- Slowdive – Slowdive
Acting as the true follow up to 1993’s classic album Soulvaki, Slowdive’s Self-Titled effort carries an almost insurmountable weight on its shoulders. Yet even with these heightened expectations and a two decade gap since their last album, Slowdive sound as fresh and inspired as they’ve ever been. While this album maintains the gentle, dreamy Shoegaze sound the band once spearheaded, the album’s success lies in the intricacies that dance along the plain of noise crafted by the instrumentation. The light keys that are sprinkled along the background of tracks like “Star Roving” round off the rougher edges of the guitars, making every crescendo feel like a gentle thrust into the cosmos. The gorgeous and triumphant instrumentation is rounded out by the dual vocal performances of Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell. Vocally the band demonstrates a sound understanding of the interplay between voice and instrument, blending their vocal harmonies with the bright guitars and keys to create the aural sensation of a warm hug.
- Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog
I’ve always enjoyed Mac DeMarco but I’ve never “got” Mac DeMarco. The gap-toothed creepy uncle of modern lo-fi Indie has a penchant for pleasant, breezy ditties but has never created songs that are wholly memorable to me. This Old Dog boasts a more mature DeMarco, both in terms of songwriting and lyricism. The breeziness that attracted so many fans to him initially remains, but this time not at the cost of memorable moments. The darker tone of the album comes after Mac’s father recent passing from cancer. Alongside songs that tackle romantic turmoil in a likably wistful fashion, are songs that constantly call back to Mac’s fractured relationship with his father. Heavy subject matter for sure, but the songwriting assures that this darker edge never overshadows the album’s pleasantry. Mac’s lyrics are full of questions but no answers and his songs drift along with no resolution, leaving his turmoil behind like a painful memory. All this is brought together through gorgeous DIY synths and catchy laidback guitars.
- Do Make Say Think – Stubborn Persistent Illusions
Instrumental Post-Rock in the same vein as Do Make Say Think is not something I’ve dabbled in regularly. The long arduous builds into triumphant crescendos that take place in tracks that are often over ten minutes in length is something I rarely have the patience for. So it was with much trepidation that I approached Stubborn Persistent Illusions, a listen mainly inspired by the gorgeous cover art and little else. What I was given with this album was a collection of pristinely performed and produced pieces that never jump the shark into melodrama, but instead provide satisfying, organic instrumental pay-offs. The sheer instrumental variety on display here is staggering but very rarely does the band ever make it overwhelming, choosing instead to carefully introduce it in layers that remain engaging to the very end of each song. An easy recommend for fans of the genre and those looking to for something meditative without becoming lethargic.
- Tigers Jaw – Spin
I really didn’t know what to expect from this Emo/Indie-Rock band’s fifth album. The sound they nailed so well on their 2008 Self-Titled effort had run its course and with so many bands playing in their lane, it was always going to be a struggle to stand out. While Spin isn’t much of a departure from their core sound, it doubles down on what have always been Tigers Jaw’s strongest facets. Both Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins have never sounded so great over the span of these mid-tempo Indie-Rock songs. The band has softened at the edges, giving more conservative vocal and instrumental performances but very much allowing the emotion to flow through the songwriting and lyricism. Long-time fans shouldn’t worry though; the fist-clenching hooks are still there but you don’t have to scream them back anymore.
- Full of Hell – Trumpeting Ecstasy
This album is a mean motherfucker, to no one’s surprise of course Full of Hell have been at it for years now and are easily one of the most prominent names in Modern Grindcore. This prominence shows no sign of fading on Trumpeting Ecstasy as the band delivers another round of crushing grind songs bolstered by raw performances, depraved lyrics and an openness to experimentation. This openness manifests as we reach the album’s final moments on the title track which features an out of nowhere feature from Nicole Dollanganger. Nicole adds an unsettling ambience to the Industrial-tinged explosions of percussion that take hold when vocalist Dylan Walker takes back the reigns of the track briefly, a reminder that chaos is never too far away on a Full of Hell album.
Linkin Park – One More Light
This album is not Linkin Park “going Pop” or “selling out”, Linkin Park have been a Pop band with a definite Punk and Metal edge to them since their debut and a damn good one at that. They’ve put out countless “Pop” singles that have been great and were one of the stand-out mainstream acts of the previous decade. The problem with One More Light isn’t Linkin Park making Pop music, it’s Linkin Park making bad Pop music. The production while well executed is dated on arrival with an over-reliance on booming synths and snappy synthetic percussion that fail to come together into anything distinguishable. The real culprit here, and the one that fans don’t want to admit, is Chester and Mike’s performances. Chester has a good voice sure but he sounds so limp against the thicker instrumentals, like he just refuses belt it out like we all know he can and Jesus Christ the lyrics on this thing are straight up cringe-inducing.