So my wife and I just had our second daughter this past week. Awesome. Yes. But it also means that any posts I had in the works are going to be a little delayed… also my music reviews for www.spillmagazine.com… and really anything that requires even a moderate amount of focus. So this morning while I take a few hours at a coffee shop to catch up on email, twitter, send out some short story submissions, I’ll make my obligatory 30Hz Recommended post for new music Tuesday. I say obligatory because this past Tuesday brought us some absolutely fantastic albums that deserve your attention.
The Jezabels, Prisoner
Critics call the Sydney quartet’s music everything from alt-rock to disco-pop. The band refers to themselves, with a hint of self-deprecation, as “intensindie.” However classified, Hayley May brings some infectious swagger, a la Pat Benatar, to her frontwoman style (particularly on the mid-tempo burner “Endless Summer” and “Long Highway”), and the band borrows a small slice of the Joy Formidable’s symphonic rock. They’re also not afraid to slow the pace to play, with plenty of confidence, some alt-rock power balladry. It might sound like a mishmash of uninhabitable musical genres and regrettable nostalgia but the whole thing comes together to create the best pure “driving record” of 2012. (Driving Record: an album without a clear pinch, containing varied song-styles with constant forward momentum. As in an album that can repeat on long drives without the immediate need to swap out upon conclusion. Previous “driving record” accolades belong to Sliversun Pickups and the aforementioned Joy Formidable). The band has been a relative to-do in Australia for a couple of years. (Pittsburgh folks need to get a ticket to their show with Imagine Dragons next week at Brillobox.) Here’s the band playing a fantastic version of “Hurt Me” at the Annandale Hotel, Sydney in 2009.
Great Lake Swimmers, New Wild Everywhere
It’s time to jump in with the Great Lake Swimmers. Criminally underappreciated might begin to describe the lack of attention paid to this Canadian (oftentimes) quintet. I’m happy to see some buzz around this new release, but if it’s not on your mp3 player of choice, well, you need to fix that. The Great Lake Swimmers might be the flipside of the Jezabels. They won’t self deprecate and there’s nothing intense about anything they’ve ever done. Compare them favorably to the likes of Will Oldham and Iron & Wine. Earnest folk-rock made for being chill and contemplative. The title track from this new record might be the most raucous I’ve ever seen the Swimmers. It’s hard for me to believe that they’ve been around long enough to have released five albums (5!). Have they ever made a bad track? I’m not sure I can think of one. Ideal listening conditions: sitting outside, beer in hand, basking in cool evening temperatures and a setting sun. Here is “Quiet Your Mind,” a standout track on this album, backed by an ample string section. Just listen and get lost in the beautiful orchestration. You never knew simple, straightforward folk music could have so much depth.
Also new and noteworthy this week:
the first full length LP from Of Monsters and Men, My Head is an Animal
and Lotus Plaza, Spooky Action at a Distance a solo project from Lockett Pundt, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist from Deerhunter.