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This article was published 21/5/2015 (1126 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
IF this were 20 years ago, Torres' name would be on everybody's lips. The riffing anthem Strange Hellos would be blasting from car stereos and the hype machine would declare her the new Alanis-meets-Nirvana.
Thankfully, it's 2015. The music industry's star-making machinery is reserved for pop stars, bro country and commercial rap. Torres isn't going to sell 14 million records and then feel forever stifled; instead, the 24-year-old, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter also known as Mackenzie Scott will be allowed to grow at her own rate.
That's a good thing. On Sprinter, her second full-length, Georgia-born Torres has hooked up with PJ Harvey producer Rob Ellis (and Harvey's original rhythm section) to create a nine-song cycle that kicks off with the audacious, ferocious rush of Strange Hellos and then slowly backs into guitar-based, synth-infused atmospheric reflection. The ringing guitars, Torres' exquisite, right-in-your-ear singing and the mystery of her imagistic lyrics will leave you wanting more. As it should be. ****
DOWNLOAD: Strange Hellos
— John Kendle
Bystander and Destroyer (Independent)
HARD-ROCK fiends are always on the lookout for their next fix of ear-damaging howl and the Vendettas' second album, the hard-rocking Bystander and Destroyer, will please even the most torched ear holes.
The quintet from Melbourne, Australia, feeds into the same firepit of frenzy lit by fellow Aussies AC/DC and Swedish riff-masters the Hellacopters. The album-opening tandem salvo of Wake Up Call and Ain't No Time sets the tone for the rest of the set, with solid guitar riffs and a charging rhythm section. Vocalist Stevie Reds' leathery wail will give goosebumps to anyone who remembers golden '70s raspers such as Steve Marriott and Paul Rodgers. Heavy ballad Blackened Heart complements the low-chugging guitar figure in Wasted, while bassist Lee (the band members don't use their last names) figures prominently in City of the Gun.
At times there is a slightly pungent grunge feel to the songs, but not to the point where listeners won't feel the need to destroy a six-pack. ***
— Jeff Monk
IF you want a thick dose of turn-of-the-last-century-informed electronic synth-pop, look no further than Grounders' eponymously titled album. The nine-track CD has the kind of retro sheen, mixed with contemporary sensibilities, that will allow it to rise above the flow of trivial new releases.
The Toronto quartet conjoins "fried analogue" synthesizer sounds with bubbling melodic basslines, clockwork drum beats and choppy guitar to create a mixed-media flow. The swoony, weird blues of Vyvanse balances the unrestrained rhythm and fuzzy crackle of Bloor St. & Pressure. Cheery hooks abound, while room is left for the requisite hit-single hole carved by the lovely Pet Uno. Proving it is possible to benefit through imitation, No Ringer has Joy Division bleakness written all over its.
There are times here where it sounds as if the machines have taken over and run amok, but in a good way, providing just the right amount of sonic colouring outside the lines to keep it all beguiling. See Grounders live at the Good Will on June 22. ***
DOWNLOAD: Bloor St. & Pressure
— Jeff Monk
Mozart 5, Vieuxtemps 4 — Violin Concertos (Deutsche Grammophon)
THERE are a few extra-special violinists in the world right now: Hilary Hahn is one of them. The American-born artist, 35, performs two closely paired works: Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219 a.k.a. the "Turkish," and Belgium composer/violinist Henri Vieuxtemps' Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Minor.
Hahn brings her customary grace and precision to the Mozart, including its fiery Turkish rondo finale. She also displays her elegant refinement during the opening Andante — Moderto that sets the tone for the entire work.
However, the violinist brings her full arsenal of technical fireworks and stylistic flair to the Vieuxtemps. The Finale marziale is a real showstopper, matched only by third movement Scherzo with its explosive runs proving no match for Hahn's artistry. The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, crisply led by Paavo J§rvi, keeps pace with the versatile soloist as they hurtle toward the work's triumphant close. ****
— Holly Harris
BRITNEY SPEARS FEAT. IGGY AZALEA
Pretty Girls (RCA/Sony)
"Pretty girls wipe the floor with all the boys..." It's all about the girl power on this campy collaboration, featuring synths that sound strikingly similar to Iggy's own Fancy, while the chorus is vaguely reminiscent of Gwen Stefani's Hollaback Girl. It's fairly flaky, familiar fun. ***
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS FEAT. Q-TIP
Go (Virgin EMI/Universal)
The last time the Chems got together with Q-Tip, the result was the darkly dramatic Galvanize off their 2005 album, Push the Button. This lead single from their upcoming Born in the Echoes project is funkier and more festive than its predecessor, with a buoyant bassline, nimble electronics and Q-Tip's dynamic declaration of "we're only here to make you go!" Just tremendous. ****
SNOOP DOGG FEAT. STEVIE WONDER & PHARRELL WILLIAMS
California Roll (Columbia/Sony)
The latest from Snoop's newly released album, Bush, is a smooth, finger-snapping ode to the Golden State, slathered with soulful sunshine and Stevie's signature harmonica. Pour yourself a glass of your favourite Napa Valley wine, sit back, relax and enjoy. ***1/2
— Steve Adams