Circa Waves — ‘Sad Happy’
THE GOOD: British indie rock group Circa Waves comes back with its fourth.
THE BAD: “Sad Happy” is a record of highs and lows, but maybe that was intentional.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Originally released digitally in two parts, “Happy” in January and “Sad” a couple of months after that, the physical CD and LP now bring the two halves together. Musically, there’s not much difference between the sides. This is a cohesive set. Fronted by sensitive dude Kieran Shudall, the band brings on guitar-based indie pop/rock that’s somewhat formulaic but never unappealing.
Upbeat bits such as tumbling opener “Jacqueline” and the steady “Wake Up Call” cozy up nicely with gentler moments, such as the melancholy “The Things We Knew Last Night.” “Hope There’s a Heaven” is another tender highlight. Longtime fans should be pleased. Newcomers will find at least a handful of songs to embrace.
Don’t expect any big surprises. Circa Waves continues to do what it does, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
BUY IT?: Sure.
Peter Bjorn and John — ‘Endless Dream’
THE GOOD: Swedish indie pop trio Peter Bjorn and John offers up its ninth.
THE BAD: No complaints.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The band described the album as being a more hopeful and happier followup to 2018’s “Darker Days” (which really WASN’T that gloomy in the first place). Actually, it’s probably damn near impossible for these guys to make anything even close to a total downer. But you can say that about most Swedish bands. Since day one, PB&J (the name is even joyful when you abbreviate it) has given us collections filled with snappy guitar riffs, tight rhythms and cool melodies over the top.
“Endless Dream” doesn’t shake up the formula. You can dig bright and bubbly tracks (“Reason to Be Reasonable” and “Simple Song of Sin”) or groove on something a little bit more sneaky and/or funky (“Drama King”). No duds here. You want to spend yet another sunny day with these guys? “Endless Dream” can make that happen.
BUY IT?: Absolutely.
M Ward — ‘Migration Stories’
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter/guitarist (and one half of She & Him) Matthew Ward gives us his 11th solo effort.
THE BAD: You’ve heard “Stories” before, but still …
THE NITTY GRITTY: Ward is one of the few artists who can get away with making very similar albums time and again, and you don’t mind one bit. Most of his collections follow the same pattern — a bunch of low-key swaying folk/rock tunes played over reserved electric guitar and the most unobtrusive of backing musicians. Here, I really like “Heaven’s Nail and Hammer.”
Then for variety, Ward will toss in a few instrumentals and a couple of upbeat, full-bodied pieces. Here, the instrumental is melodic closer “Rio Drone.” The more hard rocking (but not really) tracks are “Unreal City” and “Along the Santa Fe Trail.” You know what you’re going to get, but different settings call for different music. Ward’s laid-back delivery is always welcome, especially if you’re stuck inside on a lazy rainy day. Just relax.
BUY IT?: Why not?