Pryor Stroud: With “HandClap”, Fitz and the Tantrums announce that they have completely moved beyond the brass-drenched retro-soul of 2010’s Pickin’ Up the Pieces. More of a proudly garish radio-pop anthem à la contemporary Fall Out Boy than a Stax throwback, it revels in its own neon-coated campiness, and Michael Fitzpatrick and company seem to have no other objective than to get your feet moving. It’s formulaic, frenetic, and always about to burst at the seams, but it also delivers the same heart-pumping physiological thrill-ride that we expect from the best pop tracks; for that, we can’t fault it. [6/10]
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The Silks make the kind of Americana-worshipping blues rock that will never go out of style. Its subdued, subtly grooving structure is reminiscent of the smoked-out Southern rock of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers Band, though the group is from Rhode Island instead of the Deep South. The fuzzy, slightly out-of-focus distortion of “Live and Learn” dovetails with Tyler-James Kelly’s baritone twang, a pitch-perfect recreation of a forgotten jam from the ‘70s. It’s the kind of rock as at home in your own record collection as your dad’s, and it should be commended for bridging cultural gaps while remaining relevant and timely.
Chris Ingalls: If you’re picking up a Depeche Mode vibe here, it’s not surprising, since alterna-synth guru Alan Moulder mixed the album, and his dark synth-pop fingerprints are all over this. The keyboards create a somewhat forbidding atmosphere, but the song itself transcends the gloominess and the vocals eventually soar into a hopeful, soulful space. A bit more commercially accessible and poppy than a lot of the artists that Editors probably emulate, but that’s not bad; this is a solid, somewhat eclectic single that shows the band making a unique statement. [8/10]
Pryor Stroud: Taken from Peter Bjorn and John’s new album of the same name, “Breakin’ Point” makes no attempt to undermine the band’s tried-and-true formula. Like the best Peter Bjorn and John tracks, it’s glazed with breezy, windowsill-leaning melodies, crisp instrumentation, and crackling production that simulates the experience of listening to a ‘60s guitar-pop record on vinyl. Indeed, it’s appealing for the exact same reasons that “Young Folks” was—and still remains—appealing: Peter Morén’s erudite, transparently fallible voice, a go-with-the-flow sonic ethos, and evocative lyrics that seem to teeter indiscriminately between cloying twee and pre-Vampire Weekend indie rock. But it seems to lean on this appeal like a crutch, becoming, in the end, another “Young Folks” spinoff that succeeds through familiarity, an enforced feeling of where-have-I-heard-this-before, rather than actual artistry. [6/10]
Pryor Stroud: The Kaiser Chiefs dived headfirst into the post-Britpop fray with an infectious blend of McCartney-deifying melodics and cocksure, curled-lip attitude. “Oh My God” was an earnest pub-rock anthem about working class misery and the red-eyed ambition that often accompanies it; “I Predict a Riot” was a bloodthirsty mob of angular guitars and hyper-paranoid verses, all seething with the imminent chaos its lyric foreshadowed. But in “Parachute”, the first single released from their upcoming LP Stay Together, the band scraps the punk-inspired edge that gave both of these tracks their grit and dynamism. We’re left with a prototypical Kaiser Chiefs melody divorced of its attitude and processed through contemporary Coldplay production, which, while less than ideal, isn’t a total tragedy: “If we’ve only got one parachute / You know I’ll give it to you”, vocalist Ricky Wilson sings, his boyish croon launched upward by a groundswell of synthesizers, and even though the lyric looks definitively corny on paper, it almost seems genuine—like a promise of devotion passed between lovers—in practice. [7/10]