Jim is observing Spring break in the less-than-tropical climes of Massachusetts (where beaches of books beckon). In recent weeks he's been listening to more new popular music than usual, in part because pop music has taken a turn in his (more melodic) direction. So he's enjoyed My Head Is an Animal, the debut album of Of Monsters and Men, an Iceland-based band. The hit song from the album, "Little Talks," captures the playful but dark quality that's at the heart of the band's appeal. He's also been listening to the Lumineers, whose self-titled debut, also released last year, falls more squarely in the folk revival of recent years, typified by Mumford & Sons. The Lumineers manage to make a big sound out of accoustic instruments and spare arrangements.
Finally, in a third debut album from 2012 -- it seems like it takes longer for new acts to break in, though it certainly takes longer for old geezers to discover them -- there's Delta Rae. This North Carolina band with Duke University connections extends their folk roots in a wider -- which is to say blacker -- direction, leavening their rock-based sound with soul ("If I Loved You") and even slave-based ("Bottom of the River") accents. They also do an interesting cover version of Billy Joel's "Piano Man." These and other videos -- the band seems to be using video heavily to promote themselves, perhaps because they have powerful backing -- on their website. Though it's still early in the game, they may well be built to last. The "delta" of their name has a rich, muddy bottom, and the other half points to the sky.
Best to all for a relaxing and tuneful break.