Artists from variety of genres turn out must-listen sequels
Parquet Courts — ‘Wide Awake!’
THE GOOD: New York indie rock band Parquet Courts comes back with a varied sixth.
THE BAD: The group turns in more than a few unexpected musical directions. Not “bad,” but be prepared.
THE NITTY GRITTY: “Wide Awake” is a post-punk record with a social conscience. The band is fighting for its rights and yours, drawing attention to everything from class structures to violence in our city streets. Lyrically, it’s an album firmly grounded in 2018.
Musically, the guys unexpectedly hired Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley, Broken Bells, Black Keys) to produce. He brings the chaos under semi-control. Classic influences run amok within a frenetic, eclectic blend that recalls only the coolest of record collections. Debut Devo, “London Calling”-era Clash, early Jam, Wire and the Buzzcocks at their absolute peak, a smattering of early ’80s West Coast punk — all those sounds come together during a set that can be either highly aggressive or surprisingly melodic (or both) at different points. Fascinating.
BUY IT?: You should.
King Tuff — ‘The Other’
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Kyle Thomas (stage name King Tuff) switches gears (matures?) on his fourth.
THE BAD: The garage rock and party elements of past records are toned down. It’s not bad, but be ready for the shift.
THE NITTY GRITTY: These days, Thomas seems more concerned about the environment, our over-dependence on technology and real relationships as opposed to what to do with the weekend. Musically, he’s broadening his horizons too, experimenting with intimate mood pieces (the title cut), psychedelic bits carried by subtle country swaggers (“Thru the Cracks”) and multi-layered, Beck-like fits of funk (“Birds of Paradise”).
Thomas wants to create something bigger and more meaningful, and his progressions are off to a good start. The spirit behind “The Other” certainly is something worthy of expanding on in future releases. The man even keeps good company these days. Old friend and collaborator Ty Segall helps out on drums and backing vocals. Jenny Lewis makes an understated appearance. So come join the party — excuse me — gathering.
BUY IT?: Sure.
The Presets — ‘Hi Viz’
THE GOOD: Australian electronic duo the Presets shows us a great time on its fourth album (first in six years).
THE BAD: Shallow at points? You bet. However, there’s no bad in having nothing but a good time.
THE NITTY GRITTY: “Hi Viz” plays less like a proper album and more like a hyper DJ set. Some songs follow traditional pop structures; others are designed strictly to make you move. The guys manage to avoid the dated trappings of electronic music in general. Nothing here feels out of place in 2018. And there are long stretches where the individual tracks mix into each other seamlessly. So if you’re downloading as opposed to picking up the CD or vinyl, go for the WHOLE EXPERIENCE.
Standout cuts include the immediately slamming opener “Knuckles,” funky “Downtown Shutdown,” graceful yet pulsating “Feel Alone” and densely packed, hypnotic “14U + 14ME.” There really isn’t a weak moment here; “Hi Viz” never languishes or loses its all-too-important momentum.
BUY IT?: Yeah.