Review: Salutations by Conor Oberst

Salutations by Conor OberstWell, the clue was in the title. Salutations is the partner album, more or less, to Ruminations, Conor Oberst’s moody and occasionally claustrophobic release last year. That one embraced you with a feeling of being alone that, while completely different from the rest of his oeuvre, made enough sense for you to go with it. And then, with Salutations, Conor proceeds to recontextualize the entire album: its ten tracks were rerecorded with a full band, its order mixed around, and seven new songs added. Perhaps the point is the duality: how different the same thing can be when dressed differently, presented differently, perceived differently. Perhaps the point is a clever subversion – not denial, I hope – of everything Ruminations went for, a jubilant “up yours!” achieved by taking one thing, shattering it, and putting it back together, cracks and all. Perhaps it is I who’s missing the point. But since we’re talking about perceptions here: I don’t see the point. It feels shallow, whatever the intention is, and its length tests my patience to boot. [NB]3/5

Review: In Mind by Real Estate

In Mind by Real EstateThere was some concern that Real Estate would be reeling from the departure of their guitarist Matt Mondanile, but In Mind proves them otherwise… somewhat. Essentially, the band regrouped: Martin Courteney recruited new guitarist Julian Lynch and proceeded as usual. The record is typical Real Estate: charming, enchanting, comforting, with Courteney’s sensitive lyrics mingling nicely with that tug you often hear from the 70s records the band have always taken as an inspiration. But without Matt’s space-y keyboards, it has to try a little harder to get your attention. At times it feels the record is being a little too low-key, but it does grow on you, somewhat, as it progresses. At other times you have the niggling expectation of a rather more drastic upheaval in sound – by this point things have settled and you’re into their mindset – but, well, a change in hooks aside, the band hasn’t really fundamentally changed. And yet it has. And yet it hasn’t. [NB]3/5

Review: Hot Thoughts by Spoon

Hot Thoughts by SpoonSpoon’s last album, They Want My Soul from three years ago, saw the band somewhat double down on the catchiness factor – it’s something they’ve always done, but it seemed to be more prominent in that case. Their new album, on the other hand, could seem like a U-turn, but not really. Hot Thoughts can still be catchy, but it sounds like the understated sort of catchy. Blame it on a slight hip-hop influence (the cool kind), but more importantly, Britt Daniel and his troupe introduce a bunch of electronic layers, making the sounds feel like a slight meander rather than a more urgent affair. It’s not really a reaction but an evolution: once the record is done, and all the initial shock has worn off, you realize that the “messy” sound clicks together. Why they’d go for something this subtle at this point in their career is beyond me, though. [NB]3/5

Review: Super Shadow Moses Turbo by Shadow Moses

Super Shadow Moses Turbo by Shadow MosesI’m not new to Shadow Moses, the nerdcore trio slowly making ripples in Manila’s indie scene, but approaching them nonetheless feels like entering a wholly different world, one in which you’re, perhaps, not supposed to enter, for your sakes. Thankfully, their new album, Super Shadow Moses Turbo, is quite welcoming. If you follow their Facebook page you’ll have a good idea of their humor and interests, and those are laid down pretty early on, with the opening skit leading to the first-world-problems-y “Service Unavailable 2.0”. All right, well, perhaps Shadow Moses can be a bit narrowly niche that you find yourself not connecting. They are having fun with the record, but at times it feels there’s too much fun and you’re not sure where they’re going with it. Some tracks feel like half-baked ideas, while others, like “Doomtown” and “Ideas Running Out”, grab you. But ultimately Super Shadow Moses Turbo – in all its geeky, uneven glory – is a fun listen. [NB]3/5

Review: Heartworms by the Shins

Heartworms by the ShinsIt’s been five years (hey!) since the Shins released Port of Morrow, which is enough time for a change to happen without it being controversial or attracting much attention. The thing is, with their new album Heartworms, it doesn’t quite know what to do, going in a brave new direction before shifting courses midway and heading down a more familiar path. Now, granted, it’s not a shocking shift of sound, but it’s noticeable, in the use of synths and other electronic-aided tricks, a slight move away from the pleasant jangly pop of previous records on tracks like “Name For You”, “Mildenhall” and the surprisingly pastoral “The Fear”. But then, when you get the swing of things and are actually enjoying it – and the new sound is enjoyable – they revert to their more familiar sound, one more dependent on James Mercer’s vocals. It’s not a bad thing, but there’s a bit of whiplash. It’s regrettable, because they were on to something, and we would have allowed the diversion because, hey, the Shins deserve a break, don’t they? [NB]3/5