NOT-TOO-GENTLE BREEZES

EISLEY – I’m Only Dreaming
THE GOOD: Texas indie rock band Eisley come back with their fifth album.
THE BAD: No issues.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Still fronted by the precious female harmonies of cousins Sherri DuPree-Bemis and Garron DuPree, Eisley continue to churn out shimmering guitar-based pop/rock tunes that glisten on the surface while being driven by airtight steady drums below.
There’s not a lot of forward progression on “Dreaming,” but there doesn’t need to be. The Eisley formula still works, and its overall effect isn’t diminishing. Good songs and harmonies are sometimes all you crave. And even if this isn’t the group’s best set of songs ever (although it IS strong), one finds many subtle charms tucked away in these tracks. The ascending melodies carrying “My Best Friend,” the gentle strains of “Rabbit Hole,” the infectious sway that pulls us further into “When You Fall” — it’s all good stuff.
For long-time fans or uninitiated newbies, “Dreaming” is just sweet enough to please without tipping over into saccharine territory.
BUY IT?: Surely.

SONDRE LERCHE – Pleasure
THE GOOD: Norwegian singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche comes back with his eighth proper studio album.
THE BAD: Every Lerche record has its hits and misses. “Pleasure” luckily finds the former outnumbering the latter.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The guy has dabbled in different genres before. For example, 2006’s “Duper Sessions” flirted with jazz-pop. Now “Pleasure” sees Lerche embracing electronic elements and dance-pop. Opening track “Soft Feelings” comes off like the second coming of Pet Shop Boys. “I’m Always Watching You” keeps the seamless momentum going full speed ahead.
As the album plays on though, the synthetics bury themselves in the mix while more “traditional” Lerche sounds (i.e. guitars) come back to the forefront. Yet the man has never released a more rhythmically charged record. Still, “Pleasure” remains typical of the man’s work at its core. We get a healthy dose of intelligent satisfying pop without pretension. Except for maybe the endless prog-rock ramblings of “Violent Game.” But remember, no Lerche set is perfect.
BUY IT?: Yep.

AIMEE MANN – Mental Illness
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter and ex-‘Til Tuesday frontwoman Aimee Mann gives us an intimate ninth solo effort.
THE BAD: No.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Mann never stays in one place too long, having redefined herself countless times since going solo way back in 1990. “Mental Illness” is the low-key answer to 2012’s more animated indie pop collection “Charmer.” Instead of the full rock band treatment, these fragile songs are given cozy arrangements featuring acoustic guitar, light percussion, bass, piano and the occasional small string section. You won’t find an electric guitar anywhere. Mann harmonizes with her back-up guys, one of whom happens to be past collaborator Ted Leo (of Pharmacists fame).
But while the record has all the makings of a complete downer, “Illness” isn’t a depressing listen. Even though Mann tackles everyday hassles like loneliness, disappointment and depression, the melodies sparkle and a record that should sound icy or detached turns out amazingly warm. So much so that replays are a pleasure as opposed to a dreaded chore. BUY IT: Yes.

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