• By: Owen Maxwell

Album Reviews: Kali Uchis, The Vaccines, Marika Hackman

Kali Uchis – Orquídeas
Alexandria, VA/Colombia

Coming off what may be the best new benchmark for her style and overall sound on last year’s Red Moon in Venus, Kali Uchis is back already with a much more experimental and genre-hopping album. While it certainly loses that album cohesion, this latest collection shows Uchis’ talents are even broader than we knew, and that she may have a whole new sonic arsenal at her disposal next time. “Igual Que Un Ángel” glides with beautiful disco grace and a glowing cybernetic shimmer, bringing all the thick keyboard lines and bass that make Uchis’ music so warm, and giving it an evolving pop ray of sun. While shifting away from any signature in the music or particularly the vocals, it’s wild to see Uchis stretching her powers vocally on “Te Mata,” where she becomes a full Latin crooner, almost unrecognizable outside of spare moments, but just as impressive for staking her claim in the genre. The floaty space of “Perdiste” lets Uchis play around and the harsh electronics cut into the mix, creating a punchy but tender ballad. After some of the more unhinged tracks on the record, “Heladito” rounds out the back half of the album with dreamy and ringing bliss, with Uchis commanding a chorus of harmonies and whispers to lure you into her vintage thriller of a track.

Mortal Prophets Sleeping in My Bed (Single)
New York City

For his latest project, John Beckmann has crafted a solemn and dusty ballad in the Mortal Prophets, playing to the mystique of the Western dream. The guitars swing in this song like the wind, with the drums pounding with the thump of a whole house shaking. The playful and naturalistic harmonies between Beckmann and Aoibheann Carey-Philpott make a raspy little dream out of the track, as their chemistry creates a satisfying fire in the track. The song keeps swelling and shrinking, going from wails to nothing, to exploding with horns, to roaring with guitars.

The playful and naturalistic harmonies make a raspy little dream out of the track

The Vaccines – Pick-Up Full of Pink Carnations
London, England

While The Vaccines in recent years have tried shifting things a lot and alternatively played it almost too straightforward, they’re trying to thread their older spirit back into the fray. Easily the band’s best in a while, there’s a renewed excitement in the music that pulls you in even in the few songs when the writing is missing that something extra. The band’s knack for instant pop is burning bright on “Heartbreak Kid” where the simple-yet-effective hooks overwhelm us, and the bells set our souls aflame. “Lunar Eclipse” brings a lot of Come of Age-era and earlier vigor, with the guitars slicing, the fire palpable and the rush unavoidable. The more dizzying flow of “Sunkissed” is a great trip through old romantic feelings, and how easy it is to get lost in the moment when everything is making you feel high. There’s a soaring feeling of hunger on “Love to Walk Away,” that keeps the track oscillating between its melancholy and hope, so that every bouncy vocal line brings the track back from the brink to a new tense riff.

The Once – The Bend (Single)
St. John’s, Newfoundland

The quiet hum to “The Bend” makes for a solemn yet important song, with The Once helping you navigate those big turns in life. Speaking to those shifts, the band instils a sense of following your heart to the end, particularly when turning back becomes less and less possible in moving forward. The guitars and percussion create a tender atmosphere within the track, and the heft of the band’s harmonies build a reassuring hand on the shoulder, leaving the track with a comforting feeling by the end.

Marika Hackman Big Sigh
Hampshire/London, England 

Maturing more with every record, Marika Hackman has created a brooding and mysterious beast on her new record. Letting the instrumentation and production evolve with each track’s emotion, this is an unpredictable listen that finds Hackman willing masterful arrangements around the very moments of her life. “The Ground” sets the album off on warped pianos and an even more haunting vocal line, telling you this is a foreboding world, that is not like what we know anymore, but undoubtedly as beautiful as it is worrying. There’s a more optimistic charge on “No Caffeine” as the more hostile tones are harnessed into a frantic rock groove with so many great layers of brass, drums and grinding guitars that it’s easy to forget which riff you were nodding to before the next one takes over. The slow-burning drama of “Hanging” makes for a dark and mellow listen, building to its satisfying release in its final minute as a whole band seems to swell around Hackman’s chants to create a euphoric release from pain, reminiscent of a Sinéad O’Connor break. The strings fly and then mold into amazing acoustic daggers on “Slime,” where Hackman takes her sonic warping and makes beautiful fruits out of it.