Album Reviews: Alicia Keys, Night Lunch, Metz

Alicia Keys — ALICIA (New York City)

Right as her music starts getting predictable, Alicia Keys shakes things up every few years to have another record that's full of pop, but also wonder! Part theatrical, and part exploration into abrasive effects, this is a star finding new ways to make a statement. The mix of poetry and symphonic luster to "Truth Without Love" and it's mix of meditative chug and growing scope keeps you transfixed. Though you can feel like "Authors Of Forever" drifts into simple slow-pop, the bell-like hooks it rings out of its back half are so enchanting you'll be glad you stayed. The grooves and smooth jazz feel of "Jill Scott (feat. Jill Scott)" pulls you into a dream while zigging its bass hooks just enough where you'd expect a zag to allow it a unique voice. Plus the utter pop anthem drive to "Love Looks Better" pushes forward with such a zest that you'll want to get up and clap.

Ron Hawkins & The Do Good Assassins — Teenage Insurrection (Toronto)

The classic rock fun of Ron Hawkins and the Do Good Assassins can't understated, as they bring out a mix of hooks you immediately feel like you know. This gives "Teenage Insurrection" an effortless charm, as they shred their way through, calling out each section with exciting yells and new riffs at every turn. The song perfectly nails the two-minute format, leaving nothing behind and constantly churning out more booming sections and a sense of loving life without ever overstaying its welcome.

Night Lunch — Wall of Love (Montreal)

Through their various incarnations Night Lunch has always brought a dark mood, while mixing a sense of vintage rock with David Lynch-like sensibilities. With their most cohesive record to date, Night Lunch is finding a perfect harmony that utilizes both their pop and wonderfully weird tendencies to max effect. More blown out than ever, "Motorhome" can feel equally quiet and massive, while its sinister hook keeps you in dread. "Five Lies" is the perfect marriage of all their sounds, as the lo-fi shuffle in the song is constantly upped more and more for a fun and indulgent party. "Long Time Woman" plays to bit of Paul Simon-meets-Fleetwood Mac-style pop with an ebb and flow of bright and darker moments. The direct chorus punch of "Damien" reinvigorates a retro doo-wop style perfectly, to let their neon synths add a grittier sheen to otherwise glossy writing.

Northcote — Let Me Roar  (Victoria, B.C.)

Bring a magical quality to more stripped-down acoustic folk, Northcote wastes no time bringing you to the cores of their songs on Let Me Roar. The title track hits you right away with a trembling low end, along with yells that feel necessary and raw. Where "Dancers and Queens" slows it all down, it brings out a richness in every instruments size of sound to really feel hearty and wide in its sound. Meanwhile in the cold but glowing "Freedom" there's an immediately ear-worm quality to its soft-rock hooks, and the understated shimmering its guitars is a wonderful feeling.

Metz — Atlas Vending (Ottawa/Toronto)

There's a danger in the energy of Metz latest work, more than ever before. Ferocious, but with a sense of raw tenacity and often animalistic in its shaking direction, this is Metz honed to a knife's sharpness. "Pulse" has that immediacy and fear-inducing movement to it that keeps you on edge, and makes you want to fight, shake and get moving, with just the right breaks to make its mounting tension work. This shriek is focused into the grimy riffs of "Blind Youth Industrial Park" as the band's unceasing wail burns through your ears with a surprisingly melodic force. They take straight rush of pounding drums on "No Ceiling" and beg you to chant along with them. The low end kicks in with a fury on "Sugar Pill" playing beautifully against the feedback-like cries for a song that roars like an unstoppable snowballing behemoth.