January 23, 2019

The Sword – Used Future – Razor and Tie

By Kristi Kates | April 14, 2018

The Sword’s latest — its sixth — is a bizarre juxtaposition of futuristic art rock and ’70s hippie-rock, with both genres not quite able to communicate with the other. While tracks like “Intermezzo” and “Nocturne” show a glimpse of intriguing instrumental promise, the band shows those tunes the door quickly, leaving too abruptly in order to make room for the more average rockers like “Deadly Nightshade” and the overly-serious behemoth that is “Brown Mountain,” both of which prove far less compelling. Shame. * ½

The Voidz – Virtue – RCA
New Yorker Julian Casablancas is back for a sophomore set with his side project, on which he takes a lot of audio risks that pay off maybe 60 percent of the time. The weirdly boy-band-esque “All Wordz Are Made Up” is a little too self-aware for its own good, while “Permanent High School” is another that’s trying to hard to be chart-cute. But “Pink Ocean” showcases Casablancas’ ability to sink solidly into a good groove, and “Black Hole” sharpens up the sonics to better reveal his rumbling-glass vocals. ***

The Vaccines – Combat Sports – Columbia
Digging back into their power-pop origins is the latest from Justin Hayward-Young and The Vaccines, one of the most buzzed-about UK bands of the moment. The reason? Those tunes are perfectly honed, short radio-ready gems that grab you by the eardrums and won’t let go (sometimes for days — these are big hooks, folks). Highlights this time ’round include the polished punkiness of “I Can’t Quit,” the new-wave of “Nightclub,” and “Your Love is My Favorite Band,” a deftly crafted slice of pop relationship regret. ***

Wolf Parade – EP4 – Sub Pop
After the band’s last effort, 2017’s impressive Cry Cry Cry, dare we say fans were … howling … for a full-length set from Wolf Parade? This collection fills that bill and more, with first single, “Valley Boy,” taking the lead via a garage-glam rock mix and giant hooks. This is a confident and well-produced effort, with the production work highlighted on longer tracks like “Dinner Bells” and “Kissing the Beehive,” both of which keep the momentum going in perfect balance even as each tune goes well beyond radio-edit territory. ***






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