My favorite "new" artist of the month (from, um, last year...). Holy hell. It's Iron & Wine on whiskey. It's stomp-a-licious and quiet and roaring and sleepy all at the same time, and all over the place. But it works. This particular track--"Seer"--is all kinds of soul-infused '70s rock, but still manages to fit right into the album's overarching mood without sounding out-of-place. Why the hell wasn't I listening to this last year? This (belatedly) gets a nod on my top 20 list of 2011.
The Jealous Sound--A Gentle Reminder
Holy hell. I've waited nine years for this. I'd heard rumors about this album over the years, but I always brushed them off and slipped Kill Them with Kindness back into my boombox and wistfully thought of a sequel, never quite giving up hope that Blair Shehan would come through for me. And he did. Oh my god, he finally did. A Gentle Reminder sounds a lot like Kill Them with Kindness in certain aspects--two tracks in particular almost seem lifted directly from their debut album--except that Shehan isn't the same upstart cigarettes-and-gin-voiced post-Emo kid he once was. He still has an uncanny knack for phrasing lyrics that could almost seem ridiculous if he didn't sing them the way he does, with a sidelong glance and a sad smile, bitter humor just beneath the surface. But he's grown up in these nine years--you can unmistakably hear it in the deeper pitch he cops to and the wistfulness with which he sings--but it works, and I'm ecstatic. Upstarts take note: this is how you age gracefully. Confession time: I've actually gone and dug all the albums I got into around the time I first heard Kill Them with Kindness out and have been waxing slightly nostalgic ever since.