Last month, I mentioned my crazy urge to document things and how it morphed into a music journal. The plan: to document every album I hear in 2012 and my first impressions. So far, I’ve kept it up, and confirmed two things…

1) I listen to way more new music than I thought.
2) I’ll try anything if it’s free. (Thanks Noisetrade.)

Amy suggested this would make a good blog feature, so hey, why not? Once a month, I’d like to highlight the standouts and share some glimpses into my Opening Notes journal. Here are a few of my January discoveries…

Paper Route – Absence

Genre: Chilled out, moody yet anthemic and occasionally danceable synthpop. Alternative electronic.
First Impressions: I’m annoyed I never listened to them before now! It’s moody and atmospheric… not super hooky like the usual synth sound, but the sort that hangs out in the background until some cool sound or catchy refrain grabs your attention. Glad I found them in time for a new record!
Source: Noisetrade… get it free! (Includes a new single that reminds me of One Republic)

Audrey Assad – Heart

Genre: 70s inspired, piano-based songwriter pop with some classical and hymn-like influences.
First Impressions: It’s like the Audrey record I’ve wanted since discovering “Winter Snow,” a sound truer to her roots and personality… less produced, more lyrical, and simply lovely. Perhaps my first true favorite of 2012.
Source: Review copy. Check out audio samples and explore the art and videos at Audrey’s website. Further thoughts to come in my review for JFH.

Jill Phillips – In This Hour

Genre: Shimmery songwriter pop with a folkish slant.
First Impressions: Oh, Jill. She is a criminally neglected Rabbit Roomer in my collection, but I do love her. Her 2011 record hits the mark of deeply personal, introspective writing that feels universal. She reflects on marriage, loss, family, and her role as a small-time artist (see “Next Big Thing”) with style and grace. Reminds me a bit of Sara Groves’ Invisible Empires. I’m only sorry I discovered this gem a little late…
Source: The Rabbit Room Store

Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History

Genre: indie dance punk/electro-pop
First Impressions: I seem to remember somebody talking about them… maybe Lindsay? Regardless, the clips sounded good and worth risking 5 bucks. This Irish band’s debut isn’t delivering profundity, but it is undeniably fun, sounding sort of like a cross between Pheonix and Death Cab for Cutie. Like hipster indie music you can dance to.
Source: Amazon Mp3 (a $5 January Deal)

By the way…. Total New Albums in January: 15. Yep. Most of them were free. (Again, thanks Noisetrade. And occasionally Spotify.)