Review: The Magic Whip by Blur

The Magic Whip by BlurFrankly, it’s like they were never gone. But then again, they weren’t. While it’s been over a decade since Blur released their last album, the ethereal Out of Time, its members have been quite prolific, particularly Damon Albarn, who’s had so much on his plate it’s hard to find a place to start. The interesting thing about The Magic Whip, though, is how effortless it feels, how easily the four-piece slipped into their usual ways – and that, considering that the record was hatched after being stranded in Hong Kong for five days due to a festival cancellation in Japan. Of course, the end result isn’t the Blur of old – they’ve been moving away from the overtly Britpop sound for decades, anyway – nor is it an attempt to rehash old glories, like what Suede’s Bloodsport feels like at times. Instead, The Magic Whip is playful, thoughful and very much inspired, with sojourns into psychedelic and space-y territory punctuated by more accessible fare. So, yes, a new album from Blur is a big deal. But at the same time, it shouldn’t be, because, really, they’ve been at it for so long, it doesn’t feel like a break anymore. [NB] | 4/5

Review: Kindred by Passion Pit

Kindred by Passion PitI honestly don’t see the point of this album. I never thought we’d end up like this. Passion Pit was exciting the first time around, and did some interesting things when their second record, Gossamer, was released in 2011. Now, with Kindred, the indietronica band led by Michael Angelakos decidedly stays in the same lane and offers little to hold attention. Perhaps fans will like the way he swings between anthemic wompy pop and surprisingly slinky soul (“Where The Sky Hangs” is this record’s “Constant Conversations”, but not by a mile) but there’s the sense that you’ve heard all of this before. It’s sunny pop with gloomy lyrics, identified by that weird screech. And it all becomes a blur and, when the record’s over, you forget it ever happened. [NB]2/5

Review: Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes

Sound & Color by Alabama ShakesHaving listened to both Alabama Shakes records – their 2012 debut, Boys & Girls, and their new follow-up, Sound & Color – it’s interesting to note the band’s tiptoeing of their sound. It’s obviously a nod to the bluesy, rootsy side of rock and roll, with Brittany Howard’s vocal tricks – more prominent in this record, her yelps and grunts reaching new bounds – doing a big chunk of the propelling. Yet, at the same time, it doesn’t sound derivative. It’s not original by all means, but it’s unique; it’s modern and yet it’s very much a throwback to the past. Sound & Color continues this, but rather than feeling like an evolution in sound, it feels more like a (small-ish) leap. I got this grand, monumental vibe with the album’s opening tracks, culminating in the gut-wrenching “Gimme All Your Love”, before mostly settling down (before mostly settling down for the rest of the record’s run, (a notable exception is the sprawling, groovy “Gemini”)for the rest of the record’s run. It seems the band has tightened its embrace on its inspirations, without losing sight of the fact that they can take that thing to new places. For the most part, they have. [NB]4/5

“If I kiss you in the garden, in the moonlight, will you pardon me?”

Rainy Martini's Uke Week“Tiptoe Through The Tulips” by Tiny Tim | Ooooh, I dare you to sing this out loud. In a gig or something. Ha! I heard this song before, somehow, back when I was a kid. And all this time I thought it was a woman singing! Slap me for only finding out a few weeks ago. I linked the video to my brother and now everyone in the house is singing in his opera voice. I’m thanking the late Tiny Tim for bringing harmony I to my family through… the window? Ha! [RM]

“Don’t call me boo like you’re some kind of ghost.”

Rainy Martini's Uke Week“Title” by Meghan Trainor | Meghan Trainor blew me away when I saw a video of her sing “All About That Bass” live. With a ukulele! I never really noticed how popular the ukulele had become in the past year, but my friend Janine and I had a hard time looking for a music store that sells one that isn’t damaged or low-quality. There were tons, back when I bought my pink babeh. But there seems to be some sort of shortage these days. I even had trouble finding one for my brother two weeks ago. Or maybe I just didn’t know where to look. Janine’s blaming the shortage on Trainor though. And Vance Joy. I kinda “get” it, but I still have my doubts. [RM]