BIG BEATS AND GLORIOUS CLUTTER

SLEIGH BELLS —
“Jessica Rabbit”
THE GOOD: Brooklyn noise pop duo Sleigh Bells (vocalist Alexis Krauss and multi-instrumentalist Derek Miller) comes back with its fourth.
THE BAD: Sleigh Bells still hasn’t topped or even matched
its blistering debut (2010’s “Treats”). “Jessica Rabbit” is at least the CLOSEST it’s come to doing just that.
THE NITTY GRITTY: While the new album isn’t quite the jack-hammer to the brain that “Treats” was (and still is), the new songs surpass many of the offerings from “Reign of Terror” (2012) and the rushed “Bitter Rivals” (2013). The two spent a couple years working on these new sounds. The song-craft is more confident, especially in its willingness to expand Bells’ musical palette; the pair is adept at flirting with prog rock and R&B.
“Rabbit” ebbs and flows with great agility, exploring different moods and levels of abrasiveness without hesitation. Plus, many of these songs have the added bonus of great melodies at their core (dig “I Can’t Stand You Anymore” or “Baptism by Fire”).
BUY IT?: Yep

EMPIRE OF THE SUN — “Two Vines”
THE GOOD: Australian super-duo Empire of the Sun (Luke Steele of the Sleepy Jackson and Nick Littlemore of Pnau) regroups for its third.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Look at the cover art across the pair’s three albums, and the images resemble the posters of some flamboyant, big-budget fantasy film trilogy. Perhaps that’s meant to represent the sound of Empire — big, rich, flashy, otherworldly, soaring and evocative of a happy outcome.
“Two Vines” is a divine collection built with multi-layered harmonies, buzzing synths and steady, seamless rhythms. It’s a set where pretty much any cut could be a single, from the bouncy, feel-good vibes spread across tracks such as “Friends” and “Zzz” to the more delicate, heartfelt sways of “There’s No Need” and “First Crush.”
While the guys never stray too far from the styles of their other bands, the “melding” that occurs on every Empire album brings about something fresh and addictive. So prepare to be carried away.
BUY IT?: Yes.

WHITE LIES — “Friends”
THE GOOD: British indie
rock group White Lies gives us its fourth.
THE BAD: The band has yet to make a “great” album. However, “Friends” is a step in the right direction.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The new record certainly is more accomplished than 2013’s tepid “Big TV.” Yet, White Lies’ biggest problem remains its identity crisis. The boys always remind you of SOME OTHER BAND. Whether it’s the dark, urban nightlife escaping from a decade-old Interpol record; the rock-based pulsations that carried a Killers set; or a bold melody resembling some past Editors hit, White Lies constantly recalls the best bits from the outside work of others.
So no points for originality. “Friends” does score points for some pretty solid (and soaring) songs, however. Tracks such as “Take It Out on Me” and “Swing” boast memorable hooks galloping over thick, rich backing tracks. And the new set contains far more songs worthy of repeating as opposed to forgettable duds (unlike the aforementioned “Big TV”).
BUY IT?: Why not?

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