Jordan Robson-Cramer of Sunset Rubdown (my favorite band) is releasing a new album as Ancient Kids, his renamed solo project that used to be Magic Weapon. The album is titled Odd City and is being released on Bandcamp on January 14th, as a "pay what you want" record. Hear the first released song below: "Crystal Family", one of the first good songs of the new year.
In other new music news, I've listened to leaked copies of January releases from the following bands:
The Decemberists The King is Dead - coming out on 1/18
It's a really wonderful album. I'd kind of forgotten about the controversy over their last release - the operatic prog-rock The Hazards of Love, which was widely panned even though I liked it, but this album is a welcome return to more standard Decemberists fare, whether you liked the last album or not. A couple of my favorite tracks already are opener "Don't Carry it All" and "This is Why We Fight," but really, the whole album is rather excellent, at least on my first few listens.
Destroyer Kaputt - coming out on 1/25
This album is definitely a departure from any full-length in Dan Bejar's catalog but actually a continuation of the sound and themes of his excellent "Bay of Pigs" single from last year, a 13+ minute opus about the Cuban revolution that appears in a slightly shorter but similar form as the closer on this album. I've really fallen madly in love with Bejar's music in the past year or two, not to say I didn't like Destroyer before, but not at this level and it's a little jarring to figure out where Kaputt fits in the canon that includes such classics as Destroyer's Rubies and Your Blues and Streethawk: The Seduction. I guess the best way to evaluate it is on its own, as a sad, striking, jazz-tinged collection of absolutely wonderful songs. At first listen, you probably won't like it (I didn't) but there's so many layers of beauty in this music, much like the rest of Dan's catalog, it just hits you in different, subtler ways, and sounds really like nothing in the indie rock world today, which turns out to be a good thing. Anyway, the highlight is certainly the 8-minute centerpiece "Suicide Demo for Kara Walker" but really, this is an album that needs to be heard together as one collective release that is probably destined for classic status.
Tapes 'n' Tapes Outside - coming out on 1/11
Tapes 'n Tapes whiffed big time on their followup to their wonderful 2006 debut The Loon, as they abandoned the quirky wonder of their music on Walk it Off, a critical and commercial failure. I can't give a review of the new album yet even though I have a copy, I just haven't gotten around to listening, which shows how far the band has fallen from 2006. First single "Freak Out" is definitely a departure from anything they've done before (on either album) so that's encouraging, and I especially love the way this song builds to a strong ending.
Asobi Seksu Fluorescence - coming out on 2/15
OK, this album isn't being released until February but I have the leak already and it's blowing me away. This NYC-based band seems to have eschewed the Japanese-sung songs of previous albums and the tracks on this collection seem poppier, catchier, meatier somehow but still maintaining their shoegaze past. First single "Trails" is the early frontrunner for song of the year of 2011 (much like "Familiar Light" was at the start of 2009) but the entire album is filled with wonderful tracks and at least at this point (after only a few listens) feels like a great leap forward for the band, who are now signed to Polyvinyl Records.
The Rural Alberta Advantage Departing - coming out on 3/1
It seems like forever since the RAA blew me away with debut album Hometowns, which was self-released at the end of 2008 and made it all the way up to my #2 favorite album of that year. But it's really only been two years, two years in which the RAA signed to a label (Bright Eyes' Saddle Creek Records), Hometowns got a proper re-release, and the band relentlessly toured (and due to scheduling conflicts, I missed two different shows that I had tickets for). But they are back, I don't have a leak yet, I do have tickets to their March 10th show at the Bowery, though, and first single "Stamp" is giving Asobi Seksu's "Trails" a run for its money as the early frontrunner for 2011 song of the year. I think this might oddly be the album I'm most anticipating this year.
Bright Eyes The People's Key - coming out on 2/15
Speaking of Saddle Creek, the label that formed to release the records of a very young Conor Oberst and his Omaha friends and musicians has made the first single from Bright Eyes latest record available for download at their website. It's been almost 4 years since the last Bright Eyes record, the disappointing Cassadaga, which signalled a move to a different, more folk/country-based type of music that Oberst played on the two solo records he put out in between. I'm not going to begrudge Conor for following his muse into different musical territory because often that can be a good thing, and I'm sure many people loved his solo efforts, but I just didn't care for them at all and my interest in Bright Eyes - a band that was just about my favorite band of all-time circa 2005/2006 -- has waned considerably. So much so that of all the albums I've listed so far on this post, Tapes 'n Tapes is probably the only one I'm less excited to hear. On the other hand, first single "Shell Games" is a return to at least Cassadaga-era Oberst music and doesn't sound much like his solo efforts. In his catalog, it's probably closest to fitting into something from Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, from 2005, which in itself was a huge departure from the albums of his youth that made me fall in love with the band. But he's much older now, and I'm aware he can't get away with the desperate screaming of "If Winter Ends" or his wonderful Desaparacidos release, so I guess I'm at least curious to see what The People's Key will sound like, even if I'm not quite blown away by the first single.
Overall, it's definitely headed to being another huge year in indie rock, as I haven't even mentioned new albums from Mogwai, Akron/Family, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Panda Bear, Cut Copy, Iron & Wine, and likely releases from Explosions in the Sky, Handsome Furs, Spencer Krug's Moonface, Radiohead, M83, Fleet Foxes, and The Shins. But even as we look forward to 2011, there's already an album that I missed talking about that was released at the end of 2010 but I wanted to mention.
The Octopus Project's fourth proper album Hexadecagon, which was conceived as an elaborate experimental performance piece, aiming to create a sensation of perfect immersion in sound and video. The technology to achieve their vision didn’t actually exist, however – so they built a custom eight-channel surround sound and eight-channel audio integrated system and spent three months writing songs specifically for this setup. The band also collaborated with Austin digital artist Wiley Wiggins to create abstract and experimental film footage to correlate with their music, and Hexadecagon (the event) was born. The Octopus Project performed Hexadecagon twice at SXSW in 2010 and in multiple other venues, and in October released the album version of the event. While I can't comment on whether the album comes close to approximating the sound of the live performance, it is in itself a pretty great album -- a montage of hypnotic sounds surrounding some quietly beautiful music. "Korakrit", for example, is a perfect song. I mean, seriously, you have to somehow not like music to not love this song. Take a listen.