Hot Cakes — The Darkness
After a turbulent decade of rehab, breakups, and reunions, the original members of The Darkness — front men (and brothers) Justin and Dan Hawkins, bassist Frankie Poullain and drummer Ed Graham — are back with their recent release Hot Cakes. This album is the perfect way to hold on to the fun, upbeat sounds of summer as we begin the transition into the fall season. Hot Cakes certainly hits that deep, gritty, 1970s sound that few do as well as The Darkness. But the band balances its signature grittiness with a range of high-pitched vocals, which infuse the heavy-handed drums and bass in tracks like “With A Woman.” And while “Nothin’s Gonna Stop Us” might sound like a watered-down version of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” the song’s melody is infectious. All in all, Hot Cakes delivers a solid lineup of upbeat, catchy, feel good music. “Take off your thinking cap and listen to your heart,” the Hawkins brothers sing on “Everybody Have a Good Time,” and while listening to Hot Cakes, you can’t help but do just that.
The Sticks — Mother Mother
Canadian indie rock band Mother Mother is set to release their fourth studio album, The Sticks, on September 18. “Let’s Fall in Love,” the new album’s first single, showcases Mother Mother’s unique ability to combine gripping lyrics, eerie melodies, and hard beats with breathy harmonies and light instrumentals. The song proves to be a perfect representation of The Sticks, as the unusual composition of “Let’s Fall in Love” characterizes the entire album. Even The Sticks‘ most somber track, “Dread In My Heart,” couples lyrics like “There’s a God-awful, shitty feeling of dread in my heart” with light, folksy melodies and twittering birds in the background. This unexpected pairing of lyrics and melody is gripping, and the listener can’t help but appreciate Mother Mother’s sense of irony and humour. In fact, the band’s unusual sound proves to be somewhat addictive. Fortunately, it is also nuanced, and The Sticks has something new for the listener to discover with each listen.
Turn Up the Stereo — Delhi 2 Dublin
Vancouver band Delhi 2 Dublin’s recent album, Turn Up the Stereo, features the band’s trademark fusion of bhangra, a type of Punjabi popular music, and Celtic fiddling. Upbeat and engaging, the album is characterized by a diverse variety of instruments associated with the Punjabi and Celtic cultures, ranging from the electric sitar and dhol drum to the fiddle. It’s an unusual combination, but thanks to the seamless composition of each of the album’s 13 tracks, Turn Up the Stereo manages to weave a tapestry of sound that is both unique and memorable. The album’s vocals are also phenomenal; by singing in both Punjabi and English and incorporating rap and pop influences, the vocalists add to the diversity of their sound. Fiddler and singer Sara Fitzgerald especially succeeds in bringing the seemingly disparate Punjabi and Celtic traditions together with her warm, sultry voice and lively, expressive vocals. All in all, Turn Up the Stereo is a one-of-a-kind album, an East-meets-West aural experience in 13 parts.
Sun — Cat Power
While Cat Power has in the past been known for a melancholy repertoire of music that was perhaps best suited as a post-breakup soundtrack, her latest album, Sun, offers up a considerably different sound. Six years after her last original studio release, the notoriously somber Cat Power, a.k.a. Chan Marshall, is back with a refreshingly up-tempo collection of songs. In contrast to Marshall’s previous albums, which were marked by slow melodies and acoustic riffs, Sun sets a vibrant tone with its lively synths and repetitive drum beats. Admittedly, the album’s lyrics are not always cheerful; Marshall frequently sings about both personal conflicts and issues of a larger scope. In “3,6,9,” for example, Marshall reflects on her struggles with alcoholism, while in “Ruin,” she criticizes the naivety of Western society. Yet Sun benefits from being tinged with a bolder, more accessible sound than Marshall’s other work. Although the album isn’t the gritty and sorrowful display that Cat Power fans are used to, the fresh sound on Sun is indicative of Marshall’s ability to transform her music without compromising the depths of her lyrics or her identity as an artist.