COOL MOVES SAID THE WHALE — ‘As Long as Your Eyes Are Wide’
THE GOOD: Canadian indie pop/rockers Said the Whale come back with their fifth.
THE BAD: Nothing “bad” but…
THE NITTY GRITTY: …nothing extremely “glowing” either. “Eyes Are Wide” is typical STW — semi-formulaic indie pop in which the guitars and keyboards melt together, the backbeats are that modern Foster the People/Passion Pit dance/rock hybrid, the vocals soar across big melodies, and everything fits oh-so-neatly into place. It’s not exactly musical wallpaper, but it’s dangerously close to being forgotten almost immediately.
In other words, we’ve been here many times before. Then again, tunes such as the spirited “I Will Follow You” or the majestic “Emily Rose” are filled with enough little infectious touches (some not so subtle) to catch us off guard while tickling our ears. The band does know its way around an effective hook or dedicated groove. Still, Said the Whale should consider changing the formula at least a little next time around. No one likes being stuck in a rut.
BUY IT?: Your call.
SYLVAN ESSO — ‘What Now’
THE GOOD: North Carolina electronic indie pop duo Sylvan Esso dodges the sophomore slump with a grand colorful second effort.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: So far, Sylvan Esso’s forward trajectory has been totally unexpected when you consider that vocalist Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn hail from what are essentially modern FOLK outfits (Mountain Man and Megafun, respectively).
Looking at these more rustic musical backgrounds, you might think the duo’s attempts at underground dance pop would be laughable at best. While the two aren’t above satirical lyrics and taking sarcastic jabs at various facets of mainstream society, Meath and Sanborn are always in on the joke. And no one is laughing at the pair’s backing grooves and beats.
Pretty much all these songs are instantly fetching to both the body and the mind. They’re intelligent stuff to which you can’t help but move. “What Now” never loses momentum and ends up a varied collection that crackles, bangs and pops with the best of ’em.
BUY IT?: Yes.
LANA DEL REY — ‘Lust for Life’
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter Lana Del Rey gives us an epic fourth.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: “Lust” comes complete with guest vocalists (ASAP Rocky, Sean Lennon, Stevie Nicks), subtle nods to hip-hop (atmospheric beats banging far away in the distance) and not-so-subtle nods to the uncertainty of our times (“When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing”).
At its core though, “Lust” remains yet another divine if not traditional Del Rey set. She’s still obsessed with strictly American images, such as coffee shops and white Mustangs; the unglamorous underbelly of the West Coast; and delivering her brooding tunes as if they were all steamy torch songs, even if the subject matter isn’t the least bit romantic. And you can tell she means every single syllable passing her lips.
“Lust’s” greatest strength though is the songs. The material remains compelling throughout, never dragging even though the entire record barely rises above a mid-tempo roar during its 72-minute playing time.
BUY IT?: Yes.