Vivian Girls: Vivian Girls
[In The Red 2008]
One would be pretty cool to be into Vivian Girls. In that case, call me a square. Lo-fi really grabs me when the fuzz can enhance quality pop songs underneath, but Vivian Girls doesn’t deliver on a number of levels. First, the singing…ugh. The plain-faced, moanful delivery, even when the Girls are in unison, is blunt and unwelcoming throughout. Second, the songs themselves are rudimentary, riot grrrl-reaching pop songs with little personality and elementary school songwriting. And lastly, fundamentally, the skuzzy production magnifies these problems, lending the album ugly guitars and plodding drums. At least it’s all over in a measly 22 minutes.
Coldplay: Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends
I never really bought that Coldplay had done much different with Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. It still features sweeping epics meant for stadiums and a universal accessibility in the vein of U2 that shaves off innovation and risk-taking. But I guess the thing is, Viva la Vida is everything that's made Coldplay monumentally big, only done better. Just skip the grossly over-payola-ed "Viva la Vida" and listen to the wafting "Strawberry Swing" and the rallying cry closer "Death and All of His Friends." They're still Coldplay songs, but they represent modern mainstream rock at its most meaningful. It's Coldplay's best since Parachutes.
Guster: Ganging Up on the Sun
Ganging Up on the Sun is a pleasant pop rock album, but it's not quite the untethered Guster of old. Sun finds the band succumbing to a sterile studio polish to lend gravitas to songs when they're more successful keeping their tunes light and carefree. It no doubt sounds exceptionally produced, but the sheen also dulls the action. "Satellite" and "Hang On" are excellent tracks, but the overall maturity of Sun is not as fun as the more joyous Keep It Together or its predecessors. I prefer Guster sounding like they're playing out in the quad on the last day of classes.