Toth — ‘You and Me and Everything’
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter and Rubblebucket member Alex Toth releases his second solo effort.
THE BAD: Some ideas don’t feel fully realized; “Everything” contains some throwaways. Thankfully, there’s more good than bad.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Toth wrote much of the album in the shadow of his breakup with longtime musical and life partner Annakalmia Traver. Lyrically, it feels cathartic regarding the past as Toth also looks toward his future. Musically, it’s the man further refining songs produced outside of his longtime band. The instrumentation is a cozy blend of guitar, piano, horns and strings playing off synths and drum machines. Traditional and electronic elements ultimately are harmonious. The overall effect is one of intimacy, with Toth letting us into his somewhat broken world.
Songs bounce among extremes like pure pop (“I Might Be”); darker, shuffling textures (“Jesse’s House”); and a couple of collaborations with Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner (the bitter, wandering “Daffadowndilly”). These are some of Toth’s strongest melodies to date.
BUY IT?: I would.
Gary Numan — ‘Intruder’
THE GOOD: British electronic pioneer Gary Numan is back with his 19th.
THE BAD: Nothing bad, but be prepared. “Intruder” will challenge you more than once.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Now in his early 60s, Numan remains as ambitious as ever, continuing his late career trend of making doomsday concept albums. “Intruder” is a logical follow-up to both 2013’s “Splinter” and especially 2017’s “Savage.” Songs such as “Betrayed” and “I Am Screaming” tackle our environmental woes but from the planet’s point of view. The whole affair is large in scope and even cinematic at certain points — cautionary sci-fi, perhaps.
Musically, Numan’s electronics harken back to prime Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails and a host of other acts he influenced way back when. There also are Gothic undertones. I hear faint echoes of Sisters of Mercy and the Jesus and Mary Chain. Yet, there’s a certain timelessness to the proceedings; the songs are not stuck in any particular era as they look toward a potentially bleak future.
BUY IT?: Sure.
Morcheeba — ‘Blackest Blue’
THE GOOD: British trip-hoppers Morcheeba return with their 10th.
THE BAD: Founding member Paul Godfrey left the band in 2014; “Blue” is the second album without him. The glory days of “Who Can You Trust” (1996) and “Big Calm” (1998) may be over, but the new record comes damn close.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Ross Godfrey is still present, and so is lead vocalist Skye Edwards. There is no mistaking “Blue” for anything other than a Morcheeba project. Here, the two deliver another soulful indie pop collection colored by modern folk, trip-hop (although not quite as much these days) and the occasional smoky ballad (“Say It’s Over” simmers).
Better moments include the haunting “Killed Our Love” and bass-heavy “The Moon.” Godfrey plugs the guitar-driven instrumental “Sulphur Soul” into the album’s halfway point. Melodic and mysterious closer “The Edge of the World” leaves us craving more.
Electronic-leaning acts can have a hard time sounding fresh after a quarter-century. “Blackest Blue” proves that is clearly NOT the case with this now-duo.
BUY IT?: Yeah.