Thursday, February 16, 2012

Now Downloading: New Releases 02.14.12 - Shearwater, Islands

Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater, apparently doing research for latest release, Animal Joy. (Photo credit: Shawn Brackbill)
February continues to churn out (almost) great albums (we're a week away from a real grade "A" twofer, though). This week's crop is headlined by new albums from Shearwater and Islands, but there's also some interesting new releases from Field Music, Heartless Bastards, Tennis, The Kills, Earth and Band of Skulls.

Playlist: New Releases 02.14.12 (Spotify)

Shearwater - Tramp
Purchase [mp3] / Stream via Rhapsody / Stream via Spotify

Shearwater - Animal Joy
Fresh off the oft exhilarating-and-sometimes-exhausting Island Arc trilogy (2006's Palo Santo, 2008's Rook, and 2010's The Golden Archipelago), Jonathan Meiburg felt it was time for a change. The three records were tied together loosely by theme and tightly by their lush orchestration, which makes Animal Joy's booming drums and a more stark minimalist approach make for quite a contrast in sound -- something more akin to Meiburg's old outfit, Okkervil River. While Meiburg's voice will never make you think you're listening to a different band, hearing the pulsing lead single "Breaking the Yearlings" must have certainly had some fans giving a double-take. The results of the change are mostly mixed, with the more rock-oriented sound often sacrificing Meiburg's gift for songwriting left turns for a more simplistic approach. For instance, I never thought I'd slot a Shearwater song in my workout mix, but "Immaculate" does the trick -- namely having the BPMs and being bland enough so as not to divert focus. I'm guessing a raise in my HDLs is probably not what Meiburg was going for.

Download: "You As You Were" [mp3]
Download: "Breaking the Yearlings" [mp3]

Islands - A Sleep & A Forgetting
Purchase [mp3] / Stream via Rhapsody or Spotify

Islands - A Sleep and a Forgetting
I miss my wife / I miss my best friend every night
I miss my home / I miss my own bed and my old life

"I Can't Feel My Face" - Islands
It's been hard to pigeonhole Nick Thorburn's Islands. Since its inception, Thorburn hasn't had the same band members from release to release, and the each album reaches in an entirely direction, often within the same album's confines. While it's all resided within a 'smart' wing of the indie pop niche, it's been frustrating at times to follow. As often is the case, it took some tragedy to get Thornburn to stop moving, as A Sleep & a Forgetting deals with the end of his marriage. While the title suggests "Beware: Wallowing This Way," the songs never get too down, even when a lyric suggests that Thornburn never wants to get out of bed again. Thorburn's obsession with 50s doo-wop (as revealed with the Mister Heavenly project) helps keep the listener from feeling like he bought a ticket to Downer-Fest, which a confessional album like this often leads to. The final song (on the non-bonus release), "Same Thing," has Thorburn swearing he'll never love again, but at the same time he's searching the radio for a good station. We're left with the feeling he'll find eventually find something worth stopping for, both on the dial and off.

Free AOL Album Stream
Download: "This Is Not a Song" [mp3]

More on the radar (and in the mp3 player) this week:
Field Music - Plumb / Free AOL Album Stream
Barry Adamson - I Will Set You Free / Free AOL Album Stream / "Turnaround" [mp3]
Heartless Bastards - Arrow / Free AOL Album Stream / "Parted Ways" [mp3]
Tennis - Young and Old / Free AOL Album Stream
The Kills - The Last Goodbye
Earth - Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light 2
Band of Skulls - Sweet Sour / Free AOL Album Stream
Rosie Thomas - With Love / Free AOL Album Stream / "Where Was I" [mp3]
Winterpills - All My Lovely Goners / Free AOL Album Stream
Young Magic - Melt / Free AOL Album Stream
Bears - Greater Lakes
The Explorers Club - Grand Hotel / Free AOL Album Stream
Punch Brothers - Who's Feeling Young Now? / Free AOL Album Stream

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