Rock

Appreciation (CD)

Over the past decade, Horse Feathers has evolved from a duo crafting lonely, introverted folk tunes draped in delicate strings to a 10-piece ensemble fully embracing the jubilant sound of heartland rock on Appreciation. Just like the Americana-dwelling bands that came before them (not the least of which, The Band), all the signifiers are in place: honky-tonk piano, whining pedal steel, bright church organ, and a gospel-like conviction given to every word. The album feels so well worn and lived-in, it can be hard to avoid clichés in describing its familial pull. The hell with it, then: Appreciation feels like a friendly slap on the back. Appreciation feels like a campfire Kumbaya. Most of all, Appreciation feels like Horse Feathers’ most complete and realized statement yet. Crank it till the cows come home.

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Tomorrow's Daughter (CD)

Matthew Sweet’s latest, Tomorrow’s Daughter, came from the same fruitful sessions that yielded last year’s excellent Tomorrow Forever. Opener “I Belong to You” sets the tone for the album; it’s upbeat, jangly, and pure, unadulterated power pop. Of course, the course of true love never did run smooth. Thus, a strain of melancholy does run through this jubilant, thoroughly enjoyable album, one of Sweet’s most well-rounded, finely tailored releases. You want love songs, you’ve come to the right place!

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Santa Rosa Fangs (CD)

Matt Costa returns with his first full-length album in five years, Santa Rosa Fangs. There is sparser production here than on his 2013 release, but he maintains his upbeat, indie rock sound. Opening and closing with different versions of “I Remember It Well,” the album is about siblings growing up in California, drawn from his own experiences and those of people he's known. The feel-good single “Sharon” channels Tom Petty with its hooks and scrappy vocals.

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Electric Light (CD)

In the three years since James Bay's debut, Chaos and the Calm, his sophomore album finds him morphing into a whole other person. The good looking, sharply dressed singer-songwriter of the previous album has transformed into a sophisticated artist with equal touches of indie rock, '90s English rock, and neo-soul. Electric Light is the perfect second album that shows off delicately constructed songs that are light and catchy, but have thick textures and harmonics mixed with poetic, playful lyrics that elevate each track into Lorde-like jams. Yes, he's dropped the wide-brimmed hat and long hair for a sleeker look, but his songwriter is still what we came here for. "Pink Lemonade" is set to be a summer jam that plows forward with twangy guitars, distorted drums, and a melody that's destined to get stuck in your head. The lyrics are an ode to confused feelings of sexual frustration and longing with intensely vivid images of bodies and pathetic self-loathing that anyone who's gone through a rough relationship can relate to. But even when the song goes into quieter moments, the pace keeps picking up furiously and propels with this endless bass riff. Try to pull the chorus out of your ear after listening! But a ballad like "Us" demonstrates his emotional range as a songwriter with extraordinary sensitivity. Here he is a mellow soul singer, whispering "I believe in love." It all feels so insanely intimate that it's liable to cause a stir in your heart and even get you teary-eyed. When the song swells with lush strings, it overwhelms you with its profound sincerity. "Wild Love" is a perfect example of what he's been exploring the last three years. Less indie than any of his other songs, you hear the direct influence that an artist like Frank Ocean has left on pop music. The production is a powerhouse of weird and wild sounds that builds and builds until it ends with lonely sounding vocals. After hearing Electric Light, you'll hope you won't have to wait another three years for the next big leap by James Bay.

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Wide Awake! (CD)

It’s good to have Parquet Courts back. On Wide Awake!, the band sounds as fresh and energetic as ever before — and even more eclectic. The band’s signature lo-fi post-punk sound gets a little funkier, a little bit more cinematic, thanks to ever-so-slightly-polished production from Danger Mouse. It’s danceable, yes, but there’s also a real depth to the lyrical content, with the band delving into police brutality, climate change, gun violence, and political corruption. Wide Awake! is an intriguing evolution for this consistently-excellent band.

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Only For You (CD)
Nedelle Torrisi, who collaborated with Sufjan Stevens and Ariel Pink, dives into dreamy indie pop with an '80s synth flavor on her new record. Accompanying herself on keys, guitar, and violin, she sings airily of self-discovery and love, with a sense of sophistication gleaned from her upbringing in jazz and classical music. The tracks are both summery and swoony with a late-night dance floor sensibility. Read more
7 (CD)

There’s a soft, intimate feel to Beach House’s new LP, 7. The album was recorded in the dream pop duo’s Baltimore home studio with a little help from Sonic Boom (aka Peter Kember), lending perhaps an even more introspective element to the group’s instantly recognizable sound. The pair have skillfully built on their signature sumptuous, drowsy ethereal sound, crafting slow, woozy melodies over which singer Victoria Legrand’s gauzy vocals blissfully drift. 7 proves that Beach House just keep getting better and better.

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Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino (CD)

Arctic Monkeys haven’t had a release with this much anticipation since 2007 when Favourite Worst Nightmare was tasked with following up their record-shattering debut. Originally fashioned as a jittery garage rock 'n roll group in the Strokes mold with a predilection for mouthfuls of sharp, hyper-literate lyrics, Arctic Monkeys had a second wind almost a decade later with 2013’s AM. Ostensibly a reinvention at heart, AM featured a moodier, bluesy set of tunes that was also unabashedly pop friendly: “Do I Wanna Know?” is the band’s most successful single yet on this side of the pond. Almost 5 years since that sonic makeover, the band is once again faced with creating the second act to a career defining album.

 

Leave it to Arctic Monkeys to surprise. With no advance singles to speak of, Tranquility feels like a throwback to the '70s in style and substance. The spirit of glam looms heavily over this album: every song seems to inhabit the same hedonistic, dimly lit lounges that haunt the era, inheriting that louche confidence as well as drunken stumble along the way. “Star Treatment” positions itself as this decade’s “Rock ‘n Roll with Me.” “American Sports” resembles Pulp if sung by the libidinous targets of Jarvis Cocker’s fascination, Ender’s Shadow style. The title track is a baroque funk romp that could have also been titled “Ballad of Maxwell Demon,” packaged on the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack, and would’ve hit the mark much more squarely and convincingly than the Britpop-lite of Shudder To Think. Nowhere on the album do these ‘Monkeys sound at all like they are trying to replicate the ‘Monkeys of AM. The opening couplet of this album goes, “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes.” Don’t be fooled, Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino proves, once again, they can be whoever they want to be.

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Rebound (CD)

Rebound, Eleanor Friedberger's fourth solo record since The Fiery Furnaces' split, changes her usual guitar-based, rock setup to an electronic sound that brings to mind a late-summer sundown in the mid '80s. Tracks like "Make Me A Song" and "Everything" feature shimmery, watery guitar hooks and accents, but the backbone of these tracks are the synth bass lines and programed drum beats, creating a locked in groove and nostalgic mood. Apparently inspired by an '80s goth club in Greece that shares the same name as the album, Friedberger's music manages to reflect its influence while creating more lighthearted and sunny instrumentations for her introspective and yearning lyrics.

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Twerp Verse (CD)

Speedy Ortiz spin out shimmering lo-fi indie tunes with bite on their latest, Twerp Verse. The melodies are still candy sweet in that ‘90s K Records style but the band also dives into deeper, darker territory than ever before. It’s drily witty, catchy, and impactful, tackling topics like depression, harassment, and love gone bad filtered through the lens of our turbulent times. The result is an eminently enjoyable album filled with bright, passionate, and thought-provoking toe-tappers.

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