Dude York — Falling
THE GOOD: Seattle indie rock band Dude York gives us its fourth.
THE BAD: It may not make the most DISTINCT records, but Dude York satisfies (even while closely referencing a bunch of other bands you already love).
THE NITTY GRITTY: Bassist/vocalist Claire England and guitarist/vocalist Peter Richards switch off fronting the band, so “Falling” offers a cool female/male back-and-forth as the tunes play on. England is the no-nonsense girl taking charge on tough but melodic songs such as “I’m the 1 4 U” and the title cut. Richards is the new wave guy on top of sturdy, catchy bits such as “Box” and “DGAFAF (I Know What’s Real).”
The album’s biggest strength is the haphazard variety that comes with two lead vocalists showing off their distinct styles. “Falling” is never stagnant, whether it’s recalling contemporaries such as Bleached and Charley Bliss or old faves like Weezer and Veruca Salt. That’s Dude York’s only flaw.
The band’s own personality doesn’t rise above that of its peers all that much, but the songs still crank.
BUY IT?: Sure.
Lana Del Rey — ‘Norman (expletive) Rockwell’
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter Lana Del Rey adjusts to a changing world on her fifth.
THE BAD: Nothing.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The album makes for a very intimate undertaking focusing on piano ballads and slightly folkish trajectories. Some tracks are guided by subtle rhythms, but for the most part, we’re under the spell of Del Rey’s voice and, more importantly, her words.
Much of the record was co-written with Jack Antonoff (Bleachers, fun.) and while that usually means a much brighter and bubblier affair, the two find power in the reserved. Even Del Rey’s reworking of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time” trades the scratchy ska vibe from decades past for a new, much more dreamy (and slightly foreboding) setting.
Never overtly political, Del Rey still embraces the uncertainty of these times. The record reflects feelings of loss, doubt and hopelessness. In someone else’s hands, it would all be one massive downer. But this woman knows how to weave enticing melodies and settings. We want to be here with her.
BUY IT?: Absolutely.
Vivian Girls — ‘Memory’
THE GOOD: Brooklyn indie rock group Vivian Girls reforms and gives us its first album in eight years.
THE BAD:There are a few duds on the playlist, but it ends up more good than bad, more lively than flat.
THE NITTY GRITTY: It’s as if the band never broke up. “Memory” kicks off with the immediate and punchy “Most of All,” a song resurrecting the energy that never quite petered out on 2011’s “Share the Joy.” So don’t expect much progression. But that’s OK.
Tracks are short and to the point, with guitar-heavy pop songs with a hint of genuine punk to keep matters somewhat unkempt. Cassie Ramone continues to belt out the hooks in a tone that’s slightly flat but melodic enough to get the job done. The basic background din of guitars, bass and drums pushes things forward and builds a jagged wall of sound.
Time will tell if this is a one-off reunion or something more long-term. I’m hoping for the latter because the formula still excites.
BUY IT?: Yes.