Autolux - Transit Transit - It's been six years since Autolux's beautiful Future Perfect was released and finally, after some time off, heavy touring and the almost career ending injury to drummer Carla Azar, we have been treated to the follow up album, Transit Transit. For fans, it was a long road to wait for more from the space rock titans, but the wait was ultimately worth it. If it were to have been released sooner after Future Perfect, this would have been a revelatory record. But with 6 years in between, not much has changed in sound. These tracks sound as if they were meant to be unleashed upon the world at least two years prior to 2010, but that being the only beef, we are still served a tasty record of spacey and a tad bit mellower songs. Although an air of melancholy hangs overhead, songs like "Census" still explode with sound and shimmering distortion over a intense drum beat. Dreamy tracks like the titular album opener and "Spots" are the highlights of the album with Eugene Goreshter's sweet voice trickling over the spaced out ambiance and hushed piano. It isn't anything new or exciting, but Transit Transit is still a solid album. I guess the long wait lead to a sense of longing and hope for something genius when instead we were just treated to more of the same, which is never a bad thing when we're talking about Autolux. Keeping shoegaze alive is a triumph enough, in my book.
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs - The epic The Suburbs is one of the years most intense and gratifying listening experiences. Intense that it's a huge album. Over an hour long and sixteen tracks deep, it's a daunting task to look at on paper. However, Arcade Fire's concept album is easily their best since the stunning debut, Funeral. Unlike the dirges found on Neon Bible, The Suburbs has a more pop savvy and brighter sound. The underbelly of the titular suburbs comes out in the lyrical content rather than the music this time. Strolling through your neighborhood whilst listening to the album, you'll get a sense of Win Butler's experience growing up in a Texas suburb. The baroque swirl of the extremely catchy "Rococo" to the simple guitar pop of "Modern Man" to the synth boogie of "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)", the musical style varies better never goes off the rails of it's overall sound and vision of the concept at hand. It may sound less like Arcade Fire at times, but a band three albums in with such varied sounds and stories really reflect on the way Arcade Fire can change just slightly and progress forward musically as a band. The Suburbs is definitely a step in the right direction.
The Sword - Warp Riders - Unexpected new albums from bands you love is always a delightful experience, but when I saw that The Sword was releasing their 3rd album just a few days shy of my birthday, I was overjoyed. I swiftly ordered the record and it has exceeded any thoughts I've had on The Sword to this date. Also a concept album, Warp Riders takes The Sword's doomy stoner metal to new heights. Away from our earthly threshold, The Sword's space epic telling tales of scorched planets, archers of foreign lands and orbs that help bend the space/time continuum never gets in the way of the badass and somewhat groove ridden riffs that apear on Warp Riders. In usual Sword fashion, "Acheron/Unleashing the Orb" is a wicked instrumental opener that chugs and wails with the best of any Sword track. But swiftly afterward, "Tres Brujas" opens up like a ZZ Top song played at two times speed. There is a southern rock vibe on the track that seems like a strange, yet utterly awesome divergence compared to anything found on Age of Winters or Gods of the Earth. The outstanding "Lawless Lands" trumps any Sword song yet. It's swagger is unlike any other and it's epic churn and burn riffs never cease to inspire. This is music made for air guitar and headbanging. It's easily the best rock album of the year thus far.
Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart - Ok, so the Wilderness Heart isn't physically out yet, but the folks over at Jagjaguwar are so kind to satiate my need for more Black Mountain that when you pre-order the album, they give you the digital download two weeks before you'll get the record. In laymans terms, preorder the album. Totally worth it if you are a fan as this is a delightful record. The album is a paltry 37 minutes, which is short compared to the epic self titled and the even more epic In The Future, but the album benefits from it. No longer will you see a song of epic girth like "Tyrants" or "Heart of Snow." Instead, there is more a focus of great, hard riffing rock tracks that hardly break the 5 minute mark. Album opener "The Hair Song" is a wonderful pop rock track that doesn't sound like Black Mountain until McBean and Webber take over with their two part harmonies. It isn't until "Old Fangs" that we get that same Black Mountain churn. With it's hypnotic and heavy riff filled with Joshua Wells' organ and synthesizers, it's a drugged up, psych rock standard. Highlights come in the copious mellower tracks. "Radiant Hearts" and "Buried By the Blues" trade the electric guitar howl for acoustics with beautiful spaced out embelishments from Joshua Wells. Overall, this might be the album that catched Black Mountain even more of a fan base. It's succinct, clear and beautifully performed and written. These songs are going to be amazing live.