Band of Horses - Infinite Arms
This album is poppy, but not in a bad way. If I was going to represent it visually, the album would be a plate (the album) with 12 southern biscuits on it (the songs), all covered with honey (the harmonies). I use this example partially jokingly because the harmonies on this album are THICK. They work though. There is no "Funeral" on this album, but in my humble opinion, you only get to write one song like that in your lifetime (with a few exceptions, of course). The songs are recorded such that they don't really get heavy even when it seems like it is a heavy part, but I have no doubt that a song like "Dilly" will sound amazing (and will be plenty hard-hitting) live, because I was lucky enough to hear them play it a few months ago. Don't expect to rock out to this album, but it's a great listen.
The National - High Violet
It seems most bloggers and critics were expecting this to be the album that conquered the world, and they were disappointed that it didn't. Even if it didn't, I think "Bloodbuzz Ohio," "Afraid of Everyone," and "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" are amazing songs that anchor a very strong album overall. Not unlike BoH above, some want the National to write "Fake Empire" again and again, except more mind-blowing every time. The National seem to just want to make good music, and I think they've done it again here.
If you haven't already, check out their Letterman performance of "Afraid of Everyone", featuring Sufjan Stevens.
Deer Tick - The Black Dirt Sessions
I'm a bit of a latecomer to Deer Tick, having picked up their first two albums in late March. I don't know exactly what to think of them sometimes. From what I know, the band tours constantly, parties hard, and they continue to write great songs. At times it seems like their outward image is an inside joke, where they appear to be an out of control rock band, but they can't say that's what they are doing because it would ruin the image. That's not for me to decide, and it doesn't really matter as long as they write good songs. In short, I like the second half of this album better than the first, with the exception of the second song "Twenty Miles," which is among the best on the record. Besides that opinion, though, I will never again be able to think about this album outside of this one experience:
Approximately a month ago, just after TBDS was released, H. and I were driving through rural west Texas, on a small Farm-to-Market road between Muleshoe and Morton, to be specific (see map below). Basically you see little more than some farm vehicles and meet cars maybe every 5 miles. In short, very little traffic. It just so happens we had been listening to this album, and had just reached the final song "Christ Jesus," which if you haven't heard, is, well, typical Deer Tick. Less than a minute after the song started, we came upon a semi-truck that had written on all sides "Jesus Christ is Lord, not a swear word." The trucks appear to have their origin with these folks (I pasted a picture below), although that is somewhat beside the point. It was a pretty odd experience, feeling a bit like two universes collided in the middle of nowhere and we were the only ones who saw it. So yeah, that's what I'll always think of when I hear this record.
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A picture of a similar truck that I found here.