Maggie Rogers was no absolute newbie when, last year, Pharrell Williams’ reaction to an early draft of “Alaska” catapulted her to a new level of fame. She had released a bunch of EPs by then, mostly folk-y stuff, but she eschews that sound on her new EP, Now That The Light Is Fading. What we got instead is a short shot of occasionally tropical, often trippy, not at all in-your-face electro-pop. It’s quaint, it’s playful, and it’s fun if you hear it at the right moment. Essentially, if you’ve heard “Alaska”, you’ve heard it all. Even the relatively different prelude, “Color Song”, blends in all too well with the aesthetic of the rest of the EP. Now, I wouldn’t say I was disappointed: I did enjoy “Alaska”, and still do, and her other songs (two of the tracks here have been released as singles post-breakout) still give me a little grin, although they don’t stand out as much. I was hoping for some variation, though. Some texture. Alongside her EPs, yes, this is texture, but, you know, this was her moment – until a full-length record arrives and they pull the right strings, that is. [NB] | 3/5
It’s not good to listen to a record, much more write a review of it, in the middle of a depressive stretch, or whatever it’s supposed to be called. But, well, that’s what happened in this case. So, Jens Lekman’s Life Will See You Now, the first album from the Swedish troubadour in almost five years. He did a few things in between – a couple of songwriting projects which have clearly rejuvenated him, with at least two of the results finding their way to this album. The observations are sharp, the situations are typically mundane, the wordplay remains delicious, and his delivery remains very much distinctively his. But I’m in the mood to nitpick, and I’ll say the monotony quite got to me. Life Will See You Now leans heavily on the drum machine, and while it should work – there’s something pretty twisted about a clubby undertone to songs about uncertainty – it did do my head in, going on and on and on, going up against those stories, trying somewhat to swipe the gravitas away. It did settle down by the end, with the relatively quiet “Postcard #17” and “Dandelion Seed”, but by this point I needed a cry. [NB] | 3/5
There was a lot of buzz around Prisoner, the new album from Ryan Adams, but to be honest, I don’t know if it all matches up. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad Ryan Adams album. If anything, this is really the break-up record (while his cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 just suffered, or benefited, from coming so soon after his split with Mandy Moore). There are the usual elements from a Ryan Adams record, and in the right places it pulses with energy, flows with excitement. All that said, it is what it is: a Ryan Adams record. It doesn’t push the envelope – although it’s not what I wanted him to do, I think – but it doesn’t exactly retreat back. I dare say it actually turned out to be more unexciting than what “Do You Still Love Me?” suggested when that premiered. But again, it could be the hype. It is a good Ryan Adams album. It’s just not something I think I’ll remember. [NB] | 3/5
What I liked about Hana ACBD – at least, as I wrote it the first time a year ago – is how her sound is a clash of two similar, yet disparate, shades that somehow work together. On Shortcomings, her second EP, it comes into full frame. The perception you usually get with artists of a more laidback persuasion is that it’s way too horizontal, but Hana – now based in Los Angeles – keeps things simple and frills-free, not relying on affectations that scream “chill”. Instead, she lets her minimal production – and that voice of hers – take center stage. I have some problems with the album’s pacing: the short tracks at the beginning threw me off, and just when I was getting into “Trust Fall”, I was already halfway through the EP. That meant I really did want more as the record ended. But should you want more? For all its simplicity and sturdiness, for lack of a better term, Shortcomings is a quaint little thing that you cannot rush, or demand to stay on for longer than it should. [NB] | 4/5
All right, shall we rush back into this? February means the Local Outsider feels like it’s coming by much sooner, because the month is shorter than most – a neat four weeks, except once every four years – and all of a sudden, the idea that it’s almost March is staring us in the eyes. March! The days are getting longer and the sun is getting brighter, uncomfortably so! March! Next thing you know it’s April, and people are being idiots on Instagram again. (I don’t have an Instagram account myself.) Anyway, before I ramble on any further, let’s get back to the tunes, and what I’d like to believe are songs that fit this transitional period between “Manila is really cold” and “Manila is really hot” well. Well, I’d like to believe that. This is, as always, random, sort of.