WOMEN OF INDEPENDENCE COURTNEY BARNETT — ‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter/guitarist Courtney Barnett obliterates the sophomore slump.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: It was wise to release a collaborative effort with Kurt Vile (“Lotta Sea Lice”) instead of directly following up 2015’s triumph “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit.” Barnett was placed on such a high pedestal in the indie rock community that ANY follow-up could be considered a let-down. “Sea Lice” gave listeners a simple, unaffected set to savor — a nice warm-up before the main event.
Now, “Tell Me” is finally here. It’s a record that doesn’t try to match “Sit and Think” and is all the better for it. The new album is slightly smaller in scope, with Barnett allowing us to get closer and peek inside her psyche. Tracks are both loose (the rambling “Hopefulessness”) and airtight (the razor-sharp “Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence”). Barnett embraces her mood swings and grows as a songwriter. The next one should be brilliant, too.
BUY IT?: YES!
BEACH HOUSE — ‘7’
THE GOOD: Baltimore dream pop duo Beach House (vocalist/keyboardist Victoria Legrand and multi-instrumentalist Alex Scally) comes back with an appropriately titled seventh.
THE BAD: Nothing.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The band embraces a new creative process with “7.” Long-time producer Chris Coady has been replaced by NO official producer at all. Indie legend Sonic Boom acts as an on-again, off-again consultant of sorts. Instead of recording the album in a singular burst of creativity, the pair took its time at various sessions spread out over a year, letting the songs form more naturally.
“7” also is more intense than past efforts. The dreamy elements remain intact. However, they’re further enhanced by more live drums than usual, droning fits of distortion and echoes of vintage shoegaze. Sonic Boom’s presence certainly is felt within the distant rumblings of classic “My Bloody Valentine,” “Lush” or even his own “Spacemen 3.”
“7” is hardly a “noise-fest” though. You can still slip on a pair of headphones, close your eyes and drift away.
BUY IT?: Surely.
HOP ALONG — ‘Bark Your Head Off, Dog’
THE GOOD: Philadelphia indie rocker Hop Along comes back with a multi-textured third.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Three albums into their career, Frances Quinlan and her crew already have covered a lot of territory. They’re one of those groups that are difficult to pigeonhole (never bad), rolling and crashing like thunder one moment and delicately weeping the next.
Musically, they recall amazing, female-fronted indie legends such as Bettie Serveert, Madder Rose and Throwing Muses while embracing the more progressive-leaning elements of contemporaries, such as Warpaint. Lyrically, Quinlan tells wondrous stories both concrete and abstract.
On “Dog,” tempos vary, moods swing and the guitars often take a backseat to delicate, intimate string arrangements. Quinlan’s emotional vocals always are the main focus, whether it’s the exhausted strains of “The Fox in Motion” or the breathy waltz bringing “Not Abel” to life. It’s impossible to discover all the subtle nuances of “Dog” in just one sitting. The album is further enhanced with each subsequent spin.
BUY IT?: Yes.