More catch-up! These are all 2009 releases.
The Bats - The Guilty Office (2009). OK, this was a 2008 release in New Zealand, but in the States, it was 2009. The Bats, led by Robert Scott, who plays bass in The Clean and is the primary songwriter [with the usual guitar and vocals] here, have a sweet slightly-psychedelicized folk-rock sound that manages to capture that ineffable kiwi-rock feel while reaching out to indie-folk touchstones like REM and the Byrds. This album isn't much of a deviation from the past, but considering that The Bats have been a going concern since 1982 and that this is only their 8th studio album, it's quite amazing how wonderful it is. Whatever it is that New Zealand puts in the water down there to keep their musicians creative far past the point where most have burnt out, I hope these guys keep drinking it.
Ben Reynolds - "England." It will become apparent at some point in the near future that I am a John Fahey fanatic. This was a free download from eMusic of a Fahey-influenced (or dare I suggest, Richard Thompson-influenced) fingerstyle guitarist with some serious chops. I intend to pick up the rest of this album. Awesome stuff.
The Clean - Mister Pop (2009). Speaking of kiwis with longevity, The Clean have been around since 1979, influenced everyone in indie rock from Pavement to Superchunk, and this is only their 7th studio album. And man, it's great, too, a mish-mash of The Clean's traditional Feelies-esque guitar pop, organ-driven psychedelia, and a folky slice-of-life songwriting that reminds me of the Go-Betweens. Oh, and there's their goofy sense of humor shining through all of the songs, too. Great, great, great stuff.
The Clientele - Bonfires On The Heath (2009). I love The Clientele, with their oh-so-tasteful guitar, whispery vocals, and twee nostalgia for a time-that-never-was (except perhaps inside Arthur Lee's head). This albums doesn't stretch out from their previous efforts, but it's a lovely album, anyway. As always, I suspect that the Clientele has more guitar solos in them, but they rarely do something so unrestrained as unspooling a guitar solo. The Pitchfork review discusses this album as an English coming-of-age sound, and perhaps that's the best way to listen to it: while reading David Mitchell's Black Swan Green.
Future of the Left - Travels With Myself And Another (2009). The Welsh band McLusky picked up the threads of punk and pushed it forward as a music genre that could still sound vital and interesting all these years later. Their lyrical sense, full of humor and sarcasm, was a major part of their style, but their music, with unexpected melody among all of the noise and rage, was also a boatload of fun. Future of the Left consists of McLusky's guitarist and drummer with a new bassist, and basically picks up where they left off and continue pushing forward with more experimental touches, lyrical boldness, and sheer wonder.
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest (2009). When I wrote about Grizzly Bear some months ago, I praised their Friend EP as a great leap forward from the somewhat-stilted Yellow House. And then I put off buying this, their new release for some time. Having heard it now, I can say that it's another great leap forward from Friend, keeping the dramatic rock elements and sense of surprise that made the EP better than their last album. There's a sense of holistic purpose to these songs that sounds both orchestrated and organic, as if every member of the band is wholly committed to creating a song that is greater than the sum of its parts.