Album Reviews: May 21, 2018
Leon Bridges – Good Thing (Fort Worth, Texas)
Leon Bridges has asserted himself as a master of retro soul, but he had to start setting himself apart at some point. For his latest record the Texas songwriter blends his usual grooves with something a little more modern for a record that is smart and fun. Bridges taps into his usual Sam Cooke warmth on "Bet Ain't Worth The Hand" though he brings enough earnest energy to avoid the potentially schmaltzy directions it could go. He quickly switches to something dark and cool on "Bad Bad News" as he ups the swing while starting to play with the artists that inspire him. He pushes into the future on "Forgive You" for a grimy track with a little hip hop production, while still holding onto his overall voice. "If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)" goes right into the kind of retro pop that's made Bruno Mars a start all over again for the standout pop single that taps into everything the album is about.
Tasor – Mind Control (Ottawa)
As commercial as dub-step got for a while, there's still a lot of room for great art in the genre. With sharp use of samples and explosive production, "Tasor" makes an album that's as commentary-driven as it is beat-driven. "Mind Control" starts the album on a vicious bite of political satire and one that very smoothly burns right into cataclysmic drops that manage to keep you on your feet just a little bit. The weird hip hop blend in "Get Down" makes its dynamic rhythms all the more interesting and lets each little vocal moment and motor-like drop feel unexpected and intense. Jumping right into some 70s dance flare "Funky" lives up to its name with a stellar bass riff and the right mix to fit it right into the sound without feeling forced. They hit their most in-your-face on "Virus" as the wubs turn into voice-like roars and the whole atmosphere takes on a menacing and sinister vibe.
Middle Kids – Lost Friends (Sydney, Australia)
Despite a wealth of new bands constantly popping up, Australia's Middle Kids manage to really set the bar high on their latest release. With a hungry spirit but a mature sense of tone control, the band create a record that is full of surprises. Even with the ominous energy that starts "Bought It" the band build something ecstatic around singer Hannah Joy's vocals to keep the song frantic. They keep the energy going on "Mistake" as Joy continues to push things forward while bringing enough of a triumphant energy to stand out on their own. There's a booming sound to "On My Knees" as the band lets loose ecstatically while knowing when to pull it all back. "Tell Me Something" brings a more vintage energy to the mix with a real life behind the guitars to sound raw and the right writing to feel clever.
Paragon Cause – Escape (Ottawa)
Sometime in the 90s alternative hit upon some amazing and startling electronic landscapes that have rarely been taken foreword. For Paragon Cause, they manage to tap into this sound with endless ambition for an album that will inspire and invigorate. With a tempered crawl the album opens on the silky vocals and deep bass of "Next Time" as Paragon Cause mix Lynchian atmosphere with a rock grime. "Fear" mixes a little bit of ominous vocal delivery with a haunting guitar line that lets every harmony within the song feel like some remnant of what once was. They tap into a fiery and smoky energy on "Consequence" as their Western guitar riffs kick out to create a dangerous sense of tension within the song. "Sunny" brings something a little brighter however as their drums become a little more synthetic to let them focus on an angelic push of vocals that makes the track soar.
Eleanor Friedberger –Rebound (New York, New York)
As she's moved from sound to sound across her last several records, the last place one would've expected Eleanor Friedberger to go was a club. Friedberger makes her switch seamlessly however on an album whose only fallback is occasionally depending on its sound too much. "My Jesus Phase" opens the album with a loose and ominous build of drums and synths that explode to life right as they're about to become boring. 80s takes over "The Letter" as Friedberger starts to let pop shine through, although you'll beed to be patient to appreciate it. The true power of the album starts as "In Between Stars" starts to show a warmer side of Friedberger's new sound and she gets a little pep in her sound. This continues right into the bouncy rhythm of "Make Me A Song" where she manages an addictive and pensive song within an album full of greys.