Good morning/afternoon/evening/what the hell are you doing up so late everybody! We’ve got some excellent albums coming out this week and I’m hoping everyone will find something they like. Please also note that Patti Smith has a best-of album out this week too!
Zee Avi — Ghostbird (Brushfire Records)
The first word that comes to mind while listening to this album is “lovely.” The Malaysian-born singer/songwriter has a voice reminiscent of ’20s-era radio stars but with the polish of Norah Jones. While her voice has a bit of rasp to it, her overall sound is filled with tranquility. This is the soundtrack for Zooey Deschanel if she were to romp through an open field of flowers during the last bits of setting summer sun. Listen to the album in its entirety over at Spinner.
Sunny Sweeney — Concrete (Republic Nashville Records)
If you’ve been reading this column for a while, you probably know about my aversion to country music. I think I might need to get off my high horse and appreciate some of what country music gives us: fantastically literal and unapologetic straight-forward song titles. Sunny’s album leads off with “Drink Myself Single,” a tale of a woman trying to show her man what it’s like for her to be waiting at home until he comes home drunk and sneaks into bed as if she doesn’t know what’s up. Toward the end of this very pop-friendly album is “Helluva Heart,” whose chorus is catchy enough that I’ve added it to my regular playlist to come back to later.
CSS — La Liberacion (V2 Music)
Brazil’s CSS (Cansei de ser sexy, “tired of being sexy”) puts out danceable electro-punk suitable for the next generation of iPod commercial. Not every track is a winner, but, much like their self-titled debut (I haven’t listened to their second album, Donkey, the jams that are winners are stellar. My favorites so far include, “You Could Have It All,” “City Grrl” and “F-Everything.” What CSS may lack on the album, I can assure you, they make up for it at their live shows. Stream it all here.
Ana Egge — Bad Blood (Ammal Records)
Alt-country/folk artist Ana Egge is a favorite of Shawn Colvin and has been called “A folk Nina Simone” by Lucinda Williams, which I don’t really hear as much as maybe a higher-pitched Tracy Chapman. Lyrically, she’s a great storyteller and her instrumentals provide the appropriate drama to propel her songs forward, particularly on the title track, which has a bass that adds a sense of urgency to the pulse of the song. While I don’t know much about her, I can tell you she built the guitar she plays live from scratch, which kind of gives her automatic hot bitch status in my book. She’s streaming too!
I Break Horses — Hearts (Cooperative Music)
The debut album from this Swedish duo is sure to be on many indie press best-of lists with its dreamily cinematic overtones. In my own opinion, the album seems to play with opposites: dark vs. light, simplicity vs. abundance, cold vs. warm. Instead of conflicting with each other, these opposing characteristics seem to highlight the best parts. Here’s a free download of their title track, “Hearts” (via Stereogum).
Barbra Streisand — What Matters Most: Barbra Streisand Sings the Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman (Columbia)
Would it surprise you to hear that I listen to Barbra Streisand? It would surprise me, too. I should probably excuse myself from even writing about her music because all I think about when I hear her name is the “Coffee Talk” skit from SNL or her character from Yentyl (which was probably the precursor for the terribly awesome Just One of the Guys, when you really think about it). I know she is “one of the greats” and her “voice is like buttah,” but since I don’t tend to gravitate towards showtunes, Babs isn’t really my jam. If any of you, dear readers, would like to pontificate on her greatness, please feel free to do so in the comments. For now, I’ll just say my favorite part of this album is that her photo on the cover art (shown above) would make a great profile picture on J-Date.
Honorable Mentions: Active Child, Black Tide, The Game, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Dave Stewart (of The Eurythmics), Nero, We Are Augustines, Gabe Dixon, Scream, Muppets: The Green Album (ft. My Morning Jacket, Rachael Yamagata, OK Go and more).