This page collects album reviews for 2010s artists who don’t qualify for their own full page.
Original guitar pop is a difficult task in the 21st century, and Charly Bliss’s debut album is heavily in debt to the 1990s. Debut album Guppy combines the fast-paced, hook-filled songs of early Weezer, but with a female vocalist they’re also reminiscent of other 1990s acts like Belly or Veruca Salt. If it all sounds unoriginal, these songs are so memorable and jammed with hooks that it’s immaterial. Guitarist Spencer Fox stated “We had to create an ecosystem where our loud, messy rock sounds could co-exist with these super catchy melodies and pop hooks.” The band label themselves as “Bubblegrunge”, which is also an excellent descriptor of their sound.
Vocalist and guitarist Eva Hendricks has a tinge of helium in her distinctive voice, but it simply allows the band’s supple melodies to shine. It was really about realizing what we’re best at as a band.” Hendricks is both witty and sincere on songs like ‘Glitter’ – “Am I the best? Or just the first person to say yes?” Charly Bliss get plenty of mileage out of a four piece setup, and their chord structures are interesting enough to stand up to repeated listening, although synth on some tracks helps to vary the textures. It’s difficult to pick favourites off such an even, excellent album, but highlights include the punchy ‘Black Hole’ and the memorable comparisons of a dead dog to a lover in ‘DQ’.
Despite its clear debt to the 1990s, Guppy is a great little record, a burst of energy and good natured humour.
Night Time, My Time
Sky Ferreira is a Los Angeles songwriter, actress, and model, who first came to attention through her MySpace demos as a teenager. On her debut album, Night Time, My Time, she works with producers Ariel Rechtshaid (Vampire Weekend, HAIM, Madonna) and Justin Raisen, who are able to achieve a perfect balance between pop accessibility and edgier sounds, that prevents Night Time, My Time from sounding like mere designer angst. Rechtshaid and Raisen also provide most of the instrumentation, while Ferreira’s voice is an asset, rich and expressive. Night Time, My Time blends 1990s alternative rock with 1980s synth pop, so songs like the dissonant, guitar heavy ‘Omanko’ and the infectious dance pop of ‘You’re Not The One’ follow each other in the track list.
My favourite track blends the two approaches – ’24 Hours’ features a dance beat and twinkling keyboard hook coupled with vocal urgency and driving guitars. On the poppy end of things, ‘You’re Not The One’ features a memorable guitar hook over a dance beat, while ‘I Blame Myself’ is gentle and soul searching. There’s more intensity in ‘Heavy Metal Heart’ and ‘Nobody Asked Me (If I Was OK)’, while the album is at its most experimental with the dissonant ‘Omanko’, and the title track, which ends the album with a drone.
Mixing poppy hooks with a heavy guitar attack and more esoteric moments, Night Time, My Time was a deserved critical favourite that’s taken Ferreira a long time to follow up.
Julia Holter was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, although her family moved to Los Angeles when she was young. Aviary is her fifth studio album, and her work is on the fringes of popular music, experimental and pushing into classical territory. While her previous album, 2015’s Have You In My Wilderness, was her most accessible, edging towards more standard indie fare, Aviary is an extremely challenging album, ninety minutes of avant-garde classical pop.
Aviary dispenses with traditional rock instrumentation, and is instead centred on Holter’s piano, synthesizers, and voice. Holter’s accompanied by fluid double bass and orchestral instruments. The music’s often unplanned, giving Aviary an exploratory feel, and Holter’s cited Alice Coltrane as a key influence for the record. Even the album’s first single and easiest entry point, ‘I Shall Love 2’, is far from straightforward, eschewing hooks for shimmering textures and layered vocals.
Aviary has the potential to fall apart under its own weight, but it works because of its intrinsic beauty – Holter’s voice and piano work are pretty, and anchor what can at times be a challenging listen. Holter’s stated that Aviary is not necessarily designed to be listened to in one sitting – I’ve found that it’s fine to dip in and let its beauty wash over you for a few songs at a time.
Aviary is a brave, bold record – after a dozen listens I feel like I’ve merely scratched the surface. It’s not an easy album to digest, but Aviary may well be the record that Holter is remembered for.
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