• By: Owen Maxwell

Album Reviews: February 4, 2019

Smashing Pumpkins – Shiny And Oh So Bright: No Past. No Future, No Sun (Chicago)

Though it's been harder and harder to get into the Smashing Pumpkins due to Billy Corgan's bad attitude, they've turned it around recently. While this new album isn't the most revolutionary bit of writing, it's pop-driven and weirder than they've been in a while sonically. The waving vocals of "Knights Of Malta" see Corgan starting out with a little anger and, as much as it feels a little familiar in the current rock landscape. "Silvery Sometimes" rides this grimy energy for something a lot more epic, while still knocking out more addictive riffs than much of the record. We've certainly heard the likes of "Solara" before but it's the utter passion and fury that Corgan puts into it that makes it fun. "Seek and You Shall Destroy" lays a lot more dynamically flat while pushing out some of the most fun that Smashing Pumpkins have given their writing in a while.  

Jean-Sebastien Cote – WILDERNESS (Ottawa)

In the modern pop landscape, it's interesting to hear smaller artists using Bandcamp as a space to let instrumentals and "Soundtrack" albums flourish. Cote brings out a rumble and wind-like mix of strings on "Genesis" that will ooze over you across its extended run-time to create an utterly unnerving feeling. "Beauty And The Beast" however seems to bring a much more frightened idea to the classic tale, while its undercurrent of electronics is an intriguing side-step. There's a dark European coldness to "Alep" that at times recalls not the sounds of the new Suspiria film, but it's visuals. "Caring To Death" keeps this frigid feeling but takes in a more tender piano core to let you know there's something loving there.

Muse – Simulation Theory (England)

I had admittedly gotten a bit tired of Muse's records as of late, but they've gone weird and self-aware in their latest album. By focusing on their strong core and playing around with more aesthetics than they've touched in the past, this record is a fun return to form. All the theatrics and goofy 80s tones of the record are assured on "Algorithm" as Muse make sure you know what kind of music to expect. They tap into some of their best riffing on "The Dark Side" while fleshing out a more synthetic atmosphere to match Matt Bellamy's excitement. "Pressure" hits with a hard brass kick, and sees Muse letting melody take over their rhythms with a soaring energy. While their pianos have sunk into the background lately, "The Void" offers a great cinematic listening experience with the story behind it to match.  

Castlefield  Tunnel Vision  (Ottawa)

While they certainly cover familiar pop-punk ground, there's a life and eccentricity to the riffing of "Best Laid Plans" that makes Castlefield's music so fun. "Heaven Sent" itself brings a much more hefty weight to its choruses, as the band shows not only a finesse for solid pop writing but the emotional impact they can deliver. In the emptiness that "Joyless" sets out with, each addition feels like this invigorating growth that builds their music higher and higher until they've seen past their issues. They lean into their more sorrowful tones on "Escape" however to let it all out in a song that creates tension out of its uncertain outlook. 

Art Brut – Wham! Bang! Pow! Let's Rock Out! (England)

Alternating between known quantities and weird art-rock is something Art Brut absolutely nails. With witty lyrics to match their scattered approach, this album has some of the funniest songs of the year. There's a bombast to "Hooray" that is immediately infectious and lets its warm energy just carry you into a happier place. "Hospital!" on the other hand taps into tones of Blur as the band question the world around them hilariously. Though there's a little reservation in the delivery, there's such an angular weight to the instruments on "Kultfigur" that you'll be too mesmerized to care. For fans of Scottish rock "Veronica Falls" not only recalls the now defunct band's name but even cleverly uses their death and melody's (and harmony's for that matter) to look at their own lives.