Weights & Pulleys
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 is beginning to sound like Editors’ Tom Smith. For the next album, Broken Records could benefit from collaborating with an influential producer like Trevor Horn—someone with an identity that could be lent to the band. Key tracks: “Ditty (We Were Not Ready),” “Toska,” “All Else Can Just Wait” —Dominik Rothbard
In the Lonely Hour
Now that the gay thing’s out of the way, I no longer have to worry about the pronoun problem on Sam Smith’s enjoyable debut. As everyone no doubt already knows, Smith has a stupendous voice—a light tenor that switches into a fierce falsetto effortlessly with little or no strain. (If he really wants to become the diva he’s said he aspires to be, he should unleash that beast on a disco classic, Sylvester-style.) Smith could sell you anything—he’s that good—but the album overall is bogged down by too many ballads; all of which are gorgeous, but as they accumulate, you stop paying attention. Still, he’s here to stay, and this is just the first volley in what will be a legendary career. Prime Cuts: “Leave Your Lover,” “Lay Me Down,” “Restart” —D.L.
London’s Tom Vek sounds like everybody and nobody else all at once. He doesn’t quite fit in the electro square peg, nor does he quite fit into the indie rock round hole. What Vek is adept at doing is combining those elements in his own unique style. His music is thought-provoking yet decisively danceable, all sung in his idiosyncratic monotone signature with vocal phrasings that at times resemble Marc E. Smith from The Fall (while being much more of an accomplished singer). His third full-length album—self proclaimed as “garage rock for the pro-tools generation”—is full of abrasive synths, angular guitar riffs and metallic crunching beats set to expressive crescendos. There’s a certain level of drama and urgency to Vek’s output, and that’s partly what keeps his work so compelling. There’s also a controlled chaos going on. Some tracks border on spiraling out of control, yet they never quite topple off the precipice. Thankfully, this talented multi-instrumentalist’s off-kilter pop music breaks many conventions and molds. He sings “I’m an awesome man” on the album, and I would have to agree. Prime Cuts: “Let’s Pray,” “Pushing Your Luck,” “You’ll Stay” —P.V.