Franz’s Fun Fourth

I pronounce this album to be “nougaty”

by Dan MacRae

Franz Ferdinand - Right ActionFranz Ferdinand
Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
Domino
4 out of 5

Christ, has it really been a decade since Franz Ferdinand dropped from the sky to be The Next Big Thing? This globe is spinning way too fast, man. Whatever, that’s my hang up, not Franz Ferdinand’s. It’s 2013 and these Scottish fancylads are still making clever, sexy, vaguely nougaty bits of music.

Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action slots in as album number four from these dudes and (natch) it’s a charmer. That’s their deal, isn’t it? Being charming devils that are here to play your gallery opening and sleep with the best-looking people in the room? Possibly leaving a tasteful paperback behind on the coffee table in the morning.

This latest offering is one of those “new yet familiar” propositions — this is a band with a “sound” (albeit one that sounds less like a turbocharged version of Scottish post-punk legends Josef K and their label-mates, Orange Juice, with every recording) and a fondness for fondue-ing new things into said sound.

Franz’s trademark post-punk dance-gallop is still around (“Right Action”), but there’s AM gold (“Fresh Strawberries”) and power pop (“Bullet”) in the mix as well. There’s loads to love here. “Evil Eve” grooves about and sets butts to maximum waggle while sounding like something that was pulled out of a funhouse mirror. “Stand On The Horizon” does palatial disco with infectious panache. “Love Illumination” is a master class in strutting and pouting. It’s all tunes! Tunes! TUNES!

Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action isn’t immune from the occasional stumble, but for the most part, it’s right on the fucking mark. Ten years on, Franz Ferdinand can still look in the mirror and say “Ich heiße Super Fantastisch!”

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Braids - FlourishBraids
Flourish // Perish
Flemish Eye
3.5 out of 5

OBVIOUS SONIC TOUCHSTONES ON THE NEW BRAIDS ALBUM, FLOURISH // PERISH: Kid A by Radiohead, Aphex Twin, Four Tet, Homogenic by Björk, pre-“My Girls” Animal Collective, the adjective “skittering”. MAYBE LESS OBVIOUS TOUCHSTONES: Julia Holter, Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, John Cage’s prepared pianos, Remain In Light by Talking Heads. ON NATIVE SPEAKER BUT NOT ON THIS RECORD: Keyboard player Katie Lee, who left the Montreal band because the intense touring grind of the last two years left her spent. Weirdly enough, Braids compensated by amping up the atmospherics and downplaying the guitars. OVERALL ASSESSMENT: It’s a headlong plunge into ambient music, so there’s no moment as driving or exuberant as the chorus of Native Speaker’s highlight, “Lemonade” (although the end of “In Kind” comes close), but it sounds gorgeous, and there aren’t enough ladies with pipes like vocalist/guitarist/etc.-ist Raphaelle Standell-Preston doing their thing over icy, dreamlike electronic soundscapes. SONG I ALMOST CRIED DURING: “Hossak”. /John Cameron

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Dodos - CarrierThe Dodos
Carrier
Polyvinyl
4 out of 5

Meric Long’s voice doesn’t betray his emotions — the singer and guitarist for San Francisco duo the Dodos is always demure and collected, even when he’s singing lines like “Success, success is failure/Failure’s assured.” Subject and delivery come together on Carrier to convey a sense of inevitability of pain, sadness and all that fun stuff. The title of the Dodos’ previous record, 2011’s No Color, didn’t scream “happy-go-lucky” either, but Carrier tracks, like “Family” and “Death”, hit some of the deepest notes of melancholy this band has achieved. While the album’s depressing themes could have resulted in some really dour songs, Long and drummer Logan Kroeber’s decision to compensate with some of their best arranging to date pulls things back from the brink of despair. They’ve dialed back the cycling guitar and drum parts they’ve used previously, allowing Long’s voice to come out of the mix. The result: he’s singing about some difficult things but in an interesting, resonant way. /James Brotheridge

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No Age - An ObjectNo Age
An Object
Sub Pop
2 out of 5

What happens when weirdo noise-rock duo No Age strip away the moments of total pop jubilation from their previous full-length, Everything in Between? An Object, that’s what. The Los Angeles pair’s fourth record is a mondo step backwards, and a tad boring.

An Object isn’t inept — No Age still has the loop pedal mastered, and dreamy-yet-dissonant guitar textures abound in the album’s 11 tracks. But the songs lack the pop sensibilities that made their previous work so great. An Object’s highlight is a string segment on “An Impression”, where No Age forgo their usual fuzzy attack in favour of violins and the like. Apparently incorporating a centuries-old form of performance passes for experimental these days. /Chris Morin

2013-08-22