Johnny Marr – The Messenger (Warner Bros.; 2013)
Boasting quite the impressive musical career including big-time groups such as The Smiths, Modest Mouse and The The (and that’s just to name a few), Marr’s newest addition to his highly anticipated musical roster places his signature sound front and centre.
Chock-full of riff-driven, catchier-than-the-common-cold tunes that certainly don’t fail to invigorate or impress, The Messenger displays Marr’s style in a raw, undistilled form.
Refreshingly, Marr chose to highlight instrumentals, with crystal clear guitar and assertive drums, letting vocals, hazy and unpretentious, take a back seat.
Though some might argue that in going along with the same tried and true formula, Marr missed out on an opportunity to branch out and diversify his sound, most would disagree. After all, The Messenger is a collection of what we’ve come to eagerly expect. One might say Marr is graciously giving his fans what they want to hear, and who can argue with that?
Trial Track: “Upstarts”
Woodpigeon – Thumbtacks + Glue (Boompa! Records; 2013)
Calgary native Mark Andrew Hamilton of Woodpiegon is one of Canada’s most underappreciated singer-songwriters. With his fifth studio album, Thumbtacks + Glue, Hamilton may finally receive the accolade that he rightly deserves.
Showcasing a bolder side of Woodpiegon’s lo-fi folk and baroque pop formula, this album introduces a decidedly more electronic edge, all while preserving Hamilton’s soft vocals and quirky yet substantial songwriting.
Songs like “The Saddest Music in the World” and “Sufferin’ Suckatash” highlight an emotional release with instrumental breakdowns and whining synthesizers, while “Edinburgh” emphasizes its catchy melody with the use of vocal layering. “Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard” is a total rock-out track that is sure to please fans during a live set.
Ruggedly complex, all while remaining highly personal, Thumbtacks + Glue sometimes feels unstructured, but what it lacks in clarity, it makes up for in emotion and sincerity.
Trial Track: “Edinburgh”
– Paul Traunero
PVT – Homosapien (Felte; 2013)
The latest offering by Australia’s PVT, pronounced and previously known as Pivot, is a steady stream of ambient distorted vocal work, a consistent skeleton of rhythmic synth drums, and smooth, full-bodied background hums.
At first listen, the album’s tracks have a tendency to melt into one another, creating an almost-too-homogeneous musical soup. Upon further inspection, however, it becomes apparent that Homosapien’s non-invasive sounds aren’t just white noise. They’re majoritarily pillow-soft, with the exception of a few rock-heavier tracks like “Love & Defeat” and “Casual Success,” which swap fuzzy vocals for buzzing guitar riffs instead.
Infusions of rock are all well and good, but as far as their sublime sound goes, it seems that the beautiful comes easier to PVT than the terrible. Notable tracks include “Cold Romance,” as tinny, crashing, and eclectic as it is surreal, and the glitchy title track “Homosapien,” teetering on the band’s line between rock and electro pop, paying homage to humankind: “Oh, I’m alive/You’re the same as me/Homosapien.”
Trial Track: “Cold Romance”
– Stephanie Ullman