When The Big Pink's massive electro-rock sound arrived amidst the contrasting boom of smallscale bedroom acts in 2009, it was refreshing, or at least something to marvel at. On the strength of stadium-sized sing-alongs like "Velvet" and "Dominos", the British duo experienced a pop-level breakthrough campaign for their debut LP A Brief History of Love, which found them opening arena shows for Muse, and also set themselves up for that near impossible to orchestrate correctly, follow-up album. If the MGMT route of experimental reinvention/fanbase redirection is one way to go about it, The Big Pink seem to have attempted the very opposite on Future This: broader, more accessible strokes of the same. This strategy might lose some critics but will no doubt keep their rise on pace; "Stay Gold" and "Hit The Ground (Superman)" will both make fine hits, even if they don't improve on a formula.
Electronic journeyman Matthew Dear never leaves the cycle for too long; he seems to be a workaholic and also gets harder to classify with every release. 2010's Black City offered up a starker and darker tone, and further embraced a shift towards putting his voice in the center of things. As a four track lead-up to a full length due later this year, Headcage adds a little pep to his latest step, and also introduces collaboration—Jonny Pierce of The Drums shows up on "In the Middle (I Met You There)", along with some co-production help from Van Rivers and the Subliminal Kid on its title track.
After getting some 2010 buzz from a handful of bandcamp releases and remixes of Grizzly Bear and Dom, New York's Alec Feld aka Expensive Looks let momentum slip a bit in the long wait between pulsing single "Vanishers" and his proper LP debut over a year later. As it tends to do, time sorts it all out though, as Dark Matters feels thorough, even if a bit past the height of rave-ready psych-pop. The rapid fire of beats, textures, and long-gone blasted vocals hit in a style that some folks may have already grown tired of, but nonetheless, they are reliably rhythmic, and worthy of the term, jams.
Yes it seems the music world still searches for a band to call the next Strokes; we yearn for a return of fun guitar music and then when something come along that directly recalls it we generally call out 'derivative'. Such may be the story for Howler, a young group of Minneapolis brats who make dangerously catchy power-pop, packaged in easy to digest, three minute doses. Take your pick of singles. America Give Up is not the least bit original but hey, it's pretty enjoyable from a certain distance, so let's just let these guys have their run.
On her 4th album, Canadian alt-country underdog Kathleen Edwards comes out from her usual singer/songwriter shell to render something more direct and heartfelt, and also relevant, given the vocal back-up and production hand from her boyfriend, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. Simply put, Voyageur is a very pretty record with a lot of substance. It won't convert fans too far outside of its folk-oriented niche, but there's a lot of them out there, and it deserves their time.
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