CD Reviews – Perfume Genius, Sleigh Bells, Grimes, Alex Winston, My Best Friend

 
 

Artist: Perfume Genius
Album: Put Your Back N 2 it

Grade: B

Perfume Genius, or to use the name his mother gave him, Mike Hadreas, has followed up his hushed debut, Learning, with this sophomore effort. Ghetto title aside, this album is a troubling one with a sedative poetic quality to it. It goads the listener to join Hadreas’s feelings of depression and hopelessness. He quails and coos with ill, odious self-pity, while the piano leads the songs onwards into sparse and evocative compositions. It is very emotional with a high degree of fragility and a taut brittleness.

The albums standout track ‘Take Me Home’ displays the balladeers talent and instrumental palette, while ‘Awol Marine’ is so sparse and fragile it becomes equally compelling. Taken on face value this album is overtly melancholic and equally neurotic, yet hauntingly bleak and oddly captivating. Even at its most impenetrable the album leaves you in a state of charmed confusion.

In a Nutshell: Not for the faint or broken hearted.

by Emily Mullen

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Artist: Sleigh Bells

Album: Reign of Terror

Grade: B-

New York noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells have come a long way from a chance encounter in a Brazilian restaurant in Brooklyn four years ago. Reign of Terror is the follow-up to the band’s hugely successful debut Treats. From the off, the album places the listener in the adrenaline-driven live setting that the duo have become famous for.

‘True Shred Guitar’ acts as a perfect opener and sets the tone for the rest of the album. Leading lady Alexis Krauss is heard whipping the audience into a frenzy before unleashing the band’s signature sound of distorted guitars and head banging rhythms.

Difficult family times for guitarist Derek Miller since the pair’s rise to fame results in a more serious record than their first offering.  However, standout single ‘Comeback Kid’ still exhibits some uplifting attitude with the usual juxtaposition of heavy guitars and dreamy vocals. Overall, a solid but not stunning second album.

In a Nutshell: Continued steps in the right direction, even if it doesn’t live up to their debut.

by James O’Connor

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Artist: Grimes

Album: Visions

Grade: B+

The fourth musical offering in two years for Montréal-based Claire Boucher and her one man group Grimes, Visions comes with a sense of freshness and vibrancy. Her first release on a major record label, the effects of the move are clearly seen in the slick production and polished feel of the album.

Boucher’s music seems to be genre transcending, blending saccharine pop with a darker, slick synth. The album moves between dizzying highs and restrained lows with ease. In ‘Genesis’ and ‘Oblivion’ eerie echoes are combined with bubbling beats, as Boucher delineates a distant, otherworldly sound, using an impressive vocal range. In ‘Colour of Moonlight (Antiochus)’ and ‘Symphonia IX (My Wait Is You)’, rhythms, though excellently crafted, become repetitive and appear unfulfilled. However the tapering off with the beautiful almost ballad ‘Skin’ and ‘Know the Way’ bring this an album to an awe-inspiring conclusion.

In a Nutshell: An original electro album set to push this relative unknown into the stratosphere.

by Ciara Kehoe

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Artist: Alex Winston

Album: King Con

Grade: B-

Detroit born Alex Winston’s self-titled debut album succeeds in finding the perfect balance between a catchy pop record and an individual, fresh sound.

The twelve tracks are incredibly varied and at the same time infuriatingly memorable. The listener should be prepared to find themselves humming the sweet melody of ‘Sister Wife’ on numerous occasions, a track wonderfully contrasted with the haunting vocal and instrumental combination found in ‘Fire Ant’.

Winston, a classically trained opera singer, is an incredibly versatile, multi-disciplined musician. She plays guitar, piano and drums on the album complimented with her distinctive vocals that cement her as one to watch on the indie-pop scene.

Her unique, intriguing sound brings a new element to the female vocalist scene. Though echoes of Lykke Li can be heard in the vocals, the overall sound of the album makes for a real treat.

In a Nutshell: A well varied, memorable debut.

by Alan Fitzpatrick

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Artist: My Best Fiend

Album: In Ghostlike Fading

Grade: C

If you’re familiar with Warp Records and the IDM stylings of their prominent artists such as Boards of Canada and Squarepusher; then the label’s latest signing, My Best Fiend, will come as something of a surprise. My Best Fiend are distinctively alternative rather than electronic.

In Ghostlike Fading is the debut album from the Brooklyn five piece, and it is certainly an unusual release. My Best Fiend have an understated style with some blues elements. The opening track ‘Higher Palms’ is downbeat and melancholic, setting the tone for the rest of the album.

The highlight is ‘Cracking Eggs’, a track with some great drums and heavy guitar that allows it to rise above the country-western dirges that make up most of the album. It must be noted that the key weakness of this album is the whiny vocals, which will no doubt risk holding the band back in the future.

In a Nutshell: These tracks would work better as instrumentals.

by Steven Balbirnie

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