THE FLAMING LIPS — Heady Fwends
THE GOOD: The Flaming Lips are back with more mind expansion and some unexpected collaborations.
THE BAD: No gripes, but be prepared! Fwends was originally released last April as a limited-edition vinyl-only collection for Record Store Day. As this was never meant to be an “official” album, it’s highly erratic and experimental.
THE NITTY GRITTY: But despite its “patchwork” nature, Fwends holds together surprisingly well. Here, Wayne Coyne and his crew get together with a myriad of artists from all walks of musical life. You have your pop stars (Kesha), indie darlings (Bon Iver, Neon Indian), legends (Nick Cave, Yoko Ono) and underground acts (Prefuse 73, Lightning Bolt) all coming together to assist the Lips at making a big bold beautiful noise.
And just about every pairing is memorable. From the screaming dance-pop of “Do It” (Yoko’s moment) to the over-the-top psychedelia permeating “That Ain’t My Trip” (with My Morning Jacket) to the low-key drone of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (with Erykah Badu), there isn’t a misfire in sight. BUY IT?: Not every song is easily swallowed, but the effort is worth it.
FRIENDS — Manifest
THE GOOD: Brooklyn outfit Friends gives us a spotty debut.
THE BAD: Bad? No. Forgettable? Maybe.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Manifest somewhat grabs you. One hears echoes of other female-fronted rock bands like Long Blondes or, during the more danceable bits, Ting Tings. Songs like “Sorry” and “Ideas on Ghosts” ride slick grooves and ooze eerie vibes; indie pop creeping out of the fog. “Friend Crush” and “I’m His Girl” are funkier and slightly bad-ass. “Stay Dreaming” floats on a cloud with a vintage shoe-gazer vibe.
But there’s something seriously lacking throughout the record. The parts are all here, but they don’t quite gel, or at least form something invigorating. Either the band is suffering an identity crisis or they just don’t have a lot of fresh ideas to bring to the table. Manifest feels like a mix of all the rock-dance revival stuff that was happening 10 years ago; a scratched-up CD you burned back in 2005 and just discovered buried in the glove compartment.
BUY IT?: Meh. Manifest is decent, but won’t leave you craving a second set.
MICACHU AND THE SHAPES — Never
THE GOOD: English composer/producer Micachu (real name Mica Levi) and her crew the Shapes return with a second dose of the avant-garde (but still infectious).
THE BAD: Just like 2009’s Jewellery, Never challenges the listener. One must smash all preconceived notions of “pop.” Be warned.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Never is 14 slabs of dissonant noise wrapped around jagged melodies, all riding rhythms either frantic or low and pulsating. The classically trained Micachu prefers a bevy of home-made instruments (something close to an acoustic guitar) and various percussive and “found” noisemakers (there’s a vacuum cleaner in there somewhere) to traditional instrumentation. She also disregards, or at least heartily bends, the traditional verse-chorus structure.
So we get short, terse bursts (most cuts barely break the 2-minute mark) of melody that catch us off guard, ending up far more appealing and memorable than they should be. Tracks like “Waste” and “You Know” swoop in, shock us out of complacency, and disappear just as we’re latching onto a rollicking groove. Even the quieter moments carry a somewhat prickly vibe, Micachu never fully relaxing.
BUY IT?: Yes. Never is never boring.
NEW RELEASES — CD
AKON — Stadium
THE AVETT BROTHERS — The Carpenter
BOB DYLAN — Tempest
DAVE MATTHEWS BAND — Away From the World
DMX — Undisputed
THE HELIO SEQUENCE — Negotiations
LUDACRIS — Ludaversal
PET SHOP BOYS — Elysium
THE RAVONETTES — Observator
SEAPONY — Falling
THE XX — Coexist
ZZ TOP— La Futura
NEW RELEASES — DVD
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN
with Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron
TITANIC first time on Blu-Ray
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING with Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez