JOYWAVE — ‘Content’
THE GOOD: Upstate New York indie pop/rock outfit Joywave releases its second proper full-length album.
THE BAD: Too generic?
THE NITTY GRITTY: One advantage “Content” has going for it is the sequencing. Right from the very beginning, we’re hit with formulaic, radio-friendly synth/guitar mashups. Thankfully, as the album plays on, the music becomes more distinct. The songs stop melting together. The highlight definitely is the multi-dimensional and sprawling “Going To a Place.”
Still, nothing here exactly leaps out of your speakers or headphones. “Content” is the kind of stuff you listen to while you’re doing something else — running, commuting, cleaning out the garage. It’s catchy background music you may or may not come back to at some point after that first spin. Joywave. Sir Sly. Saint Motel. Yawn. Rinse. Repeat.
BUY IT?: Your call. “Content” isn’t terrible, but these guys were better when the beats and electronics were more front and center. During the band’s EP and mixtape days, it was all about a groove, and the music was far more memorable.
Baio — ‘Man of the World’
THE GOOD: Vampire Weekend bassist Chris Baio releases his second proper solo album.
THE BAD: There IS another VW album in the works. It can’t happen quickly enough. Side projects are a pale substitute.
THE NITTY GRITTY: You can tell Baio is one half of a rhythm section. The guy knows his way around a melodic hook and snappy riff. Yet the focus of his work always seems to be the beat or drive beneath the stuff above.
“World” finds most of its songs interconnected. Keep them together, and the record flows amazing well. Pull them apart, and a few tunes seem incomplete. Musically, we run the gamut from bouncy bits (“The Key Is Under the Mat”) to more laid-back, writhing pieces (“Dangeroue Anamal”).
Lyrically, “World” is heavier than 2015’s “The Names.” Baio tackles climate change, politics and his Trump-supporting first cousin Scott Baio (“Shame in My Name”). Sometimes the messages seem heavy-handed against the bubbly backdrops, with the elements not quite gelling. But “World” still clicks overall.
BUY IT?: Sure.
EMA — ‘Exile in the Outer Ring’
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter Erika Michelle Anderson (EMA) revisits her South Dakota roots while painting a bleak picture of the Midwest today.
THE BAD: “Outer Ring” is not an easy listen, but’s it’s worth the effort.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Welcome to an existence riddled with apathy, poverty, substance abuse, no direction and absolutely NO future. The singer purrs time and again throughout the subdued “Down and Out,” “But what are you hoping for?”
EMA has a knack for making ugly records, and “Outer Ring” is no exception. Lyrically, we’re dealing with all those aforementioned daily obstacles. Musically, we’re slammed with an abrasive combination of ragged pop and industrial noise. Guitars are important, but the banging beats and buzzing, droning synths always dominate. EMA isn’t exactly screaming in your face, but you can feel every character’s frustration and hopelessness, even during the more somber bits.
“Outer Ring” drags you into the dirt and never lets up. Proceed with caution, and don’t let those slick melodies fool you.
BUY IT?: Yeah.