, i, i
(Jagjaguwar) – Justin Vernon’s overthinking and high falsetto have generated a legion of knee-jerk Bon Iver haters, who have grown more vocal as the music has evolved from folkie to experimental. Maybe Vernon’s lofty goals become pretentious at times, particularly when his visual/lyrical games resemble those of Cecil Taylor or Anthony Braxton, but the presence of guests like Bruce Hornsby and Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner insure that tracks like “iMi” almost sound like melodic folk tunes.
, Beyond the Door
(Merge Records) – It’s a pity more people don’t appreciate the tongue-in-cheek humor of brothers Jeff and Steven McDonald, who offer satirical lyrics in a harmony-rich power pop style akin to Todd Rundgren’s old Nazz band. The brothers from California have been recording music since middle school in 1978, but have veered from punk to harder rock and blues during various 1990s and 2000s reunions. This album, their first in seven years, is the most exuberant happy-pop in the band’s odd career, underscored by songs like “When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way’?”
!!! [chk chk chk]
(Warp Records) – New York City’s finest underground dance band has been making serious funk albums for close to 20 years, somehow without repeating the beats. For the past few albums, chk chk chk has avoided a rut by accelerating bass elements, with lead singer Nic Offer sounding like Joe Cocker fronting Parliament. For their eighth studio album, Offer opts for a gentler tenor in tracks like “Serbian Drums,” giving the ensemble a sound closer to Yeasayer or Battles.