Cloud Nothings — ‘The Shadow I Remember’
THE GOOD: Ohio indie rockers Cloud Nothings return with their seventh.
THE BAD: Nah.
THE NITTY GRITTY: This is actually the second album from the band since the beginning of COVID-19. Last summer, they gave us “The Black Hole Understands,” a self-released effort featuring only Dylan Baldi and Jayson Gerycz. They recorded the album through file-sharing.
Now the whole band is back, and made “Remember” traditionally in the studio. Legendary producer Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion) even showed up. It’s another brisk collection of tight songs with no 10-minute experiments within earshot. Tracks such as “Nothing Without You” and “Nara” are both infectious and injected with an inescapable sense of urgency.
Lyrically, the band turns inward. Most of the record was composed during lockdown so frontman Baldi had time to get in touch with his feelings, both good and bad. Helplessness and frustration are recurring themes, but they don’t overshadow the riffs and melodies. Despite its origins, “Remember” finds the band sounding just as punchy and confident as ever.
BUY IT?: Sure.
Teenage Fanclub — ‘Endless Arcade’
THE GOOD: Scottish indie pop/rockers Teenage Fanclub return with their 11th.
THE BAD: This is the band’s first release without founding member Gerard Love, and it lost a strong songwriter. You can tell the remaining members are still adjusting and pulling themselves together.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Despite the shuffled lineup, the guys managed to create an enjoyable set. “Arcade” may not be the brightest gem in their catalog, but it’s by no means a weak collection. It graces us with achingly gorgeous melodic pieces, such as “Warm Embrace” and “The Sun Won’t Shine on Me.” Those who appreciate the band’s penchant for extended crunchy guitar solos will love crushing opener “Home.” “Back in the Day” offers up some classic jangle pop.
The record feels soft around the edges, never reaching out and grabbing you directly. But a band that’s more than 30 years into its career rarely comes off as this vital. As it continues to move forward, we’ll gladly come along for the ride.
BUY IT?: Yes.
James — ‘All the Colours of You’
THE GOOD: British indie legend James comes back with its 16th.
THE BAD: “Colours” is slightly experimental. Most parts work, but some don’t.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Working with producer Jacknife Lee (the Killers, U2, Snow Patrol), the band recorded the album “pandemic style.” During lockdown, various members were stuck in different parts of the world. So frontman Tim Booth (also Lee’s neighbor) worked closely with the producer, putting his bandmates’ parts together with the basic tracks. Listening to the end result, you’d never know the record was a product of long-distance collaboration.
“Colours” ends up a typical varied James album. Some tracks are straightforward and infectious (“Beautiful Beaches”). Others move in unexpected directions, bringing in varying sounds and styles (“Zero”). And then we get the socially conscious moments Booth always brings to the table (“Miss America”).
James has been making records for 35 years, never totally straying from a late-career comfort zone that covers a lot of space. Do you always know what you’re going to get? Thankfully, no.
BUY IT?: Yes.