Clann Zú – Rua (2003)
The band known as Clann Zú began in the late 90’s in Melbourne, Australia. The band quickly established themselves as an exceptional group with their own blend of rock and electronica accented by singer Declan De Barra’s Irish-folk tendencies. From their first self-titled EP through their final album, Black Coats & Bandages (2004), the band received praise and developed an avid following. Their 2003 album, Rua, puts all of the band’s talent on display as they masterfully weave together a tapestry of sounds, ranging from the frenetic, dreamy, beautiful, erratic, dark, and uplifting.
The Cardigans – Gran Turismo (1998)
At the very least, You know the Cardigans by the bouncy radio hit, “Lovefool”, which made them famous the world over in 1996. Though it made their album “First Band on the Moon” a huge success, it also left listeners with the lasting impression of a sugary sweet pop group, which is not entirely the whole story concerning this Swedish quintet. Perhaps as a reflex to “Lovefool”, the band released the album “Gran Turismo” in 1998, a complex and layered album with distincly darker and moodier elements than anything the band has done before or since. The album is generally perceived as either an odd departure from their typically lighter fare, or as their magnum opus. From the latter prespective (or both if you prefer) the album works so well because of it’s strong songwriting, which makes excellent use of effect laiden keyboard and guitar, and is guided along by the angelic, world-class voice of Nina Persson.
From Monument to Masses – The Impossible Leap in 100 Simple Steps (2003)
The two most important facts to recognize with the band From Monument to Masses are that they are an incredibly talented instrumental trio capable of crafting some of the best post-rock in the world; and that they are unabashadly political, using the voices of political activists to stir the inner-revolutionary in their listeners. The band isn’t shy, as their album, The Impossible Leap in 100 Simple Steps, opens with newscast clippings from September 11th, 2001 set to the music of their first song, “Sharpshooter”. Their music later finds itself as the soundtrack to political speakers from Nom Chomsky to George W. Bush. The band’s general statement, though through the voices of others, is that all is not right in America and this world, and that the only remedy is through the action of the people.
Now, while listeners who do not agree with the message may find it difficult to fully enjoy this album, the quality of the music is undeniable. They have been favorably compared to Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky with regard to their musical talent and for this all by itself the album is worth listening to.
Dropping Daylight – Brace Yourself (2006)
The debut album by Minneapolis’s Dropping Daylight, Brace Yourself, has so far left me with a very good first impression. At it’s core, the band is a typical alternative rock/punk group, but they add the sounds of a keyboard to the mix and use it well. The album has some very strong harmonies and an abundance of rock-out moments. Put this band on your check-out-for-2006 list.
My Vitriol – Finelines (2001)
My Vitriol have made an eternity of the past five years, which is the current length of time between their last album and their yet-to-be-named follow-up. When it is finally released, it will realize one of the more anticipated albums in recent memory. Finelines was released in 2001 and made quite a stir with it’s sound, which moves from easygoing dreamy rock-pop, to up tempo alternative rock, to chugging hard rock. Singer and guitarist Som Wardner’s vocals are melodic and engaging, perfectly guiding the album through every tempo and mood. In many ways the album represents a bridge from mid 90’s alternative rock to the alternative rock of today, drawing comparisons to Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, as well as Placebo, Muse, Coldplay and the Deftones. So as we wait for My Vitriol to complete their second album, there is still an abundance of enjoyment to be had in playing Finelines, still fresh after five years and counting.