September 22, 2020


By Kristi Kates | March 25, 2017

Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life – Anti
It’s tough to decide if the uber–polished production on Japandroids’ latest is a good thing or an “eh” thing. On the one hand, the sharp “No Known Drink or Drug (Could Ever Hold a Candle to Your Love)” seems all the better for its pristine arrangement, which allows the sentiment to glimmer through; a similar effect is achieved on the brightly observational “North South East West.” But heavier tunes like “True Love and a Free Life of Free Will” just end up sounding like Foo Fighters–lite. **1/2

Real Estate – In Mind – Domino
On its first album without founding guitarist Matt Mondanile, Real Estate has settled into a more focused if subdued role, sticking to its temperate tempos and calm melodies as if nothing’s really changed. “Serve the Song” is one of the album’s openers, and perhaps that’s the approach it took as its lineup was shifting; the song’s swirling ‘70s guitars and matter–of–fact lyrics contrast nicely, while “Time” sprinkles in some prettily hovering piano lines. There’s a little too much distracted jamming on a song or two (“Two Arrows”), but for the most part this is a welcome if leisurely listen. ***

Murs – Captain California – Strange Music
Exceptional production work from DJ Fresh fastens this whole thing down. That’s a relief, because the rest of the album swings as wildly as an angry tetherball in a hurricane. It’s only Murs’ second solo album, so perhaps that’s why there’s so much flailing around in the subject matter. Some of Murs’ lyrics are so graphic that they shock as opposed to getting an actual point across. Tracks like “Shakespeare on the Low” and “Summer” show off his solid potential, but the more thoughtless writing slows the project down. * ½

Dirty Projectors – Dirty Projectors – Domino
As always, Dirty Projectors brings in a long list of collaborators to add more diversity and punch to its tracks, with this outing including odds and ends from Tyondai Braxton (Battles), Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Mauro Refosco and more, although there are fewer female singers this time around than usual. The result is an untamed trek through electronic alienation and introspection on songs like the dour “Little Bubble” and the equally stern “Keep Your Name.” Lighter numbers like “Cool Your Heart” with harmonies from Solange offer a break. ** ½


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