February 26, 2021

The Barr Brothers – Queens of the Breakers – Secret City

By Kristi Kates | Nov. 4, 2017

The Barrs dig into a deep well of the folk-rock that originates across their Canadian homeland. This third collection from the trio (brothers Brad and Andrew Barr on guitar and drums, plus harpist Sarah Page) even takes tentative toe dips outside of the ban's usual genre, adding an appealing electronic feel to tracks like “Kompromat,” funk to “Maybe Someday,” and a Ween/Wilco-esque influence to “You Would Have to Lose Your Mind.” ***

Shout Out Louds – Ease My Mind – Merge
Recorded with Måns Lundberg and The Amazing’s Fredrik Swahn behind the boards, Shout Out Louds’ latest wistful-rock effort comes across as an audio fallout shelter, an insulated set of songs that aim to put a wall up against these turbulent times. The Swedish indie band leans on two approaches here: emotional, small, pretty moments like “Angel” and “Souvenirs”; and more escapist tracks like “Throw Some Light” and “Jumbo Jet,” which evoke a world that’s maybe just a little less complicated. ***

August Burns Red – Phantom Anthem – Fearless Records
On the exact opposite side of the sound wheel from Shout Out Louds is August Burns Red, the heavy-rock quintet whose first single from this set, “Invisible Enemy,” started the buzz this past summer. But where “Invisible Enemy” is a negative, “The Frost” is a positive, keeping the same powerful feel but reassuring listeners that what doesn’t defeat them will make them stronger. There are a few weak moments, but confident numbers like “King of Sorry” and the carefully-composed “Lifeline” make up for them.  ** ½

Electric Six – How Dare You? – Metropolis
This Motor City band helmed by longtime local legend Dick Valentine has its groovy-garage hybrid well entrenched at this point, with over a dozen albums to its credit. On the band’s latest, it throws most of the audio responsibility to the guitars, with each song more dependent than the last, whether it’s a danceable number like “She’s a Forgery” or classic-rocker-to-be “The Chimes of Titus.” Electric Six isn’t for everyone, as it can on occasion drive a tune a little too self-consciously left field, but there’s a reason the outfit has a rabid cult following. ** ½


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