• By: Owen Maxwell

Album Reviews: MGMT, Sheer Mag, Faye Webster

MGMT – Loss of Life
Middletown, CT

Over their several records, it’s become clear where MGMT is making pop-focused music and exploratory music, and their latest album appears to lean to the latter. Though this album is full of strong writing and personal touches that keep the songs accessible, this is definitely the band charting a newer course and moving on from their Little Dark Age era. There’s a sprawling rush to the energy coming off “Dancing in Babylon” as MGMT create a beautifully produced track to duet with Chrstine and the Queens on. Though it goes for more theatrical romance than booming…well, dancing, the depth of feeling and sonic colour on this track is a wonder to behold. The singular pop is more focused on “Bubblegum Dog” as the growling tones nearly overpower the mix and the synths layer over each other in a celestial swirl, with the keys bringing out the most iconic flavour of the whole track. The morose chug of “Nothing to Declare” provides a subtle beauty in its bones, with the playful guitars and tones hiding the seemingly lost narrator. The touches of Bowie glam fun on “I Wish I Was Joking” keep it from being a little too sombre,  and the goofy pop touches from Little Dark Age really flesh out the song as one of the most fascinating on the whole record.

Corridor Mon Argent (Single)

Rich with kaleidoscopic wonder and angular tension, Corridor find a tangible way to communicate their mixed thoughts on “Mon Argent.” As the synths all collide within layers of guitars, the band discuss surviving on your art, and the dilemmas that come from turning that art into money. Between the calm and often sudden sonic shrieks in the mix, the band harness this nervous energy into something fascinating, and a sound often as intriguing as it is frightening. Though it seems to meditate on the whole concept more than find any immediate answer, the hazy feeling of the track fits into their approach perfectly.

Faye Webster – Underdressed at the Symphony
Atlanta, GA

As her work has grown more and more dense in their arrangements, Faye Webster’s melodies had sometimes slipped into the background, but they’ve now surged back into layers-upon-layers she’s bringing to the table. With her knack for cutting chord shifts sharp as ever, Webster crafts a slow-burn record full of tender ballads worth diving into. “Thinking of You” starts the train on a sleepy, warm charge, with guitar harmonies and dazzling bells adding to its loving qualities. Even across its rather long runtime, the growing range of instruments and layers to the harmonies keep it dynamic throughout. The back and forth of beautiful-to-harsh adds a fun kind of tension to “But Not Kiss,” especially considering how much it uses Webster’s calming writing to give a dynamic punch to each shift back into the action. Though Lil Yachty seems like a left-field collaboration for Webster, “Lego Ring” is in actuality one of the most lush and expansive tracks of the record sonically, and one that never feels like it’s breaking the cohesion of the record to fit around the meshing ideas. The strings swoon with sunny charm on “Lifetime,” as Webster’s melodies dance around the track with a quiet glee.

Elisapie – Sinnatuumait (Dreams) (Single)

What starts as an ethereal cover of one of Fleetwood Mac’s most eternal songs only becomes more magical as we learn its backstory, and dive into the surrealistic qualities Elisapie adds to their version of this classic. Inspired by stories of her late brother and mother’s deep connection to Fleetwood Mac (and this song in particular), “Sinnatuumait” plays as a kind of eulogy by the singer, and one that is just as much about memories as it is the feelings they give us. The whole drawn out style of the track plays to this warped headspace quality, with every guitar and drum feeling like they’re longing for extra seconds, and being pulled by a kind of otherworldly glow. Elisapie transforms the song in a subtle and beautiful way on this cover, even without the story, and somehow manages to actually find more strength in giving the song much more defined transitions than the original track, as the track seems to breathe in and out between the choruses and verses.

Sheer Mag Playing Favorites
Philadelphia, PA

As they branched out from their top-notch EPs to full albums, Sheer Mag’s lo-fi power remained strong, but clearly reached its limits at times. Evolving their sound pays dividends on this new release, as the hold onto everything that made them pop before without getting lost in the past. The guitar lines of “Playing Favorites” roll off like sunbeams, and bring a new, higher-fidelity sheen to the band’s sound, letting Tina Halladay’s vocals retain that grime to give more dynamic range in the sound as a whole. Despite a lot of evolutions sonically for the band on the record, the straightforward fun of “Eat It and Beat It” is undeniable, with every riff giving metal heft and Halladay’s wails playing into that ferocious fun. The band take a very West Coast turn on “Moonstruck,” really shifting up their grooves and acoustics for one of their most rhythmic and throwback tracks across their body of work, and it’s a fun groove section-driven throwback. “Tea on the Kettle” finds a sweet middle ground to these 70s sounds and the band’s usual riffing and hooks, making for a smooth-yet-vicious track that is the best of both worlds.