Album Picks: Jessie Ware, Scott Walker + Sunn O))), Thurston Moore, Allo Darlin', Nude Beach

Posted by Billy Gil, October 21, 2014 11:07am | Post a Comment

Jessie Ware - Tough Love (LP, CD, Deluxe CD)

Tough Love finds the singer who made her name in the world of dubstep stretching further into pop environs, with help from the likes of Dev Hynes (Blood Orange), Miguel and Ed Sheeran. The Kate Bush-inspired title track that opens the album is already brighter and warmer than anything she has done before. The radio-ready but cool throbbing beats of “You and I” successfully split the difference between her “indie Sade” past and the pop horizon she now faces. Still, she’s really in her element amid the chilled out synths and digital handclaps of the sumptuous “Cruel.” Ware’s voice is in top form throughout, working wonders on the soulful “Say You Love Me,” amid gospel touches and a skittering beat. Her biggest issue is still somewhat anonymous lyrics, but the music and her voice always seems to make the most of them, driving home lyrics of heartbreak with a nuanced touch, while the tenuously sexy “Kind Of … Sometimes … Maybe” shows off her personality brilliantly, coming off as an update on Janet Jackson’s coy sensuality, filtered through Ware's old soul. Musically, Ware and her collaborators manage to move all over the map and make it seem like they’re travelling a straight line, keeping things rhythmically intriguing on tracks like the sultry “Sweetest Song” and even making room for a throwback disco track like “Want Your Feeling.” If it’s less cohesive than her debut, Devotion, it’s also a lot more fun, and perhaps more consistently rewarding. Tough Love should find Ware expanding her audience beyond the soul, electronica and indie fans who have already discovered her and into the pop realm without losing a shred of her estimable cool.


Scott Walker + Sunn O))) - Soused (LP, CD, Download)

When black metal/experimental band Sunn O))) team up with ’60s-pop-pinup-turned-avant-garde-vampire Scott Walker, you know the results are going to something special. Indeed, Soused makes good on its promise as each artist is in top form on these five extended sound pieces. Walker's disturbing imagery and bellowing vocals are a perfect match for Sunn O)))’s metallic sound waves on “Brando,” as Walker sings “A beating would do me a world of good” amid whipsmacks and Blade Runner synths. Walker leads us through the bleakness of “Herod 2014” with a relatively sweet, ghostly melody as the band’s groaning guitars and insect-like beats make us feel like we’re heading deeper into a dark cavern of sound. The aggressive “Bull” makes for the clearest entry point into the album, with Walker doing his campiest Count-Dracula-leading-a-metal-band vocals and Sunn O))) going for classic hard rock chords on recognizable choruses (but even then, they leave us in the wilderness for extended periods of creeping silence and warm drone). “Fetish” finds all participants at their nastiest, while “Lullaby” ends the album by luring us in with a few minutes of relative quietude before Walker sings some of his most terrifying vocals over the band’s metal riffs—it’s a lullaby for anyone who falls asleep too easily. Soused doesn’t make for easy listening, but it’s never dull, either. Walker, in particular, sounds reinvigorated by his involvement with Sunn O))). Hopefully Soused is just the beginning of a sick and beautiful partnership.


Thurston Moore - The Best Day (LP, CD, Download)

Thurston Moore makes the Sonic Youth breakup a little easier to swallow with a warm salve of a solo album. Sonic Youth fans will delight add beautiful harmonics and familiar chords of a song like “Speak to the Wild,” as the permateenager sings infectiously, “the time has come to join a band.” “Forevermore’s” extended drone, slacker romance and heroic guitar runs feel like comfort food you feast on for eleven minutes. The Best Day is a relatively peaceful album, and the drone built into some of these tracks makes them bleed together somewhat. But Moore mixes things up to keep it interesting, offering glittering mandolin and psychosexual musings on “Tape,” a Television-style rave-up on the title track and good ol’ punk thrills on “Detonation.” It may not be much you haven’t heard from Thurston Moore, but it sure feels good to have him still making like this. Fans of both Sonic Youth and Moore’s solo work will find plenty to cherish on The Best Day.


Allo Darlin’We Come From the Same Place (CD, Download, LP out 11/18)

The latest from ex-Talulah Gosh member Elizabeth Price’s band is another sweet slice of breezy but emotionally engaging indie pop. It’s a delicate balance; a band like Allo Darlin’ could come off as being precious, but songs like “Angela” never come off as anything but sincere, as Price can sell lines like “the hardest thing we ever have to learn is when those we love don’t love us in return” and make those familiar themes of heartbreak sound fresh. It’s not all mope, though—the band plugs in for the boy-girl duet “Bright Eyes” that will bring out the young romantic in even the most jaded of us. “I feel better hanging out with you,” they sing, and we can’t help but agree. 


Nude Beach 77 (LP, CD, Download)

Brooklyn’s Nude Beach’s unabashed rock ‘n’ roll is a dangerously infectious thing on 77. The Replacements, Teenage Fanclub and Big Star echo through these melodic, heartbroken tunes. Still, even a song with the title “I Can’t Keep the Tears From Falling” has snarl and distorted riffs for days, while singer Chuck Betz’s nasal wail calls to mind a young and desperate Tom Petty. Rock ‘n’ roll’s no longer a dirty word, thanks to bands like Nude Beach.


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Album Picks (146), Jessie Ware (5), Scott Walker + Sunn O))) (1), Thurston Moore (2), Allo Darlin' (1), Nude Beach (2), New Albums (213), New Releases (214)