Cullen Omori’s latest succeeds where others fail

Mass Gothic ­— ‘I’ve Tortured You Long Enough’
Indie rock guy Noel Heroux delivers his second post-Hooray for Earth record as Mass Gothic. This time, he gets plenty of help from wife, Jessica Zambri.
THE BAD: Good songs. Failed experiments. “Tortured” has both.
THE NITTY GRITTY: When these two merge, the end result sounds like an amalgamation of that OTHER husband-and-wife duo, Mates of State; early Arcade Fire; and a touch of Bat for Lashes’ modern shoegaze. When they’re focused — like on the pumping synth-pop of “Keep on Dying” or the noisy, guitar-heavy (and still infectious) opener “Dark Window” — the pair delivers the goods. You’re grateful Heroux gave Zambri equal time within his creative space.
Too bad much of “Tortured” isn’t quite as inspired, though. All too often, the duo gives into repetitive structures (the loopy title track) and a penchant for layered feedback and endless drones. Still, the record DOES make you curious as to what these two will accomplish on future releases. There are plenty of good ideas here.
BUY IT?: Maybe.

The Kooks — ‘Let’s Go Sunshine’
British indie rock group the Kooks comes back with its fifth.
THE BAD: Playing it too safe?
THE NITTY GRITTY: Despite making highly enjoyable records in the past, the Kooks never was a trailblazing or genre-defining band. Even in the early days, when the guys produced their most distinct music, the Kooks were seen by many (myself included) as a “poor man’s Arctic Monkeys.”
That hasn’t changed. And unfortunately, as the band’s records grow in number, each one feels less interesting than its predecessor (a trap “lesser” bands fall into). “Sunshine” is a tight affair with a bunch of rock-solid, guitar-based indie pop tunes. Songs such as the snappy “All This Time” and Britpop-tinged power ballad “Picture Frame” are cool enough. However, there’s a definite formula at play here, and it’s hard to sustain for nearly an hour. “Sunshine” is a record better served in pieces before the sameness overtakes whatever good traits these songs have to offer.
BUY IT?: Your call.

Cullen Omori — ‘The Diet’
Ex-Smith Westerns frontman Cullen Omori returns with his second post-band effort.
THE BAD: After a rather momentous start, “The Diet” falls into a mid-tempo malaise. Individual songs remain strong, but the record runs the risk of becoming a one-mood set.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Pull apart the individual pieces, though, and you realize how accomplished Omori can be as an indie singer/songwriter. “The Diet” is painted in neo-psychedelic colors and framed within a jangle pop/early ’70s glam haze. One instantly detects echoes of Ziggy-era Bowie and prime T. Rex.
Dynamic rockers such as “Four Years” and “Happiness Reigns” blur the lines between post-modern progression and classic AM radio pop. Slower and steady tracks such as “Millennial Geishas” harken back to Oasis during its bombastic late-’90s phase. “A Real You” is sunny and playful — a multi-layered, latter-day British Invasion dream.
Yet, Omori takes these sounds and places them in settings all his own. And “The Diet” pushes the man further out of his former band’s shadow.
BUY IT?: Yes.