Album Reviews: Sharon Jones, Ane Brun, Marie Davidson
Marie Davidson & L'Oeil Nu — Renegade Breakdown (Montreal)
Finding a wonderful middleground between aggressive disco and experimental music, Marie Davidson continues to chart into waters all her own with L'Oeil Nu. Cinematic, dark, but often dance-ready, this record is a trip to take in. "Renegade Breakdown" serves as a heavy mission statement, and closes with a drift to ethereal melodies once Davidson has assured her aim is clear. A classic disco bliss feels almost shocking on "Worst Comes To Worst" just aims for pop, and gets weird in the way she strips the genre into pieces. There's a demented but dreamy quality to "La Ronde" feeling utterly catchy but somehow frightening in the way it fades into hazy lo-fi. In a very Charlotte Gainsbourgh meets Lio-like composition, "Sentiment" closes the album with a retro-pop romance, while bringing out all these kinds of hooks in a much more sparse way.
The Avett Brothers —The Third Gleam (Concord, NC)
There's a delicateness in the delivery on The Avett Brother's new record that lets each song feel raw and tender. "Victory" burns with this bare emotion, as even the greatest moments can feel tinged with pain. While "Prison to Heaven" does bounce a lot more, there's such a brutal darkness to its imagery that it can feel almost too on the nose at times. The richest acoustics shine on "Untitled #4" as they find a timeless kind of charm in their hooks, and make you want to sing along effortlessly. "The Fire" ironically removes all the brightness from this moment, and really poses a much more reflective track, that lets all the open acoustics give you room to really reflect on their words yourself.
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings — Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Rendition Was In) (Brooklyn, NY/Augusta, GA)
Despite Sharon Jones' passing, the care that continues to be presented on the records made of her remaining material shows how tightly she worked with the Dap-Kings. Soulful and often joyous, this record feels born of a love of music first. The whole things starts with a bouncy sense of excitement on "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" sets a great mood for the record, with horns blaring. There's no sense of groove lost on "Here I Am Baby" with the beauty lying in just how tightly the whole group can evoke Jones' message as one unit. The sense of play in both the production and shouts of "Take Me With U" truly makes the actual creation of the record all the more fascinating to dive into, as the song's back-and-forth makes you truly want to know exactly how each unused cover was assembled for the record. The vintage highs of "Rescue Me" capture that old Motown feeling and bring this brilliant off-the-floor acoustic punch to it.
Monowhales — All or Nothing (Toronto)
Coming out swinging on their latest single, Monowhales are a roaring tidal wave of distortion on "All or Nothing." Brimming with blown-out synths, fat harmonies and really seismic drums, the track is arena rock at its loudest and best. The whole thing begs to be shouted back and the undercurrent of pianos keeps the movement virtually constant. Even when they break it down, Monowhales manage to maintain this sense of scale well so that it doesn't feel like they sap the song of its punch. To the point and with a constant weight to its sound, this track keeps making you want to get up and riot.
Ane Brun – After the Great Storm (Stockholm, Sweden)
With the right mix of soul and dance-infused pop that so much Scandinavian pop leans to, Ane Brun carves out vocal-driven gems that feel completely new. By approaching her music with a cross-generational mix of timbres, Brun is able to let her voice centre the music, and soar within it. As she lends a little catchy attitude to a trip-hop infused grind on "Honey," Brun really elicits a feeling of dancing amongst the amazing drums of the track. And really the track's more obtuse back-half is a fun way to use the drawn-out style that so much dance music allows. Though "Don't Run and Hide" brings out more memorable hooks in its chorus, there's a grander scale to the whole production, and a sense of menace that keeps it from feeling simple. The dark funk in the synth low-end of "The Waiting" is utterly infectious, allowing Brun to provide a wondrous counterpoint to the mix. Though "We Need A Mother" loses some of the driving mystique that the rest of the album moves briskly on, it uses all its sonic space give every texture within the song far more room to breathe.