Scott - Sharks, The Joys of Living, 2008-2010 (2011, Rise Records)
This British foursome combines all the best things about late '80s/early '90s college rock—the brains, the melodies, the angst—and pairs 'em with a contemporary punk-influenced guitar-rock sound. The Joys of Living collects 12 tracks previously released in the U.K. on various EPs, and tosses in two excellent new tunes for good measure to show you where these gentleman have been, and where they're going. And where they're going, incidentally, is into any discerning American rock fan's "Most Played" list—these guys are good.
Taylor - NeedToBreathe, The Reckoning (2011)
NeedToBreathe has gained a worthy reputation for genre-blendering folk-rock. Like, banjo and hand claps-meets-screaming electric guitar and wailing choirs folk-rock. And everywhere in between. Some bands can't be bound by sentences, the sounds and the feelings they produce defying explanation. NeedToBreathe's fourth, The Reckoning, is one such album. Having listened to it about five times in a row this week, I've come to see it as a story: Man becomes sarcastic and bitter, realizing he's been unprepared for a heartless world that makes life feel like an uphill battle ("Oohs and Aahs" and "White Fences"). Man is frustrated and lost, torn between the lure of momentary excitement and more lasting meaningfulness ("Drive All Night" through "Devil's Been Talking"). Finally, Man opens his eyes to what really matters and reconciles himself to his painful past ("Angel At My Door" and "Learn To Love"). The true worth of a band is found in whether they offer a musical experience that makes you want to change your life after hearing it. If you aren't smashed in the conscience by at least six of these songs, and if the wall of sound that explodes out of your speakers doesn't at least tickle your eardrums, please seek medical help. Their November 12 Tampa gig (supporting T-Swift) at the St. Pete Times Forum is already sold out (surprise surprise), so beg around on the interwebs for a spare ticket so you can be graced by their live presence. Check out the album EPK after the jump.
Gabe - John Doe, Keeper (2011)
The lead singer and co-writer that fueled L.A.'s finest ever punk band (yeah, I said it...) steps out for one of his many superb solo jaunts. The results are, as always, spectacular. Doe's deep emotive vocals are still as resonant as ever. The man can switch gears on a dime and belt out breakneck-paced rock and then slow things down for plaintive country ballads like no one else in the biz. Plenty of guest stars drop by this time to lend their talents and again, Doe hits one out of the park. Fans of X, Drive By Truckers, Wilco — hell, fans of GOOD music period — will love this record...
Nicole - Gorilla Biscuits, Start Today (1989)
Getting back to the grind after vacation is hard. Gorilla Biscuits' classic Start Today is still a surefire way to get motivated... let's start today!
Jeff - Peter Frampton, Frampton Comes Alive 35th Anniversary Edition (Abbey Road Live)
While I already own Frampton Comes Alive in both vinyl and CD formats, this new offering is way beyond cool. Frampton is currently on tour celebrating the 35th anniversary of the release of Frampton Comes Alive. During this tour, Frampton has hooked up with Abbey Road Live to record each individual show and offer fans their very own copy before they leave the building. It's a four-CD package that includes a recording of the entire concert and some other great stuff. I have to say that it was pretty cool to listen to the concert I just saw during my drive home. There are only 1,000 copies made of each night's performance (I have 125 of 1,000 for the Clearwater show), and you can order them online, if you missed the show. I wish more artists could do this!
Leilani - NPR First Listen album streams
I've been out my computer for over a week now due to a hardcore virus, and it's really thrown a wrench into my listening habits. I'm currently using my husband's spare laptop, and I don't have any of my usual musical channels or an entire hard drive's worth of music at my disposal, and I'm working on such a slow-running system that I can't upload or download anything to it. So, I've turned to streams, and have been sampling what NPR has been offering. Last week, it was DJ Shadow. Right now, I'm on Body Language's Social Studies, appealing indietronica with a sort of disco-skating rink appeal, girlishly sultry vocals, and moments of island grooving along with plenty of opportunities for dancing. It was released in July and is available now. I think I am falling in love... I also plan to check out Real Estate, Days (apparently psyche-surf pop doused heavily in wistful, rose-colored nostalgia) and then My Brightest Diamond, All Things Will Unwind. This is the third album from the project by folk/chamber pop singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Shara Worden, who frequently performs with Sufjan Stevens. Both of the latter albums are due out next Tues., Oct. 18.