Music reviews 3/27/14

Wilson Phillips

  • Wilson Phillips: Wilson Phillips is an all-female pop group comprised of two of Brian Wilson’s daughters (Carnie and Wendy), and the daughter of two members of The Mamas & The Papas, Chynna Phillips. Quite a powerhouse lineage there! Their self-titled debut came in 1990, and I can’t help but notice how early 90’s it is: soft synths, electronic drums, saxophone, it’s all there. I suppose it shouldn’t be too surprising, considering who the singers are, that I’m finding myself reminded of Heart’s softer works now and again. But despite their talent, this is really fluffy and not going to appeal to anyone who isn’t really into early 90’s pop. 4.5/10
  • Shadows and Light: This is a bit more sprightly, but again it’s just pop, and not terribly deep or memorable. 5/10
  • California: Flash forward twelve whole years and we get a cover album! It features classics like “You’re No Good”, “Go Your Own Way”, “Turn Turn Turn” and “Monday Monday”. They bluesed up “You’re No Good”, which really adds something to an already good song. “Go Your Own Way” is transformed into a breathy love ballad. They turned the rock way up for this and it really stands apart from their previous efforts. 6.5/10
  • Dedicated: This is also a cover album, mostly Beach Boys and Mamas & Papas songs. Nothing like following directly in your parents’ footsteps, I guess. That said, this is a good collection, and if you like female pop and/or 60’s surf tunes, there’s a lot to enjoy. But it definitely doesn’t hold a candle to California, being far more easily pop. 5.5/10

Hot Water Music- Exister: Bombastic hard rock with a grit-voiced male singer. This is really energetic and fun, but not terribly memorable. 6/10

Beach House- Bloom: Really weird kinda-dream. Despite how much I like dream though, this isn’t terribly interesting, for reasons I can’t quite pin down. A couple standouts, but nothing beyond that. 5/10

Amadou & Mariam

  • Sou ni Tilé: These folks come out of Mali, bringing heartfelt French lyrics to some rather soothing music. Like Tinariwen, they blend modern and traditional styles into something really awesome. This does get a little drab toward the end, but for a first(ish) album, it’s not bad. 5.5/10
  • Dimanche a Bamako: This is immediately more energetic than Sou, featuring more rock-like instrumentation. There’s a definite branching out, but then there are also quite a few years between the two. Despite this, it feels like more of the same, growing tiring toward the end. 5.5/10
  • Welcome to Mali: This starts off with some soft-synth dance music, quite the departure from the last one. Needless to say, this album shows off a lot more versatility, not to mention pop styling. It even features collaborations, including one with K’Naan. This is really great, if not totally cohesive, and I think I might pick it up. 7.5/10
  • Folila: Their newest album features even more collabs, with the likes of Santigold and members of TV on the Radio and the Scissor Sisters. That said, this is lacking something. I think maybe they’ve gone too far from the purity of where they began, diluted it with more standard pop leanings. And I forgot to finish this review. 6/10

The Temper Trap- The Temper Trap: I listened to Conditions first and had literally nothing to say about it, so let’s try this one, from 2012. This is immediately more interesting, less dreary indie rock than, well, good indie rock. That’s not to say there aren’t some really, really weird parts to this, but yeah, it’s better, and at least worth talking about. “The Sea Is Calling” reminds me of the Doves somewhat. The niftiness definitely runs out toward the end, which is disappointing but never surprising. Still, you could do worse. 5.5/10

Ladyhawke- Anxiety: This is really awesome indie rock with buzzing synths around the corners and a powerhouse track in “Black, White & Blue”. This is all around a pretty interesting album, with a decent amount of variation to keep things from getting dull, not to mention lots of energy and a good singer. Fans of groups like CHVRCHES will be interested in these folks. 6.5/10

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