Album Reviews: February 28, 2018

Kyle Craft – Full Circle Nightmare  (Portland, Oregan)

In a rare bid to revitalize the sonic palette of folk music, Portland's Kyle Craft rises to offer a record that's rustic but full of life and wonder. Through his eccentric performances and masterful arrangements, Craft offers a record that gets it right more often than not. Craft's ballistic spirit really comes through on "Fever Dream Girl" where his ecstatic energy gives even more worth to his dense instrumentation. There's a more gritty roar to "Full Circle Nightmare" as Craft interacts with his band in a kind of call-and-response, giving his accessible writing more dynamic depth. "Exile Rag" is brimming with glowing piano lines that constantly mesmerize listeners, and Craft's own over-the-top performance on the track makes it even more fun. Though it's quite repetitive, there's something to the raw anger of "Belmont (One Trick Pony)" and its fiery distortion that make it really stand tall either way.

XiL – If I Should Live Forever, Then Know That I Am Dead Inside (Ottawa)

Rock is never supposed to be perfect, and XiL instead recognize the importance of being genuine. In the first of an alleged series of narrative records from the band, they craft brutal and gritty songs that feel human more than anything else. The raw guitar cries of "Tree Frog" are teeming with a sense of anger and pain that exceed even the lyrics abilities, giving each chorus a true sense of satisfaction. There's a punk excitement and fun to "Bruised Apple" that feels more genuine than other tracks on the record, and this pure emotion is the most contagious on the record. As lengthy as it is, "Mouthwash Jesus" carries the depth and epic energy that much of the album strives for, and continuously maintains it thanks to its emotional but precise performance. The light stomping of "Rinse Rinse Repeat" communicates the sense of dejected frustration its lyrics suggest and builds from a rumble to a fire by its finale to give the song a sense of direction.

Twin Peaks – Sweet '17 Singles  (Chicago)

Though we've all but escaped the world of compilation records in the days of streaming and digital releases, compiling singles for a physical release can give some shocking results. In an effort to condense a recent string of songs for fans, Twin Peaks have created a compilation album that is surprisingly coherent. "Tossing Tears" sets the record off with its psychedelic heft and a deep rhythm that will pull you into the band's swing. They get much more aggressive on "Under The Pines" however, pumping up their laid-back energy with big horn riffs and harmonies that make you want to get up and move. Though there's some hard switches between singles and some redundancy on the record, "Come For Me" rings out with rich bells and exciting builds that make their story-driven lyrics feel all the more powerful. They even get some powerful contrast out of their piano on "Blue Coupe" as they treat it as a guitar to get a song that you really won't hear from another band.

Empty Nesters – Jaded  (Ottawa)

Though Empty Nesters are often the pensive indie champions of Ottawa's scene, they bring a more personal and abrasive touch to their latest album for better or worse. A crushing sense of depression overtakes "I Had Fun, It Was Terrible" almost pushing too hard against the song's beauty at times. "Buddha Pop" gains more confidence to give it a real sense of character on the record, but its heavy sense of repetition holds it back. There's a rush of 90's fury on "Drag Me Down" that breathes new life into the record's heavy body, and continuously pushes the emotional envelope through various layers of feedback to make it all hit right. "Tilt" itself closes out the record with such a large rotation of feelings it's often hard to see where it's going next, but it's constantly triumphant movement keeps it from ever feeling lost or aimless.

Palm – Rock Island (Philadelphia)

Another band trying to push the limits of their genre is Palm, although their sound might not be for everyone. In an album that's constantly unpredictable, they find some truly powerful music about as often as they dig into ruts. Palm fills "Pearly" with pounding percussion, offering a totally new feeling of rhythm and a powerfully catchy sense of melody. They also emulate some older pop sounds on "Composite" as they bring a much more sinister quality to make a song that's equal parts cheery and scary. "Forced Hand" brings a primitive and abrasive sound, giving off an energy more addictive than the actual hooks of the song. They tie all their stranger tones together on "Theme From Rock Island" however to make a lot of the more confusing elements of the album feel strangely progressive for pop.