Album Reviews: June 16, 2017

Cigarettes After Sex – Cigarettes After Sex (Brooklyn)

When a band becomes so well known for their stellar EPs, they better be able to make their first full-length something special. On their unsurprisingly brilliant debut LP, Greg Gonzalez and co. lay down chilling vocals on soothing track after soothing track. Dispelling any worries that they couldn't follow through "K." burns with a calm fire in simple but effective guitars and the enticing melodies Gonzalez weaves effortlessly. Describing the end of days with an odd sense of resolve and calm, "Apocalypse" is one of those tracks that's as equally odd as it is beautiful making for a track that confuses as it wins you over. "Sweet" is undeniably one of the most pop-infused tracks the band has ever released, between a driving bass and vocal line, along with the slow swell of instruments, it grabs hold and brings you along for the ride. While one of the more repetitive openings on the record, "John Wayne" uses its lagging push to make the hook-laden chorus one that you'll crave and gives more weight to each melody along the way.

PINE – Pillow Talk (Ottawa)

Bringing even more far reaching pop cred to Ottawa's music scene, local up-and-comers PINE deliver a great record that blends indie and pop in colourful ways. Opener "Dolya" takes stomping drums, plucking guitars and throws so much weight on them in every chorus that it creates a dynamic shift that really moves bodies. Taking an aggressive rhythmic push "Viable" throws dreamy vocals and guitar over its punching bass and drums, shifting to a lot  more grit in its choruses for something that feels like if Paramore pushed themselves into more abrasive territory. "(Un)rest" switches things to a more ambient and open feeling, not rushing anywhere its brooding crawl doesn't need to. Mashing the heady sound and more directional beats, "Jilt" crafts something that thumps along while also burning with an intense amount of excitement and longing, for a track that finds the group truly proving their range.

London Grammar – Truth Is A Beautiful Thing (England)

Not content with being a band that just sounds beautiful, London Grammar have really tried to evolve their sound beyond the simple merit of Hannah Reid's voice on this latest release by the English band. Hitting an amazing opening note "Rooting For You" takes a methodic push through sparse guitars and vocals with tons of reverb, but its melodic refrain hits so triumphantly it brings it together perfectly. "Oh Woman Oh Man" takes a much more beat-driven kick for one of the band's most driving songs to date, layered with enough harmonies to make it a new live favourite. Finally confident in their evolving sound, "Non Believer" finds the band steering a heavy groove in one of their most moody tracks thanks to brave exploration for the group. "Leave The War With Me" gives a much more rushing percussive shift, letting the soaring vocals of the choruses take an oddly enthralling mystical quality to them.

Zex – Uphill Battles (Ottawa)

No one does punk rock in Ottawa quite like Zex. One of the last true refuges of the exciting metal/punk crossover the band always seems to deliver records worthy of their bonkers live shows. Opener "No Sanctuary" screams like a lost Misfits' track that blends in a lot more solid song writing and keeping the sense of fun they bring to the stage. "Let Them In" finds them looping hook after hook to the point it seems effortless, and the way the track feels familiar to the point that you already know it while also being all too enjoyable to care creates a track that is pure energy. With a biting amount of commentary on top of a throttling sense of dynamics "Child Soldier" is a unique beast that also finds the band stretching their range to its limits. "Give It All" takes all those larger-than-life moments you've seen at a concert and makes an explosive track out of them with the right sound to make it all feel like you're at a show yourself.

Big Thief – Capacity (Brooklyn)

Making one of the strongest, yet extremely personal and soft-spoken records of the year, Big Thief make their pain and deep emotions come to life thanks to some powerfully emotive music. "Pretty Things" opens the album with calculated restrain as a rustic acoustic sound taking listeners on a rollercoaster of emotions rare to find on one song. The pop single of the record, "Shark Smile" is no less earnest, in its fun driving kick and euphoric lyric, laden in a timbre that suggests a pained longing for those days. Dropping a great drum beat "Mythological Beauty" gives a flickering, dreamy melody that lays the groundwork for a dark ballad to losing a child.  "Mary" lets its instruments go slow as the vocals and dissonant harmonies skip along at breakneck-paces, and the repeated instrumentals allow for a release of the emotions the song builds with reckless abandon.