Album Picks: Blur, Braids, Coachwhips

Posted by Billy Gil, April 28, 2015 11:08am | Post a Comment

Blur - The Magic Whip

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.


Braids - Deep In The Iris

On their third album, Montreal trio Braids channel their artsy tendencies into catchy electro-pop tunes that soar on singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s powerful voice. It’s never more prevalent than on stunning opener “Letting Go,” as Standell-Preston’s voice grows from a whisper into a belt over stately piano and a syncopated electro beat. As lovely as it is on the surface, Braids’ music is more than skin-deep. “Take me by the neck … spit all your hurt on me” she sings amid pristine electronics, conveying Braids’ ability to pair emotionally raw lyrics with music that is almost antiseptic in its precision. On one of Braids’ best songs, “Blondie,” Standell-Preston lets ’er rip with some Bjork-level vocals and a jittery IDM-style beat. “Sit down with emotion, take the time to feel it,” Standell-Preston instructs on the electro-lullaby “Happy When” while some effected, Cocteau Twins-style vocals wail in the background. Do just that with Deep in the Iris—sit with it a while and its expertly crafted hooks will sink into you.


Coachwhips Bangers Vs. Fuckers

This has got to be one of the loudest albums ever recorded. Back in 2003, Coachwhips, led by Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer, released this garage-rock maelstrom, beating the eardrums of the unsuspecting with mangled blues riffs, caveman beats, rinky-dink synths and hyper-distorted vocals. It’s only grown in grimy majesty over time, as this reissue shows. Bangers Vs. Fuckers sends all pretenders running back to the garage with their tales between their legs. Step up and give it a whirl.

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Album Picks (146), New Releases (214), New Albums (213), Blur (13), Braids (1), Coachwhips (3)