Album Reviews: July 23, 2018

The Ophelias – Almost (Cincinnati, Ohio)

There's so much samey indie-pop that it's truly intriguing to hear a band using the genre's conventions to try something new. For their newest release, The Ophelias bend the rules of arrangement and typical writing to make an album that lulls you in before blowing your expectations out of the water. "Fog" brings the album up at a roaring and excited energy, while the vocals and string arrangements up that emotion ten-fold. The self-reflexive story behind "General Electric" is explored fully with the song's unique ringing tones and evolving instrumentation keeping the song fresh. They switch to a much more sombre energy on "Night Signs" where even the orchestration becomes twisted into something unusual and its pop core grows more catchy because of it. They expand to score-like brilliance on "Bird" where their arrangements emulate animals to set up a sad tale on all levels.

Mouth – Could You Lie To A Camera (Ottawa)

While obscure on its initial debut, Mouth shows a much more timeless sense of writing as they reintroduce audiences to their powerful super-group. Though it inherently takes a lot from The Black Lips and some Foxygen, "If It's A Lie" stands tall thanks to its group dynamics and vicious punk delivery. "Dirt Boy" finds Mouth upping their classic rock undertones, with soaring harmonies underscoring the shredding leads and the group's pedigree of writers really shining in the little details. The unusual production tones of "Time After Time" makes for a startling rock track that comes off more experimental and intriguing than many of the straightforward songs of the album. Following this sonic step, "Leech" injects a little reggae for something psychedelic while consistently mesmerizing in its use of effects.

Body/Head – The Switch (Northampton, Massachusetts)

Whether in Sonic Youth or in her own projects, Kim Gordon has always shifted peoples' perception of alt-rock. With Bill Nace, Gordon explores dark netherworlds of feedback and effects for an album that is more intriguing than accessible. Gordon lets the instrumentation create a creepy energy on "Last Time" before her own voice rides the bass for a menacing crawl of a track. They create something tighter and constantly evolving on "You Don't Need" where classic science fiction tones underscore a more human-driven track. Like something from "Arrival" the unnerving energy of "In The Dark Room" continuously reinvents itself again and again while being unapologetic in its harsh writing. After some frantic and wild noise-play on "Reverse Hard" Gordon and Nace play with their effects over one of their more pop-focused progressions for a startling gripping listen. 

Sleep Late – Castle Temp (Ottawa)

While they keep their rock relatively barebones on a tone level, Sleep Late show a  true emotional depth as they fire things off on "Lucky Lucy." With a lo-fi luster holding the song together, the vocals play against the guitars for a dark and abrasive listen that takes you through the emotional turmoil of the lyrics. In the heavy melancholy of "Banana Wine" there's a ray of light as the beats pick up and Sleep Late start to tackle their problems head on. As their tones hit more abrasive hits than ever, "Silence" finds Sleep Late taking vocal notes from Warpaint while letting their feedback slowly engulf the song in flames.

Jenn Champion – Single Rider (Seattle)

Few retro-pop acts manage achieve a balance quite like Jenn Champion. By bringing a completely personal context to the Madonna-like pop around her vocals, Champion makes something addictive while uniquely hers. With a loving energy under it all "O.M.G. (I'm All Over It)" discusses complete love while making people want to dance in its beats. With the intoxicating percussion of "Coming For You" Champion takes a more aggressive approach to love and uses open space to let Champion's vocals shine. As she discusses social consciousness versus personal happiness on "Holding On" Champion cleverly matches abrasive improv with her inherent pop drive. One pop peak however is on "Mainline" where Champion lets her catchy core allow her to shift the song's focus again and again.