. Honestly, it has some catchy moments, but feels woefully overproduced and terribly dated, which might be expected from a band that hasn't charted in the States in close to 20 years. A tough one, and I don't know what I expected, to be honest.

My Brightest Diamond - This Is My Hand: I've tried mightily to get into My Brightest Diamond ever since the lead singer teamed with The Decemberists back whenever, and it's never really clicked with me until this album. I can't tell you for sure whether this is actually much different than their other fare, but it's a really great indie rock record with some interesting parts to it. The album feels more straightforward than I remember, so perhaps longtime listeners will expect something different, but for me, this is working so far. Definitely worth a listen if you're looking to branch out a bit.

Mike Doughty - Stellar Motel: If the question "what if Mike Doughty of Soul Coughing did a hip hop album" ever crossed your mind, Stellar Motel will be your answer. This is a really fascinating album on a number of fronts, although I did spend a lot of time saying "man, what?" to myself with some of the songs. This might be a grower, so I'm going to have to give this some more time before throwing in the towel, but this one is absolutely a must hear.

Dead Man's Town: A Tribute to Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A.: A lot of Ken and I's favorite roots/alt-country artists do their own takes of tracks from Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA. I'm not a Springsteen guy, being too young and not being from New Jersey, and so there's not a lot of context here I'm getting. The songs I know have interesting versions, the songs I don't seem pleasant enough, but I can't say this did a ton for me outside of that. Springsteen fans might find more to it.

Allah-Lahs - Worship the Sun: Allah-Lah's, so I read, are four surfer guys who used to or still work at the famed Amoeba Records in California. It is the most retro album that ever retroed in a lot of respects, and if you're into that sort of psych rock that seems to always be on the cusp of a comeback, this album is going to be your new favorite. As for me, I enjoyed the Temples album from earlier this year more, so your mileage may ultimately vary.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Dead Milkmen - "Pretty Music For Pretty People"

Next month there's a new album from the Dead Milkmen coming out, and they just released the first song from it, the title track "Pretty Music For Pretty People." It's a typical rambling happy sounding upbeat punk song with angry, evil lyrics. In other words, it's the best type of Dead Milkmen song. It's a diatribe against the fluffy, meaningless popular music that means absolutely nothing that wins awards. The type of music that is more about how pretty the musician is than anything meaningful, and is meant to be enjoyed for being... well, pretty. It's more bitter and angry than almost anything so-called punks in their 20s have come out with for years.

Pretty Music For Pretty People is due to come out on 10/7. You can pre-order it now on Amazon. You can also check out their website for more info and tour dates. I'm sure we'll be all over any Dead Milkmen news as soon as it becomes available.

Monday Mix: The Two Man Gentlemen Band

After months of waiting, the latest offering from The Two Man Gentlemen Band landed on Spotify recently. With their show in Cambridge coming up, and the band being a longtime blog favorite, I figured this week would be a good place to do a quick introductory piece.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

First Listen: New Releases for September 9

I hope you like indie rock, because there's a lot of indie rock out this week.

Karen O - Crush Songs: Karen O essentially branches out solo to share what sound like basement tapes of song fragments. While "Singalong" is close to a complete piece, this is really not an interesting record unless you're really into Karen O and/or The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Interpol - El Pintor: Interpol fell off my radar somewhere around a decade ago. Nothing significantly against them, it's more that they didn't feel like anything new or fresh was coming, and, frankly, I thought Editors started doing Interpol better. So El Pintor is being described by some as a return to form, and, well, I can at least say that I'm enjoying this particular Interpol record more than the previous ones I've listened to. It feels dark and mysterious in ways their first couple albums did, but, at least on first listen, it lacks that killer track like "Obstacle 1" or "Evil." It's worth a listen, and I'll give it another shot for sure.

Ryan Adams - Ryan Adams: The often-prolific Ryan Adams has a new album out weeks after releasing an EP of sorts, and I will preface this by saying that I really liked my first exposure to this album. Ryan Adams has really grown as a performer and songwriter, and it shows here. If there's a downside, it's almost as if Ryan Adams is morphing into a sort of combination Mark Knopfler/Tom Petty as he gets older, and it's just a little jarring to hear from time to time. This album, though, has a lot of potential to have some staying power, so it's worth a listen to see where he's taking his roots-tinged rock this go 'round.

Avi Buffalo - At Best Cuckold: Avi Buffalo made a bit of a splash with their debut album 4 years ago, although "What's It In For" was really the standout track with a lot of extras. With the lead singer/songwriter being only 19, it explains a lot about the tone and content of the album on a whole, and thus the progression into this album, which is a giant step ahead for the band. The songs feel more complete, the album more cohesive, and while I liked it quite a bit, I know 23 year old Jeff would have loved this. A solid indie rock album from start to finish, even with flaws.

Tennis - Ritual in Repeat: One of my favorite releases for this week, Tennis has stepped up their game considerably since Cape Dory. I realized, upon looking up the information for this release, that I apparently missed their second album or it left no impression, but I really loved this one. The production value is up, the songwriting quality has been raised, and there's a ton to love here. If you enjoy somewhat-retro sounding indie pop, this is an album you must check out this week.

Sloan - Commonwealth: Imagine my surprise upon learning that Sloan has been at this for 23 years. Commonwealth, their eleventh album, is less power pop and more comfortable pop rock, but it still brings some quality throughout. I can't say there's anything immediately memorable (outside of the super-long final track), but, at the same time, you'll be hard-pressed to find much else negative to say about this album. Sloan is still pretty great, and that's what matters.

Banks - Goddess: Arguably the most anticipated release of the week, Banks has a debut album that falls well in line with Lana Del Ray, Lorde, and the like - the sort of understated, hazy pop music that keeps the singer at a distance while still the focus of attention. I enjoyed the new Lana Del Ray album, but I might be persuaded to argue that this is better. There are more musical and production chances taken here, and when it works well, it really works. Whether this has the musical staying power of Del Ray's latest remains to be seen, but consider me pleasantly surprised so far.

Death From Above 1979 - The Physical World: Ken and I disagree on this one. He warned me that it was boring, but, for me, it felt exactly like I hoped the new DFA1979 album would sound. Even though the sort of sound they peddle stopped being cool about 8 years ago, there's a sense of urgency and emotion present in the album that I was afraid wouldn't be there, and the standout tracks had me dancing in my seat a bit. It's not as good as their first album, but that wasn't ever going to happen. This is absolutely worth your time, and is a standout release for the week.

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger - Long Gone: Sean Lennon's project dropped a surprise EP this week that includes a cover of a Syd Barrett tune and some odds and sods from the Midnight Sun sessions. It's just okay, but there might be some highlights or so in here if you're really into this project.

Justin Townes Earle - Single Mothers: I've never been able to get into Justin Townes Earle at all, but his fifth album finally had something click for me. This is a great, rootsy folk record with a lot of catchy hooks and worthwhile songs throughout, to the point where I really feel like I'll be going back to hear more soon. Definitely a highlight of the week, and I can't believe we're both older than him here - he sounds like a throwback of the best kind.

Hiss golden Messenger - Lateness of Dancers: Speaking of artists that I haven't been able to get into, Hiss Golden Messenger's Merge debut is another solid album along the same veins. Perhaps more folky than the JTE album, with lots of Bob Dylan channeling, it's still one that hooked me in rather quickly in ways I didn't expect. A solid release this week, and one you shouldn't miss.

Loudon Wainwright III - Haven't Got the Blues (Yet): I always feel like I'm copping out with this, but it's always nice when you get a new album from a long-established act and it's what you expect. Wainwright doesn't try to be anything he isn't here, and the songs are equally catchy and quirky throughout (with "I'll Be Killing You (This Christmas)" surely becoming a new staple in my holiday mixes), so there aren't any surprises. Another quality outing.

Better Than Ezra - All Together Now: Better Than Ezra is back with their first album in 5 years, and the early 1990s alt-rock stalwarts have really put together a surprisingly fun album. There's a lot here that sounds radio-ready, and yeah, it has some eye-rolly moments as well, but BTE is certainly trying to prove they're not a nostalgia act just yet, and you can tell it works from the opening song. If you had an affinity for their first couple albums, this is absolutely worth a listen. At the very least, you'll come out with a few earworms.

Ballet School - The Dew Lasts an Hour: This group has been making the music blog rounds for some time now, and I was really anticipating this album. It's...a strange one. I really like it even though it seems to have some purposeful choices that I don't love. It feels indie in a lot of ways, which is a benefit, but much of the album sounds alike, which is a drawback. There's enough here to feel optimistic about what's coming down the pike for this duo, but for now, it's worth a listen at least, especially if you like indie electro stuff.

Also out this week:

* Robert Plant - Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar
* Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer - Bass & Mandolin