June 14Florence and the Machine, “High As Hope”In the past few years, the female-led epic indie rock sound has grown and flourished into something wonderful. The first Florence and the Machine record, “Lungs,” was one of the first to cement the sound as something worth taking note of, and now Florence Welch and Co. have returned with their fourth record, and their follow-up to 2015’s “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.” Florence and The Machine has never stepped around the melancholy that fuels the beauty of their songs, and the tracks on “High As Hope” are not shy about being direct about their themes of loneliness, abuse, and pain, but these ordeals are channeled into absolutely beautiful songs. “Big God,” the third single, revealed just a few days ago, begins with a dirgy piano melody, and Welch’s vocals and breathing acting as the melody’s driving force, before sparse percussion and ethereal chanting shows up, and then a pang of a classic chamber orchestra. It is a wonderfully subdued track that slowly churns and grows with its lofty ideas. It has a subtle classic tone to it that is wonderfully dark without falling into Chelsea Wolfe goth territory.
Gorillaz, “Now Now”Gorillaz floundered a little bit on their last record, “Humanz,” last year. It was overstuffed and somehow managed to overstay its welcome, with main man Damon Albarn taking a back seat to a lot of rapper guests who certainly had a lot to say. But, it didn’t feel like a Gorillaz record. It felt like a collection of beats with nothing really holding them together. “Now Now” seems a direct response to these criticisms. Throughout the record there are only three guest performers, bringing main man Damon Albarn to the forefront of the sound, and a generally better effect than was present on “Humanz.” “Now Now” sits pleasantly in the light synthy dub side of their sound, without the overcrowded orchestra or choir sections that mucked up the miz on the last few records. “Now Now” is also the most personal record that Albarn has released under the Gorillaz moniker, forgoing lofty concepts about the purpose of music and how people consume media in favor of musing on aging and loneliness. These dour themes are often undercut with light summery music, bringing to mind the island synths of the now-classic “Plastic Beach” and the swinging rhythms ’60s bop. The latter half of the record gets bogged down a bit by having a few too many slower tracks one after the other, but overall I enjoyed “Now Now” quite a bit more than “Humanz.” It isn’t perfect, but it is a good step in the right direction of maintaining Gorillaz identity.
Other new releases include records from Jim James, Bullet for My Valentine, Wild Feathers, and Milk Carton Kids.