September 26, 2020

Hovvdy – Heavy Lifting – Double Double Whammy

By Kristi Kates | Nov. 30, 2019

Sketching out an audio picture of life as a teen in the ’burbs, Hovvdy’s third album of faintly naïve indie pop circles around first relationships and the breakup of same. Whether the duo, Will Taylor and Charlie Martin, are looking for the keys to long-lasting love (“Feel Tall” and “Watergun”) or searching their soul (the character sketch of “Mr. Lee” or the childhood reminisces of “Sudbury”), all the tracks are executed in a kind of retro-indie feel, as if they’re looking backward not only for answers but also for musical inspiration. ** ½
Busy Signal – Parts of the Puzzle – VP Records
Merging energetic dancehall and unperturbed reggae, Busy has been slowly accumulating anthemic hits in his genre for the past couple of years. He’s now making a bid for even more segments of the chart pie with this set, which takes his existing sound and adds in seasonings of rap and EDM. You might recognize him from his 2012 track with No Doubt and Major Lazer (“Push and Shove”), but today, tunes like “Bring Back the Vibes” and “Step Out” are all Busy’s own. ** ½

Emeli Sande – Real Life – Capitol
With her guest vocal on the British rap track “Diamond Rings” back in 2009, the music career of Sande got a soft start, and she continued to lend her voice to hip-hop artists for nearly a decade. But over the past few years, she’s struck out on her own, dabbling in grime-pop before finally settling on a more pure pop trajectory, adding in hints of world music. With this set, it seems she’s finally found a balance, utilizing her hip-hop roots for strong base beats, while layering pop, quirky instrumentation, and a striking neo-soul approach to her vocals on tunes like “Honest,” “Human,” “Real Life,” and “Survivor.” ***
Sleep On It – Pride and Disaster – Equal Vision
A throwback of sorts, this set from Sleep on It is reminiscent of the early ’90s, when punk pop’s edgiest exports were the likes of Sum 41 and Motion City Soundtrack. These tunes — from “Take Me Back” to the overconfident “Hold Your Breath” — are pretty accurate to that timeline. But the problem is that this approach also makes them sound pretty dated. While some of the lyrics show intriguing introspection, the precise energy that should be present in punk pop seems a little forced here. * ½


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