Album Reviews – April 3, 2018
Jack White – Boarding House Reach (Nashville)
As Jack White has continued to push the boundaries of vinyl itself, his musical ambition has felt more reserved in his solo work. He quickly escapes simple blues and rock however on this latest record for something that will feel initially jarring but ultimately one of his most creative records in years. In the massive swells of "Connected By Love" White, gets all his massive blues energy out of the way in one big fireball of a gospel track. With quirky beats and a funky riff that would make Stevie Wonder blush, "Corporation" finds White at his most rhythmic and really pushing himself as a writer. "Ice Station Zebra" blends 90s hip hop with Jack's hard rock, and a bit of Beck's bizarre instrumentation to make one of his most surprising tracks, and one that makes cheeky reference to the White Stripes' "The Air Near My Fingers." While many will love his rock single quota-maker on "Over and Over and Over" the most tantalizing track on the record is "Respect Commander" where he blends rustic electronica into a blistering solo without ever feeling forced.
Flash Lightnin' – Homage EP (Toronto)
Even in their final moments, Toronto's Flash Lightnin' manage to deliver all the blazing rock glory that have made their albums and live shows a joy to see again and again. For a last record, this is certainly an explosive way to go out. Fleetwood Mac's "Green Manalishi" is roaring with grit and exotic guitar riffs, capturing a certain sense of majesty in every little hook. The size of the drums and atmosphere however on "Never In My Life" perfectly emulates Mountain's sound and really gives the right rock fury that would make the band proud. As they give their own greasy version on "Shapes Of Things" there's a hard arena rock fury, but one that gets even the little touches of bass right in the mix. "Swlabr" puts all the right distortion on Cream's hit without losing any of the grooves and giving the song a modern rock energy.
Lucius – Nudes (Brooklyn)
Considering how fast Lucius' career has been moving for a visually powerful art-rock band, it was definitely an unexpected move to see them announce an acoustic album, and one of both covers and their past material on top of that. This said, they inject way more life than most into the sound and even bring on their Pink Floyd tour captain for a song in the midst of their fun experiment. Their rewrite of "Woman" actually pushes the limits of acoustic music, where many songs on their album simply feel like alternate takes. They really pick up some funky jazz energy however on "Something About You," and make the albums more barebones aesthetic feel prefect and even Motown. "Neighbors" evolves from its bouncy pop into a more folk-influenced story-ballad, that feels parts Guthrie and Dylan at times. It's hearing the smirks between them and tour-mate Roger Waters however on "Goodnight Iren" that their warm approach to the album feels most at home.
Arkaeus – Transdimensional (Ottawa)
Though many acts take the chiptune and score-like genres as an excuse to fit in a label, Arkaeus defies expectations. Through an album that mixes hard rock, electronic music (both score and dance floor) and score conventions, they craft a sublime record. "The Transformation" starts the record on blistering guitar riffs and a hefty beat, while bizarre electronic modulation and digital mischief keep the song playful. The heavy bass creates a sense of place on "L.A. 2084" as Arkaeus leans into the synthwave aspects of their sound for their most texturally focused track on the album. "Stellar" breathes with marvelous string arrangements that would make Hanz Zimmer proud and while it does feel like a pastiche of his work, it's dense and powerful. In the operatic vocals and menacing vocals of "Doom Slayer" Arkaeus blends genres once again for a blistering but groove-driven listen.
Superorganism – Superorganism (London, U.K.)
Despite barely being an actual band in 2017, Superorganism quickly got their act together to put out a whole debut record in less than a year. Using the talents of their eight writers and multiple producers, the band create a sound so immersive and strange that it's really like nothing else you're likely to hear for a few years. They redefine the intro track on "It's All Good" as their retro-vocal samples make way for crowd chants and spacey mix of psychedelic power-pop. They bring their sonic artistry into boisterous pop on "Everybody Wants To Be Famous" as dance hooks, atypical samples and a full track stops appear in unusual places. "SPRORGNSM" brings in a little more of a groove drive as they bring in kooky sonic playfulness, while they manage to tell an entire story in their background sounds. As they grime things up on "The Prawn Song" there's such a rich amount of layers and samples in the track that you'll wonder at times if you're listening to a music video rather than a simple song.