Atoms For Peace - Amok
Deluxe CD $16.98
Deluxe LP $32.98
Thom Yorke further blurs the line between organic and electronic, emotional and mechanical on his latest release, with Atoms for Peace. Keeping the more electronic-based notion of his 2006 solo album, The Eraser, Yorke balloons the tinny sound of that album with living, breathing collaborators — Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and session drummer Joey Waronker. “Before Your Very Eyes” wipes the floor with most songs on The Eraser with its fully realized sound and emphasis on Yorke’s robofunk riffs and supernatural, swooping vocals. “Default,” too, is like the gnarled single the last Radiohead album, The King of Limbs, was missing. “Ingenue” boasts some of the catchiest synth riffs on the album, and its backbeat, a sort of digitally created, organically reconstructed afrobeat/dubstep hybrid, demands careful attention. Though Amok is sequenced well, some of its tracks fail to make a lasting impression, but by album’s end, the acoustic guitar spiderwebs, handclaps and layers of heavenly Yorke vocals on “Judge, Jury And Executioner” save the day, along with the trippy jazz beat, mathematical guitar, buzzing synths and gurgling, cut-up vocals of “Reverse Running.” Musically there’s something new to glean from each listen, from allowing the densely sequenced beats to firmly etch themselves in your brain to appreciating Yorke’s croon as it echoes out and drowns in reverb. Those who closely follow Yorke’s forward-looking adventurousness will get more from Amok than those looking for songs with the emotional heft of, say, a “Karma Police” or “Kid A.” However, Amok is a more than striking debut, sending new spores to grow on you with each listen and establishing Atoms for Peace as a welcome project from Yorke and co.
Kavinsky - Outrun
Many American listeners were introduced to Kavinsky via “Nightcall,” the slick track that underpinned the opening of Nicolas Winding Refn’s new classic Drive. Those listeners should feel right at home on Outrun, Kavinsky’s car-reffing debut LP. From the outset, on “Prelude,” a narrator tells of a mythic driver hero over percolating synths. As “Nightcall” featured vocals by CSS’ Lovefoxxx, new listeners can head to “Odd Look” for a similar feel, a throbbing house track that hits harder than “Nightcall” and features female vocals. Thankfully, though, Outrun doesn’t just coast on the fumes of Drive. Outrun is rife with thriller movie soundtrack tones and thrilling beats that get your pulse revved. Kavinsky aka Vincent Belorgey says he digested a childhood of ’80s movie sountracks and streamlined the best bits into his French house sound, and there’s certainly plenty of evidence to back that claim on this album, from the shrill John Carpenter horror movie synth stabs of “Testarossa Autodrive” to the power-suited corporate intrigue implied by “Deadcruiser’s” dense, analog keyboard lines. Outrun works because of its variety, sounding as though it could soundtrack 11 montage scenes of highly disparate films — “Suburbia’s” rapped-over slow throb is the outlier, but that track exudes such new school-cool that you won’t be complaining. “Buckle up, you are now riding with a star” guest star Havoc raps on “Suburbia,” but he could be talking about Kavinksy himself, who has delivered on his promise with the sparkling Outrun.
Johnny Marr - The Messenger
It’s hard to believe this is the first solo LP from one of the most revered guitarists of all time, barring Marr’s 2003 album with The Healers. From its outset The Messenger doesn’t run from Marr’s past with The Smiths, hitting so many pressure points for Smiths fans, they might double over. “The Right Thing Right” takes off on Marr’s signature strum, effortlessly stacking major to minor chord transitions and delivering the sort of shuffle that moved along songs like “Nowhere Fast.” The Messenger isn’t pure nostalgia, however. Songs like “I Want the Heartbeat” could take getting used to for Marr fans, featuring heavier, more distorted guitars than Marr is typically known for. Though Marr doesn’t have anything approaching Morrissey’s overarching persona, his vocals are amiable enough to carry songs like “European Me” through their stirring arrangements. Remarkably, The Messenger doesn’t sound out of step with modern Britpop, incorporating an electronic dance beat and disco-inspired bassline into the title track’s minor-key melancholy. At its best, it’s as though Marr is instructing his followers that you can have it both ways — loud guitars and soaring choruses complete with the intricate detail that makes the whole thing run smoothly.
Johnny Marr - What's In My Bag?
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Shout Out Louds - Optica
Shout Out Louds' stadium-ready indie pop packs an '80s-infused wallop on their fourth album, Optica. Though they don't completely transcend reference points on Optica, the Shout Out Louds succeed and doing what they've always done well — offering entertaining, uncomplicated indie pop — while updating their sound by drawing deeper from their well of influences. The result is a fun record with as much heart as desire to please.
Sally Shapiro - Somewhere Else
Champions of italo disco Sally Shapiro (it’s a duo) return with another album of synth-pop gems. Highlights include “Starman,” featuring Electric Youth; the irresistibly named and synth bass boogiein’ “This City’s Local Italo Disco DJ Has a Crush on Me”; and “All My Life,” which surely would have made fun all the discos in all of the Europe for youth to dancing in 1983!
Who doesn’t love Emmylou Harris? And who doesn’t love country duets? Put Harris and Grammy-winning Rodney Crowell together and you have 11 tracks of hard living and heartache sung by two voices who make it known that when they open their mouths, they sing the truth.
Golden Grrrls - Golden Grrrls
Golden Grrrls (that's three R's, bro) deliver lo-fi Slumberland boy-and-girl jangle-pop. You know what you're getting, but that's not a bad thing.
Autre Ne Veut - Anxiety
Forward-thinking electro-R&B tunes from the hotly tipped Brooklyn artist.
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