Recordings | October 2017

Three albums we’re listening to this month

By Julio C. Reyna, October 2017 Issue.

Artist: Kesha
Album: Rainbow
Label: RCA/Kemosabe

“I think it’s time to practice what I preach/exorcise the demons inside me,” Kesha sings on “Learn to Let Go,” a track off of her comeback album, Rainbow. It is difficult to write about this album without touching on how she has gotten to this point. After spending years in a legal embroilment with Dr. Luke, she was finally able to release music for the first time since 2012. While the album alludes to the situation, it is more a celebration of who she is. She is moving forward, singing louder, and getting weird.

While there are songs about redemption and rising above the fray, Rainbow really excels in instances where Kesha lets loose and experiments with her sound. Standout moments come from her collaborations with Eagles of Death Metal on both “Boogie Feet” and on the infectious “Let ‘Em Talk” – the anthemic chorus of which will make you want to turn the song all the way up, sing at the top of your lungs and maybe give the world a middle finger or two.

The album slightly loses its way when it comes to genre cohesion, as she goes from pop ballads, to country-tinged songs and her more fun rock persona. There is almost a feeling that perhaps this genre shifting may be intentional because she is no longer tied to the constraints of her previous producers and is having her “I am Kesha, hear me roar moment.”

It has been a contentious five years for Kesha, but she has managed to persevere. Simply put, she is making music on her terms. And while the result can, at times, be a bit all over the place, she is making the best music of her career. This is not exactly a rebrand or her trying on a new person. Listeners will really get the sense she is finally showing the world the free spirit she truly is.

Artist: Grizzly Bear
Album: Painted Ruins
Label: RCA

It has been five years since the beloved Brooklyn quintet Grizzly Bear has released an album and they have finally returned with the Painted Ruins. As with previous efforts this is not an album for those seeking instant gratification. The album is as complex and sonically lush as its predecessors and the band is now finding itself sonically shifting slowly in a new direction.

What initially stands out about Painted Ruins is that the project veers in a more synth-centric direction. The most prominent example of which is the he keyboards in “Mourning Sound.” The music is still moody and rich. But while the lyrics don’t go on in blatant terms about loneliness or heartbreak, but the picture of those feelings is clearly painted.

In “Three Rings,” Dan Rossen softly begs to be given a chance to truly prove himself in a guitar- and synth-filled arrangement that could easily pass as a Radiohead song. Then on “Losing Sense” the subtlety is finally dropped when a simple request is made, “Can I ask of you not to cut into me?” You can almost picture yourself lying in your bed alone wondering what you did to cause this.

The combination of the multiple vocals harmonies, instruments and song arrangements each listen is a sonic treat. Painted Ruins is a beautiful record that warrants multiple plays to do it justice. Not only is that the case but this is one that can be listened to very loudly or just with headphones. There is large scope of storytelling within the album that goes beyond the lyrical content, and listening in those two different contexts does yield a different result. Like the lyric in “Four Cypresses” says, “It’s chaos, but it works.”

Artist: Alice Glass
Album: Alice Glass
Label: Loma Vista

Alice Glass’ solo moment has been a long time in the making. After leaving Crystal Castles in 2014 and then releasing of her single, “Stillbirth,” in 2015, the self-titled EP Alice Glass made a quiet debut late this summer. While she does not steer very far from the electropop aesthetic of her previous group, this solo effort is more of a focus on bringing her voice and lyrics to the forefront, an objective she ultimately fails to reach.

The album kicks off with “Without Love,” a song that basically finds her questioning the point of staying in an abusive situation. It also serves as the moment she immediately throws a dig at her old bandmate. It is well known fact that her time in Crystal Castles was contentious. “Tell me what to spit, Don’t tell me what to swallow” she sings in a clear reference to the band’s song “Teach Me What To Swallow.”

Thematically the rest of the songs do not really move further than this point. There is a lot of anger and disappointed. As the album progresses, something about it starts to seem extremely familiar. When you get to “Natural Selection” it finally hits you; this sounds like a bad version of Purity Ring.

The emotions that are trying to be conveyed here are nothing new. Plenty of dark electronic girls currently exist. What’s lacking is personality. Glass is not only an act who once fronted a very exciting group, but also one that many hoped would be able to move into a solo career with ease. Granted, it may be too soon to make a such a statement (or maybe the window of opportunity was missed long ago). Either way, the only redeeming quality this project has is that it is only six songs long.