Album Reviews: Amyl and the Sniffers, Chvrches, The Killers

Amyl and the Sniffers – Comfort to Me (Melbourne, Australia)

You'd think a year stuck inside would dull the raw, live energy of these fiery Aussies, but Amyl and the Sniffers roar with a more concentrated fire than ever before. With most of the instrumental intro's trimmed down, and Amy Taylor's lyrics both more gritty and poetic than their last release, this is a stellar follow-up. There's a fun abstractness to the flow of "Guided By Angels" as Taylor projects a spirituality powered by the self, with a raucous set of riffs from her band to match the energy and tattoo-inspired life guidance she sings about. The frenetic chaos in the drums of "Security" only add to the sense of frustration versus good intentions in the song's story, with Taylor riding its non-stop energy like a runaway train. "Hertz" focuses the whole composition around Taylor's demands and urges, with the riffs dancing against her lyrics and the booming explosion of the chorus reflecting her own escape. Next to these more evolutionary recordings for the band, there's just such an effortless fun to the grime and kick of "Laughing" as it skewers how women are critiqued for being smart professionals but also having a sense of fun.

Dear Rouge – Fake Fame (Single) (Vancouver)

With their undeniable power to drop singles ready for the radio at any time, Dear Rouge bring all the sharp hooks and ecstatic choruses you could ask for in this single. This time the drums bounce with a punchy tone but also with a touch of DFA Records-like bouncy bongos to call to more disco and electronica material, really giving the choruses a sense of fun. It's the dark explosion of the choruses that really take it all over the top, and Danielle's howls really getting a lot more insane throughout each break. The gloss they bring with all the dancing keys only drives the song further, with a sense of pacing that can't be beat. Gone before you're totally ready, the track is stellar single, and one that cuts in with the exact amount of hype and leaving you wanting more.

Chvrches – Screen Violence (Glasgow, Scotland)

It's unsurprising that much of the imagery around Chvrches latest record emulates a cinematic and often David Lynch-like quality, because the acoustics do too. With their most powerful, danceable and palpably visual record to date, Chvrches harness their pop and weirdness into great songs here. As it transitions from an ethereal "Twin Peaks" vibe to a slamming beats, "Asking For a Friend" blooms into this all-out, and often shrieking banger with the great emotional depth to make its climax feel so earned. There's a sad euphoria to "California" as its waves of brilliant and sun-bathed synths paint a heavenly picture constantly put into question through its lyrics. Meanwhile there's an inherently spooky focus on "Final Girls" as the group tries to blur real-life with horror films, in a wonderfully satisfying musical collage, and the chorus shines with so many great sonic colours that it really surprises you. With their classic vocal sampling mixed into a much more pointed story, "Good Girls" spins much of the band's famous energy into one of their most direct songs in a while.

Odreii – Easy  (Single) (Montreal)

The power of rhythm comes alive in Odreii's latest single, as the Montrealer finds a serene power in drums and subtle harmonies. A lesson in clashing minimalism with effects the barebones instrumentation feels massive thanks to the subtle reverb and echo laced into the track. But the percussive high this track keeps enhancing is too exciting to miss out on either, especially as the later choruses take on this weirder synth sound with a physical and drum-like feeling to it as well. Odreii's vocals bring this hushed and airy quality, always tempered but always leaving you in a dreamy state.

The Killers – Pressure Machine (Las Vegas, Nevada)

There's a stoic and less electronic push on the latest Killers record, showing the band's scope for big arrangements is their core, more than their already amazing keyboard work. Though this may be a light adjustment for fans of their usual bombast, there's such a strong sense of song writing here that it carries the record. And yes, The Killers essentially made an acoustic record that soars because it uses it for emotional punch rather than simplicity. "West Hills" carries a handfuls of sombre strings, and a feeling of heavy life reflection that seems more and more common in covid-era releases. That said, the sense of release, poetic self-evaluation, and religion as a kind of salvation from the weight of life is all too intriguing to ignore. The brilliant acoustic timbres in "Cody" are offset with the fiery touches of blown-out guitars and shimmering synths, with Brandon Flowers lamenting how much waiting for a savior can actually sound like doom. "Runaway Horses" will likely get you crying pretty quick in its beautiful tale of town life, with the piano, strings and Phoebe Bridgers' near-whisper delivery making it harder to keep it together while listening. The creeping keys allow a sense of grandeur to really take off on "In the Car Outside" with a bit of Bruce Springsteen and The War on Drugs in its bones.