The Brow: Music Reviews

LOW BROWBen FoldsWay to NormalIt’s been three years since Ben Folds’ last full-length, Songs for Silverman, and it’s hard to tell whether he’s grown up any since then. Way to Normal ditches Folds’ foray into more serious social commentary (see “Jesusland,” the best track of his solo career) for a weirder, more adventurous palette. As with many experiments, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The gorgeous, glassy arpeggios of “Before Cologne” lead into “Cologne,” a rather vague, hum drum reminiscence of a break-up. Exuberance, though, suits Folds. The ragged stomp of “Dr. Yang” halts in the middle to make way for a brilliant, virtuosic piano breakdown. “Errant Dog,” with Folds doing his best McCartney impression, is such a great pastiche of late-period Beatles that it could have ended up on the White Album. Certainly this anything-goes approach will alienate some, but if you want a reminder of why piano pop dominated your middle school mixtapes, Way to Normal isn’t a bad place to start.-Kyle BerlinMID BROWOf MontrealSkeletal LampingThe record name is Skeletal Lamping, but perhaps it should have been re-titled Hissing Fauna, Are You Still the Destroyer? A large part of the album sounds like kitchen table scraps, moments that, stitched together, would have fit right in on Of Montreal’s previous efforts, but are spread out amongst half-inspired instrumentation. The finger-plucking that opens “Nonpareil of Favor” seems to hint at a happier batch of songs before devolving into nearly four minutes of refried noise. The band might be seeking to return to their roots while keeping a foot in the current sound, with less synthesized drums and more acoustic guitars found about. It’s too bad, because the dance stomp of “Gallery Piece” and cooing shuffle of “Plastis Wafers” provide the foundation for a classic record. Kevin Barnes lays too many bricks instead of knowing when to rein in his imagination.-Jeremy GordonHIGH BROWVan SheVV is bound to leave Van She fans confused. While 2005’s Van She relied heavily upon 80s pop-rock themes, V takes a much more contemporary approach with a sound similar to that of the more recent works of The Apples in Stereo: tempered lyrics accompanied by catchy, if simplistic melodies. Yet, the new sound featured in V is achieved masterfully and is produced beautifully, creating all-around smooth tracks reminiscent of Daft Punk’s later pop-techno works. Track-by-track, the album could use a bit more variety; while each song is interesting in the first thirty seconds or so, most devolve into a similarly thick, electronic haze. One exception is the profound “Cat and the Eye,” which keeps a quick tempo and utilizes sounds not found anywhere else on the album. All things considered, V is not an album you’ll put on repeat, although it could most certainly be a trendy addition to your next party playlist.-Caleb Melby