Nobody fucks with modern music, and its fans, as much as Animal Collective. When normal people say they hate hipster bands, they’re specifically talking about this Brooklyn quartet. And over the course of nine albums they’ve bent and twisted their, and our, perception of what indie rock should sound like. On Centipede Hz they check in with their most primal album, one that pushes aside, for the most part, the arrhythmic sounds and unstructured noise of their past work. There’s still plenty of electronic jetsam and loose psych-out jams moving these songs into place, but the result is Animal Collective’s easiest flowing album, a record that trades head trips for straightforward songcraft, relatively speaking. Tracks like “Moonjock,” “Today’s Supernatural,” and “Monkey Riches” slip in with little aggravation and a smattering of warmth. It’s a welcome evolution.
4th Street Feeling
On her last album, 2010’s Fearless Love, Melissa Etheridge sounded ready to fight, taking on anti-gay-marriage supporters with her toughest set of songs in years. She takes a breath on her 12th album, checking in with a bluesy, twangy set that’s more bar-band bluster than change-the-world pensive. The best songs on 4th Street Feeling (the R&B-leaning title track, the backroads country “Falling Up”) sound folksy, worn-in, and sorta lazy.
I Know What Love Isn’t
Swedish singer-songwriter Jens Lekman is all about the big statement. The best song on his third album, and first since 2007’s excellent Night Falls Over Kortedala, is called “The End of the World Is Bigger Than Love,” and it’s stuffed with swirling strings, springtime woodwinds, and Lekman’s swooning croon putting a broken heart in perspective. It’s grand, eloquent stuff, and it feeds I Know What Love Isn’t with a sense of magnificence.
Bob Mould had a hell of a midlife crisis, farting away his late 30s and most of his 40s on disappointing acoustic and electronic albums. The Hüsker Dü and Sugar frontman made a welcome return to guitar-based, hook-filled indie rock on 2009’s Life and Times, and continues the upswing on Silver Age. He hasn’t sounded this vital in 20 years, especially on “The Descent,” which wouldn’t sound out of place on one of his old bands’ albums.
Stars came up in the same Canadian indie-pop circle as Broken Social Scene. In fact, the groups often shared membership. Now that all the buzz has settled, the Montreal quintet keeps its ambitions relatively simple on its sixth album, as Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan trade vocals on retro-synth songs like “The Theory of Relativity.” The dozen songs average about three and a half minutes each – pure pop for late-summer 2012.