New Music of Note, February 2016
A quick review of three new albums released over the past month.
Bloc Party, Hymns
After the disastrous, self-parodying album Four, I approached Hymns with thick rubber gloves and expectations lower than the bottom of the Thames. However: faith renewed. I don’t know if it’s great because it’s actually great or because it’s just different, but I give Kele and crew credit for creating something totally divergent from old Bloc Party. Gone is the frantic, stabby whirligig of anthemic post-punk, replaced by mostly quiet, mostly introspective, mostly legible ideas of spirituality, relationships both divine and mortal, and the value of honoring the present moment. Forgiving the shockingly bad (ludicrously bad) opening song, which I’ve just gone ahead and deleted from every device, this is the album we knew Bloc Party had the musical and emotional intelligence to write.
Savages, Adore Life
There is little grey area here. If you liked Silence Yourself, you will like Adore Life. Full stop. But if Savages’ unapologetic, gaunt, alley-fighting sound didn’t jive with your musical aesthetic the first go-round, I can only tell you that Adore Life is a genuinely better record. It still cuts deeply, but there’s also tangible love, a willingness to listen, a sense of humility that doesn’t so much muzzle the bite of their debut as much as exacerbate the pain via contrast. All that aside, it kicks ass. Worth the wait.
Beacon’s debut The Ways We Separate from 2013 remains one of my favorite electronic albums of the decade. Their quiet, breathy, bassy meditations unfold into a complicated symbiosis of vocal-driven pop and abstract progressive house, creating tinted watercolor compositions perfect for headphones. Escapements picks right up where they left off. The sounds and delivery are well-tread, and teeter on redundancy, but there’s just enough urgency to lock your attention into a synthpop freeze-ray. Beats are snappier. Tracks are tighter. Vocals aren’t always the focus. Beacon’s sound is refined, cleaner, more accessible, and it’s a more-than-worthy sequel.