MGMT / Congratulations / Columbia
People hate the term “mainstream”. Although its harmless, it exemplifies an artist has indeed “sold out” and will no longer appreciate the underground music community that breastfed them. Most listeners expected it to be a timeless classic and one day Congratulations will be, but for now, it’s ideally a bold statement to the world that reads “this is MGMT”. The nine tracks on the disc won’t be able to make a bed at clubs and parties, but it doesn’t need to. MGMT was a band that started playing 45-minute instrumentals of the Ghostbusters theme song. Their singles skyrocketed and infected listeners, so much that mostly everyone forgot they composed the eccentric “4th Dimensional Transition” and “Future Reflections”.
Congratulations is a naturally evolved follow-up. Wrapped in haunting vocals and a sense of creativity that would drive a traditional artist mad, the album fondles reggae with trademark psychedelic pop (“Someone’s Missing”) and even dances with retro surf rock (“Song For Dan Treacy”, “Brian Eno”). But what it does best is transform stoner psychedelia with “Siberian Breaks”, a 12-minute jam that supports what the release is: a record meant to be spun in the background in a basement. In a way, Congratulations is Super Mario 2. It’s a second major attempt that’s too f*cked up to understand when compared to its predecessor, but is addicting enough to enjoy countless times over.
Download: “Congratulations”, “Someone’s Missing”
Melissa Auf der Maur / Out Of Our Minds / Roadrunner Records
The former Hole bassist has had her fill as a recognized and respected musician over the past decade and a half and her second solo release is a reminder of her talents. Out Of Our Minds isn’t rock with a bit of pop, instead Melissa Auf der Maur lights it on fire with grimy alternative rock that supports her position as a main attraction to metal fests like HeavyMTL. On “Meet Me On The Darkside” she whimpers beneath death grunge guitars while “22 Below” features the Canadian rock goddess bellowing to the ancient Vikings she tributes the record to. It may not bellow pop melodies (a la Courtney Love), but it defines the word “riff” to an extent in a language any music fan can understand.
Download: “Lead Horse”, “22 Below”
Justin Nozuka / You I Wind Land And Sea / Warner
As an artist who was pretty much born on the MuchMusic television network, Justin Nozuka was tied down to the pop moniker with the release of his debut Holly. But with You I Wind Land And Sea, the songwriter turns a different page that causes the pop image to self-destruct into smoke that’s part soul, part acoustic rock. Nozuka doesn’t trade in for electric guitars and instead uses his undeniable talent to captivate hearts with a voice full of rhythm and blues. Unlike similar artists, his sound is mature despite a lack of age which works well for tunes dripping in despair like “Woman Put Your Weapon Down”. Having lost a youthful touch, You I Wind Land And Sea displays what Nozuka does best: portraying heartache through smooth vocals and impeccable melodies that could keep bonfires lit on cozy summer nights.
Download: “Woman Put Your Weapon Down”, “Swan In The Water”
David Byrne & Fatboy Slim / Here Lies Love / Warner
David Byrne fell down the rabbit hole, found Fatboy Slim dancing with mythical creatures and decided to collaborate with several different artists to create a tribute to a first lady’s relationship with a servant. Sound fictional? Think again as Here Lies Love drafts 22 guest appearances from artists like Tori Amos and Cyndi Lauper to recount emotions in a musical way that’s suppose to be charming. The idea behind the concept album dedicated to the First Lady of the Phillipines Imelda Marcos is intriguing, but it just wasn’t executed in the right fashion. Expansive and dull at some points (two discs, 22 songs), the work from the group of acclaimed artists tries desperately but as a result, fails to combine retro female pop with electronic dance beats.
Download: “Here Lies Love”