lonely-wack.jpgTHE LONELY ISLAND: The Wack Album

Republic, 45 minutes

Rating: 2.5/5

To paraphrase a derisive Youtube comment I spotted the other day: “Great, Lonely Island rapping about stuff that doesn’t normally get rapped about, again.” That is their schtick, and they’re schticking to it.

If you’re getting tired of it, too, The Wack Album might put you in the hospital for exhaustion. The faux-sensitive white-boy raps of “Diaper Money,” “Hugs” and “The Compliments” pound the same single joke they’ve been making since 2006 right into the ground. Gimmicky guest stars (Hugh Jackman, Billie Joe Armstrong, Adam Levine) do their best to perform earnestly, but fail to live up to the WTF levels set by Lonely Island alumni Michael Bolton, John Waters, and Natalie Portman.

That said there are a few keepers among The Wack Album’s woefully inconsistent 20 tracks; “YOLO,” “I Run NY,” “I Don’t Give a Honk” and “Spring Break Anthem” attack some very specific hip hop cliches from multiple angles. And nobody - legitimate rapper or joke act - is offering tracks as old school, laid back as “Perfect Saturday” in 2013.  

BOCTomorrows-Harvest.jpgBOARDS OF CANADA: Tomorrow’s Harvest
Warp, 62 minutes
Rating: 3.5/5

Whether you’re a Boards of Canada fan or a newbie intrigued by their latest album’s secretive promo campaign, it would be best to approach Tomorrow’s Harvest with a great deal of distance from its hype. This is true of all their music, which is subdued and superficially simple to the point of being subliminal, but coming off a seven-year recording absence and that press-baiting release strategy (no promo, projected video previews, “listening parties”) the album is not as overtly paradigm-shattering as some may expect.

Bombast has never been BoC’s game. Their brand of electronic music is designed to get under your skin and even into your subconscious; listen to Geogaddi (2002) close enough and you’ll surely agree it’s one of the most unsettling albums in its genre. The Scottish duo provide their share of beats but not the kind specifically designed to move bodies.

Tomorrow’s Harvest finds the psychological madness of Geogaddi externalized on a global scale. Gone are that album’s esoteric math puzzles. Do not expect the nostalgic undercurrent of Music Has the Right to Children (1998) or the wide vistas of Campfire Headphase (2006). All have been replaced by sun-burnt landscapes, ominously fucked time signatures (wrap your ears around “Jacquard Causeway”) and titles that seem to evoke real-world hysteria: “Cold Earth,” “Sick Times,” “Come to Dust.” It’s a global warming soundtrack backed by a publicity team too savvy for its own good.

Sunbather.jpgDEAFHEAVEN: Sunbather

Deathwish, 60 minutes
Rating: 4.5/5

Someone, I believe it was Peter Buck, once said you could turn the music of Nick Drake to full volume and it would still sound quiet. The opposite may be true of Deafheaven’s second album Sunbather; this is music so singularly intense that if you’re hearing it at all it’s practically tearing through you.  

With that you may have decided already if Sunbather is your cup of boiling hot tea. Its tendency to offset pummeling, furious setups with calmer passages could even alienate its potential core audience of black metal fans.

Few metal bands are so capable of being completely unhinged and melodically focused at the same time; the 10-minute epics “Dream House,” “Sunbather” and “The Pecan Tree” are at once maddening, terrifying, and beautiful, songs that both spin in place and build in size like tornados. There is nuance in frontman George Clarke’s largely indecipherable vocals and an uplifting quality in his interplay with bandmates Kerry McCoy, Derek Prine and Daniel Tracy. Both suggest hope and personal momentum in a genre known for its loyalty to bleakness. That’s not a criticism; the appeal of black metal doesn’t exactly cry out for intellectualism or positivity, but Deafheaven find the middle-ground between brains and brawn, body and soul, that I didn’t even know existed. But Christ, is it ever loud.

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