Album Reviews: July 14, 2017

Beach House – B-Sides & Rarities (Baltimore)

Compilation albums rarely feel absolutely necessary, and rarity albums have so rarely avoided the cash-in feeling that they always cause a little concern. But the reliable duo of  Beach House have managed to make an album of lost tracks that feels well worthy of their canon of songs. The angelic opening of "Chariot" brings listeners back to their Bloom days, where the band seemed even more consistent than in recent years. The build-ups and euphoric choruses don't hurt either. Burning with the feeling of a final chorus the entire song, "Baby" is a demented joy, that somehow was never let on a record. On their cover of Queen's "Play The Game" we hear the band having a lot more fun than their usually sombre recordings, effortlessly coating the track in their sound. "The Arrangement" however is definitely the black sheep of the record. While it has the same diverse and melodic writing that Beach House always does well, the tone and feel of the song is so out of their tone that it wouldn't have worked on any of their records. 

Mushy Gushy – More Butter (Ottawa)

Roaring with equal parts surf and prog rock, this EP from the Ottawa indie band finds them focusing in for a really tight record with a deep sound. "Around The Bend" takes its echo-filled surf tones and throws it on top of some intense and moody composition. The catchy chorus and far-reaching bridges expand it to something really fun and interesting by its finale as well. Kicking the door down, "Trap" races on its lead riff, as pounding drums do the rest of the work. The call and response between the vocals and the guitars make for an exciting melodic playfulness that really elevates the track. "Schemestress" leads on a frantic and catchy vocal line, moving relentlessly through its verses before the crashing and party-fuelled choruses. Building the excitement higher, the explosive solo takes this feeling to its highest before coming back for one final rejuvenated verse. Reaching the furthest in its sound, "I Don't Know Yet" carries so much wonder in its tones, building not only sound but mood. The sublime builds and vocal hooks that they focus in on this final track prove just how fruitful an EP can be for budding bands.

Baio – Man Of The World (NYC)

The latest Vampire Weekend spin-off record, showcases just how much talent the band harnesses between its members. In this case however, bassist Chris Baio also proves why the focus and compromise of a band can help keep things from veering off the rails. "Vin Mariani" opens the album on tons of harmonies, as well as trumpets and keys, making something that's very intentional in its cheesy sounds. Hitting the hooks that made his last record such a joy, "The Key Is Under The Mat" delivers over and over, especially with the pumping bass lines you'd expect from Baio. Despite its buffering intention, "Exquisite Interlude" is aptly titled as its dirty rhythm section and styled melodies craft something fun in such a small package. "Man of the World" brings the second single to the record through its kooky syncopated rhythms, delicious riffs and cheeky tones that occasionally feel reminiscent of Flight of the Conchords in the best way possible.

Plastinka – K1Y (Ottawa)

Delivering on the power of fearless experimental hip hop, this local project mixes elements of funk, dub and something totally unique for some weird and groovy tracks to fuel your inspiration. "Shakara" moves from fast guitar wah to a pitched down groove that would make Beck blush, all layered with extremely bass-toned vocals for something enveloping. On something that can only be described as funky French techno, "Blissing" switches between high-speed runs and some downbeat instrumental moments with overtones of chip-tune sounds. Stomping drums and a crisp hiss make "Gotcha Now" something utterly cool and simmering. The breakdown of the groove, with light key moments, takes the whole track to something very fresh and intriguing. "Entertainment" bounces between a driving synth bass dance-track, and something more explorative and brooding in its low warped sounds, right before its spacey finale.

JAY-Z  – 4:44 (NYC)

After quite the time away, JAY-Z returns with a notably self-referential and striking record. More mature and focused than he was last time around, this record finds a JAY-Z that's done some growing up. Opener "Kill Jay Z" finds him reflecting on everything he's done wrong in his life, critiquing all his bad life choices over a bombastic and slightly backing track. Bringing in a sunny mood "Caught Their Eyes (feat. Frank Ocean)" bounces along to its deceptively bright sounds as the lyrics tell a much darker story. Ocean's lo-fi verses offer a glitch-induced side to the track and the sampled hooks drive the track powerfully. "4:44" delivers one of the heaviest and most epic backing samples on the record as JAY-Z reflects on his dark past again, letting the screeching vocals in the back carry the emotion all the more-so. On a pounding bass line and claps, "Blue's Freestyle / We Family" finds the rap blood strong in his children, as his child raps almost as well as him between his verses on protecting the ones he loves.