Bloc Party: Silent Alarm“Silent Alarm” may be the most energetic debut since a little band called U2 put out an album called “Boy.”
“Silent Alarm” plays to Bloc Party’s technical talents. Razor-sharp guitar interplay and tight drumming dominate the mix, while lead singer Kele Okereke’s soaring vocals take center stage. When Okereke delivers the line, “It’s so cold in this house” in “Like Eating Glass,” you can actually feel the temperature drop.
Songs like “Positive Tension” and “Helicopter” combine frenetic melodies with unabashed idealism. Elsewhere, “This Modern Love” and “So Here We Are” sail smoothly into near-transcendence. “Silent Alarm” makes you wonder how Bloc Party plans to top this album.
Bloc Party both draws from and destroys current indie rock clichÂs.
– Darren White
Spoon: Gimme Fiction
After a three-year absence, Spoon’s fifth and latest full-length release, “Gimme Fiction,” finds the band marching forward with its own style of rock.
Each of the album’s 11 tracks show the eclectic band’s ability to change while keeping its signature sound intact.
While some tracks follow suit with 2002’s breakthrough, “Kill the Moonlight,” others demonstrate how the Texas quartet continues to evolve.
Singer Britt Daniels’ distinctive vocal styling combined with simple piano and guitar melodies make the album stand out in a year of retro-rock and veteran-artist releases that attempt to reclaim the glory of years past.
Spoon shows that simplicity remains one of the best tools in songcraft. With minimal guitar solos, a solid rhythm section and a lack of filler, the band delivers a solid album from start to finish.
– Ryan Claunch
Wolf Parade: Apologies to the Queen Mary
Hailing from the recently fertile music grounds of Montreal, Wolf Parade’s “Apologies to the Queen Mary” effortlessly combines quirky melodies with stirring pop sensibility.
After repeated listens, it becomes obvious that Wolf Parade’s music is far more epic than anything the Mouse has ever pressed onto plastic.
The strength of “Apologies” is that every track plays like the best single on the album.
The mood reflected in the tracks range from epic and gleeful to downright tragic.
Produced by Modest Mouse leader Isaac Brock, “Apologies” received comparisons to fellow Montreal rockers Arcade Fire upon release. But “Apologies” is too dynamic to be merely a rehash of any other band.
Simply put, “Apologies to the Queen Mary” is one of the best debuts of the year.
Open Hand: You and Me
When a bio says, “This band blurs the lines between many genres,” it usually means they are generic and unoriginal.
Open hand is an exception.
The band’s second studio album, “You and Me,” provides listeners with distorted guitar-dominated music one minute, and dishes out a mellow, beat-oriented tune the next.
While vocally the band sounds like a refined version of Queens of the Stone Age, with the rather liberal use of falsettos, the overall product harkens back to the days of grunge and the years in which garage bands and their cult followings dominated the music scene.
Even with its similarity to bands both past and present, Open Hand provides a fresh sound that may not play on corporate-cookie-cutter radio but should appear in any hard rock lover’s personal collection.
– Brian Chatman
Rogue Wave: Descended Like Vultures
While their first album seemed to be the happy, yet mellow, indie rock made famous by groups like The Shins, Rogue Wave’s sophomore effort brings a new dimension to the genre.
In much the same way The Rolling Stones were considered the dark side of The Beatles, Rogue Wave provides a darker counterpoint to their happier-sounding brethren with “Descended Like Vultures.”
The album is still the same style of 1960s throwback rock many bands have put out, but sporadic use of hard rock elements add a modern twist.
While it would be easy to write this album off, Rogue Wave has the potential to be the missing link between retro-styled music and the creation of a new genre – something sorely needed in a decade that is more than halfway into the history books with no definitive musical movement.
Shakira: Oral Fixation Vol. 2
As I watched Blender’s sexiest woman of 2003 pump the microphone stand while singing “Back in Black,” my friend said: “Now I know why you like her.”
But there’s more to my fascination with Shakira than her oft-noted belly dancing. She’s genuine, she’s talented, she’s passionate. That’s enough for me to admit I own all her albums, even the Spanish ones I don’t understand.
I can understand “Oral Fixation Vol. 2,” though. Shakira sings exclusively in English, and her articulation of the language has improved greatly since 2001’s “Laundry Service.”
Her fluency seems to have opened up new lyrical territory: She questions religion in “How Do You Do,” a choir-backed piece with catchy drumming; she attacks the public’s political complacency in “Timor.” Not typical pop subjects.
And like FijaciÂ¢n Oral Vol. 1, the music is rather experimental for a pop star – something that tends to happen when a pop star writes his or her own music, and is far more intelligent than sex goddess status alone might suggest.
– Douglas Lucas