New releases from For Esme, Laurel, Metric make for welcome additions
For Esme — ‘Righteous Woman’
THE GOOD: Canadian synthpop outfit For Esme makes you think while dancing on “Righteous Woman.”
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Fronted by Martha Meredith, For Esme offers up 10 frothy, forward-moving anthems dealing with feminism, equality, power and a little dreaming now and then. The strong messages are all there, but so are the liquid beats; “Woman” is a brilliant merging of two worlds. Disposable dance music that isn’t really disposable at all? Yes, pay attention.
Passion, purpose and even a subdued rage bubbling beneath all those ringing synths and infectious melodies belted out by a self-assured frontwoman fill punchy tracks such as “To Love,” “Small Talk” and “Modern Love.” And when the band pulls back the rhythms and Meredith finds herself singing sans big beats (“Secret Church” and “Asleep/Awake”), the music takes on a completely different form that’s just as mesmerizing. “Woman” ends up a balanced workout with rests in all the right places.
BUY IT?: Yes. And go for the limited edition LP.
Laurel — ‘Dogviolet’
THE GOOD: After teasing us with a bunch of singles and EPs over the past half-decade, British singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer Laurel Arnell-Cullen (stage name “Laurel”) finally delivers her first full-length album.
THE BAD: No gripes.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Known for recording her stuff in a bedroom studio, Laurel is a one-woman show that’s both tough and seductive. Her commanding voice can sound husky, ragged, smoky or somewhat flirtatious — whatever the song calls for.
Musically, one would expect something electronic (at-home productions often go that route). Yet, Laurel’s music leans toward something more organic and rock-based. Guitars are just as important as the keyboards. Think more Lana Del Rey or Florence and the Machine, and less Robyn or Lykke Li. Better moments include the stinging, in-your-face “Adored” and the more tempered, melancholy “Empty Kisses.” But “Dogviolet” contains very few wasted spaces. Laurel has sharpened her skills and developed her style on all those aforementioned singles, and the effort has paid off. The next one should be better still.
BUY IT?: Surely.
Metric — ‘Art of Doubt’
THE GOOD: Canadian indie rock group Metric returns with its seventh.
THE BAD: Nothing here.
THE NITTY GRITTY: After leaning heavy on synths for the past couple of records, frontwoman Emily Haines and her crew have brought guitars back up front. The new songs still ride punchy, seamless rhythms, and keyboards add color, but “Doubt” rocks harder than recent efforts. That newfound muscle paired with some of the band’s strongest songs in a decade makes the new album easily Metric’s best since 2009’s “Fantasies.”
You would think 12 songs spread over 58 minutes would drag after a while. “Doubt” may sag slightly in a couple of spots, but overall, the album never wears out its welcome. Strong points include immediately commanding opener “Dark Saturday”; sprawling anthem “Now or Never Now”; driven, catchy, power-pop wonder “Risk”; and the graceful, swirling “Anticipate.” There aren’t many lesser moments at all. “Doubt” balances differing moods and tempos and never falls into a routine sameness.
BUY IT?: Yes indeed.