Month: January 2018

A Deeper Understanding – The War On Drugs

As their fourth full-length release and follow up to 2014’s monumental Lost in the Dream, the Philadelphia outfit takes another step further along the path that is characteristically “The War On Drugs” with A Deeper Understanding. Meticulously crafted with a magnifying glass over 80’s and late 70’s-esque synth orchestral, Adam Granduciel and team willfully pinpoint ambience over the manifest of sounds that got them here. From the long stretching ballads like “Strangest Thing” and head-bobbing drives with “Holding On”, A Deeper Understanding contains all the cast of characters you adored about the group from their previous releases, but look no further that the kickoff song, “Up All Night” for the primary differentiator. Substituting trashcan snares over a piano bedrock, it certainly seems to come off as contrary to their rooted manuscript, but the song hits home as it carries on (in layman’s terms, it’s fair to say the band won’t be going full-electronic any time soon…). And with their knee-jerk tendencies of throwing in a ripping, reverb-laden guitar solo over the melodic drone of acoustic guitar on “Pain”, or anthem-like luscious synth-layering on “Strangest Thing”, A Deeper Understanding couldn’t be more of a classic The War On Drugs release. Slight and menial differences aside, prop this release next to Lost in the Dream on the record shelf, because albums like this don’t come around very often (in fact, The War On Drugs albums don’t come very often), and it’s a fantastic starting point if you are unfamiliar with the group.

Masseduction – St. Vincent

An orchestra of electro-pop synths and hip hop beats, guitar slaying, domination, and sentiment. If Annie Clark didn’t before, she definitely owns you now. Economically, emotionally, socially, sexually, and even a tad bit affectionately, Annie Clark is just on a different wave length than most folks. Except this time, John Congleton (Explosions in the Sky, Angel Olsen) is partnered with the pop-wonderboy, Jack Antonoff (Lorde, Taylor Swift) behind the production board. And with a long list of collaborators (Jenny Lewis, Pino Palladino, Kamasi Washington) adding their two cents beside the powerhouse producing duo, St. Vincent’s latest release with Masseduction is undeniably the shredding glam-rock and fuzz-synth pop gem we’ve waited for. As if she didn’t prove it enough on 2014’s self-titled release, St. Vincent’s knack for morphing from a piano hall balladeer to a dominatrix-esque guitar virtuoso is like nothing seen before, and Masseduction plunges deep into both oddly disparate caricatures. Numbers like “Pills”, “Hang On Me” and “Los Ageless” explore a jungle of drum machines, breakdowns, and twisting guitar solos with the inner Prince and Bowie as the guiding light. But nothing tips the scale quite like the title track, “Masseduction”—a pumping backbeat, twisting and ripping guitar work, and even lyrics about manipulation like manhandling weapons. Seducing lyrics, destructive soundscapes, and domination—so about that part where Annie Clark owns you? After all, she does sing ‘I can’t turn off what turns me on’…

The verdict?

It’s all there. Guitar-laden melodies, driving backbeats, piano ballads, and an orator-esque style of lyrics and vocals, it’s all there.

Capacity – Big Thief

A starkly somber and humanizing reminder of the feckless struggle between yin and yang, man and woman, child and adult, and body and society. And without the slightest sense of regret in self loathing or pity, Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker and co. recount anecdotal lyrics to the hum of a band ever-so present in the backdrop of the grand scheme. Frail and soft vocals up front, folk and lo-fi pop behind, and cast in an ethereal demeanor, Capacity is the glowing light that spans from melodramatic realism to avant-garde acoustic folk. With 2016’s Masterpiece in the backseat (and rightfully dubbed a masterpiece), songs like “Watering” and “Great White Shark” display perfect dynamics between melodic vocals, driving instrumentals and ambience. And as if seasoned musicianship wasn’t on display before, “Shark Smile” casts a light in case there were any doubts.