Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2016-06-10


Heartsrevolution: Ride or Die (Owsla, 2014) The band is riot grrrl Lo Safai and her muso boyfriend Ben Pollock, who make or made their living renting out her crystal-covered ice cream truck to rich kids' birthday parties. The album is the debut they began promising in 2008, which materialized two years ago to the tune of a few distracted reviews as well as full lyrics on Genius. I downloaded a press copy I forgot until I tripped over it in iTunes, whereupon it went into heavy rotation: beaty synth-guitar-drums, hummable tunes, Safai's girlish-not-grrrlish soprano delivering lyrics about following your heart down the byways of love to the end of the world. Breathy with a sweetness even when she's putting the plosives on "ping pong pussy," Safai sells the record like it's an organic lollipop. "They give us hope then they take it away" is about love and the world at the same time. "KISS" predicts "Sooner or later I'm gonna get you/Sooner or later I'm gonna let you down" so it can "hope we get forever." The birthday-ready "Final Warning" counsels: "Hey little kids you better take a warning/There's this little thing called global warming." Thirtysomethings may find the whole schmear too icky, 2008, or both. I'm charmed straight up. A-

Heron Oblivion: Heron Oblivion (Sub Pop, 2016) Decorating friendly distorto guitar swells with sad angelic vocals, 21st-century supergroup (from Espers! Howlin Rain! Comets on Fire!) makes someting of the touching belief that "psychedelic" has a musical meaning ("Sudden Lament," "Rama") ***

The Kills: Ash & Ice (Domino, 2016) Polishing your minimalism becomes organic as you age, sharpening your songwriting not so much ("Doing It to Death," "That Love") *

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down: A Man Alive (Ribbon, 2016) I suppose it's simplistic to credit friendly neighborhood producer Merrill Garbus with Thao Nguyen's great leap forward from Nguyen's intelligently cheerful indie-rock. But her fifth or seventh album sure does sound like Tune-Yards. Same disquieting harmonies, same hyperactive percussion, same general roil, with Thao's lighter, more unburdened voice delivering darkened lyrics that dwell on her up-and-gone father and "an endless love" with an unhappy ending. "Carve it on out of me," she implores again and again. But due to the music, this compulsion sounds like a strength--even a triumph. A-

White Lung: Paradise (Domino, 2016) Feminist punk Mish Barber-Way is not innarested in the horrible old proprieties of her appointed identity markers. Enlarging her enunciated yowl and Kenneth William's articulated speed riffs with goth echo and brushing them with synthesizer, she reaches out to the hardcore unwashed with two accounts of doomed female serial killers and a fantasy about giving birth in a trailer you can bet lacks AC. Is she representing an underclass or identifying with it? It's hard to imagine she makes the distinction. A-

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