Sometimes albums start to pile up because I have a hard time to get motivated to write a full-on review. Sometimes people don’t want to read full reviews anyways. If this is you, it’s your lucky day!
James Blake – “Overgrown”
James Blake, the crooner of the post-dubstep movement. Doesn’t that just sound ridiculous and pretentious? Yes, but don’t let it keep you from giving James Blake a listen. His albums require the right mood; they are slow and moody and often minimalist. But at their best, the highest highs are high indeed. “Overgrown” and “Life Round Here” are highlights, with “Life Round Here” being a gem on a good pair of headphone. And “Retrograde” is an absolute knockout that will get under your skin in a dark room.
Guards – “In Guards We Trust”
Guards certainly merit some early MGMT comparisons at their best, especially on tracks like “1 & 1”, where the group vocals and psychedelic touch swell. Too bad there aren’t a lot of moments like this one. Guards have a knack for interesting alternative rock songs, and the album is overall worth listening too, but there’s just something missing that keeps it from being too memorable.
Youngblood Hawke – “Wake Up”
Maybe you were like me and you were intrigued by the high energy, super fun “We Come Running” that has made the rounds in the backgrounds of just about every tv show trailer. Let me save you some time and urge you to stay clear. Yes, “We Come Running” is good, but the rest of the album is a study in repetition, following a nearly identical pattern all the way through until the songs aren’t distinguishable from one another. “Ahhs” and “wooah-ooohs” and uptempo synth rock abound, and abound again and again and again. There’s potential here, but it’s seldom realized.
The 1975– “The 1975”
Disappointment can come in many ways, and one of those ways is the disappointment of unrealized expectations. So let’s be clear, there are some AWESOME songs on this album. “Chocolate” will be in my year-end top ten I’m sure. “Sex” is like a cheeky British Jimmy Eat World song. “City” and “Robbers” are strong as well. The rest is nearly rubbish, and it’s tough, because there is so much talent here. The 1975 prove here they can write brilliant tracks if they know what direction they want to go in. There’s ambient rock here, there’ pop rock here, and there’s alt rock here. When they get the mix right, they win, but most the time they lose. $4 towards the 4 songs mentioned is a much better use for your money than buying the whole album.
I promised myself I wouldn’t waste too much breath on MGMT, who manage to almost make me angry. I’m stuffing this review down here in an attempt to keep myself from getting carried away. So yes, MGMT, I am one of your legions of fans that adored “Time to Pretend”, that thinks “Kids” was amazing, and who played “Weekend Wars” repeatedly. You got huge on a psychedelic pop rock, and then you decided to drop the pop and the rock part and just go full on psychedelic. In interviews, you’ve made it clear you’re intentionally trying to alienate fans of songs that got accidentally popular. Well, consider me alienated, MGMT, good job. Your album reeks of ego. If you’re gonna pull a full on Thom Yorke with “Creep”, at least pull a Thom Yorke and make a line of flipping fantastic Radiohead albums. Instead you give us this: a hyper-weird, directionless, meandering mess of psychedelica, pretty okay up front, and awful in the back half. To make matters worse, it has teases. There are glimpses of the band I loved in here. You can hear it on “A Good Sadness” most of all, and you can hear it a little on “Alien Days”. Believe me, I’ve reviewed music as a hobby for about seven years now, and I’m very capable of both analyzing and loving some truly weird music. To me it’s not about diving deep and understanding what they’re doing, because I’m not convinced they’re being anything but egotistical and contrarian. MGMT are a talented group, and they are frustrating, because they don’t want to be who we want them to be. That’s their choice and their lives and it’s their music, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.