Let's start with Return to the Sea by Islands. This album has been atop enough "Best of '06 So Far" lists that I finally felt compelled to check it out. Like the Danielson album, though, you shouldn't be fooled by the hype. This is another of the Fiery Furnaces/ADD-inspired albums that you'll either love for its choas or hate for its lack of cohesion. I must admit I was charmed by it, but if I had to pick I would probably go with the latter. There should really be a warning label for this genre of albums.
Swans (Life After Death), the first track, is an epic of the "Will....this...song...ever...end?" variety and I had decided to despise this album by the time it was over. But the next couple of songs are decent enough and Rough Gem forced a smile onto my face. I could see my little sister liking this - and I might pass it on to her. It is "charming", but not as much as other "charming" albums I have (Architecture in Helsinki comes to mind) and will likely collect digital dust on the inside of my harddrive. Released: April 4, 2006 (look at that - my sister's birthday!). STRANDED.
Meanwhile, if a band sounds exactly like another, previously existing band, are they a waste of time? Should they be scorned? That is my quandry with Band of Horses, who remind me a great deal of My Morning Jacket. Despite having a more gorgeous album cover than MMJ's latest, lead singer Ben Bridwell sounds a whole lot like Jim James (although he also sings like he could have been a Beach Boy in a previous life) and the band rocks in a very similar way. Sometimes, I think maybe the answer to my question is no, that this is a worthy album despite sounding derivative. But sometimes, I put it on and think to myself, "I'd rather be listening to Z." I'm really going to have to get back to you on this one. I will tell you one thing, though, the song posted via YouTube below (The Funeral) kicks major ass. Released: March 21, 2006. UNDECIDED.