Album reviews: February 17, 2020

Tame Impala – The Slow Rush  (Perth, Australia)

While Kevin Parker has become a default producer for retro psych these days, he's managed to evolve in much larger leaps with Tame Impala. And as the most dance-focused step within his journey so far, this record is a lush slow-burn of a listen. "One More Year" establishes the shuffling beats and looser tones of the record, while Parker manages to envelop himself in plenty of Madonna-like production notes to the point that it's shocking to think it's still the same band. There's an instantly intoxicating quality however to "Borderline" as Parker layers the drums and keyboards into this beautiful mélange that gets you moving, and uses every track in its arrangement to add a new flavor to the mix. '90s hip hop riffs seem to fly more than ever on "Breathe Deeper" and Parker really uses the extended runtime to not only mutate the feel of the song but take you into so many fun breaks and b-sections that you'll want to hear it again right away. "It Might Be Time" merges new and old tones of Parker's work, for a track with real kick but also a sense of sonic fun that never eases up.

Plays In Green – Slowly Learning (Ottawa)

Simple and to-the-point rock can just work, and Plays in Green works by letting their music come at you with a fierce directness. And there's just enough darkness and depth to each note to raise it above the noise of so many groups around. Case in point is the rushing drive of "I Don't Know" that lets its lightning-quick rock get ugly in all the right ways thanks to way their bass and guitar sink into frustration. This makes the subtle beauty of "Mother's Car" land so much more powerfully, as they create a tender but worried piece that is frank in its mixed emotions. The layered guitar lines and soaring energy of choruses on "Crashing/Burning" is its own power, as they manage to colour in a straightforward track into something pained as well. "Won't Be The Same" itself flips the concepts of an intimate outro track to make a united crowd song that will no doubt elicit a sing-along live.

Le Butcherettes – Don't Bleed (Guadalajara Mexico)

Le Butcherettes have lied somewhere between punk, art-rock and something experimental over the years. Don't Bleed exemplifies this in its rotating tones of production, and its shifting energy makes for a much more explosive listen after the first try. "Wounds Belong To Me" has this intro-like lo-fi angle to it, with such a strangely intimate performance that it's a shame it isn't used to properly transition into anything. From here, tracks like "Out for You" are instant pop-punk gems, while "Don't Bleed" takes a much more creepy approach to land on something that flows like a Charlotte Gainsbourg song, but roars with distortion. As they transition to the rumbling drums and bass of "Tunisia" however, the vocals' breathy and chanting energy sees singer Teri Gender Bender getting into equally catchy but weird territory to great effect. This EP dances between Haim and FKA Twigs in its final moments with "Love Someone" and "Boom," which leaves the record feeling like this proving ground for the band's next big move, whether it's synthetic or totally warped. Either way, the deranged way the band is approaching these new ideas shows that Le Butcherettes will keep it interesting.

Rapid Eye Union – Florissism (Ottawa)

The depth and wonder in the production that Rapid Eye Union achieves is something to marvel at and be proud of. In the rising synth lines of "Dandelion" you can feel the sense of a sprawling world around the track, in some kind of place between a retro landscape and a futuristic city. There's a much more immediate and dark feeling to these textures on "Trillium" however, as all the layered electronics elicit a kind of airy, pseudo-natural quality. With so many drawn out tracks, it's really exciting to hear the tight construction of "Sunflower" though, as Rapid Eye Union focuses all their concepts into piece that never feels without a gripping moment. The most truly ambient and pensive listen is "Iris," as the percussive wisps in the background leave you to really seek out interpretation more than most, while the track really lets each note breathe before they completely take over the song.

The Black Lips – Sing in a World That's Falling Apart (Atlanta, GA)

There's a kind of jovial energy that has made The Black Lips one of those bands you always want to sing along to with a lot of friends around. However they lean so heavily into vintage country this time around that even their choral charms can be overpowered by what feels like a novelty tone change. The twang is used to elicit a heavy heart on "Chainsaw," where the Black Lips manage to create a solid crooner entry into the genre but not one that feels wholly original. This said, they land an undeniably infectious turn on "Holding Me, Holding You" that manages a Rolling Stones-level of twang-rock that is romantic but ecstatic at the same time. With a touch of T. Rex, "Angola Rodeo" sets into all the band's strengths for a booming party rock track that screams with life and fun. And with this weight behind them, they make the Southern rock touches of "Odelia" actually feel fun and uniquely theirs, just like a country "O Katrina."