Adriane Pontecorvo: Belle and Sebastian juggles Stuart Murdoch’s signature featherweight vocals with frenetic rhythms, power synths, and a little country twang—and the result is surprisingly well-balanced. This is a modern, sophisticated side of Belle and Sebastian, proving the band can be grounded, living in the moment without sacrificing the ethereal loveliness that once set them so far apart from the world. [8/10]
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John Garratt: I’m familiar with the drill by this point—cultists and apologists insist that, when their favorite act releases new material, one must not gauge it against their old material. I think this is fair enough. U2 paid their dues a long time ago and are entitled to some critical peace (they can also stop feeling the need to ingratiate themselves to New York City). But try as I might, I simply can’t forget that time between 1991 and 1995 when the future seemed absurdly wide open for this band. Yes, “You’re the Best Thing About Me” is catchy and can get stuck in your brain. It’s also a band on autopilot. It’s vanilla ice cream with none of the toppings, which has been U2’s musical direction for the last 13 years. “The Fly” has been swatted away. “Zooropa” is now just a funny made-up word. “Your Blue Room” has been erroneously filed away as a b-side. What’s left is this, and it’ll likely be good enough for the cultists and apologists. [6/10]
“I’m constantly looking for the edge ... so I can push it,” says Nona Hendryx. Indeed, a fearless sensibility has always kindled the Grammy-nominated icon’s career, whether recording genre-bending solo albums, writing songs as one-third of the legendary trio Labelle or collaborating with Gary Lucas on their forthcoming, full-length release The World of Captain Beefheart (2017). Her artistry thrives in live music spaces, from leading a band of unbridled, no-holds-barred funk/rock to incorporating progressive technology and visual media into her performances. It’s why Joe’s Pub at the Public has selected Hendryx to inaugurate their 2018 Vanguard Residency program.
Forest Swords, aka Merseyside producer, Matthew Barnes, serves up a new single featuring two cuts born from the sessions that produced his acclaimed Compassion album. All proceeds from the release are going towards the relief efforts in Puerto Rico and Mexico following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria and the recent earthquake.
The 2017 Meadows Music Fest was full of nostalgia, rap and surprises. It didn’t hurt that the weather was perfect too (almost too hot even) for September. And it helped that the festival was super easy to get around, with four stages arranged facing out in a semi-circle arrangement and super close to mass transit. Unfortunately, one of the acts I wanted to see most, Swet Shop Boys, had pulled out of the festival in the weeks leading up to it. But I had a genuinely good time at the Meadows and hope to see it return.