Tegan and Sara – “Sainthood”Sire/Wea-out now4 / 5 Almost the perfect bookend to Phoenix’s “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” Tegan and Sara churn up a beat-oriented popfest in their sixth full-length. While this album isn’t quite up to par with Phoenix’s there is still plenty here to recommend it: driving music, great melodies and choruses, and simple, sugary fun. Out of the thirteen presented here, “Arrow,” “The Cure,” and “Alligator” are the sure bets, with the best choruses out of the bunch, but that’s not to say there is a weak track in the mix. Rather, the biggest complaint is that, like Phoenix, these songs are fairlyRead More →

Karen O and the Kids – “Where the Wild Things Are” (Soundtrack)Interscope Records-out now4 / 5 With a fuller version of her excitable Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Karen O would seem like the exact opposite of the person you’d want to make a soundtrack for a famous children’s book adaptation. But here she plays dead on, with playful, organic music that both adults and children will enjoy. Her second album released this year, she loses no steam in conducting a fuller orchestra, bringing an incredible innocence by utilizing a children’s chorus, fingersnaps and claps, and acoustic instruments. Performances on the simple and somber “Worried Shoe” andRead More →

The Antlers – “Hospice”Frenchkiss-out now4.5 / 5 The Antlers have taken a giant gamble on this ambitious concept album, and in many ways, it has paid off. Their fourth album is replete with synthesized sounds, hushed Grizzly Bear vocals, electronic buzz, and perplexingly, an achingly slow pace. But this all serves to the Antlers’ advantage, as they pull off several strong tracks: “Sylvia,” which burns slow and soft until the brash chorus; the strange opening lullaby of “Bear;” and the plaintive pulse to “Two.” In general, you’re likely to run into a good track on “Hospice,” but it still has its few detractors: extremely softRead More →

Hey Mama – “Hey Mama”-out Dec 114 / 5 Formerly Avi and Celia, “Hey Mama” officially marks Mr. Salloway’s and Ms. Woodsmith’s first release under their new name and band. While the songs of their previous release “Let it Rise” sometimes eclipse some of the songs here, “Hey Mama” still gives a heady rock and roll, with fantastic bluesy vocals from Woodsmith. For those who are unfamiliar with the young prodigy, she smacks of old jazz singers, blue smoke-filled bars, and importantly, displays impressive range and technique. The backing band, whether it be guitarist Salloway with rhythm section Ben Kogan and Jared Seabrook, or ifRead More →

St. Vincent – “Actor”4ad Records-out now4 / 5 Surprising song arrangements make Annie Clark’s second solo album a deep, complex treat. Clark, aka St. Vincent, has a penchant for constructing songs that demand multiple listens; after the initial shock of “The Strangers” and its bizarre instrumentation (Clark’s whispery voice supported by keyboard and a basic beat), the album fills in with several songs of warmth and worth. One such song is the gorgeously personal “The Party,” whose simple cadence and contemplative vocals highlight an awkward moment together. The lyrics here (“my pockets hang out/Like two surrendered flags”) capture the beauty of the moment and speakRead More →

Fun. – “Aim and Ignite”Nettwerk-out now4 / 5 Replete with caliope, trombone, and cello, these playful arrangements by the sugary pop band Fun. bubble with excitement and poppy youth. The sheer brightness of the songs here would assume superficial treatment of the somewhat light material, but the biggest pleasure is the care taken for the crafting of the songs; each twists about creatively, playing with the listener, and each new segment unfolds into the next unexpected part. Yes, these songs feel a bit airy and colorful like a carousel, but that still doesn’t detract from the pure fun on the cheeky and cheesy “I WannaRead More →

Tigercity – “Ancient Lover”Tigercity-due out Oct. 204 / 5 Tight shiny pants and large golden rings prevail on Tiger City’s latest release. “Fake Gold” opens up and sets the tone: classic rock guitar, male falsetto, synth, and a sultry swagger. From the decade that brought us faux wood station wagons and Cling-ons, Tiger City has infused their nostalgia with a modern temperament and straight groove. That’s a good thing here, as their effort yields several strong tracks, including the title track, which feels will take you back to your high school close dance memories, and “Quicksand,” which might have come off the pop radio decadesRead More →

White Denim – “Fits”Downtown-due out Oct. 204 / 5 Crashing, thrashing rough punk prevails on White Denim’s second release. It’s thick, viscous music that gets stuck in your throat; the opening tracks are full, well-executed twisting streams of sound that glut and flow, replete with guitar and drums. Any band that sets themselves to it can craft songs of these quality, but what sets Denim apart is their ability to change over to a calmer, more melodic and controlled M. Ward versing starting on “Paint Yourself,” which goes acoustic against the Strokes-ish feel of “I Start to Run.” The unpolished edge they cut into theirRead More →

Yo La Tengo – “Popular Songs”Matador Records-due out Sept. 84.5 / 5 On their 16th album, Hoboken trio Yo La Tengo crack open with strings, layering as complex and listenable as Beck, and their own dreary/dreamy vocals in “Here to Fall,” the opener track. Download this track; it is as exciting and groovy as any you’re bound to find in the vein of Depeche Mode (and there’s strings, to boot). “Popular Songs” is chock-a-block with similarly poppy tracks, and for a moment, the album seems to have more focus and enjoyability than their typical spacious space jams. But even here they supply, as the lastRead More →

McCoy Tyner – “Solo; Live from San Fransicsco”Half Note Records-out today4.5 / 5 With a legendary career like pianist McCoy Tyner’s, there is always the nagging comparison between his latest release and his classic ’60s and ’70s albums. To clarify: yes, he is in his 70s, and yes, this album may not be as classic as “The Real McCoy.” But is it worthwhile? Yes. Here’s why: even in his advanced years, and even with a slightly lacking a bit of touch on his fingers, the solo work here is marvelous, deep, complex, intimate. It is as easy for a person inexperienced in jazz to getRead More →