Album Reviews: BTS, Jenny Lewis and more
Broken Social Scene – Let's Try The After (Vol. 2) (Toronto)
Given all the music they make in their own time, it's a wonder how Broken Social Scene seem to always evolve while sounding exactly how you remember. In this latest album they dive further into their strange ethers but bring the powerful harmonies and lively compositions we love them for. "Can't Find My Heart" has a particularly strong dose of Broken Social Scene's rushing, layered approach to music, and sees their use of synths and reverb at a new height. There's a much more modern pop sound to the vocals and production on "Big Couches" however, that oozes an exciting but not always emotional amount of synthetic tones into their sound. This kind of idea works much better on "Let's Try The After" where an ambient approach to the writing lets the more subtle production touches shine in the track. As they push their more droning ideas to their limit on "Wrong Line," they step away from what we expect while also achieving ideas one would rarely associate with the band.
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The Hitmakers – Presence EP (Ottawa)
The finesse and fury of a band like The Hitmakers gives a real weight to their punk where many others can get lost in the genre. With a warmth and unusually pensive delivery, the band are able to craft memorable track effortlessly across this smaller offering. In the constant beating of "String Breakers" there's a powerful yearning that they use to make every raucous and tumbling chorus feel like it's building to something bigger. Though there's less of a bite to "Hard To Follow," the Hitmakers show off a much sunnier sense of guitar playing that colours their music in ways they don't usually manage. The rich arrangements of "Teen Beat" are a powerful step forward for the band, as they transcend their usual chugging riffs for something more harmonious and beautiful as a result.
BTS – Map of the Soul: Persona (Seoul, South Korea)
If you haven't already caught on to the exciting K-Pop of BTS, they certainly do their best to reach out to Western audiences on their new EP. Though this results in a less distinct sound for the band, it's hard to deny how fun it is to hear. "Intro: Persona" still booms with some of the fastest verse-spitting that BTS has ever dropped, as they use their simple backing track to go all out vocally. While you can certainly see "Boy With Luv" as heavily bubblegum-pop, there's so many bouncy hooks in the writing that you likely won't really care. They do infect their sound with some unusual jazz tones on "Make It Right" as a recurring melody plays against the silky voices the rest of the group lend. BTS's great penchant for contrasting voices works best on "Jamais Vu" where their throwback boy band pop track makes sure every singer stands out as much as they fit into the chords.
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The Pink Elephants – At The Gates Of Heaven (Ottawa)
A mastery of sound is what gives a band like The Pink Elephants a heavenly quality no matter what they play. Between songs that feel texturally reminiscent of Cocteau Twins, this band really taps into your darkest emotions to create something fierce. "Bubble Boy" slow-burns a mix of dread and uncertainty, letting its brighter tones really suffocate in the endless echo of its sound. This heavier production opens up so much more on "Undone" where a Garbage-esque crossroads of electronics and grunge clash with sharp tension. Even as they slip into the more dreary ends of shoegaze on "Play Pretend," the playfulness in riffs and vocal approach shows that they're able to explore many different sides of themselves. The dense hooks and danceable rhythms of "Spiral Staircase" hit with a hefty feeling that sees the band controlling their anger in uniquely abrasive ways.
Jenny Lewis – On The Line (Los Angeles, California)
As she drifts between roles as a political voice and a musician, Jenny Lewis only seems to grow wiser from her busy life. Her new album is a bit of a throwback to be sure, but it's richer in storytelling than she's been in some time. Despite the darker sides of "Heads Gonna Roll," it carries a late Beatles sense of comfort in its bones that makes you want to smile. After such a classically-toned track, it's fun to hear the counter-pop energy of "Wasted Youth" that flips between classic rock and a more obtuse energy. This kind of unusual approach comes through in "Do Si Do" where a country-rooted sound is given weird pop hints and arrangements that drift between dreamy and outright electronic. As a slow song like "Little White Dove" seems to promise a much more direct approach, Lewis crafts her most wonderfully strange music with gusto for a track that feels familiar yet utterly spontaneous.