Monday, February 14, 2011

Love is in the something, something

Yes, yes that witty title will reveal all. But first *bulletin music*

I Heard The News Today, Oh Boy
So yes, today is indeed the hallowed day of Cupid, Valentine's Day. Now Al's Music Rant has a bit of a potted history with ol' V Day. There's was the inaugral Valentine's Grinch playlist, it's grumpy sequel, and then another list for the softies celebrating that perennial song topic: the kiss. But this year is different...

For whatever reason, I usually end up listless and loveless on Valentine's but this year I received some major affection, not from any kind of female attention mind you, but from my first love: music.
For today I received new releases from not one, not two, but three(!) bands that I, well... love.
The kind of love that if life were an eighties high-school rom-com, they would be the cute redhead I'd admire from afar, doodling their name in my folder surrounded by cartoon love hearts. You should all be so grateful that I'm taking the time to make this analogy when I could be of deciding which excellent record to listen to first. I'm talking about the new albums from Akron/Family, ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead and the highly anticipated Bright Eyes record The People's Key. And how they spoiled me. Each comes in lavish packaging, digipack and lyric-laden alike, and the Trail of Dead's Tao of the Dead comes as a two-cd ltd. edition that contains "the first 16 pages of the graphic novel Strange News From Another Planet - The Voyages Of The Festival Thyme" from singer/guitarist Conrad Keely. Be still my throbbing, prog-nerd heart!
So, why the excitement, well let's explore the lengths of my desire shall we? (oooh, that came out wrong)

Akron/Family - S/T II: The Cosmic Birth And Journey Of Shinju TNT
And here you thought that Trail of Dead title was pretentious...
My first taste of S/T II came in the form of the psychedelically trippy video for double-A side A AAA O A WAY/So It Goes. This, combined with my love for their last LP, 2009's peerless Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free set my anticipation levels to 'feverish.' From early listenings, it seems the freak-folk collective have embraced their wilder experiments, but their softer side as well. Expect a full review soon.

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead - Tao of the Dead
The Texan rockers have always been progressive, in both sound and attitude, but their seventh studio album finds them celebrating their more ambitious yearnings. Namechecking prog heavyweights Pink Floyd, Rush and Yes in the lead-up to its release, it's no surprise to find Tao of the Dead broken up into two sections, with the second beng a sixteen minute suite. In fact, that's not the full picture, as the the aforementioned two-disc edition contains two more epic compositions that act as bookends. Both the prologue and epilogue clocking in at over half an hour a piece. wow. I can't wait to sink my teeth into this beast, and it already features some of the best (re: craziest) artwork this year. Just look at it, now imagine hearing it. Yeah, the mind boggles.

Bright Eyes - The People's Key
Conor Oberst has stayed away from the Bright Eyes for a while now, spending the better part of the last four years with malarking about with his Mystic Valley Band and as part of the Monsters of Folk supergroup. All well and good. It's probably fair that he spent time mucking about with such side projects, after all the precocious little bugger has only just broken into his thirties, and after spending his youth becoming one of our generation's most eminent writers he's probably earned it. But it was with his first band that Oberst earned his mantle, and it's understandable that even whispers of a new record were met with explosive anticipation. The first tracks from the record boded well, namely the shape-shiftig Shell Games and robust Haile Selassie, hinting at a deeper scope as well as classic hallmarks of the Bright Eyes sound. I've got a theory though, if I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning was Oberst's intimate New York record, and it's follow-up 2007's Cassadaga was his state of the nation address, then The People's Key could well be his cosmic album. The clue's in the title, the universal theme of the the people, and the people's music. Pretty heavy themes for most artists, but for Oberst and his fellow cohorts Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott it's fitting subject matter.

There you have it, Valentine's Day has treated me well. It's only Februrary and already we're talking Album of the Year material here. It might be a bit preemptive to call, but I wouldn't be surprised to find these three jostling for position come the end-of-year lists. Maybe I'm gushing, but remember I'm in love - so now I'm off to indulge with a pair of Sennheiser headphones. Bliss.

P.S. Entries are still open to win the following swag:
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