Test Spin: Bowerbirds

Hailing from North Carolina, the Bowerbirds further develop their folk-inspired sound on their sophomore album, Upper Air. Phil Moore and Beth Tacular’s stirring lyrical duets and complicated harmonies are enhanced by the band’s effortless acoustics and the help of Matt Damron on percussion. A blend of accordion, guitar and bass drum, the trio produces authentic and original songs that embody the spirit of the beautiful landscape in which they live.

Test Spin: Imogen Heap

This is an album worth $20 million.
When a promotional CD of Imogen Heap’s Ellipse went up for bids on eBay, Heap herself agreed to pay a record-breaking €10,000,000 for the disc in an attempt to close the auction.

Test Spin: Miike Snow

Miike Snow, yes with two i’s, is the next band to add to the list of amazing things that have come from Sweden, following past Scandanavian pop groups like the Shout Out Louds and Those Dancing Days. The lead single off of Miike Snow’s debut album, “Animal,” was my song of summer although it’s not a summer song at all, making the feat all the more impressive. Specifying a proper season to listen to this song is about as impossible as explaining it’s lyrics, which boast lines like “I change shapes just to hide in this place, but I’m still, I’m still an animal.” The whole album for that matter is seasonless.

Test Spin: Wilco

Wilco’s seventh studio LP, Wilco (The Album), channeling its eponymous title, spins as a consolidation of singer / songwriter Jeff Tweedy’s oeuvre. Congealing alt-country, quasi-experimental and neo-folk, the album genre-blazes across the band’s decade and a half creative trajectory.

Test Spin: Discovery

It has come to my attention that not enough people have heard of Discovery, a band whose album became my go-to for everything from running, pre-gaming, partying, post-gaming, driving and just going to bed this summer. It’s one of those rare all weather albums created in part by Rostam Batmanglif, the keyboardist of Vampire Weekend, and in part by Wes Miles, the lead singer of Ra Ra Riot, and as a whole it sounds nothing like the former or the latter. Though the line up of musicians alone should have driven hoards of music listeners to this group, I fear Discovery has been flying a little too low on the radar for such a stellar album released back in July.

Test Spin: Wilco

Wilco’s seventh studio LP, Wilco (The Album), channeling its eponymous title, spins as a consolidation of singer / songwriter Jeff Tweedy’s oeuvre. Congealing alt-country, quasi-experimental and neo-folk, the album genre-blazes across the band’s decade-and-a-half creative trajectory.

Test Spin: Art Brut

On “Demons Out” the non-title-yet-should-have-been-the-title-track of Art Brut’s third LP, Art Brut vs. Satan, Eddie Argos sings, “How am I supposed to sleep at night when no one likes the music we write?”
Eddie, it’s time to rest up because this album is going to be very well liked. Art Brut’s usual catchy hooks, shouting lead and background vocals and clever lyrics all make their mark on this album, and they are better aligned than ever before. One might attribute it to the fact that Black Francis (a.k.a. Frank Black of The Pixies) produced the album, but it’s undeniable that Argos’ lyricism is so well developed that the words often outshine the music.

Test Spin: The Decemberists

The Decemberists’ recent work, Hazards of Love, somehow does not get tiresome. This normally wouldn’t be such a feat, but most albums are not 17 tracks long. It’s not that The Decemberists failed to do some editing, however. They just included everything — ballads, angry rants, even an opening track, “Prelude,” of only instrumentals.

Test Spin: Keith Urban

Keith Urban is addicted to defiance. He’s defied expectations (he’s an Australian singing American heartland country-pop with a perfect twang), defied a downward slump (2006’s Love, Pain, and the Whole Crazy Thing was a downbeat disappointment that no one thought he’d recover from), and defied critics of his popularity (he employs enough banjos, steel guitars and virtuoso soloing chops to justify himself as a “real musician”).

Test Spin: The Bird and the Bee

Retro modes have the ability to usher in a renaissance of the styles they reference. They allow for historical attitudinizing and therefore can be more cunning and contextual than the originals they pay homage to.