Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Best Music of the First Quarter of 2012

So far, I've really enjoyed a lot of the new music that's come out. There's been good, there's been bad, but I figured I'd offer up some highlights of what's come around so far. If you're interested in a broader playlist, you can subscribe to my "Favorites of 2012" playlist, or simply add some of the stuff I'm linking below the jump:

* Punch Brothers - Who's Feeling Young Now?: The Punch Brothers feature Chris Thile, best known for his work with Nickel Creek and also half of one of my favorite albums of last year, his effort Sleep With One Eye Open with Michael Daves. This is more along the lines of the type of bluegrass Thile has been trying to push forward with his solo and post-Nickel Creek efforts, and it's finally coming to fruition - it often sounds like a classic alt-rock record with bluegrass instrumentation. Really rock-solid album, and an early leader in the clubhouse for album of the year for me. Key songs: "This Girl," "Patchwork Girlfriend."

* Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur: It's a less alt-country/rootsy effort, and it's produced by Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver), so that raised two massive flags in my mind, but it turns out that the album is really, really good. Not my favorite of her's, but still solid. Key songs: "Change the Sheets," "Mint."

* Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror: Sleigh Bells hit my radar because their early songs were blown-speaker-style noise anthems with hints of rap and cheerleading. It sounds better than it is being described, but the new album ups the production value and decreases the amount of discomfort, and it largely works. Key songs: "Comeback Kid," "Demons."

* Anya Marina - Felony Flats: Anya Marina has never totally impressed me - she had some good folky stuff, a good song a few years ago, but the newest album that came out a few years ago wasn't on my radar. She toured with Jason Mraz, which isn't my scene at all. Man, I don't know what happened, but Felony Flats goes for less folk and more rock. It feels very different, has a lot of alt-rock/indie rock influences, and is just an impressive album all around. Key songs: "Body Knows Best," "Notice Me."

* First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar: Get your folk on! First Aid Kit are really good at the whole "haunting harmony" thing, and the songs hold up incredibly well on the new album. Just a great, great album early on. Key songs: "Emmylou," "This Old Routine."

* The Shins - Port of Morrow: I don't love the Shins. I think their first album is horribly overrated, their second album an all-time classic, and their third album borderline unlistenable. The new album? Easily in the upper tier, and rivals Chutes Too Narrow in its scope and proficiency. Really, really solid. Key songs: "Simple Song," "The Rifle's Spiral." What's been tickling your earholes so far this year?

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