Album Reviews – Lorde, Royal Blood and more

Lorde – Melodrama (New Zealand)

Few artists become as critically acclaimed as Lorde on a debut without a few stumbling blocks on their follow up, luckily Lorde has always been an anomaly. Taking her latest album to more bombastic and dance-focused territory, it nails both the fun and artistic qualities effortlessly. All too familiar now, "Green Light" still shines as an album opener, with the burning, triumphant roars and kicking beat giving Lorde her first power pop anthem. After the familiar is gone, "Sober" wastes no time exploring the far reaches of twisted vocal samples, as she reflects on the dark reality of club culture over one of the album's strongest tracks. "Supercut" brings a heady race of hopeful synths and lyrics of a rejuvenated Lorde, while feeling like one of her most explorative tracks from a writing perspective. Along with all the emotional tracks like "Liability" and "Writer in the Dark," the album closer "Perfect Places" ends the album with a subdued nod to her more minimalistic beginnings as her newer, denser sound blends in.

DJ Smoke Weed Guy – Fantasy Island (Ottawa)

Don't be fooled by the goofy name, DJ Smoke Weed Guy is one of Ottawa's quirkiest garage acts, and one to watch. "What Bad Vibes" opens on jangly pump of guitars and jazzy bass, with background vocals that sound all to reminiscent of Bonnie Doon. Moving to dreamy surf realms, "Vamos A La Playa" throws some racing guitars out before its slow jams, with the band playing an aggressive take on A Tribe Called Quest's "Can I Kick It." "Space Invasion" plays into the bands more weird tape-effects, before they chug into their back-and-forth verses with extremely playful vocals. Taking their drums and tones to nerve-bending ends, they go to the far reaches on "Whirlpool," taking weird twists in their vocals and aggressive riffs.

Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark? (England)

On a somewhat similar note to Lorde, this British duo carried a lot of word of mouth when their last record came out, so they aimed to outdo it. The title-track opener brings in their heavy shrieking riffs, while pulling the best bits and pieces from the likes of Death From Above and Queens of The Stone Age. "I Only Lie When I Love You" moves to a much more pop enriched route, with vocal hooks and riffs abound, made all the more fun by the catchy lyrics. Even at their most straightforward on tracks like "She's Creeping" they still manage to churn out an exciting layering of riffs to keep things moving. Their darkest comes on the organ-filled "Hole In Your Heart" as they churn out something undeniably catchy with a menacingly heavy mood.

Lake Urmia – Wine Time (Ottawa)

As Ottawa continues to grow as a musical city, so too do its homegrown artists expand their sound. "June" opens the album on a riff-driven mood-piece, as synths and bass drive the track's emotions under the vocals. Over a wash of distorted noise "I Still Want To Be Here" pulls its vocals from those ashes for a hazy song, standing defiant with hints of The Pixies. "OK" goes a more hectic route in its soft then rough guitar, with the creamy vocals providing a nice constant throughout the track as either complement or counterpoint depending on the section. Saving the best for last "Denton, TX" brings a fun narrative in its lyrics and a sparse but emotionally fitting disintegrating instrumental side.

The Drums – Abysmal Thoughts (Brooklyn)

The only member left of the indie-surf rockers, Jonathan Pierce seemingly had no one to compromise with when he wanted to make this golden record. Through its emotional delivery and exciting production Pierece crafts a record that's powerfully stirring while also somehow sounding like a 12 track meditation on Joy Division's "Disorder." A masterpiece track in its own right "Blood Under My Belt" takes the intense bass riff, throwing soaring strings and Pierce's silky vocals for a track that will never leave your head. Through bouncy breaks and euphoric choruses, "Heart Basel" throttles along with a joyous innocence, along with Pierce's falsetto taking the high end even higher. "Rich Kids" while brash and a little straightforward, finds the vocal melodies attacking with a gripping rush, and the sonic tweaks throughout the background make it a joy to listen to again and again. Whistles and clanking percussion abound "Abysmal Thoughts" is one of those tracks that burns bright with a sense of energy as Pierce and co jostle around feeling the flow of the song, as it moves like a party.