New Music Tuesday: My Bloody Valentine • Eels • Frightened Rabbit • The Bronx • Unknown Mortal Orchestra • Jim James • Thao and The Get Down Stay Down

My Bloody Valentine - m b v

Every Tuesday, we focus on new music releases by naming our top tracks, album highlights, lowlights and important takeaways for select albums.

My Bloody Valentinem b v

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Only Tomorrow”
“If This and Yes”
“In Another Way”

Album Highlights: Much like the bulk of My Bloody Valentine’s catalog, this album feels like a grouping of EPs, which could be due to the lengthy history of this album. The first 3 tracks sound like they may have been from some of the sessions from the mid-nineties that have only now seen light of day. The second trio of songs bring you back to earth with a heavy dose of pop-tinged shoegaze, almost a contemplative section of soaring harmonies brought by Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher. The last three songs are serious. This is likely the “new” sound of MBV, which is a little more straight ahead than what we are used to. Songs like “in another way” may sound tame with it’s 4/4 drum beat to some aficionados, but there is enough tweaking with the timing to make it purely MBV. Then to close the album with “wonder 2” is just a stroke of brilliance, as this track is the real deal; an otherworldly rapture of drums, synths and distorted vocals.

Album Lowlight: Very few. The hardcore fans will like it, but potentially grumble as there isn’t any astounding departure of the MBV sound.

Takeaway: It’s been a long time coming for this release, almost 22 years to be exact, and it certainly does not disappoint on any level. Truly jumping back in where they left off when no follow-up materialized after Loveless shows the dedication Shields has to the fuzzy auditory landscape he meticulously crafts. A gem to be enjoyed via one’s best pair of headphones, and hopefully live this year.

~Kevin Quandt

Download My Bloody Valentine’s new record m b v at the band’s website (pay what you want).

EelsWonderful, Glorious

3-BamsTop Tracks:
“Bombs Away”
“Peach Blossom”
“New Alphabet”

Album Highlights: Wonderful, Glorious, the 10th studio album by Eels and first since 2010, doesn’t break much new ground but keeps a good thing going. Eels mastermind Mark Oliver Everett (aka E) has been around the block and has had his share of heartbreak, which is a common theme in his music. Wonderful, Glorious, however, has a much more optimistic outlook compared to previous work. He even sings about tiger lilies and marigolds in the song “Peach Blossom.”

Album Lowlight: It probably won’t win over any Eels fans who were on the fringe, although it will please diehard fans. Eels just continue doing what they’ve done best for over a decade: creating introspective indie albums with a side of gritty blues. If nothing else, this album is the next chapter in the fascinating life of Everett. It’s as self-reflective and heart-wrenching, yet liberating as ever.

Takeaway: E’s pain and heartbreak still comes through on this album, yet there is positivity and hopefulness that shines through the bleak cloud cover. This self-reflection and balance between anguish and hope provide a captivating dynamic. E said it best on the track “New Alphabet”: “You know what, I’m in a good mood today. Well I’m so happy it’s not yesterday.”

Well, I am in a good mood today, too — for I have just listened to this record. You should, too.

~Kevin Raos

Frightened RabbitPedestrian Verse

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Late March, Death March”
“Housing (In/Out)”
“State Hospital”

Album Highlight: Rhythmically feverish, “Housing (In/Out)” is quintessential Frightened Rabbit and is perfectly placed at the midway point of the album’s narrative. Reflecting upon the style most fans of the band are familiar with while expanding upon their talent as songwriters, this two-part track bookends the strongest section of the album with catchy guitar riffs and a relentless drum beat.

Album Lowlight: “Oil Slick” is an unnecessary and uncharacteristically cheesy love song. With an album already accomplishing a full circle of emotions without compromising the artistic integrity of the band, this track comes off as a last ditch attempt for air play. It would’ve served better as a b-side or bonus track.

Takeaway: From the initial notes, you are aware that “State Hospital” is going to have an epic build up and musical evolution. Lyrically documenting the journey of a journey from pain to redemption, the drum beat guides you throughout the track until it triumphantly crescendos into an explosive finale filled with soaring vocals, a huge chorus and an effortless fade into the emotionally charged ballad.

~Molly Kish

The BronxThe Bronx (IV)

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Under The Rabbit”
“Life Less Ordinary”
“Too Many Devils”

Album Highlight: With The Bronx IV, The Bronx are back to its roots, but show more maturity and depth than in its previous offerings, especially in the vocal department. Singer Matt Caughthran sounds much more polished now; he’s actually able to hit notes without breaking into screams to cover up range. His voice and the band’s sound still has a hardcore edge to it, but now legitimate melody comes into play, making it much more approachable to someone not accustom to the band or hardcore in general. “Style Over Everything” is a good example of the back and forth the band delivers between melody and straightforward, ass-kicking hardcore punk.

Album Lowlight: The only downside to the album was some of the songs felt a bit forced in trying to call back to past Bronx albums, and it seemed to trip up the flow of the album at times, especially when I really started to get into hearing the maturity and growth in other songs.

Takeaway: I’ll admit that after hearing the brilliance of Mariachi El Bronx, I wasn’t sure how I would accept a new album after all these years. I feared that it would try too hard to show that the band hadn’t forgotten its hardcore roots by trying too hard to be all heavy guitars and screams all the time, but this album shows remarkable maturity and growth for a band that is talented enough to be two successful bands at the same time. Personal favorites on this album are “Under The Rabbit” (which reminds me of their earlier albums the most), “Life Less Ordinary” (which has a Mariachi El Bronx vocal feel to it), “Too Many Devils,” “Pilot Light,” and “Along for The Ride.” Overall it’s a great album and worth picking up if you’re a slightly more melodic hardcore fan or just a fan of The Bronx in general.

~Sean Little

Unknown Mortal OrchestraII

4.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Faded in the Morning”
“From the Sun”
“Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)”

Album Highlight: This one is a keeper. UMO’s second record balances catchy psych-pop songs like “From the Sun” with tracks that are dominated by thrashing electric guitar. “Faded in the Morning” combines the psych-pop and guitar work to the most optimal balance. “So Good at Being in Trouble” is a timeless Motown baby-maker.

Album Lowlight: The closing ballad “Secret Xtians” is a bit lackluster. The tracks dominated by electric guitar can do no wrong; Ruban Nielson should allow his guitar hero-tendencies to take over.

Takeaway: There is some early Syd Barrett/Pink Floyd influence in UMO’s second record, but the more recent album often more cohesive than that of Piper at the Gates of Dawn. The one-two punch of upbeat tracks “The Opposite of Afternoon” and “No Need for a Leader” could be the strongest part of the LP. Unknown Mortal Orchestra is a top live act to see in 2013.

~Mike Frash

Jim JamesRegions of Light and Sound of God

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Know til Now”
“Dear One”
“A New Life”

Album Highlights: As Always, Jim James’ vocals are outstanding and truly shine on his debut solo album. The record is full of many different textures throughout, including full string arrangements and keyboards that gel perfectly together with his angelic voice.

Album Lowlight: I understand that James is getting very spiritual with his writing, but his lyrics are a little to “Bible-Pushing” for me. He based this album off the graphic novel “God’s Man” by Lynn Ward, so I get what he is after. I just feel he might have tried a little too hard.

Takeaway: James made himself a very beautiful album here that I can see myself playing on Sunday mornings or maybe for a sunset, but I don’t see it getting in the Friday rotation. I’m glad that James created this album as an outlet for his work with My Morning Jacket because you can sense this a very personal album for him. I can definitely enjoy this album at the right time and place.

~Pete Mauch

Thao and The Get Down Stay DownWe the Common

3-BamsTop Tracks:
“We The Common (For Valerie Bolden)”
“Holy Roller”
“Kindness Be Conceived”

Album Highlight: Thao Nguyen is ready for the spotlight and radio-play with the release of We the Common. The album’s title track “We the Common (For Valerie Bolden)” will be a hit — and for a good reason. The track plays on multiple genres successfully, weaving together bluegrass, alt-rock beat transitions and poppy, Regina Spektor-like accessible lyrics. By the time the refrain kicks in (“Whooo-a-hooo, haha), it becomes easy to speculate that Thao and The Get Down Stay Down could have a big year.

Album Lowlight: The latter half of We the Common contains clunkers like “Clouds For Brains” and “Age of Ice.” The first half of the record is solid.

Takeaway: One of San Francisco’s finest is about to hit the national stage, but the record is pretty hit or miss. “City,” “Holy Roller” and “Kindness Be Conceived” are delightful songs, but many of the others feel forced and a bit kitschy. The record has its moments and a huge one in “We the Common (For Valerie Bolden) that will put Thao Nguyen on the map.

~Mike Frash

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