Jehnny Beth — ‘To Love Is to Live’
THE GOOD: French musician, singer-songwriter and Savages frontwoman Jehnny Beth releases her first solo album.
THE BAD: Not bad, but challenging. Savages fans might not embrace “To Love.”
THE NITTY GRITTY: The record hails from a completely different musical place. “To Love” is more electronic and much less predictable, even as it leaps from track to track. Some bits feel more like performance pieces or poetry readings as opposed to traditional songs.
“To Love” also is an album of extremes. We go from the abrasive and abusive toxic masculinity permeating “I’m the Man” to the melancholy and longing that soak the soft “French Countryside.” Beth commands both settings well. And perhaps that’s where the record gains its true strength. It allows the artist to expand both her compositions and voice beyond the confines of a punk outfit.
While Beth’s talents are responsible for much of Savages’ unique style, “To Love” proves she offers so much more. Patience pays off with this one.
BUY IT?: Sure.
Phoebe Bridgers — ‘Punisher’
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter Phoebe Bridgers develops further on her sophomore album.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Bridgers has been extremely busy this past half-decade. Her accomplished debut, 2017’s “Stranger in the Alps,” put her on the indie map. Instead of leaving us wanting more, she immediately joined the all-female side project Boygenius, which dropped an EP in 2018. Then a year later, Bridgers teamed up with one of her influences, Conor Oberst, for the Better Oblivion Community Center project.
Now we have “Punisher.” Bridgers is the focus, but partners from both Boygenius and BOCC pop up at various points. Yet this is her show, an intimate set that’s low-key and intense at the same time. Most songs are down-tempo but emotionally charged. And when Bridgers picks up the pace on full-bodied cuts such as “Kyoto” and “ICU,” the music is even more engaging.
Bridgers further proves she’s a composer and performer wise beyond her years. Time will tell how long she can keep up this maddening creative pace.
BUY IT?: Yes.
Dream Wife — ‘So When You Gonna …’
THE GOOD: British female pop/punk trio Dream Wife dodges the sophomore slump (mostly).
THE BAD: “Gonna” has tracks both excellent and exhausting. You have to accept both extremes.
THE NITTY GRITTY: When the melodies pop and the music pushes forward, this band is golden. There are a few moments, however, that feel over the top or ham-fisted. Opening cut “Sports” is one such bit of bad acting. Aggressive calls of “Time is money/Never apologize/These are the rules/Sports!” feel fake.
Thankfully, the women regroup and fall into a more genuine groove. Tracks such as “Hasta La Vista” and “Temporary” are concise, catchy and not the least bit awkward. By the time we get to “Hold on Me,” one detects actual progression in the trio’s songwriting. Not bad, considering Dream Wife was conceived as little more than an art school project and girl band parody.
But now, these women are in it for real. And though it’s flawed, “So When You Gonna” proves they should keep going.
BUY IT?: Your choice.