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Category: Album Reviews

Kendrick-Lamar

Hey guys! After collecting top ten lists from WUOG staffers and DJs, an editorial board of current music directors Brett and Trevor, current local music director Jonny, incoming music directors Camilla (and Jonny again) and incoming local music director Frances tallied the votes and created the WUOG top list. The list reflects what people at the station liked the most this year. The top ten each got their own write-up and the full top 50 list is at the bottom.

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Modern Baseball – The Perfect Cast

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To whet the musical appetite of fans, Modern Baseball released the surprise EP The Perfect Cast last month. The pop-punk group is set to release their third LP, Holy Ghost sometime next year. The new EP feature three previously released singles (The Trash Particle, Revenge of the Nameless Stranger, and Alpha Kappa Fall of Troy the Movie Part Deux). As an album, The Perfect Cast is a comfortable bridge between Sports and You’re Gonna Miss It All. In comparison to past releases, the instrumentals tend to have a wider sound on this EP with double-tracking guitar and noisier drums. The lyrics are as witty and painfully honest as usual, keeping the appeal of MoBo’s music. “The Thrash Particle” is a treasure off this EP, with a slow and quiet start before breaking into an emo-punk energy, all while delivering a painful narrative in the lyrics. Off all the tracks, “The Waterboy Returns” sounds most like MoBo’s “early period” with an explosion of full-band chaos for the chorus. “The Waterboy Returns” also has incredible lyrics about singer Brendan Luken’s most recent struggles. “And Beyond” starts off with a gaffe on the vocals, but then floats into a dreamy guitar part.  As usual, Modern Baseball’s release has a nervous energy and addicting punk sound, making their upcoming LP even more exciting.

–Tori Benes

Sports – All of Something

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All Of Something, the sophomore full length release from indie rock act SPORTS, features a collection of jaunty pop-serving tracks that are sugary in texture, but bitter in lyricism. Vocalist Carmen Perry brings natural and unaffected vocals to the instrumentation, exploring themes of approaching maturity, taking responsibility, finding a purpose, and other trials of early adulthood with a comforting vocal inflection that makes the music inviting and danceable without sacrificing urgency, engaging the listener with wide range, addicting vocal melodies and a fast-paced backing. These tracks are short, namely one to two minutes, which only does more to serve the linear, verse-based form that the band approaches , offering an advising message or self-expression that makes these tracks substantial while remaining catchy. Combining the raw rhythm guitars and fast-paced drum patterns of punk with the melodic leads and vocal tonalities of indie rock and indie pop, SPORTS create a relatively independent sound for their field, and encourage a catchy, expressive atmosphere that will have anyone tuning in on their feet dancing, and learning about Carmen at the same time.

-Brian Pope

The Moonlandingz – Expanded EP

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Sean Lennon, Lias Saoudi and Saul Adamczewski (Fat White Family), Charlotte Kemp Muhl (The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger), and members from the  avant-garde group the Eccentronic Research Council have teamed up to create psychedelic analog-synth music on the latest Moonlandingz release. The group pulls most of their electronic instrumentation from their extensive collective of old synths, including some from Pink Floyd and old EMS recordings. It can be poppy in songs like “Sweet Saturn Mine” and more experimental in the shorter synth based interludes. “Blow Football with J. Carpenter” is a nice instrumental combination of both. This release is spacey and dreamy, and its spooky synths create an interesting avant-garde album.

-Camilla Grayson

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Jeffrey Lewis returns with his famous narrative, monotone vocal inflection that meanders through soft instrumentals with wordy, vivid passages that play out like a diary of sorts. Lewis details the routine of life from the mundane, like watching skateboarders in his hometown Manhattan, to the intense, like his battle with his past in “Screaming Old Man”, where he wrestles with the fear of growing up unaccomplished and unhappy, or otherwise not realizing his full potential. This theme of self-deprecating introspection runs parallel to his classic storytelling, giving the album a brilliant sense of being immersed in Lewis’s mind as he undergoes such events. Jeffrey busts out with his storytelling talent primarily on the opener “Scowling Crackhead Ian”, offering us a character profile for his schoolmate Ian in painstaking detail, so much so that the listener becomes empathetic with Ian despite his criminal misdoings. It’s a gripping, speculative point of view that questions what makes someone “bad”, and how much of it is actually their fault, from a very human, subjective perspective that engages the listener with its ambiguity and challenges the schema for morality. “Manhattan” takes a more narrative, objective approach to the stories, reminiscing on a walk to Brooklyn with his girlfriend, who he’s seemingly on the rocks with, that places you in its shoes with a lengthy duration and meticulous detail of graffiti, people, and the sun. The track is mostly descriptive, until Lewis’s perspective creeps in with incremental details of his relationship status(“But now you’re mostly quiet, so I guess I’m done talking”, followed by “here come some joggers”), wedged in between this collage of scenery, making for an immersive listening experience that takes multiple listens to lay out and pull apart, but well-rewarded with an emotional, relatable sense of awkwardness.

Though not every track is so dense and substantial that they become exceedingly weighty; Lewis is conscious enough to flavor these with a relatable deadpan humor, like on the track “Support Tours” that marvels at the trials of being an underground musician, groaning that he’d “hate to leave his home for a tour with crummy pay, but if you get asked what are you really gonna say?” This is just one highlight of Jeffrey’s poker-faced malaise, and even at times the sense that he laughs carelessly at his misfortunes. Instrumentally this album is a much more rock-oriented direction than past Lewis records, and while generally denser still remains a folk-inspired steady backing to emphasize the lyricism. There are a lot of low-mixed keyboard melodies, simple drum patterns, and guitar strings that waver erratically with a twee-inspired melisma in a more indie rock tonality. Though these guitars aren’t unadventurous, showcasing concise, comfortable licks and nicely bent notes that any Mac Demarco fan could get into. And on the closer “The Pigeon” they even grow into a distorted solo that sounds like something Lou Reed would’ve strung out with Velvet Underground in the 60’s, and it makes for a great finish.

Manhattan is a tastefully self-aware collection of indie rock-borrowed anti-folk tracks that cultivate a vivid description of Lewis himself in a portrayal that everyone can see at least a little of themselves in. He paints pictures in an obscured black-and-white to which he fills in the colors of his choosing, and through it offers his own perspective while simultaneously allowing for the listener’s own to be interpreted. If you are a fan of wordy, introspective folk music with a comfortable instrumental timbre and affinity for malaise-laden realism, Manhattan is an album you will enjoy digesting.

-Brian Pope

Joanna Newsom – Divers

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Divers is the fourth studio album from singer/songwriter and harpist Joanna Newsom. Newsom’s previous album Have One on Me was a 2 hour-long feast and, comparatively, Divers is a much more easily digestible batch of songs. The instrumentation is a lush exhibit of baroque and folk sounds and the arrangements are exceedingly complex. Newsom’s voice remains a polarizing force, and she seems to rarely take a breath as she chirps lyrics of tremendous imagery and power. One highlight on this album is “Sapokanikan,” which references a former Native American settlement in the location of current Greenwich Village. The song seems to rarely repeat a melody, but many of them are infectious enough to burrow their way into your brain nonetheless. Another standout track is the title track, which starts off with an incredibly moving harp section that seems to spiral downwards and soon builds into a piano driven orchestra of a song. Divers is sure to be one of the best albums of the year.

-Alexander Kimball

Neon Indian – Vega Intl.Night School

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Chillwave connoisseur Neon Indian moves into groovier territory with his third album, Fly International Night School, drawing on the synthesizer patterns and song structures of synthpop and the bass-heavy grooves of p-funk and nu-disco music to create an addictive collection of danceable songs regulated by interludes of synthesizer arrays of almost ambient quality that keep the record unpredictable and vibrant . Alan Polomo flavors his vocals with a watered-down murkiness similar to Unknown Mortal Orchestra that make the tone of these tracks almost psychedelic at times, while maintaining that catchy groove that could have anyone in the building on their feet. “Glitz Hive” is a highlight of this,  which dives straight in with a Funkadelic-inspired bass line and an 80’s vocal pattern that hops in and out, detailing a meeting with a girl in a club, which perfectly complements the jaunty tone of the track, and is cut with a clever ambient outro that cuts the sugariness of the chorus-based song form. This is a recurring theme that Polomo utilizes all over the record, giving us enough chorus to rave to while also offering meticulously crafted measures of dense synth melodies and distorted electric guitar phrases that bring a tasteful palette conducive to active listening. Fly International Night School uses this to appeal at all levels, and culminates into a boundary-pushing, cohesive listen that invigorates as much as it sedates. If you enjoy the density and vibrancy of Washed Out or the danceable choruses and sparkling keys of Passion Pit, this record will fit nicely in your library.

-Brian Pope

Computer Magic – Davos

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If I was ever stuck in a space sci-fi film, I would want my scene to be set to Computer Magic. With dreamy vocals, danceable synths, and clean machine drums, Danz (aka Danielle Johnson), creates spacey synth-pop that sounds whimsical and airy. Computer Magic is wildly popular in Japan, and Davos, Danz’s first full length album after many EPs, keeps the unique and recognizable sounds of classic Computer Magic. Each track is masterfully layered, and her hypnotic coos over simple electronic beats create a noteworthy mix of songs. The opening track “Fuzz” is upbeat and danceable, “Be Fair” is full of catchy oos and ahhs, and “Chances” really features her bright vocals.

-Camilla Grayson

What’s new on WUOG? An ambient angel, slacker storyteller and a buncha folk-punk fellas…

Julia Holter – Have You in My Wilderness

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Listening to Julia Holter’s fourth album, Have You In My Wilderness, was one of the most pleasurable experiences I’ve ever known. From the very first song I was captured by the beauty of Julia Holter’s voice and the symphony that accompanied her singing.  Have You In My Wilderness can be defined by how intimate it makes you feel. Holter is telling a story through her music, and there is something that feels extremely personal and touching as a result. This is an album that you play at the end of the night when you’re reflecting on how great the party was and how glad you were that all your friends came. Julia Holter has created a chamber orchestra pop album that is slightly more accessible then her splendid past works. The production on the album is extraordinary, and the intricacies of the music, due to great production, continue to complement Holter’s voice. Some tracks that really stood out to me are “Feel You”, “Sea Calls Me Home”, and “Everytime Boots”. 

–Will Jurgens

Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down…

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Kurt Vile opens b’lieve i’m goin down with a ballad of desolation, and how his self-awareness from past albums crumbles when he merely looks at his own reflection. Vile’s bleak thoughts are delivered through humorous lyrics, meant to be listened to at night after everyone else has gone to bed. His deadpan vocals and guitar picking allow the listener to drift along to his conversational musings. Vile’s growth comes in the instrumentation as he incorporates more piano and banjo into his songs. Recorded at Joshua Tree and even in Athens, Vile uses less reverb, making it a lot lighter, but his emotional intensity is still as strong as ever. Vile claims “Wheelhouse” is the best song he has ever written, but “Lost My Head There” and “Pretty Pimpin’” are close rivals.

-Camilla Grayson

Front Bottoms – Back on Top

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Back on Top is the fifth album from the indie-punk band, The Front Bottoms. Although the Front Bottoms are no strangers to the music business, this album is their first after signing to Fueled By Ramen after years with the small, independent label, Bar/None Records. With this label change, has come a change in sound. While staying true to their history of raw and revealing lyrics on most tracks, The Front Bottom’s newest album has a cleaner, and at times, more generic sound than that of the past. The newest album features slower tempos and more electric guitar than on previous releases. While The Front Bottoms have definitely not been lost, the album at times shows a side of The Front Bottoms that is a little too saccharine. One of these saccharine instances is “HELP,” which turned out sounding too common and not personal enough to be a quality Front Bottoms track. “Laugh Till I Cry” and “West Virginia” are the golden connections that link Back On Top to the group’s past, saving the band from losing their distinct sound in the void of the competitive indie-rock world. They both feature instrumental diversity and The Front Bottoms’ signature chaotically eccentric sound. Furthering the transitions from one album to another, “Ginger” almost sounds like a B-side off of Talon of the Hawk, with extremely quirky lyrics and even some trumpet on the track. “Cough It Out” is slower and sweeter than most that the band releases. It features a snare beat and a little keyboard to push it forward, but lead singer Brian Sella’s profound lyrics are really what drives the song to a new, yet somewhat nostalgic mark of success. “Historic Cemetery,” buried deep in the middle of the track list, is another standout. “Historic Cemetery” is more somber than the rest of the tracks, with haunting lyrics, acoustic, guitar, and even some recorded conversation. These songs add complexity to The Front Bottoms, proving they are more than one-trick pony. While there are some glaring faults on Back On Top, that’s what The Front Bottoms are all about; making music for the sake of making music, not with the goal of perfection in mind. While The Front Bottoms may not be recording out of warehouses or friend’s basements at 2A.M. anymore, the passion and creativity from those days are still apparent.

–Tori Benes

Toro y Moi – What For

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Chaz Bundick of Toro y Moi trades in his electronic dance-pop for indie-rock  guitar and softer lyrics on his newest album What For?. More closely resembling June 2009 than his recent releases, the album is full of indecisiveness and quiet probing. Hazy electronic guitars, bass, and soft drums create psych melodies that compliment the ambiguity of his lyricism. He asks repeatedly,  “Does anyone know where we go from here?” on the track “What You Want” and “Do you understand what must be done?” on “Spell It Out”. “Buffalo,” said by Bundick to have set the precedent for the entire album, is full of 70s funk and gauzy melodies. Whether it’s lack of direction or a purposeful push towards a more laid back sound, What For?  shows Bundick’s range and thirst for musical growth.

-Camilla Grayson

The Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ

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Beat The Champ is the newest album from the Mountain Goats. The album is all about lead singer John Darnielles’ experiences with Lucha Libre wrestling growing up. With this fact in mind you might think that the album will be fun and lighthearted unlike many previous Mountain Goats’ album, but you would be wrong. The album encompasses the same confessional and heartbreaking lyrics that fans have grown to love. Darnielle escapes his horrible childhood through wrestling, and this album conveys that escapism. While the lyrics are sad, dark, and beautiful, the music itself is catchy and prompts you to sing along making Darnielle’s message easier to swallow. The album is quintessential Mountain Goats with a quirky topic.

-Will Jurgens

Shlohmo “Dark Red”

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Darker than his previous work, Dark Red is an abysmal and distorted melody. After a long period of personal loss, electronic producer Shlohmo’s second full length album ventures into a mournful place with its detachment from pop and admission into a realm of sluggish, monotonous expression of unhappiness. This sense comes out most in the middle of the album, the first five tracks being more dynamic and the last two more reminiscent of his earlier, more energetic work. The album reflects the discomfort he felt when he wrote it and with that energy in mind, the succession of variation and repetition throughout the album is telling of his attitude. In this iteration of his work, Shlohmo has stripped his sound of any collaboration or vocals, which creates an even more eerie, ominous, and almost tragic tone. Without a doubt this album explores the many dimensions of loss and the equally complex systems for coping with that.

Kira Hynes​

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Think

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Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit glorifies the day-to-day mundane through deadpan, yet charming vocals. Barnett’s long rambling lyrics reflect intelligence and wit that compliment her slacker-rock aesthetic. “Elevator Operator” sings of a made-up man named Oliver, and “Depreston” tells of Barnett’s adventures apartment hunting. “Small Poppies”, set to the bluesy guitar, is about the harrowing task of mowing the lawn. Barnett’s clean strummed chords and her conversational lyrics give her music a laid back and relaxed feel, but her upbeat songs like “Pedestrian At Best” have the electric guitar and self-deprecating lyrics of 90s garage rock. With sharp melodies and storyteller lyrics, Courtney Barnett’s album has a unique sound that launches the listener into her complex mind.

-Camilla Grayson

Alex G – Trick

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Alex G is the sentimental songwriter best known for his minimally produced, bedroom recorded Bandcamp projects, where he has released numerous hard-to-get recordings. Trick was released via Bandcamp before his most recent album “DSU”; now it’s being re-released through Lucky Number. Trick is Alex G to a point: mundane stories looped into bedroom-pop lo-fi melodies, comfortably shrouded in an unobtrusive relatability. His songs range from everyday thoughts about his favorite animal (“Whale”) to an uneasy melody about infatuation/murder  (“Kute”). Placed in among the mix of simple acoustic songs is the instrumental namesake of the album, “Trick”. The rerelease comes with three bonus tracks that stay true to the atmosphere of Alex G’s previous recordings.

-Cassidy Reeser

Laura Marling – Short Movie

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Laura Marling’s 5th studio album, Short Movie has taken a turn towards a rock/alternative folk as opposed to the traditional folk, but she still retains her folk roots throughout the album.  Short Movie starts off stern and serious, but transitions to a more upbeat and lighthearted tone with the electric guitar. Most of Short Movie deals with Laura’s conflicting feelings about love and independence.  She jumps back and forth from needing to love someone to leaving for her freedom.  Laura’s new sound isn’t too far off from her previous works, but has a distinctness that makes it stand out from the crowd.

-Albert Moon

Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

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I Love You, Honeybear, the sophomore release by Father John Misty, weaves conflicting emotions of disillusionment and passion into a conceptual folk rock mix of airy vocals, guitars, horns, and strings. While Fear Fun consists of lighthearted skepticism, I Love You, Honeybear deals with heavier issues like his relationship with his wife and his own self-faults. “C Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” features horns that compliment his somber and wispy voice, and “True Affection” is a synth pop commentary on closeness. “Bored in The USA” confronts the alienation of consumer society to a piano and a purposely out-of-place laugh track. Featuring strings and horns on many songs, the album contrasts the large sound of an orchestra with the intimacy of Tillman’s lyrics. I Love You, Honeybear is full of musical and lyrical contradictions that perfectly describe the perplexity of love itself.

-Camilla Grayson

Purity Ring – Another Eternity

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Purity Ring opens their second album with all the pulsing synth present on their debut.  Megan James’s gentle vocals yield a happy contrast to the powerful beats, mixing dance anthems with spacey ballads throughout “Another Eternity”.  “Stillness in woe” and “repetition” are slower tracks that demonstrate Roddick’s ability to blend instrumentals perfectly to the tones of James’s voice.  In conclusion, this sophomore release receives all the right attention with its varied electro-pop songs, but it fails to provide anything new from their first album.

-Ben Phillips

Will Butler – Policy

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Recorded in one week in Jimi Hendrix’s old Living Room, Policy marks Will Butler’s (probably most known as Win Butler’s younger brother) first solo album to date. Though this is his premier album, the Arcade Fire musician did compose the original score to 2014’s award-winning motion picture “Her.” Since then, he’s employed his menagerie of musical skills to compose a sonically diverse debut. Because he’s a part of Arcade Fire, the urge to expect a style and fluency throughout the album close to that of AF is natural, but that’s not what Butler delivered. The album as one single entity doesn’t have the most natural transitions, but with that in mind, each song has a distinct feel much like each Arcade Fire album has a distinct feel, and each song is reminiscent of a different AF phase. Granted, it still isn’t Arcade Fire. Butler adds a flair of punk in “Take My Side (1), “What I Want” (6), an 80’s background vibe in “Anna” (2), some thick experimental funk and accidentals in “Something’s Coming” (5), and altogether more experimental takes on melody in each track. We hear the familiar rhythm and piano of Neon Bible in tracks “Finish What I started” (3) and “Sing to Me” (7), with a splash of that choral background ohhing and ahhing that’s so Funeral and so loveable in tracks “Finish What I started” (3) and “Witness” (8). The most accessible and most consistent tracks are “Witness” (8) and “What I Want” (6), bringing in the most energy and the most danceability. His lyrics are zany (“I’ll give you a pony/ if you cook it for dinner I know a great recipe/ for pony macaroni” – ‘What I Want’), he’s got a little extra angst, and he’s proving his musical worth as an individual. All he’s missing is the cohesion throughout the album, but I wouldn’t write him off so soon.

-Kira Hynes

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper – After

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Lady Lamb’s sophomore album, After, starts off with typical pop-rock sound with “Vena Cava” and “Billions of Eyes”,  with a hint of 60’s beach music in the mix.  But in the next track, “Violet Clementine”, she adds in some eerie, Modest Mouse-y, banjo, as well as a chorus of singers and horns.  Shifts like this happen often through the album; “Sunday Shoes” is a stripped down acoustic track, “Milk Duds”, “Ten”, and “Atlas” are all sort of alt-country.  But she never changes so much as to lose her unique sound.

-Justin Johnson

The American Spirit – Season of Violence or Mourning, Protest, And the Birth of Bishop Killborne


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American Spirit plays an assortment of ambient folk on their newest album that combines the woozy vocals of Father John Misty with the southern twang of My Morning Jacket. Their debut album features hazy songs led by acoustic guitars. Some songs are supplemented with light drums on songs like “All Night”, while others feature harmonicas and banjos like in “Going on My Own Way”. There is a musical depth through the background vocals but also a lyrical depth in their lyrics about  longing and discovering something more. Season Of Violence or Mourning, Protest, And The Birth of Bishop Killborne is a creative album full of talent.

-Camilla Grayson

Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Chapter Three: River Run Three

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Based out of New York, Matana RobertsCoin Coin Chapter Three: River Run Thee is the third album of a slated 12 that will compile her Coin Coin project. Having grown up in Chicago in the late 70s and early 80s, her childhood was filled with musical influences, specifically of jazz and its component instruments. Roberts is known as a sound experimentalist. This album is full mechanical, repetitive hums, crackles and reverberations, masked by eerie oohs and experimental saxophone melodies, Roberts’ main instrument. Fading in and out of the noise is Robert’s voice, sometimes melodic, but often it is just raspy and chant-like, or just plain talking, being that Roberts also works with spoken word poetry. Her album is full of the sounds of life, not its melodies, which weave together in sincere incongruity and culminate into a whole of transfixing uncertainty.

-Kyra Hines

Proving WUOG can be your home whether you are really cool or still think 1977 was the best year for music (it was, ok, it was) we have both Dan Deacon AND the Pop Group playing on the radio these days.

Dan Deacon – Gliss Riffer

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Baltimore is really churning out some great music these days and Dan Deacon is one of the city’s very best artists. Since his stunning breakthrough, 2007’s Spiderman of the Rings, Deacon has put out the gorgeous, live-instrument focused Bromst (one of my favorites of that year) and the ambitious America, and now Gliss Riffer, which  feels like vintage Dan Deacon, while still experimenting with the ideas and forms that his fans are familiar with. The opener “Feel the Lightning” feels like the closest thing we’ve ever gotten to a Dan Deacon pop song. There’s a really discernible structure and catchy synth parts that augment Deacon‘s traditional joyful, electronic chaos. Gliss Riffer takes a really dramatic left turn is the last 2 tracks of the record. “Take It to the Max” and “Steely Blues” are two of the most experimental tracks Deacon‘s done since signing with Domino and display his masterful composition skills as well as his ability to create huge environments with his array of musical ideas.

Andy Tabeling

The Pop Group – Citizen Zombie

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The seminal post-punk band, The Pop Group has released Citizen Zombie, their first LP in 35 years, and they’ve picked up right where they left off.  When beloved bands reunite and  release new material, the new records often derided and met with skepticism, as it can never match the expectations presented by a legendary back catalog.  With their three short years as a band from 1977-1980,  The pop group seamlessly blended the noise of the Birthday Party, the political outrage of the Clash and the Sex Pistols, and the nerdy white punk funk of American New Wave, all the while lending more influences to these contemporaries.  On Citizen Zombie the Pop Group still have the raw political energy and the rage of a young band while still offering a mature, postmodern sound that seems wiser than their previous work.  The opener and title track, “Citizen Zombie” is funky and savage which somehow manages to include jazz inspired sounds, feedback and futuristic noise.  In contrast to their usual punk-funk, tracks like “Mad Truth” and “s.o.p.h.i.a.” are dancefloor ready snythpop tracks.  The Standout track is “Nowhere Girl” and its most reminiscent to their older material and verges on the anthemic, combining love song and atypical optimism with huge, blaring guitar riffs and U2ish backup vocals. Closer “Echelon” sounds like a synthed up Nick Cave song as its very pretty and eerie. Although the political lyrics can be bulky at times (see; “Nations”/ “Immaculate Deception”) they are still intriguing and give the album a dystopian vibe.  The Pop Group’s Citizen Zombie is a strong effort that holds up to the band’s impressive discography without sounding trite and overdone.

– Tom Jurgens