Album Reviews June 2, 2017

The Charlatans UK – Different Days (England)

Thirteen albums into their career, The Charlatans have certainly earned the right to drop the extra UK in their name stateside. Crafting something that merges indie and britpop into something more profound and explorative this latest release is worth reinvigorating fandom.  "Hey Sunrise" pushes electronic and soaring synth lines over their shimmering guitar lines to craft something both relaxing and utterly fascinating even fitting in a weird prog rock, jazz bridge for good measure. Tracks like "Different Days" blend parts of the modern Brit-rockers with something like the Shins for bouncing beat and melody line that really ups the ante. Going deeper right into house influence on "Over Again" they blend an indie style of lyricism and vocal melody on a distinct electronic beat. Going right into the realms of The Flaming Lips and Pink Floyd on the psychedelic "Spinning Out" they close their album out on a large and trippy sounding finale that lends some class to the ending of the their record.

Molly Nilsson – Imaginations (Sweden)

A creative mind with the right set of influence can craft a mood so familiar yet new that it can be utterly intoxicating. "Tender Surrender" burns with huge synth lines, aching of all those 80s songs you know but can't name, with harmonies like cream and an overtone that screams of Berlin-era Bowie. "Money Never Dreams" cuts through with a fiery sense of pop that really pulls you into its heavy drive aggressively, and its catchy hooks make it hard not to enjoy the ride. On a beat and sound reminiscent of Toto's "Africa" "Not Today Satan" rings in with a glimmering mix of melodic layers on its slower burning retro-pop, and its building sound gets more and more dense until it's all-enveloping. Going into a more hard driving bass-driven sound, "Think Pink" doesn't hesitate in its dynamic rush forward as it mixes synth and other elements from the record into a complete package.

Swim Team – Swim Team (Ottawa)

The joy of some EPs is the unexpected high production value you get out of smaller bands when they focus on a smaller set of songs. This small release from the local outfit is a massively impressive alt-rock release with a big sound and emotion to fit that will hopefully be turning enough heads to get them help on a bigger release. "Snowbirds" is a slowly building emotional track that mounts from a back and forth between sweet rollicking guitars and bright choruses, but ends on a heavy, shredding solo that blisters into cinders.  After a drawn-out intro, "Westward" immediately starts building towards a peak with its thumping drums and sandy guitars. Releasing in its instrumentals, it doesn't quite hit the epic moment you expect but the sonic craftsmanship that covers the way there is more than enough. "Aurora Boresadness" tries to bring the majesty of its namesake, and mostly manages it between glimmering guitars and rolling drum lines. The way the track finally comes crashing down after minutes of build up is a powerful release that overtakes the opening track in all measures, especially in the overall emotional delivery of guitars.

Justin Townes Earle – Kids In The Street (Nashville)

On his eighth album the blends of blues, country, big band and Americana have all blended into one for Justin Townes Earle. Leading with the sassy bombast of "Champagne Corolla" the utter command over Earle's evolving band of musicians is so absolute it makes the cheese of it all work to make it fun rather than overdone. Clearly a strong study of his father, the country tones of "What's She Crying For" hits with the brutal sadness that country does better than any other genre, making all the slide guitars so painfully bittersweet that it's almost too much to bear. Slipping into jazzy swing music, "What's Goin' Wrong" is that perfect blast from the past track that could sound decades older with the right filter, but magically is a 2017 release. Growling his heart out on some old school rock "Trouble Is" works thanks to the utter legitimacy his delivery seems to lend to his music that would seem uninspired or novelty from anyone else proving there is still a place in modern music for these old school types.

Borders Edge Music – High Voltage (Ottawa)

Those killer instrumental albums can be the perfect soundtrack to a movie you haven't seen yet but will make up as you listen. "Telemetry" bubbles with electric mystery as it pushes forth into different dark and brooding frontiers, but with the ever-shrieking guitar, it always has a sense of raw power in its drive that makes it feel like fun retro music but somehow new. Like a dawn, "Event Horizon" breathes with hope and wonder like a rising sun and not the black hole its title suggests, but as it moves into more prog electronics and organs a heavier overtone starts to take shape setting the mood for the wailing and exploring path the song soon follows. Moving straight to a scoring tone "Subspace Breach" ripples with electric drive, fluttering like a futuristic X-Files theme, before the guitars shift it to a more 80's sci-fi feeling that once again places it somewhere between nostalgia and a new discovery. Going high and low, "Mission To Shangri-La" pushes its bass rumbles to allow cascading synth lines to take shape around it, even at times shifting to more emulative sounds that suggest actions taking place, and creating an audio narrative in the process.