Grimes, aka Claire Boucher, could potentially be a pop star if she really wanted to. The Canadian singer and producer edges slightly closer to the realm of top-40 tracks on Art Angels, her follow-up to the 2012’s excellent Visions, but that doesn’t mean that she’s conformed to the norm. It doesn’t take long for Grimes to show off her varied tastes, going from radio-friendly pop magic (“California”) to abrasive (The Aristophanes-assisted “Scream”) within the first few tracks of her latest release. Take “Kill V. Maim” for example. It’s a wonderfully weird track, the sonic equivalent of if Madonna, Pet Shop Boys, and Toni Basil’s “Mickey” got into a back alley knife fight, reconciled, and went to go watch animé and throw a dance party together. In short, Art Angels is a blast. 4.5/5[divider type=”thin”]
Matt Berninger can’t escape The National. Not that he needs to, mind you, but it’s a jarring experience to hear the deep-voiced singer fronting another band, especially when it’s a project like EL VY. Berninger teamed up with Ramona Falls founder and former Menomena member Brent Knopf, pairing Berninger’s baritone with Knopf’s work on the keys. Ultimately, Return to the Moon sounds like a pair of guys throwing darts at the wall and seeing what sticks. It was likely a fun experience and some of the experiments work, but the album has a lot of moving parts and not a lot of cohesiveness. “I’m the Man to Be” is a sex-driven groove with a whole bunch of unnecessary touches added to the mix. Return to the Moon has fun parts, but is underwhelming as a whole. 3/5[divider type=”thin”]
Full disclosure: I love me some Jeff Lynne. When all of my grad school friends were first discovering The Beatles, I extolled the virtues of Electric Light Orchestra after discovering 1977’s Out of the Blue. Of course, the skeptic in me had some reservations about Lynne’s 14th ELO studio album after a 15-year hiatus. However, where some classic rockers botch their return to the studio, Alone in the Universe is crash course in what made ELO so much fun back in the band’s heyday. Lynne doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel on his new album, instead producing 10 expertly crafted tracks that easily fit right in with the rest of ELO’s discography. It’s a refreshing release that manages to feel both nostalgic without being trapped in the past, an impressive feat from the veteran musician. 4/5[divider type=”thin”]
Majical Cloudz’ songs play out like scenes from a film, with singer Devon Welsh playing the protagonist. Each track is a new monologue, baring his soul while band mate Matthew Otto builds the scene around him with softly buzzing synths and piano. Are You Alone?, like 2013’s Impersonator, is an intimate album. There are no sweeping hooks or rousing riffs. Instead, Welsh and Otto imbue a sense of melancholy in their latest release, weaving a gentle, beautiful creation that floats effortlessly from your speakers to the space between your ears. It’s quite a lovely creation that adds extra heft to each of Welsh’s lyrics by placing him dead center in a slew of ethereal compositions. 4.5/5
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Managing editor, fan of all things fluffy. Alex Bieler was born a large child in Parma Heights and grew up to be a large, bearded man who occasionally words good. Before he joined PressureLife, Alex was an arts and culture editor for the Erie Reader, an alternative publication in, well, Erie, Pennsylvania. Some of his more notable accomplishments including editing a book in the Library of Congress and getting butt dialed by Bill Nye the Science Guy.