Let’s get right to it.

So far this year I’ve found few albums that are stellar from start to finish. (Exceptions: Of Monsters and Men’s My Head is an Animal, Anais Mitchell’s Young Man in America, Port of Morrow from The Shins and Chevelle’s Hats Off to the Bull.)

But now I can add to that list: Silversun Pickups has released an album at least as good as Swoon, their last effort, which I loved. Neck of the Woods has plenty of familiar sounds and feels, but enough that’s new to make it feel like a true step forward and not simply going back to the same old well. Favorite cuts include “Mean Spirits”, “Dots and Dashes”, and “Simmer”. Comparisons to Smashing Pumpkins aside (and they’re still out there, rightly) I’ve kept the entire thing on heavy rotation for the past few weeks, and find more to like about it every time I hear it.

Sara Watkins’ latest, Sun Midnight Sun, has many bright moments, to be sure. Guest spots abound, a great producer in Blake Mills (this generation’s T-Bone Burnett? A case can be made…) and some nice and shiny tunes all make for another pleasurable listening experience from the sweet-sounding siren. The first one that grabbed me by the ears and shook me to attention was the instrumental “The Ward Accord”, which plays to one of Sara’s great strengths: making new and modern music sound like it was written at the turn of the last century, and that she’s only recently discovered it and made it her own. This could easily have been played around the Rebels’ campfire in early July of 1863, the night before they wandered into town looking for some shoes. . .

As usual, I found a new band through their Daytrotter session in May. This time around it was Deaf Club, and their set in the Horseshack is wondrous. Don’t sleep on this one. (Decent Twitter presence, too, so tag along for the ride there, too. Follow them @DEAFCLUBmusic)

Rosie Thomas‘ Daytrotter set is also not to be missed. “Much Farther to Go”, which I’ve always loved, stands out in particular but the whole session is great.

As for the rest of the time since last I scribed, there seems to have been a dearth of great stuff – either that or I haven’t had enough time to unearth enough new sounds to rate and report on. I suspect it’s the latter, having logged close to 15,000 miles in the air for work in May. I’ve got close to 50 unrated new tunes in the bank, still, so hopefully the next time I’m here there will be more to share.

Until then- keep listening, and don’t forget to share some of your favorites, too.

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