GIRL POWER DIET CIG — ‘Swear I’m Good at This’
THE GOOD: The New Paltz, New York, indie pop/punk duo Diet Cig (female vocalist/guitarist Alex Luciano and drummer Noah Bowman) gives us a blistering full-length debut.
THE BAD: Sometimes the record feels like a collection of demos. A few tracks are little more than one verse, clocking in at about 70 seconds. You want the story to reach a logical resolution. That doesn’t always happen.
THE NITTY GRITTY: When everything falls into place though, Diet Cig can create powerful, angst-riddled music. Tracks such as building opener “Sixteen” and frustrated yet infectious closer “Tummy Ache” focus on young-adult concerns without trivializing them. If Luciano has a bad day, she can turn that turmoil into fist-pumping anthems built upon Bowman’s tight, crashing rhythms; searing, slashing guitars; and melodies that are half blazing hooks and half not-so-quiet desperation.
So while “Good at This” is certainly flawed, it remains a worthy first try that leaves us hopeful for an even brighter future.
BUY IT?: Your choice.

HAIM — ‘Something To Tell You’
THE GOOD: California indie pop/rockers Haim obliterate the sophomore slump on their follow-up to 2013’s bubbly debut “Days Are Gone.”
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The ladies bring back those airtight harmonies and solid grooves that made us all take notice four years ago. Flawlessly blending everything from ’70s soft rock to ’90s R&B to modern indie rock, the Haim sisters offer up a mix equaling appealing to a 55-year-old Fleetwood Mac enthusiast and a jaded college freshman. They also sound completely relaxed and confident while doing it. That’s not easy.
“Something” is another accomplished collection showing off Haim’s singing and songwriting chops. Is it slick? Hell yeah. But you won’t mind the gloss. The studio polish only enhances catchy gems such as “Little of Your Love” and “Found It in Silence.” Each song carries its own vibrant personality and soulful strut; the music is custom-made for a glorious, sunny day. Even the somber closer “Night So Long” isn’t a complete downer.
BUY IT?: Surely.

TORI AMOS — ‘Native Invader’
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter/pianist Tori Amos comes back with a varied and topical 15th.
THE BAD: Pretty much every Amos record is an epic. Prepare to invest over an hour of your time. It’s only “bad” for the casual fans out there.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Yet, Amos also has a knack for keeping her lengthy works from slipping into repetitive ruts. She always brings on a variety of emotions, tempos and instrumentation. Every record becomes a mixed bag. “Invader” is no exception.
Just like everyone else in 2017, Amos gets political and environmentally conscious here. However, even when the messages aren’t so subtle, the subtext rarely overshadows the power of Amos’ melodies and arrangements. And there are some whoppers here. From the intensity building throughout “Cloud Riders” to the heavy sway carrying “Bang,” the drama never ends.
“Chocolate Song” gets clunky, and “Russia” is about as subtle as a smack in the teeth, but no Amos collection is perfect. Thankfully, “Invader” remains powerful and compelling from start to finish.
BUY IT?: Yeah.

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