Album Reviews: April 15, 2019
Anderson .Paak – Ventura (Oxnard, California)
It's only been a few months since Anderson .Paak graced us with his last ambitious release, and he's managed to maintain a great supporting cast in his music. Though this latest release sinks back to his groove-based roots, there's still a lot of fun to be had on this album. After sailing through plenty of smooth, heavenly choruses, "Come Home" takes off beautifully as André 3000 effortless drives the beat faster and faster in his verse. Paak's newfound experimental flow lands well on "Reachin' 2 Much" as the swapping energies all play together well, and rhythms feel just as harmonious as Lalah Hathaway's vocals. Despite all the jam energy within the record, there's a much more subversive energy and sound to "Chosen One" as Sonyae Elise helps bring Paak into a whole new world within his own music. Disco is on the table too on "Jet Black" where the steady beats and growing vocal swells provide a glossy and fun dance track for Paak.
Amecane – Imperfections (Ottawa)
With electronic at the forefront of much of Ottawa's Bandcamp scene (and much of Bandcamp's scene as a whole) it's interesting to see how each artist interprets it. In this newest sound from Amecane, we get an instrumental and visual mix of tones that play together beautifully. Despite the distinctly synthetic aesthetic to "Accumulation," the song reeks of a kind of European charm in its melodies as the industrial side seems to just be a matter of texture. "Distraction" itself is a calm bedroom jazz feeling, as its echoing and tumbling hooks create this kind of sleepy but warm energy. Hip hop meets shoegaze in places on "Institution" as Amecane seems to suggest a kind of oppressive energy in their music. With a shuffling groove and beat to close things out on "Simplification" however, Amecane show they're just as organic as otherworldly this time around.
Karen O & Danger Mouse – Lux Prima (New York City)
Though Karen O has moved from righteous punk to energetic dream-pop within the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, she's been dabbling in cinematic tones on her own. As her energy and wonder melds with the mad scientist scope of Danger Mouse's production, their combination record often feels like more an emotional ride than simply just a collection of songs. This is perhaps most obvious in the extended flow of "Lux Prima" where we take an overture and more jazzy shuffle to let both of their sounds come together with as much soul as they have existential worry. Both of their inclinations towards pop make something like "Turn The Light" effortlessly bouncy, though it wouldn't quite stand out in modern music without the layered instrumentation that graces every chorus. "Woman" makes the best use of their two energies, as Karen O lets loose a kind of shrieking, tribal ferocity that is given a new depth within Danger Mouse's smoky production. As many tracks here play out as variations on themes, "Reveries" itself does a great job of opening up Karen O's own acoustic music into a more spacey and magical experience.
Vincent Bishop – Ambiguous (Ottawa)
While there's a very simple guitar pop to the work of Vincent Bishop, it's the earnest lyricism and upbeat delivery that make it work so well. A Courtney Barnett-like lyrically-specific writing style lets you feel "Please Don't Make It Worse" as if Bishop was letting you in on a secret. Even a kind of retro pop rap drive for "Ambiguous" is surprisingly potent next to other genre pastiche's here, as it lets Bishop tap into a kind of darkness in human interaction. Keeping it straightforward works best for Bishop, and lets little details like a rolling drum beat on "Simple Damsels" play out as more intriguing than distracting. The lyrical fun really rounds out the album on "It's Up To You" as the rush of energy in every chorus highlights the song's message about taking life as it comes.
The Drums – Brutalism (New York City)
When we last heard the Drums, the surf undertones of their sound were merging with a kind of Joy Division darkness. Here however, the music is blending with a muddy, digital sound to explore the emotional elasticity of their writing. Though "Pretty Cloud" partially serves as a simple track that lets you into the tones of the record, it's also really adept at bringing out a different sadness in the guitar lines. That's why the more abrasive tones of "Body Chemistry" are equally interesting, as the sunny colors of the music slowly bleed out in its otherwise rough edges. Despite the swaying beats within "I Wanna Go Back" there's a more sombre energy to the track, and The Drums spin this into a mounting and satisfying release throughout the song. A mix of The Drums old bass hook goodness plays out in the wilder production of "Blip Of Joy" where chaos meets happiness in a beautiful explosion.