Advance Base – Plastic Owen Band by (Orindal Records; 2014)
by Oneida Crawford
Drop your guitars and pick up your Omnichords! Chicago’s Owen Ashworth of one-man band Advance Base, (formerly known as Casiotone for the Painfully Alone) has released a collection of beautifully gloomy covers. Combined with covers of his own original work, Plastic Owen Band includes favourites from folk-rock and country singers like Neil Young and Kris Kristofferson. In keeping with Ashworth’s typical lo-fi sound, each track is infused with a sorrowful tone, evoked from the combination of his deep vocals and chilling ‘80s synthesizer sounds. The vintage cackle on track two, “To Beat the Devil (Kris Kristofferson Cover)” adds charm to Ashworth’s gentle take on a classic country song. At times, the nostalgic sound from the electric piano, mellotron, and autoharp samples is what one could imagine to be a sound that would emanate from the glow of lights on an old fashioned Christmas tree. While Plastic Owen Band showcases a few originals, it also provides insight into the songs that inspire his own unique sound.
Trial Track: “Philadelphia (Neil Young Cover)”
The Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways (Roswell Records; 2014)
by Justinas Staskevicius
Written and recorded in eight studios across America, Sonic Highways is an ambitious project that, from a production standpoint, is a clear contrast to their last album. The Foo Fighters’ award-winning 2011 Wasting Light was as stripped down as they come, having been recorded in frontman Dave Grohl’s garage. The group hoped to be inspired by the different locals while producing Sonic Highways. While the concept was good in theory, anyone expecting to hear a massive influence on the group’s sound will be disappointed. The Foo’s sound is pretty similar throughout the album, and a massive departure from Wasting Light should not be expected. There are worse things in this world than sounding relatively similar to a multiple Grammy award-winning album, but most of the songs are simply not as memorable as the previous releases. The Foo Fighters are still one of the strongest rock bands still making music, but this album fell a bit short of the mark.
Trial Track: Congregation
Les Sins – Michael (Company Records; 2014)
by Paul Traunero
Better known by his moniker Toro Y Moi, Chaz Bundick has stepped away from his signature chillwave sound for his new side project, Les Sins. Drawing clear influence from ‘90s French house producers like Daft Punk and Mr. Oizo, as well as the left-field house style of Four Tet and Motor City Drum Ensemble, Michael is both danceable yet introspective. Bundick describes the album as the “perfect music for the neon-lit, fast paced Ginza district in Tokyo,” according to PopMatters, further stating that he was particularly inspired by cartoons and movie soundtracks.
Though Michael lacks cohesion and suffers from some awkward compositional decisions, the simple arrangements, pulsing synths and chopped vocal samples that feature prominently throughout the album showcase Bundick’s unique vision as a producer and ability to borrow from multiple genres effortlessly.
Trial Track: “Why (feat. Nate Salman)”
Röyksopp – The Inevitable End (Dog Triumph; 2014)
by Andrej Ivanov
Norwegian synthpop veterans Röyksopp bring their A-game with their latest release. A variety of sounds meld into this album: they’ll go from chill-out tracks such as “You Know I Have to Go,” or will throw in a more house/deep-trance sound in “I Had This Thing.” They leave you baffled at the combination of music and lyrics in “Rong,” where they shamelessly curse to mellow music.
The album does explore some darker topics such as heartbreak and sadness. The Inevitable End will be the last LP that the duo will be producing, although they say that they will not stop making music and working in the industry. Overall, the album can be great when doing homework as background noise, or when you find yourself in the mood to just relax at home on a rainy evening.
Trial Track: “Save Me”