Okay, 4 CD's...
Must Hear: "Chariot," "Jesus"
I picked this up thanks to a recommendation by Rick Bennett (who also recommended Band of Horses, below). It's an ear-pleasing blend of comforting acoustic sounds, lyrics that feel what they say, and a ton of biblical imagery and lyrics. It's one of the most thought-provoking CD's I own, and that's because there is a ton of Jesus (in a way you wouldn't expect, trust me) and no CCM involved. It's what Christocentric art should sound like. Fantastic. From Pitchfork...
Nau is a true prodigy-- at age 21, he's writing songs with uncommon theological complexity. Let's spell it out in no uncertain terms-- in 21st century America, Christianity has been hijacked by some evil men. Jesus said that it's easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven. But in an age of mega-churches that lavish money on high-end AV equipment and contributions to PACs that would undo every social program designed to counteract uneven wealth distribution, Jesus' central teachings of compassion, forgiveness, and charity have been forsaken. His national face has become that of a cruel tyrant, peering down upon humankind with the miser's disdainful grimace.
Hello, Dear Wind accentuates the common traits of Christian music that is able to penetrate the secular world, with an unfettered joy that would scan to conservative Christians as almost pagan. It deploys Christian tropes poetically and not pedantically, brimming with reiterative Biblical imagery -- angels and burning bushes and trumpets, but also circuses, kings and crowns, wind, trees, and fruit.
Must Hear: "Living on the Outside of Your Skin," "Transistor Radio"
I found this because the cover intrigued me at Borders (although my cover is different than the one pictured). I listened to it for a minute on the in-store CD scanner thing, and it was fantastic. After googling it on my Treo phone and finding out it has received good reviews, I picked it up. It is getting more listens on the iPod than anything else, though Danielson (below) is close.
It's eclectic. One of the most ear pleasing yet creative CD's I've heard. A mix of acoustic, computer work, heavy beats, some rock flavor, and more. I love this CD, and am listening to it as I write this. Plus, it's recorded on a CD made from recycled materials.
Must Hear: "The First Song," "Monsters"
This has received a lot of play on my iPod in the last two months. A bit like My Morning Jacket, but more enjoyable in many ways. Not so quirky. A little Neil Youngish. Shinnish. The music is filling, atmospheric. Truly delightful.
From Tiny Mix Tapes...
It's as stunning a debut as I've heard in a long time, and it signals that we'll be hearing a lot from these folks for years to come.
Must Hear: "Cast it at the Setting Sail," "Did I Step On Your Trumpet"
Honestly, this music can be kinda weird. Very weird, actually. And I don't know what to say other than it's by far the best weird music I've ever heard. It's really incredible. This dude is a Christian, and again, he probably makes the CCM folks shudder. From Pitchfork...
None of Smith's previous records-- and in fact, very few indie releases this year-- have flat-out rocked like this one, with blaring trumpets signaling snares to exact their force beneath sweeping multitracked vocal choruses that simply won't stop crescendoing. On standouts like "Ship the Majestic Suffix" and "Bloodbook on the Half Shell", the music builds to such immense heights, and increases tension so far past the expected breaking point, that the inevitable release is nearly dizzying. But Smith also grasps the inherent malleability of such a sizable ensemble, and though he most often uses it to breathe life into the album's darkly apocalyptic overtures, he also wisely crafts shimmering psychedelic passages that prevent it from becoming too claustrophobic.
Thanks to Kevin Cawley for pleading with me to check out Danielson. Well worth it.