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February 28, 2012

Seven February Music Releases You Should Listen To

If you were a listener of my Monthly Music Wrap-Up podcast you might have noticed its been absent from the site lately. Time constraints lead me to choose writing more over the excessive amount of effort I was putting into the podcast. (I'm currently working on a hosting solution to make all the released episodes available again, but for now just email me if you missed any.) Don't worry though, I'll still be pointing you toward great new releases each month, in the form of this here article series.

2012 is looking to be a great year for music, and February was where things really started off. So, which of the newly-released albums are worth your time? Well, I can't claim to have listened to everything put out in the month of February, but here are seven album releases that I quite enjoyed, and think you should give a listen to as well.

Dr. Dog's Be The Void
Released February 7th

A Dr. Dog album doesn't follow the regular "rules" of an album. The hook isn't in a "chorus" that is repeated in between the verses. It's more like a gradual climb up Mt. Awesome. You start down on the base of the mountain, where you realize the potential of the feat, and by the time you're at the top (or end of the song) it's the best feeling in the world. Then the next track comes on and you're in front of a brand-new mountain, ready to do it all over again. This sort of song writing is exhilarating to me, and makes it so that I'm always willing to go back and revisit an already conquered "mountain".

That Old Black Hole

Air's Le Voyage Dans La Lune
Released February 7th

French electronic duo Air have joined in the trend -- that I was unaware existed until now -- of doing their own soundtrack for the 1902 film, Le Voyage Dans La Lune. The movie centers around people being shot out of a cannon to the moon, where they encounter hostile moon-creatures. It probably sounds silly, but many consider it to be the first science fiction film ever, which would explain why so many bands were attracted to redo the soundtrack. Air's attempt is quite good, even on its own, as I've yet to see the film the album is supposed to be a soundtrack for. You can pick up both, via a bundle on Amazon that includes a new color-restored version of the Le Voyage.

Seven Stars

Classics of Love, Self-Titled
Released February 14th

You're probably most likely to recognize singer Jesse Michaels from the seminal ska punk band Operation Ivy, but he never really stopped making music after their break-up. While Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman went on to form the wildly popular Rancid, Jesse formed and promptly disbanded several lesser-known acts throughout the years. He seems to like moving on, having left Op Ivy, Big Rig, Common Rider, and even his own solo stuff behind to create the next thing, which in this case is Classics of Love. It's a return to more of a punk sound for him, as his longest-lasting act, Common Rider, was a bit more mellow and drawn to his ska side. And even though I would give both of my pinky fingers for a new Common Rider album, it's nice to hear Jesse singing in a straight punk band again.

What A Shame

Shearwater's Animal Joy
Released February 14th

I've written about Shearwater multiple times before. Their quiet beauty is something I've always loved, and it makes the times that their songs show any amount of energy that much more effective. The band was actually formed so that Will Sheff and Jonathan Meiburg from Okkervil River could explore their calmer-music writing side. Except, with the trilogy of the band's last three albums complete -- which I wasn't even aware was a trilogy until now -- they seem to be evolving the band's sound. A little bit. The main difference is that Animal Joy features a lot more of those occasional energetic, upbeat moments from their past records. Which is awesome, because they still somehow manage to maintain that tranquil beauty even while I'm bopping my head around and drumming on things. A true feat of songwriting genius.


Punch Brothers's Who's Looking Young Now?
Released February 14th

Chris Thile was aiming to pay even more homage to his bluegrass roots when he formed Punch Brothers than he ever had with Nickel Creek. And he certainly succeeded, as bluegrass is definitely the first descriptor that comes to mind, but there's quite a bit more. Indie music fans can easily be drawn into the music, even if they aren't big on bluegrass, because of the songwriting and very elaborate playing. They're categorized as "Progressive Bluegrass" and that makes a whole lot of sense, because they're clearly trying to push the genre, and are bringing some of their indie sensibilities along for the ride. Who's Looking Young Now? has garnered some backlash online for sounding too "produced", instead of more raw and live like some of their past releases, but honestly, with songs this good, I don't really care either way.

This Girl

Nervous Curtains' Fake Infinity
Released February 21st

Sean Kirkpatrick added quite a bit to The Paper Chase's sound when he joined the band. I can't really imagine them without some of the creepy keyboard sounds in the background. Nervous Curtains, his side-project-turned-main-focus, puts all of those creepy-keyboard hums front-and-center, along with his frantic vocals. With two keyboard players and a drummer, the band is like a wall of dark electronic drones hitting you in the face, and Kirkpatrick wails over top of it all with somewhat demented lyrics like, "I'm busy taking moody photos of my insides." Music like this might turn some people off, but it's the kind of stuff I love the most. I mean, Paper Chase was my favorite band and all.

Wired To Make Waves

Cursive's I Am Gemini
Released February 21st

Their 7th studio album, I Am Gemini is all over the map...constantly. You never know what is going to happen next, because song's change on a whim and hardly ever return to whence they came. Which makes this album an extremely fun listen, despite the morose tale it weaves. You don't need to even bother digging into the concept behind the album though, just enjoy the absolutely insane roller coaster ride that the music takes you on. If you do want to enhance things by deciphering the story surrounding it all, it's apparently very well mapped out in the CD booklet, so consider picking that up instead of the digital version.

The Cat and Mouse

Other Notable February Releases

Wire - Black Session Paris, 10 May 2011 - Purchase
Ben Kweller - Go Fly a Kite - Purchase
Of Montreal - Paralytic Stalks - Purchase
The Phenomenal Handclap Band - Form and Control - Purchase
Islands - A Sleep and A Forgetting - Purchase
Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror - Purchase
Useless ID - Symptoms - Purchase - Review

Upcoming March Releases

Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself - 6th
Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball - 6th
Bowerbirds - The Clearing - 6th
Magnetic Fields - Love at the Bottom of the Sea - 6th
Xiu Xiu - Always - 6th
Grinderman - Grinderman 2 RMX - 13th
Meat Loaf - Hell in a Handbasket - 13th
Say Anything - Anarchy, My Dear - 13th
The Ting Tings - Sounds From Nowheresville - 13th
The Decemberists - We All Raise Our Voices to the Air (Live) - 6th
Anti-Flag - General Strike - 20th
The Shins - Port of Morrow - 20th
The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet - 27th
Miike Snow - Happy To You - 27th
All-American Rejects - Kids in the Street - 27th
Fat Mike/Dustin Lanker - Rubber Bordello Soundtrack - 27th
Real McKenzies - Westwind - 27th

What were your favorite February releases and why? Which upcoming albums are you looking forward to?


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