lynch-the-big-dream.jpgDAVID LYNCH: The Big Dream
Sacred Bones, 50 minutes
Rating: 3 / 5

As his multi-episode stint last year on Louie demonstrated, David Lynch isn’t much of an actor but he does have a particular presence — suggesting at once complete absurdity and deadly seriousness — that’s hard to find anywhere else.

Lynch is even less of a singer, yet music has been his predominant output since his most recent film Inland Empire (2006). The Big Dream follows his debut album Crazy Clown Time (2011), and is The Straight Story (1999) to its Wild At Heart (1992): a more focused, but no less weird trip back through America’s recent past.

The Big Dream mostly features blues and garage pop-rock tunes, of the sort popular in Lynch’s teenage years. Once again, he masks his inability to croon by vocalizing constantly through an effects filter, adopting sing-speak patterns (“Star Dream Girl,” “Wishing Well”) that sound like cinematic excerpts run through autotune, and bringing in the occasional guest (Lykke Li appears on “I’m Waiting Here.”)   

Again Lynch’s peculiar presence does more heavy lifting than any raw musical talent he may possess. Non-fans would be advised to avoid The Big Dream, though a starting point for them might be the Bob Dylan cover “The Ballad of Hollis Brown.” Lynch doesn’t bring anything totally new to the stark, simple, and oft-covered tune but the novelty of hearing one idiosyncratic genius pay homage to another is one worth revisiting.

SoftMetalsCover.jpgSOFT METALS: Lenses

Captured Tracks, 37 minutes

Rating: 4 / 5

Like their debut, the cover of Soft Metals’ second album Lenses shows a couple about to kiss, but this time the angle is all wrong — she’s going for his nose while he’s aiming toward her chin.

It’s a more appropriate choice. While Soft Metals trade in something resembling electro-pop music, it’s all a bit askew. You can’t really dance to it, and its limited production is intimate to the point of claustrophobia. It evokes sexuality, but not intercourse itself, more like the sweaty tangling of bodies underneath blankets that is both physically uncomfortable and intensely inviting.

Lenses saves its longest and best tracks for last: the shimmering “In the Air” rises higher than anything they’ve done before, while the instrumental “Interobserver” hints at a more experimental direction for the band yet to come. They’ve mastered the art of bedroom pop, and now await a bigger canvas.

gauntlet_stills.jpgGAUNTLET HAIR: Stills
Dead Oceans, 31 minutes
Rating: 3 / 5

Gauntlet Hair is still pushing the durability of your speakers with blown-out indie jams, but on Stills the band has given itself more room to breathe.

“Human Nature” starts the album quietly, with a faint pulse and distant hums, before those recognizable, distorted drums kick in. Elsewhere, what were once overwhelmingly dense elements of their sound have been turned into actual grooves (“Simple”) and riffs (“Falling Out”).  

That said, despite the added space Gauntlet Hair has given to its songs, more room to breathe does not mean more room to grow. At only 31 minutes, Stills short-changes some of its best tracks (“Spew,” “Waste Your Art”). Some of them seem to be building toward a climax that never happens. The band’s songwriting is certainly improving, but at a rate that may leave fans craving more.

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