January proved to be a calm month with the industry almost talking a breather after a massive 4th quarter that 2010 proved to be.
The first glimpse into 2011 had the strongest albums coming from artists who sound like they could’ve existed eras ago. However, with a “familiar classic sound”, these top 3 CD’s of the month are still current and prove to be unique in their own right by pushing the classic sound with modern times.
The top 3 best CD’s of the month:
1. Adele – 21
This month was the release of Adele’s sophmore album. You may remember Adele from her surprise song “Chasing Pavement” that grew fame in the United States because of Sarah Palin. You may or may not remember this, but Sarah Palin was on SNL a couple years ago.
The artist performing was Adele, and it was only a week later when her album peaked the charts with her single “Chasing Pavement” being number 1 on iTunes because Sarah Palin brought so many viewers to watch SNL. This time around, Adele doesn’t need Sarah Palin to “support” her album. This album has all the workings of a great CD.
Her new album “21” comes after her gentle debut “19”. Songwriting and production wise, this album is “2 years old” and the growth is clearly evident. The album is produced by Paul Epworth who is apart of the production of Florence And The Machine.
Adele’s sound has that dark folk sound that made Florence and the Machine’s “Lungs” so captivating and strong. While Adele and Florence Welch differ in their song writing styles, Adele is an amazing songwriter in her own right. Her structures are more “pop” oriented with easier concepts, themes and melodies that are very pleasing to the ear.
Adele no doubt knows how to write a pop song, and with the added guidance of Paul Epworth, you get an artist who has progressively gotten better. Plus she has a golden voice. So strong, so soulful, so right. The strongest vocal track is without a doubt “Set Fire To The Rain”. A must listen album!
2. Iron and Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
The bearded wonder is back. Iron & Wine rose to fame by covering The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” and then the version was added onto any media platform marketing agents could devise; commercials, movies, television.
Sam Beam, the leading man who’s moniker is Iron & Wine, then released “A Shepherd’s Dog”. The sound of Iron & Wine that we used to know, delved into this darker, well-produced folk album that topped countless “Best of” charts in 2007. Iron & Wine became synonanous for that whispery perfect voice telling tales of living life from a midwestern point of view with melodies complimented perfectly by his guitar. Over the years, his style has slowly morphed and turned into something new, but still true to his folk roots.
And so here we are with the much anticipated release “Kiss Each Other Clean”. The opener swirls with background vocals and the familiar voice of Sam Beam, but something has changed. The sound is more focused, produced with excellent precision and you almost feel as if you’ve heard it before. It has the ballad songwriting strength of legends your parents knew of such as Daniel Fogelberg, Simon and Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac and Jim Croce, but with a 21st century kick in the ass.
Being that the song writing borrows more samples of electric instruments and a more produced sound. You can hear blips, squeaks, keyboard work, and electric guitar, but it works in this new setting.
Iron & Wine has again proven that he is no doubt an amazing musician and composer. He’s no longer whispering, and no longer shy. Here is an album that isn’t afraid, with an artist who is embracing growth in modern times.
Cheers Sam Beam, job well done. Again.
3. Hercules and the Love Affair – Blue Songs
Based in NYC, Hercules and The Love Affair was all the rage in 2007. You may have heard their music if you ever walked into EXPRESS, FOREVER 21, DELIAS, GAP or other “chic” shopping vendors because of their nostalgic, yet progressive sound.
Their first album came out of nowhere, and featured added vocals from various artists (such as Antony Haegarty of Antony and the Johnsons). This time around, there is a solidified group. The production from the first album was very disco/dance oriented and was very upbeat. I’d consider it very early 70’s disco. However, on this album we get a glimpse to what the end of the 70s and introduction to the 80s would’ve been if you walked into Studio 54. There is a harder mix of R&B/Soul into the collection added on top of the disco sounds.
On this album, Hercules and the Love Affair have a more focused album with incredible walking bass lines that help the listener groove. Its fitting that the album is called Blue Songs because while listening to the opener “Painted Eyes” I felt like I was being taken back to the Gershwin’s iconic New York City kind of color which was no doubt, “Rhapsody in Blue.”
The constant groove that Hercules and The Love Affair has is unique in the electronic music genre today because they borrow their sound from the house/disco/funk era.
It’s something many haven’t listened to, but their modern take on these styles is no doubt welcoming. Remember that next time you’re in EXPRESS or Gap and start grooving out; it could be these guys you’re jamming out to even though they aren’t from the 70s.
Wanda Jackson – The Party Ain’t Over
Wanda Jackson dated Elvis Presly way back when and was one of the first true female artists.
She is known as the Queen of Rockabilly (Covering Elvis way back when) and got her revival from Jack White (The White Stripes/Raconteurs/Dead Weather). She had a fantastic performance on David Letterman January 20th (watch her rock out. Seriously) and it peaked my interest highly.
Jack White is constantly trying to put himself outside of the box and do something new, and he does it again with an iconic voice. Helping produce Wanda Jackson’s album revives rockabilly with a strong punch.
Best Releases of January!
Destroyer – Kaputt
Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
Wanda Jackson – The Party Aint Over
Adele – 21
The Decemberists – The King Is Dead
Tennis – Cape Dory
Ducktails – Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics
Cage The Elephant – Thank You, Happy Birthday
Native Speaker – The Braids
Smith Westerns – Dye It Blond
Cake – Showroom Of Compassion
Hercules and the Love Affair – Blue Songs
What to look for in the 1st quarter of 2011:
James Blake – James Blake
The Go! Team – Rolling Blackouts
And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead… – Tao Of The Dead
Cut Copy – Zonoscope
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
Bright Eyes – The People’s Key
The Dears – Degeneration Street
Devotchka – 100 lovers
The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh
Tahiti 80 – The Past The Present & The Possible
Toro Y Moi – Underneath the Pine
Drop Kick Murphys – Going Out In Style
Those Dancing Days – Daydreams and Nightmares (Feb 25th Sweden/UK, March internationally)
Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
Dance Gavin Dance – Downtown Battle Mountain Pt. II
Lupe Fiasco – Lasers
Jennifer Hudson – I Remember Me
The Dodos – No Color
Noah and the Whale – LIFEGOESON
The Strokes – TBA
Wiz Khalifa – Rolling Papers
YELLE – Safari Disco Club