Buzz class of 2010 darlings Tennis, the Colorado couple who famously took to a sailboat and then made an album full of harmless beach-pop, is back with collection number two. Young and Old can more considered more of the same, with subtle improvements. Their debut Cape Dory infiltrated the blogosphere with a few irresistible odes to a sunshine life like "Marathon" and "South Carolina", but it also ran a bit generic at the LP length. That hasn't changed here; this is still the one trick pony of jangly-guitar/dreamy organ/smiley female vocals, but thanks to an added rock edge (likely the touch of The Black Keys' Patrick Carney, who produced the album), there's a bit more staying power to the dynamic.
It's been nearly five years since the last album from synth-pop elite Chromatics, and all that time has actually been quite nice to them. The Italo Disco legend of Night Drive has spread well past its initial reception, mastermind and Italians Do It Better collective/label head Johnny Jewel's profile has grown as part of Glass Candy and more recently with Symmetry, a project that was originally set to score 2011 film Drive. It seems this follow-up comes amidst just the right climate. And without an early stream or advanced copy anywhere, the release has us just as giddy in the dark as everyone else. But if recent videos for its title track and an excellent Neil Young cover are any indication, Kill for Love should be well worth the wait.
About the Montreal band's 4th LP, Islands frontman Nick Thorburn stated, "I left New York after the end of a relationship and came to Los Angeles. There was a piano where I was staying and that’s where I wrote these songs. This record deals with loss, with memory and forgetting and with dreaming. I started writing it on Valentine’s Day and it’s coming out on Valentine’s Day.” That's a fairly effective and proper introduction; A Sleep & A Forgetting is a break up album, and especially low-key for Islands standards, which since the bright pop grandeur of their debut (the first post-Unicorns release) Return to the Sea have ventured into darker-cloud theatrics (2008's Arm's Way) and back again (2009's Vapours). At this point, there's no denying that Thorburn is a very special songwriter, and it's nice to hear him going at it this heartfelt and exposed.
Former Okkervil River member Jonathan Meiburg can flex quite the expansive body of work over the last decade with Shearwater, a project founded on gentle, nature-observing folk and made bolder throughout the orchestrated apex of their last three band-oriented albums, which is now looked at as an arc, or trilogy. So this post-triad release and first with Sub Pop finds Meilburg and company in a lively yet controlled mood, opting for directness over weighty production. That's not to say there aren't still moments of the heavily layered instrumentation and vocal charge Shearwater is known for, but it comes in measured doses, often right before or just after a stretch of intimacy. There's a nice balance on this one.
British art-rock outfit Field Music has always managed to cross the immediate with the eccentric, often abruptly. Songs on Plumb, their 4th release and follow-up to well-received 2010 double album Measure, bounce from concept to concept with little warning, at times recalling the odd signatures and spurts of harmonized funk in the last Dirty Projectors record. Longtime Field Music fans won't be alarmed by another 35 minute rapid-fire of great ideas, and really it is a mindset that will determine Plumb's success—that is whether you're ready to consume as fast as they dish—because musically, it's beyond impressive, and clearly immune to the inactive listen.
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