Smash Mouth – Magic (2012; 429 Records)
It was the summer of ’99. MTV still played music videos, usually the pop favourites of Blink 182, The Backstreet Boys, and Sugar Ray. However, one album that stood out in everyone’s summer beach collection was Smash Mouth’s Astro Lounge, with their hit single “All Star.” After a six-year drought and having long since been written off as the typical one-hit wonder band, the group has released Magic. Simple four-chord progressions and love premises, all bathed in a little coat of humour (especially in their song titled “Justin Bieber”) harken to past ‘90s hits. Unfortunately, the stagnation with actual creativity clouds the album’s entire listening experience. Rapper J. Dash, who is featured on two songs, gives the album an unnecessary contemporary radio-hit vibe that seems pasted onto material performed a decade too late. Overall, old fans will enjoy the old song construction, but general listeners will be turned off by its lack of evolution.
Trial track: “Flippin’ Out”
The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter (2012; Universal)
If you’ve tuned into CBC Radio 2 lately, you must be familiar with “Live and Die,” a banjo-fueled summer release from American folk-rock group The Avett Brothers. Their latest album, The Carpenter, set to release on Sept. 11, is a rollercoaster of goodbye tunes delivered with a surprising lightness (“Pretty Girl from Michigan”) and bittersweet ballads (“Through My Prayers”) that will have you swaying to and fro quite wholeheartedly. The Carpenter has shaped up to be the perfect soundtrack for reminiscing over those distant summer nights. It is comprised of such a varied collection of tracks that it’s sure to please all fans, new and old. Though they have been compared to such widely-known groups as Mumford and Sons, as well as The Lumineers, the Avett Brothers manage to string together a wide array of music that lends them an enthralling unpredictability their peers simply don’t possess.
Trial track: “I Never Knew You”
David Byrne & St Vincent – Love This Giant (2012; 4AD)
The highly anticipated collaboration between Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and indie sweetheart St. Vincent (Annie Clark) has been in the making since their unlikely meeting at a Björk and Dirty Projectors concert in 2009. They began to exchange ideas via email about recording a collaborative album together, which developed into Love This Giant. Mainly constructed around brass instrumentation, Love This Giant, is a creative, funky, conceptual album resting strongly on the shoulders of the duo’s eccentric style and personality. Songs like “Who” and “Weekend In The Dust” bounce and soar through dynamic beats with a sort of calculated chaos. Playful yet profound, with an unashamedly theatrical flair, the core of this album is pure energy. An energy that, despite the 30-year age difference, Byrne and Clark transcend with a quirky sophistication that can only be obtained with their respective influences and life experience. You can Love This Giant too, when David Byrne & St Vincent take their show to the altar of Eglise St-Jean Baptiste as part of the Pop Montreal Festival, on Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. (tickets are $49.50 in advance or $69.50 at the door.)
Trial track: “Who”
– Paul Traunero