Portland rock duo Menomena is back after a two year hiatus with their fifth studio album, Moms. The album boasts unique and captivating intros, riveting bass lines, brass, ballads, and electric guitar fusion solos that cross soundscapes, streams and rivers.
Menomena were a complex amalgam of experimentation and structured talent from their very first album, 2003’s I Am The Fun Blame Monster! Their latest is an artificially-aged bottle of expensive wine; you would swear the process took years and would be fully shocked to see it was made just the other day. Kudos to the men of Menomena on their latest complex and fully enjoyable release, an obvious tribute to the intimate relationships with their respective mumsies.
Trial track: “Pique”
Mumford and Sons’ sophomore album, Babel, is good, but not great. Despite the album’s huge sales, it is unimpressive and offers very little departure from their debut, Sigh No More. The band’s reluctance to try anything new might be because they were fearful of losing the fans and the success they garnered with the folk/bluegrass feel of their debut album. The tracks sound more like rejected B-sides from Sigh No More than musical masterpieces that took the band a little over a year to record. Even the lyrics on this album don’t seem to live up to the poetry fans have grown to love. Die-hard fans will recognize some stellar tracks from their 2011 tour, like “Lover’s Eyes” and “Ghosts That We Knew”. These tracks, along with “Broken Crown” and “Hopeless Wanderer” may save this album from passing into history as their sophomore slump.
Trial track: “Lover’s Eyes”
Stephen Ellison, the electronic music producer better known as Flying Lotus, has returned with his latest work, entitled Until the Quiet Comes. The album is a collage of styles and production, with electronic, jazz, hip-hop, and dubstep. Sonically, the texture blends exceptionally well together, with ethereal vocal tracks, drum beats, synthesizers, etc. Not one track runs more than three minutes in length, resulting in a truly interesting set of temperaments and atmospheres that doesn’t seem overplayed.
Coming off the critical success of his 2010 album Cosmogramma, the album performs and surpasses his previous work. You may see more than a few samples of his music popping up in next summer’s pop hits. Flying Lotus will be at the Société des arts technologiques, on Oct. 12, as part of the tour for the album.
Trial track: “Putty Boy Strut”
Rating: 9.2 / 10
It’s been nearly half a century since Van Morrison has been active in the music business. At age 67, the Irish crooner is back with his 34th studio album, aptly titled Born To Sing: No Plan B. Self produced in his hometown of Belfast, this album is jazzier and more cohesive than previous releases. Each track follows a consistent mood, with a laidback sound that is effortless, cool and classy. Morrison weighs in on our current worldwide financial crisis, discussing “the worldwide preoccupation with money, materialism, and the greed that has poisoned society.” In the first single “Open the Door (To Your Heart)” he sings: “money doesn’t make you fulfilled / money’s just to pay the bills.” The contrast between the mellow bluesy musical vibe and politically charged lyrics makes Born To Sing: No Plan B worth a listen.
Triall track: “Open the Door (To Your Heart)”
– Paul Traunero