Perfume Genius- "Too Bright"
Mike Hadreas begins his third album as Perfume Genius by taking The Who to task: “I can see for miles / The same old line / No thanks, I decline.” It’s a line that establishes the album’s self-assurance, compounded by the Seattle singer-songwriter’s icy glare on the album’s cover. If Hadreas’ previous lo-fi piano ballads on “Learning” and “Put Your Back N 2 It” are said to be confessional, then “Too Bright” is proclamatory. “Queen” finds Hadreas embracing his newfound regalia: “No family is safe / When I sashay” he coldly warns. The tenderness we’ve come to expect from Perfume Genius is still apparent on “No Good” and title track; however, those tracks contrast sharply with the synth-pop of “Longpig” and “Grid,” which bitterly repurposes the aforementioned opening line.
Standout track: "Queen"
The Barr Brothers- "Sleeping Operator"
"Sleeping Operator" could very well be the breakout record for Montreal group The Barr Brothers (named for siblings Andrew and Brad, both formerly of The Slip). Embellished by the voice and harp work of Sarah Page and guest contributors like Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire, "Sleeping Operator" takes folk into new, entrancing atmospheres on songs like "Half Crazy" and "Even the Darkness Has Arms" by incorporating Delta blues and West African rhythms. Not to say there aren't a fair share of memorable plaintive moments, such as standout "How the Heroine Dies," but "Sleeping Operator" is certainly never asleep behind the wheel.
Standout track: "Love Ain't Enough"
The Van Allen Belt- "Heaven on a Branch"
Pittsburgh songwriter Benjamin Ferris is the mastermind behind The Van Allen, but he's got a magnetic (hence the band name?) supporting cast on third album "Heaven on a Branch." Classically-trained vocalist Tamar Kamin makes even the most psychedelic tracks as comfortable as an old jazz standard, and effects artist/mastering wizard Scott Taylor adds a dream-pop sublimity to the record's 12 vigourous tracks. Of course, Ferris' bizarre, jumpy pop sensibility on tunes like "One on the Board" and "Clouds" is the medium through which they all thrive.
Standout track: "Rain"