Nana Grizol — ‘South Somewhere Else’
THE GOOD: Athens, Georgia, indie rockers Nana Grizol return with their fourth.
THE BAD: Lots of politics and self-reflection on this one. It’s not bad, but just be prepared.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Growing up gay, guitarist/frontman Theo Hilton always brought personal anxieties to the forefront of the band’s lyrics. Now he pulls us through a therapy session where he comes to terms with America’s South. Songs such as “Plantation Country,” “About the Purpose That We Serve” and the title cut grapple with a white-washed history and the sins of our past.
Musically, it’s a rather upbeat affair considering the lyrical subject matter. Nana Grizol loves jangle pop, and it embellishes those ringing guitars with lots of shiny brass and jaunty melodies. On its surface, the music comes off as joyous. Yet that darkness underneath keeps the record grounded.
Hilton doesn’t mind if your toes are tapping as long as you hear his message. “South Somewhere Else” makes you smile but also makes you think.
BUY IT?: Your choice.
Owen — ‘The Avalanche’
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter and American Football frontman Mike Kinsella releases his 10th solo effort as Owen.
THE BAD: If you’re not in the proper mood, ANY Owen record can feel like a slog. Kinsella gets quiet and moody. For newbies though, “The Avalanche” is one of the better Owen sets.
THE NITTY GRITTY: It’s hard to tell which is the side project. The band has three albums; the solo act has 10. However, each is an important creative outlet for Kinsella. That’s all that matters.
Things get personal on “Avalanche.” Kinsella continues to dip into his past for inspiration, revisiting dark memories and setting those to mostly acoustic settings. Still, a couple of tracks get the full-on band treatment. “On with the Show” is definitely a highlight, with Kinsella delivering a pop/rock tune that may have been TOO pop for AF. The more haunting bits are equally satisfying. The story of low self-esteem, “Wanting and Willing,” is very effective as it stumbles around in the dark.
BUY IT?: Yes.
Lime Cordiale — ’14 Steps to a Better You’
THE GOOD: Australian indie pop duo Lime Cordiale (brothers Oliver and Louis Leimbach) return with a confident sophomore effort.
THE BAD: No.
THE NITTY GRITTY: In their native country, Lime Cordiale has already racked up four gold singles, and “14 Steps” went to No. 1. Here, the group is a well-kept secret and brilliant discovery for anyone who truly adores a catchy melody and brisk arrangement. Both of those elements adorn opening track “That’s Life.” After that, the record never slows down and rarely stumbles for almost an hour.
Other highlights include instantly fetching tunes such as “Inappropriate Behavior” and “Dirt Cheap.” More sensitive bits such as “We Just Get By” and “Can’t Take All the Blame” are equally engaging while adding doses of melancholy and heartbreak. And if “14 Steps” feels like a potential singles collection, it sort of is. The record had a huge ramp-up period where eight of its 14 tracks were forced to stand on their own; applause for individual merits.
BUY IT?: Yes.