SAINT MOTEL — “Saintmotelevision”
THE GOOD: Following its commercial breakthrough, the 2014 EP “My Type,” Los Angeles
indie pop band Saint Motel comes back with a bright, tight, second full-length album.
THE BAD: “Saintmotelevision” isn’t a game changer. Don’t expect innovation, just solid pop songs. And there’s nothing necessarily “bad” about that.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Co-produced by Lars Stalfors (Cold War Kids, Matt & Kim, Mars Volta), the album is one punchy, infectious track after another. The band’s hooks dance over solid backbeats and backdrops that find keyboards and guitars meshing beautifully. It’s tough to resist sing-song stompers such as “Destroyer” and “You Can Be You.”
And before you think the group is completely one-dimensional, the guys combine clever wordplay and classical pieces during “For Elise” and toss in the delicate, emotional closer, “Happy Accidents.” “Saintmotelevision” requires no heavy thought, just the ability to sing along with frontman A.J. Jackson or clap your hands. And if you find a smile plastered across your face from time to time, that’s cool too.
BUY IT?: Why not?

AUSTRA — “Future Politics”
THE GOOD: Canadian electronic outfit Austra (on record that’s strictly singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist Katie Stelmanis) comes back with a third record both dreamier and considerably more serious at the same time.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Musically, “Future Politics” has softened the edges and liquefied its seamless rhythms. Danceable synth-pop concoctions such as the title track and “I Love You More Than You Love Yourself” find Stelmanis’ rich vocals gracefully taking flight over whirling hypnotic backdrops; the overall effect is strong yet soothing.
Lyrically, Stelmanis was heavily influenced by the utopian possibilities found in science fiction while being confronted daily with the political mess gaining momentum just south of her border (our divided United States). It’s a juxtaposition that’s more harmonious than chaotic. Stelmanis discovers hope among the tension.
But with Austra, the MUSIC always is the focus. Stelmanis’ melodies and arrangements never lack elegance and an undeniable melodic thrust. You take the sweet right along with the powerful. “Politics” leaves this tradition wholly intact.
BUY IT?: Yes.

PORCELAIN RAFT — “Microclimate”
THE GOOD: Italian-born singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist Mauro Remiddi comes back with his third full-length as Porcelain Raft.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: After a huge burst of creativity earlier in the decade, Remiddi slowed down the creative process for the slightly more organic “Microclimate.” While the album is still based in the electronic, layered guitars and warm piano flourishes are much more prominent. Remiddi also seems more at ease showing off his songwriting chops; atmosphere no longer overpowers melodies.
Those craving another dose of dreamy indie pop need not panic though, for “Microclimate” is just as otherworldly as its predecessors. Only this time, it’s a little less Small Black and Tanlines and a little more “progressive,” as in spacey Sun Airway or even vintage Mercury Rev (dig the psychedelic overtones and grand melodies of “The Greatest View”). “Microclimate” may not be a BOLD step forward, but it’s a logical one; Remiddi refuses to stay in one place for very long.
BUY IT?: Surely.

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