• By: Owen Maxwell

Album Reviews: The Kills, DJ Shadow, Hinako Omori

The Kills – God Games
(Buckinghamshire, England/Vero Beach, FL)

Coming off a seven-year break between records, The Kills have slowed things down to craft an album with less grit and more mystique. While the shift can be a little jarring at first for fans of the band’s rock background, there’s a lot to sink into once you’ve given the album a chance.

The album starts with an unusual amount of bombast for The Kills on the horn-heavy “New York,” with Alison Mosshart commanding the tracks mechanic-yet-beastly sound with her classic salted poetry. There’s an ambient smoke to “LA Hex” that finds the duo colouring the track with their messy conversational growls, clawing back from defeat and roaring with Jamie Hince’s bizarre guitar effects. The slow, swaying flow of “103” lets it grow in more dynamic and punchy ways, as it grows from simply dizzying to full on dangerously explosive by its finale. Between the sizzling beats and blown-out riffs, “Wasterpiece” has the intoxicated luster this band revels in, with a washed-out production to amp up the saucy feeling on the track.

Elias Cooper Falling for Love (Single)

Aching with a sense of loneliness, Elias Cooper’s “Falling for Love” burns with a pained sense of conflict. Blending a bit of desert rock with a neon fire, the track captures a kind of emptiness, almost suffocating in the amount of space, rather than a lack of it. This is clearly by design, as Cooper is able to shrink and grow this feeling within the track to make guitar lines feel massive, or simply part of the mesh as the song climbs. Though the track laments a kind of desperation that feeds on itself, it soon expands to feel more and more self-confident as it rounds to its finale.

DJ Shadow – Action Adventure
(San Jose/Davis, CA)

With one of the coolest album covers of the year to his name, DJ Shadow is also returning with a very broad and explorative record. Another album this week that takes a step beyond what its artist is usually known for, Action Adventure may not be for everyone, but certainly serves to shock the ears of anyone who listens to it. Setting off on the futurist “Ozone Scraper,” there’s a sprawling sense of wonder on the record, with DJ Shadow veering between a bit of retro pop and more sophisticated production. The menacing chants of “Witches Vs. Warlocks” creates a fun bit of trippy flow to the track, though they end up being a highlight next to some of the more cliché electro fare that track slips into at times here. The more visually evocative tones return on the rush of “A Narrow Escape” which takes a drum and bass approach, and lets the skittering synth lines fire off until you can practically see a sparkling cityscape. There’s a startling acoustic pop to the abrasive tones of “Reflecting Pool” as it refuses to let up on its intense drums, and instead leaves you knocked out by its sonic palette, and creates an experience to shake your soul a little bit.

Big Blood In My Head (Single)
(South Portland, ME)

With a sinister growl and a psychedelic haze in its bones, Big Blood come out with a Western movie charm on “In My Head.” The lo-fi recording lends a great roughness to the vocal kicks on the track, as the angst and confusion seem to be warping every single word. The familial harmonies add to this kind of deranged swing that the song plays with, as the voices play in similar but dissonant tones that all seem to tell their own story. The whole ring and cry of the song is baked out in a toasty, sizzling crunch, letting that sense of utter obliteration feel all the more present and worrying as the band sings on.

Hinako Omori Stillness, Softness…
(Yokohama, Japan)

As the perfect straddling between a score-like synth and more experimental pop, Hinako Omori creates something emotional, electric and singular. A sensory experience, and full of mounting soundscapes that push the imagination, Omori creates a powerful musical moment that mesmerizes the mind. There’s a swirling build to the momentum on “Ember” as Omori drops these huge, cinematic synth lines reminiscent of Giorgio Moroder and Vangelis, while offering a call through those lines that brings it into her own pop angle. “In Full Bloom” sees the synths shining bright like a sun, rolling until they’re almost overwhelming, while Omori lies as the centering presence in the middle, until its quiet back half lets her bring things in around her voice to create a new intimate spin on the track. The ebb and flow of “A Structure” creates a watery sensation, as you’re overtaken again and again by these massive keyboard lines, until Omori’s digital universe has fully enveloped you. There are more score-like musings on “An Ode to Your Heart,” which burns with a quiet but surprisingly fat set of tones that let the track relax while still seeming to have an underlying fury buried in it.