Music Reviews

Music Roundup 6/9/20

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We’re here to tell you what’s hot and what’s not on this week’s music roundup

music roundup EOB

EOB – EARTH

Genre: Alternative Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Mass,” “Olympik”

Ed O’Brien is the secret weapon behind most of the best Radiohead songs, if for no other reason than he’s kind of the fifth most thought-of member of Radiohead. That rhythm guitar is no joke and his cooing backing vocals are essential to any great Thom Yorke moment you love (hell, IN RAINBOWS is an O’Brien party and everyone is invited). And lest we forget, he’s the looker of the band (admittedly a low bar). But while the sheer idea of a Radiohead solo project is kind of interesting on paper if for no other reason than to see the effectiveness of any of the given members when isolated, beyond moments in Yorke’s scattered catalog and Greenwood’s score work, it’s kind of a desolate wasteland where you’re left picking out the moments of influence from the Radiohead canon. EARTH isn’t bad per se. It has moments where you can hear O’Brien reaching back as broadly as possible to hit on U2 or Coldplay’s alternative rock success, an especially interesting idea given how vilified both those acts became in the pop realm while Radiohead found ways to subvert and continue their indie rock cred. But that broadness is also what keeps things bland; songs like “Long Time Coming” or “Banksters” feel like cutting room ideas from A MOON SHAPED POOL or HAIL TO THE THIEF, respectively, but without any of the elements of genius that the other band members contribute. O’Brien’s vocals naturally lose the immediate intensity of Yorke, as the reason he’s relegated to backing duties isn’t because he’s a bad singer (he’s fine, I guess) but because he lacks that dizzying, specific falsetto. The longest tracks on the album, “Brasil” and “Olympik,” each ring in at over eight minutes and feel a bit more like O’Brien stretching his legs creatively, some of the house music that the band are so clearly enraptured with making its way into the structure. But even those feel like they never quite know what direction in which to take EARTH; “Olympik” in particular opens with some great IN RAINBOWS vocal melodies that feel fresh but can’t figure out how to stick the landing before launching into the Laura Marling-assisted “Cloak of the Night,” a simple, springy folk song that after eight-and-a-half minutes of static, driving rhythms is whiplash-inducing. There’s SOMETHING in here for any Radiohead fan, I suppose, but more often than not I caught myself thinking of The Beatles sequence in WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY, in which Ringo mentions that he has a song about an octopus before John Lennon snidely remarks “jam it up your ass, you’re lucky we still let you play drums.” Broad is never a direction you want Radiohead to go, and the same stands for EARTH. [CJ Simonson]

Hinds – THE PRETTIEST CURSE

Genre: Indie Pop

Favorite Tracks: “Good Bad Times,” “Come Back and Love Me <3,” “Waiting For You”

I thought a lot about CHAI’s excellent 2019 release PUNK when listening to THE PRETTIEST CURSE. Spanish girl group Hinds spun wheels for the latter half of the 2010s making palatable, specific garage rock that was vocal-forward and explosive—those albums were gripping and a cut above other Burger Records-adjacent acts. With THE PRETTIEST CURSE, the undercurrent of rock they build a foundation on sees a sizable, glistening upgrade not dissimilar to the J-Pop zeel of CHAI, with hints of kaleidoscopic psych pop akin to acts like The Go! Team or even the Flaming Lips. The layered, cool chorus of voices, a mix of sometimes nearly dissonant Spanish deadpan and girlish pop shrieks, acted as as the almost overwhelming centerpiece on their previous, spacious material, but here with smoother, brighter guitars and huge pop hooks those voices blends into an appropriately welcoming style. Opener “Good Bad Times” is a pretty instant introduction to this explosive pop shift in sound, the bass line alone more like a Tame Impala song than anything in the band’s discography, a mix of Spanish and English lyrics building into a confetti blast for the insanely catchy chorus. Traces of their old sound remain. Take a track like “Burn,” where you can hear a different, more pared-down version of it as it plays out, just amp up the vocal mix, give it a dryer, less synthetic drum tone, and strip away some of the production and you have something like Harlem or Nobunny or any of Hinds’ earlier work—that guitar soloing throughout would especially crush on their previous albums. But here there’s just a brighter spring to the song, the glittery gang vocals of the chorus alone a house party more than a garage rock session, and that guitar solo blends right into everything else going on. At a spry 32 minutes, Hinds don’t wear out that sonic aesthetic at all either, keeping the party going from minute one even if that run could use more variance; the acoustic Spanish street ballading that the group use as a building block on “Come Back And Love Me <3” is one of the more distinctive songs on the record, and THE PRETTIEST CURSE could’ve used one or two more of those to give a bit more texture even if the party’s over far too quickly for you to even really notice on a first or second listen. It’s an excellent transition from a band who easily could’ve kept fans happy with more of the same and a surprisingly fun pop record in mostly miserable times. [CJ Simonson]

music roundup No Age

No Age – GOONS BE GONE

Genre: Noise Pop

Favorite Tracks: “Feeler,” “War Dance,” “Toes in the Water,” “Puzzled,” “Head Sport Full Face”

It’s not No Age’s fault. In the cultural and sociopolitical climate we’re living in, it’s become hard not to view anything we consume through the lens of the here and now. And it’s a shame, because by all accounts, GOONS BE GONE is absolutely a top contender for the duo’s most essential release since their indie-heyday debut a cavernous 12 years ago. Full of spark and vitality, Randy Randall and Dean Spunt deliver their shtick the most stripped-back and essentialized we’ve heard in quite some time, all ‘90s Pavement guitar squall, Sleaford Mods snarl (without the enunciation, obviously), noisy production, Parquet Courts presence, and starkly evocative garage-indebted drumming. It’s a little bit of Japandroids, it’s a little bit of Wavves before he was a landlord, it’s a little bit of demo-era Los Campesinos!, is that a little bit of Superchunk on “War Dance”? It honestly goddamn might be. Hell, we can even add some of the lo-fi scuzz of online emo darlings nouns to the mix if we’re feeling nasty. In short, it’s very similar to a lot of things that sound good, and by all accounts, it’s good itself. After the swing-and-a-miss of 2013’s AN OBJECT and the revitalized proof of concept of 2018’s SNARES LIKE A HAIRCUT, GOONS BE GONE treads over familiar ground but feels like the group actually came together to determine what makes them tick and delivered on the concept. In many ways, it feels like the most lived-in No Age album to date, whether that be because of their advancing age, the larger weariness of the world at large, or a more invested sense of composition and pacing. But what it does not feel like, and again, truly through no fault of its own, is essential in June of 2020. It’s agitated, sure, but not in a way with much forward momentum. It’s frustrated, yes, but without a pointed impetus behind those feelings. In short, it’s music for COVID, not the absolute upheaval of the police state. I wish I was hearing it at literally any other moment than the present one, but sometimes, them’s the breaks. Save for when we’ve made some tangible improvements. [Thomas Seraydarian]

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