Music Roundup 3/12/18

We’re here to tell you what’s hot and what’s not in this week’s music roundup

music roundup Editors

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Editors – VIOLENCE

Genre: Synthpop, Alternative Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Counting Spooks,” “Belong”

I recall listening to Editors as a child and enjoying a handful of tracks off their debut album, THE BACK ROOM, on a casual level. Yet as time has gone by, they faded from my mind, until once again coming out of the woodwork with their sixth studio release, VIOLENCE. To say the least, their sound, in addition to the way I perceive their work, has changed drastically in the last decade-and-a-half, and unfortunately not for the better.

Inconsistent and scattered, Editors seem to be desperately grasping at straws while attempting to grab onto whatever they can style- and genre-wise with various levels of success. Their lavish compositions lend themselves well to a song such as “Counting Spooks,” where frontman Tom Smith soulfully sings over a glam rock-inspired instrumental that is beyond overindulgent, which makes perfect sense for the genre. For many tracks, the production is so overdone and sterile it leaves little in the way of character or defining features. The lead single, “Magazine,” seems to draw a large amount of influence from late 2000s “alternative” pop rock bands such as Imagine Dragons, warts and all—be it the driving percussion paired with the rising synths or the overly catchy EDM-like chorus instrumental, it just comes off as so derivative.

There is such a lack of coherence on VIOLENCE that it seems that Editors are desperately attempting to revamp their sound to stay on the mainstream curve. When they play to their strengths and focus more on glamorous and polished rock songs, while still being catchy and not insipid, they are tolerable and sometimes enjoyable. And yet, they seem to have picked up the bland baggage from many of rock’s shortcomings in the past decade that lead to its recent decline in mainstream popularity. [Will Turmon]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup Albert Hammond Jr.

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Albert Hammond Jr. – FRANCIS TROUBLE

Genre: Indie Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Far Away Truths,” “Muted Beatings,” “Set to Attack”

“Far Away Truths” is the best song the Strokes have written in a decade. It features that beautiful mix of tight production (those drums!) and three-drink swagger that the NYC rockers had embodied through two-and-a-half albums in the 2000s, and AHJ’s guitar sounds like it had been transported from 2004; if Julian Casablancas was singing this song, it’d be a comeback hit for the band.

Alas, FRANCIS TROUBLE isn’t the Strokes album we’ve been waiting for, and while claiming that it should have been, or even could have been, dangerously undermines whatever Hammond has been trying to accomplish as a solo musician, there are enough strokes (ayyy) of early 2000s guitar rock brilliance here that I can’t help but lament what we could have had. While the DNA of that era is going to be running through the guitarist’s blood from now until he hangs it up to not hang out with Ryan Adams, this newest album sparks with potential, but from both a songwriting perspective and as a full bodied album, FRANCIS TROUBLE comes up short, specifically with its back half, where it’s clear that Hammond has run out of steam. That first run of songs, from the sniveling uptempo opener “DvsL,” through a run of great singles including “Far Away Truths,” the turbo fun “Muted Beatings,” and the comedown “Set To Attack,” is as close as he’s gotten to the magic of that era since parts of either FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF EARTH or his first solo record YOURS TO KEEP. Hammond’s shortcomings as a singer can be forgiven on fast-paced guitar rock, where his performance can be summed up as strung-out thousand-yard-stare cool (truly a poor man’s Casablancas), but there was a reason he played guitar in the Strokes. The vocals on “ScreaMER,” “Rocky’s Late Night,” and the whispering “Stop And Go” are almost cringeworthy, and even passable material like the cheerful “Strangers” or closer “Harder, Harder, Harder,” which cuts like an early Arctic Monkeys’ song, is just too focused on what Hammond can do as a singer and songwriter rather than the generally great production. Worse, Side B never gets close to capturing just how fun it is when AHJ is doing AHJ things with the guitar, failing to harness endearingly fall-down sloppiness through come-up rock and roll. There are things to like about FRANCIS TROUBLE, but both as a replacement for that Strokes-sized hole in your heart and on the merits of his own solo career, it comes up short. [CJ Simonson]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup Judas Priest

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Judas Priest – FIREPOWER

Genre: Heavy Metal

Favorite Tracks: “Rising from Ruins,” “Spectre,” “Traitor’s Gate,” “Sea of Red”

When I told my dad I would be reviewing the new Judas Priest album, his response was, “Bless their hearts, be kind.” He and I have fond memories of the band’s work in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, and I respect their influence on not only the sound, but also the look of a lot of metal that followed them. However, I didn’t expect much from a 50-year-old metal band who haven’t made an album people cared about since 1990’s PAINKILLER, and the first half of their newest album FIREPOWER seemed to confirm my preconceptions. Songs just breeze by on autopilot, with a few halfway decent guitar solos ruined by unremarkable drumming, mid-tempo slogs like “Children of the Sun,” and a lot of hooks that fall flat due to trite lyrics or life-sucking production. The most painful aspect is Rob Halford’s unappealing, campy vocals; he always walked the line between menacing and goofy, but here he wades right into Dave Draiman territory. Then the instrumental “Guardian” smoothly transitions into “Rising from Ruins” halfway through, and it suddenly starts to get a lot more expansive, thrashy, and dramatic. It’s like the band couldn’t decide between a more commercial sound a la BRITISH STEEL or STAINED CLASS’s progressive flourishes, and the result is a heavily uneven record that hints at behind-the-scenes tensions and too many cooks in the kitchen. For an 18th record, you could do a lot worse and there are a few headbangers worthy of their glory days, but it’s nowhere near required listening. [Blake Michelle]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup Nap Eyes

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Nap Eyes – I’M BAD NOW

Genre: Indie Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Every Time the Feeling,” “Roses,” “White Disciple,” “Boats Appear”

I’M BAD NOW is not a title reflective of the chill, stream-of-consciousness tracks that comprise it. Nap Eyes’ third full-length is of the times and ever-changing, taking place in a scenario of the multiverse with various courses of actions and results. It retains the un-crisp recording method of their prior two albums, but does not jam as hard, the result of a statement piece with decrees and transparency in performance. Frontman Nigel Chapman leads the Canadian group into questions and hypothetical scenarios, entirely a storyteller who might be incoherent, but profound nonetheless. “Every Time the Feeling” and “Roses” introduce an opportunity to do the twist while analyzing less-than-special moments of unexplainable feelings and what to do with flowers you don’t want to accept. Non-stop analysis on “Every Time the Feeling” tries to figure out, “What’s worse, the meaninglessness, or the negative meaning,” and “Roses” overcomplicates throwing away the flowers you don’t want to accept with a consideration of keeping them with nowhere to put them. Nothing special, but I’M BAD NOW is comforting to sit and deliberate on with no answers—we weren’t looking for them, but the band proposes these topics exist and should be brought forward. “White Disciple” reflects most of the album’s structure, drumming along at a steady rate in a six-minute existential dissertation with a core statement of, “It doesn’t matter what anyone was born to be, but your life is pointless unless it sets you free.”  All of I’M BAD NOW assesses and finds solutions to human behavior and spiritual teachings, but leaves out the confidence of a teacher; as such, Chapman becomes a trustworthy, wise friend who accepts anyone’s viewpoint to enhance his own. [Nikki Reifler]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup of Montreal

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Genre: Art Pop, Neo-Psychedelia

Favorite Tracks: “Paranoiac Intervals / Body Dysmorphia,” “Plateau Phase / No Careerism No Corruption”

If there’s one thing to expect to get out of an of Montreal release, it’s the fact that you’re an idiot for having expectations in the first place. Despite having 14 studio albums already under his belt, frontman Kevin Barnes is an unpredictable ball of haphazard musical energy, one that shows little distinguishable pattern in style other than “weird.” With that being said, WHITE IS RELIC / IRREALIS MOOD is a daring six-track record filled with freaky, pseudo-intellectual club mixes. And though neuroticism may not usually be a selling point for music, WHITE IS RELIC / IRREALIS MOOD is a record that feels like musical acrobatics. Inspired by extended dance cuts of ‘90s pop songs, Kevin Barnes states on of Montreal’s website, “Two important events occurred during the making of WHITE IS RELIC / IRREALIS MOOD. I became ‘Simulated Reality’ paranoid and I fell in LOVE.” While what it means to become “Simulated Reality” may be up for debate, the musical ramifications of doing so involves creating an album filled with explorative and outlandish soundscapes, piercing and catchy vocal hooks, and futuristic production to tie it all together. However, while this record is unique and engaging, some of the noise that you have to sift through in order to get to anything memorable is overbearing. I have the sneaking suspicion that I’m only giving this band the benefit of the doubt because I’ve been a fan and know they’re capable of much more accessible and put-together music. While I personally enjoy some the chaos this album holds, there’s simply not enough substance to necessitate an entire listen through. [Daniel Cole]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup Jonathan Wilson

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Jonathan Wilson – RARE BIRDS

Genre: Soft Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Me” “There’s A Light,” “Rare Birds,” “Loving You”

Jonathan Wilson has had his hands full producing Father John Misty’s Grammy-nominated PURE COMEDY and touring with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, but he’s still had time to craft his newest solo album, RARE BIRDS, a lengthy-but-worthwhile endeavor that explores a failed relationship through the lens of self-healing and rejuvenation. The album consists of one psychedelic, sweeping soundscape after another, melting together into a cohesive experience. The sounds are always moving—surging and swelling like a tidal wave. The swaggering “Me” drips with Todd Rundgren-esque style, closing with a sprawling saxophone solo that spills into experimental jazz. Choices are made and risks are taken, and for the most part, they play out rewardingly. My one qualm with this album is that at times it sounds too much like The War on Drugs. I mean, really sounds like The War On Drugs. When listening to “Over the Midnight,” you might have to glance at your Spotify to double-check that you’re not listening to A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING. From the wistful vocals to the spacious acoustics to the breezy piano interlude, it’s pretty darn derivative. But luckily, these moments aren’t frequent enough to dismiss RARE BIRDS as an Adam Granduciel rip-off. Guest contributions from Lana Del Rey, Father John Misty, and Lucius spike RARE BIRDS with enough indie cred that it begs for a listen. It’s a great thing that it holds up to its hype. [Claire Epting]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup Young Fathers

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Young Fathers – COCOA SUGAR

Genre: Neo-Soul, Indietronica

Favorite Tracks: “In My View,” “Turn,” “Holy Ghost,” “Wire,” “Toy”

An entirely new melding of R&B, gospel, and punk aesthetics, COCOA SUGAR might not make sense if you don’t allow it to grow on you. Everything is quick and plagued with dark undertones, hardly escaping noise experimentation, intense beats, and simple chord progressions, but all ranges of sounds cut in retain the true music of Young Fathers. Lead single, “Lord,” was explained as “You can’t dance to it,” perhaps important when thinking of the cultural significance of COCOA SUGAR. “In My View” is the closest the album comes to mainstream, drum-heavy and downtempo, perhaps an energized pop ballad. The rap core comes in right after on “Turn” and does not give into the appropriation of mainstream culture: “Don’t you turn my brown eyes blue, I’m not like you.”  It begins with terrifying, incoherent vocals muttering something about not being an imitation, which forces you to listen, morphing into the familiar drum-and-group-chant celebration that infuses each track: insanely danceable, especially for the outdoors. Meanwhile, “Holy Ghost” is a ‘90s hip hop update for blasphemous cultural warriors; straight out of fever dreams is “Wire,” where intense aggressors chant the elongated title, resulting in a grimly necessary track that cuts out before it reveals too much. The entire album is as spooky and ironic as it is direly authentic to Young Fathers’ slap-in-the-face creativity. [Nikki Reifler]

Verdict: Recommend

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