Album Reviews May 11, 2017

Perfume Genius – No Shape (Seattle)

It's rare to see artists really push the envelope so fully anymore between records. Mike Hadreas' latest ambitious endeavour as Perfume Genius finds him searching and experimenting with sound in creative ways, and while it's not always a hit, it's definitely worth the listen. While album opener "Otherside" shifts from soft piano ballad to brutal synth drops out of nowhere, there's an ugly beauty to its contrast. "Go Ahead" slowly intertwines a handful of loose parts until they come together in an intricate melodic mesh. The bombast of "Die 4 You" fits some of the cheese of its title into the its dark pop. It's "Sides (feat. Weyes Blood)" however that really brings all the best elements of the album together for a pop song that's experimental and searching while holding it all together in a catchy yet intriguing way.

Deadpan Romeo – Cold Stinkin' World (Ottawa)

Finding some simple indie-folk that is simple, earnest and yet interesting enough to make it listenable has become almost impossible. Recalling Kimya Dawson's most intriguingly quirky qualities both sonically and lyrically into something that bears a Southern undertone, there's something oddly absorbing about this record. "Cold Stinkin' World" brings a hilariously slice-of-life style lyrics in its hilariously straightforward bounce that it's endearingly honest and fun, much like many songs by the aforementioned Dawson. Emotionally lo-fi on "Hopeless Trails" there's a brutal sadness that's elevated by the distant vocal mix, and the metaphorically epic narrative crafted through the lyrics is a delightful spin. "Boundaries Of Blue" has such a chaos to its disintegrating vocals along with the slow burning guitar that it's a hard but curious listen. Getting more lyrically personal on "Moondog Prom's Burden" there's a final love ballad that aches of pain and joy but ultimately feels at a loss emotionally.

Black Lips – Satan's Graffiti or God's Art? (Atlanta)

Black Lips are most certainly an intense and energetic band, and while they've dabbled in pop and more creative sounds before, it's not something they're known for. On this latest record for the punk party rockers they exceed expectations by delving into an art-rock world no one ever expected from them. "Can't Hold On" blends their more poppy side with something so electric and sheer. They even pull the surprise move of adding in plenty of interludes throughout the record to add some more instrumental and textural flavour to the record, especially when they pull in rarer instruments for the band like saxophone. On their darkest and most experimental they craft "In My Mind There's A Dream" where they channel even more psychedelic feeling into a pop sound for a stark example of their evolution as a band. Refining this to something more accessible however, they also go for some more lighthearted fun on "Lucid Nightmare" as they push into more pop-focused avenues.

Fathers of Modern Rocketry – The Fathers (Ottawa)

Infusing jazz and an old-school sense of groove to their sheen-laden rock, this local rock outfit certainly knows how to bring the passion to their music. "Let Go" finds an angry but moving vocal delivery trying to move past painful thoughts over some glimmering guitar lines and harmonies. Switching to a more elegant sombre tone, "She Fit Me Well" has dissipating guitar lines and a light sense of regret in its mood that flows into the lyrics all to perfectly, with flaring guitars hitting the emotional notes perfectly. Touching old Pink Floyd notes along with a more distorted rock sound "Let 'em Die" has that brutally held back fire to its sound that burns brightest in soaring yet short bursts. Lamenting on weakness in tough times, "Soft Hard" is one of the most lyrically devastating tracks on the record, saving a slightly bland instrumental side.

Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog (Montreal-NYC)

Mac DeMarco is an indie legend at this point, but his good humour, crowds of fans and deceptively strong records doesn't keep him free from fault. While his last release, Another One, left a lot to be desired, feeling more like a b-side collection, he's definitely taken time to fine tune this latest release. Feeling like more of a positive step forward, this new record doesn't hit quite the distinct single-power of Salad Days but it crafts and consistent and cohesive sound that carries it through, only occasionally repetitively and at times seemingly derivative of himself. "On The Level" takes the mood of "Chamber of Reflection" and makes a warm yet off-putting ballad to doing the right thing, with a haunting keyboard line that gives chills on every chorus. Somehow despite its sonic strip back for DeMarco, "This Old Dog" is one of his most sincere tracks to date and endearingly cheesy, pulling in deeper sonic bliss in emotional swings through the choruses. "Baby You're Out" blends his joyous grooves with a bumpy beat for a classic sunny day track that he manages to do so effortlessly. With both the slow moving, vocal-driven and faster riff-laden styles he does so well on "Still Beating" and "One Another" respectively it really seems like he's settled into his writing groove and the finessing of stronger verses over poppy hooks is perfectly fine considering how well it supports the album.