REVIEWS ON THE FLY: Cults, Four Tet, Ryan Hemsworth, and more

Big Wheel And Others artwork
Big Wheel And Others artwork

ARTIST Cass McCombs

ALBUM Big Wheel and Others

LABEL Domino

RELEASE DATE 15 October 2013

6.9 | 10

Cass McCombs’ latest album is his most ambitious work yet, a double LP that attempts to highlight McCombs’ vast influences and his songwriting expertise. That ambition leads McCombs to record some his best work near the top of the album with “Big Wheel” and “Morning Star,” while also housing some of his more frustrating songs yet. For every “Big Wheel,” there’s a “Devil Is My Toy.”

What ultimately hinders Big Wheel from being a very good album is McCombs’ lack of a filter system. What could have been whittled down to a stunning 12 track album is in actuality a stumbling, overstuffed double LP whose lows become to hard to ignore. On album closer “Unearthed,” McCombs sings, “You know I don’t mince words.” After listening to Big Wheel and Others, it’s hard to imagine that accusation getting hurled towards the singer-songwriter again.

Static artwork
Static artwork

ARTIST Cults

ALBUM Static

LABEL Columbia

RELEASE DATE 15 October 2013

7.4 | 10

Static, the first new LP from Cults after their 2011 self-titled breakthrough, wants the best of both worlds. On one hand, Madeline Follin’s vocals are the their most accessible yet, accented by strong pop melodies, while the other hand finds the band delving deeper into their more artistic side. “I Can Hardly Make You Mine” and “Always Forever” are the two catchiest numbers, while “No Hope” and “So Far” finds the band mixing their two sides. It’s also probably not coincidental that the two least affecting moments are “Keep Your Head Up” and “Shine a Light.”

The optimism those titles convey still seems foreign to Cults, who seem more at home contemplating the darker areas of the human experience. Cults was an expansive album, meant for the festival circuit. Static, by comparison, is fully insular, disconnected from the world. All that’s left is static.

Beautiful Rewind artwork
Beautiful Rewind artwork

ARTIST Four Tet

ALBUM Beautiful Rewind

LABEL Text

RELEASE DATE 15 October 2013

7.8 | 10

No one is going to argue against Kieran Hebden’s contributions to electronica. The enigmatic producer always seems to be one step ahead of his contemporaries, evidenced by his work as Four Tet. His best work is a careful examination of the intertwining narratives between the human and electric body. Hebden’s ability to make electronica that conveys more human emotion than most bands can muster is one of his true hallmarks.

For Beautiful Rewind, Four Tet does just that, rewinds beautifully. Everything sounds very nice, but mostly because it sounds familiar. There are some sure highlights, don’t get me wrong. “Parallel Jalebi” features gorgeous, sampled female vocals and a rapid-fire drum pad to contrast the delicacy of the sample. “Unicorn” is just as magical as it’s mythical inspiration, and is a much needed moment of levity. Overall, for the first time Hebden seems cognizant of his place in the musical spectrum. When he announced the new album earlier this year, he made note of what the album was not. It wasn’t going to be streaming on iTunes a week before release. There’d be no singles, no last minute Rick Rubin touchups. Perhaps Hebden was on to something. It’s much easier to see what Beautiful Rewind is not rather than what the music is really saying.

Guilt Trips artwork
Guilt Trips artwork

ARTIST Ryan Hemsworth

ALBUM Guilt Trips

LABEL Last Gang

RELEASE DATE 22 October 2013

7.5 | 10

Ryam Hemsworth has to this point been as well known for his remixes of other artists’ singles as for his own material. His Still Awake EP (2013) signaled a depth to his music one could only have hoped for. Guilt Trips largely expands on Awake, offering up an album’s worth of quality downtempo electronica.

While Hemsworth lays down a strong foundation for himself, there’s a loftiness to the material that makes it hard to fully grasp. There are plenty of memorable moments to behold on Guilt Trips, yet it’s still a little to formless to push it to the next level.

Virgins artwork
Virgins artwork

ARTIST Tim Hecker

ALBUM Virgins

LABEL Kranky / Paper Bag

RELEASE DATE 15 October 2013

8.0 | 10

Tim Hecker last wowed music audiences with Ravedeath, 1972 (2011). He returns with another heaping dose of haunting, minimalist electro. But on this go around, there is a greater sense of urgency. “Prism” and “Virginal I” are a formidable opening one-two punch, with the latter’s frantic piano strikes a wonderful artistic choice.

The albums floats around the air in a similar manner to a cool breeze; it’s always welcome, but it’s bound to send a shiver down your spine. Album closer “Stab Variation” stamps the album with a foreboding, sinister imprint, as it’s swelling synthesizers make for a truly haunting experience. Your Halloween playlist starts here.

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