Album Reviews: Cults, Aiza, Fenne Lily
Cults – Host (New York City)
The only thing we seem to keep with Cults between records is moody tones, and infectious harmonies, but that keeps things interesting. The orchestra-informed pop of their latest record lands between sonic experimentation and vintage pop for a weird trip through the dark. "Trials" uses these familiar roots to keep every warped vocal and weird tinge of the production feeling like a welcome change of pace. Admittedly there's a more pointed energy to "8th Avenue" that lets it effortless sink into your brain, and each grimy horn feels all the more memorable for getting bent into something harsh. It starts to take a much more cosmic shape on "A Purgatory" as the symphonic energy behind the band itself goes from synths to a fully blown out wail of sound itself. Cults lean into the weightier sound gives the drops of "Shoulders To My Feet" real fun as they find a size in their music they've often avoided, and potentially a really dance-ready hit.
Le Couleur – Concorde (Montreal)
Like a vacation, each Le Couleur record takes you to a place both familiar and foreign, while lettting you see a side of yourself you'd missed. Cool, and with the right sense of fun, this record sees the band finessed into a pop superpower. "Désert" slinks into its groove effortlessly and lures you through its club haze for an intoxicating dance gem. The darkness of "Concorde" is equally dense dream-pop and at times a reflection of the darkness of 80s French pop. The sense of movement to "Train de Minuit" is a brilliant effect, one that gets you shaking and perfectly in the mood to hop on some transit yourself. The pain and sense of pensive restraint in "Oiseaux Sauvages" wraps things up in a serene, but at times melancholic final note.
Fenne Lily – BREACH (Bristol, U.K.)
There's a richness that brilliant arrangements can deliver, and Fenne Lily uses this to make heavy topics feel accessible. It's strange in the amount of darkness explored here, Lily is able to pull such uplifting music out of it. The sense of fun keeps the depth of the story and themes in "Alapathy" gripping, Lily's shining guitars feel muted yet colourful in the way they roar. Lily is playing a delicate dance on "Elliott" as every piece in the composition swirls to make a sense romanticism around the tale. There's such a beauty to "Solipsism" that it's easy to miss how wonderfully weird the delivery in this track can be, especially before the mesmerizing glow of the bridge. "Laundry and Jet Lag" slows this down to a solemn ballad, and leaves you drifting out on a meditation of how much time can and can't heal.
Aiza – Sizzlin' (Toronto/Montreal)
Within seconds of its Latin beat kicking in, "Sizzlin'" shows Aiza is at the height of her talent. The absolutely natural sense of attitude and weight they carry on the track makes it easy to lean into the dance fuel behind every bass hook. Aiza's knack for finding the right riff to sing or add around her makes it easy to get lost while listening, and often feel like you're out and hearing this song through the speakers it simulates in its production. It's simplicity lets Aiza's peculiarly high-pitched wail shine here too, as you'll find yourself constantly coming back to that unique timbre in her voice. This prevents any end of the track from feeling redundant, and hopefully means Aiza will be able to twist this into more infectious tracks soon.
Sinead O'Brien – Drowning in Blessings (Limerick, Ireland/London)
Given how few artists lean into a spoken-word style, there's something powerfully gripping in hearing someone take it into something both catch and abrasive. Though it will definitely be more for the art-rock crowd, there's something wholly unique in this approach. "Most Modern Painting" dances between a meditative jam and reading approach, there's a fun to seeing how the composition falls out of its predictable nature. O'Brien's delivery can really make or break your enjoyment of "Roman Ruins" but as the whole thing starts to dive into a moody sound, you'll be fixated on what's slowly changing. The more long-form moments in "Fall With Me" find a happy middle ground for more traditional listeners, and it feels like it's always on the verge of a nervous break. This is reflected in the building noise and aggression of "Strangers in Danger," it's only a shame it never goes all the way.