Album Reviews | January 2015 Releases

By: Alex Wood


Panda Bear- Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper[1/9]

Animal Collective’s Panda Bear has released a string of consistently quality solo records, and The Grim Reaper is no exception. Though the opening notes recall the slow, trippy harmonies of Person Pitch, the record becomes decidedly more upbeat than the 2007 release. Electronic noises form the backbone of each composition, glitchy effects constantly entering and leaving, creating a messy sound that jumps between dance tracks, experimental electronics and ambient noise, making for a strange release that Animal Collective fans will find familiar yet inventive.

The Decemberists- What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World [1/20]

The Decemberists first album since the highly successful and accessible The King Is Dead, What A Terrible World still finds the band writing and performing with a pop sensibility. Despite its accessible nature, the record still sounds distinctly like The Decemberists, with a broad vocabulary in the lyrics and a large, quirky indie-rock sound. In fact, the album sounds like a combination of every one of the band’s past records, delivered with a natural confidence despite its intelligence. Though less ambitious than earlier works, What A Terrible World is another successful addition to the ever-changing band’s discography.

Bjork- Vulnicura [1/20]

Vulnicura is very obviously a breakup album, the feeling of loss and heartbreak constantly present in both the lyrics and music. Electronic beats exist beneath blankets of dense string arrangements, creating a record both dark and delicate. Tracks are longer than on most Bjork albums, allowing songs to grow and change throughout, as though to match the songwriter’s shifting feelings about her breakup.  Another ambitious and impressive release from one of the world’s most unique artists, Vulnicura is amongst the first must-hear albums from 2015.

Sleater-Kinney- No Cities To Love [1/20]

Nearly ten years after announcing their initial hiatus, Sleater-Kinney returned with No Cities To Love, an album that picks up the where the trio left off as though they never broke up. The songs are powerful, energetic punk anthems, the production clean but never glossy. The vocals are often layered and catchy, and beneath the pop-punk urgency lies danceable rhythms, a distinct move from the band’s earliest works and a clear sign of maturation. The album is short and sweet and plays like less of a comeback and more of a next step for the classic band.

Belle & Sebastian- Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance [1/20]

After the predictable and boring Write About Love, indie staples Belle & Sebastian returned with an entirely new sound, incorporating disco dance beats into long, drawn-out songs, decisively ditching the slow, clean, indie sound of their last record. Though sometimes sounding somewhat cheesy utilizing a neo-disco technique that hasn’t sounded fresh in a decade, Girls In Peacetime marks an obvious attempt to break out of the unsurprising rut the band had found themselves in, a commendable choice that led to a collection of songs as fun for the listener as for the band performing them.

Pond- Man It Feels Like Space Again [1/27]

Tame Impala side-project Pond records with a freedom that doesn’t exist in Tame Impala, an obvious ability to explore the psychedelic scene in any way they wish. Man It Feels Like Space Again lands on a clean, psych-pop sound, with catchy songs layered in production effects and pedals. The recordings sound natural and never overdone, the experience of the musicians seeming to combine with the sheer joy of recording to create an album both nostalgic and modern.

The Dodos- Individ [1/27]

The Dodos have developed their own sound throughout their six-album career, their songs constantly chugging along as layers are added and subtracted. Individ fits the formula of their past releases but sounds more mature, with layers chosen carefully. The danceable, percussive rhythms of “The Tide” are precise and energetic, while “Bubble” meanders and shifts, the focus on rhythm connecting the songs’ sound. Individ features longer, multi-sectional jams as well, with songs stretching past the seven-minute mark to create some of the group’s most ambitious compositions to date.

The Lone Bellow- Then Came The Morning [1/27]

The Lone Bellow earned well-deserved praise for their 2013 debut, and all eyes were on the band for the delivery of their sophomore release. Fortunately, the record lives up to, and possibly surpasses, the quality of their initial release. The sound remains largely the same, using folk and country as a basis for harmonies while rooted strongly in the modern indie scene. With the help of The National’s Dessner brothers, the arrangements come through with amazing clarity, each instrument audible and necessary. Songs range from slow, sad ballads to fast-paced, uplifting tracks, keeping the record interesting and alive without sacrificing the band’s well-developed sound.

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