By Simon McCormack
Soular Waiting for Tomorrow (Centari Entertainment)
Albuquerque-based ambient indie rock revitalizers Soular create melody-driven soundscapes that are both foreboding and serene; Marsh Shamburger's vocals resemble a slightly more cheerful Thom Yorke (Radiohead). “Where Do We Go” is a Queen- and Bowie-influenced melodic masterpiece infused with several guitar and bass themes that drift in and out of the song's primary structure. Other strong points include the lyrically clichéd but musically innovative opening track “American Dream” and the lead bass-driven “So, This is the Way it Feels.” Waiting for Tomorrow's underproduced sound gives us a taste of the potency ingrained in the band's live show.
Various Artists Now Latino--Esto Es Musica! (Sony)
I've never been a fan of reggaeton, so this latest addition to the Now That's What I Call Music family (which is 60 to 70 percent 'ton) is not my bag. Further adding to my dismay is the fact that another large chunk of the album consists of sappy, unoriginal Latin love songs. There are, however, a couple of listenable tracks, like the upbeat mariachi-pop song “Na Na Na” by the Kumbia Kings, and for those who do enjoy reggaeton and Spanish pop, Daddy Yankee and co. are all here waiting for you.
Mon Frere Blood Sweat & Swords (Cake Records)
In addition to being easy on the eyes, front woman Nouella Johnston is also the primary force behind suburban Seattleites Mon Frere and their new full-length release, Blood Sweat & Swords. Her scorching, vivacious vocals and erratic, playful synths fuel the gas-guzzling giant that is part Ya Ya Ya's, part early No Doubt and all pop-ferocity. Immediately accessible without being hackneyed, Blood Sweat & Swords has punk energy, jazz-inflected drums and raw guitar-laden energy that can play it fast or slow but refuses to let go after just the first listen.
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