Albums Reviewed by Alex Bieler and Ben Speggen
The Gaslight Anthem, The Antlers, Passion Pit, and Purity Ring -- all reviewed for your listening pleasure.
The Gaslight Anthem
Like many others born and bred in New Jersey, Brian Fallon preaches the Gospel of Bruce. One of several Bruce Springsteen acolytes in the Garden State, Fallon and the rest of The Gaslight Anthem draw heavily from The Boss' repertoire. On "Handwritten," the group's fourth album, the quartet hammers out 11 tracks, ranging from fast-paced guitar rockers to shades of folk. The album starts off with a kick, with lead single "45" quickly grabbing our attention. For the most part, Fallon gives "Handwritten" a blue-collar feel, eschewing fancy production tricks in favor of the old-school squeal of guitars to complement his gravelly vocals. While there are enough soaring anthems to appease rock fans, the album feels fairly repetitive, save for the tender closer "National Anthem." Ultimately, this avoidance of new twists leaves "Handwritten" sounding like it was merely copied from past notes. - 3 Stars - Alex Bieler
Anti / Epitaph
At first glance, an EP from The Antlers seems like an odd choice. Given how well the band employs concepts and themes over full-length albums, the four-song "Undersea" might come as a surprise to fans of the Brooklyn trio. Even with the limited space, the atmospheric indie group serves up four dreamy tracks, working together to create a 22-minute slow-burning whole. Much like its title, "Undersea" has an aquatic feel to it, the beat almost fluid in nature as it bobs along with the pulsing synths. As with every other release by The Antlers, frontman Pete Silberman's anchors each track, his hushed voice easily slipping into falsetto at just the right moments, leaving you in a trancelike state. From the opening seconds of "Drift Dive," "Undersea" draws you into its watery world and provides a full-length feel in a mere four tracks. - 4.5 Stars - Alex Bieler
Love leads to music. At least that's the case with Michael Angelakos' Boston-based Passion Pit. For a Valentine's Day gift, Angelakos produced "Chunk of Change," his first EP, which garnered label attention back in 2008. Angelakos, a la Passion Pit, now follows up "Manners," Passion Pit's debut LP, with "Gossamer," a 12-track punch of electro-indie pop. While highly acclaimed, 2010's "Manners" seemed at times nothing more than a collection of radio-friendly songs sugar coated in forlorn lyrics. "Gossamer" offers a much more introspective side of Passion Pit, and Angelakos' lyrics are more mature, relevant, and poignant, as is with lead single "Take a Walk," a Recession-inspired lyrical account of our bad times that could be worse coupled with thick synth riffs and catchy hooks. With a cohesiveness of lyrics and music missing before, Passion Pit weave both together in "Gossamer" for a sophomore album that you'll want to keep spinning. - 4 Stars - Ben Speggen
"Shrines," the debut album of Canadian synthpoppers Purity Ring, is an interesting mix of contrasts. The duo of vocalist Megan James and musical utility knife Corin Roddick, who uses a custom built, tree-shaped instrument that doubles as a light show, balance each other out, acting equal parts accessible and sinister. Barnes' heavily processed sugary coo provides a sweetness to each of the 11 tracks, while washes of synths and the constant stop-start of the drum machine leaves you uneasy, not sure of what is coming next. The lyrics are vividly depict a mix of sensuality and bloody aggression, adding to the creepy undertones, all the more highlighted by the way they part from Barnes lips. "Shrines" doesn't depart much from the same theme, instead varying this formula slightly from track to track. It's an impressive debut, although one would hope for some new twists in the future. - 4 Stars - Alex Bieler