Well, February was kind of bleak – musically and otherwise – but there were a few bright lights in the gloom. LeT’s eXpLoRe!
The Good Stuff
- I’ve always felt that it’s incredibly indelicate to criticize works that hinge entirely on real-life tragedy, and so I’ve avoided judging albums like Sufjan Stevens‘ Carrie & Lowell or David Bowie’s Blackstar. I won’t dissect Mike Shinoda‘s latest EP either, and will only say that the man is incredibly brave for being as forward as he has been following Chester Bennington‘s death last July.
- Julian Casablancas is probably set for life financially thanks to the royalties from his music with The Strokes, so he can do whatever he wants to now. He’s chosen to invest a lot of time in his new band The Voidz, and although it’s been pretty hit-or-miss so far at least he’s trying new things. Latest single “QYURRYUS” is an eclectic mix of kraut-rock and Auto-tune, though it’s not nearly as earth-shaking as the hyperventilating hipster dorks on the internet will have you believe. That said, it is one of the better songs of the year and well worth a spin.
- It’s almost frustrating waiting for Car Seat Headrest to finally release THE BIG ONE, but it will no doubt be worth the wait once that day comes. I’m talking of course about the crossover album that has the catchy mainstream hit that makes him an alt-rock radio staple. It’s still somewhere on the horizon, but he’s taken the bold step towards it with this latest record where he cleans everything up so it sounds like it was, you know, properly recorded. Standout track “Bodys” is like a surging, blog-rock take on Beck, and although it’s a little too scattershot to be a big single, it shows that Will Toledo knows how pop conventions work….as he literally talks about those pop conventions in the middle of the song.
- Toronto-based rapper Belly obviously knows the weather in his hometown, so why did he release windows-down banger “Man Listen” at the most inopportune time? It’s already been out for months and it’s still way too early for it to fulfill its destiny.
- Attempting to describe the music of Son Lux is one of the more difficult jobs of a music critic. It’s like…Imagine Dragons for ghosts? It is very ghostly. But not like Cocteau Twins ghostly. Or gauche MySpace emo Nightmare Before Christmas ghostly. It’s like… steampunk ghostly, if that makes sense (only much much less dorky than steampunk). It’s also more disappointing than anything else. Look at this:
– That’s the disjointed waveform for his latest song “Dream State”- an apt title for a track that seems to simultaneously exist in multiple tiers of quality. It’s got all the elements of a huge, Arcade Fire style anthem, but they’re chopped up and rearranged so that nobody can enjoy them. Choruses start at the wrong parts and there’s a long quiet middle section that should have been excised from the final cut. It’s like he purposely sabotages a potential hit song but leaves nuggets of greatness in to be petty. In that way it’s a lot like Perfume Genius‘ “Slip Away” from last year; both could have been massive hits but are now just could-have-beens.
- Oasis famously called themselves the antithesis to grunge, because “everything in the U.S. was so dour”. Looking at both their discography and the subsequent catalogues of the Gallagher brothers’ solo projects, they’ve largely kept their word and never gone too mopey. Which is why Noel Gallagher‘s bonus track “Dead in the Water” is so weird- it sounds like a Brand New song. No Brit-pop charm to be heard, just straight up emo. No bravado from Noel, just a vulnerability that adds a new dimension to the infamous grump.
The OK Stuff
- The new AWOLNATION record Here Come the Runts is very organic and analog and real ROCK and Aaron Bruno wants you to know that. It’s also the first solid album of 2018- good taken as a whole, but missing a huge standout track.
- Also listenable is the new one from Dashboard Confessional, who for some strange reason has delved into the populist sound of anthem-core for Crooked Shadows. Just like Fall Out Boy, this once-emo is now a TOP-OF-HIS-LUNGS belter, with synths to match. “Just What to Say” is a weepy guilty pleasure if there ever was one, although you feel embarrassed for listening to it before the song is even over.
- Our Lady Peace have a new album too, and even though it’s not too bad itself, the production on most of the songs is. Somethingness is largely very flat, unadorned, and completely unsuited to a mainstream rock band now just trying to pad their catalogue. Raine Maida‘s songwriting deserves better. INTERESTING NOTE: remember the band’s 2014 single that mysteriously appeared, totally ripped off Modest Mouse and Passion Pit, caused longtime drummer Jeremy Taggart to leave, then vanished? It’s conspicuously missing despite this being their first record since 2012….HMMMMMMM
- Well, the new MGMT album is here, and it is…okay. To be honest it’s probably their best when taken as a whole, even if it is sorely lacking in huge hits. The closest thing to one is the song “Me and Michael”, which used to be “Me and My Girl” until the hipster duo thought that was “too boring” and wanted to be very precious and different and changed it.
- Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats are desperately trying to avoid the one-hit wonder label, but if they keep pumping out Kings of Leon knock-offs like “You Worry Me”, it’s likely that 2015 hit “S.O.B” will be their calling card. The new single starts off promising enough and builds a solid atmosphere around itself, only to waste it on a flavourless chorus.
The Not-So-Good Stuff
- You know how much it sucks to write that Franz Ferdinand have put out a totally irredeemable album? There’s not a single memorable moment on the entire record. Mid-album song “Glimpse of Love” just barely resembles the band’s cozy old aesthetic, but despite all the nostalgic harmonies it is devoid of hooks. It sounds like exactly what it is: an album cut on a fifth album of a washed up band.
- Don’t believe the hype surrounding buzz bands No Age and Parquet Courts– both goofy hipster nonsense.