Surfer Blood: Astro Coast
A lot of people are comparing this band to Weezer and the Beach Boys, which I really don't understand at all. Yes, they have lyrics about summer and surfing, but that's really it.
Instead, to me they sound like what would happen if the Shins rocked out harder.
Towards the end of last year, their single "Swim" was getting a lot of well-earned buzz, showcasing their hook-infused power chords and heart-felt yelps. But even their quieter moments on the album are solid, "Slow Jabroni" being a personal sleeper hit, slowly building to their pleading anthem "take it easy on me."
In fact, their emotional honesty might be the secret ingredient to their well-crafted rock, letting listeners find the layers behind otherwise upbeat songs like "Twin Peaks" on the re-listen. Whatever they're doing, it's enough to keep me coming back for more.
Yeasayer: Odd Blood
Sweet lord, do I dig this album. For a while, I was convinced I'd never before been into anything that sounds quite like it, but that's probably an overreaction to how they toe the line between experimental and poppy. If you put the Talking Heads and Animal Collective in an electro-beat blender, you might get something close to Yeasayer.
Please don't let the first alienating track fool you, these guys can get as pumped-up and dancey as The Rapture, as the prove on the infectious song "Rome." They're also quick to counteract the opening nightmare noise with "Ambling Alp," an energetic song with a chorus that's so self assured it's more like a mantra.
This album has taken some smack for not committing to one sound, regardless of the strong traces of 80's synth-pop found on several tracks. And yes, it is disappointing not to hear anything as ear-grabbing as their previous single "Tightrope," but the pure fun and funkiness throughout is enough for me.
Local Natives: Gorilla Manner
This might be the best of the bunch. I'd downloaded their single "Sun Hands" and loved it, but it wasn't until Frosty recommended the whole album that I realized the scope of this band's talent.
Sometimes I hate Pitchfork, but their description of Local Natives is pitch (ha!) perfect: they're the west coast version of Grizzly Bear. This LA-based band is all about three-part harmonies, rapid percussion, and a general awe-struck sincerity.
So far I've responded to this album the same way I did to Freelance Whales' debut: every time I start to listen I'm glued to it, along for the whole emotional ride until the very last track. "Airplanes" stands as a current favorite, a track that gets to me even though the lyrics remain foggy. Again, this album grows and reveals more of itself with every re-listen, which is no small feat for a band that's just starting out. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on them.
Also: it's ballsy as fuck to cover the Talking Heads on your debut album, especially when giving such a fresh take.