Music Reviews Stories 1 to 10 of 199  
8/4/2014
Music Reviews: Bear in Heaven, La Roux, Sinead O'Connor
Bear in HeavenTime Is Over One Day Old  (Dead Oceans)*** On this fourth release, the Brooklyn trio burrows further into a dark and progressively richer vein of post-punk electro. From the menacing Joy Division-esque bass run that opens the record through the motorik drone of the final song, vocalist/multi-instrumental Jon Philpot, bassist/guitarist Adam Wills and, especially, drummer Joe Stickney keep the songs both moving and atmospheric. The attention to sonic detail—the fluctuating and mild-distortion of the synths that open “Autumn,” the marshalling rolls of the tom toms on “They Dream—is necessary, as Philpot’s gentle voice tends to ...
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7/25/2014
Music Reviews: Jungle, Morrissey, Sia
Jungle Jungle  (XL) ***** Now that the U.K. press has showered hosannas on Jungle’s eponymous debut, and the band had a good showcase recently on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, it seems churlish to complain, but that’s what I’mma do. Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland certainly have their hearts in the right place. Their electro-soul feels more authentic than most of what passes from England, and their sonic palette pays homage to funk without making a big deal out of it. The songs are solid throughout. So what’s the problem? The music is airless and overly precise; the best dance music, while ...
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7/21/2014
Music Reviews: Bleachers, Bright Light Bright Light, Marc Almond,
BleachersStrange Desire(RCA) *** Bleachers is the new project from Jack Antonoff, the adorkable guitar player from the band fun. also known as Lena Dunham’s main squeeze. This debut is full of vibrant, bombastic synth-rock sing-alongs, and the entire collection feels like a long-lost indie distillation of ‘80s and ‘90s hitmakers, from Bryan Adams to Bruce Springsteen to Beck and Weezer. In describing the vibe, Antonoff says, “You can dance to it or you could weep to it. I don’t know what anybody else wants, but that’s what I want from music.” The record has lyrical moments of emotional ...
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6/25/2014
Music Reviews: Glass Animals, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, James
Glass AnimalsZaba (Harvest)* * * * Since I’ve been banging on against the increasing homogeny of contemporary indie electro (frankly, it’s boring), it’s a pleasure to hear a debut that’s as engaging and imaginative as Oxford quartet Glass Animals’ Zaba. Vocalist/songwriter Dave Bailey, who’s studied both medicine and neuroscience by the ripe old age of 23, invests his sonic explorations with infinite variety. Mid-tempo soul numbers such as “Gooey” and the trippy opener “Flip” are built on basic ingredients—strokes of electronics, sequenced rhythms, Bailey’s high tenor/falsetto fillips—that the band then invests with a concentrated attention to subtle details ...
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6/11/2014
Music Reviews: Broken Records, Sam Smith, Tom Vek
Broken RecordsWeights & Pulleys(Self-Released) Eschewing rock music’s current ‘less-is-more’ attitude, Edinburgh’s Broken Records continues its three-album tradition of excess and bombast. The band’s last LP was a rushed affair and lacked the nuance of its debut, but Broken Records took its time with Weights & Pulleys, and the wait partially paid off. While W&P is as confident as the debut, some originality has washed away. “Winterless Son,” while incredibly catchy, sounds like U2 covering Arcade Fire. The drama that normally comes with a Broken Records LP remains, but the whole affair seems rather anonymous. Jamie Sutherland’s voice ...
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5/30/2014
Music Reviews: Chromeo, Coldplay, Michael Jackson, Sharon Van Etten, The Sunshine Underground
ChromeoWhite Women(Atlantic)** Canadian duo Chromeo are stuck in a huge late-‘70s, early-‘80s timewarp, where the neon is switched on 24/7, synthesizers and keytars are on a non-stop loop and Day Glo leg warmers are required attire. In a world of droning, hipster indie rock and generic techno tarts, Chromeo remains adept at crafting infectious ditties with prismatic melodies and stick-in-your-head lyrics. On the group’s fourth effort, they are still equally and unashamedly influenced by Hall & Oates, Steely Dan, Prince and Chic (and the Flashdance soundtrack?), but not in an annoying “Oh, look how ironic I’m being!” ...
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5/15/2014
Music Reviews: Lykke Li, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Echo & The BunnymenMeteorites(Universal)* * * Oh, shimmering and melodic post-punk, how I’ve missed you! As a fan of this band from whence they started 35 years ago, I’m thrilled to hear them back in such fine form. Anchored by only two founding members (charismatic vocalist Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant), Meteorites was produced by Youth and finds them digging deep to unearth celestial new sounds and sweeping vistas influenced mostly by their classic Ocean Rain period. Though it’s not a perfect record—I wish they’d given us even a few moments of some uptempo grit—when their ...
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4/29/2014
Music Reviews: Damon Albarn, Hercules & Love Affair, Lily Allen
Damon AlbarnEveryday Robots (Warner Bros.)**** Blur. Gorillaz. The Good The Bad & The Queen. Operas. Theater soundtracks. Damon Albarn doesn’t want for projects, and now, 23 years after Blur’s debut, here comes his first official solo album. To call Everyday Robots a slow burn would be to ignore that it never burns. It’s a meditative, nostalgic affair that moves at a snail’s pace yet ultimately leaves a lasting impression. Half the record is given to musing on the alienation of modern technology (the title track; “Lonely Press Play”). The rest confronts the past, most Bowie-esque on “You and ...
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4/16/2014
Music Reviews: RAC, Architecture in Helsinki, The Afghan Whigs
The Afghan WhigsDo to the Beast(Sub Pop)* * * *Band reunions are a double-edged sword. Pro: you get to see beloved performers one more time. Con: new music, if any, usually disappoints. Greg Dulli, the band’s main motivator and frontman, must have been aware of this during recording of this first record in 16 years, because he and bassist John Curley (the only remaining original members) not only recapture the spark of the band at its finest but turn inspiration into a blaze. They’re as rough and elegant as ever while putting to shame rock ...
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4/2/2014
Music Reviews: George Michael, Kylie Minogue, Tokyo Police Club
George MichaelSymphonica(Virgin EMI Records)* * * The worst thing that happened to George Michael was his debut, Faith, becoming an enormous success. After that, he stopped being a pop star and became an ‘artist.’ That’s great, but not much fun. He’s still chasing his misdirected muse on Symphonica, his sixth release, a collection of well-loved songs and covers performed with an orchestra. He’s in superb voice here, and he’s sure to appeal to the aging New Wave contingency looking for a Rod Stewart-type songbook set, yet I can’t help but wish Michael had spent his time writing ...
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