MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA – A Black Mile to the Surface
THE GOOD: Atlanta, Ga. indie rockers Manchester Orchestra give us an epic fifth.
THE BAD: No genuine gripes.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Songwriter/guitarist/frontman Andy Hull is the only original member left standing. On “Black Mile,” a record inspired by the old mining town of Lead, South Dakota, he conjures up widescreen multi-faceted sounds that feel like a cross between Silversun Pickups and more folk-based stuff such as Band of Horses or early Mumford & Sons (minus all the banjos). And when layer upon layer of voices begin chiming in, a smattering of Sigur Ros enters the mix too.
“Lead, SD” booms to a roaring climax. “The Alien” draws us in on gently flowing and ghostly melodies. “The Wolf” brings in tumbling beats and ominous guitars creating a darker more dangerous mood. Every piece is interconnected; “Black Mile” almost crashing beneath its own weight. Thankfully, Hull never lets that happen. The songs themselves are never drowned out by its own complicated settings.
BUY IT?: Yes.
DEATH FROM ABOVE – Outrage Is Now
THE GOOD: After dropping the “1979” from their moniker, Canadian dance/punk duo Death From Above (multi-instrumentalist Jesse Keeler and vocalist/drummer Sebastien Grainger) come back with their third.
THE BAD: No worries.
THE NITTY GRITTY: I only say “dance” punk because the rhythms under the searing guitars have always been so thick and penetrating. They’re just as important to the whole mess as the din above. Those driving beats blast away once again on “Outrage.”
Only now, the riffs and melodies on top seem sharper. Keeler and Sebastien are getting older; the once angry 20-somethings have hit their 40’s. And while age could be a detriment to some, it’s making music from the DFA universe much more satisfying. Tracks like “Freeze Me” and “Nvr 4Evr” pull you in with their dedicated hooks; the song craft is strong. Other cuts such as “Caught Up” and “Statues” find a heavy almost aggressive FUNK springing up in all the right places; very punchy, very contagious.
BUY IT?: Sure.
BLACK KIDS – Rookie
THE GOOD: It took almost a decade, but Florida indie pop outfit Black Kids finally release their second album.
THE BAD: “Rookie” is good but not exactly the trailblazing comeback after a nine-year hiatus. Commercially, it could be a case of “too little, too late.” How many people in the room actually remember “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You?”
THE NITTY GRITTY: Listen to “Rookie” strictly on its own merits though, and you’ll enjoy it. Black Kids are still flashing back to 80’s college radio. The first half of the record boasts fine examples of retro jangle pop; melancholy tracks like “In a Song” and “V-Card” harken back to long-cherished album cuts from R.E.M.’S IRS days or the Smiths.
“Rookie’s” second half finds more prominent beats sneaking into the songs. From the disco trash slathered all over “Natural Born Kissers” to the naughty party anthem “Obligatory Drugs,” the band stops taking themselves too seriously and shows us a good time.
BUY IT?: Sure.