New Releases: Vampire Weekend, Demi Lovato, George Strait
Every Tuesday, Dan Weiss runs down the week’s new full-length music releases, from charting hits to more obscure depths, the underrated and the overrated, from a critical pop fan’s perspective.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK:
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
Chewy, underhooked and slow-moving, abruptly barren of many things this band was doing well (most notably “Upper West Side Soweto), Vampire Weekend is still good at being whatever they want to be, even if brick-walled chamber-pop isn’t your idea of fun, even if the sole streak of four-wheel drive of “Unbelievers”/“Diane Young”/“Step” isn’t quite “Mansard Roof”/“A-Punk”/“Oxford Comma”/“Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” (off VW’s 2008 debut). What saves Modern Vampires of the City from being Nicki Minaj’s Roman Reloaded — the reluctantly good album you didn’t really want — is that the lyrics are worth “puzzling” out, to steal a word that the early reports are repeating. And, believe it or not, this band’s got soul. These rap fans talk to Yahweh (stylized as “Ya Hey”), tear up the Times, name-check Croesus, Angkor Wat and Modest Mouse in the same song. Conclusion: “Wisdom’s a gift but you’d trade it for youth.” These proud fogeys will take wisdom.
Demi Lovato – Demi
The first five songs are a state of the union on current synthesizer fashion, and the ballads in the center are primarily to prove she can sing. For better or worse, this sounds like the radio. You know, the stuff that’s more pop than pop — the B-sides to “Gangnam Style” or “I Knew You Were Trouble.” Lines like “I can’t believe I stayed up late writing songs about you,” create a Droste effect; they’re plainly proud of this homogeny, contributing to the machine with tunes you can’t hate but can’t love. The post-Taylor “Something That We’re Not” squeezes something out of good old ba-ba-ba’s, but lines like “I’m a wild card/ I’m gonna steal your pain” don’t mean anything.
Trace Adkins – Love Will
This low-voiced country crooner is the flipside of Demi Lovato; Trace Adkins is the stuff on the radio that no one really listens to. Despite the fluke shot “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” years ago, he doesn’t connect generationally, unless the Kenny G sax on the otherwise sole decent cut “So What If I Do” is someone’s late Mother’s Day gift. Don’t stick around for the yawnful gospel coda.
George Strait – Love Is Everything
Within the sinuous opening guitar moans of excellent opener “I Got a Car,” the king of country’s middle class proves instantly why fans of his 27 previous albums would hate Trace Adkins: he’s halfway gritty and three times as tuneful. He throws hits at the wall and whatever sticks; maybe the single “Give It All We Got Tonight” is corny but it’s immediately followed by the loping “Blue Melodies,” which appropriately swipes its quiet soar from Bruce Springsteen’s “Jack of All Trades.” Strait hasn’t scored a record number of hits for nothing — the guy isn’t just “Sittin’ on the Fence.” He’s humping the chicken wire.
The Dillinger Escape Plan – One of Us Is the Killer
Greg Puciato straight-up shouldn’t sing; one of the finest screamers in noise/hardcore shouldn’t be reduced to a mortal operatic Reznor. He wasn’t the screamer on their classic pushed-to-the-red debut, Calculating Infinity, but he was around for 2007’s intriguing Ire Works. The Plan’s fifth album is their most streamlined yet; wastes one of their all-time riffs as merely an intro to the tortured “Nothing’s Funny.” Nothing on this conventional screamo-and-gloom record surprises, which is a waste of their unpredictable, sometimes jazz-cut talent. They could learn about reliability from Converge.
Primal Scream – More Light
More in line with 2002’s slapdash Evil Heat or 2007’s hooky Beautiful Future than their apocalyptic twin peaks Vanishing Point or XTRMNTR, Bobby Gillespie’s band ramshackles pretty well when they don’t know what they’re doing. The best thing here is a ballad, “Walking With the Beast,” these part-time Rolling Stoners’ very own “Beast of Burden.” The runner-up is the nine-minute Tijuana-goes-Autobahn opener with the theme “What happened to the voices of dissent?” It’s called “2013.” Too bad Frank Ocean took the title Nostalgia, ULTRA. but admittedly, he did give them a quarter-century headstart to think of it first.