Album Reviews: Alison Mosshart, Glass Animals, Sweet Whirl

Alison Mosshart — Sound Wheel (Vero Beach, Florida/Nashville)

While she's usually known for dark and gritty rock between The Kills and the Dead Weather, Alison Mosshart moves to a spoken-word, experimental music mélange in her latest solo release. This is not a music record, but for those into loose poetry, weird sonic constructs and some really biting commentary, this record is a cool journey and one that will certainly make you think. The grime of her music comes through in the hazy story of "Windows Up," while the bubbling electronics exude the story to something more Lynchian. The imagery Mosshart can construct out of her patch cords in "Cables Galore" is beautiful and one that makes you truly wish to see through with a wider sense of interpretation. Somehow Mosshart can turn a car into something human, but simply to objectify it in "Sexy Pontiac," and it's so cheeky you'll want to quote it. "Road Kill" sees the most haunting marriage of her stories and music, with a kind mantra-like charge in its rising and falling vocals.

Okan — Espiral (Toronto)

In the lead up to their latest album this October, Okan is offering us a powerfully harmonic and rhythmically soulful track. Just when you start getting lost in the vocal intro of "Espiral" the band comes in with a collage of sounds that bridge the group's Cuban roots with tones of Eastern Canada and lounge jazz. This constant shifting mix of ideas is mesmerizing to listen to as the piece feels like it's constantly pulling in another sound and adapting the whole band to it and everything that came before in an instant. What's all the more wonderful is how even something like the bass solo can feel perfectly between both sets of inspiration to go up a scale in one style and descend on another. And when it all explodes into full colour again on another chorus it's exhilarating.

Glass Animals — Dreamland (Oxford, England)

The last time Glass Animals graced us, there was a roar and overflowing sense of rhythm in their writing. A few years down the road the project feels much more honed down to simple chords and pop cores, this dramatic shift will definitely feel like it's for a different set of fans but it's addictively smooth for those that don't mind. Once the bass hits in "Tangerine" there's a fun quality to the "Tangerine" that makes you want to try and learn every word to follow the verses in their seemingly non-stop flow. The group's use of weird sounds returns sharply on "Hot Sugar" for a song that feels like a smooth, inoffensive synth jam, but with some really great quirks buried underneath. You'll find the most intoxicating beats and hook of the record on "Your Love (Déjà Vu)" as Glass Animals bring their older arrangements to their new melodic drive. Though it feels like it's coming from a completely different group, "Heat Wave" sounds like the track that very well might break into pop Top 40 thanks to its crisp and pitch-perfect riffing.

3Hands4Milo — Bliss/RD (Niagara)

With a swath of vintage synth tones playing off each other to create a neon world of their own, 3Hands4Milo has a darkness you want to explore. "The Eye" lures you into this world with parts sultry hooks, and danger-invoking waves of keyboards that evoke terror. Futuristic horror meets the wilderness in the energy of "One" as you're pulled away from more organic timbres into a cold and desolate place. Though the most direct in its pop-sensibilities, "Blackest" feels the most intense as a piece of goth synth music. This more overt approach  pulls you into a shadowy world between Nine Inch Nails and Siouxsie and the Banshees in a way that is utterly enveloping.

Sweet Whirl — How Much Works (Melbourne, Australia)

With piano and vocal writing approaches that seem wildly different but harmonious nonetheless, Sweet Whirl crafts sublime indie pop. Like a perfect crossroads between Fiona Apple and Regina Spektor, but never in quite the same blend, Sweet Whirl is a true fully formed gem. There's so much joy to take out of the sound of "Sweetness" as the piano bounces in its charming hooks and the satin vocals drip out beautifully. Alternatively, the constant dance to "Weirdo" can feel like a lull set to mandolins, a lush pop song in its chorus, and a delightful folk-pop jam in every bridge. The spacey float of "Tail Light" never lingers for too long, and takes the wonder of its keys to make every melodic moment land with a cascade of emotion. The low hum of "Make That Up For Me" is constantly rustling in half a dozen ways, feeling dense as a forest in its composition, but as lively as the highway in its frolicking mix of guitars and percussion.