Music/Popular Culture

Saturday Video Roundup: some of the best of 2011 so far

Each year I write my annual Best CDs series and along the way I usually have an article or two about some of the bands that turn up on that list. Today I want to acknowledge a few of the year’s best releases to date. This isn’t comprehensive, by any stretch, but if you’re looking for some new tunes to explore on a beautiful June weekend, here’s a place to start.

Up first, hot off last night’s appearance in the Big Apple, Doco does “Cocoa Beach Blues” live on 11 O’Clock Rock. The new disc is entitled Stereo Chemistry.

It seems like every time REM releases a new CD, people trip over themselves labeling it “the best thing they’ve done since Automatic for the People. This time, that’s actually true.

I mentioned Denmark’s The Raveonettes a couple of weeks ago on SVR and today I’ll mention them again. The CD is Raven in the Grave and this is “Apparitions.”

There’s a brand new Death Cab for Cutie record out, too. I haven’t had a chance to draw any conclusions yet (just got it the other day) but it’s Death Cab, after all, and early reviews are speaking glowingly of it.

When Adele’s debut dropped in 2008 the critics would not shut up. I didn’t think it was that great – maybe I need to go back and give it another listen. Regardless, this year’s follow-up, 21, is insanely brilliant. It isn’t just that the girl can sing (she can, boy can she sing). It isn’t just that the songwriting is exceptional (again, it is, and it pointedly refuses to adhere to the tenets of faithful soul revivalism). More than that, there’s an informed emotional depth that you simply shouldn’t be able to find in an artist who’s this young. The last time I had these kinds of observations we were talking about Fiona Apple. Different kinds of performers, but in both cases what you’re getting is very, very real.

One more. Let’s see…hey, did you hear? The Cars are back! Yes they are. The new disc (their first since 1987’s much-maligned Door to Door) isn’t anything revolutionary, but it proves that Ric Ocasek still knows how to put a song together. It may not be the debut or Heartbeat City, but Move Like This does hold its own with the rest of the catalog, which is pretty high praise. Here’s my favorite track on the disc, “Sad Song.”

This is fun. Maybe I’ll do a part 2 next week….

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