Song: ”The House That Heaven Built”
Album: Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl)
For some of us, rock ‘n’ roll is the ultimate life coach, and Japandroids have delivered the motivational speech of 2012 with its instant anthem. “House” is a textbook example of defiant punk stridency that lifts its listener from his doldrums and compels him to action. Heartbreak seems to be the foundation of vocalist Brian King’s wails, but survival and transcendence is clearly the house built atop it, as he sings at the song’s climax, “Born of a bottle/From heaven’s hand/And now you know/And here I am.” Add the twin fury of both the power chords and the thunderous drumbeats, and “House” sends you hurtling toward the big, life-affirming payoff we so crave in our guitar music.
Worth the iTunes album upgrade? Not only worth the upgrade, but — barring a surprise local date — worth the trip out of town to experience its righteous, revelatory power live.
Artist: The Walkmen
Album: Heaven (Fat Possum)
The title is truth in advertising, especially when it comes to those repetitive, celestial guitar arpeggios complementing singer Hamilton Leithauser’s romantic rasp. He may be licking his wounds on the battlefield of human relationships — is he serenading his lover? his band? anyone in his heart? — but there’s not a hint of surrender in either his voice or words. “Remember, remember/All we fight for,” he sings during the song’s sweet spot, a simple refrain loaded with interpretive meaning. Amazing that it channels 1980s American post-punk (R.E.M., The Replacements) while still undeniably sounding like classic Walkmen.
Worth the iTunes album upgrade? Heavens, yes. The most consistent, best-written and least labored Walkmen album to date, revealing a band as focused and assured as it has ever been.
Song: “You’re Early”
Album: 2:54 (Fat Possum)
Driving during Coachella weekend, we first heard this vampy number, notable for its tense guitar jangle and breathy, harmonizing vocals of sisters Colette and Hannah Thurlow. This must be the new Warpaint, we thought. Or a female Interpol. But once we were done being both cynical and sexist, we spotted the late ’80s/early ’90s R&B tones in the Thurlows’ seductive delivery, cutting through the fog-machine atmospherics provided by studio craftsmen Rob Ellis (PJ Harvey) and Alan Moulder (Nine Inch Nails). The mix of those elements, along with a choral melody that casually arrives and then envelopes its listener, results in pure rapture.
Worth the iTunes album upgrade? Go for it. The Thurlows convince in nearly every goth-pop number, especially on serrated ballad “Scarlet” and the unfurling, closing rocker “Creeping.”