I’ve been a dad for more than six months now, but I’ve been a music lover ever since I was about two years old. My dad played me a VHS taped off MuchMusic that included videos by Van Halen, Duran Duran, and The New Romantics. I was hooked. There’s a home movie of me air guitaring to “Jump” with a plastic tennis racket.
Since then I’ve spent the last 28 years expanding and refining my musical tastes, and while haven’t been to a live show in quite a while, thanks to the Internet (and Metacritic in particular) I haven’t missed much when it comes to new records.
It’s a pretty significant commitment keeping up with the latest and greatest stuff while also keeping up with my fatherly duties, and I hope to one day pass on my appreciation of good music to my daughter (she enjoys Rush, Tool and Genesis when I play them for her, but she also seems to equally like her mommy’s love of Backstreet Boys, Bieber and Bob Marley).
For now, I’d like to pass on to my fellow new dads some terrific music from the last few years that may have passed you by whilst changing diapers and attempting to put your kids to bed.
If there was a musical genre known as “Dad Rock”, The Walkmen would probably be the poster boys (poster men?) for it. The AV Club said it best in their review of the 5-piece’s latest record, Heaven:
“It’s an album of big adult themes: the weight of responsibility, the realization that romantic infatuation is fleeting and probably bullshit, the power of fidelity and loyalty to outlast momentary sensation and passion. And it dispenses with them in an ordinary, everyday way, like taking out the trash or changing the baby’s diapers.”
Top Tracks: Louisiana, Dónde Está La Playa, Stranded, We Can’t Be Beat
I got the tip on these guys from Trent Reznor’s Twitter feed in 2009, hailing their album Primary Colours as “the greatest thing I’ve heard in a long time.” The English rockers followed up that terrific record with last year’s Skying, which hit #5 on the UK charts. The first single, “Still Life”, is an absolutely perfect song with a great bass line and killer keyboards.
Top Tracks: Still Life, New Ice Age, Mirror’s Image, I Can’t Control Myself
My Morning Jacket
MMJ have gathered a cult following (including, apparently, the guys who make American Dad) and with good reason: they friggin’ rock. Ranging from eight-minute slow-building epics to punchy rockers to soft acoustic ditties, this Kentucky band does it all, and does it very, very well. Basically everything singer Jim James touches turns to gold; whether it’s his work with MMJ, or with folk supergroup Monsters of Folk, or his album of George Harrison covers.
Top Tracks: Dondante, Lay Low, One Big Holiday, Wonderful (The Way I Feel)
Sometimes you just need a folk-influenced band like Fleet Foxes to mellow you out after a particularly stressful day. Their eponymous debut was named Album of the Year by Pitchfork in 2008, which makes sense because if you know even a little about Pitchfork, you’d know Fleet Foxes is right up their alley.
Top Tracks: Montezuma, Sun It Rises, Meadowlarks, Helplessness Blues
I saw this band in Austin while visiting my best friend, and the lead singer played an autoharp. I mean, that says it all right there. Plus, “Two Weeks” is in pretty much every commercial, and with good reason: it’s one of the best, if not the best, pop song of 2011.
Top Tracks: Two Weeks, Knife, Fine For Now, While You Wait For The Others
Featured on backing vocals for “Two Weeks” is the lead singer from dreampop act Beach House, and she’s no slouch, either. Some bands are named ironically, but in this case, Beach House is bang on: it’s the best music to listen to while lying on the beach.
Top Tracks: Myth, Wild, Lazuli, Norway
Atlas Sound / Deerhunter
One of my most vivid memories of the past few years was a walk through Cherry Beach in Toronto as winter was thawing into spring. Atlas Sound’s Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel was playing in my headphones, and it could have been a movie soundtrack. Since then I’ve come to like all of Bradford Cox’s musical projects, be it his solo work in Atlas Sound or his group work with Deerhunter.
Top Tracks: Recent Bedroom, Cold As Ice, Agoraphobia, Nothing Ever Happened
I was introduced to Battles when I saw them live in Rome at the Terme Di Caracalla – ruins of ancient Roman baths. Rock shows in foreign countries are always a great time, and so is this band, an experimental group that layers sounds upon sounds and rhythms upon rhythms.
Top Tracks: Ddiamondd, Atlas, Tij, Futura
This Vancouver quintet are a throwback to the psychedelic 70s era, and having seen them live I can safely say that your dads would like them a lot. I’ve definitely given my pop these records and when I listen to them, I picture my dad in his 20s listening to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
Top Tracks: Stormy High, Let Spirits Ride, Don’t Run Our Hearts Around, Tyrants
Pretty much everyone knows Bon Iver now, thanks in part to an Arcade Fire-esque Grammy run and Kanye West. But my introduction to Bon Iver was back in 2008, when they opened for Black Mountain. They gave me chills, a feeling everyone at Lee’s Palace surely shared. Their records, For Emma, Forever Ago and Bon Iver are quite simply two of the best albums to come out in the past ten years; this band definitely lives up to the hype.
Top Tracks: Flume, Skinny Love, Perth, Holocene
Field Music / The Week That Was
The Brewis brothers have given a lot to fans of modern British pop/indie/art-rock between Field Music and side project The Week That Was. Catchy and intricate, they’ve put Sunderland on the map for more than just a middling Premier League side.
Top Tracks: Them That Do Nothing, Measure, Learn To Learn, Scratch The Surface
Let’s close with the two loudest bands on this list. Vancouver’s Japandroids manage to create a lot of racket for just two dudes, and the music world is finally starting to take notice. The duo released their breakthrough record Post-Nothing to little fanfare, assuming it would be the last thing they ever did as a band. Instead it was nominated for several awards, and their follow-up effort Celebration Rock is every bit as bombastic and fun.
Top Tracks: Heart Sweats, The Boys Are Leaving Town, The House That Heaven Built, Continuous Thunder
A Place To Bury Strangers
Noise rock doesn’t do these guys justice. Easily one of the three loudest bands I’ve ever seen live (Muse and Nine Inch Nails being the other two), APTBS are guaranteed to drown out your baby’s cries. Not that you’d WANT to do that, of course.
Top Tracks: It Is Nothing, In Your Heart, Keep Slipping Away, Exploding Head
Featured Image Credit: Hugo Chisholm