New Plastic Ideas – week of April 5 2012

In like a lion out like a lamb: March saw the release of several crunchy rock albums but this first batch of April releases is quite a bit dreamier — less “argh” and more “oooh” if you will.

First: the newest album from Brooklyn’s Bear in Heaven I Love You It’s Cool . If you can get past the terrible album title you’ll find well yet another album of (seemingly perpetual) ’80s synth-pop revival. I Love You is a competent collection of songs but I can’t see any reason to listen to it unless you really really needed a 10th or 11th version of the Pet Shop Boys or whatever. I’d call this a “poor man’s Depeche Mode” but considering that you can buy used Depeche Mode albums for a dollar nowadays that would just be redundant. Still if you need garish new wave albums like Pacman needs pills this one might be worth a spin or two before it inevitably becomes just another surface to snort cocaine from.

If you must scratch that electro-pop itch however a more dynamic option would be the new Chromatics album Kill for Love . The Portland group’s newest maintains a distinctly ’80s sheen but in a hyper-stylized noir sense ( à la Drive for example) that unfortunate diversions into vocal Auto-Tune aside mostly avoids coming off as instantly dated. Running for about an hour and a half Kill is an ambitious (if bloated) album but its relative variety makes sorting the “yeah!” from the “meh” a more interesting experience than usual. Unfortunately the sporadic use of Auto-Tune throughout the middle of the album is a real bummer as to be polite it’s fucking impossible to make Auto-Tune sound like anything but garbage. I wouldn’t be disappointed to hear any of Kill ’s first five tracks at parties this year at any rate.

Moving away from synthesizers and the ’80s Deerhunter guitarist Lockett Pundt’s newest Lotus Plaza album Spooky Action at a Distance is an immediate record built on layers upon layers of dreamy guitars. It’s an airy record with a few tracks that are content to breeze by without offering much to really grasp onto but Spooky Action does have enough fantastic moments to be worth checking out — the opening salvo of guitars on “Strangers” for example is downright gorgeous. For the most part Spooky Action isn’t as dreary as Deerhunter’s underwhelming Halcyon Digest (though if your favourite moment from the latter album was the guitar workout of “Desire Lines” you’ll probably find Pundt’s new album quite rich) but it comes off as vaguely insubstantial. Listening to Spooky Action is an agreeable way to spend 40 minutes but Pundt’s songs seem hampered by a reluctance to develop — the moments that do (e.g. the uplifting “Monoliths”) are when the album becomes memorable instead of forgetfully amiable.