Halcyon 

Ellie Goulding

In 2010, Ellie Goulding burst onto the indie pop scene with her debut album Lights. Garnering both critical and commercial success, she was heralded as one of Britain’s greatest exports. Attempting to surpass a successful first album can be difficult, but Ellie Goulding has met this challenge with expert skill. Halcyon improves on where Lights left off and further cements Goulding’s distinct style.

Halcyon is carefully produced, utilizing orchestral instruments and a bevy of back-up singers. These new elements add tremendous depth and subtlety to the record’s tracks. In just two years it seems that Goulding has matured both technically and emotionally as an artist. With a perfect jumble of electro and techno beats, Halcyon is bursting with catchy tunes. “Figure 8” will prove to be a massive club hit while “Explosions” will have you reaching for a box of tissues. And with the help of Calvin Harris, “I Need Your Love” is one of the record’s most successful songs.

Although Halcyon is distinctly pop, it will be sure to gain approval in both the mainstream and alternative music worlds – a feat that few records have been able to achieve.

By: Tina Cody

Local Business

Titus Andronicus

The most obvious point of comparison for Local Business is undoubtedly The Monitor, Titus Andronicus’ Civil-War themed 2010 LP that somehow found the punk-rock ethos in the writings of Abraham Lincoln. Local Business sees the New Jersey rockers reining in this ambitiousness somewhat, as they forsake both an overarching concept and bagpipe breakdowns.

An even more fitting counterpart for Local Business, however, might be Japandroids’ Celebration Rock from earlier this summer. This album caused a blogosphere sensation with its blitzkrieg riffage and post-adolescent rebelliousness, making it a lock for upcoming best-of-the-year lists. Hopefully Local Business is also so recognized, however, because it surpasses the thematically and sonically similar Celebration Rock in several regards.

While Japandroids’ only dynamics are faster and louder, Titus Andronicus craft epics like “Still Life with Hot Deuce on Silver Platter,” with three-guitars and even more choruses. Moreover, while Japandroids repeat the same fist-pumping slogans, Titus Andronicus lead vocalist Patrick Stickles channels a similar youthful swagger with rap-battle-level wit and wordplay. Celebration Rock gets the blood pumping, but when the best rock albums of 2012 are chosen don’t forget to support your Local Business.

By: Cooper Long

Daughter of Cloud

Of Montreal

Of Montreal is one of those strange new-wave bands, showcasing an amalgam of musical styles that sometimes doesn’t even make sense. Generally speaking, their albums sound like something David Bowie and Prince might come up with if they dropped acid together in the middle of a carnival. Daughter of Cloud, a compilation of rare recordings from 2009-12, is no exception.
I’m going to be honest, I don’t even know what I think of the band, and this is the third album of theirs I’ve listened to. The elements of funk are well placed, and the dreampop feel of the production is nice, but the frequent mid-song genre changes always throw me off. Highlights include the Sgt Pepper-esque “Tender Fax,” the falsetto-powered “Georgie’s Lamnets,” and the lyrically gorgeous “Psychotic Feeling.”

The rest of the songs all have these tiny, 8-bar gems of super tight production and dynamic melody, but the illusion is shattered when – seemingly without cue – the song recedes into atmospheric background music while frontman Kevin Barnes rants about erections (not joking, listen to the hilariously titled “Jan Doesn’t Like It”).  Too bad I can’t rate this album “question mark” out of five.

By: Brody Weld

The Soul Station Vol. 1: The Songs of Sam Cooke – A Tribute

Jarvis Church

Jarvis Church is a soul singer! The former frontman for the Philosopher Kings (as Gerald Eaton) has done some outstanding work as a producer for Nellie Furtado but his passion is behind the mic, not the board. Unlike his 2009 release The Long Way Home where he explores his personal musical roots, here he’s channeling Sam Cooke – right down to the tight suit and look.

The release of this CD is very timely. It’s been almost 50 years since the passing of Sam Cooke (Dec. 11, 1964), but his songs are timeless. In fact, Barack Obama used the lead track on this CD, “A Change is Gonna Come” as his theme song in the 2008 election campaign (Seal had a hit with it then). Perhaps Church will get a sales burst this time.

The music was recorded “live and off the floor,” which means that all the musicians played the songs as though they were performing them live – no overdubs or studio tricks. Church has surrounded himself with some fantastic musicians, notably Michael Kaeshammer (who’s worth the price of admission in concert himself).

All-in-all a cool CD, the first in a series that commemorates the soul greats (Otis Redding next?). It’s mainly covers, but the three new songs fit in well, especially “She Keeps Me Up All Night.” If you want to learn more about Sam Cooke, check out the book “Dream Boogie” by Peter Guralnick. I’ll loan you my copy. Meanwhile, check out The Soul Station.

By: Phil Wood

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