CALVIN HARRIS — ‘Funk Wav Bounces Volume 1’
THE GOOD: Scottish DJ/producer Calvin Harris gets funky on his fifth.
THE BAD: Where do I begin?
THE NITTY GRITTY: I apologize if personal taste creeps into a review that’s supposed to be completely objective, but Calvin … WTF? I used to love your records — EDM/techno hybrids with cheeky lyrics and goofy, squiggly keyboard riffs. You brought a sense of fun to the underground.
A couple of albums ago, though, guest vocalists started dominating the tracks. But at least they were people like Dizzee Rascal, Florence Welch and Haim. And that infectious “bounce” was always present. Irresistible stuff.
“Funk Wav” now finds the likes of John Legend, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj joining the party, dragging the music way too far into the mainstream. Predictable R&B also compromises the straight-up electronic vibe. So we get an album just as BORING as a “Now That’s What I Call Music” compilation. No spark. No adventure.
BUY IT?: No. Now let’s never speak of this again.
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM — ‘American Dream’
THE GOOD: James Murphy and company come out of semi-retirement for their fourth album.
THE BAD: “Dream” could seem difficult. In spots, it’s definitely LCD’s most “down” record. HOWEVER, stick around and let it spin. This extremely hypnotic concoction WILL grow on you.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Murphy still delivers the beat-driven goods, a steadily streaming combination of post-punk, house and funk. He’s not afraid to let a track slowly build and completely devour your consciousness. You don’t dance to a song like “How Do You Sleep.” You let its dark mood, bold beats, wraparound basslines, thumping synths and echo-drenched vocals carry you away to places both beautiful and dangerous.
And those trips happen again and again throughout “Dream.” It could be the silly flippancy of the house-rocking “Emotional Haircut” or the dead-serious, slow-burning Bowie requiem “Black Screen.” Doesn’t matter. Murphy wants the journey to not only last but also remain compelling until the final thump sputters into oblivion. He succeeds.
BUY IT?: YES!
CULTS — ‘Offering’
THE GOOD: New York indie pop duo Cults (vocalist Madeline Follin and “everything else” guy Brian Oblivion) comes back after four years with its third.
THE BAD: “Offering” isn’t as distinct as its predecessors. At first, much of the record slips into the background.
THE NITTY GRITTY: One has to give “Offering” a fair shake though; repeat spins bring out many of the songs’ subtle charms. Things such as the psychedelic, whirring organ underneath “With My Eyes Closed” or the carnival vibes coloring the swaying “Natural State” have to sink in gradually.
Strip away the atmospherics, though, and “Offering” becomes a case of style over substance on more than a few occasions. That’s the biggest drawback. What may be a dreamy collection capable of lifting you above the clouds isn’t necessarily a great collection of SONGS. Despite its occasional shortcomings, though, Cults remains a duo with something to offer. Here’s hoping the pair reignites the original spark on a more fleshed-out effort next time.
BUY IT?: Your choice.