By Elana Katz
While everyone seems to still be talking about Miley Cyrus and her wrecking ball, there are plenty of other big musical names and newcomers who are rolling out some of the best music of the year. If you’ve been searching for something new to listen to, look no further.
HAIM, Days Are Gone
One of the most recently anticipated albums in the pop-rock scene is the lovely HAIM sisters’ Days Are Gone, which was released on Sept. 30, 2013. HAIM is comprised of three sisters, Este, Danielle and Alana, who grew up in Los Angeles and are self-proclaimed “valley girls.” Throughout their musical journey, HAIM has slowly incorporated a wide variety of musical genres into their work, including soft rock, pop and contemporary R&B.
Initially, HAIM released a three song EP, Forever, featuring songs such as “Falling,” “Better Off” and “Go Slow.” Forever was widely successful. A few months later, U.K. record label Polydor Records signed these longhaired ladies, and the rest is history. Days Are Gone has been out for about a month and has garnered wide critical acclaim. With its classical rock influences, mixed with synthy beats, hints of R&B and light melodies, HAIM is a welcomed anomaly in the modern music scene. While the whole album is uniquely beautiful, be sure to check out “Falling,” “The Wire” and “My Song 5.” It sounds like the love child of Fleetwood Mac and Florence + the Machine.
The Avett Brothers, Magpie and the Dandelion
I wasn’t always a fan of The Avett Brothers, but then I heard “Murder in the City” on their 2008 EP, The Second Gleam. Ever since, I have remained faithful to this fraternal duo. Seth and Scott Avett hail from Concord, N.C., and it is clear that they have retained some of that southeastern swag, fusing folk, rock, country and bluegrass seamlessly into their music. An integral part of the Avett Brothers’ unique musical creations lies in their varied influences, ranging from the Ramones to the Beatles and Buddy Holly. All of these seminal artists can be heard on their latest record, Magpie and the Dandelion, which was released on Oct. 15, 2013.
Since their successful partnership with legendary producer, Rick Rubin, for their 2009 breakout album, I And Love And You, the Avett Brothers are expected to continue on an upward trajectory. Magpie and the Dandelion features the danceable “Open Ended Life,” an uplifting “Skin and Bones” and the mellow “The Clearness Is Gone.” Surely, the Avett Brothers are a mainstay on all my fall time playlists.
The Head and the Heart, Let’s Be Still
In the way of folk-rock, check out Seattle-based The Head and the Heart. The Head and the Heart, who have been playing together since 2009, were signed by Sub Pop in 2010 and released their self-titled and seminal album in early 2011. They toured constantly with incredible artists and bands such as Death Cab for Cutie, The Walkmen and The Decemberists, laying the foundation for their success experienced thus far.
Along with Magpie and the Dandelion, Let’s Be Still was released on Oct. 15, 2013. While some die-hard fans eagerly awaited the album’s release, others were hesitant to see if this album could live up to the success of their self-titled album. This is no longer a tenable fear; Let’s Be Still has received incredible feedback from critics and fans alike.
The first single off the album is a poppy jam, “Shake,” and has been receiving quality airtime on alternative rock radio stations. Other essential songs include “Hometown Heroes” and “10,000 Weight in Gold,” which showcase the band’s capabilities. They highlight intricate guitar riffs and lead singer Jonathan Russell’s raspy yet beautiful voice. Do yourself a solid and pick it up.
Arcade Fire, Reflektor
Lastly, Arcade Fire, the seven kooky Canadians, are back at it after a brief hiatus from music making. Since 2004, they’ve released three successful albums and received a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album of the Year in 2011 for their hit double album, The Suburbs. Arcade Fire is known for their truly innovative style, utilizing a spectrum of instruments including the xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard, French horn, accordion, harp and even a hurdy-gurdy. The sky is truly the limit for Arcade Fire.
There are very few words to describe the excitement surrounding their fourth and latest album, Reflektor, with Mercury Records. What’s more is that Reflektor, which was released on Oct. 29, 2013, was produced by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem. Together, Murphy and Arcade Fire have created something very special that we’ve never heard from Arcade Fire before, evident in their first single, “Reflektor.”
Arcade Fire performed “Reflektor,” as well as my personal favorite, “Afterlife,” on the 39th season premiere of Saturday Night Live on Sept. 28, 2013. Before Reflektor was released, I contented myself by watching that amazing performance on repeat.