Every week, I’ll share an album or two I’ve been listening to. Feel free to list your favorite recent releases in the comments below.
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This is a time of year where new albums start raining down on you from every corner (what?). By February, the idea is that we’re firmly planted into a new year and ready to start anew. We’re done with "best of" lists and ready for something fresh and exciting that will blow our ears and minds. This week, instead of a longer album review, I thought I’d try to catch up with everything. Below, you’ll find reviews of the new albums from Tegan and Sara and Ducktails. What did I miss? What’s below the radar that you think is worth hearing?
Jan. 29 releases included the following standouts:
—Fleetwood Mac, "Rumours" (expanded)
This three-CD set includes the original "Rumours" album, remastered, and a live recording of the album from 1977. The real treat for fans is the third disc, which includes outtakes, demos and B-sides. We hear Stevie Nicks fumbling with the lyrics to the second-ever take of "Dreams." We can hear Christine McVie write her classic "Songbird" seemingly on the fly in an early, remastered recording. The vitriol and hatred is left out—though we knew it existed at the time. Good move. This set is about the music, which is incredible. Highly recommended.
Album releases next week:
Ducktails, "The Flower Lane" (pop/rock/alternative/indie)
What the critics think:
This is the sort of solo project from Matt Mondanile (of Real Estate) that shows “staggering growth,” according to All Music. “He has created a work of insidious beauty: creeping, pervasive and better for it,” according to the reviewer for BBC Music. “A healthy dose of finesse” gets added to familiar sounds, says the AV Club. Paste dislikes the album, saying it sounds like “40 minutes of stoned stargazing in a college dorm room. And the kid down the hall has yet to add substance to the conversation.” The album is getting mixed reviews.
What I think:
The album doesn’t live up to the hype. I agree with the sentiment above from Paste, that the album sounds like a very well-produced version of something a lonely college kid would throw together in his dorm room. Still, there are highlights. The song "Sedan Magic" is a very interesting, dark, catchy plea from one lover to another, like Hall & Oates in a dark hallway. I like it. Unfortunately, the title track, "The Flower Lane," is one of my least favorites on the album.
Tegan and Sara, "Heartthrob" (pop ... just pop)
What the critics think:
"Heartthrob" is a bit of a curveball to Tegan and Sara fans. Out is the acoustic snarl, and in comes this glossy, produced reach for the Billboard Top 100. That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? But perhaps this is the true color of Tegan and Sara that they’ve been wanting to show? Spin says, “Liberated from the stylistic baggage of their previous albums, the Quins deliver something close to pure, intoxicating emotion, granting themselves the freedom to go anywhere they want next time.” All Music says, despite the shift, fans “will find plenty of familiar ground to cling to as the record plays and the smartly written and tear-filled songs follow one after another.” Still, some critics aren’t buying the move. Rolling Stone says their “seventh album is a veritable bouncy castle of lush, up-to-the-minute indie synth-pop and blown-out radio choruses, less fussy and more whee than anything they've done.” Uncut says, “They sacrifice a bit of their identity in the trade-off” to pop.
What I think:
This is not what I thought the new Tegan and Sara would sound like. I’m used to songs like "Walking with a Ghost" with the acoustic, almost anarchist vibe. I even enjoyed the poppy, yet still unique, "Back in Your Head" from 2007. The new album, like the first aptly named song on the album, is a "Shock to Your System." Here’s my problem: I really like Tegan and Sara—the music they make is unique, catchy and everything you could want in pop. At the very core, up until this point, it had this quality of weird outsider-ness (does that make sense?). It reminds me of myself at frat parties in college. I went because I thought it was what I was supposed to do—to make friends, be “cool,” as they say. The reality is that I felt more at home in dirty basements listening to metal and hanging out with theater kids. Tegan and Sara are attempting to step into a different world, and I’m not sure if they belong there. Regardless, even if "Heartthrob" sounds like Top 40 radio, it’s still VERY good pop music. "Drove Me Wild" is an excellent pop song. I love the way they say the word “wild.” "I Couldn’t Be Your Friend" is another highlight that shows flashes of the T and S inflection and vocals that they’re known for. "How Come You Don’t Want Me" was in my head all week. That song in particular reminds me of "The Knife." Overall, I’m confused, and at the same time, I feel a sort-of sympathetic joy toward the girls. I wish them all the luck in the world with their new endeavor. These songs are going to make great radio hits this year. They’re about to blow up. And good for them.