The Naked and Famous – ‘Recover’
THE GOOD: New Zealand indie outfit Naked and Famous releases its fourth.
THE BAD: Earth-shattering? Nope. But there’s nothing wrong with catchy beat-heavy indie pop.
THE NITTY GRITTY: For the past decade, the band’s only two constant members have been Alisa Xayalith (vocals/keyboards) and Thom Powers (vocals/guitars). It’s no surprise the pair dominates these proceedings.
At its core, “Recover” is a breezy collection of 3-and-a-half minute textbook pop songs. As usual, Xayalith takes lead vocals duties on most, but Powers steps into the spotlight on a few tracks. Songs such as early single “Sunseeker” and “Everybody Knows” grab us with their bubbly arrangements and soaring melodies.
But there aren’t any real duds on this collection. Although there aren’t any real surprises either. And when comparing it to past Naked and Famous albums, this new collection gets lost in the shuffle. However, if you don’t overthink “Recover” and just go for the ride, you’ll come out unscathed and have a decent time.
BUY IT?: Your call.
A Certain Ratio – ‘ACR Loco’
THE GOOD: British post-punk legends and Factory Records survivors A Certain Ratio regroup and return with their eleventh album (the first in over twelve years).
THE BAD: “ACR Loco” is not a revolutionary comeback, but if the record makes new fans curious about the band’s tremendous back catalog, it did a great job.
THE NITTY GRITTY: After releasing a retrospective box set and touring in 2019, ACR’s core members wanted to make new music. This is the result. Musically, the album serves as a sample of everything that came before it. We get a heady mix of electronic, new wave, funk and minimalist rock that pulsates late into the night.
Lyrically, the guys take a look at the current world around them. A post-Brexit Britain is a recurring theme. Some of the lines seem clunky or forced but you never listened to ACR for the words anyway. You crave those killer grooves, and this record has plenty. “ACR Loco” works more often than it doesn’t, making you hope this isn’t a one-off reunion.
BUY IT?: Sure.
Sylvan Esso – ‘Free Love’
THE GOOD: North Carolina husband-and-wife indie pop duo Sylvan Esso (vocalist Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn) release their third.
THE BAD: Some of “Free Love” underwhelms, but overall, the collection is decent.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The duo is a true oddity. Meath came from a modern folk background before embracing the electronic sounds and beats of Sanborn. Right from the very beginning, the pairing wasn’t awkward in the least bit. It clicked. The music worked.
Now, “Free Love” finds the two making the songs slightly more intimate while expanding their musical palate even further; this new record different from the previous two. Whether it’s the boisterous fun of “Ferris Wheel” or the delicate interaction throughout “Free,” the album finds the couple looking inward while dealing with the chaotic world around them.
Lyrically, Sylvan Esso has never been frivolous or shallow. And “Free Love” continues their tradition of “dance if you like, but think while you’re doing it.” Welcome to their intelligent party.
BUY IT?: Yeah.