Andrew Paschal: So sparsely arranged are the elements driving Leonard Cohen’s newest release, that if you were to remove any one of them the whole delicate bouquet might collapse. As it is though, the reverent choir, House of Cards-esque baseline, and Cohen’s iconic and terrifyingly deep voice combine beautifully to make “You Want It Darker” a compelling exploration into the unknown corners of the human soul. Or rather, the track serves as a preamble to such an exploration. Cohen speaks like one returning from the abyss to share his dark understandings with the uninitiated: “I struggled with some demons / They were middle class and tame / I didn’t know I had permission / To murder and to maim,” he recites stonily. He questions whether we really wish to know what we will find once the candle is blown out, but promises to serve as our spectral guide if we choose to look beyond the curtain of light. [9/10]
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Boom Bip earned his stripes as an experimental hip-hop producer whose last solo record was 2011’s Zig Zaj. But now the artist has turned his attention to film for his latest release. As the composer of the music for Ben Cresciman’s latest film, psychological thriller Sun Choke, Boom Bip builds a sense of foreboding, terror, and mystery. On “The Trip”, the music builds slowly with bits of silence heightening the drama and cycling synthesizers bubbling constant streams of tension.
A. Noah Harrison: North Carolina-bred producer Machinedrum has kept close tabs on the unfolding and uncrinkling world of electronic music, injecting the finesse of footwork and UK bass into his fine-tuned sets. This sexy slab of bashful dance pop hits in just the right places. Whatever the configuration of your feet at the moment of the drop, “Tell U” is guaranteed to trip you up into cutting the rug. Machinedrum dutifully carries the torch of Flume and SBTRKT’s brand of look–before–you-leap EDM. [7/10]
Adriane Pontecorvo: Twinkly synths, jangling guitars, and Chrissy Hynde’s voice as strong as ever? Count me in. “Holy Commotion” is a simple, straightforward renewal for the Pretenders, a group that has always managed to spin catchy choruses into rock and roll gold. It also makes it clear that upcoming album Alone isn’t a nostalgia bender. This is a band that wants to move forward with the times, and won’t be satisfied resting on its laurels. An earworm with a kick. [9/10]
Steve Horowitz: This is a very catchy and delightful song. McCombs keeps it mellow without letting the music dither into nonsense or meaning. The music just is and pleasantly drones on in a positive, if not joyful manner. What’s up with the tea cups baffles me, but it is entertaining and the title is “Opposite House” and I get the central conceit. However, the song is the star and deserves wide airplay for people listening on the highways and byways. It’s road music in the highest sense. [8/10]