Of Montreal — ‘Ur Fun’
THE GOOD: Georgia indie pop band Of Montreal gives us a flashy 16th.
THE BAD: “Ur Fun” is decent but can get lost within the outfit’s immense catalog.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The mastermind behind this band has always been Kevin Barnes. This is his project, his creative outlet, his baby. Sometimes Of Montreal is an actual band. Sometimes it’s Barnes doing everything himself. The latter is the case on “Ur Fun.” Other than some female harmonies, Barnes is personally responsible for every sound you hear.
The guy keeps us guessing from record to record. While some past efforts have been raw, rock-leaning collections, “Ur Fun” is all about bubbly synth pop and ’80s dance mixes. Songs such as “Polyaneurism” and “Get God’s Attention by Being an Atheist” display Barnes’ penchants for big melodies, careless fun and wry sarcasm. Not every song leaves a long-lasting impression, but the record as a whole is genuinely joyous even when Barnes’ heart breaks over the beats.
BUY IT?: I would.
Pet Shop Boys — ‘Hotspot’
THE GOOD: British synth-pop duo Pet Shop Boys offers up its 14th.
THE BAD: The PSB catalog has always been about ebb and flow. “Hotspot” is a more low-key set. Not bad at all.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Even though you could hardly call Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe “boys” anymore (both are well into their 60s), the most successful musical duo in U.K. history shows no signs of slowing down as it wraps up a fourth decade together. PSB is hitting the road with New Order later this summer — hopefully — and unlike a lot of older acts, the pair actually has a reason to tour: “Hotspot.”
The new record finds Tennant staying up late as usual, nightlife either embraced (“Monkey Business”) or avoided (“I Don’t Wanna”). Yet everything interesting happens after the sun goes down. And this time, the record’s better moments occur when the rhythms are pulled back and the delicate melodies take over. Intimate bits such as “Hoping for a Miracle” and “Burning the Heather” really sparkle.
BUY IT?: Sure.
Dan Deacon — ‘Mystic Familiar’
THE GOOD: Baltimore electronic musician Dan Deacon gives us his fifth album (and first in five years).
THE BAD: No real gripes.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Even though Deacon hasn’t released an album since 2015’s “Gliss Riffer,” the man has kept busy, scoring a bunch of films and even working on a ballet. In other words, more collaborative projects, which is one of the facets that inspired the music of “Mystic.” Deacon also now meditates. So there is an otherworldly quality to the album as it transcends the simple synth-pop formula.
And yet, Deacon hasn’t forgotten the power of an infectious melody, a tight beat and the lethal combination of the two. Tracks such as “Sat by a Tree” and “Fell into the Ocean” carry us off on dreamlike soundscapes. And when he expands his musical reach to include things such as free jazz and nontraditional structures, as he does on the four-part “Arp” composition, “Mystic” then embraces the best from two worlds — progressive and pop.
BUY IT?: Yes.