February 28, 2021


By Kristi Kates | May 27, 2017

Craig Finn – We All Want the Same Things - Partisan
It’s always tough to develop a sound when you’re away from your main band, but Finn’s side venture from his band, The Hold Steady, works. He’s approaching things from a minimal, subtle direction, which gives his songs room to exhale — something that THS’s busy sound rarely does. The immediate track of note is “God in Chicago,” on which Finn combines spoken word and a piano melody; beyond that near-gimmick is a lot of depth, from the slim sonic layers of “Jester and June” to the desperate entreaties on “Ninety Bucks,” each carrying their own story. ***

Ásgeir – Afterglow – One Little Indian
Ásgeir’s acoustic-electronica compositions are always a remarkable blending of the two genres, now with an additional layer of interest since he decided to bring in the talents of lyricist John Grant to decipher his Icelandic words for English-speaking fans. The faintly lost-in-translation parts are actually a good segment of what make this particular release even more compelling. Simple phrases are shifted into more wraithlike imagery, although whether they’re Ásgeir’s own words or Grant’s is anybody’s guess. Standouts include “Fennir yfir” with its metallic beat and the synthy “Unbound.” *** ½

Paramore – After Laughter – Fueled by Ramen
The ’80s new-wave cover is much like ’80s makeup itself: a heavy cover over what lurks beneath. In the actual ’80s, it was probably a zit; on this new musical excursion from Paramore, those pastel colors mask what’s actually a pretty dark collection of songs. Tight, sometimes brittle production blends with pop sensibilities to belie the resentment and regret of “Forgiveness,” the repentant “Caught in the Middle,” and the sheer fatigue of the main character in “Rose Colored Boy.” It’s a juxtaposition that works quite well and gives heft to the album. ***

Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog – Captured Tracks
Also more somber than expected is this release from DeMarco, who seems finally to have realized on his latest set that it’s time to grow up. That’s not meant as a criticism but as an observation of where DeMarco seems to be via this-is-real-life tunes like the title track, which refers to his own aging process, and “Dreams from Yesterday,” a ballad of lost goals. The interesting thing is that DeMarco’s public-musician persona is the opposite of this album; he’s known for being a jokey, light-tempered guy in interviews. So it’s intriguing to see that he’s consciously chosen to showcase this much personal growth at such a pivotal time in his music career. ** ½


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