November Music Reviews: Florence and the Machine, David Lynch, Atlas Sound

 

Florence and the MachineCeremonials (Island Records) That Florence Welch nominally aligned herself with the machine makes good sense. Since the 2009 release of her chart-topping debut, Lungs, the 25-year-old English singer has transformed into something of a juggernaut, steamrolling through glossy editorials, awards ceremonies, and multicontinental tours. On her latest effort, produced by Paul Epworth—fresh from Adele’s 21—Welch swaps her pre-Raphaelite look for the harder-edged Modernism of Tamara Lempicka (don’t worry, she’s still a redhead). Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, Ceremonials trades in big themes—no less than love and death, guilt and violence—without seeming grandiose, and the result is every bit as rousing as Lungs. On single “Shake It Out,” a return to form is a step forward for Welch. –Megan Conway

 
David LynchCrazy Clown Time (Sunday Best Recordings) For fans, David Lynch’s break from filmmaking has been disconcerting. But it’s a comfort to know the enigmatic and fundamentally unsettling nature of his work is still alive, even if it arrives in the form of his new album, Crazy Clown Time. Though described by the director as “blues-inspired but not blues,” the music faithfully reflects that most American of genres. You can almost see the radiating blue light of Mulholland Drive’s Club Silencio (now a real club in Paris, backed by Lynch). The 14-song record seduces you into a haunted dream world, and if that sounds familiar, it’s because the music shares many elements with Lynch’s past collaborations with Angelo Badalamenti. “Strange and Unproductive Thinking” is essentially a spoken-word manifesto on how dental health effects mental health, while the title track approximates a psychosexual teen nightmare à la pre-elastic Laura Palmer. If you’re truly Lynch-obsessed, you’ll revel in the eccentricities, but if you’re just tuning in for the hype, you might need a lobotomy afterwards. —Hillary Weston
 
WimWim (Modular Records) Aussie quintet WIM arrives in the States via Modular Records, home to a bevy of successful, eccentric musicians, including Architecture in Helsinki, Ladyhawke, the Rapture, and Cut Copy. But the group’s emotive, piano-based melodies and strong vocal harmonies are a strange fit for the label’s aesthetic. Their sound builds methodically and at times a little too conventionally, which can make their self-titled album a bit pedestrian. “John,” the strongest track, breaks away from the pack with its beautiful accordion introduction and innovative use of vocals at the bridge. Despite the lukewarm debut, though, WIM has promise, and with Modular backing them, they’re sure to succeed in this hemisphere.—Dana Drori
 
KorallrevenAn Album by Korallreven (Acéphale Records) The debut effort from Swedish trance pop artists Daniel Tjäder (also of the Radio Dept.) and Marcus Joons, known collectively as Korallreven, follows closely on the heels of their ambitious August mix, A Dream Within a Dream. “As Young as Yesterday” sets an ambient tone for the 10 tracks, with breathy vocals from Taken by Trees singer Victoria Bergsman (who appears twice on the album) layered over a hypnotic medley of 808s and acoustic guitar. The result is as a crisp as autumn in Stockholm, punctuated by sudden bursts from electronic synths and drums to kick up the groove. —Nadeska Alexis
 
Carter TantonFreeclouds (Western Vinyl) The name may not ring a bell, but odds are good you’re familiar with Carter Tanton’s work: the New York-based musician used to front the band Tulsa, and his captivating vocal skills were showcased on the group’s much-heralded, My Morning Jacket–like 2007 EP I Was Submerged. Now a member of indie-rock outfit the Lower Dens, the singer-songwriter still managed to carve out some time to record and release his solo debut, Freeclouds. A number of the songs—not to mention the title—were inspired by David Bowie’s 1969 “Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud.” Tanton skillfully weaves his own bittersweet tales—all steeped in nostalgic Americana—over eclectic samples and twanging guitar chords. —NA
 
Atlas SoundParallax (4AD) Much like the albums that preceded it, Bradford Cox’s third solo effort, Parallax, features the Deerhunter frontman’s soothing and experimental sounds, but the LP is surprisingly poppy and uplifting, too. Traces of catchy rock songs can be found on tracks like “The Shakes” and “Te Amo.” Even melancholy terrain like “My Angel is Broken” is set against upbeat guitar riffs. Cox’s lyrics take center stage here, often repeating in succession to create rhythms that all but hypnotize the listener. The elegiac “Terra Incognita” and the folksy, haunting “Flagstaff” (which evolves into an experiment in lo-fi soundwaves) represent the album’s rare dark moments, but Cox raises the tempo for “Nightworks,” ending with an optimistic bang. —DD
 
Noel GallagherNoel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (Sour Mash/Mercury Records) More than a decade ago, a then fresh-faced Pete Doherty called Oasis’ Liam Gallagher “a town crier” and his brother, Noel, “a poet.” On High Flying Birds, Noel’s first full-length solo effort, the British rocker puts the full range of his rhapsodic talent on display—sans heavy guitars. Free from the confines of the band, he ventures into new territory while holding fast to his poetry. Instruments vary from song to song, shifting from moody minor keys to brassy oomph. The big band sound on “The Death of You and Me” is a throwback to ’70s Kinks. —HW
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