MEATY BEATY BIG AND BOUNCY ARCADE FIRE — ‘Everything Now’
THE GOOD: Canadian indie rockers Arcade Fire go for big beats again on their fifth.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: 2013’s “Reflektor” found LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy producing and taking the band into multi-layered rhythmic territories, almost turning them into a different outfit. “Everything Now” continues the danceable trend, swapping out Murphy for Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter.
The social commentary still is present, with the band hyper-critical of consumerism, corporations, the constant instant gratification of the digital age, etc. Set against slightly synthetic backdrops, the irony is never lost. Every participant “switches on.”
While the album has a couple minor misfires (the dippy reggae carrying “Chemistry” never feels wholly authentic), “Everything” ends up another triumph for the band. It also proves the grooves that made “Reflektor” so damn infectious were no fluke. From the buzzing sing-along “Creature Comfort” to the liquid late-night funk on “Electric Blue,” the record frees the mind and body for a good time that still makes you think.
BUY IT?: Surely.
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE — ‘Hug of Thunder’
THE GOOD: The Canadian indie rock collective coordinated by Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning — and boasting collaborators from other “North of the Border” bands (Metric, Stars, Feist, etc.) — comes back with its fifth album and first in seven years.
THE BAD: Like other BSS sessions, “Thunder” has peaks and valleys. Don’t expect a tight affair.
THE NITTY GRITTY: With song titles such as “Stay Happy” and “Gonna Get Better,” the band might be too damn cheerful for its own good. But it’s always been that way, going for an uplifting experience during unpredictable times of turmoil. Even the politicized moments are never “super heavy.”
BSS could be the less hippy-dippy take on the Polyphonic Spree or the more jubilant version of that other Canadian super-group, New Pornographers. Yet they’re also not afraid to visit more serious places such as the heartfelt and imploring “Please Take Me with You.”
Its title appropriate, “Thunder” ends up another BIG record that surrounds you with colorful arrangements and bold melodies.
BUY IT?: Yes.
THE WAR ON DRUGS — ‘A Deeper Understanding’
THE GOOD: Philadelphia indie rock outfit the War on Drugs jumps to a major label (Atlantic) and delivers an epic fourth.
THE BAD: Ten tracks in 66 minutes feels like a slog at times. Simply hope for the best during the parts that drag.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer Adam Granduciel still is the brains behind the whole operation. It’s HIS vision that comes to life during these painstaking sessions, as “Understanding” is a study in slowly building, multi-layered studio craft. Whether it’s the sparkling, jangly “Holding On” or the extended intricate jams coming together as “Thinking of a Place,” Granduciel is a master at building large spaces in which we can’t help but become lost.
“A Deeper Understanding” is exactly that — a collection of songs that may not immediately grab hold. However, one discovers their many engaging nuances hidden beneath the surface upon repeat encounters. You must take your time and embrace the music slowly. The effort is well-worth it.
BUY IT?: Yep.