Ali Barter — ‘Hello, I’m Doing My Best’
THE GOOD: Australian indie singer/songwriter Ali Barter dodges the sophomore slump on “Hello.”
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Barter spent a good chunk of her childhood training as a classical vocalist. Around 16, though, she went astray and became a hardcore party girl. Now, as woman in her early 30s, she takes a lot of those experiences from her misspent youth and throws them into the stark and painfully honest lyrics found throughout “Hello.”
The record ends up a glorious celebration of all the confusing, fun and not-so-fun times one experiences while growing up and navigating young adulthood. Musically, it’s a lean, mean, pop/rock record further bolstered by the tough but clean production courtesy of her rocker husband, Oscar Dawson, of the band Holy Holy.
One detects early Liz Phair within the spirit of this entire affair while Barter delivers loud and catchy goodies on par with contemporaries such as Charly Bliss and fellow Aussie Courtney Barnett.
BUY IT?: Yes.
The Shivas — ‘Dark Thoughts’
THE GOOD: Portland, Oregon, garage rock group Shivas cranks out its fifth.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Combining sloppy rock ‘n’ roll with sprinkles of surf, glam and psychedelia, “Dark Thoughts” isn’t short on hooks, big beats and chugging riffs. Singer/guitarist Jared Molyneux guides the group through bangers such as “Turn Me On” and “Playing on the Radio” — tribal tunes that grab you immediately.
But the band’s secret weapon is female drummer/vocalist Kristin Leonard. In addition to supplying airtight harmonies, she rises to the occasion when stepping into the spotlight on more moody mid-tempo stuff — tender, slow burns such as “If You See Me” and “Over and Over.” Her different personality gives “Dark Thoughts” welcome balance and variety.
Sure, this is a no-frills record, but one could never accuse it of being repetitive. The trippy two-track conclusion consisting of “It’s All in Your Head” and “Can You Feel It Too” even fits nicely within the lineup.
The CD art states “Recommended for loud listening.” I agree with that suggestion.
BUY IT?: Yep.
La Roux — ‘Supervision’
THE GOOD: British dance-pop outfit La Roux comes back with its (her) third.
THE BAD: The La Roux catalog seems to be one of diminishing returns.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The act started out as a duo, an equal collaboration between vocalist Elly Jackson and producer Ben Langmaid. That partnership lasted through the production of La Roux’s self-titled debut from 2009.
Jackson and Langmaid split during the creation of the troubled (and much delayed) sophomore effort, “Trouble in Paradise” (2014). However, Langmaid still contributed to a number of tracks. Now, the transition continues. “Supervision” is the first La Roux record written entirely by Jackson, and it’s co-produced with Dan Carey (Bat for Lashes, Fontaines D.C.).
So it’s kind of a Jackson solo project. What we’re given is a solid if somewhat routine dance-pop collection built upon elements of funk, rock and electronic music. Standard stuff, nothing disagreeable and no outright clunkers. But there’s also not much here that leaves a lasting impression. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
BUY IT?: Your choice.
Mike Evans is the author of Sounds and is a super cool radio guy who doesn’t mess around when it comes to music. Contact: email@example.com