Album Reviews: February 12, 2018

Migos – Culture II  (Georgia)

If you can get over the mayhem that was Migos Bluesfest set last year, their latest record gives enough gems to prove why they're so popular. Though this is certainly a bloated album, they nevertheless make the most of their best songs. "Narcos" brings a Latin flavour to the group's typically straightforward delivery, forcing them out of their comfort zone for a brief moment on the record. They bring a horror-movie like backing track to "Walk It Talk It," through their bizarre percussion and let loose some of their most cutting verses on the album. The peak of their flow comes on the Pharrell-produced "Stir Fry" where an addictive beat and relentless vocals make for a vicious track. Tracks like "White Sand" are much more representative of the album unfortunately, as a redundant backing track and derivative groove take away from the exciting vocal work throughout the record.

The Faint White Noise – After The Breach (Ottawa)

It's refreshing to hear someone mixing ambient sound-crafting with  thoughtful indie rock, and Eli Black's latest project is the perfect crossroads of these two sounds. The ambient beauty of the record never really grows dull as it grows on "All Your Beginnings" with the song's crest of dynamics making for a massive emotional release in the middle of the song. Black doesn't waste time on "My Spot In The Shade" blending his guitar and piano work into a devastating hit of pain and sorrow. The roll of drums on "Coming Back To Me" is an exhilarating rush as Black emulates bands like the National with his bursts of energy in the song's finale. The sombre mood of "Last Words" closes the album with even more tempered emotion than before as it feels like Black is going to fall apart at any moment in the song.

Nils Frahm – All Melody  (Germany)

Though instrumental music isn't an easy genre, the right artist can really standout. On his new album Nils Frahm tackles the current state of the world and looks to the possible places we could be heading next. The menacing growls of organ complement the harmonies on "The Whole Universe Wants To Be Touched," leading audiences from traditional melodies to the sounds of the present. Though "My Friend The Forest" is a stark and acoustic-sounding track next to the rest of the album, it provides some of the most emotional hooks of the whole record, and gives a melody that you'll want to follow all the way through. The second half of the record becomes a Blade Runner like film score, with "All Melody" setting a place and sense of character in each of its instruments. The deepest sounds come on "Kaleidoscope" as Frahm blends electronic synths with something utterly human to make a song that sums up society's reliance on technology.

Tommy Sistak – Ready Set A Go-Go  (Ottawa)

Homage is a tricky game to play, because doing your job too well can make your work moot. Though Tommy Sistak is definitely honouring bands like the Beatles on his latest album, he brings just enough of his own ideas to make it stand out. "You Can't Change Me" immediately calls back to classic Beatles tracks feeling like an original take on a sound that anyone could recognize. The blues-rock continues down a darker road on "Life Is Waiting There for You" as Sistak and co make complex and energetic vintage pop. Though the album can feel a little too derivative or inspired, "Be Alright Tonight" proves that Sistak has a way to carve out new paths within the sound. The fast and heavy energy of "I'll Be There" brings more gritty guitars than most of the record, making its spritely pop sound more modern and vicious.

Pearl Charles – Sleepless Dreamer (Los Angeles)

Though she might reach the depth of other alt-country artists, Pearl Charles brings a pop sense of fun back to twanging guitars that has been so hard to find as of late. Mixing elements of Sheryl Crow, Haim and Fleetwood Mac, Charles' latest album is one that keeps it light. The bustling synths glow on opener "All The Boys" as the dense production expands her melodies to something inspiring. "Beginner's Luck" gets deep and heavy with its bass hooks, with Charles embracing the single life while acknowledging what she's missing. The smile-inducing guitars of "Sleepless Dreamer" are the peak pop of the album, and the sense of joy Pearl brings in the song is intensely addictive. The darkness Pearl brings on "Ghost" makes for one of the most worrying tracks on the record, as she really dives into her troubled side with humbling results.