Hypnotism and headbanging
Diluvia/Mom & Pop Music
Indie pop rockers Freelance Whales made a splash with its 2009 debut, Weathervanes. Critics loved the album and TV did too, as tracks from the band appeared on episodes of “Chuck” and “One Tree Hill,” in addition to being featured in commercials for Twitter and Chevrolet. Three years later the band has released its follow-up, Diluvia, and it is quite a treat. “Locked Out” is emblematic of the album’s sound full of upbeat baroque pop featuring horns, a xylophone and the sort of swelling, echoing verses you can’t get out of your head. Lead singer Judah Dadone often leads the way, but bassist Doris Cellar gets in on the fun on tracks like “Spitting Image.” And when the two of them sing back and forth to each other on “Red Star” and “Winter Seeds,” it is hard not to get caught up in their hypnotic sway. Diluvia is a more layered, slightly more nuanced release than the group’s debut, but every bit as rapturous.
Pop music tends to get a bad rap for good reason, since there is a lot of vapid garbage in the genre. Occasionally though, it is better than you expect it to be and you have to rejoice because of this. Love Hard, the debut pop rock album from Alyssa Bonagura, is one of those gems that makes you smile while not making you want to throw up afterward. From uplifting pop anthems (“Warrior”) to driving rock numbers (“Got That Feeling”), Love Hard is a decidedly upbeat record that unabashedly looks at life through rose-colored glasses, and that’s a good thing. Chances are, you’ve heard the handclap-happy number “I Make My Own Sunshine” on a Lowe’s commercial recently, and most can relate to the lovers lament, “When You’re Gone.” The album is almost entirely composed of relationship songs, and gets a tad tired by the end, but overall Love Hard is a gem.
King Animal/Universal Republic
Back in the mid-’90s when grunge and alternative rock were all the rage, Soundgarden was one of the genre’s best. Moody, dark, apocalyptic and yet somehow melodic and lyrically gut-wrenching at times, its songs tapped into the zeitgeist of Generation X. While King Animal, the band’s first album of new material in 16 years, probably won’t win any music awards, it’s certainly a valid return for the group. Despite the appearance of a borderline semi-acoustic pop/rock track like “Halfway There,” the album still rocks like it’s 1996. “Attrition” is a cannon blast of fuzzy, distorted guitars and loads of crashing drums, while tracks like “Been Away Too Long” and “By Crooked Steps” remind listeners that Soundgarden is still making headbanging alternative rock filled with meaty guitar riffs and the signature Chris Cornell wails. Mature and not as dark and brooding as past efforts, King Animal is one of 2012’s noteworthy comeback albums.