What’s new in: guitar rock

Annie Zaleski
Yuck Yuck
Three and a half stars

The London band’s self-titled debut full-length sounds like the CliffsNotes version of Fuzzy Indie Rock: The Last Quarter-Century (chapters covered include Yo La Tengo, Dinosaur Jr. and Teenage Fanclub.) And that’s not a bad thing. In fact, Yuck’s takes on slop-pop (the dizzying “Holing Out,” with its distortion cyclones and obscured vocals), co-ed indie-rock (the cutesy, Dressy Bessy-reminiscent “Georgia”) and shoegaze (the delicate, dream-pop “Shook Down”) honor the shambling, exuberant spirit of the band’s influencers. Yuck isn’t as successful when it tones down the noise and the tempos; meandering, stripped-back songs such as “Suck” and “Stutter” lack the laser-focused songwriting and urgency of the album’s first half. Still, Yuck is a rare case where the hype is justified.

J Mascis Several Shades of Why
Two and a half stars

It’s hard to believe this is J Mascis’ first solo studio record. Even more surprising, when you consider Dinosaur Jr.’s ear-splitting volume: The album is a quiet, stripped-back affair dominated by acoustic guitar and Mascis’ creaky voice. The sparseness adds gravity to the collection’s often-harrowing lyrics, and suits the record’s guest appearances. Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell chimes in with vocals on many songs (including the folky “Is It Done”), Thee Silver Mt. Zion’s Sophie Trudeau contributes violin on the lovely title track and Kurt Vile adds guitar and vocals on (among other songs) the Cure-meets-Neil Young jag “What Happened.” The latter—and its preceding song, the stormy, electric-guitar-fueled “Can I”—are the highlights. Save for these bursts of noise, the album is too sleepy and monotonous to really resonate.

Kurt Vile Smoke Ring for My Halo
Three stars

The Philadelphia guitarist/singer is masterful at creating moods. His fourth full-length is a moonlit collection of folk picking, strummy jangle and distressed indie riffs. “Jesus Fever” calls to mind The Feelies’ sad-eyed mid-’80s albums, while highlight “Puppet to the Man” possesses bite, both in Vile’s sneering delivery and in the music’s roadhouse indie-twang. More often, though, his dreamy drawl echoes the sleepy singing style of ex-Luna man Dean Wareham, who in turn was influenced by Lou Reed. Naturally, this enhances the Velvet Underground drone of “Ghost Town” and the wispy, World Party-like “Society Is My Friend.” For all of these lovely moments, however, Halo’s songs are sometimes so amorphous, they dissipate soon after ending.


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