Album Reviews: March 23, 2017

Depeche Mode – Spirit (UK)

Depeche Mode certainly return to form on their latest release, and actually do quite a lot to make their sound work in modern context. Their classic sounds work over an updated production and sound, bringing them forward on strong tracks like "Going Backwards" and "The Worst Crime," starting the album off on a great foot. Unfortunately they don't keep their momentum throughout the middle of the album with tracks like "You Move" coming of as meandering and overtly tacky, as well painfully past its prime political rhetoric that needs more of a freshening ironically than their sound. The powerful closing to the album also leaves the tracks that bookend the album to unfortunately read almost like abridged reviews of an record that had the potential to be so much more.

Vayda – When The World Spins (Ottawa)

Ottawa's hip hop scene feels alive and well online, and this producer is bringing some electric finesse to Ottawa's side of things. A distinctly DIY and vaporwave-lite inspired sound permeate this album, never diving but dipping toes in the attitude of each with lush synth backing on its heavy beats. Tracks like "Point 0" pop and kick with a syncopated flow that moves bodies while "Crypt" is a more epic party banger, akin to a dub-step style of writing. "Palace" throws a very trippy hook into its production cutting out in time to mess with heads without ever losing the groove, while laying a retro-synth base that would make Lazerhawk and Kavinsky proud.

Real Estate – In Mind (New Jersey)

The sophisticated yet relaxing tones of Real Estate return as they bring their tightest record to date, comfy but rarely boring. There's an overall sense that the band is taking their sound and making the best record they can here, going safe but pushing hard to make sure it's not lazy or weak. Tracks like "Darling" and "Stained Glass" just roll out effortlessly and utterly joyously like a great milkshake, giving a great opening to the record and setting the mood right. While the slower tracks just never quite feel like they're going anywhere a track like "Two Arrows" shifts its emotions into a overtly satisfying finale on a solo that keeps delivering. Working more consistently in its second half, it ends strong, with even more delicious solos, and even the track "Diamond Eyes" which has an intimate feeling akin to "Mildenhall" on the new Shins record.

Meznoyume – Strange Air (London, Ontario)

The Ottawa instrumental-synth pop and vaporwave scene is fascinating to say the least, especially given how many people see Ottawa as a musically vacant city. The new record from Meznoyume plays a calming yet eerie set of beats under its synth pulses of a sound every bit as pleasing as it is unnerving. "Blue" runs its steady drone of what sounds like the Playstation 1 opening theme modulated over a popping run of beats and synth washes, while "Cloud Map Collection" takes a more hip hop mixed with video games style sound, making for a truly entrancing experience. With more game-infused goodness "Internet Goddess Katakana" swaps between moody and hopeful breaks with aggressive party bass drops, filled with glitchy goodness. Worth noting especially is the 8bit "Backseat Hot Purple" with addictive percussion and a wonderfully constructed bitcrushed synth sound that is would fit in our outside any game.

Pulled Apart By Horses – The Haze (Leeds, UK)

There's something oddly freeing when you hear punk rock done so right. On their latest LP the UK rockers elevate both rock and punk by their precise mixes of the two in their signature sound, making this a destructively fun record with a surprisingly non-stop level of catchy chops. The fun just never stops on this record, going through the opening tracks "The Haze" and "The Big What If" punch hard and launch the record like a ton of TNT. While an album with so much of the same style of song can be tiring, in a case this catchy and moving it just feels like a constant party by the time you reach "Neighbourhood Witch" with the originality no worse for wear. Exploring and changing around their sound the deeper into the record you go, it's no less exciting when you get to the grimy and shadowy fun of "My Evil Twin," making this a hardy recommendation especially for anyone looking for the best party record this side of March.