WASHED OUT – “Mister Mellow”
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter/producer/chillwave artist Ernest Greene (professional moniker Washed Out) flips labels (now it’s hip-hop outlet Stones Throw) and comes back with his third, the audio/visual “Mister Mellow.”
THE BAD: A little more music would have been nice. “Mellow” clocks out at about 29 minutes.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Buy the physical release, and you get a CD and a DVD. The music on both is identical; the DVD simply complementing the tunes with a bunch of makeshift cut-and-paste videos. It’s a cool addition, but the enhancement isn’t completely necessary.
The tracks end up the usual blend of electronic pop and “chill” aesthetics. Although more pronounced disco beats enter the mix now and again. Half the tracks possess traditional structures, the other half are brief “links” and spoken word bits. The entire album flows seamlessly; its mood shifting in places but never outright changing. Close your eyes and drift (don’t need the DVD if that’s your preference) or move to this steady stuff. Either option works.
BUY IT?: Yes.
PVRIS – “All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell”
THE GOOD: Massachusetts alt-rockers Pvris (pronounced “Paris”) come back with their second.
THE BAD: Not much to embrace here.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Fronted by female vocalist/guitarist Lynn Gunn, Pvris began as a metal band, but as they progressed, pop and electronic elements began seeping into the tunes. So we now have a concoction that sort of resembles vintage Evanescence crossed with current Paramore and about 35 other nameless bands that up end on the Vans Warped Tour every summer. This stuff is kind of engaging in spots, but otherwise mostly cloying, forgettable and downright dull.
I was suckered in by the rhythmic bounce of catchy single “What’s Wrong” and soon realized that the rest of the album was a pale imitation of that stand-out track. “All We Know of Heaven” is mostly textbook overly dramatic, heavy alt-rock with some decent beats buried beneath the din. After a while, it’s all just so tedious.
BUY IT?: Oh no.
ZOLA JESUS – “Okovi”
THE GOOD: American singer/songwriter/producer Nicole Hummel (stage name Zola Jesus) comes back with her fifth, and strongest in quite some time.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: “Okovi” is a case of beauty created out of tragedy. Since 2014’s “Taiga,” Hummel saw some of her closest friends grapple with death (disease and attempted suicide) in addition to the singer herself visiting some gloomy personal places. One could view this new record as a walk toward the light.
For “Okovi” brings together its dark past with a sense of hope for the future. The arrangements are stirring; the singer using a small string orchestra to great dramatic effect. The synthetics often take a back seat to more organic elements. However, when the beats do kick in they are all the more effective. The melodies on top are bolder this time too; Hummel’s singing strong and assured over waves of both delicate splendor and harsh distortion. It’s rare when what is essentially an electronic album feels this “human.”
BUY IT?: Yes.