Sometimes, writing in-depth reviews of everything can become daunting, especially when you find yourself with little down time. With that in mind, I’d like to introduce a new segment called REVIEWS AT A GLANCE, a brief take on the movies and albums I’ve had in current rotation. It will mostly be newer stuff, since that’s what I focus on in terms of reviewing, but I might drop some old school gems in there from time to time.

What have you been watching and listening to?

September 26, 2015 by Jericho Cerrona

What I've Been Watching
Rory Culkin's performance as the titular mentally unstable young man in writer-director Lou Howe's debut is a mesmerizing piece of work; alternating between fidgety restlessness and searing rage. The story surrounding him, though, which tracks Gabriel's attempts at locating a girl with whom he had a childhood romance, lacks focus. Gabriel

Cedris Jimenez's homage to 70s crime thrillers (which, of course, includes William Friedkin's classic The French Connection) boasts a terrific performance from Jean Dujardin as a cop trying to stop the export of heroin, but it's ultimately let down by it's gargantuan running time (135 minutes) and conventional plotting. Undeniably stylish, but somewhat empty at it's core. The Connection

A lurid B-movie with loftier pretensions, director Fabrice Du Welz's (Vinyan, Calvaire) latest tells the story of a desperately needy single woman (Stephanie Bisso, deliciously unhinged) and her relationship with a deranged serial killer (Laurent Lucas). Attempting to derive macabre laughs out of unspeakable violence, Du Welz never nails down the tricky tone here; resulting in numbing shock tactics, amateurish camerawork, and faux-arthouse horror tropes. Alleluia
There's something almost Charlie Kaufman-esque going on in writer-director Eskil Vogt's puzzle box of a movie; following the sight-impaired Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) as she holes up inside an Oslo apartment writing a story about her own life as well as fictional characters. The narrative, which splits it's time between multiple sub-plots, can get a bit too meta-clever for it's own good, but Petersen's empathetic performance helps keeps the emotional pathology of her character grounded. Blind

A slacker comedy in the worst possible sense, writer-director Bob Byington's latest stab at minimalist, narrative-free filmmaking completely wastes the talents of Jason Schwartzman (on autopilot), Eleanore Pienta (so great in See You Next Tuesday), and Olympia Dukakis (earning the film's only meager laughs). The tale of a guy with a drinking problem and social ineptitude, this one tries to float by on lackadaisical charm, but instead refuses to offer up a convincing reason for it's own existence. 7 Chinese Brothers
What I've Been Listening To
The debut album from art rockers Franz Ferdinand and 70s New Wave brothers Sparks has it's fair share of Bowie-esque glam rock highlights; a series of grandiose ballads and synth-driven dance cuts which successfully merge modern production with throwback kitsch. However, despite witty lyrics and catchy melodies, the whole enterprise almost feels like everyone is winking a bit too much behind a curtain of strained eccentricity. FFS FFS 5 out of 10
Nashville's Bully sounds a lot like other 90s alt-rock revivalists exploding onto the scene these days. There are the predictable distorted guitar hooks, fuzz pedals, and tortured vocals, but there's also a keen sense of what made the best bands from that era so exciting; namely, a sense of rawness. Singer/songwriter/ producer Alicia Bognanno is really the reason this thing sounds so visceral, and of course, the album was recorded by the legendary Steve Albini. Bully Feels Like 7 out of 10
Pennsylvania native Daughn Gibson, who formerly sounded like a cowboy stuck in a noir Western on breakthrough albums like 2013's Me Moan, has suddenly turned into Bryan Ferry. Carnation comes across like a weird hybrid of new wave and easy listening, with Gibson's deep-throated drawl buried in a mix of synthesizers, steel guitars, and ambient drums. The results are intriguing; with mood trumping hooks and oddness replacing clarity. Daughn Gibson Carnation 6 out of 10
London-based psych-rockers Django Django have a tough hurdle to overcome after their self-titled debut created a minor sensation in the UK. Sophomore albums are always a tricky affair, and the real problem here is that Born Under Saturn is simply too long to sustain it's ambitions. Still, the snaking, rhythmic nature of the psychedelic sounds conjured bring to mind a warped meeting of Talking Heads, The Beach Boys, Tears For Fears, and Devo. Django Django Born Under Saturn 7 out of 10
A pop album lacking hooks, discernible choruses, and the kind of club bangers recycled in this age of Beyonce-approved surprise album drops is something special. More special, though, is 27-year-old FKA Twigs's unwavering commitment to her art. As a dancer, singer, choreographer, and producer, she's a bonafide one-woman show, and her music; a series of ambient, glitchy electro-pop songs reaching for thematic connections between power, sexual objectification, and female agency, is absolutely singular. FKA Twigs M3LL155X 8 out of 10

Reviews At A Glance

Sometimes, writing in-depth reviews of everything can become daunting, especially when you find yourself with little down time. With that in mind, I’d like to introduce a new segment called REVIEWS AT A GLANCE, a brief take on the movies and albums I’ve had in current rotation. It will mostly be newer stuff, since that’s what I focus on in terms of reviewing, but I might drop some old school gems in there from time to time.

What have you been watching and listening to?

July 26, 2015 by Jericho Cerrona

What I've Been Watching
Writer-director Ragnar Bragason's Scandinavian coming-of-age film follows Hera, a disenfranchised young woman (Thorbjorg Helga Thorgilsdottir, in a remarkable performance) dealing with the tragic death of her metal-loving brother. The film understands not only the awkwardness of limping into adulthood, but also the stigma attached to fans of the metal genre. With the wintry Icelandic setting as a backdrop, Bragason's minor gem focuses on Hera's restless need to emulate her deceased brother's interests; from recording lo-fi tapes of her own music, to her fascination with the emerging Black Metal scene. Gently humorous, starkly melancholy, and chock full of 80s-era metal riffage. Metalhead

On the surface, Francesco Munzi's atmospheric crime drama seems to be a fairly standard story of double-crosses, familial traditions, generational sins, and cyclical violence. However, the story about three brothers caught up in Mafia corruption in Southern Italy takes familiar tropes and then cunningly bucks genre conventions. Slowly paced, with moody cinematography and dynamic performances, Black Souls is a de-glamorizing view of cultural identification and barbaric rituals that sets the stage for a whopper of a fatalistic finale. Black Souls

Arnold Schwarzenegger drops the winking self-awareness for a trip to the dark side of post-apocalyptic humanity in Maggie, a picture which desperately wants to subvert the cliched zombie genre, but instead comes off glumly self-serious, and worse of all, deadly boring. As directed by newbie Henry Hobson, the film boils down to a rather trite family melodrama, with Schwarzenegger valiantly attempting to protect his daughter (Abigal Breslin, doing most the heavy emotional lifting), who has contacted a virus and will slowly transform into one of the walking dead. A kind of art-house variation on one of those Cable TV "disease movies of the week", Maggie is a portentous snooze, and quite frankly, could have used more Arnie one-liners. Maggie
David Oyelowo is an intensely talented actor, and he gets to strut his stuff with a one-man show in Nightingale, director Elliot Lester's overdetermined expose of a man gradually losing his mind while holed up inside a house. From the outset, we know Oyelowo's character Peter Snowden has committed a heinous crime, and for the rest of the film's running time, Frederick Mensch's stagey script continuously strains credulity as Peter runs around frantically answering the phone, pining for an old lover, and performing arch monologues in front of a webcam. While Oyelowo's performance holds interest, it also comes across too much like an acting exercise and Lester's unimaginative direction (lots of blurry depth of field, dissolves, etc) just further exacerbates the film's most glaring flaw; that Peter isn't really a human being having a break with reality, but rather, a writers construct in order to set an entire film inside one central location. Nightingale

Brazilian filmmaker Karim Aïnouz’s tale of two lovers (Clemens Schick and Wagner Moura) who meet and bond after a horrific drowning accident, is a dreamy exploration of the way life changes almost imperceptibly over time. Beautifully shot; with long-held shots of Brazilian beaches and later on, grey-skied German locales, and featuring very little dialogue or standard plotting, Futuro Beach encourages the audience to surrender to its sensual rhythms rather than have everything spelled out. A third character (Jesuita Barbosa) from the past enters the picture during the poetically transfixing final stretch, creating a dynamic three-hander that seeks to understand love, regret, and pain without dipping into theatrics. Futuro Beach
What I've Been Listening To
Oxford, England outfit Swervedriver may have been overshadowed by bands like Ride and Slowdive during their heyday, but as evidenced by their first full-length in 17 years, there's a reason the whole 90s revival has seen such a cultural shift in recent times. I Wasn't Born To Lose You is made up of the kind of melodic, jangly rock 'n roll that seems to be the choice du jour for many younger bands these days; only that Swervedriver don't sound like they are emulating anyone but themselves. Distorted guitar tones, dreamy reverb, and singer Adam Franklin's lackadaisical drawl hits the shoegazey sweet spot. Swervedriver I Wasn't Born To Lose You 7 out of 10
Now that the rather unfortunate genre known as Chillwave has reached its inevitable demise, Chaz Bundick can pillage through 70s pop, guitar psych, disco, and AM-soft rock with the same kind of meticulousness that he brought to his 2010 debut Causers of This. While fans may be flummoxed by Bundick's move away from R & B-inflected synth pop, the addition of reverb-drenched guitars and 70s soulfulness gives What For? an expansiveness only hinted at in past efforts. Still, while there's admirable mixture of sounds and textures on display here, something is still missing from Toro Y Moi's sonic arsenal. It's almost as if Bundick has the retro aping down so well that he's forgotten to add a sense of discernible personality; (something that fellow revisionist Ariel Pink manages to do brilliantly), resulting in a pleasurable, though only mildly diverting, listen. Toro Y Moi What For? 6 out of 10
Multi-Love, the latest LP from lo-fi R & B experimentalists Unknown Mortal Orchestra, is essentially a heartbreak album. Over the course of 9 tracks, frontman Ruban Nielson ruminates on the ever-evolving nature of romantic love, the confusion of possibly loving two people simultaneously, and the prickly contradictions of human relationships. The overall tone of the album, though, is decidedly up-beat and soulful. In a way, Multi-Love often sounds like a Sly and the Family Stone record submerged under water; with warbly production, futuristic synths, honking brass, and Nielson's subdued vocals, which are often masked by hazy effects, gliding the listener deeper into the retro-psychedelic basement. Poppy and slightly alienating at the same time. Unknown Mortal Orchestra Multi-Love 7 out of 10
Hot Chip are a band, not some scuzzy-looking dude with oversized glasses raising his hands behind a DJ booth. Nowadays, with the onslaught of superstar spinners filling stadiums, there's something nostalgic about a revolving set of members creating dance music. On their sixth full-length, Hot Chip continue to do what they do best; namely, making old school dance-floor numbers which draw on a more live sound than many of their contemporaries. Unfortunately, the sound that Hot Chip pioneered for the better part of 15 years, and was later cribbed by people like James Murphy, sounds positively tame in 2015. Instead of pushing forward, Why Make Sense? comes off extremely vanilla, using 70s funk (the talkbox is abused shamelessly) as a springboard for a mostly repetitive set of whiteboy dance anthems. Hot Chip Why Make Sense? 5 out of 10
After 2013's brilliant Cabinet of Curiosities, multi-instrumentalist Jacco Gardener would either have to scale back with a more intimate sound, or go even bigger on his followup. In a way, he's attained something of a middle ground on Hypnophobia; a record thats every bit as lushly psychedelic as his previous effort, but which also seems to go deeper lyrically, dealing primarily with nightmarish dreamscapes and an inevitable feeling of losing control. Production-wise, there's a bit of Stereolab at play here with the analog synth-driven melodies, as well a Todd Rundgren-influenced knack for pop experimentalism. Mostly, though, Gardner is a master of orchestration; everything from strings, plucked guitar, electric piano, and his effortlessly soothing vocals are layered with absolute perfection.

Jacco Gardener Hypnophobia 8 out of 10

Reviews At A Glance

Sometimes, writing in-depth reviews of everything can become daunting, especially when you find yourself with little down time. With that in mind, I’d like to introduce a new segment called REVIEWS AT A GLANCE, a brief take on the movies and albums I’ve had in current rotation. It will mostly be newer stuff, since that’s what I focus on in terms of reviewing, but I might drop some old school gems in there from time to time.

What have you been watching and listening to?

March 21, 2015 by Jericho Cerrona

What I've Been Watching
Predestination is a sci-fi thriller/drama that places the mechanics of it's purposefully convoluted time-travel plot over everything else, including audience investment. Ethan Hawke is fine as a "temporal agent" trying to stop a terrorist and Sarah Snook is impressive in a dual role, but their performances are merely pieces of a narrative stunt which proves confusing in all the wrong ways. Dramatically flat and lacking genuine tension; with lame voiceover narration and clumsy editing, the film desperately wants to say something about gender identity, but keeps sidetracking itself with a series of big "reveals", leading up to a laughably contrived final reel. Predestination

The lives of two Italian families become interconnected in Paolo Virzi's Human Capital, a film which seeks to criticize the excesses of capitalism and the gap between the classes while also playing at times like a frothy melodrama. Virzi mixes up the timeline; showing us different sides to the story involving a fatal hit-and-run accident, with each perspective adding more context to the interweaving narrative. Though the mood is fatalistic and the acting mostly top-notch, there's a facile kind of sermonizing here that keeps the film from truly being as hard-hitting as it thinks it is. Human Capital

Philip Roth's much-reviled penultimate novel gets the Barry Levinson treatment in The Humbling; a flawed but intriguing riff on the art imitating life motif. Al Pacino gives a graceful, warts-and-all portrayal as a 67-year-old theater actor Simon Axler and Greta Gerwig lays on the quirk as a woman who once harbored a massive crush on him during her childhood. Wildly uneven; with odd lurches in tone and stabs at dark comedy, The Humbling nonetheless remains an engaging companion piece to Birdman, in how it zeroes in on ego and the artistic process of an aging thespian, hamstrung only by Roth's source material, which at times feels casually misogynistic. The Humbling
Writer-director Zak Hilditch's doomsday thriller may travel well-worn territory, but it remains a tensely involving genre picture due to it's gritty atmosphere and strong acting. Nathan Phillips plays the traditional everyman role with genuine intensity and emotion, and he's assisted by a terrific ensemble that also includes a coked-up, mohawk-wearing Daniel Henshall (The Snowtown Murders), whose lavish estate lays claim to wild end-of-the-world orgies and primitive violence. There's not much here that you haven't seen before, and the final act relies too heavily on special effects bombast, but Hilditch's debut shows real flair and if there's ever a place in which to set the encroaching apocalypse, it's Perth Australia. These Final Hours

Poignant, lyrical, and deeply humane, Valley of Saints shows us an area of the world rarely seen in cinema and gives us fully dimensional characters who never feel boxed in by plot constraints. Taking place in Kashmir and focusing on the strong friendship between two male friends working as tourist guides on the lake, things take a turn once a female environmentalist scientist shows up to do research on lake pollution. One of the men is instantly smitten, and though the rift that develops between the friends is predictable, Musa Syeed's low-key direction and the naturalistic performances from the non-professional cast raises the film above the simplistic and into the realm of casual greatness. Valley of Saints
What I've Been Listening To
Over the course of eight songs, Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist Will Butler dives into chamber pop, rockabilly, synth-pop, and balladry, with the results being just as schizophrenic as that genre description sounds. Additionally, since his singing voice is so similar to his Arcade Fire frontman brother Win, and his lyrical concerns; capitalism, politics, faith etc, so teeming with the possibility of satire, it's tough to truly engage with much of the songwriting. There are a lot of good ideas here and Butler has certainly learned a thing or two in terms of writing palpable hooks, but there's simply too many different stylistic tones going on for Policy to emerge as little more than a frustrating, though entirely listenable, curio. Will Butler Policy 6 out of 10
A sweeping collection of alter-ego ruminations on love, loss, and nihilism, I Love You, Honeybear is singer/songwriter Josh Tillman's grand opus; an album trafficking in both Southern California ennui as well as digs at holding onto love in our social media-obsessed age. Though he's moved away from the druggy troubadour persona of 2012's Fear Fun in lieu of the vision of a newly married man attempting to scrape beneath the satire, there are still plenty of instances of his patented dry humor and self-deprecation. Most importantly, the record is the most sonically expansive thing he's done yet; from soulful jazz and electro-pop, to piano-aden balladry and bombastic baroque pop. Father John Misty I Love You, Honeybear 7 out of 10
Electro/pop at it's most blandly neutered, Canadian duo Megan James and Corin Roddick's second album sounds like the worst kind of indie/mainstream crossover; a series of utterly forgettable tracks featuring booming synth lines, thudding bass, electronic beats, and vanilla female vocals that quickly become infuriating for refusing to even hint at experimentation. At least Purity Ring's debut record Shrines showed a measure of restraint and nuance. Here, everything is simply streamlined and turned up louder, resulting in something without a discernible identity. Crafting a pure pop album isn't really the problem; it's not like Purity Ring were ever seen as avant-garde or anything, but it doesn't even sound like James and Corin are convinced of their own mainstream appeal. Purity Ring Another Eternity 3 out of 10
The problem with maintaining such a prolific output is that after a certain amount of time, even possibly stellar material tends to get lost in the shuffle. No stranger to incredible productivity, legendary GBV frontman Robert Pollard has not only cranked out six records in two years with his old band, but also a string of solo material. Recording now under the moniker Ricked Wicky, I Sell The Circus sees Pollard in comfortable 60s rock'n roll territory, with some crunchier GBV-sounding slabs of 3-min lo-fi pop and a few minor detours into progressive rock rounding out the 15 tracks here. It's all very Pollard, which means that there are some excellent songs and some that don't work much at all, but it's biggest flaw is that it lacks the oddball sensibilities of his best work. Still, it's hard to complain about a guy whose been doing this for the better part of 30 years. Ricked Wicky I Sell The Circus 6 out of 10
Drone. Noise rock. 80's-influenced new wave. It's all here in spades on A Place To Bury Strangers fourth long-player; a record that feels at times oddly disconnected from their standard M.O.; namely, cranking up the distorted noise to overwhelming levels. Instead, Transfixiation tries to balance the bludgeoning cacophony with moments of sparseness and Joy Division-esque post-punk stomp, but the results are only intermittently successful. This identity crisis; of alternating between lo-fi fuzz and noisy pop, is intriguing in theory, but doesn't exactly translate well sonically. It's almost as if the Brooklyn trio's penchant for grueling dissonance has pushed them into a corner of trying to figure out how to mature with a sound that pushes against overt experimentation. A Place To Bury Strangers Transfixiation 5 out of 10

Reviews At A Glance

Sometimes, writing in-depth reviews of everything can become daunting, especially when you find yourself with little down time. With that in mind, I’d like to introduce a new segment called REVIEWS AT A GLANCE, a brief take on the movies and albums I’ve had in current rotation. It will mostly be newer stuff, since that’s what I focus on in terms of reviewing, but I might drop some old school gems in there from time to time.

What have you been watching and listening to?

December 21, 2014 by Jericho Cerrona

What I've Been Watching
Director Adam Wingard has crafted a self-aware and thoroughly entertaining thriller in the mold of throwback 80's John Carpenter with The Guest. The plot is bare-bones, centering on an ex-military drifter named David (ex-Downtown Abbey star Dan Stevens) who slithers into the graces of a New Mexico family and whose charismatic presence infects each member in different ways. Wingard, along with writer Simon Barrett (who collaborated on last year's horror pastiche You're Next), has made a monumentally silly film that both winks at the audience as well as subverts the 80's slasher/thriller genre, complete with a star-making performance from Stevens, who's devilish grin and hilariously detached line readings completely carry the day here. Meanwhile, Steve Moore's synth-laden, 80's-influenced score absolutely rules. The Guest

The Babadook is an Australian horror film that places cheap jump scare tactics on the back-burner in favor of chilly atmosphere, psychological terror, and motherly unraveling. Debuting filmmaker Jennifer Kent's picture is stylishly made and features a terrific central performance from Essie Davis as the beleaguered mother dealing with both her husband's death as well as obnoxious 6-year-old son Sammy (Noah Wiseman). Unfortunately, though there's some nice visual touches (the creepy Tim Burton-esque children's book featuring the mythical Babadook character is a highlight), the film doesn't go as far as it should in terms of racketing up legitimate tension, ultimately devolving into familiar horror tropes in the third act. Seen as a metaphorical dissection of how grief affects the mind, The Babadook is partially effective, but as something that wishes to deliver scares and an unsettling mood, the film feels surprisingly docile. The Babadook

Writer-director Jake Paltrow's narratively flawed, visually stunning western/sci-fi hybrid is a unique genre pastiche that could have been richer if it delved into the socio-political underpinnings of it's post-apocalyptic setting. Following a family of farmers living on a dusty wasteland featuring the likes of Michael Shannon, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Elle Fanning, Young Ones posits a future world where water is scarce and the combination of lo-fi and high-fi technology has met at an axis point. Paltrow's visual sense is wonderful, and his work with cinematographer Giles Nuttgens is especially awe-inspiring, framing many shots in epic widescreen format and smartly implementing CG effects (a robot assistant that walks like an animatronic spider is a nifty touch) into the realistic look of the environment. On the downside, the plot is little more than a familiar tale of retribution and vengeance; especially after the introduction of Nicholas Hoult's biker rebel outlaw, and the characters overall have a flatness that offsets Paltrow's unique cinematic sense. Still, this is an intriguing, and at times visually daring, combination of disparate genres. Young Ones
Wobbling uneasily between pathos and comedy, Craig Johnson's The Skeleton Twins has the distinction of two excellent performances in search of a script that can support them. SNL alums Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig make a successful transition into the dramatic realm while still managing to provide moments of levity, as Milo and Maggie Dean, twins attempting to deal adulthood while still holding onto past trauma. Luke Wilson is also solid in a supporting role as Maggie's literal-minded husband, bringing unexpected undercurrents of warmth and humanity, but Johnson overcrowds his screenplay with faux-melodrama and a litany of contrivances. Had the picture been looser and more realistic, it could have been moving and wise rather than obvious and manipulative. Still, it's worth seeing for Hader and Wiig's finely tuned, exemplary performances. The Skeleton Twins

A free-form, stream of consciousness ode to the Italian horror genre known as giallo, Belgian husband and wife team Bruno Forzani and Helene Cattet have crafted an erotic, narratively jumbled, and stylistically bombastic feature that's unabashedly all style and no substance. There's a surreal murder mystery, a frantic businessman, a shadowy detective, and dopplegangers wielding sharp knives, but mostly The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears plays like a heightened genre exercise. Though the frenetic editing, extreme jump cuts, and wildly changing color palette quickly grows repetitive, there's something insidiously watchable and downright creepy about the aesthetic here that could very well endear it to a whole new legion of cult-ready followers. The Strange Color of your Body's Tears
What I've Been Listening To
When New Brigade came out of nowhere three years ago, Danish post-punk/New Wave four-piece Iceage were thrust into the spotlight as the new saviors of rock 'n roll. The fact that they were only teenagers at the time, coupled with the sheer energy and aggression on display, meant that their breakout success was chalked up by many as a youthful lucky accident. 2013 followup You're Nothing disproved this notion, though, and saw the band leaning heavily on the bridge between hardcore and melodic college rock, ala Hüsker Dü. On Plowing Into The Field of Love, Iceage continue their sonic maturation by slowing down the tempo and making way for piano, trumpet, and acoustic guitar arrangements while still somehow sounding aggressive. There's definitely a Nick Cave thing going on here too; particularly in the way singer Elias Ronnefelt belts out spoken-word style laments, as well as the blues and folk influence. However, despite the band's undeniable ambition and penchant for taking all of these instruments and twisting them so they sound ugly and sinister, there's nothing that memorable in terms of individual songs here; just a messy stew of disciplined chaos, as if a bunch of early twentysomethings are trying really hard to come off like world-weary misanthropes. Iceage Plowing Into The Field of Love 6 out of 10
Chicago-based, self-professed "minimalist rock trio" Shellac emerged in the early 90's and have been bucking popular rock trends ever since. Known for asymmetric time signatures, angular guitar work, heavy repetition, and sardonic lyrics, the band have always marched to the beat of their own drum (in this case, the rhythmically astute work of Todd Trainer). On their fifth full-length Dude Incredible, they forgo some of the more long-winded forays into prog-influenced excess, such as "Didn't We Deserve a Look at You the Way You Really Are" from 1998's Terraform. Instead, they craft each song around cyclical grooves and massive riffs, subtly shifting dynamics to appropriately fit the confines of each composition. The results are wonderfully knotty and lean; with Steve Albini's angular guitar and Bob Weston's pulsating bass accompanying Trainer's meticulous drumming with startling clarity. Shellac Dude Incredible 8 out of 10
There's something very reassuring about Seeds, TV on the Radio's sixth album, and first following the death of bassist Gerard Smith in 2011. For a band that's been consistently straddling the line between accessible pop and the avant-garde for over a decade, the need to step back and reassess their career, especially in the light of such a significant loss, is understandable. However, though there are hints of the density and challenging song structures throughout Seeds, the album overall plays like a simplifying of their sound, narrowing everything into the confines of pop-friendly uplift and predictable compositions. This is where the reassuring part comes in; as there are undeniably pleasant moments here, playing almost like a greatest hits compilation of the band's discography, minus the strange detours and art-rock stylings. The results are a well-produced, though decidedly neutered, version of power pop that never quite harnesses the lyrical or sonic punch it needs to transcend the genre. TV On The Radio Seeds 5 out of 10
Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, has always existed somewhere in the netherworld where hip-hop, jazz, funk, and electronic madness coexist. On his latest brilliantly tripped-out genre collage You're Dead!, Ellison literally throws out the playbook and writes his own rules. The sarcastic, serious, and surreal all get the treatment here, sometimes in the breath of the same song, and the list of collaborators--Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dog, Niki Randa, Herbie Hancock, among others--give him the room to riff on what is essentially an album about the afterlife. Though there's a maddening amount of ambient noodling going on here; with sharp slabs of distorted electric guitar, Technicolor-imbued beats, celestial background choirs, and an array of obtuse sounds making the rounds, the record is never boring. Twisted, gorgeous, euphoric, and at times even irritating, You're Dead! will test the patience of even the most ardent admirers of Flying Lotus' bombardment of auditory expressionism. Flying Lotus You're Dead! 8 out of 10
Baltimore-based quartet Dope Body gave listeners some raw noise-rock on 2012's Natural History, an album that felt messy and unhinged in a way that didn't quite hold together, even as it's pure aggressive energy had it's charms. On Lifer, the band move even further away from their arty post-punk/noise roots and dive into some unabashed 90's alt-rock bombast, to mostly enjoyable effect. Vocalist Andrew Laumann continues to yelp and howl like a madman, but his rowdy vocals feel almost like an Anthony Kiedis homage this time; and truthfully, formative Red Hot Chili Peppers isn't that far off as a reference point here. There's also a 90's-era grunge influence in the vein of Mudhoney, with plenty of off-kilter guitar work and pummeling drumming. The explosive choruses, meanwhile, are often the highlight of any given track, showing that Laumann can do more than simply bark and holler like a Neanderthal. Dope Body Lifer 7 out of 10