July album review round-up

Bleachers – “Strange Desire”

According to Time, Jack Antonoff, best known for his work as the guitarist of Fun., is reluctant to call Bleachers a “side project.” Even so, it’s hard to not draw parallels between “Strange Desire” and “Some Nights.” Though stepping away from his pseudo-indie, radio pop past proves to be a prudent move for Antonoff and his synth pop project, Bleachers’ debut is ultimately forgettable.

Antonoff is at his best when he ditches the choral, “we’re all in this together” moments in favor of a sparser sound. “Take Me Away,” hidden between the pounding hits, has Antonoff exploring his sultry midrange with a fluttering vocal contribution from indie pop star Grimes. It’s a brief interlude that, while slightly overproduced, suggests Bleachers could push into a new territory. Instead, the album blasts into the squeaky dance beats of “Like a River Runs”. While “Bleachers” is ultimately promising, it is still a lazy attempt at nuanced pop.


La Roux – “Trouble in Paradise”

Much has changed since La Roux’s debut album was released five years ago. The album was awarded a Grammy for “Best Electronic/Dance Album”, vocalist Elly Jackson contributed vocals to “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” and Jackson’s cohort, producer Ben Langmaid, parted ways with the group.

Living up to this precedent and avoiding the fabled sophomore slump is no easy task, especially sans Landmaid. “Trouble in Paradise” smoothes out many of their formerly harsh and rigid edges of her previous effort in favor of a glossier synth pop; tracks like “Paradise is You” even touch into ballad territory. Certainly this makes for a more traditionally pretty and warm aesthetic, but despite all of the tales of escapades – like at the “Sexotheque” – Jackson evades cliche and self-objectification. Even armed with a new sound, “Trouble in Paradise” makes for a strong and welcome follow-up.


Alvvays – “Alvvays”

Like Chvrches, Alvvays is the latest indie group to adopt a unique moniker to satisfy search engine optimization tendencies and find their Googling Millennial audience. Pronounced like the standard “always”, the outfit’s jangly indie pop-ish sound will certainly satisfy a young and presumably hip audience which is hungry for the next Best Coast or Vampire Weekend. But with the surge of lo-fi groups riding the surf pop wave, Alvvays and their self-titled feel doomed to be lost in the tide.

That’s not to argue that Alvvays is bad, whatsoever. Had they pounced upon the scene ten years ago, they would have been hailed as some sort of revivalists, or purveyors of surf-worthy indie pop. But now, we’ve been flooded with this sort of thing: the jingle-jangle choruses, the slippery-slope riffs, the monotonous and semi-pretty feminine vocals. It is worthy of a “like”, a fluttering excitement, but ultimately forgettable.


Judas Priest – “Redeemer of Souls”

40 years later and still going strong –  there’s no doubt that Judas Priest are heavy metal gods. After lineup changes, breakups, and threatening retirement, the band reunited in 2003 with Rob Halford, who left in 1991, they’ve been steadily releasing albums, but their 2014 effort was one of the most anticipated metal releases of the year.

Their latest record is full of heavy hitters like “Dragonaunt,” wrought with aggressive riffs and frontman Rob Halford’s screeching vocals, and the dizzying, lightening riffs of “Halls of Vallhalla” But after that, the speed, intensity, and aggression all begins to sound the same. Tracks like “Sword of Damocles” and “Down in Flames” sounds like they are going through the motions of playing the song. Despite the impressive instrumentation of the openers, the album lacks the passion of the fire of their best material. Though by no means isn’t bad, it just isn’t as strong or interesting as their past work. Maybe it’s best to stick to their classics.