This is a new monthly feature recently introduced. You can stream all the albums mentioned here for free at this Spotify link, which I keep updated.
Best Album of the Month
Nude Beach - II
This is a wholly unexpected treat from a band I had never heard of. It lands somewhere between Tom Petty and garage punk. I'll just assume that the title means this is Nude Beach's second release. I'd already be on the warpath for the first if I could stop hitting "repeat."
Best of the Rest
The Avett Brothers - The Carpenter
This band served up my "album of the year" in 2010 and consistently releases the best folk-rock, by miles, that exists in the world these days. If you're a newbie to North Carolina's Avetts, start here, or, for that matter, start on any of their albums. A very close second to Nude Beach as album of the month.
Eux Autres - Sun is Sunk
From Portland, this brother-sister duo is like the part of Sleater-Kinney I would have always preferred. They are slightly abrasive and lo-fi like that band, but they are so much catchier and full of melody.
Allo Darlin' - Europe
This twee-pop group is just the second stringer we need when Belle and Sebastian takes a break from making records. Its self-titled 2010 debut is near perfect, and they've got a handful of great other singles and EPs. It's a great relief to me to have album #2 in hand now.
Cat Power - Sun
Unfortunately, I heard that Chan Marshall of Cat Power had another one of her famed onstage meltdowns last week at the 9:30 Club in DC. Fortunately, her new studio work is thoroughly listenable from the comfort of my own home. "Ruin" is already on my shortlist for best songs of 2012.
Young Fresh Fellows - Tiempo De Lujo
I'm accumulating quite a collection by these guys. Led by long-time R.E.M. guitarist Scott McCaughey, the Americana fluttering around on the band's 13th album goes into all kinds of directions. There's something for everyone, and also like an old friend you always love to hear from.
David Byrne and St. Vincent - Love This Giant
For some reason, I didn't think I would be into this. But I love Byrne and his Talking Heads. And I love St. Vincent (a much-less-annoying Regina Spektor or Tori Amos, with serious guitar licks). These songs are weird, but shockingly catchy and hummable.