“Lost in Time and Space”, the first track of Lord Huron’s new record Vide Noir, is not a sign of things to come – but I thought it was. “Great, more space-y stuff.” Not that it’s a bad thing, but sometimes when acts embrace the psychedelia and the reverb of the cosmos they overdo it. Not this band: for their major label debut they wisely go the subtle route and produce a record where the cosmic inspiration is merely apparent. You can hear it in the reverb, yes; you can hear it in just how more intense (read: bassy) it sounds. But they don’t overegg the pudding. Underneath it all the act is still the purveyor of dreamy Americana that they always were, but it just feels more fresh, more distinct, more potent. And suddenly “Lost in Time and Space” becomes a sign of things to come, not sonically, but thematically: how everything seems serene before take-off, when the rocket lifts and you’re uncertain and apprehensive and yet excited. The cosmic metaphor isn’t that literal, mind you, but it feels that thrilling. [NB] | 4/5
There is a contradiction running across Primal Heart, the third full-length from Kimbra. On one hand, I did expect the album to sound a little more obscure: she’s been mining the depths of funk, soul and jazz on one hand, and fringe-y elements of electronic music on the other, from the release of The Golden Echo to this point. If anyone could merge the two, it’s her. And she does, but then, the result isn’t exactly what I expected. It’s both (slightly) difficult and also more mainstream; it’s both obscure and obvious. At some points you easily get what she’s going for and how she’s spinning it; at others you’re bathed in weirdness that, while not as far out as the previous album’s “90s Music”, takes a while to figure out. And that’s an interesting stumbling block for Primal Heart. It sounds more accessible for some reason, but it isn’t. The clear influences mean Kimbra is somewhat forced to be more reverential rather than to innovate – no bursts of joy, or whimsy, or craftiness – which makes this album a bit disappointing. But then, it’s a record that rewards multiple listens. With all the contradictions running across it, you’ll need some time to untangle everything, if you ever get around to doing so. [NB] | 3/5
You know I’m going to start this column with more talk about how I’m cramming this because of how busy I’ve been. And yes, that is still the case. But then, on the other side of the equation, local music has been pretty intense this past month, whether it be because of intrigue, or because of celebrations. Sandwich is twenty years old! It’s not at all obvious! I have not had the chance to listen to their first two albums (and I still don’t have the chance because they’re not on the streaming channels) but I listened to “2 Trick Pony” a few weeks ago and it still sounds as potent as it was when it was released over a decade ago. Those immortal vampires. I wonder if any of the acts I’m writing about this month will last twenty years, or at least ten. Tall order? Different times. Still worth a shot, I guess.
“Kunwari” by Sponge Cola | In a rush to seem cool (and, perhaps, to constantly prove that Filipino music is not dead) we do forget about the bands that are chugging along, playing music to an audience we don’t really want to associate ourselves with. Yes, that’s how serious this entry is going to sound. We’ve got a mixed history with Sponge Cola: I liked the band in their early days, but I’m a bit uncomfortable with their complacency these days. But, still, when they do good, they do good. Well, it’s evident in how they’re still getting radio hits. I’m not fond of “Tempura”, but it’s a matter of taste, that. “Kunwari” is a song I enjoyed, and I was reminded of that last week when, on a short errand run, I ditched the iPhone and played Win Radio instead. (Nice to hear the things we overlook because of the bubble we’re apparently in.) It’s in that line of steady pop-rock tracks that does the work and quietly gets you. Also, it’s nice to be reminded of how nice Yael Yuzon’s growl is, especially when it’s the high point of the song. [NB]
“Follow Me” by the Shacks | I’ve been on a French state of mind this past weekend, for some reason. Well, French radio state of mind. Saturday, I listened to FIP while waiting for Shalla at the usual Tim Hortons (all right, that is Canadian). Sunday, I listened to Radio Nova on our way home from a birthday party that transitioned to a movie date. I heard this song on the latter, and, yes, it’s not a French band: the Shacks are from New York, but their sound just evokes the right amount of (admittedly stereotypical) French: that 60s wall of sound thing, the hazy production, the feeling you should be listening to this with coffee. (I did have an iced coffee.) The album this was off of just dropped a month ago, and I think I have something to add to my queue. If I get to it. [NB]