Boy Scouts — ‘Free Company’
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter Taylor Vick offers up another collection under the name Boy Scouts. It’s her most refined yet.
THE BAD: Nothing.
THE NITTY GRITTY: With the help of friend Stephen Steinbrink on various instruments, “Free Company” was recorded in a rather intimate setting: a converted shipping container. But it kept the pair free from distractions as Vick poured her heart out on a series of breakup songs written after a relationship ended suddenly.
Musically, this is softer yet still catchy and, in places, jangly indie pop, not far removed from old favorites such as Eisley and contemporaries including First Aid Kit or even Hop Along. Vick isn’t afraid to flirt with folk, but she keeps the music grounded in rock undertones, especially on more focused bits such as “Expiration Date” and “Cut It.” The entire mix works extremely well as a logical progression from Vick’s earlier DIY recordings, some of those dating back to the days of Myspace. “Free Company” also makes us very hopeful for her musical future.
BUY IT?: Yes.
Metronomy — ‘Metronomy Forever’
THE GOOD: English electronic outfit Metronomy gives us a sprawling sixth (and its first in five years).
THE BAD: The record’s free-form nature means you have to swim through some filler.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Singer/songwriter/producer Joseph Mount was completely left to his own devices on “Metronomy Forever.” The band’s lineup remains intact for touring purposes though. He worked alone in his own studio, foregoing a tight album for something more spacious and trippy.
The end result is a journey of sorts, some of Metronomy’s best synth-heavy pop songs in years interspersed with instrumental interludes and breathers. It’s tough to resist the pull of bouncy dance floor banger “Salted Caramel Ice Cream” or the snapping silliness of “Sex Emoji.” An instrumental such as “Miracle Rooftop” hypnotizes almost immediately.
Yet, some of “Forever” comes off as self-indulgent or even unfinished, especially when you pull certain parts out of the overall work. Some restraint was needed. But no road trip or night out is perfect.
BUY IT?: Despite a few lesser moments, yes.
New Pornographers — ‘In the Morse Code of Brake Lights’
THE GOOD: Canadian indie rock collective New Pornographers gives us its eighth.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: On opening track “You’ll Need a New Backseat Driver,” the first voice you hear is that of the always audibly striking Neko Case. So “Morse Code” is catchy and compelling right from the beginning. Dan Bejar remains an on-again, off-again member, so this is the second record where all of the songwriting duties fall squarely on A.C. Newman. He’s clearly up to the task.
Newman and Case trade off vocals on boisterous pop gems such as “Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile” and “Need Some Giants.” Mid-tempo reserved moments such as “Leather on the Seat” add depth. The overall atmosphere feels heavier this time, with new wave tendencies turned down slightly. But even a small change is invigorating.
Never feeling like a retread, “Morse Code” doesn’t stumble. Two decades in, and this band hasn’t run out of good ideas yet.
BUY IT?: I would.