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The Best Week In Music, Except for the Week Before (Part 2)

September 28, 2009

Greetings, welcome back for our second installment celebrating the best two weeks in music this year.  If you missed part 1, you can check it out here.  But, like any good sequel, this post was written so that you can follow along without having read the original.  So like the Alien franchise, we’ll discard last week’s Ridley Scott post and move forward with today’s James Cameron version.

Monsters of Folk, Monsters of Folk

Boy, there’s been a truckload of press about this supergroup.  In case you haven’t heard, Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, and She & Him’s M. Ward all got together back in 2004 for some jam sessions while on tour.  Five years later, an album was birthed from their collective.  Compared to the Traveling Wilburys and CSNY both because of their origins and their harmonies, the MOF certainly delivers the goods on this album.  Each artist gets their turn as songwriter and lead singer, except for Mogis who was never a front man anyway.  The songs vary from straight rock to acoustic folk, but they are all easy on the ears.  This is not the most creative of albums, but if you like any of the band members, you’ll hear something you like on this record.

Monsters of Folk was released on 9/22/09 on Rough Trade records.

Volcano Choir, Unmap

Like Kyp Malone, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon simply can do no wrong.  He rose to indie rock stardom with his Bon Iver debut For Emma, Forever Ago.  In early 2009, he dropped a four-song EP titled Blood Bank, again to critical acclaim. Later in the year, he hooked up with fellow Wisconsoners Collections of Colonies of Bees to form Volcano Choir, which was billed as a more esoteric, ambient side to Emma’s soft folk. The Choir’s first album Unmap is a set of trippy tunes that finds Vernon and company exploring sounds and melodies rather than simply singing songs.  The cuts on Unmap unfold slowly and eschew the traditional verse-chorus structure in favor of using Vernon’s voice as another instrument in the band.  For me, this works beautifully–for others it might not be as enjoyable.  Buyer beware, this is for the more experimental-minded of you.  If you like more mainstream music, check out MOF or the next entry.  But if you’re willing to look at listening to music as more of a journey than a destination, then Unmap is for you.

Unmap was released on 9/22/09 on Jagjaguwar.

Girls, Album

If you like your Beatles with a healthy dose of Beach Boys, San Fransisco’s Girls is your band.  Hailed with accolades from Spin and Pitchfork before Album was released, it looks like Girls are 2009’s new indie darling band.  The band’s origin has already become the stuff of legend, and so it seemed that Album might buckle under the weight of prematurely high expectations (see Vampire Weekend).  Honestly, this is not my favorite of the last couple of weeks, but I can appreciate the pop songcraft that went into making this record.  It’s the kind that I think will get better and better through multiple listenings, mainly due to frontman Christopher Owens’ skill with melody and studio effects.  Album sounds like it could have been made in any era, at home in 1980’s synth-pop or on 1970’s FM radio.  It’s this timeless quality that makes Girls stand out from the pack in my opinion, and I believe it will do the same for you.

Album was released on 9/22/09 on True Panther records.

Pastels/Tenniscoats, Two Sunsets

I know you’ve been wondering “So, Caleb, when’re you going to fill us in on the latest in Japanese/Scottish pop music?”  Well, wait no more my friend.  My favorite Japanese pop duo Tenniscoats and veteran Scottish indie rockers The Pastels have teamed up for one of the more interesting releases of 2009.  This is likely the most obscure record I’ve covered in this series, but I had to include it, mainly out of love for Tenniscoats delicate, melodic folk tunes.  Their beautiful command of melody carries through to this collaboration, and Two Sunsets is simply a gorgeous record.  Filled with low-key songs, sang both in Japanese and English, this record is like candy for your ears.  Both bands know how to add tasteful instrumentation to basic song structures, so you find yourself hearing xylophone on one track, french horn on another, and wood flute on yet another.  But the instruments never overshadow the songs, which have a dreamy, ethereal quality about them.  Juxtaposed with Girls’ Album, the songs on Two Sunsets has the same Beach Boy pop song structure in a much simpler, stripped-down package.

Two Sunsets was released on 9/22/09 on Domino records.

I hope you kids have enjoyed the music here and don’t forget to check out TBTS on Facebook and Last.fm.  Until next time!

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