Album Reviews: March 19, 2018

Fischerspooner – Sir  (New York City)

While the wide swatch of electronic music has seen the more creative writing fall to the shadows, the genre-defining acts like Fischerspooner are still showing people how it's done. With songs that make you move as much as they make you feel uncomfortable, the band tackle the darker sides of the human condition. "Stranger Strange" sets things off with brooding energy, similar to Iggy Pop's glam phase, and the harsh vocals even mix in some of his punk. It's the hefty beats of "TopBrazil" however that show just how much fun the band can still have in grimy dance-pop. There's a burning rush to "Everything Is Just Alright" as the band go fast and let their grooves do all the talking. With all this noise, "Discreet" is a big surprise that strips a lot away for one of the album's most emotionally rich songs.

Matt Gower – Twitter Songs (Ottawa)

To break garage-folk from its usually bland shackles, Matt Gower brings incredible wit and fidelity to the genre. Though it may seem a little simple on the surface, Twitter Songs has a lot under the hood. Across the glistening guitar lines of "First Tweet Waltz" Gower dissects the modern paralysis we've found in writing simple words, while his tender melodies pack even more punch. "#TheShapeOfMyHeart" breathes with massive vocal lines and subtle undercurrents of emotion, with a commentary on human language that feels all too timely. Though it's muc more straightforward writing-wise, "Sentient Twitter Bot" opens up an unexpected level of atmosphere that shows the many directions Gower may go in the future both sonically and in his narratives. "Spellcheck Blues (Hey @jack)" closes the release on a somewhat goofy track lyrically, while the touches of dancing guitar lines offer something a little more meaningful.

Marlon Williams – Make Way For Love  (New Zealand)

Across an album of vintage pop and country revival, you'd expect Marlon William's spin to simply be a modern outlook or new production, but that's where he gets you. Playing to all your expectations of the genres he plays in, Williams makes a record that is continously powerful in how it zigs when you expect it to zag. Williams hits all the right notes and starts the album with Orbison-like charm as the record cuts open on the simple but strong "Come To Me." He starts to cut in the weirdly sparse production on "What's Chasing You" and weaves in less typical hooks to give the song a real fire. He gets menacingly dark on "Can I Call You" as his morose persona and hazy piano sounds create a totally mesmerizing listen. He merges both sides of his energy on "I Didn't Make A Plan" however as he puts both his romanticism and cynicism behind his big piano and bridges to make some hard-hitting music.

Adam Blasl – I Was A Blank Canvas (Ottawa)

The world of effect-laden alternative music takes so many shapes these days, acoustic artists have really started to find new life in the modern world. Adam Blasl's colourful take on his acoustic sound enriches it all as he uses subtlety to make things feel more emotional. "What Can I Say?" goes from ringing hooks to breathy choruses full of sorrow, that carry such a depth of pain that it's hard to keep listening at times. While "A Portrait of Friendship" doesn't totally keep the sonic innovation feeling fresh, the way that Blasl cuts through his heavy-handed subject matter with dynamic rhythmic punches can really open his songs up. The slow ballad sounds of "Bayview" calls to sunny days in its light buzzes of feedback and offers a more romantic energy than much of the record. As downbeat as it may initially seem, "November Comes Again" has such a memorable lead melody that you'll want to listen again and again.

Superchunk  – What A Time To Be Alive (North Carolina)

While political rock can sometimes feel like a bad thing these days, rock veterans Superchunk really save it from the gutter. Framing their roaring guitar work in the Trump era without feling like they're too late to the party, the album reflects on what a weird state the world is in right now. They knock the doors down on "What A Time To Be Alive" putting their sense of distress in the melodies as much as the lyrics. They up the grit even more on "Lost My Brain" as the drums really boom and the song races with so much distortion that it's possible to forget the story behind it. The utter cry anger on "Dead Photographers" gives the song a constant energy that make its heavy message of loss a little easier to hear. They even make some dark comparisons to dictatorships of history on "Reagan Youth" that makes album's most interesting riffs feel all the more appropriate.