The Strumbellas — ‘Rattlesnake’
THE GOOD: Canadian folk-pop outfit Strumbellas comes back with a sunny fourth.
THE BAD: “Rattlesnake” drowns in so much positivity and saccharine sweetness, it damn near threw me into a diabetic coma.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Hey kids, gather around the campfire, it’s time for a rousing sing-a-long! Yeah, I’m really torn when it comes to this record. On the one hand, I’m always about big choruses, bouncy arrangements and a certain amount of romanticism. On the other hand, it’s better to take the album in small doses. After three or four cuts, the whole affair feels overly cloying.
However, songs such as captivating and soaring opener “Salvation” and reserved yet starry-eyed “The Party” are not without their charms. Just make sure you’re not seeking any depth. These are love songs and tunes of self-affirmation. If the band threw in a couple of Jesus mentions and lines about seeing “the light,” “Rattlesnake” could morph into a Christian rock album. Maybe that’s next.
BUY IT?: Your call.
The Tallest Man on Earth — ‘I Love You, It’s a Fever Dream’
THE GOOD: Swedish singer/songwriter Kristian Matsson (stage name Tallest Man on Earth) comes back with his fifth sparkling and subdued set.
THE BAD: No.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Matsson’s records always have been inspired by deeply personal experiences, his songs a reflection of various life stages. The songs on his last album, “Dark Bird Is Home,” focused on the man’s then-recent divorce from fellow musician Amanda Bergman. Now, “I Love You” picks up his story with life on the road and adjusting to being single again. We peek in on matters such as the globetrotting musings of “Hotel Bar” and the uncertainty of “All I Can Keep Is Now.”
Musically, the album is a standard, intimate TMOE outing. Matsson is accompanied mostly by his acoustic guitar along with some ever-so-restrained string or horn arrangements. The end result is a naked performance recalling everything from classic Bob Dylan to fellow modern troubadour Bon Iver. Very simple and very affective.
BUY IT?: Yes.
Wintersleep — ‘In the Land of…’
THE GOOD: Canadian (specifically Nova Scotia) indie rock outfit Wintersleep gives us a multi-layered seventh.
THE BAD: Nothing.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Bringing elements of folk, jangle pop, progressive rock and indie together in a harmonious mixed bag, Wintersleep reminds us of fellow Canadians Broken Social Scene and Yukon Blonde while also recalling international artists such as Frightened Rabbit and Idlewild. It delivers an intelligent blend that’s melodic but never pandering, structured yet unpredictable.
They band will toss you a straight love song such as “Into the Shape of Your Heart” before diving headfirst into the melancholy and slightly creepy “Waves.” “Never Let You Go” is a hand-clapping exercise in catchy frivolity. “Terror” is more involved, building to a rousing climax.
Wintersleep has been a big part of the Canadian indie scene for almost two decades. A strong foothold “south of the border” would be cool. Maybe “In the Land of” will make that happen. Even if it doesn’t, I still want to hear what it will accomplish next.
BUY IT?: Sure.