Sweet Sour is the second studio album from British trio Band of Skulls. Their sophomore effort brings back the gritty guitar riffs and smooth vocal harmonies that put Baby Darling Doll Face Honey on the alt-rock map, but fails to fully live up to the debut’s promise. The first half of Sweet Sour groups together all the heavy songs, which results in a feeling of “where did the album go?” as the second half closes with one meandering, slow number after another. As a whole, the album lacks expected creativity and plays on the safe side of the music industry, seemingly vying for a single on MTV and a radio hit. But its shortcomings don’t mean that it isn’t an enjoyable album. Stomp rock track “The Devil Takes Care of His Own” easily steals the spotlight as the best showcase of Russell Marsden’s catchy, dirty guitar riffing. It just never finds the breakthrough originality it needs.
Trial track: “Wanderluster”
– Lindsay Rempel
Electro-indie group Young Liars will have you bobbing your head and swaying your hips along to their rhythmic tracks from their latest EP Homesick Future. The Vancouver-based band released their first EP in early 2011 and have plans to make their full-length album debut sometime in 2012, but have released both EPs to tide listeners over until then.
All seven songs on Homesick Future have lengthy instrumentals that encompass you in the music. In contrast to the verses, the choruses have simple, repetitive lyrics, allowing the listener to pick them up in no time.
Unfortunately, at times the music seems to overpower the vocals, creating a cacophony of sound that breaks the melodic flow. The songs on Homesick Future are catchy but easily forgotten, with the exception of the song “Colours” where the electronica background music, guitar riffs and fresh vocals mesh together perfectly.
Overall, Homesick Future is good without being great.
Trial track: “Colours”
– Natasha Taggart
A little over a year after disembarking from Cape Dory, husband-and-wife duo Tennis are landlocked and ready to release their sophomore album, Young & Old.
Teaming up with The Black Keys’ drummer Patrick Carney to oversee the production, the album reveals an obvious divergence from Tennis’ previous songwriting with a more polished sound. A welcomed addition, Carney seems to lend a much needed structure to the songs. He is likely also responsible for a tinge of sass in lead vocalist Alaina Moore’s crooning vocals, especially demonstrated in R&B-inspired “My Better Self” and “Petition.” Despite the occasional quirk, the 10 tracks follow the same brisk-paced urgency, rendering the album monotonous.
My main concern with Tennis is that they don’t seem to be able to find their voice. Remaining true to their kitschy sea-shanty act would become tiresome, but too big a change in any direction would cause fans to question their sincerity.
Trail track: “My Better Self”
– Paul Traunero
There aren’t too many people who can say they’ve mastered composing, poetry, songwriting, piano, banjo, guitar, pedal steel guitar, painting and drawing, all while missing a key digit from their right hand, but The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia did, and American Beauty exemplifies his prowess. The classic jam band’s fifth studio album further cemented the Dead as one of America’s great, iconic jam bands with timeless hits like “Ripple,” “Box of Rain,” “Truckin’” and “Sugar Magnolia.” Building upon the country and folk styles of their previous albums, American Beauty epitomizes easy listening and pure audio delight. The album takes you on a voyage through 1960s America. All of the usual suspects are there: freedom, love, music, travel, luck, and of course, drugs. Anyone who hasn’t heard this album multiple times from beginning to end is doing a disservice to themselves, and possibly even the world.
So, go make yourself a headband out of daisies, put on your tie-dye, and let this album move you in ways you never knew possible.
Trial track: “Till the Morning Comes”
– Allie Mason