Upcoming Music Releases – Summer 2012

It’s been a pretty slow summer for notable new music releases, unless you happen to like Marcy Playground and Maroon 5.  In which case, you are a crazy person and you should seek help immediately.  If the very thought of a new Maroon 5 album is enough to compel you to burn down the nearest record store, then here is a brief list of alternative releases that you might enjoy instead.  And kindly leave the Molotov cocktails at home…

26-Jun-2012:

The Soundtrack of our Lives have released their swan song effort, Throw It To The Universe.  The Swedish rock band made their name over the last decade with near-perfect albums like Behind the Music and Communion, seamlessly blending classic rock influences (primarily Pink Floyd and The Who) with modern rock dynamics.  However, bandleader Ebbot Lundberg has recently been quoted that this year’s new release will be their last, having completed a perfect six-album cycle.

17-Jul-2012:

If you are into Hasidic rap reggae (and who isn’t?), rejoice, because Matisyahu is back.  Spark Seeker marks out a new direction for Matisyahu, after announcing in late 2011 that he is moving away from his religious studies and toward a more secular, power-pop future.  That said, we should probably expect his compelling hip-hop and Jamaican dancehall beats to remain somewhere in the mix.  And with Kool Kojak on board as producer, the bleeps and bloops should be hyper-polished.

24-Jul-2012:

Tapes is the new release from Oxford, UK math-rock band Foals.  Note that Tapes isn’t a new album per se – it’s actually a 21st century mix tape of other bands’ music.  With Foals on board as curators, the 22 tracks range from Afropop and Southern soul to techno and electronica.  Quite the Maxell XLII, then.

21-Aug-2012:

UK group Bloc Party return to the scene after four years away with their fourth proper studio album, helpfully titled Four.  Not to be confused with 1980s ultra-slick pop album IV by Toto, this Bloc Party record should feature angular guitars, spiky rock, and electronic flourishes.

Perhaps the least surprising story in UK rock in 2006 was that leotarded lead singer Justin Hawkins had stepped away from The Darkness to pursue a new career in rehab for a cocaine addiction.  After recording and performing the musical equivalent of a speedball for half a decade, it was really only a matter of time.  Hawkins returned to the fold in 2011 for some well-received reunion shows, and new album Hot Cakes promises to once again ‘rock out with its cock out’.  It also includes a cover version of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”, which simply has to be heard to be believed.

Brooklynites Yeasayer are set to officially release Fragrant World, the follow-up to 2010’s brilliant Odd Blood.  The leaked songs circulating on the Series of Tubes suggest that Yeasayer are continuing in Odd Blood’s unsettling and challenging yet compelling synthetic-soul direction.  Expect a bearded and bespectacled record store clerk to spin this one (on vinyl, of course) at least once a day at your local record shop.

Back-Catalogue News:

Finally, 31-Jul-2012 marked the long-awaited re-release of the Blur back catalog.  All seven studio albums have been given the deluxe two-CD remastering treatment, just in time for Blur’s headline appearance at tomorrow’s London Olympics closing ceremony.  It has also been reported that all seven albums will finally be available on vinyl.  And if you’re REALLY keen, you can pony up for the new 21-disc Blur box set – featuring the seven twin-disc albums, four more CDs of rarities, and three DVDs.  That’s a lot of UK music nerd all in one place.  Whoo-hoo!

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Music Challenge Day 7 – A Song That Reminds You Of An Event

I’ve been wearing a pair of headphones pretty much continuously since junior high school.  Some people might be surprised to learn that my headphones weren’t surgically grafted onto my head at birth.  So, with the amount of listening I do, you would be excused for thinking that I must have accumulated dozens of song/event combinations to choose from for this challenge.

Strangely, none of the conventional big events in my life (high school graduation, university graduations, first date(s), first day of work, the births of my nieces, the passings of my grandma and dad, driving my first new car off the lot, taking posession of my house) seem to be linked to music.  My high school graduation song was “Youth Gone Wild” by Skid Row, which I remember only because it was a completely terrible choice that embarassed us all.

But one day from last summer does stand out.  A friend of mine had decided that she wanted to try something different, so she told me she was leaving the place where we worked together.  On her second-to-last day in our office, our close-knit team hosted a pot-luck lunch for her at the office as a way of saying thanks, goodbye, and good luck.  Bread was broken, stories were shared, and everyone enjoyed being together for one last bittersweet time.  I was heartbroken at first that my friend was leaving, but I eventually realized that she was making the right decision for her career.  She’s a very smart lady – always looking to the horizon and beyond.  With any luck, we will work together again some day.

The song that was playing in my car on the way to work that day, and ringing in my head all through the lunch, was “Madder Red” from Yeasayer’s 2010 album Odd Blood.  It wasn’t the lyrics that got to me; I don’t really know what the song is about.  With the benefit of hindsight, it kind of sounds like the shrapnel of an unfortunate dissolution of a relationship, which isn’t really appropriate to my situation.  99% of the time it’s not the literal lyrics but the music (the melodies and the rhythms) that wraps around my DNA.  And the music in this song is very affecting, with gorgeous synthesizers and layers on layers of programming and snippets of guitar in all the right spots.  I think the tension and release in the music, the anxiety and the resolution, the sorrow and the joy must have shared some kind of wavelength with how I was feeling at the time.  To this day, I have no idea how I managed to get to work that day without crashing my car, but I defy you to listen to the bass synth programming in this Yeasayer track and not feel SOMETHING stirring in the bowels of your soul.

It was a tough & emotional day, but I muddled through intact (and so did my friend).  And now I have “Madder Red” as a souvenir that I can carry with me forever to remind me that I don’t always have to be a soulless robot that hides behind the defence mechanisms of nonchalance and sarcasm.  Sometimes it’s okay to let your guard down, even for a moment, and genuinely care about someone.