Rock sequels sure bets for entertainment
White Denim — ‘Performance’
THE GOOD: Eclectic Austin, Texas, rock band White Denim regroups and re-energizes for its seventh.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Produced by their own damn selves in their very own space, “Performance” finds the band stretching out musically and having one hell of a good time doing so. The guys calmed down for a stretch, but no more. One now detects echoes of glam riding atop an authentic Southern funk/soul combination, all mixed up with touches of studio playfulness. Think Beck hooking up with the Black Keys while some early Bowie crackles in the background.
It’s a trippy mix, yet “Performance” is more focused than you would expect; the songs are airtight poppers set against colorful backdrops. It’s the melding of two worlds — a band unafraid of experimentation and mind expansion that also understands the appeal of a good, old-fashioned party record. “Performance” exists for the brain AND body. So crawl into this space, and do whatever you feel. Think, move, devour.
BUY IT? I would.
The Dodos — ‘Certainty Waves’
THE GOOD: San Francisco indie duo Dodos (vocalist/guitarist Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber) plugs in for its seventh.
THE BAD: A slight shift in overall sound, but nothing BAD.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The band’s core still leans toward the organic and acoustic, yet Long is more open to the electric on this set. “Waves” is much more abrasive and tougher-sounding than past records. Heavy? Not exactly, but certainly louder and multi-layered. Long makes his electric guitar sound like a bunch of different instruments across the top while Kroeber bangs, taps and kicks out a variety of world rhythms underneath.
At times, “Waves” comes off like a stranger take on Vampire Weekend; Long never forgets that a great hook or sweeping melody can cut through jagged riffs and pounding beats. So the record works on a few levels. We’re given wildly experimental post-punk, math rock and indie pop all tossed together in the same hyper brew. It’s a tasty combination.
BUY IT?: Surely.
Cloud Nothings — ‘Last Building Burning’
THE GOOD: Ohio indie rock group Cloud Nothings cranks out a visceral fifth.
THE BAD: Other than wandering track “Dissolution,” which never seems to end, “Burning” is a focused affair with purpose. No real complaints.
THE NITTY GRITTY: After 2017’s slightly reserved “Life Without Sound,” Cloud Nothings brings all its forceful energy back for the new record. Frontman/guitarist and band mastermind Dylan Baldi is fed up and frustrated, screaming out hooks atop jagged riffs and crashing backbeats. (“I wish I could believe in your dream.”)
That’s this band’s main strength. Even when it sounds as if matters are spiraling out of control and pent-up aggressions are exploding all over the room, the melodies break through the din. Tracks such as “Leave Him Now” and “Another Way of Life” display hardcore tendencies but remain guitar-based rock songs at their center. And since Cloud Nothings essentially started out as a Baldi solo project, “Burning” only continues the tightening and strengthening of the now proper band.
BUY IT?: Yes.