Album Review: U.S. Girls – Heavy Light

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Artist: U.S. Girls

Album: Heavy Light

Genre: Experimental Pop/Indie Pop/Gospel/Soul

Label: 4AD

Rating: 9/10

U.S. Girls’ Meg Remy at this point has solidified herself as one of Rock and Pop’s most intriguing and innovative artists. Following her breakthrough album In A Poem Unlimited, I didn’t expect her to release a follow-up so soon, let alone depart from the album’s sound almost entirely. On her new album Heavy Light, Remy goes in a bolder direction which might turn those who enjoyed the infectious fusion of Psychedelic Pop, Disco, and Art Pop of her last album off, but if you know Remy’s catalog you know that she is always reinventing her sound. Just compare her debut album Introducing to an album like In A Poem Unlimited and you will not believe both albums are from the same person. Much of the instrumentation on Heavy Light is stripped back with more focus on a beautifully crafted array of backing vocals evoking a Gospel feel, a subtle but detailed combination of various percussion, and a dominance of piano balladry. Though her sound has shifted, Remy sticks to her guns of topical storytelling told from the perspective of various characters touching on topical subject matter. The sardonic take-down of the U.S. economy on the Funk-driven track “4 American Dollars,” the Spanish spoken message of prospering with a positive movement on the track “And Yet It Moves / Y Se Mueve,” and the realization that humanity isn’t as significant as we think in the grander scheme of the planet on the track “The Quiver to the Bomb” are all topics Remy and her collaborators paint vividly with a tone that is hopeful despite the grim nature some of the subject matter suggests, and as much as Remy is looking to the future of her sound, this album isn’t without an acknowledgement of her past. There are three older U.S. Girls songs that get reworked. “Overtime,” State House ( It’s a Man’s World,)” and “Red Ford Radio” all sound better than ever polishing the lo-fi bedroom-recorded sound of the older versions. Though In A Poem Unlimited was the most collaborative U.S. Girls have sounded at the time of it’s release thanks to the contributions of the band “The Cosmic Range,” Heavy Light feels even more like an ensemble effort with various voices heard, and this is a perfect progression for Meg Remy, someone who understands the beauty of collaboration. I’m already looking forward to seeing what Meg Remy does next.

Written By: Steven Sandoval

 

 

Gorillaz “Plastic Beach” Turns 10

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On this day in 2010 “Gorillaz” released their conceptual masterpiece Plastic Beach. Five years after the release of their groundbreaking album Demon Days, the band released an album even more ambitious with a myriad of features perfectly utilized and an environmentalist theme that doesn’t bombard you with over-serious preachiness. 10 years later this album still holds up, and is a prefect representation of how “Pop” music can be as thoughtful as it is fun. Happy Anniversary.

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Album Review: King Krule – Man Alive!

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Artist: King Krule 

Album: Man Alive!

Genre: Art Rock/Post-Punk/Jazz

Label: True Panther Sounds/XL Recordings/Matador 

Rating: 9/10

When going into a King Krule album you can always expect to be emotionally and mentally exhausted when coming out of the album, and I mean that in the kindest way possible. Archy Marshall under the “King Krule” moniker has had quite the evolution in recent years. Going from his early Jazz-oriented sound to his smooth Trip-Hop style of his music under his real name Archy Marshall to 2017’s critically acclaimed The OOZ, one thing has remained certain, Marshall will always wear his heart on his sleeve and be uncompromisingly honest, resonating with countless people whom find solace in his moody introspective reflections and worldview, people including myself, but that doesn’t exempt him from criticism. As a matter of fact, I was quite critical of his last album The OOZ. Though the album featured some of his best work, it was frustratingly bloated and extensive, and would have been a more solid and cohesive effort had he trimmed the fat. The length and unfinished filler tracks that littered that album are what keeps me from listening to the album in it’s entirety whenever I revisit it, but where that album faltered, Marshall took those misfires and improved them immensely on his new album Man Alive! This album is a massive improvement and has a reasonable length. Marshall continues to experiment with the abstract, the genre blends of Post-Punk, Jazz, and Hip Hop, and his lyrics are as introspective and poetic as ever. Following the birth of his son, Marshall is naturally in a different spot in life right now, which explains the more optimistic tone that combats much of the album’s despondence. For those moments where Marshall delves into the pains of solitude, he carries a light of hope. The blend of saxophone-driven Jazz but not your Father’s Jazz and artistic Post-Punk with Marshall’s rough and gruff vocals is what we’ve come to expect at this point, but where much of the tracks that found him going in that direction on The OOZ sounded like unfinished vignettes, that sound is perfectly honed and fully-fleshed out on Man Alive! and like I said earlier, this album is filled with introspection, poetry, and swagger that evokes the same cool spirit of artists like Tom Waits or Nick Cave. Lyrically the album deals with themes of losing connection with people, solitude, the state of our technology-driven world, addiction, and most importantly, the love he feels for his partner and his newborn son. That’s where the optimism lies, and it’s nice to see Marshall acknowledging the light after much acknowledgement of the melancholy. This is by far his best work.

Written By: Steven Sandoval 

 

Gorillaz Share New Song “Désolé” featuring Fatoumata Diawara

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It’s nice to see “Gorillaz” being as active as they’ve been in recent years. For awhile we grew to expect long gaps in between albums, but hey, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett are busy guys. After a 7 year gap following The Fall, everyone’s favorite animated band released Humanz and The Now Now just a year later. It’s looking like the band aren’t going to disappear anytime soon, because so far this year as part of their “Song Machine” series, the band dropped their Punkishly anthemic track “Momentary Bliss” featuring slowthai and “Slaves,” and now following that up the band have released another new track titled “Désolé” featuring Malian musician Fatoumata Diawara. The track is both upbeat and melancholy with bouncy synths and dramatic strings while Albarn and Diawara sing in English, French, and Bambara. No word on whether or not this is a roll-out for an upcoming album, but I truly hope it is, because the band sound rejuvenated and more inspired than they did on The Now Now. You can watch the music video for “Désolé” below:

ADULT. Announce New Album “Perception is/as/of Deception,” Share New Single “Why Always Why”

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Being over 20 years in the music world, Detroit duo “ADULT.” still manage to sound fresh and reinvent themselves with every release. Their last album This Behavior was a back to basics triumph that recalled the Electroclash sound of their early work, but with a veteran sense of focus the band improved on that sound incorporating the darker EBM-laden grooves we’ve come to know the band for. Now, just two years after that release the band have announced they will be releasing their follow-up Perception is/as/of Deception on April 10th via “Dais Records.” The band have also released the album’s debut single “Why Always Why,” a synth-heavy track that is as urgent sounding and anxiety-inducing as it is danceable, because you know with “ADULT.” it’s anxiety always (if you know you know.) You can watch the music video for “Why Always Why” below:

Album Review: Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

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Artist: Tame Impala

Album: The Slow Rush

Genre: Psychedelic Pop/Electronic/Disco

Label: Island Records

Rating: 7/10

It seems as if “Tame Impala” have had acclaim from the start. Lead by sole member Kevin Parker who composes and arranges the majority of the music, “Tame Impala” has been an inescapable name in both the “Indie Rock” world and the “Pop” world, but what “Tame Impala” once was is not entirely the same as what “Tame Impala” is now, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Kevin Parker we knew back during the time of the Psychedelic-heavy Innerspeaker, and the vulnerable Kevin Parker we knew on the introspective Lonerism, an album that was a voice for the lonely and those whom suffer from society’s misguided view on introversion is now a new Kevin Parker, but he hasn’t abandoned introspection and vulnerability. In fact, the majority of the tracks on his new album The Slow Rush are incredibly introspective with lyrical themes heavy on existentialism and nostalgia, but at this point in time it sounds like Parker is instrumentally more concerned with making us dance, trading in the LSD-soaked Psychedelia and fuzzy guitars of his early work for lush synths and Electro-Pop melodies drawing from Funk, Disco, and Synth-Pop. Very much like what he was doing on his previous album Currents, and there lies the good and bad of The Slow Rush. Not much has changed on this album, which prompts one to believe that Parker is either playing it safe, or truly isn’t finished experimenting with this sound but isn’t reaching anything that is breaking new ground. Though both albums are cut from the same cloth, The Slow Rush isn’t without it’s gems. The opening track “One More Year” is a message to the fear of life becoming stagnant, “Breathe Deeper” is a lush and sexy banger with a refrain that will stick in your head for days, and “It Might Be Time” features a surprising contrast of joyful instrumentation and existentialist lyrics. However, a lot of these tracks sound like Currents throwaways and don’t quite deliver anything memorable or anything that keeps them from being disposable. That isn’t to say this album isn’t a smooth listen though, because when this album shines, it SHINES, and much of it is cohesive, but I feel like the next “Tame Impala” album needs to be vastly different, or Parker needs to hone this style and create an album with consistent replay value.

Written By: Steven Sandoval