• By: Owen Maxwell

Album Reviews: June 23 2019

The Chemical Brothers – No Geography (Manchester, U.K.)

Between straight Electronic Dance and something pop yet much stranger than either, The Chemical Brothers have carved out a niche for their music that is constantly a wonder to hear. As their latest record effortlessly flows like an hour-long dance-mix, they take you on a visceral musical ride. On a much more seemingly politically-charged note, "Eve of Destruction" releases you to the rhythm with an anger in its bones. With samples and Norway's Aurora used in equal parts beautifully throughout this records already stellar instrumentals, it's constantly a treat in a song already so full of beats and freaky noise like "Bango" to have a softer touch in the mix. Though admittedly, Aurora's demented pitch-shifting antics are some of the album's best gifts. There's even an epic and sprawling edge to pieces like "No Geography" and more off-kilter EDM in the warped tone of "The Universe Sent Me." Meanwhile the jumps between R&B, jazz and dark electronica on "We've Got to Try" show that the Chemical Brothers penchant for getting weird is stronger than ever.

Mismatched Socks – Kooky Hijinks (Ottawa)

With a jam-rock sound but the chops to make it equally fun and spontaneous, Mismatched Socks keep you hooked from the first listen. As their lyrics get stuck in your brain, you'll quickly appreciate the pop charm this band has infused in an already colourful psychedelic sound. There's so many strong threads running through "Thousand Foot Ladder" between a classic rock spirit in its bones and a constantly smart bit of writing to its lyrics that make you want to sing along. Though the slowed-down groove of "Mister Rabbitsfoot" is a little more familiar, Mismatched Socks find a unique rhythmic back and forth in their writing to make it strong. Even as the soft glow of "Somewhere Warm" keeps the EP from having a stronger coherence, it's beautiful to see how the group can keep their writing so tight and then let out some rage. If anything, it's this range and dynamic feeling that makes the rather downbeat finale of "Ain't No Time" a little anticlimactic despite its blues warmth.

Yawners  – Just Calm Down  (Madrid, Spain)

The right collision of rollicking drums and high-spirited guitar rock can be infectious. Spain's Yawners also show us that really sharp writing can enhance distorted rock to something refreshingly barebones and raw these days. "The Friend Song" is full of hooks you know, but it's the way it seems to yell and absolutely shred its ideas out that makes it such a potent and addictive listen. Tones of Alvvays hide in the grit of "Please, Please, Please" as it brings a fire to pained ballads on tortured souls.  The drums are really at their most boisterous on "La Escalera" letting the weirdly neon Spanish harmonies create an exciting contrast within its sound. Even the 90s pop of "Forgiveness" crashes with the right kind of grime to make any rock fan giddy with delight at their knack for guitar-driven fury.

Socctrain – Fractal Nails (Ottawa)

Whether you stay for the shimmering synths or crisp beats, Socctrain provides smooth instrumentals even on their B Sides. "Modal" shines bright as a score-like anthem, brilliantly straddling hip hop without taking away from its base beauty. Though "Vulfabric" is a much more abrasive and aggressive listen, it shows a sense of ambition in Socctrain to grow. There's a fun kind interlude approach to the hip hop remixing of "Fakin Jax" that gives what should be a brisk listen more depth. But with the glitch-filled swing of "Don't Smoke Two" you can hear a producer really being able to play with their craft and still blow away audiences.

The Raconteurs – Help Us Stranger (Nashville, Tennessee)

Despite their long departure, The Raconteurs bring all the righteous energy of their past music with a seemingly renewed bite. With the combined forces of Jack White, Jack Lawrence, Brendan Benson and Patrick Keeler operating at full force, this record hits hard. Whether it's the dynamite vocal hooks or the soaring arena-rock of "Bored and Razed" the tracks is an effortless thrill from top to bottom. The band's country tones take on a mix of obtuse rhythms and fun distortion on "Help Me Stranger," showing the band is finding funky new ways to define themselves. Even Jack White's recent weird solo work comes through in the rolling tones of "Don't Bother Me" as he crafts an angry musical rant against a toxic modern state of affairs. The guitar tones are just right on "Sunday Driver," making for a groovy but constantly pop-sharp track with so many rich details to pick through.