September looks like a great month for new music, with several well-regarded acts releasing new albums. Despite persistent rumours to the contrary, the album format isn’t dead just yet.
Experimental rock outfit Animal Collective releases Centipede Hz, their first album since 2009’s critically acclaimed Merriweather Post Pavilion. MPP perfected the tricky balancing act of combining unusual sounds and challenging songwriting with bouncy, digestible production techniques. Early word is that the new album is yet another shift in the group’s fearlessly evolving sound, this time ramping up the sonic density to new levels.
Fresh off an appearance at the London 2012 closing ceremonies, UK rock act Elbow release a b-sides collection. Dead in the Boot collects various odds ‘n’ sods from the past decade, songs that for whatever reason did not find their way onto one of Elbow’s five excellent studio albums. Recommended for fans of brooding, quietly anthemic (and that’s not meant to be a contradiction), unquestionably British rock music.
North Carolina’s Avett Brothers return with new album The Carpenter, the follow-up to 2009’s breakthrough I And Love And You. Their unique brand of rocked-up, punked-out folk resonates well with satellite radio listeners and music festival attendees, many of whom seem to become instant fans. Über-producer Rick Rubin is once again on hand to twiddle the knobs and push the sliders, which should give The Carpenter the same kind of uncluttered, widescreen space to sprawl out and engage listeners as its predecessor.
Despite occasional dalliances with other styles, Calexico’s music has usually been grounded in the American southwest. Tucson-based Calexico have elected to switch things up this time, recording new album Algiers not in northern Africa but in the lovely and musical city of New Orleans. Expect Calexico’s trademark sounds (warm vocals, acoustic guitars and mariachi horns) to still feature prominently in the mix, just in an entirely new musical context.
One of the best albums of 2009 was the debut recording from tricky-to-Google group The XX. Its combination of beguiling beats, boy/girl vocals and crystalline sonic textures earned the UK band the Mercury Music Prize. New album Coexist aims to build on the momentum of the debut, the group’s greatest strength being their ability to infuse the spaces between the notes with just as much beauty as the notes themselves.
Alt-something (alt-rock? alt-folk? alt-country?) group Band of Horses are back with new album Mirage Rock. The strong songwriting on their previous album, 2010’s Infinite Arms, opened a lot of doors, securing Band of Horses appearances on national TV and a prime slot at seemingly every major music festival. This time out, the band elected to work with legendary producer Glyn Johns, best known for being behind the boards for five-star classics like Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street by the Stones, and Who’s Next and Quadrophenia by The Who. At the very least, Mirage Rock should sound fantastic. If Band of Horses can once again deliver on the songwriting and performing front, this album should appear on many Best of 2012 lists.
The rumours are true. Ben Folds Five are back together, and their reunion album The Sound of the Life of the Mind is set to drop. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since 1999’s brilliant The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner. Ben Folds’ songwriting has grown in a multitude of new directions over several solo records. It will be interesting to see what getting back together with drummer Darren Jessee and bassist Robert Sledge does to Ben’s muse. Will the presence of his old pals spark a return of the angst-ridden smart-ass piano slammer we knew and loved?
Studio album #4 from The Killers is called Battle Born. The presence of A-list producers like Daniel Lanois, Steve Lillywhite, and Brendan O’Brien suggests that the Las Vegas band is once again setting their sights on Joshua Tree epic greatness. Brandon Flowers’ recent solo projects seem to have given him more confidence and a better ability to exploit his limited vocal range – we shall see how this translates to a full-blown Killers album.
Rootsy UK folk-rockers Mumford & Sons finally release the follow-up to 2009’s Sigh No More. Babel seeks to build on the ubiquitous airplay of earlier tracks like “Little Lion Man”. Early reports suggest that Babel will not reinvent wheels – if you liked the punk-rock banjo stylings and harmony vocals of the debut, you won’t be disappointed by these twelve new songs.