This is, without a doubt, the last time I ever want to write the words Lana Del Rey. And while the over-saturation factor takes most of the blame, which is more a reflection on our own bizarre fascination as press/bloggers/haters/lovers, the final straw was a direct result of finally hearing Born To Die. Who knows where it all went wrong, whether the flash of brilliance found in "Video Games" was just lucky songwriting or a concept that could have been developed further but instead got stretched thin by label heads and production teams only seeing the green potential of repeating its retro-centric formula. It's probably both; if Lizzy Grant had another Games-level song in her, it would be on this album. Perhaps the scrutinized hype campaign simply crippled the whole thing in a too-much-too-soon scenario, creatively freezing Grant, and leading to the unfortunate studio-polishing of many shallow, half-formed ideas (which, excluding the immediate hook of "Radio", seem to get exceptionally worse in the album's single-less second half). Or, there wasn't much depth to begin with, and this is essentially the system at its worst. Either way, we're all going to give Born to Die at least one spin and try to come to terms with it.
If power-pop bands are supposed to get a little less cheerful with age, San Fransisco's Imperial Teen show little signs of adhering to the curve. Feel The Sound, the band's fifth title in a discography that dates back to 1996, is loaded with uplifting tempos and earworm-prone guy/girl harmonies. It lives up to their reputation as one of Merge's most dependable acts. And if the album's last line is any indication—"Too many songs we sang are left unsung / Another dream unwritten, the record's done"—they seem poised for another 16 years, no problem.
The second DFA release from the UK-based post-punk act, Clay Class picks up right along in the straight-forward styling of their debut: deadpan/shouty vocals meets bleak guitar, bass, and drumbeat repetition. The stubborn simplicity of their 2007 self-titled release garnered all sorts of high brow praise, so this is far from an unwelcome return. And the five year break shows with subtle improvements made. So PDS remains an acquired taste, but luckily not one that changed too much (for those who care).
Australian mulch-instrumentalist Walter De Backer aka Goyte approached his third album with a more controlled pop approach, making shorter and catchier tunes. It worked for him; allowing the various genres covered in previous efforts (futuristic electronica to soulful, 80s-indebted balladry) to intermix in more digestible portions. The Kimbra-featuring "Somebody That I Used to Know" hit big last year, reaching number one single status in Australia and New Zealand, so now with the official release of Making Mirrors in the US, it could see another run altogether, or inspire a few more hits from the album.
A 77 year old legend that needs no introduction returns on his 12 studio album and first since 2004's Dear Heather, thematically introduced as ten songs that "poetically address some of the most profound quandaries of human existence - the relationship to a transcendent being, love, sexuality, loss and death." Normally that's a lot to grasp, but this is Leonard Cohen. And he does so with his usual gravely low-pitched grace, mortality-facing lyrical insight, and well-placed wit as well.
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