Over the last week or so, I have spent a fair amount of time listening to the new albums from Land of Talk, Darker My Love, Arcade Fire, and Bettie Serveert. I'm not really prepared to write full reviews, but here are some brief snapshots of the records.
- Land Of Talk - Cloak and Cypher (Saddle Creek): The Canadian band's debut became a surprise favorite of mine when it came out last year. Singer/guitarist Elizabeth Powell has a striking voice and is capable of crafting some nearly perfect indie rock. The new album is actually an improvement, with better performances and production. Looking forward to finally seeing this band live.
- Bettie Serveert - Pharmacy of Love (Second Motion): I've been listening to the music of Bettie Serveert for 18 years, and in all that time, the band has not released anything less than first rate. That streak continues with Pharmacy of Love. Lead singer Carol Van Dyk possesses one of my all-time favorite female singing voices, and her lyrics always challenge the listener to see things in a different way. The first time I ever heard Bettie Serveert I described them as "Chrissy Hynde fronting Crazy Horse." I still stand by that, but over the years, the band has become tighter and less frayed around the edges. You'll understand when you hear the new CD.
- Darker My Love - Alive As You Are (Dangerbird): I do not know what the hell happened to this Los Angeles band over the course of the last three years, but the album they have just released does not even remotely resemble the band I used to know. DML's last album, 2, was a noisy, psychadelic tour-de-force that mixed in elements of shoegaze, punk, 60s psychadelia, and 90s alternative rock. It was great start-to-finish. The new album, Alive As You Are, has the band shedding the noise, distortion, and feedback and leaving behind a sound that is more Grateful Dead than Jesus and Mary Chain. I am more than a little bit disappointed.
- Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge): I'm still delving into this complex new concept album from Arcade Fire; and as with their previous two albums, I think it could take months for me to fully appreciate it. So far, so good.