New Tunes Reviews, Oct 15: The Head and the Heart, The Avett Brothers, Cults, & Paul Simon

I was looking forward to The Head and the Heart‘s Lets Be Still since their excellent self-titled album was released in 2011.  There is a wider variety of songs on the new album. “Homecoming Heroes” and “Shake” are two particularity strong songs.
In this album, vocalist Charity Rose Thielen moves to the forefront and takes the lead on many songs.  In the last album, she mostly stood to the back and supplied THATH with harmonies and their signature violins.  It is nice to see that her voice is brought into the light (see, “Summertime” and “These Days are Numbered”).  I’m glad this release is a compelling sophomore effort. This band has the potential to move away from those one-hit trendy-folk bands and into sustained success.

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It seems like The Avett Brothers cannot release a bad album. Between restlessly touring and releasing many albums (they released The Carpenter about a year ago), it seems crazy that they would have time to write another great album.
For Magpie and the Dandelion, the banjos, harmonies, and foot-stomping beats are all there.  “Open Ended Life” (the opening track) and “Another is Waiting” are both classic Avett Bros song with the back-and-forth harmonized vocals between both brothers. There are sweeter songs too (like “Bring Your Love to Me” and “Good to You”).
As in past release, sometimes Scott takes the lead over Seth and vice versa.  Other times their voices blend together in sibling bliss. This melodic practice is done very wisely and with concern for the individual style of each brother.
I am just waiting for the day when this band become as popular as Mumford & Sons were for a hot second.  (Although maybe their recent Barclays show announcement is a sign of things to come).

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Cults Static is the follow up to 2011’s great self titled album, that gave us “Go Outside,” an incredibly inescapable catchy song.  This latest album opens with “I Know,” which is a catchy track much like “Go Outside.” “High Road” is dreamy and “Keep Your Head Up” is a clap-along joyous number. This album may not live up to the self-titled album but it is has its moments.

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For all of those S&G fans, Paul Simon released a retrospective album entitled Over the Bridge of Time: A Paul Simon Retrospective (1964-2011).  It starts off with well-known S&G songs (“The Sound of Silence,” “America,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” etc) and moves into a good group of his solo tracks (“50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,”Still Crazy After All These Years,” and personal favorite “You Can Call Me Al.”)  It is a great collection for the casual and obsessive fan.

Best Songs of 2012: Part 2

Here is Part 2 of the best songs of 2012:

“Continuous Thunder” – Japanadriods (from Celebration Rock)
Without a doubt, this album should be on just about everyone’s list for the best of the year.  This song is one of the best.  It is strong like the single (“The House that Heaven Built”), but a bit quieter.  The fuzzy guitars are subdued and wonderful.  Even though Japandriods are just two people, they create a exuberant sound. As this song progresses, its hard not to imagine driving down a road with windows open during the summer.   Its just a great track.

“Heartbreaker” – Walkmen (from Heaven)
The Walkmen are often described as a “Musician’s band” because of their tight melodies and generally strong musicanship.  This album is a great display of all of these characteristics. I was able to see the band perform at Bowery Ballroom on June 6, 2012 and they really dazzled the audience during this intimate record release show. This song is one of the best of the album (although just about every other song is great as well).

“I Never Knew You” – The Avett Brothers (from The Carpenter)
These brothers construct a lush sound in every one of their songs.  This song starts off with piano and draws the listener in.  The harmonies are at the forefront and created a sing-along atmosphere.  This is another strong song from a strong album.

“The Descent” – Bob Mould (from Silver Age)
As mentioned in a previous post, Bob Mould is back.  This opening track to Silver Age sets the stage for a bunch of charming loud songs about growing old.  This one specifically is the most upfront.  The lyrics weigh success over artistic individuality. To answer Mould’s question towards the end of the song, he does make it up to us.

“National Anthem” – Gaslight Anthem (from Handwritten)
I was not thrilled by this album’s single (“45”).  It seemed too overproduced and too obvious.  Instead, I was charmed by “National Anthem.” This song is much simplier and quieter.  It showcases Brian Fallon’s voice and lyrical prowess. He is quiet but strong.  It is similar to other Gaslight gems like “Here’s Looking at You, Kid” (from The 59 Sound) and “The Navasink Banks” (from Sink or Swim).

Honorable Mentions:
“1957” – Milo Green (from 1957)
“Harder Before It Gets Easier” – David Wax Museum (from Knock Knock Get Up)
“This Summer” – Superchunk
“Hey Ho” – Lumineers (from self titled)
“Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting” – Glen Hansard (from Rhythm and Repose)
“Love Love Love” – Of Monsters and Men (from My Head is an Animal)
“In a Big City” – Titus Andronicus (from Local Business)
“Maria” – Justin Townes Earle (from Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now)