Monday, April 19, 2010

Reviews in Brief: White Hinterland, Broken Bells, One for the Team

In trying to play catch up, here's a few I've missed over the past couple months:

White Hinterland - Kairos (* * * 1/2)

Given my lack of experience with White Hinterland's previous work, I can't really speak to the differences that Kairos brings to the table, but most of what I read suggests this sophomore effort heads in a decidedly unique direction for the band. Fortunately, the album's intriguingly dark atmospheric sound feels like a natural extension of those making it - and the results of this confident approach are often striking. Simultaneously, however, it's clear that frontwoman Casey Dienel and company are enjoying exploring new territory, especially on the beautiful and spacious opener "Icarus," a clear highlight and the best example of the potential this swirling, hazy style has to offer. Not every tune is so beguiling, but the haunting harmonies and subtly thumping soundscapes create enough engaging and memorable moments to qualify Kairos as a success. (MySpace)

Broken Bells - Broken Bells (* * * 1/2)

The much-anticipated collaboration between producer Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) and The Shins frontman James Mercer could be described as one of 2010's most fashionable "indie" releases. Burton seems to have had a hand in just about everything over the past couple years (from Gnarls Barkley to The Black Keys) and The Shins remain an alt-rock staple, so of course Broken Bells has received its fair share of attention. In many ways, this new odd couple lives up to the hype - the songs are uniformly strong and pull from the strengths of both artists, even offering the occasional surprise. In short, it's mostly what you'd expect from two very talented musicians who seem to enjoy working together, and occasionally this pairing seems to be an inspired one. "The High Road," "Sailing to Nowhere" and "October" all lift the record past the the more bland moments and make the idea of more music from these two musicians a welcome thought. (MySpace)

One for the Team - Ghosts (* * * 1/2)

One for the Team may not be a familiar name to many of you, but was introduced to the group last year when they released their debut EP, and I've been looking forward to hearing their first full-length since that time. On Ghosts, the group play a somewhat noisy, unrefined variety of indie rock, one that uses many common elements (boy/girl harmonies, bright keyboards, crunchy guitars) yet still sounds fresh and inspired enough to be attention-grabbing - and it's a measurable improvement over their EP in terms of its distinctiveness and cohesion. The record's first half is easily the stronger of the two, especially the messy and muscular "Every Little Thing" and the equally loud but warmer and more melodic "Sorted Out." Ghosts doesn't hold up quite as well down the stretch, but these guys are off to a strong start and should turn some heads with this ten-track effort. (MySpace)