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Three great new releases:

TGH has a new guest blogger! Alex is here to make up for Kate's slack:
The past month, my playlist has returned consistently to three great albums all released this autumn. The first two, Grand Drive's Everyone and Band of Horses' Cease to Begin are perfect sing-along-in-the-car pop records, but with a slower and more melodic side more similar to the third release, Chris & Thomas's debut Land of Sea.

Grand Drive: Everyone
Grand Drive is a band that lives up to its name. Pretty melodies and simple lyrics, backed with surprisingly complex instrumentation, make a road trip album like I haven't heard since I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning. The first time I heard the album, it filled me with energy like only well-written pop music can. The second time I heard the album, I realized that the lyrics are pretty shallow, and I was annoyed that they didn't live up to the music. By the third time I'd listened through the album, I realized that the lyrics couldn't stand to be any deeper and still match the cheerful whistling tone of the music, and I was happy just to sing along.

As with the other two albums in this post, it was hard to reduce the album to one song for an example. The style varies enough and there are enough excellent songs that I almost want to give ya'll the entire album. But you should buy it instead--music this good ought to be encouraged. My favorite song is the simple and heartbreaking "Plain Sailing," with its two-chord verse and delicate organ counterpoint, but a better example of the overall style here is the midtempo "I'm an Echo." Building from a music-box synth to a chorus swelling with feedback and driven by a clap track, the song could well play over any indian summer afternoon sitting out on the lawn, any lazy drive South. Keep the windows down and enjoy the album with the days as they turn toward fall.

Grand Drive - I'm an Echo
Buy Everyone at
Grand Drive's website/myspace

Band of Horses: Cease to Begin
On the subject of clap tracks, I've got to hand it to Ben Bridewell that he's got the style down. Probably my favorite of these three albums, Cease to Begin can be explained by the song "Lamb on the Lam (In the City)". Insistent and infectuous, the music curls up in the back of your head and stays there. While writing, I've been listening to the album, and realizing how many of those not-quite melodies that I find myself humming lately have been from this album. Great stuff. However, there's too much to say, and I can't communicate it nearly as well as the Band can, so just listen to the song, and I hope you'll go get the album. It's worth it.

Band of Horses - Lamb on the Lam (In the City)
Buy Cease to Begin from

Both of those discs have a more mellow side to them, which for both is the needed relief and reply to the upbeat pop that makes up the rest of them.

Chris & Thomas: Land of Sea
If you're looking for a whole album of mellow relief, though, there's nothing out there right now better than Chris & Thomas's debut, Land of Sea. Somewhere between Simon & Garfunkel and Iron & Wine, the music sounds bigger than the speakers it plays from--sweeping like the skies the lyrics describe, timeless and folksy like the stories they tell, the songs seem grand and familiar. The harmonies that Chris & Thomas make are beautiful, and there's not a single bad track on the album. The best songs are the title track, "Take these Thoughts," and "Riversong" (which reminds me a lot of Grand Drive's "I'm an Echo", at least lyrically). I've included "Take these Thoughts" because there's an edge to the harmony sometimes lacking elsewhere in the album. Like Iron & Wine, though the music is as languid as a late-night cigarette and a beer, sometimes it gets too laid back and is in danger of putting you to sleep. Perfect for what it is, but not as captivating as Simon & Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence" or "America". I recommend buying all three of these albums, and I'll tell you true that Chris & Thomas are brilliant and exactly what the music business needs right now. The only reason I express my reservation is that I expect Chris & Thomas to be receiving a lot of superlative attention in the months to come. They deserve it, but we still ought to keep perspective.

Chris & Thomas - Take These Thoughts
Buy Land of Sea from


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