Okay, the holiday season is wrapping up, students are getting back into the swing of classes, musicians are warming up and starting to tour again, and labels have awakened from the sleepy late-December doldrums and have started to release the first candidates for "Best Music of 2k11". And by that I mean there's going to be some good new stuff coming out in the near future, after a few (relatively) agonizing weeks of pretty much nothingness.
The first promising release of the year, I think, comes from British Sea Power. Maybe you've heard of them? Maybe not. I first got into them in college thanks to a couple of friends who were fans. The songs on Open Season and The Decline of British Sea Power were pretty quirky and fun to my uninitiated ears and I listened to those albums periodically over a year or so after hearing them. A couple years later, I went to visit a friend in D.C. and was lucky enough to catch BSP playing at the Black Cat club one night, and that was pretty sweet. I hadn't listened to them recently enough, and the only song I actually recall them playing is "Apologies To Insect Life", but that was also before they put out Do You Like Rock Music?, so I imagine they played a few songs from that. My answer to that question was a resounding yes, by the way; the album is totally bombastic and sagging with guitar solos, which led some folks to rag on it (the infamous U.2 rating!), but I thought it was perfectly fun and listenable, so fuck p4k. I have honestly yet to listen to Man of Aran, their 2009 release that doubles as a soundtrack to a 1934 documentary film, but it seems interesting enough that I'll go back and watch and listen (maybe simultaneously!) at some point.
In the fall of 2010 they put out the Zeus EP, a not-so-unexpected departure from the aforementioned "straightforward rock" of the-album-with-the-inquisitive-title. Its eight songs span 34 minutes, which is rather long for an EP, and the ideas contained therein are expansive, as well; feedback on the guitars, tinkly piano, reverb on the vocals, languishing drones, squealing synths, and some kinda strange digital/autotune effect on the final track. It's strange and fascinating. It's BSP trying to get back to what they did best way back when: fuck with the standard rock formula. And they're doing this after they "perfected" it enough to get Pitchfork to equate them with the most "modern rock band"-ish of all "modern rock bands", these days.
And now, there's Valhalla Dancehall, officially released today, January 11, 2010. I listened to it (streaming on the AV Club) once through and found it be an interesting hybrid of these two paradigms they've embodied thus far in their career: quirky, classic-rock-inspired yet decidedly new and modern, guitar-heavy but vocally-driven indie-pop songs and over-the-top, can-you-possibly-squeeze-any-more-anthemic-guitar-riffs-and-choruses-in-there rockers. I'm looking forward to buying it (somehow). Will it be my favorite record of 2011? Seems unlikely. Will it be in my Top 10? Maybe, but that's hard to say. Will I enjoy listening to it in the meantime? Of course. So give it a shot. Maybe it'll be your favorite!
Here's a song from the new album:
and for completeness' and interest's sakes, here are some of my fave songs from their older albums (that I've heard), chronologically backwards: