Spoon – They Want My Soul: Spoon’s first album since 2010’s Transcendence is a welcome rejuvenation. Transcendence got bogged down in a lo-fi sound that was just a little too raw; it was like Spoon was trying to be something they’re not. They Want My Soul swings the other way around. The production is sleek and adventurous, bringing new sounds and unexpected decisions into the songwriting, like the frenetic spasms of guitar that interrupt “Knock Knock Knock” or the harp-like echoes of “Inside Out”. At the same time, this still sounds like a Spoon album — not as bright as Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga but not as dark as Girls Can Tell either. And Britt Daniel’s voice, while finally mellowing a little with age (can you believe he’s 43 now?), still has the same basic urgency that’s always given Spoon a little more life than their indie contemporaries. I haven’t decided yet whether this is a great album or just a good one, but it just may grow on me with time.
Spoon – “Rent I Pay”
Angus & Julia Stone – Angus & Julia Stone: The first review I wrote for Around The Radio was on Angus & Julia Stone’s last joint effort, 2010’s Down The Way. It’s an album that’s still very dear to me, but since then the brother and sister duo from Australia have split their efforts, putting out solo albums that failed to capture their unique chemistry. Their self-titled reunion album, released this week, feels like a bit of a reboot — and that’s both a bad and a good thing. Known in the past for writing ballads with an edge, the first half of this album goes for more of a glittery pop-rock sound. (Even the album art betrays their desire to capture a certain 80s nostalgia). Unfortunately, it ends up sounding just like all the other half-baked, breezy indie rock out there — disposable and full of forced coolness. But just when I was about to give up on this band, the second half of the album comes packed with some intriguing experiments in darkness and noise. And suddenly, you have to respect Angus and Julia for not playing it safe.
Angus & Julia Stone – “From The Stalls”
Jenny Lewis – The Voyager: Jenny Lewis (formerly of indie rock group Rilo Kiley) has been toeing the line between pop and alt-country for a while now. Her last solo effort, 2008’s Acid Tongue, fell more in the latter camp. This time out, Lewis gets back to the kind of shiny pop that turned off some Rilo Kiley fans on their final album, Under The Blacklight. I never understood the backlash to that album; to me, it’s the most mature album that Rilo Kiley produced, and I wish the band had stayed together. The Voyager, while returning to that same basic vibe, just doesn’t hook you in the same way. The songs and the production are competent, but not memorable. It’s getting great reviews, but I have to go against the consensus on this one.
Jenny Lewis – “She’s Not Me”
The Raveonettes – Pe’ahi: Denmark’s The Raveonettes have been doing the same thing for going on a decade now — loud, fuzzy shoegazer rock with just the right amount of retro 60s melody to soothe the noise. For their seventh studio album, though, they’re finally starting to change it up a bit and it’s giving them a new energy. Part of the duo’s shortcoming in the past was the lack of a real drummer; their reliance on drum loops gave their music an underwhelming sameness after a while. On Pe’ahi, they’ve gotten a lot more inventive in that department, coming up with songs that start and stop and change dynamics more abruptly. It’s a thrashier, more diverse set of tracks that, for the first time in a while, suggests The Raveonettes aren’t just a fuzzbox and a pretty voice.
The Raveonettes – “Sisters”