Since a lot of us are going to be cooling our heels at home for the foreseeable future, we might as well consume art. In the music world, there are some interesting new releases for those of us who want to escape the drama and chaos or rage and kick the walls in frustration.
Don’t really kick the walls. This is not a good time to hire home repair professionals.
Anyway, here are some ear-catching new albums to sink into for these upcoming days, weeks or months of isolation.
In This Moment
Hard rockers, In This Moment, step deeper into the stylistic shadows of their last album, “Ritual,” with their latest album, which is more introspective and less aggressive than previous efforts. After a gothic metal bombast of 2012’s “Blood” and it’s glossier follow-up, 2014’s “Black Widow,” the group got witchy and toned things down with the spookier moodiness of 2017 release, “Ritual,” which brought in more synths and atmospherics to mature In This Moment’s sound and sand the edges of their Godzilla-sized walls of guitars and drums.
With the ferociously howling vocals of singer and bandleader, Maria Brink, at the forefront, In This Moment still manages to crush skulls and paint the walls with woman power like they always have with songs like “The In-Between” and “Lay Me Down.” The songs that weave in orchestral and electronic textures paint a more haunting and captivating picture like with the dark and ominous “As Above So Below,” as well as seductive and smoldering tracks like “Legacy” and “Born In Flames.”
In This Moment always throws a cover song on their albums and this offering has two, with the band putting their stamp on Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like an Eagle” and Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” The former is a tribal industrial rock exercise that purges any trippy charm the original had in favor of a predictable rhythmic stomp. It’s an interesting take, but it could have been more adventurous. The latter is a no-win situation as nobody that has attempted to cover the iconic anthem has come close to matching the brilliance of the original. It’s a nice try, but it’s a hard expectation to live up to.
In This Moment always delivers a sonic and emotional punch with their albums and “Mother” is a worthy next step for this visually and musically arresting group.
Pet Shop Boys
Synth-pop pioneers and elder statesmen, Pet Shop Boys, keep the heat going on their 14th studio album, showing they can still inspire on the dance floor.
Things get off to a rollicking start with the propulsive dark and danceable opening track, “Will-O-The Wisp,” which could easily stand beside other anthemic classics in their back catalog. Fun, upbeat moments abound throughout the record with tracks like “Happy People” feeling retro and futuristic at the same time, with its haunting noirish intro giving way to a slick and clubby chorus. The infectiously funky tracks like “Monkey Business,” “Dreamland” and “Wedding in Berlin” give acts like Daft Punk and Chromeo a run for their throwback disco-infused money.
It wouldn’t be a Pet Shop Boys record without some beautifully somber, melancholy or romantic moments. Tracks like “Hoping For A Miracle” and “Only In The Dark” are ambient and hypnotizing epics.
Somewhere in the middle on this electro spectrum are tracks like “I Don’t Wanna” and “Burning the Heather,” the latter leaning greatly on jangly acoustic guitar chords to great effect, and the former a sparse mid-tempo that might be the perfect song to hunker down and stay home to.
Pet Shop Boys have one foot planted firmly in the past and the future with this new batch of songs, giving listeners the best of both worlds. “Hotspot” is definitely in their sonic sweet spot.
Singer, model and YouTube sensation, Poppy, continues to blur lines with her latest album, a bold and brash mash up on electro, ambient and metal.
While this type of sonic stew isn’t new or revolutionary, Poppy manages to convincingly pull off this hybrid with authority. One minute she’s Bjork or Robyn, singing you a hypnotic lullaby. The next minute she’s Trent Reznor, ferociously clawing at your face, sometimes all in the same song.
Songs like “Bite Your Teeth” and “Concrete” alternate between relentless dark metallic fury and light, playful dreamy synthpop. Is it somewhat jarring? Yes, delightfully so because Poppy has the charisma and the confidence to make it work.
For those who like a little distance between their audio chocolate and peanut butter, there are songs that stick to their respective stylistic playbooks. “Nothing I Need” and “Sick of the Sun” stay in their seductively ambient electro-pop lanes throughout. On the other side of the spectrum, “BLOODMONEY” is a raging monster of a track that puts its foot on your neck and rarely lets up.
But it’s those hybrid moments in between that excite the most. “Don’t Go Outside” starts off as a somber torch song before exploding into a solid arena rock song the Queen would be proud of. “Anything Like Me” is a swaggering pendulum of angry industrial bombast and calming new age sensitivity.
“I Disagree” is a delightfully adventurous schizophrenic listen, and that is a huge part of its allure. It’s the kind of album that makes you wish more artists would take more stylistic risks.
“The Slow Rush”
Psychedelic soft-rockers Tame Impala deliver a healthy dose of sonic Xanax, and we mean that in the most complimentary way possible, with their first new full-length album in five years. The group is really the nom de plume of mastermind and multi-instrumentalist, Kevin Parker, which makes this tapestry of influences more impressive. The new album kicks off with “One More Year,” a soaring weighted quilt of a song held down by a steady beat and pulsating bassline, allowing the other sonic and electronic elements to fly off in interesting directions. The epic album closer, “One More Hour,” bookends the experience in fantastic rock opera fashion.
In between, funk and disco beats frolic with joyous abandon on tracks like “Is It True” and “Breath Deeper.” On other tracks, the synths are brassy and in your face, lending a distorted beauty and dominating the mix on bright, upbeat tracks like “Borderline,” “Lost in Yesterday” and “It Might Be Time.” Some more organic moments come in the form of more bass and guitar-driven songs like the moody “Posthumous Forgiveness,” the bubbly and percussive “Tomorrow’s Dust” and the incandescent “Instant Destiny.”
Tame Impala made us wait for this latest salvo of songs, but the result is a well-rounded and mature effort that is very much worth it. “The Slow Rush” is deeply enjoyable and satisfying.