Washed Out — ‘Purple Noon’
THE GOOD: Washed Out (singer/songwriter/producer Ernest Greene Jr.) returns with his fourth.
THE BAD: Not necessarily “bad,” but “Purple Noon” plays it safe.
THE NITTY GRITTY: After breaking out of his comfort zone with 2017’s varied and experimental “Mister Mellow,” Greene feels content to chill this time. That makes “Noon” somewhat of a regression but still an agreeable collection.
The record is mostly mid-tempo electronic pop songs big on swirling synths, echo-drenched atmospheres and Greene’s smooth vocals. Much of the music can’t help but blend into the background, but it does make for an agreeable setting.
There is one sweet spot toward the middle of the record. Greene adds a slight yet effective reggae wobble to three songs in a row, “‘Time to Walk Away,” “Paralyzed” and “Reckless Desires.” The mix nudges us out of complacency while shaking our hips a little. Unfortunately, something like that doesn’t happen again during the album’s second half. But there’s nothing wrong with drifting for a while.
BUY IT?: Sure.
Cut Copy — ‘Freeze Melt’
THE GOOD: Australian synthpop band Cut Copy releases its sixth.
THE BAD: Not really.
THE NITTY GRITTY: “Freeze Melt” is a concept album centering on climate change. But the message might get lost unless you pay rapt attention to the lyrics, and even then, well, who knows? You will immediately notice how chill this record is. Cut Copy truly takes the soothing way out this time.
But that works once the mood is set. Opening track “Cold Water” is all liquid beats and delicate synths, not to mention Dan Whitford’s smooth vocals. From there, the tempos increase from time to time, but the vibe never gets even the least bit obtrusive. It’s as if someone stuck vocals on top of some Orb or Ultramarine mixes from circa 1993. And a pulsating track with minimal lyrics like “Stop Horizon” takes that aesthetic even further. So Cut Copy is still great at the whole retro thing. It’s simply branched out of the ’80s this time.
BUY IT?: Yeah.
Yelle — ‘L’ere Du Verseau’
THE GOOD: French dance-pop act Yelle comes back with its fourth album (first in six years).
THE BAD: Here in North America, the French language barrier makes Yelle albums somewhat interchangeable. But that’s only bad if you crave unlimited progression. Truth is, ANY Yelle record is a great night out.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Lead vocalist Julie Budet remains the driving force and main personality of the trio. As usual, her bubbly vocals distinguish the band from countless other global electronic acts. Whether it’s upbeat bangers such as opening track “Emancipense” or the melancholy-coated “Mon Beau Chagrin,” Budet is Yelle personified.
As a whole, “Verseau” is a varied collection never overdoing any tempo or vibe in particular. All too often, electronic works endlessly pulsate themselves into the background. Yelle melodies and arrangements have always been just as important to the overall equation as the raw grooves underneath. This new record further embraces that model. Longtime fans and newbies alike should adore this playlist.
BUY IT?: Sure.