September 22, 2020

Superchunk – What a Time to Be Alive – Merge

By Kristi Kates | March 3, 2018

Quietly strolling out of its four-year hiatus is Superchunk, which seems to have returned to musically comment on the current state of the U.S. and its political climate. This is definitely an urgent, opinionated set of tunes, if a challenging one to listen to, from the direct reprimands of the title track to the fear-confronting “Erasure” to the unsure plans-of-the-future as outlined in tracks like “Break the Glass” and “Lost My Brain.” The instrumentals match the dark, sometimes disastrous mood with agitated, wailing guitar riffs, confrontational vocals, and shrill drumbeats. **

Alvvays – Antisocialites – Polyvinyl
This Toronto indie-pop band is only on album No. 2, but it already seems to have a solid handle on the uniqueness of its sound. Faintly twee (think Belle and Sebastian without Stuart Murdoch’s vocals), it’s heavy on dream-pop (“Dreams Tonight”) with the sprinkles of the sounds of past eras, like ’50s Motown (“Not My Baby”) and ’60s surf-pop (“Plimsoll Punks”). There’s a lot going on here, but thanks to the consistent vocals and broad use of metaphors throughout the lyrics, it’s a cohesive pop listen. ***

Born Ruffians – Uncle, Duke and The Chief – Yep Roc
Spawned of the conflicting edgy/bubbly sounds of bands like Talking Heads, They Might Be Giants, and The Pixies, the Ruffians come across like a literal band of Little Rascals, playing around in the studio with vintage pop songs and gleefully cutting those sounds apart to alternately craft their own playful tunes, like the beachy West-Coastian “Love Too Soon” and the bright “Miss You.” The other half of the tracklist features equally appealing pensive numbers, with one particular highlight being the chill, soulful vibe of “Side-Tracked.” ***

Lee Dewyze – Paranoia – Shanachie
Dewyze — the winner of American Idol season 10 — has released a plethora of songs you’ve probably heard without knowing it, as his alt-folk-lite tunes fit perfectly into settings like TV shows — Elementary and The Walking Dead — as well as commercials for Blue Cross and NASCAR. This new collection, while more emotionally detailed in a lyrical sense, continues in that same commercial vein, production-wise, on tracks like “Lonely Hearts” and “Hear You Now,” which would have been far better if every musical component hadn’t been over-tuned and buffed too far into perfection. * ½


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