June 15, 2012 |
*** (out of four) The Smashing Pumpkins are back. Well, Billy Corgan and his latest version of the band, at least. But don't let that turn you off. "Oceania," the first full-length Pumpkins album since 2007's "Zeitgeist," is the best thing Corgan and Co. have produced in quite some time. Longtime fans will hear hints of the grungy, vicious band of the "Gish" era and also the mellow, almost pop "Adore" era. It's a mix that works. Album opener "Quasar," driven by Mike Byrne's thunderous drums, kicks off "Oceania," and it's the perfect introduction to the latest in the Pumpkins' "Teargarden By Kaleidyscope" project.
July 24, 2012 |
***1/2 (out of four) I really didn't want to like Passion Pit's latest album, “Gossamer.” I'm still having flashbacks from 2009-2010 when repeated plays of “Sleepyhead” ruined every party I attended, and when everyone was grumbling about how boring the rest of the “Manners” album was. How much more could this five-piece band really offer after such a surge of success from one singular pop anthem hit? A lot, as it turns out. Born out of a “Hey, why not?” thought from frontman Michael Angelakos, Passion Pit goes much deeper for its sophomore effort, with Angelakos leading the charge to open some salty wounds from his troubles with alcoholism, depression and the ilk that often accompany overnight success.
May 30, 2012 |
***1/2 (out of four) If Japandroids' raw, spectacular smash-and-grab 2009 debut “Post-Nothing” sounded like a guitarist and drummer cranking out an album before the world exploded, the Vancouver rockers' sophomore record “Celebration Rock” sounds like a band truly enjoying a last hurrah before it's over. It's not so much “Let's show that apocalypse what we think of it!” as “If it's all over tomorrow, we know we made the most of tonight.” And it's an epic, focused soundtrack to memories.
July 23, 2012 |
**1/2 (out of four) Purity Ring's rise to indie prominence follows what is now a familiar narrative. Distant collaborators create tracks over email. Said handful of tracks get enormously hyped by eager bloggers. Collaborators embark on tour on the strength of those tracks. Within a year, the group is headlining the Pitchfork Festival side stage - all before ever releasing an actual album. It speaks to the odd climate of the contemporary music industry that the release of the group's debut, “Shrines,” serves almost as a retrospective.
September 24, 2012 |
Mumford & Sons may seem like a blend of some of the world's most annoying archetypes, from the guy who starts playing the guitar at parties to the guy who dresses like a mixologist. The Brits' songs all tend to follow a similar formula: bluegrass hoedown crescendos into bombastic indie-rock sing-a-long. These things can make a band easy to resent, particularly for the cynical observer who might also note the group's air of focus-grouped appeal. But there are certain benefits to being such a seemingly risk-averse band.
January 14, 2013 |
***1/2 (out of four) There aren't many second acts for former stars of non-competition reality TV series. For Dawn Richard, formerly of “Making the Band” group Danity Kane and Bad Boy R&B experiment Diddy-Dirty Money, the story is just getting interesting. Richard's solo debut, “Goldenheart,” is a fiercely distinct, self-contained hour of freewheeling, genre-bending music. It opens with an interpretation of Phil Collins' “In The Air Tonight,” then plays with sounds that could pass for an Enya/Sade collaboration and dips into the occasional burst of house music.
March 11, 2013 |
**1/2 (out of four) Though Wild Belle's name suggests untamed beauty, the Chicago band's music might better be thought of as a refining of ugliness. On the duo's full-length debut, “Isles,” bitter feelings, heartbreaks and letdowns are all dressed up in the veneer of carefully arranged vocals and laid back dub rhythms. To the point that it almost seems like there's nothing wrong at all. The warm, familiar blend of throwback R&B, reggae and indie pop - think Amy Winehouse with more offbeat guitars and the occasional drum machine - will be an ideal soundtrack for the sunny days of late spring and early summer.
August 30, 2012 |
0.5 stars (out of four) Matchbox Twenty (or Matchbox 20 as they previously were known) fall into a very specific category of late-'90s nostalgia that also houses Third Eye Blind (still LOVE) and Train (horrifying). I figured Rob Thomas 'n' the gang would fall somewhere in the middle with their first full album of new material in a decade … oh, how wrong I was. Is Matchbox Twenty kind of terrible now? Or am I just not 14 anymore? Here's my track-by-track, knee-jerk analysis.