Indie rockers serve mixed bag of sequels
Animal Collective — ‘Tangerine Reef’
THE GOOD: Experimental indie rock outfit Animal Collective releases its 11th.
THE BAD: “Reef” is a companion piece to a film. Pull the two apart, and both suffer.
THE NITTY GRITTY: “Reef” is the band’s first album without principal songwriter Panda Bear. He’s still a member but wasn’t involved in this one-off collaboration with Coral Morphologic, an art-science duo comprised of a musician and a marine biologist. The record is meant to accompany a video project the duo made about coral reef conservation and climate change.
So we have an ambient film score recorded live in the studio. Individual tracks run into each other, large sections of the music are essentially tuneless, and the entire work is painted with a sense of dread and foreboding. Panda Bear’s melodies are sorely lacking.
However, “Reef” was never meant to be an indie pop album. It’s a combination of what the video needed and perhaps an unintentional look back at Animal Collective’s weirder early days.
BUY IT?: Your choice.
Peter Bjorn and John — ‘Darker Days’
THE GOOD: Swedish indie pop/rockers Peter Bjorn and John come back with a lighter eighth (despite its “Darker” title).
THE BAD: Nah.
THE NITTY GRITTY: See the drawing of broken bones on the mostly black/gray cover art, and you might think the record is PB&J getting all philosophical, political or a little of both over noisy, abrasive and morose backdrops. OK, there might be echoes of ALL that buried within these 10 new tracks.
However, this new collection finds the guys showing off their pop chops more so than on the last two or three offerings. Songs such as the bubbly “One for the Team” and regal “Living a Dream” are all about big melodies, sunny arrangements and keeping matters bright and tight.
The band then tosses in a few more experimental bits. Toward its conclusion, “Days” gets slightly gloomy and more down-tempo. The moody “Silicon Valley Blues” and spaced-out “Heaven and Hell” bring some balance to the entire outing.
BUY IT?: Yes.
We Were Promised Jetpacks — ‘The More I Sleep, the Less I Dream’
THE GOOD: Scottish indie rock group We Were Promised Jetpacks comes back more mature and ambitious after a four-year hiatus.
THE BAD: Nothing.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The word that best describes “The More I Sleep” is “big.” Big, soaring melodies; full, rich arrangements; and epic bouts of drama — they all have a place here. The end result is a grand spectacle that proves the band is aging and progressing gracefully. A song such as the melancholy “Hanging In” or the stirring, slowly building title track wouldn’t have sounded out of place on past records. However, moments like those would have been a bigger shock to the system than they are here.
One detects echoes of graceful Travis, early Radiohead and even soulful Doves. The band also finds that bittersweet spot between the down-tempo gloom and the guitar-drums clamor. This may be a more somber record that usual, but it’s by no means soft. The band remains a powerful outfit, too.
BUY IT?: Yep.