Sights and Sounds
by Mike Evans
NITE JEWEL— One Second of Love
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter Ramona Gonzalez (stage name Nite Jewel) further blossoms on her sophomore album.
THE BAD: Mood often takes over on Love. Not every cut is a gem, but the individual songs don’t need to be. You just have to roll with the vibe.
THE NITTY GRITTY: But when Gonzalez gets her groove on, the end results are hypnotic. Tightly woven tunes like the title cut and “Autograph” find the woman crossing 80s girl group R&B (Lisa Lisa perhaps) with some modern Goldfrapp action.
But the lady likes her ethereal moments too. Opener “This Story” only hints at the grooves yet to come while closer “Clive” doesn’t even need a beat to wash over the listener. Granted, these more subdued tracks aren’t as memorable, but thankfully Gonzalez doesn’t shy away from combining the best of both worlds. Songs like the mysterious “In the Dark” and the somewhat jittery “She’s Always Watching You” are all the more compelling when their tempered beats battle layered atmospherics for your attention.
BUY IT?: Yes. Love isn’t flawless but it’s definitely a step in the right
BEAR IN HEAVEN – I Love You, It’s Cool
THE GOOD: Brooklyn outfit Bear In Heaven gives us a complex third album.
THE BAD: I Love You is not an “instant” love affair. One must take the time and let these tunes sink in.
THE NITTY GRITTY: BIH is difficult to pigeonhole. Most refer to them as synthpop while forgetting there are real honest-to-goodness guitarists and drummers in the fold. They’re almost like a more progressive Passion Pit; the music less direct and ever-changing.
Many tracks on I Love You shift at their midpoint, going off on unexpected tangents. But frontman Jon Philpot never lets the proceedings spiral out of control. Tracks like “Sinful Nature” and “World of Freakout” are forever swirling and morphing while carrying their dedicated melodies on top, giving us something resembling a more focused Animal Collective. “Kiss Me Crazy” is playful, like the Pains of Being Pure at Heart minus the teen angst.
That’s I Love You’s strength. It’s familiar but it’s not. We’ve walked through this forest before, but someone shuffled all the trees. And the more times you spin the record, the better it gets.
BUY IT?: Surely.
REPTAR — Body Faucet
THE GOOD: Georgia indie poppers Reptar bring on a snappy debut.
THE BAD: Faucet is fraught with peaks and valleys; great songs interspersed with forgettable moments. And its final third could use a good trim. Thankfully though, the diamonds outnumber the duds (even if only slightly).
THE NITTY GRITTY: Named after the Rugrats character, Reptar wears their influences on a collective sleeve, bringing in elements from about a half dozen contemporaries. They swipe African rhythms off the first Vampire Weekend album, slap on big fat electronic hooks courtesy of Passion Pit, and give the whole deal a party atmosphere a la Architecture in Helsinki.
The combination may be original, but the individual sounds are not. And that’s Reptar’s biggest problem; even the best bits feel like retreads. However, you really don’t mind these shortcomings when the band is keeping things seamless and upbeat. Tunes like “Houseboat Babies” and “New House” bring on this carefree vibe that falls somewhere between out-of-control house party and sunny island paradise. It’s only when songs slow down to a crawl (droning and dull “Three Shining Suns”) that Faucet becomes cumbersome.
BUY IT?: You decide.