Artist: Taylor Swift
I’ve been a semi-closeted T. Swift fan ever since her self-titled album first released in 2006. Usually, it’s only teenage girls who share my love for her, but with Red I’ve found that her demographic has suddenly changed. No matter where you go, I promise you that someone will be (rather shamelessly) listening to Tee Swizzle.
Considering the difference in her sound on this album, it’s not so surprising. With Red, Swift is experimenting, having approached different producers and by exploring new genres. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is possibly the catchiest tune of the summer, with sarcastic voiceovers that somehow sound endearing instead of annoying. “I Knew You Were Trouble” makes use of dubstep, while the title song “Red” includes an auto-tuned chorus. But perhaps the most relevant song is “22,” which begins with a hipster reference and continues along in an “I no longer give a fuck” vein.
And while there are the requisite Swifty ballads (“Begin Again,” “All Too Well”), certain ones are complimented by featured artists like Ed Sheeran in “Everything Has Changed” and Gary Lightbody in “The Last Time.” Swift said that the album title comes from all of her recent feelings, summed up in one passionate colour. But perhaps if you listen more closely, you’ll feel green-tinged envy, blue-hued tragedy, and glowing yellow “Starlight,” too.
Album: Former Lives Artist: Benjamin Gibbard
Achieving success with both Death Cab For Cutie and the Postal Service, it was only a matter of time before Benjamin Gibbard released a solo album. And now seems a more opportune time than ever, following his public break-up with Zooey Deschanel. Those expecting to hear an earnest, heart-wrenching album will be shocked to find Former Lives surprisingly upbeat. Complete with catchy lyrics and poppy tunes, you can’t help but tap your foot as you listen along. Gibbard claims that Former Lives summarizes the past eight years of his life in a single collective experience. Though songs cover a range of topics, the album still remains a cohesive entity. “Bigger Than Love,” a duet with Aimee Mann, captures the hope of reigniting a dwindling romance, while “Teardrop Windows” personifies Seattle skyscrapers, pitting the Smith Tower against its nemesis the Space
Album: NumbersArtist: Mellowhypes
Those who aren’t already fans of Odd Future may be unaware of MellowHype, one of the many sub-groups in the rap collective. Though most have either jumped on the Odd Future bandwagon or sworn off anything associated with the group, albums like Numbers are deserving of a good listen from anybody with a fondness for hip hop.
The biggest improvement on this album from MellowHype’s previous two is Left Brain’s production. It’s been almost five years since his debut as a producer, and his progress with layering and beats has grown by leaps and bounds. Hodgy Beats, the rapper of the duo, is one of the more established rappers in Odd Future, and he makes this even more obvious on Numbers.
For those who never stopped loving MellowHype’s more traditionally dark and eerie tracks, give “Grill” and “Beat” a try. Songs like “Untitled L” and “Monster” remind me of the dynamic chemistry that separates this duo’s sound from their other groups in Odd Future.
The many guest spots keep the album varied, from Frank Ocean dropping in for a subtle but melodic chorus in Astro to verses from Earl Sweatshirt and Mike G on “P2” and “666.”
Album:The Inner MansionsArtist: Teen Daze
The Inner Mansions opens with “Heart of God,” a reflective, ambient piece that immediately sets Teen Daze’s latest record apart from the rest of his discography – it’s more evocative of Julianna Barwick’s ethereal vocal studies than Balearic house or disco. The soft, shimmering pads that mark the Fraser Valley-based producer’s style are still ubiquitous, but The Inner Mansions finds him substituting gauzy guitars for glo-fi funk.
Tracks like “Discipleship” are rhythmic exercises anchored by a four-on-the-floor beat that’s constantly being reinvented. Likewise, “Divided Loyalties” features layers of cymbals and hi-hats caked in hazy effects that mutate around a 4/4 kick drum.
Although “Always Returning” closes the LP on the same meditative note that is opens with, the mood of the album is undone by its disjointedness. “Spirit” dips into post-rock territory, while parts of “By Love” could be mistaken for Yanni. “Union,” the album’s biggest offender, resembles some of No Age’s less confrontational work.
It’s hard to fault Teen Daze for evolving musically, but The Inner Mansions is ultimately let down by its indecision.