Cornershop — ‘England Is a Garden’
THE GOOD: British indie rock group Cornershop releases its ninth.
THE BAD: Nothing.
THE NITTY GRITTY: For more than 25 years, Cornershop has created one of the brightest and most eclectic catalogs in modern music. Still fronted by Tjinder Singh, the band combines classic Britpop, psychedelic pop, glam, Indian sounds, hip-hop, jazz and whatever else feels right at any particular moment. Its albums are feel-good havens that never deteriorate into vapid fluff. “Garden” continues that much-loved and needed tradition.
Tracks such as the stomping, instantly infectious opener “St. Marie Under Canon” and “Highly Amplified,” sprinkled with flute, sitar and strings, fill the room with bold spirits and vibrant colors. Most of the new record simply finds the band jamming through straightforward (and slightly funky) pop/rockers. Airtight, slamming beats combine with ragged yet soulful electric guitars. Outside elements like squiggly retro synths and those aforementioned strings keep matters unpredictable. A certain coolness oozes over the entire affair. Then again, Cornershop was always cool.
BUY IT?: Yes.
Real Estate — ‘The Main Thing’
THE GOOD: New Jersey indie outfit Real Estate begins a second decade of output with its fifth.
THE BAD: No complaints.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Frontman Martin Courtney and his partners prove they have staying power beyond 10 years together. “Main Thing” doesn’t shake up the band’s formula. We still get a healthy dose of swirling melodies over tempered backdrops; the guitars never are intrusive, the rhythms understated.
However, the guys expand their sound and bring new elements into familiar territories. String flourishes and even the occasional outside collaborator aren’t out of the question. There’s a newfound urgency to the playing, too, especially the guitar parts.
The album makes a lyrical shift, too. Courtney became a father during the writing process. There was a brief moment where he wondered if Real Estate would even continue. But the man persevered, and he now looks outwardly more this time. What does the future hold for his children? The words are no longer just about him or past recollections.
BUY IT?: Yes.
Grouplove — ‘Healer’
THE GOOD: American alternative pop/rockers Grouplove come back with a fourth album (first in four years).
THE BAD: Formulaic? It’s a Grouplove record. Still …
THE NITTY GRITTY: The band had a tumultuous few years since the release of 2016’s “Big Mess,” especially vocalist/keyboardist Hannah Hooper, who had to have brain surgery. Then there were a few lineup changes as the crew had to recruit a new rhythm section. After the dust settled, it was time to make “Healer.”
The new record was worth the wait (sort of). Longtime fans will embrace the usual upbeat tracks injected with that standard Grouplove feel-good vibe. Even when griping about politics and the world at large (standard stuff these days), the band keeps the riffs and rhythms pumping. But nothing here hasn’t been done before (in both Grouplove’s catalog and those of other run-of-the-mill modern rockers). Hey, every album CAN’T be a game changer. Sometimes you have to be satisfied with a catchy collection of halfway-decent tunes.
BUY IT?: Your call.