Trio of follow-up albums brings the (good) noise
Dirty Projectors — “Lamp Lit Prose”
THE GOOD: Brooklyn indie outfit Dirty Projectors brings us a lively eighth.
THE BAD: No complaints.
THE NITTY GRITTY: DP mastermind vocalist/guitarist David Longstreth is in better spirits this year, especially after 2017’s darker and more introspective self-titled record. Sure the guy sings of senators while going the political route during “That’s A Lifestyle.” But he also manages to name-drop Julian Casablancas when telling us of a new girl who’s a real “Break-Thru.” The guitar riff on that track is super-jazzy and infectious, too.
“Lamp Lit” ends up a myriad of flavors (Longstreth utilizing strings and horns more than usual) and much welcome vocal guests from Syd and Haim. The album feels like a party in spots but never comes off as one-dimensional. When things quiet down, the simple melodic beauty of “Blue Bird” can be heartbreaking and the tranquility of closer “(I Wanna) Feel It All” brings us home with a sense of calm. It’s a tiring but highly enjoyable journey.
BUY IT?: Oh yeah.
Still Corners — “Slow Air”
THE GOOD: London dream-pop duo Still Corners come back with a moody (of course) fifth.
THE BAD: “Slow Air” is more about an overall dramatic vibe as opposed to individual songs. A certain sameness becomes apparent around the record’s midpoint. But the band still makes it work.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Tessa Murray remains a commanding presence, even when her voice rarely rises above a distant dull roar. And the songs themselves are all mid-tempo burners, coated with a little more guitar than usual. So “Slow Air” ends up a collection of smoky stuff that sounds best around midnight.
It’s hardly the blues, but there are definite shades of blue. The occasional bouts of ambient noise and echo only enhance the dreamy experience. And when Murray and multi-instrumentalist/producer Greg Hughes hit us with a succinct melody, their pop sensibilities also shine through. It’s tough to deny the infectious power and drive of a track such as “Black Lagoon” or “Dreamlands.”
BUY IT?: Sure.
Anna Calvi — “Hunter”
THE GOOD: British singer/songwriter/guitarist Anna Calvi switches things up on her long-awaited third.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Her first new music in four years finds Calvi changing outlooks but not necessarily musical directions. Her guitar playing remains varied, unpredictable and, in spots, truly stunning. This time, her vocals resemble a cross between P.J. Harvey’s more delicate side and prime Siouxsie Sioux.
However, a sweeping and dramatic ballad such as “Swimming Pool” or the intimate strains of “Eden” may have felt out of place on past records. The entirety of “Hunter” isn’t quite as visceral as her earlier work. But the set isn’t soft by any means. Calvi can still burn with the best of them; stinging bits such as “Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Body” and “Alpha” bring a definite rock swagger and sexual drive to the proceedings.
Calvi has never been this open, honest and, in some instances, vulnerable before. This newfound intimacy works, and one can only hope it crops up again on future releases.
BUY IT?: Yes.