Album Reviews: Chemical Brothers, Courtney Barnett, Romy
The Chemical Brothers – For That Beautiful Feeling
After No Geography recemented the overall strength of album that the Chemical Brothers could drop, they continue on a roll with their latest LP. Simultaneously a great overview of their best work across their whole career, and a huge psychedelic push forward, this is the duo ambitious yet satisfying as ever. Proving their equal measure of unpredictable-yet-perfect collaborators, “Live Again” sends psych songstress Halo Maud into a grimy haze for a powerfully dense and invigorating call to experience it all. There’s a brutally kinetic charge to “No Reason” that mixes so much great rhythm work with addictive EDM touches that it becomes a song you can’t get enough of, and with the bass cranked, this one hits like a truck. There’s a mystical menace to “Magic Wand” between that blown out bass and alluring call, world’s apart from the cataclysmic club drive of “Feels Like I Am Dreaming” which drops like a mind-destroying trip that oscillates between bliss and terror. Revving up like a sequel to “We’ve Got to Try,” “The Weight” blares and kicks out with ferocity and a high-octane engine to drive that massive drum and bass combo. There’s a very real sense of heaven on “Skipping Like a Stone” where Beck chants out with serene choirs to a growing rave drive in the track to create a spiritual feeling on a record already running the full range of sonic experience.
Aarsen – Sinners
(Single) (Gatineau, Quebec)
With a grimy emo-punk drive, Aarsen really bring the heat on “Sinners.” With a seemingly religiously reflective story, the track reads like a catch up of the fallout from institutions that commit evil in the name of good. Aarsen’s guitars bring this menace to life with horrifically vivid power, and their mounting vocals double down on that destructive power. As all that pain catches up, you can feel the whole track smoldering, and the guilt overwhelming, all kicking into that final chorus to charge its conflict into a new way forward.
Courtney Barnett – End of the Day
(Music from the Film Anonymous Club) (Sydney/Melbourne, Australia)
Scores by established artists either become an entire side-career or for some, a rare gem in their otherwise larger-than-life careers. With her new score, Courtney Barnett crafts something that feels like a slow motion, smoky, ethereal take on her work, and so separate from her body of work that it will be a wonder to see if she tackles more music like this in the future. The serene quality to “Start Somewhere” washes over you like a fog, with brilliant guitar lines shimmering like rays of sun cutting through the blurry haze. There’s an almost lighthouse-like quality to “First Slow,” as its colder aura keeps opening up to these calming rings in the dark, metallic as they may be. In the longer form of “End of the Day” you can feel a more evolutionary crawl in Barnett’s ambient growls, with the echo creating this constantly morphing tapestry of a sea of noise behind the next dozen riffs. Perhaps the closest you can feel to some of Barnett’s more direct writing comes in “River,” that uses its twang and more constant playing to leave a song that feels like a work played in super slow-motion.
David Deacon – Soldiers of the Universe
With a subdued growl and a gospel swell, “Soldiers of the Universe” finds David Deacon trying to rise back from setbacks. The bluesy growl and darker sound mix a Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen energy, while letting Deacon’s guitars light up the shadows. Deacon uses the track to offer perspective on hardship, reflecting that there’s only so much that a setback can do to you, but it can destroy you if you let it break your psyche. Using that choir to enhance that message and make want to rise above it all, Deacon finds a great sonic compliment to his words and creates a sharp song about moving on.
Romy – Mid Air
Already a fully formed artist within the XX, Romy brings that musical pedigree to a more club focused world on their debut album. Mixing great stripped down moments and personal lyrics, Romy makes every stomping track feel earned, and lets those highs land with an even more satisfying punch. In a great mix of intimate piano work and a dance heaven, “Loveher” builds to its massive second half by bringing us to the heart of Romy’s romance, and then explodes it in the symphonic magic that she creates. You feel like you’ve been listening to “The Sea” for years from the second you hear it, yet it brings a constantly iconic mix of hooks and small melodic charms to leave you dazzled in its entrancing beauty. While “Strong” takes a more dancehall approach, the more warped effects and deep emotion that Romy brings with Fred Again.. creates an elevated hybrid for both their careers. Romy even brings in a little disco glide on “Enjoy Your Life,” sending out the later parts of the album on an invigorating and universal call to get lost in the moment.