Priestess / Prior To The Fire / TeePee Records
It seems RCA dropped Canadian metal outfit Priestess when they felt the band’s second effort lacked a catchy single to match the success of hits such as “Lay Down” or “Talk To Her” from their debut. This helps to explain why the follow-up took so long to come to fruition, but it fails to explain how a label could, once again, so completely miss the point. Bands with chops like Priestess, capable of taking listeners on journeys with their instrumentals and their lyricism, aren’t in their element on the radio. Sure, Judas Priest had a few radio hits, but few fans of the prolific group would say “(You’ve Got) Another Thing Comin’” was their finest work. No, it’s at concerts, in front of fans that brought lighters with the intention of doing more than holding them over their heads, that metal gods come alive. On Prior to the Fire, Priestess captures a lurching, terrorizing set of jams. “Lady Killer” and “Trapped in Time & Space” give exhilarating bookends to an album best enjoyed at maximum volume.
Download: “Lady Killer” and “The Gem”
Los Campesinos! / Romance Is Boring / Wichita Recordings
Spanning 15 tracks, one couldn’t tell that the latest release from Los Campesinos! was the seven-piece’s third record in two years. Crafted with a different touch found on previous albums, Romance Is Boring is a trip into an indie pop hipster’s heart and mind as the tracks venture into a variety of different emotions. Driven by witty lyrics that are sharp and bold, each song provokes feet to tap along, even if the beat is more melancholic (“A Heat Rash In The Shape Of The Show Me State”) than cheery (“There Are Listed Buildings”). Some could argue the record’s length is a con rather than a pro but it only goes to show what an indie pop band the size of Broken Social Scene can do with horns, flutes, saxophones and group vocals. Romance may be boring, but Los Campesinos!’ 2010 release is far from dull.
Download: “Romance Is Boring”, “There Are Listed Buildings”
Yeasayer / Odd Blood / Secretly Canadian
In the past ten years, we’ve seen indie music shift from lo-fi guitar rock to slick synth-pop. With Yeasayer’s Odd Blood we reach an apex in this sound, combining keys and electronic beats with organic samples borrowed from instruments around the world. But it isn’t the abstract sounds that make the ear perk up as much as it is the pop songs found underneath the layers of obscurity. If one takes a listen to “Ambling Alp”, they will easily be able to hear the 80s influences of Erasure and Depeche Mode. While there are the odd time signatures, diverse instrumentation and psych trips indie lovers tend to admire (see album opener “The Children”), there are still very accessible songs that can appeal to both in “Madder Red” and “O.N.E.”. While Animal Collective brought new ideas to the table with last year’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, the Brooklyn trio of Yeasayer have successfully blended that style with their influences to create the definitive sound of this genre.
Download: “Madder Red”, “O.N.E.”
Various Artists / Almost Alice / Universal
On Almost Alice, a handful of artists play mad-libs with topics from the Alice in Wonderland Disney film and classic novel, tossing words like ‘underground’ and ‘Alice’ into songs, but generally not straying too far from their usual trademark styles or making especially revelatory insight into the ‘Alice’ canon. It’ll take more than titles like “Painting Flowers” to convince me that most songs on Almost Alice are anything more than lesser-known or unreleased B-sides that were simply tacked on with no real deep connection to Tim Burton’s upcoming film. Some of the more promising-sounding projects disappoint, with creative geniuses Mark Hoppus and Pete Wentz managing to write a chorus that rhymes ‘away’ with ‘away,’ and Robert Smith’s trip hop cover of “Very Good Advice,” sung by Alice in the Disney film, arriving somewhere between weird and disturbing.
The artists who are most successful with their contributions are the Plain White T’s and Franz Ferdinand, as both seem to have taken this unique opportunity as something more than a chance to release a standard pop single. If only they had been given more range to cover a wider range of the characters and events from the story, Almost Alice wouldn’t have so many mediocre songs about falling down holes.
Download: Plain White T’s – “Welcome To Mystery”, Grace Potter and The Nocturnals – “White Rabbit”