I've been listening to a fair amount of new stuff lately. Note that that's "new" not so much in terms of release date (with the exception of the Hazards of Love, which just came out last week) but "new" meaning "i haven't really listened to it before....much". In fact, i've had some of it for a while... ...my playlist just hadn't spun around it to it much until now. Anyway, in the interest of sharing some new music, here you go:
The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love
I'm still not sure exactly what i think of this album. Oh, I like it a *lot* - but it seems to play differently than a lot of other records. The Hazards of Love is a concept album. It's 17 tracks tell one continuous, flowing story. The lyrics are great, and in Colin's typical style. The music is impressive and interesting. The whole thing has a very even keel, and there aren't a lot of drastic musical changes in it. Despite the fact that sections of it are very soft acoustic and other parts are hard electric, it all blends together nicely. However, that tends to make it difficult to sort out the 'favorite' songs on the album. Basically, this album is quite interesting to really listen and pay attention to, or it's also good as a sort of background musical tableau... ...but you really can't take it as individual songs. It's also quite difficult to compare to their other albums, though I think Picaresque is still my favorite overall.
I also enjoy the fact that Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond) is a guest vocalist on a few of the tracks. She opened for them when i saw them on the Crane Wife tour back in '07.
Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog
I heard a little of this album in B&N over christmas, but i didn't get around to picking it up until now. This is a good one. It has a feel similar to his project with Calexico, In The Reins or the Woman King ep in terms of instrumentation - which i like a lot and these three albums go very nicely together. I particularly like "Wolves (The Song of the Shepherd's Dog)" and "The Devil Never Sleeps" but all of the songs have a nice feel to them.
Margot & the Nuclear So and So's - Not Animal
I *loved* their first album, The Dust of Retreat, so i had high hopes for this one. It didn't disappoint me. The style is very consistent with their first album. It keeps the same curious lyrical style and interesting instrumentation/arrangement while continuing to be creative and new. I still rate The Dust of Retreat slightly higher, but this one continues to grow on me more as I listen to it. Not sure I have any particularly favorite songs from it yet.
The Islands - Arm's Way
This is the followup to their first album, Return to the Sea. Arm's Way has a slightly different feel to it i think, but it still has that overall interesting abstractness to it that I liked so much about the first record. I think there are fewer songs on this album that really grabbed me when compared to Return to the Sea, but I do enjoy "Creeper", "Kids Don't Know Shit" and "I Feel Evil Creeping In" and the general sound of the rest of the album.
Self-titled record. Just a mention in passing - I've only heard parts of this record, but the band's name intrigued me. Very mellow, very folkish. I think listening to it while driving would be a bad idea (event moreso than Iron & Wine). Actually, they remind me a lot of the Great Lake Swimmers with more instrumentation.
Alkaline Trio - Agony and Irony
"One of these things is not like the others..." Yeah, yeah. The rest of the albums on this list fit a sort of mellowish and/or indie theme... ...and then we go straight to goth punk/rock.
Agony and Irony follows Good Mourning and Crimson's progression to a smoother, less crunchy, yet still very hard rock sound. Some of this probably has to do with better producing, etc. I like Alkaline Trio's earlier stuff, but it definitely has a less polished sound - be that good or bad. Anyway, i've been listening to the them quite a bit lately, and to this record in particular. Overall, i wouldn't say it's any more spectacular than their previous releases, but, like previous records, it has a good overall sound and there are a few songs that I really like and latch on to. Namely, for this record those are "Calling All Skeletons" (their opener and single from this album - not particularly awesome, but i like the sound), "Over and Out" (which is depressing, but well composed), "Live Young, Die Fast" (which i greatly enjoy for the play on words there), and especially "Love Love, Kiss Kiss" (which is equal parts jealousy, denial and "quit whining, emo kid").