World Peace Is None of Your Business might be Moz’s angriest album yet. Full of bitter political cynicism and social commentary, the album has the feel of a knowing screed by someone who’s seen it all and whose attitude mostly feels justified. Whether he’s detailing the death of a beat poet (“Neal Cassady Drop Dead’s” “everyone has babies, babies full of rabies” line is priceless) or bemoaning the futility of human connection (“you fail as a woman and you lose as a man” he sings in “Earth Is the Loneliest Planet”), Morrissey’s in classic sardonic mode, while musically the band lays on touches of flamenco guitar, a digitized beat here and a harp there, to form a more lush version of the hard-hitting rock sound he’s employed for the latter half of his career. I can't say that I love the title tracks, in which Morrisey's frustration is understood, but its “each time you vote you support the process” seems insensitive to the places and people that have fought long and hard for this right. Still, it’s hard to resist when he’s in his finest form, on tracks like the extended “I’m Not a Man,” in which Morrissey places his militant vegetarianism and pacificism front-and-center as a new form of manhood, reminiscent of his classic line “it takes strength to be gentle and kind,” (from The Smiths’ “I Know It’s Over”) amid glittering synthesizers and glam stomp. For anyone who’s unfairly labeled Morrissey a miserablist in the past, World Peace shows Moz as an elder statesman with his fists clenched and plenty of piss ‘n’ vinegar left in his system. Also, don't forget—Morrissey just had one of his best albums, Vauxhall & I, re-released last month, get that shit.
The latest by London’s Proper Ornaments mines melodic gold out of tautly constructed little indie rock songs. Think of the dark corners of Velvet Underground songs or early Pavement given a little shoegaze shine, and you’re close. And if you think it's unfair to compare them to ’90s bands, they have a great krautrocker called “Stereolab.” But really, the band’s sly hooks stand on their own, especially on songs like the twangy “Now I Understand” and slinky British Invasion-inspired “Don’t You Want to Know (What You’re Going to Be).”
Fizzy, alt-rock distortion, cooing, girlish vocals and surf-pop melodies make up this duo’s incredibly likable debut record. With Frankie Rose (of solo, Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts fame) on board, Drew Citron’s delicate songs get just the right amount of rhythmic punch and fuzzy bite. The songs range from sweet and easy (“Honey Do”) to kind of creepy and menacing (“Planet Birthday”) in a quiet girl in the back of the class kind of way. It’s not the most original thing you’ve ever heard—you can easily pick out the Pixies/Breeders references on songs like “Madora”—but that shouldn’t curb your enjoyment, as these two are far from the first to pull from that well. They’re even better on songs like “All the Things,” which build from that mold but stretch into strange ways, blending melodies and chords into the grays in between the bright color bands. And the production is pure ’80s college rock heaven, sounding like remastered C86 tracks or early Rough Trade songs that hadn’t seen the light of day before. So, you may know what you’re getting with Beverly, but in the capable hands of these two, that proves to be a very good thing.
One of my favorite bands of the past few years makes their “breakthrough” record, moving the vocals to the forefront, dialing back some of the dairy farm’s worth of milky reverb and cutting some of the more atmospheric pieces in favor of straight dream pop, though newcomers to the band may still feel plenty disoriented. This is dream pop in the truest sense, moving in unexpected and imaginatibe directions, with only the minimally required regard to typical pop song structure. On songs like “Byebye, Big Ocean (The End)” and “In Love With the Useless (The Timeless Geometry in the Tradition of Passing),” ASDIG mastermind Ben Daniels builds towers of seafoam guitars and Annie Fredrickson and Jen Goma’s strung-together vocals, ebbing and flowing and wafting into the background before surrounding and overwhelming you once again. It’s a wonderful experience getting lost in the album’s twists and turns—you come away half-remembering melodies and bits of guitar like some amazing dream you can’t describe, though this time the songs themselves are more concrete, easing new listeners’ entry into the band’s strange soundworld. It’s their strongest album yet, and surely one of the year’s best.
Lower may have the post-hardcore album of the year on their hands on Seek Warmer Climes. The band has been compared with fellow Danes Iceage, and like that band, Lower take hardcore punk to epic proportions not seen since the heyday of bands like Fugazi or ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. This isn't to say they can't be pithy; on rumbling opener "Another Life," their atonality is fist-pumpingly catchy and Adrian Toubro's wolf-like barks and cries keep you rapt, and "Lost Weight, Perfect Skin" shows us they know their way around a hooky riff. But Lower aren't looking to make friends. On centerpiece "Expanding Horizons (Dar es Salaam)," their dirtied guitars trudge through the wilderness for more than seven minutes as Toubro sings "we travel far, expand our horizon, but in the process I see that no horizon will ever benefit me." However bleak the worldview may seem on Seek Warmer Climes, the album is never a drag. It's a thrilling, lightning bolt of a record that loudly announces the arrival of yet another great band from Copenhagen's underground.