Girlpool — ‘What Chaos Is Imaginary’
THE GOOD: Los Angeles indie rock group Girlpool gives us its third.
THE BAD: “Chaos” gets mopey in spots, but that’s the point.
THE NITTY GRITTY: What sets Girlpool apart is having two alternating people out front instead of just one. And since transgender guitarist/vocalist Cleo Tucker’s voice is now a bit deeper, his vocals are set even further apart from those of bassist vocalist Harmony Tividad. Tucker tunes are distinctly different from Tividad tunes.
Musically, the band brings in elements of dream pop, noisy indie and even a smattering of classic twee. It’s a mish-mash that’s soothing one moment, confrontational the next. Emotions never run dry. So whether it’s the lilting, fragile “Pretty” or the swirling and much darker “Chemical Freeze,” the sounds are stirring, the moods impenetrable.
Girlpool also establishes a delicate balance between the rock elements and more electronic necessities (the band still has no permanent drummer). It all comes together to make this “Chaos” more harmonious than it should be.
BUY IT?: Surely.
The National — ‘I Am Easy to Find’
THE GOOD: Ohio indie rock group the National still go strong and take chances almost two decades into its career.
THE BAD: The band’s eighth album is a LOT to take in and slows to a crawl in spots.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Mostly though, “Easy to Find” is a triumph that finds the band stepping out of long-established comfort zones. First, it’s co-producing with Mike Mills, a guy known more for graphic design and directing films than working in musical settings. His fresh outlook, though, forced the band to make some unorthodox decisions about their songs, giving the set its own unique personality.
Then, lead vocalist Matt Berninger trades lines with a bevy of female vocalists, such as Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan and ex-David Bowie collaborator Gail Ann Dorsey. Each challenges Berninger (who usually dominates the proceedings) and puts a new spin on what probably started out as textbook National tunes. All of it makes you genuinely excited to see what the band will do next.
BUY IT?: Yes.
Better Oblivion Community Center — ‘Better Oblivion Community Center’
THE GOOD: Indie singer/songwriters Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) and Phoebe Bridgers team up for some modern folk/rock.
THE BAD: No complaints.
THE NITTY GRITTY: It’s a collaboration between an artist whose made music for decades (Oberst) and a fresh second voice no doubt influenced by the first (Bridgers). It’s an interesting pairing that feels EQUAL in every way. BOCC doesn’t simply come off like a Bright Eyes record with a female guest.
The self-titled debut (time will tell if there’s a sophomore effort) follows a very loose narrative about a dystopian rehab facility. However, the songs stand on their own. And considering the sources, I’m shocked none of them are overtly political.
Instead, we get a folk-rock record that’s quiet and introspective in spots, upbeat and boisterous in others. The pair also goes beyond bare acoustic settings. The album dabbles in moments of both genuine rock bite and misty, eerie surroundings. The mood swings are a plus; unpredictability definitely is one of this duo’s strengths.
BUY IT?: Sure.