Album Reviews: February 24, 2020
Grimes – Miss Anthropocene (Vancouver, British Columbia)
Grimes has made headlines for ditching albums worth of music and her surprising relationship with Elon Musk, so it's wonderful to finally get a full new release. For fans new and old, this is definitely an evolution sonically but one that hones in on all the great vocal and tonal styling fans already loved. The rumbling darkness of "So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth" creates a deep and fleshed out world in its production, while Grimes is toying with layers of her own voices to push her delivery even further. We get taken into a much more cybernetic and rushing energy on "Violence" with i_o, and see Grimes using her artful vision for sound to make catchy mainstream pop with something new aesthetically. This said we get more ambitious and heavy compositions on "Before the Fever" where distorted voices across the board are driven by the bass-heavy drums to create this oppressive sound. From her more abrasive side "We Appreciate Power" comes out roaring with a July Talk-like metal track that knows every infectious direction to swerve, while somehow making something akin to a more theatrical production on every other section.
Lady Charles — Lady Charles (Ottawa)
Sound is the playground Lady Charles plays with the most wonderfully on this latest release, and it's this sense of wonder that makes their emphatic energy so fun. In the dark and blown-out dance notes of "Free Speech," the primitive fidelity is the whole point of it, although the vocals rarely have the same raw ferocity to match. There's a much more cohesive sense of production on "Bedroom Dynasty," and Lady Charles brings out melodies here that work to elevate their wordy narrative. "Cold Summer" plays much closer to a Twin Peaks soundtrack cut than continuation of this record's feel, but it certainly works when it leans into this energy with its sax solos. Alternatively, "Demons" does the best job of marrying all the ends of fidelity, to create a track that shows off every aspect of Lady Charles' sound without feeling like an overture.
BTS — Map of the Soul: 7 (Seoul, South Korea)
Though they are certainly Top 40 for some, BTS has always mashed up too many sounds and genres to be boring. Across the 20 songs of their latest release, they might not be totally changing the game but they're making such fun music it's unlikely most will care. "Intro: Persona" comes right out the gate with Superorganism meets Sleigh Bells hip hop, and keep swinging so aggressively on their vocals that it's a constantly mesmerizing. While the much more standard flow of "Jamais Vu" is a bit disappointing this early into a 20-song record, BTS's use of harmony and atypical melodies is still a unique gem for this kind of pop. It does take until "On" for them to return to their wilder productions sadly, but with the military beats colliding with a trap aesthetic, it constantly twists between a party and darker explorations of their emotions. And Sia's contributions to the alternate version are a fun spin to the whole thing. But it's the ambitious, lightning pace to a pop hit on "Ego," all around an exercise tape sample, that really show the best of BTS's varied sound in this often bloated record.
Moddey Dhoo — Chasmphantasm (Ottawa)
Creating space in your records is important, and Moddey Dhoo has done this to a powerful end. As each loop of "Everybody Loves To Do It" grows louder and heavier, the track brings out an industrial feeling that never feels like too much. However in the more smoky haze of "Palace of Darkness" there's a floating jazz delivery that keeps it from ever truly resolving its tension. "Special C" follows this with a track of pure, eerie hip hop, with so much space that it can be unnerving. There's much more direction on "Kicking Horse" than the rest of the tracks here, and it's this sense of progression that leaves it more satisfying in the end.
Automatic — Signal (Los Angeles)
Few bands can craft an album full of songs that immediately grip you, but Automatic merge just enough familiar sounds to do it every time. Right from the get go there's an addictive feeling to the band's riffing and sonic energy, and this is why it's so hard to listen to anything else after them. "Too Much Money" wastes no time with its simple riff and lets the droning base of the song give them all the room they need to craft a fast, pop-fueled explosion with no dead space to hold it back. However their mastery of bass as a hook tool gives "Calling It" real power, you'll want to dance and chant along to its sounds long before the intoxicating vocals evolve the track into a full-fledged bop with bite. "Signal" itself has tones of Devo and B-52's and rides both bands' fun souls to craft a track packed with dozens of fun fills and lines you'll want to blast on repeat. Between the other songs that do more to flesh out a feel for this record, the neon fire of "Champagne" shows the potential for synth dance power, and one that balances light and dark in an exhilarating way.