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Happy Independence Day to my American friends; to celebrate along with the fireworks and BBQ how about some new tunes? I’ve got a pretty good stack here to provide a little something for most people. I’ve got a few gifts from the UK (you remember them, right?) and also some homegrown talent. Enjoy.

La Roux

La Roux

La Roux

Released: June 29, 2009 (UK)

Is 2009 the year of the synth-pop female vocalist? Probably. It could also be the year that we remember a coup in Honduras, democratic protests in Iran, and the Great Global Recession. But, all things of substance aside (and maybe even some of the fluffy stuff, like MJ’s death and Appalachian Trail hiking), synth-pop female vocalists seem to have a shot at year-end wrap-ups. La Roux may be one of the names to become familiar with (another one of my 2009 debut faves, Daniel Merriweather, has already covered La Roux’s “In For The Kill“) . Elly Jackson provides the front to Ben Langmaid’s backing and you’ve got yourself a duo reminiscent of early Eurythmics, or to be more current, a less catchy (but deeper) version of The Ting Tings.

For a taste, check out the music video for “Bulletproof”, which is oddly futuristic and retro, at the same time, much like La Roux.

Come out Tigerlily
You’re caressing me
I’ll take you up
I’ll turn you on
I’ll take your apathy
I wouldn’t lie to you Blossom
Won’t you let it go
I’m gonna give you all you want
And don’t you know

-Tigerlily

8.5/10

wilco the album

Wilco (The Album)

Wilco

Released: June 30, 2009 (US)

Ironic self-referencing doesn’t get much better than listening to the first track on this album. Only there can you find Wilco (the band) playing “Wilco (The Song)” on Wilco (The Album). If this was a debut album I’d be making fun of them as self-aware hipsters, but these guys have enough gravitas mixed with mirth (they did play the song on The Colbert Report with lyrics giving a nod to the fauxpublican host) that I can cut some slack, especially as it is their seventh album. Moving on, though, it really is a good alt-country rock album. Oh, and did I mention that Feist duets on the track “You and I“? Well she does. You are welcome.

For a taste, check out this live performance of “You Never Know

You and I
We might be strangers
How ever close we get sometimes
Its like we never met
But you and I
I think we can take it
All the good with the bad
Make something that no one else has, but
You and I

– You and I

7.5/10

Pete Yorn - Back & Fourth

Back & Fourth

Pete Yorn

Released: June 23, 2009 (US)

Pete Yorn’s first album offer of 2009 (his second, coming in the fall is an album of duets with Scarlett Johansson) is a no-frills view into his interior. The opening track (and single) “Don’t Wanna Cry” is a touching, vulnerable croon that Ryan Adams would be proud of. The rest of the album continues along these lines. While there aren’t any surprises to be found for listeners of Yorn’s other works, Back & Fourth is a solid continuation of what he does best.

For a taste, check out this stripped away live version of “Close

All this innocence
that we’ve come to miss
will make us stronger
I don’t have the time to go back in time
I already lived it

Just stay close
wait for the sun
Learn to live this life, learn to get along

– Close

7.5/10

Jack Penate - Everything Is New

Everything Is New

Jack Peñate

Released: June 22, 2009 (UK)

The headlines on the other side of the pond have gone something along the lines of “Jack is back (and we don’t hate him anymore): NME”. For some reason or another the British press had already tossed away Jack Peñate and I hadn’t even heard of him, let alone hear him. So I gave 2007’s Matinee a listen, to see what the fuss was about. It was just a singer-songwriter with a penchant for ska guitars and singing like he talked (with an Estuary accent similar to Kate Nash or Lily Allen). No big deal. Was he a toss-away? No, probably not, I’ve heard worse. Somehow, Peñate had become the human piñata for the industry.

All this leads to Everything Is New, which appropriately enough, brings something fresh. His accent (“Everyfink’s New”) remains, but this is a much more produced, polished pop album, in the best use of those words. Is it a great album? No. Is it good? Yes. Best of all, there are a couple tracks that are a cut above the rest and have a fighting shot at my year end picks.

For a taste, check out this rugged version of the ambitious “Every Glance

My past was painted on a wall
But with a look you made a fool
I placed your flag into a ball
I’ll follow you for any cause
I’ll fight for you in any wars
And all to say that I am yours

– Be The One

7/10

The Dear Hunter - Act III: Life and Death

Act III: Life and Death

The Dear Hunter

Released: June 23, 2009 (US)

I think I stumbled upon this by accident looking for the similarly-named Deerhunter. Do you like epic, multi-album conceptual prog-rock? You do? Well then, perhaps you should check out The Dear Hunter’s opus (or opuses, or opii…). Act III is the third part in something huge. That being said, it really didn’t do a whole lot for me. It’s not my bag, but it might be yours.

For a taste listen to “The Thief

Come away young man where the ground is red and you need a mask to breathe
Oh, it’s been so hard, but your luck could change if you’d just roll up your sleeves
We had tried our best to warn before but it didn’t get you far
Now we’re here again with a wish to mend your agonizing scar

– Writing On A Wall

6.5/10

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