On three straight Tuesdays in February, three of your Devolutionist's favorite musicians release new albums. It's as if someone moved Hanukkah back a few weeks:
Sharon Van Etten, Tramp (Feb. 7) - The first single off this album, "Serpents," has been floating around since November and it sounds phenomenal. Much more raw and rockin' than anything off of Epic, perhaps reflecting the influence of Aaron Dessner of The National, who had a big hand in the production of Tramp. Van Etten and her band played "Serpents" on Jimmy Fallon's show last week and did an awesome job. You can see the video here. Not only did the song sound great, but Sharon is looking smokin' hot - someone obviously told her to soften up her usual New-Jersey-dive-bar look. She keeps it up and she may supplant the great Annie Clark atop my list of female musicians who are candidates to become Mrs. Devolutionist.
Shearwater, Animal Joy (Feb. 14) - Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod. Yes, the Devolutionist becomes a tween girl when it comes to Shearwater (who, incidentally, will be touring with Sharon Van Etten starting in Philadelphia on February 10 and NOT, as of this writing, coming to the West Coast. Fuckers.) Two downloads off this album have already hit the net (here and here) and a third made NPR's 2012 Winter Music Preview. All three songs suggest Jonathan Meiburg has decided to ditch the soft falsetto that has been his trademark in favor of a stronger sound, but the songs are still beautiful and delicate and reflect a craftsmanship that is sorely lacking in damn near every other album that gets released these days. Seriously, Bon Iver's last album, good as it was, sounds like it was slapped together on an old four-track compared to Shearwater. The best band working today, hands down. A tragedy that they never seem to play festivals like Pitchfork or Coachella. It's either the band's choice or the most egregious oversight since Jethro Tull beat out Metallica for the Grammy in Heavy Metal. (Plus, it must be noted, bassist Kimberly Burke is also an award-winning playwright, which is an occupation close to my own heart. Playwright, bassist in a phenomenal indie-rock band, and gorgeous: obviously another candidate to become Mrs. Devolutionist.)
Damien Jurado, Maraqopa (Feb. 21) - The trifecta of awesomeness that is February closes out with Damien Jurado, the poster boy of introspective shoe-gazing folk/rock/whatever. Mark Kozelek without the smarmy attitude (Mark! I still love Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon! Don't hate!) The first single off this album, "Nothing is The News," is an interesting departure: sort of a mid-tempo jazz-infused jam session, with Jurado's voice hovering well in the background and occasionally not very audible over the music. It's as if someone uncovered some lost Blind Faith demos. Definitely not what you have heard before from Jurado, particularly on his last album, Saint Bartlett. But I'd listen to Damien Jurado cover Yo Gabba Gabba - the guy never, ever disappoints.
A final note: I have seen all three of these bands live (and all in the L.A. space formerly known as Spaceland, come to think of it, and no, I will not call that venue by its new name.) All do amazing live shows, particularly Shearwater (have I mentioned how much I love Shearwater?) Hopefully all of them will come through my city in support of these albums damn soon.