Album Reviews – The Strokes, Weezer, Laura Marling and more
The Strokes — The New Abnormal (New York City)
We've waited years for another full record from The Strokes, and they've given us a throwback in more ways than one. Parts Is This It? and parts 80s aesthetic, their new album probably isn't what you expected, but it's interesting nonetheless. The song writing is consistently on point, and with the fun riffing of "The Adults are Talking" you know The Strokes are trying to make something more emotionally charged than their past few releases. With the synth and explosive refrains "Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus" is equally cheeky in its humor but also purposeful in how it ties this into the frustrated music. Modern English's "I Melt with You" is evoked endlessly in "Bad Decisions" though the fury with which The Strokes push their guitar work through every bridge and the outro assure that it's at least a fun homage. On the other end is the downbeat "Not the Same Anymore" that lets its shrieks out with a more tempered hand, just like its sly references to Cyndi Lauper's "She Bop."
Stone — Sunset City (Ottawa)
It's crazy what the right mix of filters and a brain for aesthetic can accomplish. But more than just a simple sheen, Stone create a wonderful world for their music to live in on this recording to really make something memorable. Like an old TV starting up, "Prelude" buzzes and hums with an old electronic luster to tell you the scope of sound on the album. And as the neon ignites in the keys of "Welcome to Sunset City" the whole instrumentation comes alive in turn for a wondrous sense of space and colour. There's a little touch of artists like Lazerhawk in "All or Nothing" as the synths are finessed into these truly deep-sounding beasts of production. And with this, the bass and sparkle of a track like "Interstate Five" can feel as equally visual as it does emotive with each passing moment.
Caroline Rose – Superstar (Long Island, New York)
Never content to sit in one genre for too long, Caroline Rose has dived right into spacey pop for her latest venture. Deep and still harbouring that same funny song writing in unique ways, this record is fun to hear on so many levels. You're dragged through so many filters in "Nothing's Impossible" it can feel like the end of "2001" at times but it's the infectious way that Rose guides the rest of this that allows it to work. Quirky energy leads the otherwise sparse "Do You Think We'll Last Forever," and Rose injects as much funk as she does frantic energy into the vocals and beats. This kind of offbeat attitude elevates the great pop writing on "Feel the Way I Want," with Rose swaying in the production like she's been making dance pop for her whole life. However, it's the magical departure of "Pipe Dreams" and its echoing heaven that shows all the ways that Rose is able to lull is into new worlds.
The Tenenbaums — God damn it, you've got to be kind (Ottawa)
With a frantic and aggressive rock energy, the Tenenbaums return with a grimy and raw record. The space and range of tones of many prior recordings is stripped out of "Mirror" though their chanting vocals show how far they can take a fierce attitude and riffs. This same punch helps the snark on "New Year, Who's This?" as it grinds and slams like an early Weezer gem. They start fleshing out the sound and their own use of layered guitars on "Mundane" as they create a blistering race of shredding and chaotic rhythms. And as they drift between a softer hand and their blown out fuzz effects for "RKM," The Tenenbaums round out their album on a track that shows how they could take this album's sound into something truly dynamic going forward.
Laura Marling — Song for Our Daughter (Berkshire, England)
With so much taken out of the production of Laura Marling's latest album, you can really feel how strong her sense of chords and melody is. While it does take a moment or two to settle into its barebones sound, the use of layering on this record does a great job of showing off all of her great concepts as a musician. "Alexandra" hits you with its honest writing and a sense of warmth in its bones, with Marling's enchanting use of harmony carrying the already driving tones of the track. There's an unhinged sense of rhythm to "Strange Girl" on the other hand that feels rustic but constantly moving in one way or another. "Song for Our Daughter" plays out like a wonderfully musical string of advice to the next generation, as Marling reaches deep into her soul for one of her most honest and heartbreaking songs. Much of Marling's music makes you think back on your life, and it's this same kind of looking back without the rose-tinted glasses that makes the twang of "Hope We Meet Again" land with such an impact.