This week’s collection of new releases includes an EP from a crew of angsty locals, a reunion record by one of the more curious acts in late-’90s pop, and a pleasant collections of acoustic melodies from a Bayou-bred folk act. And if all else fails, there’s no way you can’t like a band called Total Slacker.
|Speedy Ortiz – “Real Hair EP”|
The western Mass. quartet has been consistently rising since the release of its debut full-length “Major Arcana” last summer. Smartly, the band was quick to follow-up with “Real Hair.” Tracks like the opening tune “American Horror” build off the post-grunge fuzz of “Major Arcana,” channeling bands like Drop Nineteens or more modern projects like Yuck. The songwriting remains strong, but the band seizes the opportunity to construct some of its tunes differently. “Oxygal” and “Shine Theory” shuffle up rhythms with tousled melodies, and even inject doses of harmony. “Real Hair” is a strong bridge between records for one of Massachusetts’ most promising acts.
|Total Slacker – “Slip Away”|
Returning with a sophomore album, these Brooklyn youngsters get an attitude adjustment of sorts. “Slip Away” trades a bit of the innocent charm of the band’s first effort for a darker spin on acid-rock. Perhaps it was the death of drummer Terence Connor, who was killed in a hit-and-run in October 2012, but the group shakes off most of its lyrical content concerning pizza bagels and the Olsen twins. It feels like an exercise in self-discovery. This works for the most part, but the band still finds ways to show its goofiness even when being sentimental, in hooks like, “You gotta touch yourself before you can touch someone else.”
|Cibo Matto – “Hotel Valentine”|
Japanese trip-hop duo Cibo Matto jump back onto the scene after 15 years without a record. The band that once performed on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (it’s true) and collaborated with Sean Lennon finds a way to remain attached to the late ’90s, picking up exactly where it left off while still sounding like no other act. Combining neo-jazz elements and commanding dance beats, Cibo Matto delivers a witchier take on the rolling bass of Jamiroquai, emitting the super-coolness of Digable Planets with a noise-rock tinge.
|Y u m i Z o u m a – “Y u m i Z o u m a”|
The disco-heavy dream pop of New Zealand’s Y u m i Z o u m a makes its synth-haze debut sound effortless. With multiple listens, however, one can pick up on just how layered the band’s recordings really are. Random instrumental parts hidden in drapes of keyboards provide a feathery platform that the paired lead vocals float above while funky drum and bass parts snake beneath. This release may only be four tracks, but it shows promising signs for a band that nods to the ’80s like Tops or Grimes, while feeding off the chillwave fad that Wild Nothing helped start.
|Hurray for the Riff Raff – “Small Town Heroes”|
The New Orleans folk stompers tone things down on its third album, “Small Town Heroes.” With bare-bones gospel constructions and lullaby harmonies, this is the stuff that Newport Folk Fest regulars devour. “Good Time Blues (An Outlaw’s Lament)” is more of a derivation from the standard blues, but it’s one of the more heartfelt tracks on an album built sternly on poignant lyrics and gentle instrumental contributions. The band doesn’t live up to its peppy name — and that’s a good thing.
|Crosses – “+++”|
Deftones’ lead singer Chino Moreno trades (most of) his signature screams for a more tempered vocal approach, letting the synthy and rhythmic tracks behind him take the wheel. The project’s debut full-length is led by burning bass keys and minor keys, which could oddly appeal to those who were drawn to Moreno’s previous projects. But there’s a new perspective on this record. At times, the dark lyricism struggles to take shape over the electronic background, resulting in an angsty version of Imagine Dragons. Elsewhere, it aligns well with Depeche Mode’s more recent records.
|Temples – “Sun Structures”|
This British psych-rock quartet releases what sounds like its version of Tame Impala’s debut record “InnerSpeaker.” That’s not to say that Temples is a rip-off of the New Zealand act, merely that “Sun Structures” hits the mark with dazzling trippiness and color. Still, it may not quite translate with those who ate up “Elephant” from Tame Impala’s second record. The title track on this record proves that the band is almost ready for radio play with engaging chord progressions and shades of pop brilliance. Then again, it still might need a bit more sugar-coating to appeal to the masses.
|Cheatahs – “Cheatahs”|
Appearing early last year with an eight-song EP, Cheatahs established itself as an authority in loud guitar madness that couldn’t quite separate itself from likeminded acts like Paws and Twerps. Half of the band’s self-titled full-length aims to rectify that, like the pacified, yet still voluminous b-side “Fall.” The other half continues to rock just for the sake of rocking. Nothing wrong with that, but the band may still have some growing to do before it can stand out from the herd.