American Aquarium – “Burn. Flicker. Die.” – Nick Dorney
Raleigh-based American Aquarium is back with the strongest album of their career.
The relentlessly-touring outfit has come a long way from its debut, 2006′s “Antique Hearts.
On “Burn. Flicker. Die.” vocalist/songwriter BJ Barham doesn’t reinvent the wheel with his songwriting.
There’s the usual suspects: hard-luck, heavy drinking and small towns with little hope for escape.
Produced by Jason Isbell (arguably one of the greatest songwriters working today,) “Burn. Flicker. Die.” finds the band adding a little bit of Muscle Shoals soul to its sound..
Where American Aquarium excels, it is making the worst nights of people’s lives spent in hole-in-the-wall bars seem like the best opportunity to start all over again.
Hopefully, this is the album to get the band some well-deserved national recognition.
Grizzly Bear – “Shields” - Nick Dorney
It has been three years since the release of Grizzly Bear’s last album, the critically-acclaimed “Veckatimest.”
The quartet have returned with perhaps the strongest top-to-bottom album of their career with Shields.
On Shields, Grizzly Bear seems to have scaled back their sound a bit (singer Ed Droste has spoken in interviews of the band using raw vocal takes and writing the songs collectively from scratch).
This isn’t to say that the arrangements on the album are any less impressive than the band’s prior efforts.
Shields sacrifices in vocal layering and varied instrumental overdubs more than makes up in concise, well-crafted songs.
It’s another step in the right direction for one of the more interesting bands making music today.
“Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet On Sky” - Kevin McClary
Since reforming in 2005, legendary indie alternative rock band Dinosaur Jr. have yet to disappoint their longtime fans with their three newest studio albums “Beyond,” “Farm” and their recently released “I Bet On Sky.”
The original lineup (of the legendary J Mascis on guitar and vocals, Lou Barlow on bass and Emmett Murphy on drums) returns with another set of dirty, guitar-driven, yet melodic tunes.
With the familiar layering of Mascis’ distinctive croaky vocals surrounded with an orchestra of crunchy guitar tones, the album still maintains a fresh feel for new and long time fans.
Halfway into the opening track “Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know,” they introduce a new element with a steady keyboard melody that is eventually complimented with some tasteful guitar work by Mascis.
Twenty-seven years after forming in 1985, the veteran band continues to progress with “I Bet On Sky.”
For nearly a decade, the Concord, N.C. based folk-rock band The Avett Brothers flew under the radar as North Carolina’s “best kept secret.”
But in 2009, they made their major label debut with “I and Love and You,” produced by the legendary Rick Rubin, who has worked with dozens of highly successful artists such as Tom Petty, Metallica and Jay-Z.
For the band’s most recent release, “The Carpenter,” they paired up with Rubin again to continue where they left off with “I and Love and You.”
The band stays true to its roots by incorporation the shimmering acoustic guitar tones, tight harmonies and rolling banjo melodies that their hardcore fans know and love with some new, unfamiliar elements.
Whether you have followed the band since their beginnings or you are more recent fan, you will be sure to find what you love about The Avett Brothers in “The Carpenter.”