I'm still getting used to California. Today it was gray and rainy, which made me feel like I was back in Chicago or Wheaton... until I stepped outside and it was in the high 60s/low 70s. So yeah, it's a different world out here.
Fortunately, my prediction for the autumn seemed somewhat accurate - and I didn't even know about In Rainbows at the time!
The new Dashboard Confessional and Jimmy Eat World albums have both proved to be enjoyable and reliable, if not devastatingly revolutionary (I think we're past the point of expecting that from either outfit, though).
The new Foo Fighters album, on the other hand, single-handedly revived a band that's been aimless since the fourth track of One By One. Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace not only rocks and rolls, the songwriting is the best "pure rock" writing since Queens of the Stone Age's Songs for the Deaf. Before this album, Foo shows consisted largely of songs from the first three albums, with 2 or 3 from each of the last two albums thrown in for good measure. Now they have an entire new album's worth of material that works as well in the studio as it does on the stage. On top of that, they throw a number of actual rock guitar solos in, that sound nothing like Rush or anything remotely prog! Like Wilco, they found success in harkening back to 70s rock albums while still maintaining their own sense of self as a band. Easier said than done; just ask Jet.
The Spill Canvas also released a capable followup, but one not nearly as solid or endearing as their breakthrough, One Fell Swoop. Though it starts strong, "Saved" sounds like they were bored playing it, and rush through it without much thought. This starts a downward slide that is only slightly slowed by moments in "Appreciation and the Bomb" and "Lullaby." Where Swoop was endearing because of its over-the-top lyrics and deft musicianship, No Really, I'm Fine only rarely succeeds in spite of these.
Coheed & Cambria were poised to make the most outrageous, bombastic record of their (and perhaps their listeners') lives - instead, they finish their epic story with a whimper: a collection of mostly forgettable songs that delve deeply into the lore they have crafted, but forget to make it relatable or at least interesting.
Albums That I Want To Like More Than I Actually Do:
Motion City Soundtrack, Even If It Kills Me. Some really strong tracks on here, but lines like "She's the pizza of my eye" just leave too bad a taste in my earmouth (?) to be ignored.
New Found Glory, From the Screen to Your Stereo, Pt. II. The first half of this album is solid and provides for some sing-alongs, while the last half stinks up the joint. Proof that cover albums work best as EPs (Hello, On the Cover).
Release That's Making Me The Happiest:
Days Away, Ear Candy for the Headphone Trippers. How can this not inspire smiles all around? Days Away prove that the reason they're no longer on Fueled By Ramen is that no other band on the roster could compare to them. I was going to say it's the best label-free release recently, but that whole In Rainbows deal might have a leg up on them. But Days Away wins the concise and melodic awards.
Release I Wish I'd Started Listening To When It Was Released:
Matchbook Romance, Voices. If I have any friends who listened to this album and didn't think of me... well, apparently we don't know each other very well, after all. It has some troubles down the stretch, but for the most part comes across as Muse's snotty, younger brother, willing to sometimes forego intricacy so they can just rock out.
Release I'm Most Happily Surprised By:
The Most Serene Republic, Population. They're a Canadian ensemble and you probably won't be seeing them on late night TV anytime soon. Writing and performing "soundscapes" instead of songs, all I know is that its closest comparison is The Mars Volta. Songs are broken by dissonance and textures, but they never forget where they're going. Meanwhile, they're also less abrasive than TMV, with melodic cousins like Broken Social Scene, Sufjan Stevens, and even Margot and the Nuclear So & So's making a better comparison in that arena. Abram tried to get me to listen to their first two releases, and I didn't like them. I listened again after enjoying Population so much... and I still don't like them. Sometimes we just need to be grateful for what we have, though.
Release My Fingers Are Still Crossed On:
Saves the Day, Under the Boards. I'm just hoping and praying.