Spring is a time of rebirth (side note: can we please start calling the second semester of the school year here the “Spring” semester rather than “Winter”? Spring: Rebirth :: Winter: Death). The days grow longer. The temperature warms up. Seasonal affected depression rates go down. There’s a lot happening.
Among these many goings-on in Spring 2013 is the release of exciting new music from many of our (my?) favorite indie rock acts. In order of release, here’s a look at some of the albums sure to drive hipsters wild from Brooklyn to Brookline (this may literally be the extent of the music’s appeal, save pockets in San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, and Trenton, NJ) in the months ahead.
The Strokes, Comedown Machine – March 26
Mercifully, New York’s coolest band took significantly less time between albums four (2011’s Angles) and five than they did between albums three (2006’s First Impressions of Earth) and four.
Two songs from the album have been released, “All the Time” and “One Way Trigger”. The former, the album’s lead single, sounds for all the world like a throwback to the group’s celebrated first two albums, Is This It and Room on Fire, complete with fuzzy/initially undecipherable vocals and a riff that’s vaguely reminiscent of the excellent “Barely Legal” from their debut.
The latter sounds like nothing The Strokes have ever done before, even the most experimental moments on Angles. For much of the song, lead singer Julian Casablancas ditches his trademark sleazy croon for a falsetto, with A-Ha-like synths blaring in the background.
For a band that is often criticized for retreading its own material, the experimentation of “One Way Trigger” is promising. Me though, I’ll take the jam of “All the Time” any day.
Phoenix, Bankrupt! – April 23
Full disclosure: whereas I basically know everything about The Strokes and a lot about Vampire Weekend (see below), I don’t know Phoenix quite as well. I got involved with Phoenix in 2006 when their third album, It’s Never Been Like That, came out, and never quite dug through the back catalog.
Remembering reviews I read at the time, my understanding is that It’s Never Been Like That was a bit of a guitar-heavy departure for Phoenix, which had been a synth-driven outfit across their first two albums. Their excellent 2009 follow-up, the wonderfully (and much more imaginatively compared with their upcoming work) titled Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, was a mix of the synths and Strokes-style guitars.
What will we see on Bankrupt!? Lead single “Entertainment” is a combo of synths and guitars in the mold of their Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix hit, “1901”. The music soars but the hook doesn’t quite connect like it did on “1901,” or even “Lisztomania”.
That said, I can say with some certainty that basically everyone except me will prefer “Entertainment” to The Strokes’ “All the Time,” so adjust your downloading accordingly.
Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City – May 7
How about that album title! Kind of distressing, right? Somehow it doesn’t fit with the image the band has cultivated over the years, so what do we say we just let’s acronym it from here on out, deal? MVOTC it is.
And so but like there’s more to life than album titles. In December, Vampire Weekend debuted a new song from MVOTC, “Unbelievers,” on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and it was pretty sweet. It had the soaring instrumentation of Vampire Weekend’s most accessible music (“Horchata” seems a good point of reference), and the crowd ate it up.
Perhaps because of how excellent 2010’s Contra was, I would say I have some confidence that MVOTC, in spite of its name, will be a fantastic record. The band appeared to continue developing on their second album, but they did it with a confidence in the style that made their eponymous 2008 debut so enjoyable.
Plus, like a Graceland-era Paul Simon before them, their music is basically designed for warmer weather, longer days and colder beverages – I don’t care what the title is.