The latest relese by the Men, New Moon, starts with a country-style ballad. It’s not what you’d expect after last year’s burner Open Your Heart. But it prepares you for the other country-tinged songs on the album. Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a country album. The Men blend a number of styles — garage, alt-country, punk. Though the album starts off with a slow song, it quickly picks up with Half Angel Half Light, an upbeat almost clasic rock number that reminds me of Tom Petty. The momentum continues through the next track, Without a Face.
My favorite song on the album is I Saw Her Face, a Neil Young and Crazy Horse-style rocker, which could have been the album’s climax. But two songs later, we’re treated to The Brass, an aggressive punky number that makes you realize New Moon sounds almost like a compilation rather than a cohesive album. Electric is another great anthemic number. At this point in the album, you’re thinking the focus has really shifted from country to punk. But then here comes another classic country-rock type number, Bird Song, followed by another catchy punk song, Freaky.
The story of this album has been told a few times already. These guys from Brooklyn took off to the Catskills to record the album in a cabin. That explains the country influence, right?
The album closes on the eight-minute long MC5 homage jam, New Moon. After listening a few times, I’m not sure that the jam holds up for the entire eight minutes. But this album, overall, holds up very well. It’s the best thing I’ve heard this year and it’s highly recommended.
These guys were previewing their recently released material as early as SXSW last year.
The Men play Chicago’s Lincoln Hall April 11.
Here’s something to get excited about: a new song and album from the Men. The band just released this second song, I Saw Her Face, from the upcoming album New Moon. It’s an awesome country-influenced rocker that sounds a bit like Neil Young and Crazy Horse. New Moon comes out March 5.
Here’s a new song by the Men, played live and loud. Electric is now available on 7-inch and will be on the album New Moon, which is set for a March 5 release. The just-released video is actually from a gig in London last year.
Last year’s Open Your Heart by the Men made my list of the top 10 best albums of 2012. So I’m thrilled that these guys plan another release, New Moon, scheduled for March 5. Check out a single, Electric, from the new album below. Electric will be released on 7-inch vinyl January 22.
Here are the 10 best albums of 2012 as rated by yours truly. I feel strongly that a year-end list shouldn’t be swayed by the most buzz or suckered by the heaviest promotions. I listened to almost 100 albums in 2012 and these 10 stood out to me. I hope you find at least one you like in my list.
10. Nada Surf – The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy. Nada Surf is power-pop bliss. This is a great comeback album for these guys, who have been making music since the early ’90s. Stars, the first new album for the band in four years, has an incredibly infectious sound.
9. Frankie Rose – Interstellar. Frankie Rose is a veteran of indie groups, including Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls. While her 2010 release (recorded as Frankie Rose and the Outs) showed glimpses of what was to come, she also stuck with that ’60s girls group genre that made her former bands popular. Here, Rose puts out a highly original album that draws liberally from ’80s pop.
8. The Men – Open Your Heart. The Men made one of the best rock albums of the year, hands down. The spirit and energy of these guys reminds me of the Replacements in their heyday. Like those classic Mats albums, Open Your Heart, takes some cool twists and turns, including the country-influenced Candy, to help pace an otherwise frenetic album.
7. Beachwood Sparks – The Tarnished Gold. With the popularity of Sub Pop labelmates Fleet Foxes, I’m surprised Beachwood Sparks didn’t generate more interest. This easy-going alt-country gem represents another comeback, the first release in 11 years for Beachwood Sparks. Fans of Jayhawks and early Wilco will want to get this album.
6. Grizzly Bear – Shields. Grizzly Bear picks up where it left off with the stunning 2009 release Veckatimest. If you liked that release, there’s a very good chance you’ll dig Shields as well. I’ve always found Grizzly Bear’s sound hard to describe. The oft-used term chamber pop doesn’t quite tell the whole story. Shields is full of dramatic flourishes, which I think makes for a very exciting album even though it’s not exactly rock.
5. Mount Eerie – Clear Moon / Ocean Roar. Released separately, Clear Moon and Ocean Roar are companion albums from the brilliant Phil Elverum, an artist who self releases his music. Elverum makes quiet music that builds into intense landscapes of sound. Both albums were recorded in a vacated church in Washington state where Elverum says he contemplated his own existence. It’s an atmospheric journey marked by many musical peaks and valleys.
4. Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth. There’s a petition pushed by fans of Mountain Goats to make the band’s principal John Darnielle a U.S. poet laureate. I can’t say that I’ve ever been so fanatical about Darnielle or his longtime band, but I do know a great album when I hear one. And Darnielle made one that musically stands up to his thoughtful lyrics.
3. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan. Frontman David Longstreth said Dirty Projectors’ most recent album was influenced by Lil Wayne, Neil Young, Guided by Voices, Rod Stewart and Blind Willie Johnson. No one makes music quite like Dirty Projectors. Harmonized female vocals are often as prominent (or even more dominating) an instrument as the guitar. But no worries — there are guitars on this album, including on the big opening song, Offspring Are Blank. Once compared to prog rock, Longstreth reportedly pointed out in an interview that he wasn’t a big fan of Yes.
2. Ty Segall – Twins. He made three albums in 2012 and they were all really good. Twins is a solid collection of songs from one of the most exciting rock musicians working today. Year-end album lists tend to leave out the best and most fierce rock albums. That’s a shame. Inspired by Stooges, T-Rex and others famous many years before this rocker was born, Segall’s sound is a bit anachronistic and yet his music is so fresh.
1. Woods – Bend Beyond. And speaking of anachronistic… With its psychedelic sound, Woods draws on an earlier era of rock music. When played live, the band extends the excellent title track to 10 minutes (more than double the album length for the song). But you certainly don’t have to be fan of jam bands or psychedelic ’60s to appreciate Woods. I’ve been listening to this band for years and I’d say this is its most accessible album yet. There’s not a bad song in the bunch. It’s very compelling and highly recommended.
Do you want more? Check out my list for the rest of the top 40 here.
Forget the wimpy, rubbery sounds of headliner Vampire Weekend, the meat of the Sunday program for Pitchfork Music Festival is in the afternoon. That’s when Iceage, Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall and the Men play. Again, unfortunately, there’s overlap among these sets. It’s maddening but there are after-shows for each band.
Click here for the full schedule.
Also see Japandroids, Dirty Projectors, Purity Ring kick off Pitchfork fest Friday, Ty Segall brings it on new album, plans another and plays Pitchfork and Grimes, Sleigh Bells, Wild Flag, Atlas Sound highlight Pitchfork Saturday
Pitchfork released a schedule for its three-day July festival in Union Park. The big-stage headliners are Feist Friday night, Godspeed You Black Emperor Saturday and Vampire Weekend Sunday.
Putting Grimes on a side stage Saturday may be a mistake. I wouldn’t be surprised if the area is overwhelmed Saturday night because she is going to draw a huge crowd.
Unfortunately, there’s also too much overlap for the best rock acts of the weekend. Fans who want to catch Iceage, Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall and the Men will have to do some running back and forth Sunday afternoon, missing parts of sets. Despite my bitches, it should be a great festival. Take a look here for the full schedule:
As new releases pour out, I’ll highlight the best albums of 2012. So, to elaborate on a post last month, here are a couple more recommendations for new albums.
I’m a little late to the party in discovering The Men. But now that I’ve spent some time with the band’s Open Your Heart, I’m a big fan. The Men made possibly the best rock album of the year and it’s an early contender for my top release of 2012. The Men play punk, post-punk and whatever other genre you want to throw in. When I listen to Open Your Heart, I’m reminded of so many different bands that it’s hard to zero in on just one. You really have to give it a try. The Men play Pitchfork fest in July.
If you love power pop, check out Nada Surf’s The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy. The album is the first release of new music for the band in four years but Nada Surf picks up where it left off with really great songs. The music should appeal to fans of Rogue Wave, Fountains of Wayne and similar bands. Nada Surf plays Metro Monday night (April 2). An Horse opens.