by kevin diamond (pics by nick zinner, ilovemetric.com, kirstiecat, & lure design)

I guess calling these bands mainstream isn’t quite right, but since SXSW is picking up the slack this week showcasing the up and coming talents (that is SXSW’s job, right?) I thought I’d highlight some albums about to drop by some proven favorites. Enjoy.

Artist: Metric
Song: Help, I’m Alive

makes up for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs by bringing the rock. Emily Haines’ lyrics are just as paranoid and depressing as always, which, in my opinion, plays much better with the rock band backing, as opposed to her more self-indulgent solo gig. This track is a great kick off to Fantasies, an album that occasionally missteps but has enough stellar tracks to make it a more than worthwhile listen. The album is streaming on their website now.

Artist: Handsome Furs
Song: Talking Hotel Arbat Blues

The second Handsome Furs album, Face Control, absolutely slays their first release. Which is surprising, as the second Wolf Parade album was such a disappointment. Perhaps he was saving all his good songs for this album. This song has a “I Want Candy” electronic beat, grinding guitar and a chorus that makes me think of The Boss.  Strange combo but it works.

Artist: Peter Bjorn and John
Song: Nothing to Worry About

Well, you’re gonna have something to worry about when people hear the new PB&J album Living Things. Other than this beat-heavy, catchy track, nothing on this album jumped out and demanded my attention. You can’t phone in an album that’s supposed to follow up the (unfairly heaped) hype that came with Writers Block, but it appears that’s what they did. At least they didn’t take the easy road and just make an album of “Young Folks” rip offs. I don’t think I could take that much whistling.

Artist: Phoenix
Song: 1901

Nobody does power-pop like Phoenix. They’re like a french Strokes who never started sucking. And on this album, the awesomely-titled Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, they’ve even started taking some risks, like the 7+ minute long “Love Like A Sunset.” Those risks are paying off. This may be the best album of the season.

Artist: Thermals
Song: Now We Can See

Yes, Yes, YES. I love The Thermals. And while Now We Can See is no match for their last album, The Body, The Blood, The Machine, It’s no slouch either. Body, Blood… was an epic tale of religion and sacrifice belted and bruised by The Thermal’s simple yet powerful style. Now We Can See seems to touch upon similar themes, with a slightly less obvious through line, but it’s still effective.

Artist: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Song: Hysteric

I guess if I had to pick a favorite track from this It’s Blitz, YYY’s disapointing third album, it’d be this one. Sorry for the ennui, but it’s all I can give to these guys now. They don’t sound like the same band that made the scorching rocker “Art Star,” nor do the remind me of the band that penned the plaintive, anthemic “Maps.” Instead they’re a second-rate Blondie, giving us dance when we’ve got nothing to dance about. It just seems like, with the country as angry as it is, YYY’s should be playing their hand differently, and capitalizing on what they do best.

Artist: Grizzly Bear
Song: Cheerleader

At this point, either you’ve heard the leak or you haven’t. I thought I’d post the Grizzly Bear sanctioned high-quality MP3 of one of the best tracks on the album. Get pumped.

Artist: Swan Lake
Song: Spider

Haven’t heard all of Swan Lake‘s new album Enemy Mine yet, but it’s a promising turn towards more accessible music for these three weird, wild, and totally unique songsmiths.

Artist: The Decemberists
Song: The Rake’s Song

Seriously, these guys need to listen to less Yes and more of their early albums. I haven’t enjoyed a Decemberists record in about 5 years. Hazard of Love is a meandering, overwrought prog opera, of which “The Rake’s Song” is a welcomed three minute relief.

Artist: Dan Deacon
Song: Get Older

Dan Deacon
deconstructs and reconstructs the minimalist electropunk that the future requires on his new album Broomst. Pay attention.

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