Pushed through a ton of first full listens the last few days: Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, Foals' Total Life Forever, Future Islands' In Evening Air, Anais Mitchell's Hadestown, Grinderman 2, Gossip's 2009 Music For Men, The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night.
Some down and dirty first impressions, subject to significant change with repeated listens...
While I don't think it will catch The National's High Violet as my favorite release of 2010, Mitchell's Hadestown is fantastic...unless it proves over time to be a bit of a sinker, it's a surefire Highest Recommend.
The Suburbs is also strong, but I was struck by how straightforward and non-anthemic it is compared to the Arcade Fire's first two releases, and I do wonder if it might have been even better if the band had fewer members to constantly incorporate into the mix. The emotional intimacy of many of these songs seemed to scream out for sparer, more skeletal instrumentation.
Grinderman 2 delivers and I can already tell it will be at worst a solid recommend. If anything, the band seems more locked in on it's feral identity than the first time out, but song by song, the material doesn't seem quite as strong.
Though flawed, In Evening Air and Total Life Forever might be the two most promising releases of the bunch. There's a raw intensity to the Future Island's release that sustains it even when performance/songwriting don't quite match, and as for the Foals' effort, there are moments on it that seriously got me wondering if we're witnessing the early evolution of our next Radiohead...fans of Weird Fishes/Arpeggi from In Rainbows definitely need to check Total Life Forever out.
The Besnard Lakes release felt epic and classic rocky in a potentially good way, but outside of the opening minutes of Albatross, didn't make much of a lasting impression the first time out.
Regardless, is been a great few days of listening...so many strong releases this year.
Finally, I know traffic is still relatively small, but if you're a repeat visitor to this blog, or even a first timer, please know comments are encouraged. Let reader's know your own opinions on the works I've reviewed, your own take on the Best Of lists, how I can improve the site, etc., etc.