Although Kaiser Chiefs’ new album The Future Is Medieval was available to European audiences for close to a year now, it was finally released and retitled for North American audiences as Start The Revolution Without Me on March 6. The album, produced by Tony Visconti (David Bowie) and Ethan Johns (Crosby, Stills and Nash, Kings of Leon), is much more indie rock than their previous efforts. The band layers multiple instruments and vocals, even ‘80s-style synthesizers—all melded together so well that none are overpowering. The problem lies in the band’s inability to decide whether they should fully embrace new wave/experimental or be the catchy pop, post-punk band that audiences fell in love with. This comes to a head mid-album, where tunes begin easily bleeding into one another because the songs are too nondescript. Nonetheless, the album is super catchy, the kind of catchy that haunts you in class, on the bus and in the shower.
Trial track: “Little Shocks”
– A.J. Cordeiro
“This is the last time / this time I know I’m done / I have a purpose / that’s what I tell myself,” begins what is quite possibly the most charming folk record in recent memory. Come Back as Rain, the Philadelphia folk-pop trio’s third album, is the perfect coalescence of happy-go-lucky pop melodies and deeply meaningful folk poetry. But it’s so much more than that. Taking not only from pop and folk genres, the album ebbs and flows between country and rock, heavy and light, fast and slow. The intricate acoustic guitar in the ballad “Amazing Eyes” lifts you from within, carrying the essence of romantic nostalgia, while the heavy rhythm of “Can’t Go Home” conjures up images of campfire sing-a-longs with summertime friends and lovers. With messages of relationships past and present, living in the moment, making mistakes and hoping for the future, this album has the potential to warm you up on the dreariest day spring can throw your way.
Trial track: “It Hurts Every Time”
– Allie Mason
Chicago multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird had his latest effort debut at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 chart, and has continued to remain in the public eye with a showcase at the famed South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) and a stellar performance on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. Evoking tones of indie folk and baroque pop, Bird’s sixth studio album relies heavily on violin, whistling, guitar, glockenspiel and Bird’s voice. The album is calming, despite coming out from a breakup, reaffirming the old adage that art comes best from adversity. Bird’s magic continues for just over an hour on the disc, leaving even the slightest detractor marveled. The only criticism is that it perhaps runs a bit too long in parts. Despite that, the album will please fans of Arcade Fire, folk-God Bob Dylan, or even classical music enthusiasts.
Trial track: “Eyeoneye”
– A.J. Cordeiro
The Bowerbirds, a violin and accordion-doting North Carolina indie-folk trio, had a huge year in 2011: they opened for Arcade Fire twice and toured opening for California indie rocker The Mountain Goats. The ‘birds follow up with their third album, The Clearing, equally as stellar as their two previous full-length LPs. The opening track, “Tuck The Darkness In,” is a possible contender for the best song that The Bowerbirds have ever written. With its haunted violins, distorted guitars, and sweeping climax, listeners can easily identify the tone of the following tracks. “Take your time with it / all of it,” are the lyrics on The Clearing’s final track “Now We Hurry On.” It’s good advice for listening to this record; the album takes a few listens to fully appreciate. The Bowerbirds said that they spent more time working on The Clearing than they had on previous albums, so the listener must likewise spend an equal amount of time to fully grasp the accomplishment that The Clearing is.
Trial track: “Tuck the Darkness In”
– Matthew Duker
Commencing with the familiar keyboard tune accompanied by a pounding snare in “Born in the U.S.A.,” all the way until the pouring emotion found in “My Hometown,” this album showcases Springsteen’s faithful ties to America. The iconic cover shows The Boss’ backside in blue jeans, with a snapback hanging off his right pocket as he stands before what appears to be the American flag. This iconic picture could be a facet of what propelled Springsteen to stardom.
Springsteen’s biggest ‘80s hits are all on this album: “Born in The U.S.A.,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “Glory Days” and “I’m on Fire.” This record didn’t just turn Springsteen into a mainstream rock star, but rejuvenated his career as well. This is not to say Born To Run or The River were not great albums, they just didn’t have the same widespread appeal. This album is not only representative of American patriotism, but it may as well be the soundtrack for the national ethos of the American Dream. You could say, musically, Springsteen is the American Dream.
Trial track: “I’m Goin’ Down”
– Alex Giardini