Radar Bros., The Illustrated Garden (Merge)
As a genre, "Mid-life Crisis Rock" isn’t as paradoxical as it sounds. Aging groups like Wilco, Silver Jews and Yo La Tengo have a refreshing reflectiveness that’s as comforting as a Poison reunion show (and a lot less depressing). Bret Michaels & Co. aside, Radar Bros. embraces nostalgia rock. It’s about moving on to a different stage, without the new convertible or cheating on your wife. Sure, The Illustrated Garden laments but with resolution; it rocks out but with a mature spirit, grooves with the fidelity and dependability of a mini-van. The Illustrated Garden hangs in a neutral zone, not too cheery or too miserable. It doesn’t beat its children or buy them drugs. Tracks of note include "Rainbow," "Quarry," "Horses Warriors" and "Radio."
The Illustrated Garden is now out on Merge Records. Go here to totally friend them on Facebook!
Joanna Newsom, Have One On Me (Drag City)
Indie music fans don’t usually respond rapturously, but this harpist turns even too-cool-for-school, seen-it-all snobs into teen girls at a 90s N’Sync concert. And that’s not to say the admiration is undeserved. If 2004’s Milk-Eyed Mender was Newsom’s timid-yet-dreamy debut, and Ys (2006) her sophomore masterwork, Have One On Me is "her third album." With this one, Newsom assures us of her continuing greatness, and that, without artifice, she’ll simply continue. No big surprises here, but that’s a good thing. She’s shed some awkward baby fat, perched enchantingly from the highest of poetic towers and now basks in her own Joanna Newsom-ness. A record that grabs the listener’s balls and heart while plumping up the tear ducts.
Have One On Me is now out on Drag City. Journey hereto order the record & catch photos of this pretty young lady.
Frog Eyes, Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph (Dead Oceans)
Picture Will Shakespeare on a stormy boat ride to Jamaica. That’s the best way to describe the new one from Frog Eyes (formerly of Absolutely Kosher records). For the unfamiliar, Frog Eyes blends smart (sometimes pretentious) literary lyrics with simple, dreamy and polished melodies. More like early Modest Mouse than Trance, Yoga, or Enya, this group rocks, croons and preaches. With Paul’s Tomb, Frog Eyes’s first for new label Dead Oceans, no momentum is lost. And with all those clever references, listeners can feel excused from reading books for a while. Frontman James Mercer’s manic guitar chops and haunting vocals shame his sub-par mimics (Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade). Ignore the imitators and bet it all on these guys.
Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph drops April 27th on Dead Oceans.Go here to sample tracks from the album.