New This Week: Corners, Mark Ronson, Glass Animals, and Natalie Prass

Corners - Maxed Out on Distractions: For the most part, these guys sound real British (like real British, although they are actually from LA), clearly influenced by late-70s/early-80s post-punk and new wave a la Joy Division. I mean, DAMN, they even have that retro-tinged synthesizer, dark and not quite melodic (but not very droning either, on FULL BLAST – just listen to “Love Letters” or “We’re Changing” or (my personal favorite) “Caught in Frustration.” Even with the rad surf guitar, “Riot” sounds like it could have been performed by a bunch of lanky, reserved, unpopular, black-clad, angst-riddled teens in a John Hughes film. I hope that at least one of the band members has a Robert Smith-inspired mess of hair, and they better all wear a Boy George-approved amount of eyeliner. [I digress.] On the other hand, some of the songs aren’t really “gothic” at all: “Against It” has a laidback surf-y vibe (and potentially some bongos, if my ears don’t deceive me); “Buoy” is just straight-up classic punk, like The Clash pre-“Rock the Casbah.” Right on. ASHLEY

Recommended Tracks: “Caught in Frustration,” “Against It,” “We’re Changing”

RIYL: Joy Division, Ariel Pink, Hookworms

Mark Ronson – Uptown Special: Uptown Special came out a little less than a month ago so I’m assuming that you’ve listened to the whole thing by now and have seen THIS SUPERB VIDEO. With an impressive roster of featured artists including Kevin Parker, Bruno Mars, Mystikal, and Stevie Wonder, Ronson’s fourth studio album is indulging us with an eclectic melting pot of influence. It all comes together in an explosive package of funk, R&B, jazz, and psych rock (tho there are several more genres that can be plucked from this). What he puts forth is something solid, cohesive, and accessible, with much of its strength lying in Ronson’s production. Homie Mark knows exactly what he’s doing; he’s here to make us groove. He’s conceptualized nostalgia, spoon-feeding it to consumers. There’s a reason it’s at the top o’ many charts. It’s catchy as hellll. ARI

Recommended tracks: Feel Right, Uptown Funk, Daffodils

RIYL: Mark Ronson, Kevin Parker, Bruno Mars, Mystikal, Stevie Wonder 

Glass Animals - Zaba: It’s hard to place British band Glass Animals in one genre, because their music is an effortless hybrid of indie rock and electronica.  So I’ll just describe to you what it sounds like to me.  The album Zaba sounds like I’m being drawn into an electronic, tron-esque jungle with glowing plants and being seduced by a talking green and blue lion that shoots lasers out of its eyes.  Ok that was probably not helpful, but damn that’s the vibe I get.  The album features deep bass lines that sync perfectly with the kicks, giving you a very bouncey (almost like a hip-hop beat) feel the entire way through.  The synths are lush and trippy as fuck and the guitar comes in to surprise you with a very quick and fleeting rift.  That finally topped off with haunting drum lines. yup you got a nice marriage of left wing electronica and indie rock wrapped all under one umbrella. It sounds unique, yet you can get a gist of where they might have gotten it.  But Glass Animals takes all these elements from different genres and bands, and makes a new sound and owns it too. DYLAN

Recommended Tracks: Flip, Gooey,  Intruxx, Cocoa Hooves 


RIYL: Chromatics, Sylvan Esso, ODESZA, Wildcat!Wildcat!

Natalie Prass - Natalie Prass: Natalie Prass is characterized by its heavy use of horn and string arrangements, calling to mind vintage pop and some old Motown records. As she maneuvers deftly between saxophones, trumpets, flutes, and violins, Natalie Prass puts the troubles of her love life to song. Her inflection is soft and gentle, yet firm, like a shy girl who has finally found her voice. The opening track, “My Baby Don’t Understand Me”, introduces the problems that will plague her relationship for the rest of the album. Heavy saxophone and layered vocal harmonies drive the song toward a very strong finish. This song, as well as “Your Fool”, and “Why Don’t You Believe In Me” (almost all of them actually) follow a similar archetype: I love you but trouble’s a brewin’! Lyrically, the most interesting song is “Christy”, a string-driven chamber ballad addressing a girl (presumably Christy) who shares affection for Prass’ man. While the lyrics infer a note of pity for Christy, the diminishing string chords seem calmly threatening and serenely sinister, reminding Christy to stay away from Natalie’s beau. While I enjoy the spoken word on “Reprise” and indeed consider the words to be the living essence of Natalie Prass, I found the electronic drums a little out of place next to the vintage vibe of the other tracks. Not to say that Natalie Prass is merely a throwback record. It just caught me off guard a bit. Prass sings her audience adieu during closing track “It Is You”. Like a Disney princess, Prass sings tenderly, melodically, accompanied by a boisterous orchestra waltz. I can perfectly imagine her dancing around in a meadow while she sings. A flute answers her call like a bird fluttering down on her shoulder. This singsong conclusion seems a little too hopeful (maybe intentionally), indicating that after all her heartbreak she has ultimately condemned herself to her troubles. I appreciate the realism of the relationship she illustrates in this album. Natalie Prass is a solid listen and I gotta say, it’s damn good to hear some horns blowing on some pop tunes. Natalie Prass is characterized by its heavy use of horn and string arrangements, calling to mind vintage pop and some old Motown records. As she maneuvers deftly between saxophones, trumpets, flutes, and violins, Natalie Prass puts the troubles of her love life to song. Her inflection is soft and gentle, yet firm, like a shy girl who has finally found her voice. The opening track, “My Baby Don’t Understand Me”, introduces the problems that will plague her relationship for the rest of the album. Heavy saxophone and layered vocal harmonies drive the song toward a very strong finish. This song, as well as “Your Fool”, and “Why Don’t You Believe In Me” (almost all of them actually) follow a similar archetype: I love you but trouble’s a brewin’! Lyrically, the most interesting song is “Christy”, a string-driven chamber ballad addressing a girl (presumably Christy) who shares affection for Prass’ man. While the lyrics infer a note of pity for Christy, the diminishing string chords seem calmly threatening and serenely sinister, reminding Christy to stay away from Natalie’s beau. While I enjoy the spoken word on “Reprise” and indeed consider the words to be the living essence of Natalie Prass, I found the electronic drums a little out of place next to the vintage vibe of the other tracks. Not to say that Natalie Prass is merely a throwback record. It just caught me off guard a bit. Prass sings her audience adieu during closing track “It Is You”. Like a Disney princess, Prass sings tenderly, melodically, accompanied by a boisterous orchestra waltz. I can perfectly imagine her dancing around in a meadow while she sings. A flute answers her call like a bird fluttering down on her shoulder. This singsong conclusion seems a little too hopeful (maybe intentionally), indicating that after all her heartbreak she has ultimately condemned herself to her troubles. I appreciate the realism of the relationship she illustrates in this album. Natalie Prass is a solid listen and I gotta say, it’s damn good to hear some horns blowing on some pop tunes. ALEX

Recommended Tracks: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6

RIYL: Dolly Parton, Feist