Panda Bear – Person Pitch (Paw Tracks)

This record is a beautiful gem, both for people who know nothing about gems but appreciate things like color, and for those who can see the nuances of cut and clarity. On the surface there is a vaguely Brian Wilson melodic quality, but when you scratch off the waxy fog there is a something strange and surreal underneath. This is no surprise as Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear, is one of the oddball members of the Animal Collective and now an American ex-pat living in of all places Portugal.

History aside, these strangely seductive pop narratives meander mostly along groovy percussion based riffs before evolving into bigger, broader soundscapes that feel more 60’s than 21st century. With only seven songs, two of them weighing in at over 12 minutes, there is a kind of uplifting joy that oozes from each of them a bit like it does with Polyphonic Spree or Mercury Rev.

Ultimately this is something small and precious, that taps “Pet Sounds” but more in spirit than anything else: a hand-clapping, toe-tapping, chorus-humming masterpiece.

Order It Now From Amazon

The Frames – The Cost (Anti-)

There was a time, at least 20 years ago, when I would have been able to pump my fist in the air and shout unequivocally that U2 was finest band ever to emerge from Ireland, but then again my hair was also pretty funny looking and I also probably owned a pair of acid washed jeans as well. I lost that loving feeling, and the hopefully the jeans, somewhere around “Joshua Tree,” and with the exception of a short affair with Sinead stopped tracking the Irish scene.

But a few years ago, by accident, I stumbled upon a lesser known Irish treasure called The Frames. This is a ridiculously good band. A stadium sounding rock band whose singer has a voice that blends the delicacy of David Gray with the raw power of Jeff Buckley. It’s songs feature a symphony of crashing guitars, strings and drums that alternate between ballads and rock anthems.

It is not often that a band this good and seemingly accessible doesn’t find the kind of audience that bands like Radiohead or Coldplay were able to tap into. But with “The Cost” the second album released on Tom Waits Anti- label, The Frames will take the slow road, moving people passionately through a luscious landscape.

Order It Now From Amazon