Arcade Fire, Reflektor; Merge Records (2013)
On Oct. 29, Montreal rock icons, Arcade Fire, released Reflektor; the group’s fourth album and the follow-up to the 2010 Grammy album of the year, The Suburbs. The new album brings a slight change in style from their previous works, adding synthesizers that stir up recollections of the disco era. Caribbean drum patterns give the whole package a laid back feeling in stark contrast to their previous work’s sense of urgency.
The highly anticipated album does not disappoint with several thought provoking and catchy songs covering a variety of topics. Arcade Fire delved deeper into symbolism than ever before; Reflektor presents lyrics that can be analyzed on several levels and rarely present a straightforward message. Overall, Reflektor is an amazing achievement and a major step forward for a band that was already arguably one of the top groups of modern rock.
Trial track : “We Exist”
– Justinas Staskevicius
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – The Speed of Things (Warner Bros., 2013)
The sophomore slump doesn’t seem to have affected Detroit electro-pop duo, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.. Following the critical success of their 2011 debut, It’s A Corporate World, Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott have returned with an album that solidifies their place in the post-new wave revival.
With comparisons ranging from The Beach Boys to Vampire Weekend and Phoenix, The Speed of Things thrives in the bands’ pop sensibility and sense of humour. Their sound is both nostalgic and modern, with ’60s pop and Afro-Caribbean tinged melodies and vocal harmonies over a layered electronic background.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. certainly did not reinvent themselves with their second release, but what they did accomplish was a cohesive album that feels lighthearted and accessible, yet still thoughtful and dynamic.
Trial Track: “Run”
– Paul Traunero
Big Dreams – REAL (Independent ;2013)
REAL, the latest mixtape from Montreal rap group Big Dreams, has lyrics that hit harder and features better production than its predecessor, Stars. REAL is laced with emotion, even on tracks like “YDKM” and “Shut It Down” where you’d expect the group to leave their deeper undertones to the side. Instead, they creep up to the surface.
That being said, their emotional side doesn’t hold them back. The group’s members are between 19 and 20 years of age and are not living lavish and rich lifestyles. They’re rapping about what they feel, what they’ve gone through, and what they know. However, it is refreshing to hear them go off and spit, like on “High Tech/Mos Def 2,” where three quarters of its members, Task the Radd, Timeliss, and Myles spit over an old-school sounding beat.
It’s chill, and perhaps a bit safe and lacks a bit of variety, but the group is growing and maturing and they’ve got time to branch out and be larger than life.
Trial Track: “High Tech/Mos Def Part 2”
– Julian McKenzie
Albert Hammond Jr.- AHJ (Cult Records; 2013)
It’s been five years since Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. released his sophomore record ¿Cómo Te Llama? During this hiatus, he battled crippling drug addiction and other demons. Since his tour in rehab and subsequent recovery, Hammond Jr. has been channeling his energy and concentration into his latest record, AHJ. The 15 minute album showcases the guitarist’s entrance to sobriety and maturity with basic clean-cut sounds, dropping many instrumentals that were prominently featured on his previous releases.
Having released AHJ on fellow bandmate Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records, Hammond Jr. does not entirely lose his gritty guitar riffs signature to the Strokes on tracks like “Strange Tidings”. Familiar Strokes drum beats and basslines can also be heard sporadically through the album, most notably on “Rude Customer.” Though the EP is well-crafted displaying a new chapter of his musical career, the short track list leaves listeners waiting and wishing for a full length release.
Trial Track: “Strange Tidings”