Manic Street Preachers and more...
Manic Street Preachers
Yours Truly, The Commuter
While most people continue to flock to big cities like New York and Los Angeles, Jason Lytle, the former front man of Grandaddy left his hometown of Modesto, CA after his band disbanded in 2006 and retreated to the tranquil spaciousness of Montana. There, he built a sweeping sonic landscape over the hole that the breakup of Grandaddy left behind. Airy keyboards, waltzy piano, and Lytle’s ethereal voice are reminiscent of Grandaddy, but Lytle’s solo debut, Yours Truly, The Commuter, is even more quiet and personal than anything Grandaddy ever recorded. This is not to say that Yours Truly is a sob fest. Indeed, it has its dark moments, but it’s also hopeful, reassuring, and determined. Additionally, it boasts the catchiest song possibly ever recorded celebrating the weekend (“It’s the Weekend”). I can see Loverboy hanging their heads in shame. Above all, the music has that expansive, atmospheric beauty that only Lytle can create. On “This Song is the Mute Button”, Lytle sings “I see the pretty in things”. Even the final song, “Here for Good”, which seemingly addresses suicide has a promising conclusion: “sudden death is just boring so I’m here for good”. Yours Truly the Commuter is the story of an individual finding his place in the world. As the title song declares: “I may be limping, but I’m coming home.” Congratulations, Jason. We’re glad to have you back. Jennifer Makowsky
Guns Don’t Kill People, Lazers Do
In a year where it seemed mellow-ness ruled the landscape, stands the insane, frenetic, unclassifiable Major Lazer. Creation of DJs/producers Diplo and Switch, Major Lazer is easily one of the best party records or the year. Opener “Hold The Line” features a horse neigh sample and an appearance from 2008 breakout star Santigold—and that’s just the beginning of the audio assault. Amanda Blank, Mr. Lexx, Ms. Thing, and a host of others stop by along the way, with songs featuring full horn sections, a parody of mainstream rap (with Auto-Tune, of course), and more killer verses than you can count. It’s hard to explain Major Lazer’s scattershot approach, But with Diplo at the helm and a killer guest line-up, there something for every hip-hop/dance fan here. Cue it up for your next ripper. You won’t be disappointed. Jason Cook
Manic Street Preachers
Journal for Plague Lovers
Bands should not be making albums this vital so far into their career, but the path followed by the Manic Street Preachers has been anything but typical. With lyrics left behind by presumed deceased member Richey James Edwards, organic production by Steve Albini, and striking cover art by Jenny Saville, the Welsh rockers took a career risk on their ninth album that paid off on all fronts. Tapping into Edwards’ mindset through these impenetrable lyrics is a harrowing experience that is as rewarding as what the band had accomplished with him (1994’s The Holy Bible), and without him (1996’s Everything Must Go). Guitarist James Dean Bradfield and bassist Nicky Wire write their most timeless music yet, singing with immense conviction. A labor of love and a celebration of art, Journal for Plague Lovers is the unheard classic of 2009, a record whose esteem will only grow with time. Cyrus Fard
Normal As Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day
As Nellie McKay’s first three albums show, McKay is not afraid to speak her mind on a host of issues from feminism to animal rights with a quirky sense of humor. She also fearlessly borrowed from a host of popular music styles from Tin Pan Alley to hard rock to rap and blended them into idiosyncratic catchy and creative tunes. That is why it seemed a shock when the profligate composer McKay decided to do a record of straight covers, even more so because the object of her adoration was a person normally associated with bland pop, Doris Day. McKay takes Day as musician seriously and shows Day to be a swinging and infectious jazz artist. Whether McKay undulates to the beats of “Crazy Rhythm” and “Dig It” or croons more sedately to the stately intonations of “Black Hills of Dakota”, she reveals the hidden layers of beauty and sophistication in what may initially seem to be simple songs. Steve Horowitz
Despite what has always been a killer live show—mostly thanks to the fierce charisma of frontwoman Emily Haines—I have always found Canadian indie darlings Metric to be strangely lacking on record. Fantasies, though, corrects all that felt hesitant and underdeveloped about their previous three outings simply by cranking everything—the amps, the energy, the gnarled intensity of the songwriting—up to the proverbial 11. Fantasies is an indie rock record that dares to title one song “Stadium Love” while dedicating another to that immortal question “who’d you rather be, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones” and sound completely and unironically sincere doing so. Rich with atmosphere and buzzing melodic hooks, Metric’s crossover bid was the rare one that really did deserve to storm the gates of the mainstream. Jer Fairall
With her brash, British, talk-sing delivery, Micachu’s debut first calls to mind a lo-fi, experimental M.I.A. There’s no “Paper Planes” lurking here, of course—these songs are too gnarled, too cluttered for pop appeal—but who cares? You’ll find it irritating on first listen, but you’ll be hooked by the third. That’s because Jewellery, despite its discordant veneer (a musical palette that includes broken bottles, a vacuum cleaner, and various homemade instruments), contains some of the most infectious pop hooks of the year, arriving in bite-size bursts of creative energy that rarely surpass the three-minute mark. And hell, it even references the Champs’ “Tequila” in the process (see: “Calculator”). Your loss, pop radio. Zach Schonfeld
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// Sound Affects
"History repeats the old conceits, the glib replies, the same defeats. Keep your finger on important issues, and keep listening to the 275th most acclaimed album of all time. A 1982 masterpiece is this week's Counterbalance.READ the article