Twelve years after their last album, it’s easy for Blur to pick up right where they left off—the Britpop band never made two albums that sounded the same. “Lonesome Street” starts the album with a loopy, mid-tempo jangle, and it’s tough not to cheer upon hearing the reunion of frontman Damon Albarn’s lonely, sleepless croon with guitarist Graham Coxon’s vigorous strums, especially when he kicks up the distortion on the chugging “Go Out.” The band’s songwriting more than ever calls to mind late-era Beatles on songs like “Ice Cream Man,” a somber tune buffeted by squirrely synth noise. Magic Whip gets more experimental (and better) as it goes, as though throwing bones to longtime fans is out of the way. “Thought I Was a Spaceman” is a beautiful, searching ballad with a bossa nova feel and soft digital-tribal bounce. “I Broadcast” has the spirit of early-’90s Blur with the kind of noisemaking capabilities they now have in their arsenal, throwing in vocal samples and filling the space with extra guitar and synth sounds. Blur recorded The Magic Whip in a stopover in Hong Kong and finished it up separately over time, but miraculously, it doesn’t sound disjointed, keeping the hazy, layover feel of the original session, while the band’s experimentations are mostly folded into the music and don’t distract from the songs themselves. Though occasionally you wish for the frenetic energy of early Blur on more tracks, in their place is a laid-back tunefulness on songs like the loungey “Ghost Ship” and eerie “Pyongyang,” kind of like Roxy Music settling into their Avalon era. The Magic Whip is what you want from a reunion album: it’s the sound of a band progressing, with nods to the past that don’t hold them back in the slightest. Long may they run.
Banks – “Waiting Game”
L.A. singer Banks makes longing sound sexier than the main event with “Waiting Game.” The song is produced by Sohn, who throws a nice, thick digital shroud over the whole thing partway in. Banks’ drowned-out vocals and style are reminiscent of The Weeknd, with whom she’s touring, and it reminds me a bit, too, of a grimier cousin to L.A’s Rhye. Best line: “I wanna lean on your shoulder.” Sweet.
SISU – “Harpoons”
It seems like everyone in the Crystal Stilts/Dum Dum Girls/Vivian Girls vortex of great noise-pop bands has a side or solo project. The lastest is Dum Dums’ drummer Sandra Vu, whose solo project, SISU, sounds like a fun splatter of caustic pop judging by “Harpoons,” which gets its shuffling chorus lodged into your head only after hitting it with a little chaos, as softly pounding drums and light oscillating sounds accompany Vu’s sing-speaky vocals in a kind of creepy sound collage. Hear it on Soundcloud. She’ll be at Part Time Punks at La Cita Aug. 30 with Whirr and Nothing at 7 p.m. Look for her Light Eyes EP at Amoeba, and her first full-length, Blood Tears, is due Sept. 17 on Mono Prism.
Devendra Banhart - Benicassim Festival - 2005