March 11, 2010

Good Old-Fashioned New Music

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This week I thought I would return to the roots of 76 Trombones — talking about music. I mean, I always talk about music, but we’re talking 76 Trombones 101 here (or 1101, under our ridiculous new four-number system): indie albums you should be listening to. Got it? This IS your conscience and it IS telling you that if you don’t give these albums a try, I will sic some of my pretentious indie friends on you, and they WILL make you feel bad about how few obscure band names you can come up with. To be fair, they would probably make me feel bad about this too — unless they like obscure folk singers.  Let’s talk about Montreal trio Plants & Animals first. I just began listening to these guys a few days ago, and, while the jury is still officially out, there’s definitely something to be said for their unique brand of symphonic folk rock. Yes, I did just make that up. The band released their first full-length album in 2008, entitled Parc Avenue (an actual street in Montreal as well as New York, for you Quebec virgins). Their next, La La Land, will be out in April, which is super-exciting.  It takes a listen or two to realize how well-crafted and actually catchy Plants & Animals is. Their music, while not exactly laid back, seems overly quiet upon first listen. But give it a second chance — I was glad I did. For example, their song “Bye Bye Bye” (a personal favorite) draws on some sort of awesome modern-Beatles sound. (No relation to the ’NSYNC hit, ahem, I mean travesty). Plants & Animals just headed out on tour — they’ll be in Montreal for their album release on April 22 (ought to be a good time) or, if you prefer Park Avenue with a K, they’ll wrap-up at the Bowery, June 9. Another band I just really, really recently picked up is Mumford & Sons. Hmm, lots of ampersands today. That probably says something deep about my life. & your life. This band also just headed out on tour, but, they’re in Europe, so unless you have spring break plans as awesome as mine, the live show is probably not gonna happen for you. Oh well, the recorded sound is worth it too. The London foursome released their first full-length recording last month — Sigh No More. Pitchfork hates on this album hardcore, so my only-sort-of-existent pretentious indie friends probably aren’t too hip to the Mumford sound, but I kind of like it. Pitchfork’s problem is that they’re apparently trying to do too much on one album, and it does sound young, but give ’em a break — they’ll figure out who they are as they go, and in the meantime, I think it’s cool that they hop from heavy rock, to folk-inspired, to a Decembrists-esque Celtic influence. Who says one band can only have one sound? Now, I usually don’t go for punk rock (I heard a Simple Plan song the other day, remembered I liked them in 10th grade, and immediately considered the merits of changing my name), but I’m not totally down on this next band. The Gaslight Anthem from New Jersey picks up on an old-timey Americana theme with their albums, Sink or Swim and The ’59 Sound, released 2007 and 2008 respectively. Presumably their next album, due out in June, and entitled American Slang will stick with that idea. The look is punk, but the sound is more rock, and their lyrics and influences recall a much-older era. They sing about everything from Film Noir to the Abe Lincoln legacy, and they pay homage to Tom Petty and Johnny Cash. It’s the kind of punk sound and punk persona that I really don’t get annoyed at — nothing against my pretentious punk rock friends. Wait … do pretentious punk rockers exist? Finally, a band name you probably already know, but who I’ve recently re-discovered, if you will. The Dirty Projectors. I really enjoy their 2009 album Bitte Orca. The Dirty Projectors have a softer side to them than the three aforementioned groups — it’s less hard rock — but it’s FUN. It’s really just nice to listen to. This is not to say that the album isn’t innovative — there are some pretty obscure, repetitive sounds, and the six members make for a really full sound, but it’s innovative at the same time that it’s light and catchy. In my opinion, it’s their best album yet — and there’s another to come in 2010. So get excited, because all four of these groups have rocking existing albums, and three have releases scheduled over the next couple of months. What could be better, eh? New names to check out, AND new music from those new names! No need to thank me. (I’m not indie pretentious I swear — I don’t even wear glasses). Happy spring break!!

Original Author: Julia Woodward