March 1, 2024

Troye Sivan – Bloom – Capitol

By Lynda Wheatley | Sept. 15, 2018

Doubling up his efforts by producing half of the effort with collaborators Allie X, Leland, and Bran Inscore, and then wrangling in good ol’ Max Martin (famed Swedish songwriter/producer) and his team, Sivan’s latest infers a wide range of influences from the ’80s on upward — disco, pop, and rap notwithstanding. The result is this audio potpourri of danceable tracks (including an aptly-named duet with Ariana Grande on “Dance to This”), the highlights of which include the lively “My My My!,” the uber-catchy “Lucky Strike,” and the affecting “Postcard,” on which he brings in Gordi to add even more pizzazz. ***
Amos Lee – My New Moon – Dualtone
Considering how appealing Lee’s vocals are on pretty much everything he does, it’s strange that this album has little effect one way or another upon first listen. It’s neither great nor terrible — it’s just kind of… more of the same. The follow up to his standout 2016 effort, Spirit, does include a couple of standout tracks, most notably opener “No More Darkness, No More Light,” with African rhythms and a bubbly refrain, and the collection definitely offers a hopeful spirit, but the rest of the set sounds like reworded (good enough) versions of tunes that Lee’s played before. **

Big Red Machine – People – Jagjaguwar
What do you get when you mix The National’s leader, Aaron Dessner, with Bon Iver’s mastermind, Justin Vernon? Big Red Machine, a collaborative side project, which also showcases members of the PEOPLE collective. Produced by Desner and Vernon, along with Brad Cook and Jonathan Low, it’s a pretty busy set — probably the result of cramming so many musicians onto one project — but there are a few standout tracks worth digging out, most notably the folk-pop anthem “I Won’t Run From It” and the shifting ambiance of “People Lullaby.” ***

Alkaline Trio – Is This Thing Cursed? – Epitaph
From nearby Chicago hails Alkaline Trio, the modern punk outfit led by vocalist/guitarist Matt Skiba, and the trio’s latest album, which showcases the band’s best work in several years (and its first in five). The most noticeable thing about the set is its immediate ease of flow from song to song. The pacing is great from the title track to “Blackbird,” and then from the careening, Celtic-punk attack of “Pale Blue Ribbon” into the more thoughtful, darker “Good Bye Fire Island.” Seems like the trio did a lot of work on its craft in the five years away from recording. ***



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