batforlashes_twosunsWith her striking second album, Two Suns, Bat For Lashes (Natasha Khan) puts her own gloss on musical territory mined by the likes of Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Peter Gabriel, Bjork and P.J. Harvey. The result is eclectic, high gloss electropop, with some world music flourishes as well as nods to 80’s synthpop and 90’s trip hop. While most of Two Suns is alluring and often quite arresting and beautiful, there are a couple of tracks that could have used some fleshing out, “Peace Of Mind” and “The Big Sleep” in particular, which start out in promising ways but end too soon. In general, however, the commitment to relative brevity (none of the songs crack the five minute mark, and most of them hover around four minutes) works in the album’s favor, as Khan has crafted the best of the material here into densely packed, shimmering little gems. Standout cuts: “Glass,” “Daniel,” “Siren Song” and “Two Planets.”


Tricky – Knowle West Boy

September 16, 2008

The title of the latest album from Tricky, Knowle West Boy, is a nod to the area of Bristol, England, that he grew up in, and the album itself is a reflection on youth, though I didn’t see it as a concept album by any means, nor is it necessarily nostalgic or sentimental. It is, however, one of the most satisfying albums I’ve heard from him in years, an expert mixture of electronic, rock, pop and world music elements, some with his trademark raspy vocals, and others duets or else guest vocals by a host of talented collaborators. Some of the tracks fall flat, at least to my ears, like “C’Mon Baby,” but in general it’s a heady, highly listenable trip that memorably evokes the spirit, joy and anxiety of youth. Standout cuts: “Puppy Toy,” “Bacative,” “Council Estate” and “Past Mistake.”

Portishead – Third

April 30, 2008

I had no idea a new Portishead album was even on the way until sometime last week, but then it has been ten years since their last release, the Roseland Live NYC album. So to right down to business, is Third, the Bristol based band’s third album of new material, any good? Why yes, it’s very good, and seemingly designed to keep listeners pressing “Repeat” or at least rewinding, as there are all sorts of odd touches here and there throughout the 11 track album, strange samples or strangely familiar sounds, placed randomly, sometimes in the midst of a song, or at the end of one, as with “Machine Gun,” the current single. Some songs suddenly end or cut off, or simply drift away, while other songs seem like truncated versions of longer works. The overall feeling is of listening to music already in progress as the album begins, or maybe to music that never quite stopped. Portishead’s music remains rooted in electronica and trip hop, but there are folk and world music elements mixed in, and Third as a whole sounds thoroughly modern, rather than being an exercise in mid-90’s nostalgia. The album is densely layered and sometimes disorienting, but it’s also beautiful and compelling, a welcome return for one of electronica’s pioneering bands. Standout cuts: “Hunter,” “The Rip,” “Machine Gun” and “Threads.”

hooverphonicSolid indie debut for Belgian band Hooverphonic, who were previously on Sony, then departed when they felt the label failed to support their album No More Sweet Music. The President Of The LSD Golf Club is their first album since deciding to go it alone, and it’s more of the typically elegant, smooth sounding trip-hop and rock influenced pop music they’ve been making for well over a decade now. It’s actually one of the stronger albums I’ve heard by them, and “Expedition Impossible” is one of their best singles yet. For those fans of their previous efforts, or else of Stereolab or Portishead, The President Of The LSD Golf Club will no doubt put a smile on their faces. Standout cuts: “50 Watt,” “Expedition Impossible,” “Gentle Storm” and “Bohemian Laughter.”