Four-plus years after her delightful debut album, On Paper, Dweck is finally back with a new release, and it was worth the wait. Fans will note that much of what they loved about her relationship-focused songs, occasional bits of whimsy and adventurous musical choices are still here. “If Only” has a surprising trip-hop vibe, while “Your Way to Me” is a bit of jangly, not-quite-’80s-era synth pop, complete with heavy tambourine and keys. “Under the Sea” is fun, with its jazz-tinged pop and the dreamy lyrical references that evoke Ariel. The insecurity-themed country rocker “Uncomfortable” is vintage Dweck, and she proves her prowess in creating a thought- provoking narrative in “Nearly,” a subdued track that contemplates one who got away and lingers on what might have been. The album occasionally veers into a lighter version of Regina Spektor, but Dweck’s winning way with words makes that a minor complaint.
Better Nature/New Machine
The lines “This is not connection/It’s only an impression” from the song “Connection” are a perfect representation of Better Nature’s narrative sensibility. “Pins and Needles” and “Friendly Fires” dive into variations on the same theme, with their titles hinting at the need to feel and the danger of vulnerability. “Latchkey Kids” champions the notion of commonality, and the feeling of freedom on the album’s closing track, “The Wild Kind,” is downright palpable. Better plays in part like a kissing cousin to the Swoon record, with raw, raucous tunes filling much of the album. Fuzzy guitars are offset by Brian Aubert’s nasally vocals, and several tracks change time or tone at a moment’s notice. This is Silversun Pickups, pulling off its best rock experience.
The Simple Fear/self-released
Annibale’s first new material since the 2013 Words in Your Eyes EP is a strong release. Centered on the power we give to the unknown, The Simple Fear examines that universal mindset with unapologetic frankness. In “Like the Dream of it,” Annibale admits that reality is often murkier than the dreams we dream. She knowingly sings about the difficulty of finding the good things that come from pain in “The Good Hurt.” But she systematically breaks down fear’s power in “Go,” with lines such as “Keeping me safe/Will only keep me from growing,” and on “Patience” she croons, “If I’ve learned anything in this life/It’s that the things that scare you the most/Are always worth the time.” A hybrid of familiar folk-pop leanings with some of the electric, borderline qualities that first appeared on Words, The Simple Fear has a warm ring to it that finds Annibale as captivating as ever.