Van Etten, Ladytron lead the way with sequels

Pale Waves — ‘My Mind Makes Noises’
After teasing us with a bunch of singles and an EP, British indie pop band Pale Waves offers up its first full-length album.
THE BAD: Formulaic, but not terrible.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Hailing from Manchester, the band formed about five years ago while its two female members (lead singer/guitarist Heather Baron-Gracie and drummer Ciara Doran) were attending college. A record deal soon followed, and then the band supported pop band the 1975 on an American tour.
Now we have their first album — a tight, plucky, 14-song collection featuring guitars and synths blending seamlessly, big rhythms and Baron-Gracie singing in one of those ever-so-charming Northern British accents. The whole thing resembles a tougher English answer to America’s Echosmith. Tracks such as “Eighteen,” “Drive” and “One More Time” are pulsating, catchy bits of not-so-disposable modern pop. Somewhat routine? Maybe. But the record makes you curious as to what this band will do in the future. In other words, a pretty good start.
BUY IT?: Your call.

Sharon Van Etten — ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’
American singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten comes back with a fifth effort that’s a LOT better than it should be.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Van Etten could sound distracted here, but quite the opposite is true. She put her music aside in order to pursue an acting career, a degree in psychology and, even more difficult, motherhood. One would think these new songs would lack passion or focus.
They lack NEITHER. “Tomorrow” is both a very confident and varied album, with Van Etten bouncing effortlessly from something like the headstrong, driven “No One’s Easy to Love” to the more ethereal “Memorial Day.” Working with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Cloud Nothings, Best Coast), she also uses myriad sounds to complement the guitar-based stuff to which she’s grown accustomed. Keyboards, atmospherics and layered rhythms are not uncommon, nor do they sound out of place. Apparently, all those aforementioned outside pursuits were great influences as well.
BUY IT?: Absolutely.

Ladytron — ‘Ladytron’
British electronic outfit Ladytron returns with a pessimistic sixth (its first album in almost eight years).
THE BAD: Nothing.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The band went on hiatus in 2013, worked on a bunch of side and solo projects, and has now regrouped, energized and angry (“We are sirens of the apocalypse”). Many bands are these days. And while the new record isn’t overtly political, it carries the message that a lot of people out there are proverbially screwed over (or at least feel that way).
Ladytron has never been particularly optimistic anyway, so this outlook isn’t exactly new territory. And for those who simply want to focus on the band’s slick vibe and melodies, you won’t be disappointed. Yes, the album is a tad heavier than usual, but those cascading synth lines and female harmonies are all completely intact.
We get a highly enjoyable (and often danceable) set that reminds us how much we missed this band. Hopefully, the next album happens before 2027.
BUY IT?: Yep.

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