by Cherie, contributing writer and editor
It’s hard to believe the year is already half over. So much new music has been released already, and much more is yet to come, and it is to my chagrin that I realize how little of it I have listened to thus far. I’ve stuck with my favorite artists and bands for the most part, though a few new ones have snuck in. Most of the albums that made my top list for the midyear roundup won’t surprise anyone who knows me well, though there are some new favorites on here as well.
Tape Deck Heart – Frank Turner
When I asked Vas to contribute to this article, I knew without asking that Frank Turner would be on both our lists. Vas is the one who introduced me to Frank Turner in the first place, and once I started listening to him I fell in love. Frank Turner’s newest release, Tape Deck Heart, is an amazing album and in my opinion, his finest work to date (though that’s saying something since all his work is solid). Frank Turner might have started out as a solo artist, but his backing band has solidified over the years to become the Sleeping Souls (the name of the band itself is drawn from the lyrics of one of Frank’s songs, “I Am Disappeared”). Despite the presence of the Sleeping Souls on Frank’s last album, Tape Deck Heart is the first album that sounds like it was written and developed as a full band. Its sound is fuller and more solid then on previous albums, where the backing band was more of an afterthought.
One might say that Tape Deck Heart is a breakup album, something that Frank has been honest about all along. Track after track presents an emotional slap to the face. It’s raw, it’s honest and it’s unapologetic. Perhaps that’s what makes it so utterly relatable. Anyone who’s ever had a relationship go bad can relate to Turner’s lyrics, whether that relationship was romantic or not. “Goddamn it Amy / well of course I’ve changed / with all the things I’ve done and the places I’ve been / I’d be a machine if I had stayed the same. / You’re still back where we started / you haven’t changed at all” he sings on the devastatingly raw “Tell Tale Signs.” Some criticize the album for being too melancholic, and lacking the hope and uplifting spirit of previous albums but the hope is still there if you look hard enough. In what quickly became one of my favorite tracks, “Polaroid Picture”, he reminds us that “everything changes” so we should“let go of the little distractions / hold close to the ones that you love.” It’s a simple concept but one that so many of us forget each day.
Favorite tracks: Recovery, Tell Tale Signs, Broken Piano
Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend
It’s been three years since Vampire Weekend released their hit album Contra. They began working on their next record in 2011 but the release date kept getting pushed back on the band until it was finally released in May 2013. The album experiments with auto tune on several tracks, most noticeably “Diane Young” and “Ya Hey.” I personally don’t understand the appeal that playing around with auto tune can have for artist, but as long as the auto tune is used creatively and not as a crutch for poor vocal performances I don’t really have a problem with it. “Unbelievers” sounds like a throwback to their earlier albums while still maintaining a more polished sound. It’s the perfect summer album. My advice to anyone who hasn’t listened to it yet is this. Go for a drive on a warm day, roll the window down and crank the volume. Ezra’s vocals shine through on the slower songs and the faster songs are guaranteed to put you in great mood as you dance along unconsciously.
Favorite tracks: Obvious Bicycle, Ya Hey, Diane Young
Once I Was an Eagle – Laura Marling
There’s not much that I can add about Laura Marling’s latest album that I haven’t already said in my review last month. Marling’s talent is undeniable and her latest album is nothing short of a masterpiece. She’s been compared from everyone to Dylan to Joni Mitchell and yet she crafts a sound that is uniquely her own all the same. Once I Was an Eagle might be her darkest album yet, but there’s hope in it all the same. It shows a level of growth and artistry that builds on her previous albums. I still find it hard to express why I love this album so much. It’s a flawless album from beginning to end and the sheer mastery of its execution baffles and delights me. I continue to be blown away by the sheer amount of talent and work ethic Marling possesses.
Favorite tracks: Devil’s Resting Place, Undine, I Was an Eagle
Heart of Nowhere – Noah and the Whale. I haven’t had as much of a chance to listen to this as I would have liked, but just a few listens in I already love it. The violin parts, performed by Tom Hobden, have long been one of my favorite highlights of a Noah and a Whale record, and this remains true with this album.
Heartthrob – Tegan and Sara. I’m still amazed that Tegan and Sara are seven records into their careers and with every new release they give us something completely different. It’s not so much that they reinvent themselves, rather its more like they aren’t content to stay in one easily defined label. Their latest record is heavily pop based with a throwback feel to it.
If You Leave – Daughter. Elena Tonra creates hauntingly beautiful yet simple melodies. Her debut album features a few songs from her earlier EPs but most of the tracks are brand new. Its a solid debut album.