New Tunes Reviews, July 23: Mountain Goats, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, The Love Language

This week’s new releases are a little anemic this week but there are some of note.

I listened to:

The Mountain Goats All Hail West Texas (reissue with bonus tracks)
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros self titled
The Love Language Ruby Red 

The Goats’ All Hail West Texas was released in 2002 and is one of their more low-fi albums.  I never listened to it before this reissue (mostly because Spotify took it down recently) but it is a great album.  If you like acoustic songs that feel like diary entries, this album is for you.  John Darnielle has always been very confessional in his lyrics and this group of songs seems like a biography of life in West Texas, complete with metal bands, stories of high school football players, and teenage love. Even though I know Friday Night Lights took place in East Texas, I imagine this album is basically a soundtrack to their lives. I bet Julie Taylor and Matt Saracen would love it.

I always have such high expectations for Edward Sharpe. I loved the first album so much. And then I heard the first single off the second album, “Man on Fire.” I was so excited!  But then when Here came out, I found it sort of lackluster as a whole.  Then I heard they were releasing a new album and I was excited. But again, I am underwhelmed. Maybe that whole “massive collective baroque pop band” thing is just overdone. Maybe this album will grow on me.

I listened to The Love Language‘s first album when it came out in 2009. I remember liking it at first but it didn’t stick. I think I just wasn’t ready for their sound (I was listening to a lot of wimpy indie back then).  But now I think I am a ready.  This new album, Ruby Red is fantastic. It is lush and melodic with several edgy elements. I knew I was going to like it as the first track, “Calm Down.”  “Golden Age” utilizes those synths that I enjoy so much right now. Their previous albums, 2010’s Libraries and 2009’s self titled, also had that lush sound but this latest album seemed to refine their concept. This is definitely the stand-out of the week.

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Best Songs of 2012: Part 1

Here is part 1 of my list of best songs of the year.  It was complied throughout the year by way of a Spotify playlist.

“Serpents” – Sharon Van Etten (from Tramp
This album was on the “Best of” list for many blogs, but personally, I think this is the one of the few strong tracks on this mostly uneven album. Sharon has a lot of talent and “Serpents” displays that.  Her voice roars through the scathing lyrics. This song is definitely one of the top of the year.
“King of the World” – First Aid Kit (from The Lion’s Roar)
These two Swedish sisters are one of my favorite bands of the year.  Their dreamy vocals have a country twinge.  This song is the last track off their incredible album.  It features vocals by Conor Oberst and really highlights the strong voices of both sisters. Its the perfect summer outdoor party track. 
“Give it Away” – Andrew Bird (from Break It Yourself)
Andrew Bird releases consistently great albums.  No one plays the violin like he does. No one’s voice is quite like his.   Violin picking notes usher in smooth melodies, followed by a musical pause and Bird’s words. His music is accessible yet complicated.  This song is quite a gem.  
“Man on Fire” – Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (from Here
As a whole, this album is weaker than their 2009 breakthough self-titled album. But this song makes an impression. It starts off with simple guitar strumming and singular vocals. After some humming and snapping, the harmonies slowly ease their way into the foreground.  Then it becomes an all-out sing along.  The drums are soft and deliberate.  There is a call-and-answer aspect to one of the choruses. If this song is an indication of what this band can do, there is always hope of more great songs to come. 
“Balcony” – Craig Finn (from Clear Hearts, Full Eyes)
When I heard about this album because I love the Hold Steady and mostly everything Craig Finn has ever done.  When it was released, I downloaded immediately only to be disappointed by what seemed to be an album of improvised lyrics. Either way, this track is one of my favorite of the year. It tells the story of a night out where the narrator sees one that he/she used to love.  With a faster tempo, this could easily be one of my favorite Hold Steady songs (if the full band was involved). 
Subscribe to my playlist (link via twitter) for all the tracks.