This Week’s Best Albums: July 24, 2012

This Week's Best Albums: July 24, 2012

Each week, editor-in-chief Chris Force and music editor Scott Morrow choose ALARM’s favorite new releases for This Week’s Best Albums, an eclectic set of reviews presenting exceptional music.

Fang Island: Major (Sargent House)

"Seek it Out"


Anthemic rock quintet Fang Island described its self-titled debut as “the sound of everyone high-fiving everyone” — a statement that’s both accurate and destined to lead profiles for the duration on the band’s existence. Its sophomore effort, Major, builds on the theme. The release features more singing than the first album, which relied heavily on riffs, riffs, and more riffs. But the DNA here is similar: free and fun, with enough hooks to hang the audience’s denim jackets.

The new album sounds like summer, with a mix of bouncy piano, soaring synths, fuzzed guitars, and sing-alongs. Opener “Kindergarten” leads the listener to a happy place, and the rest of the 11 tracks keep him or her there. Positivity comes easily for Fang Island, a group based on friendship, but adding depth to that emotion is more difficult than one might think. Major does it majorly.

- Noah Davis

Om: Advaitic Songs (Drag City)

"Gethsemane"


Borne from the rhythm section of stoner-metal trio Sleep, Om has spent nearly 10 years combining drone and sludge with chant cadences and Eastern motifs and philosophy. Advaitic Songs is the duo’s fifth full-length and second with new drummer and coconspirator Emil Amos of Grails, whose work with bassist/singer Al Cisneros has pushed the material to even greater heights.

Though the few heavy moments remain similar in style — with fuzz-bass repetitions and Cisneros’ idiosyncratic delivery — the softer moments are better developed and much more accentuated. Beautiful string passages weave in and out of the music, teaming up with sitar, tabla, and a dose of guest vocals to build some of Om’s best songs. Advaitic Songs is the mark of a duo hitting — and reinventing — its stride.

- Scott Morrow

Anywhere: Anywhere (ATP)

"Anywhere"


Because the world needs more awesome super-groups, Christian Eric Beaulieu of Triclops!, Cedric Bixler Zavala of The Mars Volta, and special guests Mike Watt (Minutemen) and Rachel Fannan (Sleepy Sun) have coalesced as a project called Anywhere.

Stemming from Beaulieu's interest in acoustic guitars and an "open-tuning, Eastern raga style," the project is a sort of Eastern-influenced acoustic/psych punk, rooted in driving rhythms and organic/electric blends. The jangly, falsettoed, self-titled single from this seven-song debut is a beautiful, ghostly number — one that accurately summarizes the project's sound. But it hardly captures the scope of the debut, which finds Watt, Bixler Zavala, and Fannan all expertly augmenting (but not overtaking) the tracks.

Digital tablas, accordion, toy piano, and other accents pepper the songs, but Beaulieu's guitar is the driving force. Combining the influences of modern East-West practitioners such as Jack Rose and Sir Richard Bishop with vestiges of Led Zeppelin and even Fleetwood Mac, Anywhere strikes a balance that makes it one of the most exciting new projects of 2012.

- Scott Morrow

Family Band: Grace & Lies (No Quarter)

"Night Song"


Grace & Lies, the second album from husband-and-wife team Family Band, paints a picture of small-scale yearning and despair that shuttles between being hypnotic and unexpectedly hard-edged. Described as a study in light and shadow by the artists, the album mixes aural beauty with a sense of mystery and menace.

Though not a huge departure from the duo’s self-released debut, Miller Path, this sophomore effort strikes its own moody yet expansive tone. Smooth alto vocals float over fuzzed-out guitars (and the occasional dulcimer), and as the album progresses, this newer sound of dark, atmospheric rock mixes with Family Band’s folksy roots. With the undercurrent of smoky-voiced sadness, it’s an experience that will leave you melancholy and wanting more.

- Mallory Gevaert

Honorable Mentions:

The Books: A Dot in Time box set (Temporary Residence)

Constants: Pasiflora (The Mylene Sheath)

Dark Time Sunshine: ANX (Fake Four)

Guardian Alien: See the World Given to a One-Love Entity (Thrill Jockey)

Shawn Lee: Synthesizers in Space (ESL)

Parallel Thought: The Art of Sound (Parallel Thought)

Reverend Horton Heat: 25 to Life DVD, live album, and best-of CD (Yep Roc)

Three Mile Pilot: Maps EP (Temporary Residence)

TNGHT: s/t EP (Warp)

Nick Urata: Ruby Sparks soundtrack (Milan)

Yawn: Happy Tears EP (FeelTrip)