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Heavy Rotation #21

It's been about a month since I put up the last one but this covers the period from then up until the last week or so, when some new albums have started to take over...

Mikal Cronin/MCII - This album starts out with some tinkling piano then some acoustic guitar then a sharp lyric wedded to a melody that will stick with you before finally bringing on the guitar fuzz. How great is that? Even greater is that the rest of the songs employ those tools (plus some saxophone here, some strings there, and a couple Ty Segall guitar solos on top) to create an album that you don't want to miss. I just can't get enough.

Ivan & Alyosha/All The Times We Had - I used to think that this band did dance pop music ala MGMT. I was incorrect in my assumption. Instead, they are purveyors of pure pop music, descending from The Beatles as all such bands do. So, we get hummable melodies and harmonies and ballads and rock songs and lyrics that rise above the banal. And, like good albums of this genre, it gets better with every listen. And you should...listen, that is.

The New Pornographers/Electric Version - This was my first New Pornos album but it's the band's second. I don't remember what convinced me to give it a try but it was most likely a review. Of course, I'm glad I did give it a try because I love not only the band's music but also the solo albums and other projects of its members (Neko Case, A.C. Newman, and Dan Bejar in Destroyer, for example). "From Blown Speakers" gave my best-of-2003 mix its title and that's a decision I still stand by - the song is a crunchy ode to music sounding magical from those titular speakers with massed vocals riding over top. "Testament To Youth In Verse" is a fantastic Bejar contribution with power pop snarl leading to a section where vocal parts are added with each iteration of the words. That's just 2 of the 13 songs that will aurally please you.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers/Hard Promises - When the weather gets nice enough to drive around with the windows down, I turn to Tom Petty. This album came out over 30 years ago and is considered classic rock but it doesn't sound dated. Instead, this is rock music that's still alive - how can it not be with Mike Campbell wailing away on guitar solos? The album starts with an all-time T.P. classic in "The Waiting" and then delivers 9 more great songs that might not be on a best-of but add up to a great album. Remember what I said about wailing Campbell guitar solos? See "A Woman In Love (It's Not Me)." Want a great duet with Stevie Nicks? See "The Insider." Interested in some Benmont Tench organ? See "Letting You Go." You like music? Listen to this.

The Shins/Chutes Too Narrow - I don't know what it is about albums from 2003 but I seem to be going back to them lately (The Wrens last time around and The New Pornos and this now). You know, this album sounds pretty good with the windows down too. James Mercer's elliptical lyrics and the sunny pop tunes with echoes of the 60s just fit together like a glove. When an album opens with "Called to see/If your back is still aligned/And your sheets/Are growing grass in the corners of your bed" in "Kissing the Lipless," I'm in. Pretty sure "Pink Bullets" was on that best-of-2003 mix too - how could I resist "Since then it's been a book you read in reverse/So you understand less as the pages turn/Or a movie so crass and awkwardly cast/Even I could be the star?" By the time I get to "Gone For Good," the penultimate song on the album, and get hit with "You wanted to jump and dance/But you sat on your hands and lost your only chance?" Resistance is futile.

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