Tue, Oct 23, 2012 - Page 12 News List

CD reviews

Jason Aldean, by Broken Bow; Sky Ferreira, by Capitol; Godspeed You! Black Emperor, by Constellation

NY Times News Service

Maybe Ferreira doesn’t care, then? If so, Everything Is Embarrassing, the high point of her new Ghost EP, is counterintuitive and brilliant. A sly, lush postdisco seduction, it’s one of the year’s unlikely pop gems. Ferreira sounds phenomenal, the natural indifference in her voice finally having a suitable home thanks to the production by Ariel Rechtshaid and Devonte Hynes, which never heats up past simmer. As a singer Ferreira can be as square as Laurie Anderson and as evanescently saccharine as Stacey Q; on this song, she’s both, to tremendous effect.

That nothing else on Ghost, her second major-label EP, sounds like this is no surprise. Released in advance of her full-length debut, Ghost is an attempt to be taken seriously or to experiment, or to use all of the available big stage. Any of those strategies alone would be fine; all together, they reflect Ferreira’s lack of a true center. That’s different from being a polymath, which implies natural gifts at several things. Ferreira, though, is more of a slipcover, wrapping tightly around already-set shapes and giving them color and edge.

The filthy sweet Lost in My Bedroom could be an outtake from the Sixteen Candles soundtrack, but Red Lips, written in part by Garbage’s Shirley Manson, begins as a homage to Yes’ Owner of a Lonely Heart and, at the hook, becomes a convincing appropriation of Nirvana’s In Bloom. The remaining songs, Sad Dream and Ghost, are mordant singer-songwriter fare in which the lyrics are darker than Ferreira. Altogether, it’s just another round of throwing ideas at the wall. Everything sticks, more or less. But for how long?

— JON CARAMANICA, NY Times News Service

One way to listen to Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, the noisily underwhelming new album by the Montreal band Godspeed You! Black Emperor, is to disable the higher brain functions and let its spookiness wash over you.

There was a time, in the late ‘90s, around the time of its album Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, when this band had new energy and a mysterious cabalistic power. It was a large, loud, instrumental cooperative; double drums, triple guitars and electrified violin field recordings. Its powerful drones sounded like a mode of resistance against the game of popular music, an endurance test, maybe a torrential moan.

Then as now, the band toured with a projectionist who ran film loops of urban blight and police actions, and its volume blasted you to the back wall in small spaces. Like Arcade Fire, a much cuddlier Canadian band upon which it had some influence, Godspeed was an anthem-heaver; its music almost commanded you to feel certain feelings. It could make you experience inspiration or despair; it could also make music that seemed leaden, like most anthems.

But can we talk about echo and spectrality and creepiness? A band making a sound that was bigger than it should be, that threw huge shadows up on a wall, that made you feel a little nervous? Because that’s how Godspeed can still be powerful, both live and on record. (It hasn’t made a new record since 2003; it’s only recently been reanimated, playing shows over the past year and a half.) The meat of the music, when it’s droning steadily in front of you, is grandiose, cold, rigid. But it’s better when surging or receding, swiftly building or dropping out.

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