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Catchy synth-pop defines new Health album

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Congruence of experimentalism and melody is rare and tricky, partially because artists tend to favor one over the other. But when the two find harmony, it’s like hitting indie pay dirt—think Sonic Youth, TV on the Radio or, more recently, Deafheaven. LA’s Health is the opposite of the latter band: angelic vocals, cathartic music. It attained its beautiful-noise ideal with 2009’s Get Color, but six years later, it’s largely channeling melancholy Depeche Mode and getting the balance wrong. Specifically, Jacob Duzsik’s vocals are much further out from the band’s racket—or, rather, the band’s now mostly tidied, buffed-out arrangements, heard on songs like “Stonefist.” This is troublesome partly because now we can make out his adolescent diary croonings since they're not obfuscated. However tuneful, they undermine, for example, the tribal/industrial bookends of “Men Today” (one of the few spots where drummer/percussionist BJ Miller isn’t under-utilized). More interesting is instrumental “Salvia,” which could re-score Apocalypse Now with its alternating napalm mornings and Kurtzian horror, and “Courtship II,” possessing the sort of methodical anarchy at which the band excels. Which makes its synth-by-numbers, Purity Ring-esque attempts at finessed songwriting sound as misapplied as they do uneven.

Health Death Magic

Two stars

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