2009 Music Preview: March

By: LD · February 9, 2009

Remember how January and February 2009 were/are awesome months for music?  Good news!  March will be a month in which you can save a lot of money, because it is NOT VERY GOOD.  On the other hand, the month’s notable releases are higher quality, on average, than those in February.  Oh, and two contenders for best album art of the year unleash their stuff.

The Boy Least Likely To: The Law of the Playground – Best Album Art Contender
Playground

I don’t even know where to start with The Boy Least Likely To.  My initial impression of their original album, The Best Party Ever, was not positive.  I only liked two tracks, “Be Gentle With Me” and “I’m Glad I Hitched My Apple Wagon to Your Star”.  As time has gone on, the album has grown on me, particularly “Hugging My Grudge” and “Fur Soft As Fur”.  Still, it’s not what I’d call a great  or essential album.

What gives me pause is that, when the band is on, they are on.  Their best tracks are so ridiculously fun and danceable that you can’t help but want them to be great.  Long story short, I’ll be there on day one.  But, it’ll be about the potential for, rather than the certainty of, a great album.

Neko Case: Middle CycloneBest Album Art Contender
Neko

The annoying titled “sexiest woman in indie rock” releases her new album.  The interesting thing about Neko Case is that she seems to improve dramatically with each album.  Fox Confessor Brings the Flood was unjustly ignored on many critics year end lists.  It merited inclusion based solely on the inclusion of “Star Witness”, one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.

Case is a unique artist due to her versatility.  As a vocalist for The New Pornagraphers, she’s shown that she understands how to put together great pop music.  As a solo artist, she fuses country and retro pop influences into something that feels so familiar and comfortable that to dislike her music is to be objectively incorrect.

U2: No Line on the Horizon
U2

It’s U2.  They do nothing for me, they have never done anything for me.  That being said, I can’t really ignore a U2 release, you know?  I’m not posting a LaLa link, because it’s U2.

Kelly Clarkson: All I Ever Wanted
clarkson

If you’re chuckling at this, can it.  Clarkson has an amazing voice, and two very good pop records under her belt.  Unfortunately, she’s released three albums in total, and the last one was sort of forgettable.  Still, Clarkson may have the strongest pipes in mainstream music these days, and though it kind of sucks to see her crushed under Clive Davis’ thumb, he does know how to release albums that sound great.

The Decemberists: The Hazards of Love – Album of the Month
Decemberists

The Decemberists have been covered to death on this blog and elsewhere.  At one time, this band was the king of the indie world.  After The Crane Wife, an album that showed some incredible growth but ultimately just wasn’t as fun to listen to as the rest of their recent catalog, the world is waiting with bated breath to see what the band has to show.

Last year’s Always The Bridesmaid EPs reminded fans of the band’s potential, but sacrificed the broadening of influences that had been at the forefront of the band’s evolution in recent years.  So, the question is whether those EPs were a sign of regression to the group’s earlier style or whether they were simply a pit stop on the way towards more sonic experimentation.  The new album is titled The Hazards of Love, and it’s a rock opera.  The first single off the album is “The Rake’s Song”, and uh…it might be my least favorite song by The Decemberists.  It sounds like a particularly uninspired piece of mid-90’s alternative rock.

Because it’s The Decemberists, this is my most anticipated album of the month, and very likely my most anticipated album of the year.  At the same time, I don’t know that I have much hope for the album.  I will admit that “The Rake’s Song” sets out a potentially strong concept for a rock opera (a father killing his children), but…I don’t know.  Wait and see, I suppose.

Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest
grizzlies

This is not Grizzly Bear’s album cover, and that’s a tremendous shame.  I actually don’t like this band that much.  They have some great moments, but I generally find their music rambling and unfocused, ultimately too concerned with atmosphere and too dismissive of strong song structure.  Still, they’re popular and talented, so if they’re you’re thing, you might as well know that they have an album coming out.

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5 Responses to “2009 Music Preview: March”
  1. DJ says:

    That bear fight photo is awesome.

    Didn’t know the Decemberists had a new one on the way — I’ll eagerly await your review.

  2. DaveB says:

    Case and The Decemberists are absolute must-hears. The new Case single is amazing, as expected.

    The Decemberists are apparently playing through the new album on all stops on their next tour (and taking along the guest vocalists, as well). I’m buying tickets tomorrow before hearing Hazards, so I’m really hoping it doesn’t suck.

    I’m still waiting to *get* Grizzly Bear. The critical love makes absolutely no sense to me for exactly the reasons you gave. I still think their lead singer sounds strikingly like Stone Gossard from Pearl Jam, which is a bland and unfortunate way for a lead singer to sound.

    I’m a U2 fan from way back, but that single… not good.

  3. Banks says:

    Glad to see these keep coming, LD. Great work as always.

    This guy I know, let’s call him “Skanks,” is a Decemberists neophyte. If Skanks is looking to get his feet wet in the Decemberists pool, in which end should he start? Skanks says thank you.

  4. DaveB says:

    Picaresque would probably provide the best summary of what they do, and it’s probably their most consistent in quality. Her Majesty, The Decemberists would also be a good choice.

    I love the Crane Wife, but it’s not as representative; as LD said, it shows the band stretching out with longer song structures, more instrumental sections, and different styles. It’s probably more of an acquired taste, and this is a band that’s already an acquired taste for most due to Colin Meloy’s voice and cheekily erudite lyrics.

    Castaways and Cutouts is a solid first album, but it sounds like a warmup in light of their later stuff.

  5. LD says:

    Yeah, Dave hit the nail on the head. The right place to start is with Picaresque. It’s the purest expression of the band’s “formula”, and the rest of the albums will be more rewarding when viewed through that lens.

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