A song can take you back—both to places of your past and, interestingly, sometimes to ones you've never been before (and sometimes even where the artists haven't been either). Diving into that phenomenon is for a deeper discussion, but what we can do is not ask questions, and simply sit back and enjoy the flight, whether it be to childhood or to a previously intangible era. Here's some music-evoked nostalgia:
If there's any band that feels completely plucked from another time, it's The Black Keys. Since the early 2000s, vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer/producer Patrick Carney have come together on a sound that's gigantic for just two dudes, and somehow both very in the now and dead-on, lifted from the golden age of blues-rock. Looser and heftier than ever, their 6th LP might be their best yet (and that's saying a lot).
At 22, Boise Idaho's Trevor Powers writes from a present kind of anxiety, something very specific to his point in life (uncertainty, insecurity, depression) and at the same time, relatable to ears of any age (we've all been there). The Year of Hibernation unfolds like a personal journal entry on display; these are songs about the struggles he can't verbalize any other way, and as he described "memories, and all those feelings that those bring." Also showing is an incredibly mature sense of melody, as Powers fully controls his bedroom orchestra of guitar swells and piano bursts. "July" and "Cannons" are open for reflection until this album, one of the finest debuts of 2011, sees official release in September.
Kurt Vile is an old soul; a rare Tom Petty-type in a generation far more defined by electronic escapism. His strumming is clean; his harmonics are complex, and his lyrics: detailed, engaging, and smart. It's a well-traveled, well-read feel, and for that Smoke Ring For My Halo should probably be experienced on vinyl, it just seems appropriate.
A Tawainese-Canadian drifter named Alex Zhang Hungtai is Dirty Beaches. The project has become an internet-regular in short time, thanks to its unique rockabilly lo-fi on a highway atmospheres, and Hungtai's greaser James Dean meets exiled Elvis persona. Badlands ventures between art-house noise and cinematic crooning, creating a real sense of isolation, unease, and distance from anything close to current.
Today's classic inclusion, All Things Must Pass, was a statement of pent up creativity—three albums worth of material—and a desire to move on, as its title suggests. The quiet, dark horse, Harrison followed the Beatles 1970 breakup with a masterpiece, and from there his discography went on for decades. With a warm presence and that sweet voice, this release has an ability to comfort like an old friend. And while its message is true, the timeless nature of All Things will likely never pass.