Goes well with: Field Music, Queen, The Cars
The Futureheads have apparently gone back to the future, because The Chaos marks a welcome return of the band's dormant prog element. The new album crushes their two most recent discs—News and Tributes and This is Not the World—and feels like the true follow-up to the group's excellent debut.
“The Chaos” sets the stage perfectly. It's a jumble of punk energy, vocal trade-offs and intertwining guitar lines, reminding listeners of how impressive these lads can be. There's an actual countdown in the song, as if to prepare listeners for the chaos of the remainder of the album. Meanwhile, “Struck Dumb” feels like a ploy to dust off all their Queen vocal fetishes, which have been MIA for years. Proving they can still pen a mainstream hit, “Heartbeat Song” occupies the third slot on the disc, and it sounds like The Cars on speed, which isn't a bad thing.
The rest of the album bounces between prog, punk, opera and pop, with every moment feeling urgent and deliberate. This is music for lovers of whip-smart editing and cold, hard calculation. “Jupiter” is the perfect culmination of this work ethic, something like the best parts of 20 different songs rammed together to form one gigantic rock epic about epic rock. It's the most futuristic The Futureheads have ever sounded, and that's saying a lot.
Goes well with: 10cc, Sade, slow-jam mixtapes
In college, my date-night deal-closer was Temple of the Dog's “Say Hello to Heaven.” Coupled with a ceiling cluttered with black-light-juiced, glow-in-the-dark stars, it served me well. But had I been armed with the new album from Midwest collective Gayngs, I could have notched Gene Simmons-like numbers or ended up with a ton of STDs.
From Bon Iver's Justin Vernon doing his best Maxwell impression on sultry opener “The Gaudy Side of Town” to the molasses-drenched cover of Godley & Creme's “Cry” to Minneapolis rapper P.O.S channeling his inner Luther Vandross on “No Sweat,” Relayted is all about getting it on. Those outside of the Twin Cities, western Wisconsin or North Carolina are going to be hard-pressed to connect the dots between this indie super-group. But it doesn't matter. Members of Solid Gold, Megafaun, The Rosebuds and others all help to heat things up, and founder / producer Ryan Olson makes sure to keep all 20-something contributors on provocative point.
As insurance, there's enough sex-scene sax throughout to sustain the mood, even when pop nugget “Faded High” almost kills it with upbeat, catchy hooks. Fortunately, that song's near the end of the record. If the 40 minutes of audio aphrodisiac that precedes it hasn't worked by then, you might as well give up and sing along.
(Tic Tac Totally)
Goes well with: Tyvek, Television Personalities, The Clean
There's a difficulty in communication: Start with the idea, try to build up to the payoff, get sidetracked and maybe come back to the point. Although So Cow's second LP contains some of the same hooky, punk-influenced pop featured on their first, what marks this record as a true progression on songwriter Brian Kelly's initial promise lies in the how the awkwardness and frustration in our everyday lives are expressed.
“Start Over” and “Dunno” are the simple ideas, the latter a confession that Kelly “Dunno what to do / Dunno what to say” above a jittery rhythm found in many of their other tracks. But things deviate: The My Bloody Valentine-esque fuzz-pop of “Shut Eye” and its idea of something so simple and important as rest; the punky “Away Leg” and its yearning for a better life outside of being a wasted youth.
Try as Kelly might to keep things easy and innocent, an existential angst hovers above everything. Growing older and getting somewhere is not a straight line met without tangents, an idea most apparent in album closer “International Waters,” a tale of eschewing the safe and normal life in favor of doing something for oneself, or “drifting with the tide.”
The road to adulthood is not easily traveled, but for as much as we carry the angst of our youth, Kelly can't help but acknowledge the new and unexpected. In his capturing of this, he's proven himself increasingly deft at tapping into our everyday anxiety, no matter how much he tries to sugarcoat it.
—Warren L. Marvin