Album Reviews: Flaming Lips, Buttertones, Jouska
The Flaming Lips — American Head (Oklahoma City)
Regardless of the overall direction of any of their recent records, there's always a sonic journey to take on a Flaming Lips album. Though they're definitely more pensive at the moment, all the Soft Bulletin-era tones and vintage rock energy of American Head keeps this from feeling like a stale retread. Between its main hook and the warm sweeps of "Will You Return/When You Come Down" there's a grandeur the band haven't touched on in some time, and the added symphonic notes don't hurt either. This dynamic weight makes even the slow movement of "Flowers of Neptune 6" feel like a trip, with every drum fill coming through like thunder off a mountain. There's a bit of Western film mystique, wrapped in electronic bliss on "Assassins of Youth" to make a weird sci-fi melange that never feels predictable. And with the bells and tones of Kacey Musgraves creates this wondrous place on "God and the Policeman" to mesmerize you and make you think.
Andre Doucette — Silver Rush (Ottawa)
In a haunting wave of guitar mood effects and aggressive band jams, Andre Doucette lays his stake in rock with vigor. The dancing guitars and overall dynamic attack of "Desert Storms" leaves you in a daze, as the song is able to create this kind of exotic magic amidst many more battering beats. There's a little more synth life (or what sounds like it) on "Magnetic Emotions," as the dense sound allows for a kind of action sequence-like flight of riffing to the point you'll feel like it's actively scoring visuals at times. Though it's a strangely softer approach, "Silver Rush" lets its dulcet feel give so much more meaning to the moments where the guitars just break off into a frenzy.
Jouska — Everything is Good (Oslo, Norway)
Firmly between Superorganism and Grimes and New Order, you'll find Jouska alternating between lush dance beats and experimental dives. The constant pulls in other directions may be jarring but it's unlike most records out there. The bliss of "Everything Is Good" can make it almost frightening when it screeches in its final moments, but that only highlights how seamlessly it creates flow in the record. This lets the rushes of "Because I Really Don't Mind" feel so serene, while also feeling like an expansion on earlier ideas. Amongst moments more akin to hip hop, "Bring You Back" spins these beats into a soft lull back to reality. The more abrasive electronica haze of "Lemon Twigs" sounds nothing like the band of that name, but carries a menace that uses all the wide synth tones of record in more aggressive ways.
Haley Blais — Below the Salt (Vancouver)
The few songwriters that can really capture a sense of moment and true human emotion in seconds of a song will always win our hearts over. Through each moment of Haley Blais' latest release, the instant mastery of tone gives her tracks a feel like you've been listening to them for years. "Someone Called While You Were Out" washes you in glistening guitars and a few dozen harmonies to leave you soothed and on the edge of a minor dance party in its vintage beauty. Blais is constantly teetering on an explosive moment in all the subdued feedback and strings of "Ready or Not," it's a wonder she sticks to the sunny choruses and not a full-blown wail. The dreamy melodies of "Firestarter" push her craft further, especially as Blais toys with the stop-and-go breaks within her choruses. The sense of a recording space comes through crisply in "Be Your Own Muse" to really leave the whole song quaint, and a touch more comforting than its fellow tracks.
The Buttertones — Jazzhound (Los Angeles)
Another band with a lot of Joy Division/New Order in their bones, The Buttertones get dark and dance-heavy on their latest release. Like a new crash of sound from an era we thought we knew, this album hits hard and will alternatively groove out at a moment's notice. "Phantom Eyes" runs with a vicious pace to make its addictive hooks all blend into one, never ceasing a drum-heavy spin on Unknown Pleasures. The distinct funk base to "Rise and Shine" make all of its heavier sounds feel like a bigger reason to get up and shake it, so each chorus is all the more dire. The violent sound in the band on "Bebop" is invigorating, and so energetic it'll overpower you. "Velour" hides this under a sheen of shadowy production, letting a mood sink in and then be ripped apart by its lightning-fast shredding.