Wilco – The Whole Love (BMI; 2011)
With the release of The Whole Love, their eighth studio album, Jeff Tweedy and company show that they are capable of creating fresh music while retaining their familiar sound. The album opens up with an unprecedented Wilco track titled “Art of Almost”. The bass line carries the song’s melody while a string section and Nels Cline’s signature style adds necessary bite. This is all backed by a drum beat which evokes a dubstep feel in the song’s first half while providing hard-rock intensity in the song’s climactic ending. The remaining songs retreat back to the country, folk, and rock musicianship Wilco is known for. “I Might,” “Dawned On Me,” and “Born Alone” carry the upbeat feeling from the band’s previous album, Wilco (The Album), while songs like “Capitol City” and “One Sunday Morning” are reminiscent of the soft melodic sounds on A Ghost is Born.
Trial track: “The Whole Love”
– Mike Beaton
Why should anyone care about Switchfoot in 2011? Long gone are the days when “Dare You To Move” played in endless loops on everyone’s iPod, and their split with major label Columbia in 2007 left them flying, largely, under the radar. But the fact remains that this often-labelled Christian rock band can still write some solid tunes. Their eighth studio album, Vice Verses is a pleasant collection of tracks which vary between upbeat rockers and mellow ballads. Much of the album was written around the band’s rhythm section, highlighting the bass and drum work of Tim Foreman and Chad Butler. A definite highlight is the groovy, spoken-word style of “Selling the News,” which is unfortunately the only real creative departure to be found on the record. Although Switchfoot didn’t reinvent themselves â€“ to no one’s real surprise – Vice Verses proves that they can still fill an album with catchy, well-written songs.
Trial track: “Dark Horses”
– Robert Flis
Only in Dreams is the sophomore release of indie music’s riot grrrl rag dolls, Dum Dum Girls. The album drew inspiration from frontwoman Kristen “Dee Dee” Gundred’s mother’s death and separation from her husband. This has definitely led to a new-found maturity among the girl-group’s gloss and punk energy. Admittedly, most of the songs follow a familiar structure and after a listen to the first single “Bedroom Eyes,” you will get the gist of Only in Dreams’ other 10 tracks. This album certainly has a more produced sound, thanks in part to The Raveonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner’s aid. Â It has a more cohesive vocal contribution from the other girls, overall, which was lacking from their debut album, I Will Be. There is a glimmer of longevity under the surface of this melodic, hooky, retro garage-pop gem. It isn’t perfection, but definitely a step in the right direction.
Trail track: “Bedroom Eyes”
Led Zeppelin – Physical Grafitti (Swan Song; 1979)
Ambitious even by Led Zeppelin standards, Physical Graffiti is one dense record. The double-album brought back the raw bluesy sound that made I and II the gold standard for half-pace head banging. “Custard Pie” sets the tone: the Clavinet riff drops like lead, and the swampy harmonica adds grit.
In “Trampled Under Foot,” Jimmy Page is playful and sharp and John Paul Jones channels Motown, while “Bron-Y-Aur” is both a fingerpicking gem and a welcome moment of rest. Physical Graffiti is Zeppelin at their most indulgent. So it’s no surprise some tracks underwhelm. “Night Flight” never finds its footing and “Kashmir” opens with force but drones. Nevertheless, the highs of this album outweigh the lows. And, of course, there’s “In the Light.” The verse is impossibly heavy; the exuberance of the chorus contagious. It’s unheralded, but no less brilliant for it. Any “Best of Led Zeppelin” discussion can’t be complete without it. The same goes for this album.
Trial track: “In the Light”
– Brandon Judd