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Album Picks: The War on Drugs, Perfect Pussy, Black Lips and More

Posted by Billy Gil, March 18, 2014 10:14am | Post a Comment

The War on DrugsLost in the Dream (LP, Purple Vinyl, CD or Download)

The War on Drugs’ dreamy country-rock music evokes slow motion, even as its songs move at a sprightly pace. The driving rhythm behind "Under the Pressure" is caked in heavily reverbed guitars and washes of synthesizer, even as real-life guitar solos and Adam Granduciel's vocals come through more clearly than ever before. Similarly "Red Eyes" is like some lost '80s collaboration between The Highwaymen and The Cure, effusing brilliant colors with its bright synths and yelping vocals, but the most stunning moment comes in the minute or so in the middle of the songs when a third of the sound is stripped away, leaving a gorgeous, introspective bridge before Granduciel's yelp brings everything crashing back, while the rhythm stays insistent as always. Lost in the Dream invites repeat listens—atmospheric pieces like "The Haunting Idle" keep things spacious, yet the band comes back for the Bruce Springsteen-vibing "Burning" in the albums latter half. As its title would suggest, it's an album to get lost in. It feels like seeing the entire open road ahead of you, coasting yet seemingly to move in place while the sun sets and middle-of-nowhere stations play Bruce and Tom Petty in the background.

 

 

Perfect PussySay Yes to Love (LP, CD or Download)

Say Yes to Love’s sound evokes a flower exploding. Colors and sound shoot out at every direction like a thunderstorm, with singer Meredith Graves at the eye, unleashing her distorted wail. You don't always understand what she's saying, but you feel her passion, calling to mind Life Without Buildings' Sue Tompkins or Love Is All's Josephine Olausson, with sharper teeth. The band packs harmonic chords and tightly-coiled arrangements into these short songs; the riffs, dynamics and carefully considered noise of "Bells" make it memorable and exhilarating. The band doesn't pause to let you catch your breath much, save for an eerie break that winds down the terrific "Big Stars." But they're capable of creating more than merely a fabulous ruckus, as the melodic "Interference Fits" proves, its deliberate riffs giving way for Graves to shout "since when do we say yes to love?" Perfect Pussy's near-perfect debut seems like the answer, a non-stop aural assault that's thrillingly full of life.

 

Black LipsUnderneath the Rainbow (LP or CD)

Black Lips have never made a bad record—actually, they’ve all been great—but they’d definitely cleaned up a bit on their last couple of albums. Thankfully, that hasn’t meant they’ve gone soft—their songwriting chops have just become more apparent, and Underneath the Rainbow continues that trend, a worthy successor to 2011’s excellent Arabia Mountain. Whereas Mark Ronson lent a sprinkle of pop sheen to that album, The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney is at the helm here, giving the hippieish Lips a leather-and-denim feel that suits them a little better, on songs like the glammy “Funny,” bluesy “Boys in the Wood” and 007-riffing “Do the Vibrate.” Given that general feel, their dabbles in cowpunk make the most sense on this album, resulting in some of its best songs, like “Drive by Buddy,” a whiskey-soaked jangler that nods to bands who’ve followed in the Lips’ wake like FIDLAR. That same feel informs the delightfully tasteless “Dorner Party,” a catchy outlaw song that seems to be written from the point of view of killer and cop foe Christopher Dorner. Even with the fuck-all sneer here of songs like “Dorner Party,” Underneath the Rainbow has some of the band’s prettiest melodies—not something the Black Lips are typically known for. “Waiting” is, dare I say, gorgeous, with an acoustic jangle and desert melody, and album closer “Dog Years” is crustily romantic—“you blew smoke into my twinkling eyes” they sing-speak over a Velvets-style riff, continuing “my pulsating retinas staring back at you like some cutting edge piece of technological equipment, I knew you were the one.” Sweet. If you’re a fan, the album is a great reassertion of their sound and aesthetic, and if you weren’t in love before, Underneath the Rainbow could be the album to change that.

 

L.A. Witch L.A. Witch (Download)

Ex Hex Hot and Cold 7” (LP or Download)

Two great, short releases by up-and-coming, awesome female-fronted rock bands. The first are new, L.A.’s L.A. Witch, who make dust-encrusted garage rock that ranges from buzzy, driving songs like “Get Lost” to faraway, haunted campfire ditties like “Heart of Darkness.” Ex Hex, on the other hand, are a new band featuring a seasoned pro—that would be Mary Timony, of Wild Flag and Helium fame. But you wouldn’t know it by how youthful and exuberant “Hot and Cold” is, one of the truly great power-pop songs of recent memory.


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Album Picks (146), New Albums (213), New Releases (215), The War On Drugs (14), Perfect Pussy (2), Black Lips (11), Ex Hex (5), L.a. Witch (3)