So far, 2005 has easily destroyed 2004 in terms of the quality of new music being both produced and released. And, as always, anticipation grows and buzz abounds as new bands try to stake their claim in the industry and older ones try to show that they haven’t lost their edge. Here are three of the most anticipated albums to appear in music stores so far this year.
Hot Hot Heat – “Elevator”
On their last LP, 2002’s “Make Up the Breakdown,” the Victoria, British Columbia, Canada trio made quite a bit of noise, albeit a catchy, upbeat noise. This time around, the band spent a good five months writing, recording, refining and cutting in order to end up with the 15 song tracklist (although by all intents and purposes there are only 12 songs). After hearing this several times, I find myself torn. The sound is certainly crisper and far more precise on this release than on their last (an aspect which can be attributed to the added production work). However, the songwriting is not quite as good as it was on “Make Up the Breakdown” and doesn’t feature as much keyboard as the previous effort. It is a solid record no doubt, but I suppose that I was expecting more from them. The best tracks are “You Owe Me an IOU,” “Middle of Nowhere” and “Dirty Mouth.”
GRADE – B
Bloc Party – “Silent Alarm”
The buzz that these guys are the next big band is overwhelming. They are starting to appear everywhere and are compared to countrymen Franz Ferdinand and the Futureheads for good reason. Their angular, informed art-punk, combined with their percussive, edgy pop transforms these guys from a band into one of the most anticipated and hyped-up new artists of 2005. With an EP preceding them late last year, the stakes were high that a full-length could both effectively convey the band’s sound and impact the music world. Led by several very good tracks, the album does just that. “Like Eating Glass” has the possibility to easily be one of the best opening tracks for an album this year, while “Banquet” drips heavily of the type of song that might be heard everywhere this year. Kele Okereke sings and yelps his way through song after song, all while his bell-like voice resonates clearly above everything. Other tracks, like “This Modern Love” and “Blue Light,” show flashes of the band’s lighter side, with the former being good enough to be a single. All in all, this is a very polished and strong debut LP which can only allow us to imagine where these guys will end up someday.
GRADE – B+
The Bravery – “The Bravery”
Boy, these guys have come around at the wrong time. They’ve been denounced as being both derivative and unoriginal by both Queens of the Stone Age lead singer Josh Homme and Brandon Flowers, frontman of the Killers. Flowers shouldn’t talk – after all, the Killers are not much more then derivatives of such bands as New Order and Joy Division. But Flowers is right, these guys take an awful lot of their sound from bands like New Order and the post-punk dance rock of the 1980s. The album itself does have several strong tracks, which include “Swollen Summer,” “Give In” and “The Ring Song.” It’s a solid debut album, but to be perfectly honest I’m not sure it stands up to all the hype that it’s been given, especially when there are several similar bands flooding the music market. I would be more interested to see what a follow-up album would accomplish.
GRADE – C+
And just so you don’t think I’ve forgotten, the new Beck album “Guero” gets a B+ in my book.
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