We’re here to tell you what’s hot and what’s not on this week’s music roundup
Cherry Glazerr – STUFFED & READY
Genre: Glam Grunge
Favorite Tracks: “Ohio,” “Daddi,” “That’s Not My Real Life”
On Cherry Glazerr’s STUFFED AND READY, the typically raw and prickly band takes off their ripped fishnets and slip into something a little more sleek and pop-polished. Still maintaining riling guitar runs and a subtle dark edge, STUFFED AND READY takes the production level-up, so to speak, that began on APOCALIPSTIC up another notch. While the heightened production quality adds a lot, it sands down a portion of the edge that made Cherry Glazerr, Cherry Glazerr. That gritty, DIY feel has been largely shed for a slightly-darker-than-average garage rock band. STUFFED AND READY is bookended with merit, with a somewhat average filling in the middle. The beginning has moments like “Ohio,” “Daddi,” and “That’s Not My Real Life,” which provide clean, guitar-heavy glam grunge, and the final two songs, “Stupid Fish” and “Distressor,” are the first two times where the album actually sounds like Cherry Glazerr, with strained and dirty vocals over a searing backing.
The middle stretch ends up being perfectly fine but perfectly forgettable variations of the first few songs, which represent the new era of Cherry Glazerr, as they will have to continue to make songs like “Daddi” to be heard above their new contemporaries of produced modern rock.The lyrical content is one of the few remaining bastions of the original band iteration, with abstract and intricate lines like “smoking makes me taste like metal / to keep you away,” and “I will be your naked tree / Take my leaves if that’s what you want from me,” which feel more in line with the Cherry Glazerr of albums past. Truly dark lyrics and song themes, like those appearing on “Daddi,” where the song asks “who should I fuck Daddi? / Is it you?” are where the band goes into some truly vulnerable places. “Daddi” issues are a recurring trope, appearing in “Stupid Fish,” where lead singer Clementine Creevy laments how “I see myself in you [implied to be a father figure], and that’s why I fucking hate you,” not to mention an entire song dedicated to resisting and escaping the oppressive and overbearing ghost of a father. Lyrically, Cherry Glazerr have maintained their specific edge. Despite feeling like a softer version of the band, they are creating serviceable, introspective, polished garage rock. [Tapley Eaton]
HEALTH – VOL. 4 :: SLAVES FOR FEAR
Genre: Noise Rock
Favorite Tracks: lol
Your friend invites you to join him on a trip to a satanic haunted house that he and a few of his friends run. Well, “friend” might be a stretch—fringe-friend would be more accurate. You’ve met maybe twice at a party and you don’t know how he got your phone number. It sounds like extremely not your scene, but you went to one a few years ago and you vaguely remember enjoying it.
You arrive and everyone else there looks as if they got together and dumped buckets of black paint on their clothes, hair, and nails. Nobody is even pretending to have fun. Good start. You follow the group inside the house and the first room is a bit chiller than you remember, with only a mild jump scare or two until you begin to move on to the next room, where everyone starts screaming at the top of their lungs. You text a couple group chats and ask them to call the police in an hour if they haven’t heard from you again. The next room is nastier, but largely forgettable. Room number three has the words “GOD BOTHERER” painted everywhere in fake blood and you briefly consider becoming religious just to spite them. The following two rooms are super boring, but at least you are not in physical pain.
Behind a curtain lies the next room, fitted with a number of projectors screening various NC-17 movies, the coolest type of film. Room seven is blasting royalty-free stadium pump-up music and it takes everything in your power not to laugh out loud. Your friend gets way too close to your face and whispers, “Welcome to RAT WARS.” You tip your cap because the phrase “rat wars” is honestly pretty badass. Just as you feel like you’re sweetening on the place, the leader, who goes by the name Onyx Blood, flatly says, “Pain / We take more pills / Each moment wounds / The last one kills / Life, a mystery / Euphoria and misery.” You are beginning to suspect we live in a society. A ghostly projection of Joe Rogan appears on the wall and asks if you’ve ever taken a mescaline suppository. Marc Maron, wearing Joker makeup, wants to know, “Who are your guys?” As the tour is ending your friend makes sure to remind you that “We want to be different / But we don’t want to try too hard.” Yeah, no shit.
That’s what it feels like to listen to this album. Don’t waste your time. [Ryan Moloney]
Homeshake – HELIUM
Genre: Indie Pop
Favorite Tracks: “Early,” “Anything At All,” “All Night Long,” “Trudi Lou,” “Just Like My,” “Nothing Could Be Better,” Other Than,” “Another Thing,” “Couch Cushion,” “Secret Track”
I want to dislike Homeshake because I dress like exactly the type of dude who loves Homeshake, but I’ll be damned if Peter Sagar doesn’t give me more reasons to idolize him with every new release. HELIUM is an album that I wish I had made. It’s an album that makes me want to be like this guy in Orlando and sell my soul for enough money to buy a Korg Poly 61 and a tape machine so I can have access to the same recording quality that Sagar has. HELIUM is playful, poppy, bubbly, and effectively vintage without sounding like hipster cosplay. Sagar’s lyrics adopt humorous Larry David apathy, as best evidenced on the single “Just Like My.” An artist who hates performing and openly talks about how much he loves to stay home, Sagar is the angel on your shoulder flashing you a thumbs up while simultaneously telling you to give up because nothing you’re doing matters that much anyways. His forte, however, is as a producer; the analog synthesis on HELIUM is perfect, with antique pads setting a blocky backdrop for hip hop-y mono saw leads. There are less guitars and live drums than on previous Homeshake records, making it hard to imagine the tracks on HELIUM coming to life on stage, but the record ultimately proves that Sagar’s production chops are the best in the indie rock sphere. There is exactly one thing that I don’t absolutely love about HELIUM, which is the track “Like Mariah.” It’s not a bad song, but it’s a little too ‘80s sounding and doesn’t sit comfortably alongside the rest of the album. So yeah, that’s the one thing I don’t completely adore about HELIUM, but if you’re into indie pop bands like Crumb, Mild High Club, and Infinite Bisous, stop reading this review and go listen to this record right now because it’s probably going to be your favorite album of the year. [Ted Davis]
Ladytron – S/T
Favorite Tracks: “You’ve Changed,” “Horrorscope”
One of the best lessons I learned in my time at Crossfader was that no one willingly makes bad art, and that you always have to factor in artistic intent when critiquing something. You don’t have to think that a piece of art fulfilled their stated goal to appreciate it, and there are certainly times when the intent is ambiguous, but it should always linger in the back of your mind regardless. Keeping this in mind, Ladytron’s first album in eight years fails in a very basic way; as the album cover of two idiots running into a raging fire indicates, these long-running poptronica Brits are trying to cultivate a dystopian, menacing ambience, and they succeed on, at most, two songs. It reminded me a lot of Phantogram’s THREE, mostly because they have suspiciously similar artwork, but also because they showcase utterly misguided attempts at dangerous, edgier material from genre-hopping synthpop acts. But at least THREE has “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore,” a fantastic recreation of a slowly deteriorating relationship set to grinding industrial bombast. I don’t see anything even close to that redeeming about LADYTRON.
Part of the problem are the vocals courtesy of Helen Marnie and Mira Arroyo. There are some pretty harmonies, but neither has any palpable charisma to support the grand instrumental presentation, and their attempts to sound dangerous and commanding are awkward and unconvincing. The ethereal tones and synth-flutes of GRAVITY THE SEDUCER was much better for their delivery, not that the lyrical content helps them out here. “The Island” has nice flutters of keys and a compelling vocal melody, but it also features embarrassingly melodramatic “social commentary” on lines like “We are sirens of the apocalypse” and “Falling fast, falling harder / Falling faster in all of the chains that bind us” that belong in a Bring Me The Horizon song. The language and imagery on “Tower of Glass,” “The Animals,” and “The Mountain” are trying so hard to say something, to build this epic parable to comment on our society, and yet the singing doesn’t sell the majesty and there’s no atmosphere to support them. Add onto it the fact that none of the textures are remotely heavy or dark, it’s utterly devoid of any vocal or instrumental hooks, and it wears out its welcome and slides into tedium in record-time, and you have a record that fails to fulfils its purpose or be enjoyable on any other level. [Blake Michelle]
Jessica Pratt – QUIET SIGNS
Genre: Freak Folk
Favorite Tracks: “As The World Turns,” “Fare Thee Well,” “Poly Blue,” “This Time Around,” “Aeroplane”
Jessica Pratt’s QUIET SIGNS comes as a great pacifier in a world of noise. I’m trying to avoid the adjectives that stereotypically characterize folk artists—”plaintive,” “dreamy,” “confessional,” “raw”—because this record feels much more hymnal than the usual ilk. Whatever your religiosity, few spirituals can argue that anything is more reverent than human humility, and QUIET SIGNS is so free of vanity, so free of asking to be heard, that you won’t even realize Pratt is singing actual words between the cooing of vowels unless you lean in and graciously offer your undivided attention. Between the humming and strumming, Pratt circles a pool of hindsight, rippling delicately with regret, “I don’t wanna find that I’ve been marching / Under the crueler side of the fight / It makes me want to cry” (“This Time Around”). But what’s scarier than unpacking the past and finding that it’s sour, is reliving the same sins in the future—time moving forward without waiting for a better version of yourself to catch up. Pratt ruminates, “I know this world is turnin’ / . . . And it’s so long before my future’s come / Drawn in sand and on, on” (“As The World Turns”); we might not know the full narrative, hearing only the half-formed thoughts of melancholy daydreams, but it’s clear that Pratt is chewing time over like soft gum in her mouth in order to better diffuse the ache of What If’s and Why Did I’s. And, like a vague sense memory, her retrospection is shadowed not with pomp and circumstance, but with shy, cyclical finger-sweeps on an acoustic guitar and her gauzy voice parting the fog, sometimes unassumingly stippled by a flute, a synth, a piano, or a tambourine. There is no disputing Pratt’s stylistic comparisons to the likes of Vashti Bunyan, Sibylle Baier, or even her contemporary Angel Olsen, but she stands out with hushed aplomb, if not simply by her discreet studio polish and chimerical melodies, but by her simple, sober lullabies. QUIET SIGNS suggests that maybe the cacophony is what’s stunting the journey forward; maybe the only way out is to first quietly look in. [Sienna Kresge]
Sir Babygirl – CRUSH ON ME
Genre: Indie Pop
Favorite Tracks: “Flirting With Her,” “Haunted House,” “Pink Lite”
Why isn’t this an EP? It’s only 26 minutes, with two reprises that are begging to be fleshed out and a outro that could have been condensed to about 25 seconds and tacked onto another song. If you can look past its frustrating brevity and a cutesy veneer stitched together from an unknown number of layers of irony (she lists TIM AND ERIC AWESOME SHOW as a major influence and her dog is named Baby Diva), you’ll find a worthwhile fusion of forthright power-pop and PC Music-esque digital DIY production; think Dream Wife with just as much Hole worship, less sepia-toned folk, and a lot more synthesizers. Babygirl’s unpolished cooing and belting are a good fit for these very raw sentiments, and the bedroom production does a great job of throwing her right at the front of the mix when she needs to be abrasive, or drowning her among vocal layers to simulate falling into a hazy, drunken stupor. The clear highlight is “Flirting With Her,” a horny, unabashedly gay anthem complete with crunchy, serrated guitar work out of a Hot Snakes song, but it’s supported by the driving, urgent beat and frenetic handclaps and delivery of “Haunted House” and the cacophonous yet tightly controlled “Pink Lite.” There are a few moments of disappointing anonymity, especially her flat, bleary-eyed performance in the first half of “Everyone is a Bad Friend” that wastes some nice guitar jangling, and the two reprises showcase some interesting stabs at baroque pop and acoustic emo that ultimately aren’t given enough time to develop. However, CRUSH ON ME’s abruptness also leaves you no excuse to not check it out and appreciate Sir Babygirl’s charisma and unique presentation. [Blake Michelle]