Album Reviews: July 1, 2019

Marina – LOVE + FEAR (Brynmawr, Wales)

A few years and a new project name later, Marina Diamandis can knockout tunes with a voice unlike any other. However, your enjoyment will mostly come down to how patient you can be through the more generic moments of the album to get to Marina's more sparing eccentric moments this time around. "Handmade Heaven" is a dense and lightly operatic intro to the record, that feels the most at home to Marina's old writing, just polishing up her theatrics a little. The radio-pop swing of "Orange Trees" is its one detriment honestly, given that Marina's knack for sharp vocals and lyrics that really stick out lead it well otherwise. While you'd think "Baby" might suffer from the excess of Luis Fonsi like we haven't heard since "Despacito," it ends up being one of the most fun tracks on the record as Marina uses the familiar cores of the track to really get weird in her delivery. The production becomes a lot more interesting to follow on "No More Suckers" as the production and Marina's writing finally meet in the middle and trade quirks a little more freely.


Ornaments – Compassion Fatigue (Ottawa)

While the ornaments deliver strong rock hits, it's their ability to flesh out that kind of writing that makes them so refreshing to listen to. With a lot more grime in their latest music, the band shreds with a fury and never lets you rest. There's a shadow of Joshua Homme's melodies on "Like Men" which lets all its darker tones sing, and turns the track into a fun but frightening listen. This same kind of rollicking delivery comes out on "Happy" as the band seem to follow a never-ending melodic tumble that makes their slower moments really feel satisfying. This is why the bright spirit of "Wake Up" is so exciting on this record, as they find a way to bring a lot of anger out in an otherwise chipper track. The bass is so wonderfully crisp on "Too Late" that it lets every hook shine here, and sees the band really getting a lot more playful with every facet of their writing.

Black Mountain  –  Destroyer  (Vancouver, British Columbia)

Vancouver's Black Mountain made heavy metal feel raw again on their last record, but now they're focused on tapping into its glory days. While this does sap some of the punch out of  their latest release, they craft something between Black Sabbath and Rush that kicks hard. Case-in-point is opener "Future Shade" which sees the group righteously shredding through fiery 80s hard rock like a gem out of the ether. Admittedly, it is wondrous to hear the more experimental instrumentals like "Closer To The Edge" as the band lets the retro filters of the record serve their synths in more rich ways. Black Mountain's penchant for hooks and amazing dense rock works best on "High Rise" however, seeing them drive hard through fierce track that becomes so big you'll start forgetting where one sound ends and another begins. The fun takes a more mysterious turn on the closer "FD 72" as they merge their more cinematic score sounds into a track with real darkness and weight to it.

Thomwells – Digital Money (Ottawa)

Halfway between hip hop and simple instrumentals you find the colourful world of Digital Money. Playing with sound effects and synth-pop like a primitive Superorganism, "Cyber Race" glows but only as bright as its means can allow it. Meanwhile there's a much smoother lo-fi drive to "Roll" that feels instantly addictive, and lets its more stop-and-go flow work without breaking the song apart. "Digital Money" feels like the most polished listen here, as the edges are left to the song's unusual production for something thematic but memorable. Even the more long-form pop of "Eject" shows different shades of thomwhells palette as  writer for something that is always on the verge of new audible treats.

The Black Keys – Let's Rock (Akron, Ohio)

I've had trouble reconciling my fandom for the Black Keys due to the half-steps on their recent work, but they finally commit to a sound this time around. While it's a simple blues-rock record with a few tricks up its sleeve, it's just refreshing to hear this duo playing around with what they do best rather than drifting too far into pop. Though there's definitely a little more shine to the production of "Eagle Birds" there's a real sense of life behind its beats, and the way the Black Keys just tumble through it makes all the difference in selling its soulful fun. "Lo/Hi" soars the most in its euphoric and packed choruses, that see the band taking the borderline jam core of the song somewhere explosive. The band's bluesy strength shows more in the growth of something like "Get Yourself Together," where they manage to swap between CCR tones, ZZ Top and true grimy rock. "Under The Gun" has the most low-end drive of the record, seeing the Black Keys just going for a straight anthem track to hit listeners hard and make them remember.