Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Monthly Clean-Up: January

I can't get to all the good stuff (or bad stuff, for that matter) in any given month, so I thought I'd sum up my experience with music in the month of January (and hopefully other months too if I decide to make this a more permanent feature). I'll go over a few of my favorites and provide some reviews in brief of things I haven't covered yet. The year got off to a great start, so there's plenty to go over here.

The Best from Chewing Gum for the Ears, January (link to full reviews):

Owen Pallett - Heartland (4.5 Stars)
Owen Pallett's most accomplished album is fittingly released under his own name. It's a unique captivating experience and one we'll certainly be talking about at year's end.

Patty Griffin - Downtown Church (4 Stars)
Griffin's foray into gospel music is a resounding success and easily among her best work. No matter your religious viewpoint, there's something to love about Downtown Church.

Surfer Blood - Astro Coast (4 Stars)
The embodiment of a college rock record, Astro Coast is an exciting debut from surf-rockers Surfer Blood, who recorded the album in their college dorm.


What I missed in January:

Spoon - Transference (4 Stars)
Spoon's latest feels like both the culmination of all that has gone before it and a new chapter in the band's career, with their signature style covered in a rougher, darker edge that makes Transference a compelling experience.

Laura Veirs -
July Flame (4 Stars)
July Flame is a gorgeous album from an artist I wasn't previously familiar with (unfortunately), Laura Veirs. Her twisting melodies and engaging songwriting makes this of my early favorites for the year.

Ray Wylie Hubbard - A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is No C) (4 Stars)
Hubbard's "Enlightenment" is a gritty, strange, and consistently great folk-rock record rooted in gritty blues and soul music. One that will probably go largely unnoticed this year, but not for lack of quality.

Four Tet - There is Love in You (3.5 Stars)
Hypnotic and sometimes stunning, Four Tet's There is Love in You is my favorite effort from electronic musician Kieran Hebden, whose music I've always appreciated but rarely loved before.

Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM (3.5 Stars)
French film/music star Gainsbourg teamed up with Beck (who wrote and produced the record) to release her best effort by a long shot, IRM. It's eclectic, weird, and often amazing.

Lindstrøm & Christabelle - Real Life is No Cool (3.5 Stars)
With singer Christabelle, Lindstrøm takes his "space-disco" music in a decidedly more pop direction with this danceable and very cool collection of tunes on his latest.

The Magnetic Fields - Realism (3.5 Stars)
The remarkably consistent Stephin Merritt releases another solid effort with The Magnetic Fields, Realism, which doesn't give us much we haven't heard before yet includes plenty of reasons to listen just the same.

Beach House - Teen Dream (3 Stars)
One of the more acclaimed record's of January, Teen Dream didn't impress me like it did so many others. But it's a beautiful album and consistent as well, another fine addition to the band's catalog.

OK Go - Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky (2.5)
You gotta hand it to the guys for branching out a bit from their former releases, but the results of OK Go's latest just doesn't excite often enough to be memorable.