Album Reviews: Brijean, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Lydia Luce
Brijean -— Feelings (Oakland, CA)
While connections to Toro Y Moi give you a fraction of the picture, Brijean's hazy dance-pop is so much more than that. Shimmering harmonies, funky bass and a constant gloss that is soothing yet moving, this duo delivers a standout release of the year. The whole mood is set on "Day Dreaming" with all of Brijean Murphy's light vocals lulling your mind, while the drive of the bass and beats just shake your body free. "Wifi Beach" really expands on the more colourful subtleties in their music, with the hand drum work really soaring and the weird sung intervals landing in an atypical way that makes the song stick out in your ears. With more of the synth tones playing out on "Hey Boy" the band continues the sense of taking one sound and elaborating on it, and really start to morph their sound in more futuristic ways, and with textures that really feel unique to them. The rhythm is at its most refined and punch in "Moody," to set off the record with this sublimely groovy but never-in-your face track.
Amythyst Kiah — Black Myself (Single) (Johnson City, TN)
There's a raw, Southern fire behind Amythyst Kiah's sound, that matches perfectly with her frustrated story. "Black Myself" is a wonderfully blunt, and personal reflection facing racism day after day, which soars thanks to Kiah's unique lyrical poetry. Every line feels particular to Kiah's own life, but equally poignant, finding its universal appeal not only in the broader conversation on structural racism but how many little things are effectively changed due to its damage. This outcry to this message feels all the more immediate with the loud, growling rock of this update to the song, which takes its acoustic roots and sets them ablaze to echo how much this ongoing pain can fester from a shout to an amplified rallying cry.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard — L.W. (Melbourne, Australia)
As a psych rock band that has put out so much music as of late they've often oversaturated their own fan's appetites, King Gizzard have found a way to keep fresh. Through a much more moment-focused and tight writing style, the band's 17th record (10th since 2017) brings more consistent bite than they've had in a while. Following a theatrical and blown-out intro you'd expect from a live show, "If Not Now, Then When?" flies right into a fantastic keyboard groove and sees the band bringing a quiet, but still explosive set of riffs to the table. They find some of their most exciting hooks and rhythms on "O.N.E." however, with the moody breakdowns, chant-like refrains and the quiet to loud swells that feel so much more satisfying as the song goes on. The piano lines of "Supreme Ascendancy" often feel like flickering lights, and shows a very future-facing side of the band's sound that's often been left behind in their hazy, exotic overtones. The bells of "See Me" provide a similar, albeit grimier take on this, as they hold such a powerful central melody that you never want them to ever stop.
Bobby Bazini — Holding Onto the Feeling EP (Mont-Laurier, QC)
Mixing a folk crooner approach to vocals and melodies with more modern production, Bobby Bazini finds a crossover appeal many wouldn't think was there. The UK Mix of "Holding Onto the Feeling" takes a pretty overt Daft Punk "Get Lucky" sound and throws in a lot of strings and Bazini's own melodic charm to translate his talents to something intensely dance-ready. "Those Eyes" lets all these funky guitars quiet down for a subdued track about how entranced we can become. The sonic and thematic power Bazini gets out of his choir on "Together People" is a wonderful touch, as he turns a simple unifying message into a full-blown proof of concept you'll want to return to. While "Leonard Cohen" pays great homage to its titular artist, it also shows great respect in its driving artistry to tell more uncensored stories with a mesmerizing mix of instruments.
Lydia Luce — Dark River (Nashville, TN)
Don't let the sombre delivery of Lydia Luce's songs fool you, there's an immense world of sound buried past its quietness. One for lovers of slow burns, this record rewards those who can wait. The downbeat of guitars burst into a rich swirl of gut-wrenching strings on "Occasionally," eventually made all the more beautiful by some bright marimba-like hooks in its mysterious sonic melange. Luce is kicking out with more directed fury on "Dark River" letting her larger sound give her a sense of might with every strike of a string instrument and drum. The crooner sound moves to a stadium-sized rock feeling on "Never Been Good" as Luce gives us a sprawling look back a life and how we see ourselves. "Somehow" moves back into the vintage singing to leave us with a magical sway on love that would fit in squarely with the Vera Lynns it emulates so well.