February 28, 2021


By Kristi Kates | June 3, 2017

Helium – The Magic City Plus No Guitars - Matador
This project of singer-songwriter Mary Timony, who is by turns fierce or Joni-Mitchell-esque, depending on the song, is quite a departure from her previous work with Wild Flag. There’s more focus on electronica than rock. And this is a much better backdrop for Timony’s vocals, as well as for the R.E.M.-reminiscent guitar work, most notably on songs like “Cosmic Rays,” “Lady of the Fire,” “The Revolution of Hearts Pts. I and II,” and album pick “Lullaby of the Moths.” Some of the unusual secondary instruments used give an almost medieval tone to certain tracks, which adds yet another layer of interest. ***

U2 – 18Singles – Interscope
This set from the influential Irish rockers is totally a throwback to the ’80s — well, and the ’90s, too, really — and could be both a perfect overture to the band, or a great way for existing fans to carry around some of U2’s best hits. Opening with the towering tones of “Beautiful Day,” the album shifts around out of chronological order, stepping back to the band’s really, really early days with tracks like “New Year’s Day” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” and bouncing forward to more recent (relatively speaking) radio faves like “Vertigo,” “One,” and “Elevation.” *** ½

Colin Hay – Fierce Mercy – Compass
A whole new generation of fans who weren’t around for the Men at Work (band) era have discovered Hay’s singer-songwriter talents and gruffly sweet vocals through his funny musical cameos on the Zach Braff series Scrubs. And for good reason. Hay’s songs always have been succinct little capsules of observation teamed up with catchy melodies, a solid formula that’s often underrated in these oh-so-overproduced times. On this set, his sound gets a modernized twist via the faintly electronic, romantic “A Thousand Million Reasons”; the Sting-esque “Frozen Fields of Snow”; and the precise tones of “The Best in Me.” *** ½

Teenage Fanclub – Here – Merge
Having borrowed (figuratively speaking) guitar sounds from both Alex Chilton and Wilco, this Scottish pop-rock outfit kick off this set with an absolute ear-catcher in “I’m In Love,” which swirls with Doors-like organ riffs and plenty of layered vocal harmonies. “The Darkest Part of the Night” is another standout, living up to its title with so much late-night familiarity (and more of those perfectly-balanced harmonies, this time from the guitars) it’s almost a direct invite to sing along. But aside from that one pensive tune, most of what you’ll hear here is the brighter side of pop, festooned with the band’s ability to use melodies and whammy bars, both with plenty of abandon. ***




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