Every Tuesday, Dan Weiss runs down the week’s new full-length music releases, from charting hits to more obscure depths, the underrated and the overrated, from a critical pop fan’s perspective.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK:
Pistol Annies – Annie Up (RCA Nashville)
Even with beyond-the-A-list talents like Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe (who’s got her own great album this year) at the helm, it’s damn hard if not impossible to follow up one of the best albums of the 2010s thus far. So Annie Up makes like its title and calculates big: more band (electric guitars and drums that the debut lacked) and fewer solo showcases (Angaleena Presley, now the underdog, rises to the occasion with the “Hunter’s Wife” follow-up “Loved By a Workin’ Man”). Once you get past the bluesier tunes, the louder thud-n-mud and the fact their vacation from their day jobs now needs its own vacation, this is sturdy from top to bottom. The spare-to-cymbal-splashing “Unhappily Married” and the makeup lament “Being Pretty Ain’t Pretty” are the high peaks. If it’s ultimately no Hell on Heels, well, no other album released since 2010 is, either.
Lady Antebellum – Golden (Capitol Nashville)
Any Norah Jones fan who thinks “tasteful” isn’t a demographic is far more deluded than your average Britney Spears fan, who’s used to breaking the fourth wall for a little “Piece of Me.” Lady Antebellum, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily realize how dull they are; they’re of the ilk that doesn’t get the hint when your seventh GRAMMY rolls in. Luckily a handful of their fourth album’s massive choruses (“Goodbye Town,” “Downtown”) are far more Britney than Norah.
Fitz and the Tantrums – More Than Just a Dream (Elektra)
Like Foster the People or Florence + The Machine, this pop band’s indie connections are at times suspect. But you stop trying to figure out what R&B/Arcade Fire/new wave hybrid they are when their sophomore album’s tunes sink in hard, thanks to unfashionable and unexpected harmonies and chart-worthy largesse. Especially wonderful are the closers, the Motown-honoring “Get Away” and one of the year’s highlights, the cavernously-chorused “MerryGoRound.”
Deerhunter – Monomania (4AD)
Bradford Cox’s monomania is usually limited to extracurricular activities like trashing Morrissey or walking offstage mid-song on Fallon, but you’d never know from the dreamy mumblecore of their records, which have gotten better over time. Their fifth album attempts to rectify this with close-miked rock songs in a vein both sleazier and poppier than their norm, but they still toward more toward a Stereolab groove than a New York Dolls groove, no matter how many wigs Cox dons. When Cox aims for a song, as on the trucker-friendly “Pensacola,” he usually hits a half-hummable target. But it’s hard to listen to a Deerhunter album without wishing it encapsulated his dynamics better than a press junket would.
Savages – Silence Yourself (Matador)
Don’t expect songs, or even riffs from this massively hyped debut. Just breathe easy at the rush conjured up by four British women who know how to wring true ugliness out of their guitar effects in a big room. Think Gang of Four, Les Savy Fav, early PJ Harvey and the under-appreciated rhythm section of Bloc Party. Then add in their real star, bassist Ayse Hassan, who snakes through the torrent of “Shut Up,” “I Am Here,” “She Will” and “No Face” like the rest of her mates are as sharp. Sometimes they are.
Little Boots – Nocturnes (On Repeat)
Dance-pop without leaning too heavily toward one or the other. The light, housey sonics (synth bass, acid house 303 springs, occasional symphonics) courtesy of Tim Goldsworthy, Simian Mobile Disco and Hercules and Love Affair honor the deeper stuff. Vocals on the mesmerizing “Confusion” emulate Madonna’s with decent accuracy, while the Tron-stomp of “Shake” a minor killer. While her stakes can be as small as her namesake suggests—I’m pretty sure dance music isn’t supposed to make the night seem finite—the second half is where Nocturnes takes a turn for the melodic.