Sonic Reducer: Joanna Gruesome, UMO, Hot Chip
 Alibi V.24 No.21 • May 21-27, 2015 

Sonic Reducer

Joanna Gruesome Peanut Butter (Slumberland)

Peanut Butter

Love: loud, female-fronted rock groups that deftly combine defiant screams with enchanting twee-pop, embracing all that was good, angry and pure about ’90s indie music. Oh, and when people take the piss out of Joanna Newsom (Ugh! So annoying.). Hate: topical pop culture references that automatically date your band, no matter how on point they may seem to those of us with a wicked sense of humor. Such is the conundrum of Welsh outfit Joanna Gruesome. Peanut Butter's 10 tracks, while intelligent and technically solid, don't waste time with fluff; the whole thing's 22 minutes long, and standouts include “Jamie (Luvver),” “Jerome (Liar),” “Separate Bedrooms” and “Hey! I Wanna Be Yr Best Friend.” Singer Alanna McArdle’s voice can do silly, jovial, mopey or furious, all with equal proficiency. But as with so many things that even hint at being revivalist—Joanna Gruesome owes a lot to groups like Huggy Bear and Tiger Trap—they're not bringing anything new to the table through sonic homage and, instead, teeter precariously close to parody. (M. Brianna Stallings)

Unknown Mortal Orchestra Multi-Love (Jagjaguwar)

Multi-Love

Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s forthcoming album Multi-Love finds the psych-band issuing a declaration. Here’s what it says: We play low-fidelity psychedelic music—but do so in a way that’s sumptuously innovative, daringly dreamlike and masterfully melodic—in a time and place wherein the expression of such values is often based on market research. An honest recording that features band leader Ruban Nielson’s father on trumpet, Multi-Love embraces the essentials of psychedelia without seeming dated or derivative. Constructed from a sense of noncompliance that rarely retreats into personal headspaces—instead expanding outward to explore the world without—this recording is filled to the brim with poptastic moments and instrumental incursions into the fantastic. Tracks like “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” and “Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty” add a tasty sense of reality to the otherwise otherworldly proceedings produced by UMO. (August March)

Hot Chip Why Make Sense? (Domino Records)

Hot Chip

Why Make Sense?, the new album by Hot Chip, actually makes perfect sense. The work demonstrates in precise sonic language how EDM has seeped knowingly into the musical mainstream via the avant-garde’s acquisition by electro wizards of the next generation. Broadly and sometimes brazenly affected by rocanrol, this is an album of dance music that acknowledges the power of melody and the importance of hardy hooks, even as it summons listeners to the dance floor with bangable delight. Frontman Alexis Taylor belts it out with both fragile and formidable nuance on this collection of tunes. He also has the disarming and humbling ability to let the music take command when mere words simply won’t do, a conceit that’s reflected in the album’s title track and throughout a record that juxtaposes the meaningless chatter of humanity with the equally human tendency to joyously dance away from all that noise. (August March)