Album Reviews July 4, 2017

King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard – Murder of The Universe (Australia)

Landing their second of allegedly five records in 2017 about halfway through it, these experimental Aussie rockers certainly aren't pulling any punches on their latest release. At 21 tracks, their second release of the year looks quite the beast of an album, while it should be noted the run-time of each song makes it obvious this is more of a flowing concept piece, only broken up to note where it switches. Part 1 of the record, called "The Tale of the Altered Beast" runs from "A New World" to "Life / Death," and finds the band shredding viciously along as they move from roaring guitars to flickering trippy synths, telling a dynamic narrative in the middle of it all. The most abrasive on the record, part 2 "The Lord of Lightning vs. Balrog" runs until the sombre "The Acrid Corpse" going from fiery, to magical chanting, ending on a moody interlude. The closing section of the record titled "Han-Tyumi and the Murder of the Universe" runs things out an alternate future, going through weird sounds, while the band pulls things together as a unit the most. Overall a cool concept record, it does often feel a little too samey in its one-step changes each track always feel fun.

Jillian Kerr – Downtown EP (Ottawa)

Carrying the torch for infectious modern country that doesn't fall into the much-hated sounds of most pop-country, Jillian Kerr proves Ottawa has a real taste for the genre. "Good Girl" starts the album on a chugging swing, blending tones of country with the dance-focused rhythms that make swing so delightful, and her choruses are too creamy to ignore. Through the heartbreaking production, the melancholy moods of "Downtown" are almost to devastating at times in the amazing song writing that twists emotions. "Let's Dance" skips along to its hopeful message of love, telling the downsides and celebrating the excitement despite them. Taking an extremely dark route on "The Boat," sings about the effects of time and alcohol, as her heavy instrumentation makes it hard not to cry.

Algiers – The Underside of Power (Atlanta)

As any David Lynch fan can attest, there's a lot enjoyment to be had from aggressively weird art, at least when it's done right. This new record from this abrasive sounding, genre-mashing group pushes the limits of composition and sound in the perfect way, making for a truly memorable record. Screaming from the get-go, "Walk Like A Panther" opens the record on a kicking beat with vocals belting throughout with a tireless level of excitement. "Cry of the Martyrs" continues this feeling while opting for a more soulful and groove/rhythm focus, with a dynamic bass and clap line section accentuating the driving vocals. The downbeat "Mme Rieux" carries forward on an entrancingly sad piano line, as the vocals cut through with their sense of pain without having to be yelled, and the moments of shrieking instrumentation work all the stronger in their sparse yet weighted dynamic use. "Cleveland" finds vocalist fisher yelling out into an echo-laden hall, as the electronics and ticking percussion push him forward on this unnerving track.

New Swears – And The Magic of Horses (Ottawa)

Growing up on their first release on Dine Alone Records, these local legends mature both lyrically and sonically on their latest record, and it's a joy to listen to. Tearing through with a heavy sense of fun on "Dance With The Devil" they blend some fun sophisticated arrangements with their party harmonics for a track that's as addictive as it is surprising from the band. "Warm Bodies" cries with raw energy as they pull back the layers on their non-stop rush of sound. Moving to a classic rock slow jam on "777" they fit in all the hooks and kooky vocals with the most laidback groove you can imagine, making a track for summer nights on the balcony. True to its name "Race to the Grave" moves along with a vicious speed, as they throw licks in between lines about driving down the 417 all too fast.

Jeff Tweedy – Together At Last (Illinois)

Moving to just his voice and guitar for his latest acoustic effort, Wilco member Jeff Tweedy returns with a bold, if at times sonically flat record. Throughout the album, Tweedy boasts stirring lyrics and encapsulating instrumentation but does tend to find himself offering little to outsiders. Almost crying through the raw emotion of the vocals on "Via Chicago" Tweedy has his heart hanging out from the opening track, through the overbearing sadness he presents. "Laminated Cat" pushes along thanks to flickering guitar and a popping bass, brightening things up while keeping snarky. At his most catchy on the record, Tweedy pulls out "Dawned On Me," bringing out a lot of pop in his vocals, mixing in hints of Madonna in the melody itself. The delightful love story of "Hummingbird" carries a light bounce as it moves along cheerfully in its no frills sound.