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Solids
Blame Confusion - FAT POSSUM
FILTER Grade: 80%

By Robert Rea on March 14, 2014

 

Solids

On their debut, Montreal duo Solids come out swinging and never let up. Back to front, Blame Confusion consists of balls-to-the-wall bangers. When the pace slows down, it isn’t by much.To occasionally offset the breakneck speed, a heavy dose of distortion and feedback complements their single-hook formula, filling the space behind each basic three-chord structure. The title track accelerates through the steady beat of Louis Guillemette’s kick drum before reaching a fist-pumping crescendo that smashes into a reverberating wall of noise. Looking for the perfect anthem to piss off your neighbors while throwing a house party? Open all the doors and blast “Traces” at full volume. “Just let the...

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Metronomy
Love Letters - BECAUSE MUSIC/ELEKTRA
FILTER Grade: 84%

By Kathy Iandoli on March 14, 2014

 

Metronomy

A lot has changed since Metronomy delivered 2011’s The English Riviera. New bands emerged, successfully recreating the UK outfit’s critically acclaimed breed of electro-pop-slash-rock. Their latest endeavor Love Letters has rough patches, starting with the falsetto opener “The Upsetter,” moving right into the follow-up “I’m Aquarius.” Metronomy has never been about particularly stellar vocals, rather it’s the sum of their parts that keep us here. Love Letters unwrinkles by “Monstrous,” as lead singer Joseph Mount vulnerably coos, “Promise me that you’ll follow me/I couldn’t stand to be alone.” The title track oozes a jazzy instrumental that waits (a little too long) before Mount enters....

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Aloe Blacc
Lift Your Spirit - XIX/INTERSCOPE
FILTER Grade: 85%

By A. D. Amorosi on March 13, 2014

 

Aloe Blacc

Southern California indie-hop and soul sensation Aloe Blacc follows up his piano-pounding multi-million-selling hit “I Need a Dollar” with a major label debut filled with the sound of his smoky baritone voice, front and center. While the album’s first single, “The Man,” is nothing too unique to write home about, the stirring acoustic number “Wake Me Up,” the handsomely nervous “Ticking Bomb” and the sarcastic “Red Velvet Seat” offer brilliant, better options of Blacc’s observational lyricism and buoyant vocal tones. 

James Vincent McMorrow
Post Tropical - VAGRANT
FILTER Grade: 85%

By Christian Koons on March 13, 2014

 

James Vincent McMorrow

James Vincent McMorrow’s self-produced sophomore album Post Tropical sees the Irish musician leaving behind the traditional instrumentation of his debut for more atmospheric and rhythm-and-blues influenced song structures. Fans of his earlier work will recognize his Dublin-tinged falsetto and magnetic melodies, but what’s most evident about Post Tropical is McMorrow’s creativity and skill in the studio. Sonic treats pepper the entire record, from the off-kilter wind chime plinks on opener “Cavalier” to the synesthesia-inducing waterfall harps on “The Lakes” and “Gold.” His accented cooing and electronic instrumental elements will doubtlessly draw James Blake comparisons, and the...

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Drive-By Truckers
English Oceans - ATO
FILTER Grade: 84%

By Adam Pollock on March 12, 2014

 

Drive-By Truckers

In the 15-plus years of perfecting their unique brand of somewhere-between-REM-and-Lynyrd-Skynryd urban-hillbilly-alterna-rock, Drive-By Truckers have never made an album that sounds as good as English Oceans. The geetars are as crisp as 100-dollar bills, vocals more in-your- face than a protester at the height of a rally; it’s a resounding success, at least from an artistic standpoint. The new album came together quickly, apparently, with dual singers/tunesmiths Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley sharing writing chores equally. The result: an extremely even, focused and pleasurable listen. The typical Drive-By stories still abound—those of drunken family members; bored, mad, and indifferent...

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Dan Croll
Sweet Disarray - CAPITOL
FILTER Grade: 82%

By Laura Studarus on March 12, 2014

 

Dan Croll

Dan Croll comes out of the gate on his debut album Sweet Disarray with a sound that suggests Paul McCartney with a taste for Afro-pop, rock, electronics and the occasional grand-sweeping, Paul Simon–style folk gesture. (It should come as no surprise that Macca has endorsed the singer/songwriter.) In all, Croll performs a remarkable juggling act that never crosses over into clever-for-clever’s-sake. A rare debut, as well crafted as it is likeable. 

Dean Wareham
Dean Wareham - DOUBLE FEATURE
FILTER Grade: 85%

By Alejandro Rubio on March 11, 2014

 

Dean Wareham

It either takes a lot of patience or a lot of gall for Dean Wareham to release his first full-length solo album nearly 30 years after he began his musical tenure (first with Galaxie 500, then with Luna and Dean & Britta), but what’s more surprising is that many people are still not familiar with Wareham, despite his influence on the sound of so many of those bands crammed in your side bag and milk crates. But for those of you who are familiar with Wareham, this album is not simply a parody of what he’s done in the past; instead it comes across as an exploration of musical influences and space. Songs like “Heartless People” and “My Eyes Are Blue” sound stripped-down, but like the rest of...

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Elbow
The Take Off and Landing of Everything - CONCORD
FILTER Grade: 81%

By Nevin Martell on March 10, 2014

 

Elbow

You slow down as you get older, or so the saying goes. Such is the case of Elbow. The songs on their sixth studio set unfurl languidly, in delicate slow motion. Opener “This Blue World” meanders past the seven-minute marker in search of a payoff that it never quite finds. Yet, there are flashes of rewarding vigor from the Mancunian fivesome. “Charge,” a slowly loping mood setter, would have been the perfect soundtrack for a desert driving sequence in Natural Born Killers, while “Fly Boy Blue/Lunette” is punctuated by the squall of strings and feedback fuzz. This is stately, gentlemanly music—the sound of aging gracefully.

Against Me!
Transgender Dysphoria Blues - TOTAL TREBLE
FILTER Grade: 82%

By A. D. Amorosi on March 7, 2014

 

Against Me!

Part of you tries to be objective about the fact that Tom James Gabel is now Laura Jane Grace, and just go about the business of Against Me!’s sleek, crunching nu-punk with angst-laden lyrics. But, as the record’s title suggests, it’s not something meant to be ignored and, thankfully, Grace is in-your-face with an aggressively told tale of selfhood (to say nothing of the heartbreak of loss) at its most exposed and anthemic. The title track and “True Trans Soul Rebel” act as a one-two-punch introduction to Grace’s gall, with the guttural “Drinking with the Jocks” an icy ode to the hazards of the life she once looked upon.  The desire to find oneself—whatever self or skin...

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NO
El Prado - ARTS & CRAFTS
FILTER Grade: 79%

By Mischa Pearlman on March 7, 2014

 

NO

There are more than a few moments on this debut album from LA’s NO where singer Bradley Hanan Carter sounds exactly like The National’s Matt Berninger—the sad way he slurs his words in “Stay With Me,” for example, or the lament that is “Another Life.” There are others, namely opener “Leave the Door Wide Open” and “Monday,” where his voice takes on the tremulous tone of Interpol’s Paul Banks. At times, most notably on “North Star,” it’s an eerie combination of the two. Yet while these comparisons could be detrimental—offering up an unconvincing, watered-down version of those acts— where El Prado’s 13 songs succeed is by referencing them and then moving on, filling in the gaps with...

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