Deep End: Swan Lake dives in with 'Enemy Mine.'
Curtis Cartier reviews new releases by metal act Mastodon, Norwegian electro-pop duo Röyksopp and Canadian indie rockers Swan Lake.
By Curtis Cartier
Spring has sprung. New blossoms, baby critters and warm sunshine have crept back into the natural world. And a renewed music world is unfolding as well, with dozens of highly anticipated albums hitting shelves while the artists themselves hit the touring road. Separating the weeds from the flowers, here are three new albums that should stay fresh all season.
Mastodon, 'Crack the Skye' (Reprise) It's a certainty that when Mastodon brings its gut-shredding sludge metal act to this weekend's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, more than a few Killers and Cure fans will be shooting terrified glances toward the main stage. But undoubtedly, several patient hipsters will also be on hand to calm the frightened masses and explain why the menacing foursome that's desecrating the main stage is actually one of the most important bands in rock music today. What Mastodon has accomplished in 10 short years is to bring back the epic and challenging narrative to heavy metal music. Its 2004 album, Leviathan, was based on Herman Melville's Moby Dick, while 2006's Blood Mountain told the tale of a journey through a perilous wilderness. On the crew's latest album, Crack the Skye, the saga moves outward into space. Wormholes, out-of-body experiences and Steven Hawking's research make up the lyrical meat of the album. And musically, the same assortment of grinding guitars, slow passages, melodic harmonies, blistering solos and stampeding drums that put the band at the top of the critics' lists is there in full force.
Röyksopp, 'Junior' (Astralwerks) Electro pop fans have waited a long time for a new studio release from Norway's gruesome twosome, Röyksopp. That day has finally come. And while I'd never encourage bands to take four years to make an album, I have to say Junior sounds well worth the wait. The kind of music you'd hope to find in the elevators of the future, this latest 'Sopp opera is packed full of crunchy microbeats, cheery synth chords and depressing lyrics sung with soothing vocals. Rehashing but not repeating the genius of Melody A.M., Torbjörn Brundtland and Svein Berge have created a work with all the depth of previous releases but one, also, that anyone off the street can enjoy. Standout tracks include the disco lament "The Girl and the Robot," the noggin noddin' "Vision One" and the tearjerking "You Don't Have a Clue."
Swan Lake, 'Enemy Mine' (Jagjaguar) Anything Spencer Krug touches seems to turn to gold. The Canadian keyboard mad scientist and vocalist has already shown his Midas touch as frontman for rock gems Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown. On the Swan Lake project, however, he joins an entire cast of Canuck indie gods, creating a phrase that would have only drawn laughs 10 years ago: "Canadian supergroup." Featuring Carey Mercer of Frog Eyes and Daniel Bejar of the New Pornographers, the Swan Lake lads, on their second studio album Enemy Mine, deliver an orchestral and brilliant trip into the imaginations of some of music's most creative minds. Uncompromising to the point of being arrogant, this is an album you may hate the first, second or even third time your hear it. But once preconceptions of the group's members are abandoned and the work is taken in as a whole, what forms is an organic indie rock experience that's much more than the sum of its parts.
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