penny reel review

She & Him

Volume 3

(Merge Records)

****/5

It’s a coffee shop. The two would like to imagine it’s a local coffee shop, but it isn’t. It’s a coffee shop that can be found in towns large and small across the country. Hell, it can be found anywhere in the world, nearly.

The two sit at a side table as people file in and out. They are somber. She speaks first. In fact, she is almost the sole heir to the conversation. Her words fall in disparate tones, with beautiful cadence. She reminds him of a siren calling on all the poor sailors that ventured past her shores.

He sat feeling emasculated, a feeling he hadn’t felt during the entirety of their relationship. She missed him. Even as he sat across from her, she missed him.  Her words of pain and loss were emboldened by their release to independence.

There is a beat felt behind her voice, one that carries along with the clacking of her blue heels on the table’s center post. The shoes find the final square of light breaking through the window to dance wild, to dance carefree. – M. R. Brown

The Flaming Lips

The Terror

(Bella Union)

****

            This is going to require some honesty on your part. I ask, when was the last time you said, ‘W-T-gosh darn-F is happening,’ and meant it in a positive way? With that, I present The Flaming Lips’ The Terror. This album is pure throwback advancement. It’s the Lips before they attempted to out do themselves by covering Pink Floyd and rolling around in bubble balls across American arenas. The Terror is stoned-riffs that cut through the bramble of drums and bass. It’s Wayne Coyne singing behind various walls of sound. Somehow, his voice carries still, up and over the instruments, like in the title song, when he sings: “However long they love you/ We are standing alone/The terror is in our heads/They don’t control the controls.”

            The WTF part comes as you let the album play. Cosmic hums and sounds reverb through the channels. The lyrics disappear into the Mars, Jupiter, Endor feeling of the musical directions. Its spacious, grand construction is ballsy. There’s not one single on this album. Maybe a few make-out songs, but that’s debatable. However, it’s a terribly exciting album. The Flaming Lips have shown with classics like Yoshimi that they craft experiences. The album comes divided into songs, but it also includes the complete album as a single track. Fifty-four minutes of excursion and proof that the track name, or hook, really matter here. Let it run around in you, improving with each stride.

            This album penetrates, bouncing in your brain like luminosity, because five minutes in, you know you’re staying until the last note. – Douglas Sullivan

Black Lips

Underneath the Rainbow

(Vice Records)

*****/5

The first album from Black Lips since 2011’s Arabia Mountain finds the boys from Atlanta bringing the snot and snarl that is now synonymous with their persona on Underneath the Rainbow. Co-produced by the likes of Patrick Carney (Black Keys) and long-time collaborator Ed Rawls, the album continues the group’s suit-and-tie trajectory of the garage rock sub-culture they helped spearhead. As polished a product as Underneath the Rainbow may be, the subtle genre spanning of the group’s influences latches its thorns into your skin, drawing only the slightest hints of blood. Opening with the hip shaking 70’s tune that may best identify itself in some biker exploitation film, ‘Drive By Buddy’ vaults the boys into a journey through deep-south grooves with ‘Boys in the Wood’ and arena rock pandering on ‘Dandelion Dust.’ With tracks like ‘Dorner Party’ that could easily fall into any of the group’s last few albums, new and old fans alike may feel that this album is a peace pipe where all parties involved can thank the gods that Black Lips have yet to falter once again. – M. R. Brown

The album is available March 18 on Vice Records. See Black Lips live at SXSW and the upcoming tour for the new album.

Various Artists

Spring Breakers OST

(Big Beat/WEA)

****

The movie you’ve already heard about is getting ready to breach a thousand theatres this weekend, and while everyone is whispering: “Spraaang break foreva, y’all,” it’s the hypnotic hum of Cliff Martinez and current electronic music prodigy Skrillex’s soundtrack that’s truly alluring. Fans of Martinez, he of Drive OST infamy, will appreciate how he is once again in control of the images on the screen. His score pulses and lulls with the film, matching tone perfectly. Without it, while it’s banging from your car speakers, late night, as your city lies out before you, it’s nearly magic. Skrillex is here too, his trademark bass drops and schizoid sonic cut-ups all accounted for. They contrast with Martinez’ flow to create the never ending day and forever sunset feelings that are spring break.

A couple hip-hop tracks, “Fuck This Industry,” by Waka Flaka Flame, and a Meek Mill throwaway, “Big Bank,” are drastically outshined by “Hangin’ With Da Dopeboys” by otherwise unkown rapper DangeRuss. The beat is pure south 808, and the tale of slinging crack rides comfortably over it. DangeRuss’ drawl drips slow in your ears. I challenge anyone to last a minute without shouting along to his slick hook.

Inevitably, people will be talking about this film, its growing stars, its director and all those shaking lady parts. Like the film, if you play along and enjoy the ride with all your senses, this soundtrack will stay with you. – Douglas Sullivan

Devendra Banhart

Mala

(Nonesuch)

***½

The former bearded alt-folk guru of years past ditches the beard and long hair for a fresh take on minimalist art pop melodies with Mala. Devendra Banhart wrote the album alongside longtime guitar collaborator Noah Georgeson, continuing their genre skipping recording style. Bouncing from techno to spare guitars with Banhart’s always chimeric voice, the result is hauntingly beautiful, particularly in the left of the dial standout track “Never Seen Such Good Things.” Mala is a refined effort from Banhart, written with much more economy than in previous offerings. A touching yet dark tale of love lost, “Your Fine Petting Duck” features Banhart’s new fiancée, Ana Kraš. As the dancehall lights flash white, you realize it’s only you dancing in the dark room. It’s ephemeral, navel-gazing music at it’s finest. – M. R. Brown