Album Reviews: June 18, 2018

Neko Case – Hell-On (Tacoma, WA)

Whether it's been alt-country or something indefinable in the world of  modern folk, Neko Case has always blown audiences away. After some recent work with the New Pornographers and case/lang/veirs, Case comes out swinging with a record that has something to say. "Hell-On" starts the record on a menacing energy that bends folk-crooning with a moody sense of atmosphere. She brings a more dense mix of instrumentation and electronics, while she tells a haunting and pained story. Her most powerful narrative comes on "Curse Of The I-5 Corridor" as she makes an epic run around a terrifying tale. "Dirty Diamond" plays on some of her early work while reinterpreting these sounds with more aggressive lyricism and writing as a whole.

Buck-N- Nice – EMAG (Ottawa)

Like many genres hip hop is becoming cyclical enough that even skits and lo-fi samples sound good again. For their latest release the duo of Buck-N-Nice deliver clever and fun music that is as complex as it is moving. As the album begins on a goofy phone-call with "L.T." the duo's sense of humour is as strong as their storytelling. "EMAG" however kicks things into high-gear as they critique the dangers of modern life and who actually bears responsibility. Amongst all the uplifting vocal pop of "Time feat. REKS" there's so many viciously fast verses that it's hard to decide if the vocals or production is more hypnotic. They even play into vintage samples and hip hop energy on "Nobody" for a strictly pop-driven track that is filled with layers upon layers of sound. 

Jorja Smith – Lost & Found  (Walsall, UK)

It's becoming a much more regular occurrence to see singers appear as featured artists long before their own albums, but rarely is it this profound of a jump. For her debut LP, Smith brings a beautiful blend of bluesy vocals and modern pop energy for a record that is profound, moving and fun. As Smith emerges from a haze of R&B, she comes out powerful as she shows she has the powerful vocals to stand with legends. However it's on "Teenage Fantasy" where she bring a much more ambitious and trippy production where she comments on female independence. She even filters herself through more typical pop on "On Your Own" where her incredible vocals and unique creativity elevates what would be a fairly standard track. At her most brutally honest, "Wandering Romance" also finds Smith taking so many weird directions with her production that you'll be mesmerized from top to bottom.

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Wreckorator – Ham and Cheese  (Ottawa)

As cliché sound-effects ring out on "Bloodthirst" there's a comical energy to the band's delivery as they seem to lampoon riff-rock while trying to bring something new to it. Despite the simple and familiar chords of "Ain't Nothin' Sweeter" the story is so hilarious and detailed that you'll be laughing as much as you're hanging onto every word. "Hollowbody" takes a much more direct approach in its writing for a very personal story that doesn't match  the complexity or lyrical fun of the rest of the record. Vicious vocal delivery sets "Don't Call Me Shirley" as an intense listen, while their commentary on modern technology cuts through powerfully.

Flasher – Constant Image  (Washington, DC)

If there's one thing anyone can say about the DC scene is that it's political and punk-heavy, but Flasher want to redefine the potential of that sound. While the band certainly bring the raw fury of sister bands like Priests, they also bring a sonic variety that keeps their sound fresh. In the bassy depths of "Go" the band alternates between dance-fuelled breaks and intense crashes of drums and feedback. "Pressure" on the other hand rushes at listeners with vigorous energy and catchy choruses that make their statements on modern life all the more memorable. The quirky riffs of "XYZ" feel reminiscent of the B-52's while Flasher's relentless guitar barrages make for intense and exciting music that you'll want to dance to one way or another. Though "Skim Milk" opens on riffs typical of the genre, their weird production notes start to set them apart before their off-kilter choruses bring this hook into a demented side.